Evidence-Based Acquisitions

Ever wonder how you can leverage usage statistics to select materials for your collection based on what patrons are actually using? Meet Evidence-Based Acquisitions: here is how it works. You agree with a publisher on a “deposit”- essentially, the dollar amount you commit to the publisher. This amount is a negotiated percentage of the value of the collection as a whole, and there is a floor amount required. This “floor” amount is then adjusted, based on the dollar value of the available titles. After 11 months, you look at the usage statistics, and decide which materials you want to purchase. Unlike demand-driven purchasing, there is no automatic trigger- you aren’t forced to buy books accessed “x” amount of times- it is up to you. The money in the deposit is credited toward the list price of what you decide to keep, and those materials are yours to access, download, and loan. If you want additional materials beyond the value of your deposit, some publishers will offer a discount for those, others won’t.  

Here come the caveats. This system only works well if it is a publisher you will likely buy a lot from, but not everything. If you have a standing order with a publisher, this might be a good deal. Publishers can also decide to exclude some materials- think textbooks and encyclopedias- so it may not be as good as it looks. The “deposit” price is also negotiated annually, and it will increase as new content is added. And, what happens to those books patrons accessed during the trial period that you don’t end up purchasing? Voila- they may reappear during the next trial, and you re-gain temporary access—unless (or until) they are later excluded.

What’s in this for the publishers? They get a guaranteed purchase amount- certainty in this economy is nothing to sniff at- and a chance to create patron-driven demand for materials we may not have thought of buying. What’s in it for us? We get to try out a broad collection and buy what we want, with more information about how popular a title actually is before we commit. Usage statistics can indeed be eye-opening. We are currently using this program with two publishers, and for us, it is a fairly new venture. It takes a lot of time and attention to detail to make it work, so there is a significant degree of librarian effort involved. So far, we like it, but it may not work for every library. We welcome any information on others’ experience with this system. The more we know, the better informed our decisions.  

Trellis for State Trial Court Records

Our library recently started a trial of Trellis. Trellis is a newer resource that provides researchers access to state trial court data and records. Because of the content, we thought our clinic professors might be interested.

In addition to state trial court data and records, Trellis offers search features such as Judge Analytics, Verdicts, and Motions & Issues. Trellis is also adding state statutes, administrative codes, constitutions, and court rules.

If a student in a legal clinic needed to look up a sample complaint or motion, a Trellis search can locate a similar case with a searchable docket containing pleadings that have been filed. Similarly, the same student looking to apply for a clerkship with a specific judge can utilize Judge Analytics to see what types of cases the judge typically has on their dockets, how often a case goes to trial, and what kinds of motions the judge is ruling on. 

Trellis is still building the database and does not have every state available and does not have every feature available for every state that is currently in the database. For the states that are included, searchers can filter cases by judge, county, practice area, dates, and more. You’ll find the dockets and some of the docket documents. You can track the case and receive email alerts when there are changes.

Because the cases are entered into the state filing systems by the clerks, Trellis is dependent on how those cases have been entered and classified in the state systems.

States included so far are AZ, CA, CT, DE, FL, GA, IL, MA, NV, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, TX, WA.

Let’s Do the Time Warp Again

Looking back at vendors and the AALL Annual Meeting

Recently, registration opened for the 2022 AALL Annual Meeting (shameless promotion! Register here) and I began to think about past conferences.

Luckily, and perhaps amazingly, AALL keeps a record online of all past conference locations going back to the first meeting in 1906 (help in Narragansett Pier, Rhode Island). Scrolling through the list I realized that many older locations were in smaller cities, likely due to the to the smaller size of the organization.

Scrolling though the list is a great distraction:

“Hey, it was held in Saratoga Springs! I used to live near there!”

“French Lick, Indiana? Where’s that? To Google maps!”

Needless to say, this list can be a great game!

However, I also realized (and I promise, this is connected to CRIV) that several meetings were held in Rochester, New York (1945 and 1978). A wonderful city, but also (former) home of Lawyer’s Co-Op. I don’t know the details of these meetings, but I have a feeling that the location of a major legal vendor played a role. Of course, this could also be nothing more than a coincidence.

