November 2, 2010
How Much Longer for 19th Century Legal Print Relics: What legal reference and research tool titles are obsolete and when will they disappear from sales catalogs?
Time to follow up on an issue posed in LLB's Are Reporter Advance Sheet Services Obsolete? (After a 34% Price Increase is Stanford Law Going to Cancel West's S. Ct. Advance Sheet Subscription?) That post cites to Stanford Law Paul Lomio's post, The supremely expensive Supreme Court Reporter Advance Sheets Service where Lomio ends with the following question:
Isn’t this service really quite obsolete? If you think otherwise, I would welcome comments posted as we mull over whether or not we will cancel.
This as Stanford Law was grappling with a 15% budget cutback. Does anyone with access to any sort of fee-based or free online legal search service really need advance sheets? Don't think so.
There's been some email exchanges about what other law-related print titles are obsolete. Well, we all know Shepards in print is and has been for years. Harvard Law School's collection development policy with its reliance on WEXIS online source substitution it "buys" like other academic law libraries damn cheap but which nonetheless generated the largest print cancellation in West's history is a landmark development. Jenkins Law Library's recent "free-for-postage" AALL listserv offering of state digests current with 2009 pocket parts is another example.
I have characterized print digests and comprehensive general and state legal encylopedias as examples of 19th Century publication types that have outlived their usefulness for legal research and which are just too damn expensive to maintain in print. Jason Wilson, Jones McClure Publishing, forecasts via emails that
Print digests are gone in three years, yes. Headnotes will not be written in five. My predictions, quote me on it. And the anecdotal evidence is already there.
And in response to legal encyclopedias, Wilson adds:
I can't see how these things are going to last that much longer in print (like digests).
I agree although I might stretch the forecasts for the demise of print digests and legal encyclopedias out to five years for the last remaining diehards, meaning those academic law libraries which have cancelled most print digests and legal encyclopedias but for the token ones because LRW profs insist on instructing law students on how to perform legal research oh so last century. Plus some public sector state and county law libraries who may still be saying "but, but" while cancelling other print to offset the escalating costs of digests and legal encyclopedias. But that's what WEXIS public access accounts for online search is about with or without online access for these relics from bygone times.
What do you think? [JH]
What exactly is it that CALR has to offer that makes West's topic and number system obsolete? The online key numbers and custom digest function on Westlaw are fine but depend on the headnotes you suggest will be passing from the stage, and there is no electronic equivalent of the Descriptive Word Index.
Posted by: Nolan Wright | Nov 2, 2010 5:17:12 PM
Just based on our use, I'd say it's going to be a while before the state encyclopedias and State Practice books are truly obsolete. With my library's patrons, a New York lawyer looking for a quick but solid discussion of, say, Indiana partnership law is an almost daily occurrence.
Posted by: Mikhail Koulikov | Nov 2, 2010 11:14:03 AM