While I was at the AALL annual meeting in Denver last month, I talked with both of the major legal publishers and asked them if they could tie their online legal research tools (Westlaw & Lexis) to the print titles that their customers also subscribe. Of course, no one could give me a “yes” or “no” on that question because of the logistics surrounding accomplishing such a feat. However, here’s my idea, and if it sounds like a good one, then approach your local rep and start asking them to look into doing it. For every title that your law library subscribes to in print, the Westlaw or Lexis databases should identify those titles whenever they come back in a search result or database lookup. In my opinion, it should do so regardless of if you also subscribe to that same title in its electronic format.

What would be the value in letting researchers know that the print version of this resource is located in the library? It would seem to me that it would be a win-win-win situation for the researcher, the librarian and the vendor. The researcher would know that he or she could walk into the library and pull the resource off of the shelf, sit down and easily flip through the resource, finding all of the related resources that are not just found in that specific book, but also from the additional topical resources that physically surround that book within its placement within the library. We’ve all browsed the shelves before where we’ve found a great resource that just happened to be shelved next to the book we were intending to use for our research.

It is a win for the library because it has the potential of bringing foot traffic back into the library. With foot traffic comes opportunities to talk with those researchers (lawyers, judges, professors, paralegals, legal assistants, etc.) and build face-to-face relationships. Those relationships bring additional opportunities to market the library, solicit feedback from the researchers, and to make yourself and your library a bigger presence within your organization. What products like West km or Lexis AtVantage do for locally created content, this could do for locally held print collections.

How about adding a “Print Version In Library” Note??

It is a win for the vendors because it finally gives them a legitimate answer to the question “why should I duplicate print and electronic resources?” As Joe Hodnicki over at the Law Librarian Blog calls the de-duping of print and electronic resources “The Shed West Era“, it is clear that library collections are cancelling as many print titles as they can… starting with any that they have access to in their electronic form.

Not enough room for text?? How about a book icon with a pop-up note?

Perhaps this idea should have been implemented five years ago. However, it doesn’t mean that it is too late to benefit from the tying of the print and electronic resources together.

What do you think?? If the vendor placed an icon, or wording next to results that said that this resource is available in your library… would that interest your researchers enough to take a trip into the library to check it out??

  • Greg,

    Good idea, but it's too late for these kinds of resources. The only pBooks that are going to be left are desktop ones, and lawyers won't need to be informed about whether they have it in their office.

  • Greg, I once pitched to West Publishing (when it was West Publishing. right in the "old days"), that they should provide online/digital indexes to their print materials. The idea was that online indexes can be a superior way to find what you're looking for. They didn't get it.

    They are locked into the notion that Westlaw and print materials are two distinct products, and combing the two formats merely kills an opportunity for sales. They're still locked into the mindset that they have to sell both and have overlooked the obvious truth that the two formats can work best together.

    I still think that there's something to your idea. They can make better tools by combining them than they can playing them off against each other.

    There never really was a war between print and online, but West/ThomsonReuters has created one. And the war is lost, in my opinion. West has intentionally driven us to digital. And our patrons are the losers. Oh well.

  • Rich,

    I think you're right on the "driving us to digital" process that has happened over the past decade or more. It would seem to me, that the remaining print that we have must either be extremely cheap to maintain or extremely valuable in that format.

    Linking the two formats together seems like something that would be a no-brainer on the publisher's side of things to keep both formats relevant to the subscribers. But if the push is still to move customers away from print, then I guess we'll never see something like this become a reality.

  • I like the idea and the way you have taken it to the next level. We have links to dbs in our catalog already. We purchase records from Cassidy Cataloging. They include links directly to online databases. It works great for us. I would love the icons on the online services.