CRIV’s New “Request for Assistance” Form More Enabling Than Helpful?

“I believe CRIV should be spending more time educating librarians to do their own problem solving instead of dealing with individual issues. For example, the link on the CRIV page, Working with vendors could be a tutorial rather than a list of links.

…CRIV could sponsor webinars on negotiation, relationship building, how to be proactive instead of reactive, etc. Instead of vendor site visits, they could attend regional and local chapter meetings to present on these topics. They could use the CRIV Sheet and CRIV Blog to blog on the topics as well.

Nina Platt, in the June 21, PinHawk Blog ( argues that CRIV should be counseling, instructing, and training law librarians to improve their relations with information vendors rather than simply encouraging them to send their complaints to CRIV for resolution.  I apologize for just getting to this four months after the original post but I think Ms. Platt has made a number of excellent suggestions.

Patron Driven Acquisitions in Law School Libraries?

“…I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the near future of most research libraries really does lie less in brokering access to an artificially small subset of the huge universe of available documents, and more in showing our patrons everything that’s available and buying only what they say they need, in the very moment they realize that they need it.”

quote from Rick Anderson’s (Associate Dir. for Scholarly Resources & Collections, Marriott Library, University of Utah)  2009 article, “Is the Library Collection Too Risky?” available at

Should  law school libraries move  in the direction of Patron Driven Acquisitions?  Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Future of the Harvard Library

Thanks to the Law Librarian Blog (  for sharing this. The Future of the Library is expertise and connectivity.  Librarians are information experts who help people find good data and analysis.  And we provide the context and infrastructure for connectivity.  Notice there is nothing in this video about a book or a row of shelves.  We have to get out of the warehousing business and into the business of providing friction-free connection to information.

Landmark HathiTrust Ruling

“The HathiTrust ruling could well become a landmark in copyright. The case is not yet over, and future cases could reinterpret or limit it in important ways. But it landed with a big splash, and its ripples could reach far indeed.”

James Grimmelman, “HathiTrust: A Landmark Copyright Ruling,” PWxyz: The News Blog of Publishers Weekly, October 13, 2012, avaialable at

Why Aren’t More Legal Information Vendors COUNTER Compliant?

Online usage standards promulgated by Project COUNTER should make it possible for librarians to make more informed acquisitions and retention decisions based on usage data that is reliable and comparable across databases and vendors. But standards are worthless unless they are adopted and adhered to by the appropriate vendors.  To date, while many vendors of science and bio-medical information are COUNTER compliant, most legal information vendors are not.  The Register of COUNTER compliant vendors can be found here. I’d love to hear from a few vendors about why they have or have not become COUNTER compliant. A step-by-step guide for vendors to COUNTER Compliance is here.

eBook User’s Bill of Rights

In anticipation of the 2012 AALL Boston Vendor Roundtable: e-Books in the Legal Profession, I thought I’d repost the eBook User’s Bill of Rights written by the San Rafael Public Library’s Acting Directory,  Sarah Houghton, and originally posted on February 28, 2011 in Ms. Houghton’s  blog, Librarian in Black.   I’m not sure I agree with every part of  it but I do think that librarians must be very vigilant so that we don’t let technology fundamentally alter our expectations about what it means to own and use books.  I would add to the Bill of Rights a section about the right to borrow ebooks for periods of limited duration from public, academic, and/or private libraries.


Every eBook user should have the following rights:

  • the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations
  • the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses
  • the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright
  • the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks

I believe in the free market of information and ideas.

I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can flourish when their works are readily available on the widest range of media. I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can thrive when readers are given the maximum amount of freedom to access, annotate, and share with other readers, helping this content find new audiences and markets. I believe that eBook purchasers should enjoy the rights of the first-sale doctrine because eBooks are part of the greater cultural cornerstone of literacy, education, and information access.

Digital Rights Management (DRM), like a tariff, acts as a mechanism to inhibit this free exchange of ideas, literature, and information. Likewise, the current licensing arrangements mean that readers never possess ultimate control over their own personal reading material. These are not acceptable conditions for eBooks.

I am a reader. As a customer, I am entitled to be treated with respect and not as a potential criminal. As a consumer, I am entitled to make my own decisions about the eBooks that I buy or borrow.

I am concerned about the future of access to literature and information in eBooks.  I ask readers, authors, publishers, retailers, librarians, software developers, and device manufacturers to support these eBook users’ rights.


More info about the 2012 Vendor Roundtable is found here.