What role should vendors have in supporting the annual meeting? Is it fine to have vendors sponsor events at a meeting?

I realize and recognize the amazing work that the AALL annual meeting planning committee does, and don’t want to second-guess decisions. What if a vendor, say Bloomberg Law offered to sponsor a meeting but wanted it in New York City? Or maybe in the digital age location matters much less than it did in 1945 or 1978.

What makes a “good” vendor?

Deciding the criteria for a “good” vendor is a personalized and complicated question to answer. The needs and priorities of libraries vary tremendously even in the (relatively!) small world of law libraries. While the exact importance of factors may vary, I suggest that these are items we should be reviewing when we review vendors:

  • Product. Does the product fill a need? Does this item (print subscription, database, service) fill the need that still exists? Are there other alternatives? Changes in library staff, leadership, law school program changes, technology, and the marketplace make it useful to re-examine a product’s need in your library.
  • Cost. Sometimes cost will be an absolute number while other times it is best expressed as cost per use.
  • Usage. Is this item used by most of the first year class? By an entire upper-level writing course? By a single faculty member for scholarship? Although these questions may appear to be framed as “good” to “bad”, maybe that resource is key to that single faculty member’s scholarship. How much weight to place on this factor will vary depending on budgetary needs, however even low-use items may be of great importance to key members of the law school community.
  • Vendor commitment to equity and social justice. How committed is the vendor to diversity, equity, and inclusion? Is this surface-level commitment via social media or are there concrete steps taken by the company? See earlier posts on this blogs for some great examples of vendor action in this area.
  • Customer service. What happens when things go wrong? Flexibility can also fall into this category

Finding a balance between these factors can be tricky. What about a great product with poor customer service? An expensive product with low usage? There are many tricky questions we could ponder. However, this small blog post is simply a reminder against not examining any factors and thinking the scariest phrase in all of collection development: “we’ve always done it this way”.

Keeping Up with the Vendors – In Their Own Words

Tracking developments in legal information vendors’ products and policies is an important part of many law librarians’ jobs, and it’s a valuable pursuit for keeping current in the profession.

While the major legal database and content providers all offer a variety of access points and formats for news about changes to their platforms and offerings, being aware of them all, let alone connecting with them regularly, can be a challenge.

To help, the list below brings together resources for staying abreast of announcements and product-related communications from Bloomberg, Fastcase, HeinOnline, LexisNexis, Westlaw, and Wolters Kluwer. Be sure to bookmark, subscribe, follow, etc. whichever are useful to you, and/or save this blog post for future reference. Please email me at christensena@wlu.edu if you know of anything missing; I’ll plan to keep it updated.

Bloomberg Law

Fastcase

HeinOnline

LexisNexis

Thomson Reuters Legal / Westlaw

Wolters Kluwer

Legal Podcasts from Law 360

Podcasts are great entertainment for long commutes, road trips while eating lunch, or just for some much-needed downtime. But what happens when you’re tired of true crime podcasts?

Law360 (Lexis) has podcasts!

Right now, Law 360 produces three podcasts – Pro Say (not a typo), The Term, and Legalization. Each episode is about 30-40 minutes long and available via traditional podcast apps such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher as well as directly via the website here.

Pro Say is “a weekly podcast from Law360, bringing you a quick recap of both the biggest stories and the hidden gems from the world of law. In each episode, hosts Amber McKinney and Alex Lawson are joined by expert guests to bring you inside the newsroom and break down the stories that had us talking.” There are over 200 episodes available as of February 2022.

The Term “is a podcast for the busy U.S. Supreme Court watcher. Give us about 15 minutes each week and we’ll catch you up on all the big action at the nation’s highest court, along with a list of what to watch in the coming sessions.” Right now, there are almost 100 episodes and understandable this podcast will likely become more relevant as controversial cases appear before the Court.

Legalization “explores some of the murky legal scenarios playing out for cannabis businesses across the country. We share first-hand accounts from the businesses and attorneys grappling with an industry that is often legal at the state level but prohibited at the federal level.” It is just starting a second season.

