16 October 2012

Exclusive Resources

Orignially published in the ALLUNY Newsletter 36.2, July 2011

A list-serv reader asks

“I am wondering what other Westlaw only firms are planning to do for New York Law Journal access after May 1st? …. It feels like we are being forced to sign a contract with LexisNexis.”

The question arises as the NYLJ moves from being an exclusive Westlaw resource to an exclusive contract with Lexis, and is problematic because the NYLJ website archives will only provide access to their recently-reported decisions—forcing even direct subscribers to find alternative access for backfile material.

This is, of course, exactly the problem that Lexis-only libraries faced until May, and an increasingly common one in this era of “fiscal responsibility”, when we lose access to familiar resources simply because we can no longer afford them.  But this is also precisely what we have been trained to do—our job, as librarians, is to choose what resources to provide and determine how to work around what we can’t provide.

In some cases, this means finding an alternative, comparable resource.  My attorneys will often ask for a particular article from a subscription service, and in spite of our library magic, we won’t always be able to retrieve the cited item.  In these cases, we try to find something else on the subject—for news or analytical material, there is almost always something else on the subject, and this straightforward substitution, like Pepsi for Coke, is generally acceptable.

NYLJ decisions, though, allow no substitution--they are like Vernor's Ginger Ale.  They aren’t published elsewhere, and they are primary law.  They are necessary for the work we do.  But they aren’t so essential as to justify an entirely new, otherwise redundant database contract, either.  In situations like this, when an item is essential but rarely needed, it is good to have friends.  Especially when those friends also have libraries, as each of us do.

We all have some degree of access to local public, court, and university libraries, and each of these libraries has a public service mission.  Even private firm libraries are usually willing to share unique resources; just last week I received a scan of pages from a California-specific treatise held locally by only one downstate firm.  We all understand the challenges and constraints of the current resource landscape and we are all here to help.  Please, feel free to ask.

No comments:

Post a Comment