Grimmelmann on the GSU E-Reserves Opinon

NYLS Professor of Law James Grimmelmann can always be counted on for immediate, deeply informed, crystalline commentary on the latest IP issues.  His blog,The Laboratorium, has an excellent preliminary assessment of the GSU decision here.

Ruling in GSU Suit

It never good for relations between libraries and information vendors when the latter sues the former in federal court.  But at least the ruling in the Georgia State University copyright infringement suit might bring some desperately needed clarity to fair use determinations made by academic libraries.  The ruling is here.   Early expert commentary can be found at Kevin Smith’s excellent blog, Scholarly Communication @ Duke.

Working with Non-Traditional Information Vendors

The following piece by Jacob Sayward of Fordham University School of Law was originally published in the May 2012 CRIV Sheet (v. 34, No 3):

Like many librarians, I spend much of my workday dealing with “traditional” information vendors. For law librarians, these traditional information vendors will include West, LexisNexis, Wolters Kluwer, and their affiliates and subsidiaries. They will also include the smaller, independent legal publishers still out there, the non-legal publishers from whom my library buys materials, and the providers of electronic databases and journals to which my library subscribes. These interactions still offer plenty of surprises on a regular basis, but by now there is at least an established playbook for my relations with all of them, thanks to the wisdom and experience of thousands of my librarian colleagues. Getting the most out of my relationship with non-traditional information vendors is often more difficult.

 It is not the most precise definition, but by non-traditional information vendors I essentially mean the providers of services that improve our collection’s maintenance and access (as opposed to the providers of our collection’s actual materials). Cassidy Cataloging Services provides my library with MARC records for a wide variety of holdings. Innovative Interfaces is behind our Integrated Library System. Our A-to-Z Journal List is hosted by and administered through Serials Solutions, and as the administrator of my library’s A-to-Z Journal List for the last four years I have gained quite a bit of experience in working with Serials Solutions.

 An A-to-Z Journal List is a website that serves as a library’s portal to its online journals. These journal lists tend to have more simple interfaces (compared to comprehensive catalogs, at least), and they are most effective when they convey the basic information a patron or user wants to immediately know about a particular online journal. Does the library subscribe to this journal in some format?  What are its coverage dates?  Through what database is the access?  Which patrons or users have access?  Within the law library world these journal lists are, with few exceptions, the provenance of academic law libraries. One of the biggest causes of frustration regarding the administration of our journal list is the fact that such a smaller subset of my colleagues have experience (or even interest) in the problems involved. In fact, the companies behind these journal lists seem to design them with larger university libraries in mind, so even within the context of academic law libraries I know we are, at best, a secondarily targeted customer base.

Problems with non-traditional information vendors often arise when their products necessarily interact with the publications of more traditional vendors. This is what they are designed to do, of course, but the intersection may lead to some poor customer service experiences. Anyone who has ever called a computer technical support line about hardware problems only to be told the problem is with the software (and then vice versa) may be familiar with the experience. I worked with Serials Solutions to create some new access for journals on law schools’ LexisNexis subscriptions, and the entire process took over two years. One company was always complaining that the other would not supply the necessary information, so I ended up having to get most of the required information and format it myself.

My experiences working with Serials Solutions have taught me a few things about working with non-traditional information vendors. The same patience and persistence that help in so many other matters (including our relations with traditional information vendors) are important. Non-traditional information vendors may also be less experienced with or invested in their law library customers, so it sometimes takes extra effort to get them to take notice or understand our issues.

At the same time, some non-traditional information vendors make up for some of these “inherent” problems by deciding they will be the ones to go the extra mile. Innovative Interfaces, perhaps owing to its long history with law libraries, has one of the largest footprints at AALL’s Annual Meeting. Serials Solutions, in contrast, stopped attending our Annual Meeting several years ago.

If AALL’s members are not considering CRIV as a potential source of help for non-traditional information vendors in the same way that they consider it for more traditional information vendors, then that should change as well. The problem could be that they simply do not believe CRIV’s mandate covers their problems, or it could be that they do not make the connection to CRIV because they are unused to seeing CRIV cover these issues. If members consult CRIV or AALL’s Vendor Liaison more often on these topics, then the value they receive from CRIV and AALL’s Vendor Liaison will grow. Similarly, law librarians can try alternative avenues like the new Library Consumer Advocacy Caucus or for help with non-traditional information vendors. The best course of action with a non-traditional information vendor like Serials Solutions might be to look at some of the success librarians have had organizing amongst themselves. There have been countless times I have wished that Serials Solutions had its own equivalent of the Innovative Law Users Group, so I would had easier access to all the other librarians who could share their Serials Solutions experiences and how they were able to solve problems with the company. As different as our relationships with non-traditional information vendors may be from our relationships with their more traditional counterparts, the best solutions to our problems with many of them will come from the same place: collaboration with our librarian colleagues.

