Although there are a lot of people on the Law-Lib listserv, I also happen to know that many of the people I know at AALL don’t subscribe for one reason or another (you can probably guess a few of those reasons.) However, one thing that did fly by on the list is a request for AALL members to go fill out a short survey on the Legal Publications Price Index.

The Task Force is seeking to address better ways to meet the needs of the AALL members, so filling out the survey is important, even if you do not use the Price Index. The survey is open until April 22nd (deadline has been extended from the original deadline of this Friday.)

I think that Lyn Warmath’s explanation of the importance of answering the survey gives a good breakdown of her views of the Price Index:

Last Tuesday Merle Slyhoff e-mailed law-libbers a survey asking about our use of the association’s annual publication, Legal Publications Price Index.  The deadline for responses to the survey is this coming Friday.  Based on the questions in the survey, it appears that continued publication of the Price Index is in serious doubt.  Even if you do not use the Price Index at all, I hope you will read this message, consider supporting colleagues who believe in its continued value and respond to the survey if you have not already done so.

Use of the index has understandably fallen off in recent years because of glitches in data reporting practices and in communications between legal publishers and AALL members working on the index committee.  (I served on the committee during this period and would gladly do so again.)  Rather than abandon the project and throw out the baby with the bath water, I suggest we strive to improve the production of the index so that it returns to the invaluable status it earned in its early days.  Here are a couple of suggestions we might consider to achieve improvements.

·         Consider returning to AALL’s practice of employing an official editor with experience in the complicated business of index design, statistics, validity, reliability and so forth.  AALL’s original design for publication of the index included the position of a part-time editor who received a modest honorarium to lead the committee.  AALL recognized early on that statistical indexes are complicated and require expertise beyond what librarians generally learn in law or library school, but the editor’s position was eliminated several years ago.  Since that time, doubts about the index’s validity, reliability and so forth, plus confusion among participating publishers about data particulars point to the soundness of AALL’s original thinking when it established a committee with an experienced editor at its helm.

Reinstating a part-time editor’s position will be difficult, no doubt, but no more difficult than filling equally important, part-time and full-time paid positions currently serving AALL, such as Director of Government Relations, Advocacy Communications Assistant and Vendor Liaison.
·         The Price Index is a ready-made vehicle to implement and practice the very skills of improving communication and increasing pricing transparency that dominated discussions at the Vendor Colloquium and in the reports that followed.  Why not put into practice the lessons we learned at the recent Vendors Colloquium?  Why not salvage this valuable tool by capitalizing on the momentum and goodwill engendered at the Vendors Colloquium?  We could do that by committing to re-engage publishers in more meaningful and effective communications through a vehicle that already exists within AALL.
Although Ken Svengalis’s book is currently an excellent alternative, it is not inconceivable that at some point he may decide to switch gears.  In that contingency, AALLers might be better positioned for the future if we take advantage now of the campaign to improve the association’s own channels of communications with vendors and achieve improved transparency, two of the top concerns law librarians conveyed at the Vendor Colloquium.
Thank you for reading.  No matter what your opinion on the wisdom of reviving the price index, I encourage you to complete AALL’s survey, a great opportunity for members to communicate directly with AALL folks.
Deadline: Friday, April 15, 2011