February 10, 2011
Correcting Serious Flaws in Shepard's Acts and Cases by Popular Name, 6th ed., in Response to One Law Librarian's Heads-Up on law-lib
Some may recall Scott Burgh's (Chief Law Librarian, City of Chicago Department of Law Library) law-lib message of Nov. 30, 2010 entitled "new edition / errrors / flawed Shepard's Acts and Cases by Popular Name" which was a very serious critique of the editorial quality of Shepard's Act and Case by Popular Name upon the release of the new 6th edition in no small part because the 6th edition carry forwarded Illinois code errors that previous Shepard's editors had been alerted to but ignored. In a nutshell, Burgh wrote in his list message, "like the last edition, when it comes to Illinois law, [the new 6th edition of Shepard's Act and Case by Popular Name} is unfortunately riddled with errors"
It took something like 24-48 hours to get Scott's message to the right people at LexisNexis but that was accomplished without any involvement of our so-called AALL Vendor Liaison. Perhaps mentioning something like "we expect poor editorial quality from West but not LN" caught someone's attention.
Lexis Nexis is fixing the problem. In response to concerns expressed by Scott about the Illinois statutory references in the recently revised 6th edition of Shepard’s Acts & Cases by Popular Names, LexisNexis is performing an editorial review to include cross-references between the Acts and code sections from the Illinois Revised Statutes and the renamed/renumbered Acts and code sections in the Illinois Compiled Statutes. In addition, the revised publication will include an appendix at the end of each volume containing a conversion table for the Illinois Acts and statutes from that particular volume. The replacement volumes are expected to begin shipping by April 30, 2011. All customers that received the original set of revised volumes will receive the updated volumes at no cost. There is no need to return to original volumes.
A couple of morals to this story:
- Each and every law librarian should speak up like Scott did when one discovers questionable editorial content being producted by our vendors by way of law-lib until some more public web communications vehicle (ah, like a CRIV-Unleashed Blog) is published. This gives everyone a "heads-up." Everyone includes our vendors who monitor AALL lists daily.
- Vendor employees tasked with monitoring AALL lists may not necessarily know who to send FYIs to because their bureaucracy has more VPs than the banking industry does. So skip several rungs of the chain of command by finding a way to contact the vendor's senior executives. Their communications will be acted upon by the editorial staff. Meaning, of course, skip vendor "librarian relations" staff completely.
- State in no uncertain terms that the flawed publication is unacceptable and explain in sufficent specificity what is wrong so the right people at the vendor can check the matter and can contact you for follow-up.
- Do not depend on our professional association doing any of this in something that even resembles taking prompt action because there is no established track record that they will.
Now, here's the flaw in this procedure. Scott called attention to a local issue -- Illinois code citations -- and LN is addressing it. But are their similar non-Illinois flaws in the current edition of Shepard’s Acts & Cases by Popular Names? The publisher won't necessarily know unless other law librarians check and speak out. To its credit LN is correcting the problem Scott identified at no cost to subscribers but it is up to law librarians in the other 49 state jurisdictions to perform quality control checks. [JH]
Personally, I have always had a positive response to error correction messages sent directly to my product reps. It is in everyones best interests to make sure that data (print or electronic) is as usable as possible. Your point about librarians taking responsibility to communicate errors that are identified to our vendors is very valid.
Choosing and effective and appropriate mode and method of communication is sometimes tricky. The Canadian Association of Law Libraries, Vendor Liaison Committee provides our members with a Checklist for Librarian-Vendor Relations that touches on communication of unresolved issues. It is available at http://www.callacbd.ca/images/File/Vendors%20SIG/VLC_checklist(4).htm for those interested.
CALL/ACBD Vendor Liaison Committee Chair
Posted by: Shaunna Mireau | Feb 11, 2011 10:20:37 AM
The role of the law librarian is an important one, but publishers need to take responsibility for the work they produce! The publisher won't necessarily know unless other law librarians check and speak out. Isn't the purpose of an editor to check to make sure there are no errors?
Fixing at no cost? Lexis should be issuing refunds to everyone who purchased this title.
Posted by: Mary Matuszak | Feb 10, 2011 7:33:49 AM
I haven't had to kavetch to Shepard's in a while, but when I did, I found them very responsive. In one case, the error was corrected in less than 4 hours. However, this current situation appears to involve numerous mistakes. Some techniques:
1. Ask to speak to the editor for the publication.
2. If no response, escalate the issue to a higher manager.
3. Ask for names, job titles, and telephone numbers every step of the way. Make notes--starting with the name of the customer service representative you first deal with.
4. Write letters to high-ranking managers. Nothing catches their attention more than a letter sent to Lord What's-His-Face in England or Canada. Use the corporate records available on line to find out the latest head-honchos.
5. In one case with LexisNexis, I also made the authors aware of the problem. When the authors are practicing lawyers, look them up on a bar site.
6. Call up your sales representative to ask why you should buy anything else from the vendor in question when the problem isn't corrected. Ask for the sales representataive's supervisor. Make sure management in the sales area of the vendor is made available of the problem. Once you have identified the editor, make sure the editor gets a copy of your e-mail to the authors.
7. No swearing at the folks you deal with, but clearcut pointed comments are good. My favorite is, "Who is responsible for making this decision?" Make that person the target of your complaint.
Posted by: John Hightower | Feb 10, 2011 7:02:42 AM