Project COUNTER and the Quest for Reliable Online Usage Data

 The following is reprinted from the May 2012 CRIV Sheet:

How many articles in law librarianship’s professional literature have begun with the phrase, “In this era of shrinking budgets…”  Let’s call a moratorium on the premise that everything we do now is a function of the economic downturn. In both lean times and fat, law librarians ought to make acquisitions and retention decisions based on evidence rather than on conjecture, intuition, or tradition. Librarians should be able to demonstrate that every expenditure contributes to the core mission of their host institution.  Let’s not spend any time being nostalgic about the more genteel past of our profession.  It’s not enough to “market ourselves better.” We must be indispensible. To be indispensible we must know exactly what we add to the overall enterprise (court, law firm, law school) and jettison  whatever contributes less than it costs.

 There are many ways to quantify a library’s return on investment. We can start by determining whether and how much the information resources we purchase are actually being used by patrons. When library materials were primarily paper-based, usage was difficult to assess.  Most printed materials in law libraries do not circulate much.  But as more and more library resources began to be accessed online, credible usage data became easier to harvest. Vendors of electronic information have always taken advantage of the usage data made possible by technology.  They use this information to develop pricing models and to identify areas of user demand. Over time, many vendors developed their own internal standards for the particulars of usage (e.g. what is a hit, a search, or a download) and for how to count them. Until very recently they did not share this information with their customers. 

 Vendors and librarians did not come together to discuss universal standards for measuring usage of electronic resources until 2002 when COUNTER (Counting Online Usage of Networked Electronic Resources) was founded with the mission of ensuring that vendors supply usage metrics that accurately measure what they purport to measure and statistics that are comparable from vendor to vendor.  Since January 2003, COUNTER has released three versions of its Code of Practice for Journals and Databases, and one version of the Code of Practice for Books and Reference Works. Release 3 for Journals and Databases and Release 1 for Books and Reference Works are currently in force. An integrated Release 4 is in draft form.

 Beginning with the third release of the Code of Practice for Journals and Databases, COUNTER compliance has required that content providers allow usage data to be harvestable using SUSHI (Standardized Usage Harvesting Initiative), a standardized protocol (NISO standard Z39.93) for automating the gathering of COUNTER data.  Prior to SUSHI, librarians were required to regularly visit the web site of each vendor to download usage data.  SUSHI ensures that COUNTER data can be gathered automatically so that it can actually be used. 

 Release 4, a new Code of Practice integrating standard for journals, databases, books, reference works, and multimedia content was published in draft form in October 2011. The COUNTER Executive Committee will soon be considering comments on this draft in preparation for the definitive publication of this release. To understand what is new in Release 4, I contacted Oliver Pesch, the chief strategist for EBSCO’s e-resource access and management services who currently serves on the Executive Committee for Project COUNTER and is co-chair of the SUSHI Standing Committee of NISO (the National Information Standards Organization).  He said that one of the most important new developments is that Release 4 is an integrated Code of Practice covering journals, databases, books, and other electronic resources,  “a simplification welcomed by many content providers, particularly those that offer books, journals and databases on the same platform.”  Release 4 for the first time creates standards for usage of multi-media collections and for usage by mobile devices.   In addition, Pesch said that for Release 4, the yearly audit that each vendor must undergo to remain COUNTER compliant will look more closely at the vendor integration of COUNTER with SUSHI, “ensuring consistency in implementations of both COUNTER and SUSHI.  In a parallel effort, the NISO SUSHI maintenance committee is publishing a COUNTER SUSHI Implementation Profile that will serve as a guide to both developers and auditors to help inform that consistency.” According to Pesch, “Content providers must comply with Release 4 by the end of 2013 to retain COUNTER Compliant status.”  The COUNTER web site ( provides details on Release 4.

