November 1, 2011
Law Library Information Budget Estimates Decline by 21.7% According to 2011 AALL Findings
The 2011 edition of The AALL Biennal Salary Survey and Organizational Characteristics is now available. While the salary survey findings may not be very useful in the private and government sectors, the findings of organizational characteristics with respect to information budgets has some information value. Because of the differences in AALL survey response rates over the years one cannot say how much more than $1 billion on print and online resources is spent by institutional buyers each year. So firm conclusions cannot be reached about total information spend. However, some insights about trends can be drawn from information budgets provided by AALL institutional buyers as long as one is mindful of this limitation.
Based on reporting AALL law libraries, total 2011 information budgets declined from $1,389.118,580 in 2009 to $1,086,993,2226 in 2001. That's a 21.7% decline since the last reporting period two years ago. Based on available data -- meaning based on prior biennal reports I have readily available, namely the 2009 and 2005 editions in additon to the current 2111 editon -- this year's reported decline is more than three times higher than any earlier reported decline on a percent basis. Between 1999 and 2011, the previous largest decline reported was 6.5% in 2007 compared to 2005 reported total information budgets. See graphs below.
The major sector contributor to the 2011 decline was private law libraries although academic and government library sectors also reported declines. The difference in total information budgets reported between 2009 and 2011 was -$302,125.544. The private sector contributed -$212,017,438 or some 70% to the total decline. This, of course, is no surprise since institutional buyers in the private sector drives this market. Even using the less than comprehensive stats based on AALL reporting law libraries, private sector law libraries represents about 70% of all institutional buyers' spending.
Viewed from this perspective and taking the limitations of the survey response rate into account, it is still noteworthy that the average 2011 information budget for the major market player, private law libraries, declined by 13.3% compared to 2009. The average 2011 total information budget declined by 20% for government libraries and by 4.1% for academic libraries. But for academic law libraries receiving online legal search at what has to be viewed as a discounted wholesale price, one can assume in my opinion that the average academic library's total information budget would have declined more substantially in 2011.
All institutional market sectors reached record highs in terms of their electronic information budgets as a percent of total spend. Even at its discounted rates, electronic information budgets in law schools have increased to 27% of total spend, up from 23% in 2009. In the Government sector the increase was to 21% from 17%. In the private sector, spending for electronic resources rose from 64% in 2009 to 69% in 2011. No doubt, online legal search price inflation played a factor. No doubt print cancellations in the Shed West Era played a role too.
Providing information budgets every two years by AALL, even taking into consideration its limitations, is a "good thing" in a sort of least amount of effort to use the findings sort of way. AALL acting upon the findings in any sort of public forum for all to read leaves much to be desired. [JH]
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