June 29, 2010
The Shed West Era in Execution
Over 97,000 pounds of print were sent off to the recycling center from our little county law library in recent weeks and that doesn't include several thousands of pounds of recycled loose-leaf pages and books removed earlier this year. Easily 110,000-plus pounds in total. The bulk of the work is now completed. The results are displayed in the below images. Missing from the snapshots are an entire large room emptied of its "archival" contents and a second smaller space half-emptied of the same sort of materials. The images below are from our open stacks.
|The Shed West Era in Pictures|
For a little context, we are downsizing our footprint and print collection to save on print spend and leasing costs. Now that we are an official county agency that is acquiring legal resources for in-house use by county offices, county and municipal courts, and municipal law department, plus paying all library employment costs from our statutory fines and forfeiture revenues cost-saving measures had to be taken. However, the Shed West Era at our little county law library wasn't entirely driven by financial necessity.
Our Objectives. Our existing facility covers 7,000 square feet on one floor with 8,400 linear feet of shelving and and our occupied shelving was 96%. Now we all know as a rule of thumb that when 80% of shelving is occupied by print materials, the library is for all practical purposes “full.” My most immediate predecessor apologized profusely for not weeding the collection. Apology accepted; her plate was full with other more pressing issues. However, regular weeding should have been practiced long before she arrived on the scene.
So we started with something like 45-50,000 volumes and a downsizing plan that called for reducing our footprint from 7,000 to 5,000 square feet, our linear feet of shelving from 8,400 to 3,500 and our occupied shelving from the whopping 96% to 80-85%. We shredded the de facto collection development policy that purchased multiple secondary sources in most every legal specialty in order to answer about any legal question that just might come in the door for one that more appropriately focused on serving county and court needs and the more common practice areas of our local bar. We also shredded the de facto retention policy which tended toward the archival for one that more squarely focused on maintaining a law library to serve practitioners’ everyday needs in our county. This isn’t a criticism of prior administrators but the times they are a-changing (actually they already have), and the mission of this library has changed to reflect the era we have been living in for some time and the new statutory mandate we operate under.
And Their Execution. There were a lot of no-brainer decisions. Gone are 50 years worth of Martindale’s (full sets mind you, not just the law digest volumes), superseded editions of current treatises on the shelves, 10 year runs of annual Ohio practitioner desk books, CLEs older than five years, PLI course books dating way back, CCH and BNA back files, case reporters, etc., for services previously cancelled, West specialty reporters, most previously cancelled but still on the shelves, the last one and its digest cancelled about six months ago.
Also gone, all regional reporters. They had been cancelled a few years ago. USCA, SCT and the Supreme Court Digest (!), cancelled and discarded because, well, Matthew Bender’s alternatives are one hellva lot less expensive and we had both. All decennial digests from the Century Digest to the current edition and that one cancelled and discarded. All Sheppard’s in print gone (most cancelled a few years ago but sitting on shelves, the remaining ones now history too). Several little as in almost never used West legal encyclopedic titles including two form sets cancelled and gone, more once they are off the WestPack Print plan. Several remaining ones now on print volume-only, no more pocket-parts, thank you very much. All ALRs, including ALR Fed gone. All law reviews, bar journals, etc. gone. Current issues of Ohio law reviews and ABA journals only and only the last 12 months. All supplemented secondary sources in the treatise collection that had been cancelled in 2003 and 2006 but were left on the shelves now gone.
None of the above made for difficult decisions. It’s the 21st Century after all. We have Lexis and Westlaw although we might be down to just Lexis with the addition of AmJur, ALR and OHJur to our license because, based on usage and costs, we’re going to cut back our Westlaw plan or just shed Westlaw and reconsider WestlawNext when it is ready for prime time and after evaluating “New Lexis.” We have HeinOnline with several à la carte libraries. We have BNA Online for specialty areas where they excel in providing primary and secondary sources. Alas, we still have a couple of CCH loose-leaf services where they excel because IntelliConnect’s UI isn’t ready for our patrons yet. And then there’s that whatca call it thing, the Internet, for reliable if not yet authenticated web-accessible resources.
