Image [cc] PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE

As I sat through a demonstration of the LexisNexis Digital Library (eBook) platform, there were a few thoughts that crossed my mind:

  • The eBook platform for law firms is inevitable
  • How do I keep from suddenly having (paying for) the same “book” in three formats – print, database, and eBook?
  • Holy crap… I’m going to need a really good Technical Services Librarian to manage this!
Whenever a question came up about actually managing a digital collection, the common response was, “the library can simply go to the [eBook platform/library catalog] and run report X” or “process and distribute eBook Z” or “recall the eBook” or “place the eBook on hold” or “place the link to the eBook in your 852 or 856 fields”, and so on. Again, most of the conversation assumed that your Acquisitions librarian, Serials librarian, or Cataloger would simply do their job, but the resulting item was simply an eBook instead of a traditional Monograph, Personal Copy book or a Treatise. In an era of shrinking physical books, the role of the technical services librarian didn’t seem to be a vital. However, in the era of managing eBook collections, that role may be rising from the ashes of the collection.
Bess Reynolds’ article, The Challenges of E-Books in Law Firm Libraries, hits the issue right on the head when she wrote:

The mechanics of acquiring and distributing books, making sure they are up to date, and retrieving books from departing attorneys are all part of the job of the technical services department. Transferring these tasks to e-books was therefore already within our department’s job description.

She goes on to talk about the interaction between the Integrated Library System (ILS) and the eBook distributor and the need to manage the collection for the firm. The key to success is the seamless transition between physical book and electronic book for the actual user (read: attorney.) That seamless transition seems to hing upon the firm’s ability to manage, distribute and maintain the collection and the vendors ability to create a method flexible enough to allow the firm to handle the eBooks in the way that works best for that firm. The connecting piece in this puzzle is a good technical services librarian. So, if you don’t have one already, you better start looking now.