UCLA Law Librarian Kevin Gerson sent along some thoughts in response to my post the other day on law libraries:
Here are a few thoughts on print resources in law libraries:
- The operating budget of the W&L library is increasing by 2%, but that doesn’t mean that the library isn’t continuing to cut print resources. Most online database costs increase at rates of about 5-10% per year. A 2% budget increase will still require the cutting of print resources in order to maintain the digital resources. Most law libraries continue to add digital resources each year.
- Perhaps surprisingly, some publishers require us to purchase the print in order to access the online version. Similarly, many publishers routinely increase the online resource costs when print subscriptions are discontinued.
- It’s easy to find reports, mostly from firms, saying that print libraries are dead. However, the 2014 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report (of 75,000 attorneys in private practice) reports that 44% of attorneys regularly use print materials for legal research (up from 41% in the prior year). Only 3% never use print materials. On the other hand, 11% never use Westlaw or Lexis.
- The Social Law Library pointed out in a recent annual report that: “It’s an inconvenient truth that books and other expensive legal materials continue to be essential to legal research. Not everything is published electronically, at least yet and not by a long shot. The implications for legal research are clear. While research on primary law (cases and statutes) constitutes the bulk of basic research and can now be largely conducted online, once legal questions become novel or complex, researchers must turn to expensive treatises and secondary sources that are still overwhelmingly paper-based.”
- Digital resources, especially secondary sources in aggregated packages such as Lexis and Westlaw, are notoriously unstable in that the resources are frequently removed from the database without any notice. On the other hand, books are stable and self-preserving and can last for centuries with little attention.
- Our faculty generally prefer reading monographs in a print format. Professor Naomi Baron, in her new book Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World, found in a survey of university students a near-universal preference for print for serious reading. This preference for print for in-depth reading is elucidated in 2013 Scientific American review article (Jabr, Why the Brain Prefers Paper).
- In our library, we can measure the use of our print collection by the number of books we return to the shelves each year. In the most recent year, we reshelved over 102,000 volumes, which is up from 97,000 in the prior year. In addition, we saw a 33% increase in the student use of our print reserve course materials.
I stand corrected.