Black Librarians: In Their Own Voice

A couple years ago, Book Riot posted an article by Katisha Smith titled, “13 Pioneering Black Librarians You Oughta Know.” Among others, Smith introduces us to Edward C. Williams, the first Black Librarian, Dorothy B. Porter, the “Dewey Decimal Decolonizer,” Clara Stanton Jones, the first Black President of the American Library Association, Eliza Atkins Gleason, Library Science Trailblazer, and Sadie Peterson Delaney, “Godmother of Bibliotherapy.” Only one of the thirteen librarians we meet is alive today. And that made me wonder — who are some of today’s pioneers? The list below is a result of entering that rabbit hole that is the internet and following one link after another. Obviously, the list is not exhaustive, and it is a bit eclectic. But what these librarians share is a passion for documenting and telling the Black experience, each in their own voice. If you have not yet met them, I’d like to introduce you to them.

In “Chronicling the Black Experience,” Mark Lawton writes about librarians and archivists who collect and tell their own stories. One is Rodney E. Freeman, Jr. who created the Black Male Archives, an online repository to “capture, curate, and promote positive stories about Black men around the world while inspiring and informing younger generations.” The Blackivists are a collective of six trained Black archivists located in Chicago. As part of their goal of prioritizing Black cultural heritage preservation and memory work, they provide training, project management, best practices, and consultation on analog and digital archives upkeep. Makiba Foster is regional manager of the African American Research Library and Cultural Center at Broward County Library in Florida. With archivist and scholar Bergis Jules, she formed Archiving the Black Web. The project “aims to organize efforts to collect and contextualize social media and other internet content that focus on the Black experience.”

The Black Librarian in America: Reflections, Resistance and Reawakening is the latest in the series of “The Black Librarian in America” volumes. Edited entirely by Black women — Shauntee Burns-Simpson, Nichelle M. Hayes, Ana Ndumu, and Shaundra Walker — the book addresses issues pertaining to Black librarians’ intersectional identities, capacities, and contributions. The book is available on pre-order with an expected release date on February 18, 2022.

Alma Dawson, in “Celebrating African-American Librarians and Librarianship,” an article published in Library Trends in 2000, celebrates the achievements of African-American librarians and their contributions to librarianship. Dawson identifies and reviews records of scholarship that are intended to serve as starting points for students and scholars. There is a wealth of detailed information including major studies, organizations, and recurring themes in the literature. Take a minute to read her review of demographics at the time of her writing.

Little Known Black Librarian Facts is a blog published by Michele T. Fenton, a cataloger at the Indiana State Library. Since 2011 she has posted about African American librarians and their library services to African Americans. She highlights African American pioneers and the library profession, and the triumphs and struggles in making library services available to African Americans. There also is a long list of her favorite websites and the blogs that she follows — a veritable collection of rabbit holes to fall into and from which you may never return!

Librarians Glenda Alvin and Tahirah Akbar-Williams, members of the African American Studies Librarians Interest Group (AASLIG) of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) created a LibGuide that focuses on the scholarly research and services associated with identifying, preserving, and disseminating resources for the study of African American history, culture, and life. The LibGuide includes information about databases, websites, digital collections, books, periodicals, museums and cultural centers, and archives related to African American studies. They also highlight the SACO African American Subject Funnel Project, a project concentrated on creating new subject headings and changing/updating of old subject headings relating to the African American experience.

Karla J. Strand, Gender and Women’s Studies Librarian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, developed a reading list on “Disrupting Whiteness in Libraries and Librarianship.” Most recently updated in June 2021, the extensive bibliography contains citations (and links when available) to resources focused on race, racism, and disrupting whiteness and white supremacy in libraries. Special emphasis is placed on the field of library and information science and librarianship as a profession.