We’ve also pared back our treatise collection substantially based on usage, costs and our revised collection development objectives. My colleagues provided me with usage stats (circulation and in-house use) upon request, a lot of requests. I checked circ cards too – got to love a title that hadn’t been check out in 50 years, titles in hot topic areas some quarter of a century ago that are now well-settled areas of law, supplemented works that look like they were acquired 10-15-more (?) years ago because a patron asked for them and after being used for the project-at-hand, never needed again but nonetheless were updated year after year after year. These were not, unfortunately, uncommon discoveries.
I climbed up and down and around the stacks in our treatise collection like some 57-year old monkey to physically inspect every damn title, many of which had only been touched by human hands when my colleagues had to update them. Physically, this was a tad demanding for this aging and decrepit Baby Boomer director, so much so, I started warning my staffers that I had just taken a Percocet (bad knee needing replacement) so don’t allow me to make any “executive decisions” unrelated to the damn print collection this afternoon. They really work better with a beer but this was a pain meds only process.
Multiple supplemented secondary sources are history in many areas. One and only one remains and those decisions rested on usage patterns, editorial quality and annual upkeep costs. In most instances, West lost out to Matthew Bender or another publisher. The one exception being UCC. OMG, has TR Legal let the editorial quality of some of the titles they gobbled up decline. In some areas, no supplemented secondary sources remain whatsoever and that gap is being filled in by a single volume comprehensive treatise and/or practitioner’s handbook but only when warranted. A few illustrations in areas that are not exactly hot beds of legal practice in our little county:
- About 21 linear feet of patent law materials containing about a half dozen mostly multi-volume, all supplemented titles plus more linear feet and titles on copyright law, trademarks, etc., going, going, gone. These resources are being replaced with a couple of BNA comprehensive single volume supplemented works and, maybe but only maybe, a general practitioner's handbook or two.
- The hodgepodge that was the labor and employment law collection of little used single and multiple volume titles of varying quality. The garbage that is Employment Coordinator and Employment Discrimination Coordinator, for example, to be going, going, gone when they off the WestPack plan. Simply not used but even if they were I would slap them out of a patron’s hands and put them in front a workstation to use BNA Online. BNA supplemented treatises and a couple of Apsen titles will remain on the shelves.
- The bankruptcy collection once included West’s Bankruptcy Reporter and its digest – gone. Still includes Collier’s but not the case reporter service any longer, still includes Norton’s and West’s Bankruptcy Service, Lawyers Ed. but at least one if not both will be going, going, gone when they are off the WestPack plan. The shelves still hold some recently cancelled West practitioner titles, one may be purchased new in a couple of years, emphasis on "may" because they all were little used. In a nutshell, based on usage, cost and editorial quality, Collier's fulfills our patrons' needs, meaning the print spend for the bankruptcy law collection will be reduced about no less than 75%.
And the Results. The bottom line is this. Our resources will be able to address the usual questions that walk in the door but not the atypical ones. Issues may be researched by way of electronic resources instead of print in some instances so some patrons' research preferences will have to adapt to the change but our collection of print and online resources generally remains adequate to fulfill our statutory mandate to provide library services. In the most common practice areas, our resources remain fairly strong Those areas are criminal law and procedure, family law, commercial litigation, wills, trusts, estates and probate, civil practice and procedure, tax, plus more than enough encyclopedic legal form sets for transactions and pleadings and a comprehensive Ohio state law collection of primary and secondary sources, although several multiple copies will be gone, yes, once they are off the WestPack plan.
To put this in context, due note that our little county law library is not located in a major metropolitan area. Our county government is relatively small. Our two largest "law firms" of any note are the County Prosecutor's Office and one firm with less than 20 attorneys. Our county bar association membership is in the 300s. Our county law library association before it disbanded had about 130 members. We have a state appellate court in our county but no federal courts whatsoever. The local bar's practice is primarily state litigation focused with some wills and estate planning, tax, and a very small amount of corporate transactional activity.
