Ongoing Discussions on Access to Federal Government Information

“A dramatic termination of e-government access occurred when the October 2013 federal funding gap resulted in a shutdown of government processes. The public’s access to government information was severely limited, and in some cases prohibited entirely. The natural progress for an advanced technological society is to make information available via Internet anytime and from anywhere. However, when access is eliminated, the resulting information crisis cripples the public’s interaction with the federal government. The shutdown and the subsequent lack of access to government information is an indicator that the information dissemination model is faulty, and reliance on a single point of access is a mistake. Libraries, long charged with protecting the public’s access to information, are challenged to find a viable solution to protecting free permanent public access.”  See the full article on LLRX,

Ebook Reader Survey

While not exclusive to academic and professional readers, this study of 800 ebook users sponsored by Ricoh with University of Colorado reinforces other current blog reports that the print book industry is seeing a small resurgence. Some key points taken from the report by Infodocket, are:

  •  Nearly 70 percent of consumers feel it is unlikely that they will give up on printed books by 2016.  
  • Consumers have an emotional and visceral/sensory attachment to printed books, potentially elevating them to a luxury item.
  • Despite their perceived popularity, 60% of eBooks downloaded are never read in the US.  Since 2012, the growth of eBooks has slowed significantly as dedicated eReader sales are declining, and tablet PC devices are increasingly becoming utilized for other forms of entertainment.
  • College students prefer printed textbooks to eBooks as they help students to concentrate on the subject matter at hand; electronic display devices such as tablet PCs tempt students to distraction.
  • Current trends reveal that while fewer copies of books are being sold, more titles are being published.
  • The top three reasons consumers choose a printed book are: Lack of eye strain when reading from paper copy vs. an eBook, the look and feel of paper, and the ability to add it to a library or bookshelf.

The full report, The Evolution of the Book Industry: Implications for U.S. Book Manufacturers and Printers, can be viewed at$File/ITStrategies_FINAL.pdf

Usage Statistics

Librarians have been requesting usage statistics from vendors since electronic databases became prevalent among research tools.  While the cooperation of legal vendors to supply figures still varies somewhat, there appears to be a trend toward providing the information.  Last May, CRIV Blog asked why legal vendors have been slow to become COUNTER Compliant.  The list of vendors currently registered can be found at this web site.  Some prominent vendors of legal databases and library services are registered, including: Berkeley Electronic Press, de Gruyter, Cambridge University Press, Gale Cengage, OCLC, Oxford University Press, ProQuest, Taylor & Francis Online, and Thomson Reuters, though some have not yet undergone audits for 2011 or 2012.

            For the librarian, the upcoming AALL session at the annual meeting, A1: Making Sense of the Numbers: Understanding Vendor Statistics, should help us use these statistics to build and maintain collections.  For an interesting take on how collecting electronic statistics may benefit vendors, visit the Krafty Librarain blog to review the entry, Usage Stats: Are They a Double Edged Sword?

AALL’s Vendor Relations web site

If you have not yet visited AALL’s Vendor Relations web page at, it is worth a quick review.  The page links to CRIV Tools, The CRIV Sheet, and The CRIV Blog.  It also has Antitrust FAQs, tips for working with vendors, the Vendor Liaison update, and vendor-related documents such as the Vendor Relations Policy Draft and information from the Vendor Colloquium.  It is a very good starting place for librarians with vendor questions.

E-Book Dilemma

Today’s e-book market for libraries is vaguely reminiscent of the internet before Google–content with little standardization.  Many of us have seen emails and surveys from vendors asking for library input into their e-book products, and some of us have met with vendors to discuss e-book access, circulation, platforms, and general library interest.  The problem is providing a profitable product that meets library purchasing and circulation needs as well as compatibility with the wide variety of electronic devices that will be used for access.  This post by Greg Lambert at 3 Geeks and a Law Blog, and its accompanying comments address some of the problems with e-book purchases for libraries and some possible solutions. In the comments, Tracy Thompson-Przylucki references NISO’s e-book section.  Interested parties may want to visit NISO’s web site at for more information on this.

For the third year New York Law Journal has released its list of legal vendor reader rankings.  Various legal vendors in the areas of technology, consulting and outsourcing, research and news, accounting and financial services, litigation support, real estate, ADR, recruiting and staffing, and education are ranked by the New York legal community of practicing attorneys, paralegals, legal assistants, and other verifiable legal end users .  This year nearly 6,800 votes were cast.

 Rankings for Best Online Research Provider are:

  1. Westlaw
  2. LexisNexis Total Litigator
  3. Bloomberg Law

 Rankings for Best Small Firm Legal Research Tool are:

  1. WestlawNext
  2. Findlaw
  3. Google Scholar

 Complete survey results can be found at  Congratulations to the service providers ranked throughout the survey.

Turning December Thoughts to Vendors

December is a time for generous thoughts, and maybe a good time to take a different look at librarian-vendor relationships. I admit to having my share of vendor frustrations, and I’m certain some vendors would express mutual feelings toward me, were it not bad for business. This time of year, though, I’d like to focus on what vendors have done for me and some of my colleagues.  Sure, there is an element of public relations with an eye to future sales, but there is also commitment on the part of vendor employees to do a good job and provide services to their customers above and beyond the expected.