 What must a vendor do to become COUNTER compliant?  They can go to and download a document called, “Counter Compliance: Step by Step Guide for Vendors.” The Codes of Practice for Release 1 for Books and Reference Works and Release 3 for Journals and Databases, as well as the draft of Release 4 are available as well on the COUNTER web site.   In a nutshell, to become COUNTER compliant, vendors must adopt the relevant Codes of Conduct depending on which sort of content they publish.  Each Code of Conduct contains a glossary of standard definitions for a large number of key bibliographic and usage terms such as “article,” “search,” and “turnaway.” The Codes also mandate which type of usage report must be generated for each information format.   For example, depending on a number of qualifying criteria set forth in the Code of Conduct, publishers of online journals are required to provide one or more of the following reports:  number of successful full-text article requests by month and journal, turnaways by month and journal, and the number of successful full-text article requests by year and journal.  Database vendors must provide one or more of these reports:  total searches and sessions by month and database, turnaways by month and database, and total searches and sessions by month and service.

 Next the vendor must develop a process for converting their raw logfiles into COUNTER usage reports.  COUNTER support staff will advise vendors on how to accomplish this if necessary.  COUNTER staff then reviews the usage reports for compliance with the standards articulated in the Codes of Conduct and makes recommendations for remediation if necessary.  Once the review is complete and the vendor has paid a $500 fee, the vendor will be included in the Register of COUNTER Compliant Vendors. To maintain compliant status, the vendor must undergo an independent audit within 6 months of being added to the Register and then must be audited annually by a CPA, Chartered Accountant or equivalent.

 As of January 2012, approximately 131 electronic publishers and vendors of information are COUNTER compliant. This list includes a number of vendors whose material is heavily used in law libraries.  These include Berkeley Electronic Press, Cambridge University Press, EBSCO Publishing, JSTOR, OCLC, Oxford University Press, ProQuest, Sage Publications and Springer-Verlag. However, the preeminent publishers of legal information are conspicuously absent from the list.

 What, if anything, can law librarians do to ensure that the vendors they do business with are or become COUNTER compliant? Oliver Pesch told me that some major legal publishers are currently in discussions with COUNTER: “COUNTER is providing both encouragement and guidance [to these vendors] on becoming COUNTER compliant.” Pesch added “Publishers tend to listen to the market need and will provide services if they customers ask — or in some cases — demand.  Law library administrators can help by making it clear to publishers that law librarians expect to get COUNTER reports.”  Serials librarians and others with acquisitions responsibilities should be negotiating COUNTER compliance with all of the information vendors with which they do business.  In our conversations with vendors, we can help them see that COUNTER compliance benefits them as well.   Vendors know as well as librarians that acquisitions budgets are being slashed.  Without reliable usage date, libraries will have no recourse but to make acquisitions and retention decisions based on unreliable data or no data at all. Oliver Pesch put it this way, “As library budgets continue to be strained (law libraries being no exception), serials professionals are looking for ways to ensure they are making the most effective use of their collection budget. The ‘cost-per-use’ measure is becoming a mainstay of that evaluation. And, since that measure relies on usage data, the ability to gather accurate usage statistics is paramount.  Publishers that provide COUNTER usage statistics have a better chance of having their products fairly assessed.  When usage statistics are not available or difficult to come by, busy librarians may resort to guessing and the outcome may not be what the publisher desires…”  When vendors and librarians alike know exactly how usage of electronic library materials is being assessed, and every resource is being assessed according the same criteria, everyone benefits. 

 The economic models for law school, private law practice, and state government are changing.  It will never again be acceptable, nor should it, for libraries to build their collections heedless of the return upon the investment made in those resources.  Librarians know in their bones that libraries have real value but they are increasingly being called upon to quantify that value.  Information vendors must cooperate with this effort lest they help to destroy the market they serve. Librarians and vendors will have to work together to demonstrate the value of their shared product to the entire legal enterprise.  COUNTER is a positive step in that direction.

Welcome to the CRIV Blog

Why a CRIV Blog and why now?

1.   Much of the discussion about the relationship between information vendors and law librarians happens online.  CRIV wants to be part of that conversation.

2.  The CRIV Sheet is published only 3 times a year and so can only be distantly reactive at best.  The CRIV  Blog can respond quickly as events unfold and can get information out much more quickly.

3. Print (e.g. The CRIV Sheet) is a one way medium. The CRIV Blog is two way (please comment on our posts).

4. The CRIV Blog has been in the works for a long time.  CRIV leaders past and present have advocated the establishment of a CRIV blog.  We finally made it happen.

5. Issues relating to the relationships between librarians and information vendors are more important now than ever.   Let’s talk about it!