Deskbooks, Personal Libraries and Best Practices

In Kevin Miles' article, "Library on a Credenza[PDF], he talks about the "Deskbooks" (some refer to them as "Desk Copies") that attorneys have on their credenza to help them in their day-to-day practice. Whenever most librarians I know speak of Deskbooks, they usually cringe and think of the giant hole in their budget each time a new attorney comes in and asks for a complete set for their specific practice area. Miles, on the other hand, actually looks at the Deskbooks in a much more measured and practical way and wonders if there is a better way of delivering the information housed in the Deskbook.

Deskbooks can cost the firm hundreds of dollars a year in upkeep, so with that much of an investment per lawyer, shouldn't we be asking ourselves (both librarians and lawyers) a few questions about our best practices when it comes to Deskbooks? Kevin emailed me this morning and wondered if we should be asking ourselves the following:
  • What is the value of a deskbook?
  • What is the best practices model for a deskbook?
  • Should a best practices model be taught in Library or Law School?
  • Should they be the starting point in a research project? 
  • Should deskbooks migrate over to eBooks?
  • How should an eDeskbook collection be managed?
Are you addressing these issues when it comes to Deskbooks, or are you simply processing them and routing them to the attorneys year after year? Are there other best practices questions we should ask? Most of us think of Deskbooks as a "necessary evil" in the practice of law, but does it really have to be evil? Perhaps thinking of Deskbooks in a new way may provide value in ways we hadn't thought of before.

Take a look at Kevin Miles' article, "Library on a Credenza" [PDF], and let us know if you are already acting on some of the best practices issues discussed here and in the article.

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Camille Reynolds said...

Thanks for keeping this discussion going. I enjoyed reading Kevin's article as it raises some good points on thinking about desk books in a different way.

At our firm this year on our annual order form that is sent to attorneys we included ebook options for various court rules mostly free options or very low cost this year. We also found it helpful to point out PDF versions of free court rules that are often posted on court website and can be downloaded on tablets such as the iPad and taken to court. Although we've found the preference is still for print with ebook or pdf's loaded on tablets as a supplement to the print and not a replacement. Will be very interesting to see how this plays out in coming years as the publishers catch up.

Anonymous said...

Should deskbooks be a starting point in a research project? Just this week we had a atty who insisted he had read the code section. Turns out he hadn't read the annotated statute but only read what was in the deskbook. Deskbooks are largely for referral not research.

Anonymous said...

"Annotated deskbooks provide timely
information with annotations of case law or statutes and with presentations of official commentary, charts, tables, practice tips, and references to other sources."

There is a difference between an annotated deskbook and one that is not annotated.

The author presented five annotated deskbooks worthy of our attention.

Thanks for presenting a best practices model. The article made me think how I can better serve our attorneys.

Nolan Wright said...

We spend a full 90 minute class session at the small practice-oriented law school I teach at introducing our first year legal research students to litigation and transactional practice aids, including desk books.


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