I begin with a nod to vendor sponsorship at AALL, SIS, and Chapter meetings.  I have feasted on their dollar often enough.  And each year as I gather my materials for AALL, I watch for my BNA map of the city which is my lifeline to exploring the area.  These same vendors have also supported individual library events such as boot camps, CLE’s, and student trainings.  I have put out my begging hand to my reps, and when they could, they came through for me with money or give-aways.

We have some examples of more individual attention, too.  Dick Spinelli, from Hein, is known for sorting through materials he stores in his own home to supply it to requesting libraries.  At an AALL session several years ago, I heard Deb Quentel from CALI define her five-minute rule, which went something like, “If you can’t figure out your problem in five minutes, give me a call, day or night.”  It struck me as exceptional at that time, and I have found since then that it works.  Our Lexis rep recently provided free ebooks for demonstrations to faculty, students, and the local bar association.  Another librarian reports that her Lexis rep went out of her way to run down a price list of realistic costs for solo attorneys.  Lexis allowed us access to their archived hard copies library for resources that we were unable to retrieve in their electronic database.  Lexis and Westlaw have both allowed students to pool reward points for disaster relief, providing an opportunity for students to give to the community even in their financially-restricted circumstances.

These examples are just the tip of the wintry iceberg.  There are plenty more out there, I’m sure.  It would be great to give your vendors credit for their efforts, so let us know if you have good stories to share.

AALL Annual Meeting Session Review D-1: The Innovative Interfaces/SkyRiver v. OCLC Lawsuit: Who Wins? Who Loses?

This session was coordinated and moderated by Richard Jost of University of Washington. Panelists were Marshall Breeding, Vanderbilt University; Jonathan Franklin, University of Washington; and Scott Matheson, Yale Law School.

Scott Matheson began by providing background information on the case, SkyRiver Technology Solutions v. OCLC.  The case, still in litigation, began in July 2010, with Innovative Interfaces joining SkyRiver in charging OCLC with unlawful monopoly of cataloging services, bibliographic data services, interlibrary lending, and an attempt to monopolize integrated library systems.  The suit charges that OCLC engages in exclusionary arrangements, punitive pricing, and unlawful tying arrangements and refuses to deal with for-profit firms in violation of the antitrust laws.    The complaint raises concerns that OCLC is attempting to monopolize the integrated library systems market with its cloud-based Web-scale Management Services and other products that compete directly with for-profit products from SkyRiver and Innovative.

The suit cites the example of Michigan State University in charging OCLC with punitive pricing practices.  MSU moved to SkyRiver’s bibliographic services but maintained its OCLC membership for interlibrary loan functions.  The price quoted to MSU by OCLC to perform a batch load of their bibliographic records from SkyRiver was more than ten times the expected nominal fee of $.23/record.

The scenario changed somewhat this April when Harvard released its library catalog of more than 12 million bibliographic records to promote open access for scholarly communication.  Harvard worked with OCLC on this release.  OCLC states that Harvard maintained “what was most important to the OCLC cooperative – receiving attribution and making others aware of the cooperative’s norms and expectations of one another in regards to data derived from WorldCat,” though not entirely in line with the WorldCat Rights and Responsibilities for the OCLC Cooperative.  (See OCLC blog

Jonathan Franklin then discussed implications to libraries and users as we seek to define  bibliographic records use and ownership. As content creators, he argued that we should be allowed to share what we produce.  Franklin addressed the notion of silos of information.  Licensing restrictions, for example, are impediments to resource-sharing. He represented the competitors in the field as “cathedrals” and “bazaars.”  Cathedral providers are tightly controlled, with software maintenance in the form of updates and patches.  Bazaars are open source resources, inexpensive, but requiring considerable clean-up. 

Franklin projected that, similar to the genesis and growth of our major legal research databases, bibliographic and ILS providers may evolve into more costly high-end products and less expensive products with fewer options, underscoring the importance of creating interfaces that all products can use.

Marshall Breeding then began with a statement in support of both systems.  Noting that both are positive organizations, he identified their competing visions.  OCLC sees itself bringing libraries worldwide together into one place.  Innovative and SkyRiver see themselves as worthy alternatives for the technology and services that OCLC currently provides.  Web-scale or index-based discovery services such as Ebsco, Summon, ExLibris, Primo, and WorldCat, are gaining wider adoption, but in disciplines such as law, there continue to be outside resources that are not searchable.  This decreases the value of these tools and affects overall use.

In our new environment, we need more than ILS systems. We need integrated library systems plus electronic records management plus Open URL resolvers plus digital asset managers plus whatever the future holds.  Breeding proposes the next generation of “library services platforms” have characteristics of highly shared data models with knowledgebase architecture, delivered through software as a service, with unified workflows across formats and media, flexible metadata management, and open APIs for interoperability.

Mr. Breeding left the question of whether OCLC is a monopoly for others to decide.  He did summarize, however, by saying that OCLC is certainly dominant in multiple businesses and active in others.  While the trend is toward private businesses devolving into smaller industries, OCLC is growing and acquiring, and it is the only non-profit organization among its group of competitors.  In the future, we might expect that bibliographic records will continue to be viewed as a commodity and will be increasingly freely available.  With OCLC’s tolerance of the release of Harvard’s records, there will likely be no actions against libraries that choose to do likewise.

If this case is resolved in favor of SkyRiver, look for relief to anti-competitive pricing and fewer restrictions on how bibliographic, cataloging, and ILL records tie together.  If OCLC succeeds, the status quo is likely to continue.