Setting CRL Priorities for Law and Government Collections
Early in 2012, CRL consulted a number of specialists at member libraries on how to best expand access to primary source legal publications. These consultations were to inform CRL’s work with the Law Library Microform Consortium (LLMC), under its Global Resources Law Partnership. To provide background for those discussions, CRL commissioned comparative analyses of the LLMC-Digital database and other databases of primary legal literature.
The discussions took place in two venues:
Teleconferences, April 2012
Specialists in law, government publications, political science, and collection management from fifteen CRL institutions participated in these calls. They shared their thoughts on the relative value of the LLMC-Digital database in comparison with other online legal resources. Observations included:
Use of the Collection
LLMC-Digital is most typically used as a last resort for materials not found elsewhere.
- Law and social sciences researchers extensively use HeinOnline; if they are already accessing Hein for law journals, they continue their research there.
- General impression of content overlap with other databases likely to be available to academic libraries: open access resources (although not concentrated in one resource), Gale’s Making of Modern Law, and potentially, expanded legislative content from ProQuest.
- One current subscriber institution is quite unimpressed by their institution’s recent usage figures, which average less than 5% of their usage of all HeinOnline collections.
- Faculty normally do not refer students to the resource.
- LLMC’s flexible policy allowing extensive downloads for text analysis is very helpful.
The challenges of using the current LLMC-Digital interface contribute to its low use and limit its value for research. It would be much more useful if the interface features were more comparable to those of commercial databases like Gale’s Making of Modern Law.
In addition, poor discoverability of the records also contributes to low use:
- Some did not know whether full record sets could be purchased.
- Many subscribers indicated a desire to obtain “free” records.
- Could LLMC serials be included in link resolver databases maintained by vendors, including Serials Solutions and EBSCO?
- Could LLMC content also be indexed in Summon and Primo?
Value of LLMC’s Print Archiving Initiatives
Teleconference participants discussed the value of LLMC's print archiving initiatives:
- Several librarians (government docs as well as law) acknowledged the intrinsic importance of the LLMC mission, i.e., to identify and archive endangered print runs.
- But seven libraries indicated they either do not have current plans to discard print, or would not use the digital content in LLMC as justification for discarding.
- Some view their government documents depository role as a retention mandate.
- Others noted difficulties comparing LLMC metadata with their print holdings (e.g., need dates plus volume numbers for Court Reports, etc.).
- Canadian libraries do not currently feel impacted by the revisions in American Bar Association accreditation standards.
- Some unique Canadian materials are not yet online: previous revisions (of statutes?).
The collections prioritized for digitization by the joint LLMC-CRL steering committee, emphasizing foreign jurisdictions and U.S. state legislative content, are important materials that no one else is focusing on to a significant extent.
- As long as the focus is on unique content, some overlap with other resources is not considered a problem.
- Strong interest was expressed in Foreign Official Gazettes (FOGs) and other materials targeted, including African, Russian and Chinese.
- The nonprofit, collaborative nature of LLMC is very important; it allows libraries to have a say in what is digitized, and to offer their own collections where appropriate.
Teleconference participants appreciate CRL’s efforts to support an ongoing partnership fostering LLMC initiatives. The challenge is to find an equitable solution. How will current non-LLMC members accept an “all-in” increase in CRL membership fees; by contrast, with an “opt-in” model, how can current LLMC members get a fee break?
2012 Global Resources Collections Forum
At the Collections Forum following CRL’s Annual Members Council meeting in April 2012, chief collection officers and library directors weighed in positively on sustaining support of the Global Resources Law Partnership with LLMC, advising that an “all-in" model should be sought. Bernard Reilly reported: “CRL’s partnership with LLMC promises to serve the interests of CRL’s broad and diverse community. Therefore cooperative action with LLMC . . . should be an organizational priority . . . rather than a special effort of a subset of members. But CRL must define clear goals for its activities in this realm and must specify ‘what success looks like five years out.’"
Resources: comparative Assessment
A comparison of several online legal databases for historical research, as well as in-depth reviews of the content of LLMC-Digital and another major digital collection that includes page imaged texts, HeinOnline, are available on the CRL website:
- Review of HeinOnline