Cost savings? Well over $250,000 annually based on 2009 print spend. West print spend cut 50%, Matthew Bender print cut about 25%. CCH loose-leaf print cut around 40%, BNA print about 20% (but we had already gone to BNA Online for everything we needed except for some of their supplemented labor and employment law treatises and tax portfolios which we are keeping in print). All PLI supplemented treatises history because their target audience is not our patrons. Ditto for many Aspen titles.
And more cuts to come. At least half the current cost of WestPack Print titles will be gone. Probably more if we do not keep Westlaw, plus some additional West titles as we give the entire collection a second look-see. Probably 20% in current Matthew Bender print spend will also be cut.
Any tough calls? One or two and a few, a very few, cancelled West titles may be resurrected in a couple of years. With West's annual supplementation costs running in the 70%-plus range of buying new, well, I think you know where I am heading. Of course, when resurrected, no supplementation, thank you very much. Plus some more current West continuations will be going the just-new-bound-volumes route too.
Did I lose any sleep over this? Nope. Do note, I am not one of those wild-eyed “let’s do it all online” legal researchers. For 30-years, I’ve had one foot firmly planted in print, the other in online. That’s not going to change and hasn’t changed by the Shed West Era as executed in our county law library. Also note, we are one of the three best financed from mandated court fines and foreitures revenue county law libraries in the state so while we needed to reduce print spent to redirect funds elsewhere, many of our executed Shed West Era decisions were made to stop wasting public monies on maintaining print materials rarely being used and/or readily available electronically.
It Takes a Hard Working Library Staff in the Shed West Era. This project took no small amount of work and most of it was performed by my colleagues, Julie, Dan and Angie. They worked hard generating circ stats from our OPAC at my beck-and-call, updating our catalog and serials records to reflect changes made to the print collection, stamping “Discarded” on volumes, labeling "Cancelled Effective..." on the spines of print continuations, shifting the soon-to-be discarded materials around to make for convenient disposal, stripping loose-leaf and compression-bound volumes so we could recycle the paper because we couldn’t toss metal into the recycling bins all the while keeping the law library up and running without disruption to our patrons while also adapting how we once transacted business to our county's way of doing business. More work to come as we reclassify some of the collection to improve browsability after I personally shift the treatise collection. More Percocet afternoons ahead.
We started the print continuation cancellation process in late 2009. The discarding process started in early 2010 and was dialed up to “11” when our Board called for completing the project as expeditiously as possible in March. The recycling crew at our local university, Miami University, offered to do the heavy lifting by pulling the materials off the shelves, taking them to the recycling center, and crediting the County with recycled paper tonnage. Because the crew was going to be more readily available once the academic year ended, we completed the project by late May and they hauled everything out by mid-June.
Shedding Westlaw? Well, the Miami crew didn’t haul out everything. Yes, in the above right photo, that is Words & Phrases! Now, there's a valuable 21st Century research tool! Yup, another unneeded, unwanted, unused WestPack title; 50% off, such a deal! I might help my West rep carry the volumes to the trunk of his car after we have discussed the possibility of keeping or shedding Westlaw and after taking a Percocet.
Please note that while critical of the bloated Westlaw licenses with WestPact titles I inherited upon arriving on the scene, this criticism in not directed at the former occupant of my office. Her law library association board was "wowed" be the alleged cost savings offered by TR Legal and the misguided notion that Lexis and Westlaw were "duplicative." Professionals, that would be law librarians, ought never let amateurs negotiate with duopolists. Lesson learned.
Hello, TR Legal, my Board chair suggested months ago that we save staff time by simply tossing updates to WestPack titles that will be cancelled at the end of the current three-year license in December. That should tell you where we may be heading with Westlaw. And obviously, an LMA or any other multi-year print committment in our County is out of the question considering (1) the current economy and (2) TR Legal's refusal to allow the Spokane County Law Library out of its Westlaw license. [JH]