The Rocky Mountain PBS station posted an interview with Janet Damon, library services specialist for Denver Public Schools and who recently received the Rev. Dr. James Peters Humanitarian Award from the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission for her work as a librarian and community organizer. In her position with DPS, Damon provides diversity and equity training for librarians and paraprofessionals within the district’s roughly 200 schools. This includes ensuring libraries have culturally-sustaining collections — or as she states in the interview, “just ensuring that students can see themselves in our libraries and our collections.” Outside of her job, Damon started, with three other Black Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and/or LGBTQ+ librarians, an organization called Afros and Books. In addition to promoting authors from diverse backgrounds and literature to the community, Afros and Books created several sub-groups to promote their work. One is called “Black to Nature Book Club,” which started during the pandemic to help children and families cope with isolation, stress, and anxiety. Damon, upon receiving her award, may have summed up the work Black librarians are doing: “This is my joy. I think it’s important when we feel like we’re walking in our purpose and integrity with what our soul is here to do.”

Want to Choose Your Content? LexisNexis Digital Library Is a Solution

Our library subscribes to LexisNexis Digital Library which uses the OverDrive platform for content.

The best thing about this product is that it allows us to select individual titles that we think our students, faculty, alumni, or guests will actually use! We don’t have to buy a huge, expensive package full of titles that we do not want or that will not be used just to get the titles that we do want.

Because we have a health law focus, we’ve chosen a handful of American Health Lawyers Association (AHLA) titles for our faculty who do research in health compliance areas. For our students, we have selected Carolina Academic Press textbook and study aid titles that we formerly purchased in print for our Course Reserve collection. For our alums and guest attorneys, we have added LexisNexis New Jersey practice content. And, for all our users who are interested in social justice and other interdisciplinary and non-legal content, we have purchased various monograph titles from the OverDrive Advantage marketplace. 

Like every program, there are pros and opportunities for improvement.

For our library, here are some pros:

  • We can select textbook and study aid titles of strong interest to our students.
  • We can access the Advantage program which allows us to purchase non-legal and interdisciplinary content that OverDrive sells.
  • We can purchase audiobooks from OverDrive, and this allows us to offer a solution to auditory learners and those who take advantage of learning while commuting or exercising.
  • OverDrive offers various lending models: one user, simultaneous user, metered access, etc.
  • Borrowing the ebooks and audiobooks is easy.
  • Highlighting, bookmarking, and annotating books is easy and intuitive.
  • Running usage reports is easy.
  • We can switch content if usage is low.
  • OverDrive and LexisNexis reps are quick to respond and answer questions.
  • There is now a link to the platform via the product switcher in Lexis+ which will allow faculty and students to quickly access content in LexisNexis Digital Library.
  • Most titles are available in OverDrive knowledge base collections for discovery in library catalogs (although, LexisNexis provides a custom title ID to replace the OverDrive title ID).

I’ve identified some potential opportunities…

  • The program is a little different from other programs because while you can select the titles you want in the plan, you also pay for each title individually regardless of bibliographic format. For the serial and integrating resource content, it seems normal to pay each year since the content is updated; it’s a normal renewal. For monographs that do not get updated, you must also renew each year, but you don’t get an extra copy like you would if you paid for a print monograph or ebook (from ebook vendors such as Ebsco or ProQuest) a second time.

But, going back to a pro listed above, you can switch out content if a title is not being used. So, if our users are not using Understanding and Mastering the Bluebook, we can switch it out for a title that we think might be used more. Monitoring use of individual titles is insightful and challenges the traditional thinking that a certain title is “used all the time.” Monitoring usage allows for more selective collection development. For us, at this time, it is still worth it to renew monograph titles each year given the convenience of access.

  • The content is not in pdf. However, the Bluebook (Rules 15.9, 16.8, etc.) provides guidance for citing ebooks and content that is not in pdf.
  • While borrowing ebooks is very easy, returning borrowed ebooks is less intuitive. We’ve drafted user instructions to assist.

In looking at the list of pros and potential opportunities, it is clear to see that there are more pros. During this pandemic, access to digital content is most important to our users so we’re happy that LexisNexis allows us to include individual textbook, study aid, and OverDrive Advantage titles in the package.

Copyright Resources

Libraries are often impacted by issues of copyright. Copyright can be complicated and requires some research to determine outcomes of using resources that may be under copyright. However, there are freely available resources available that will help anyone to learn more about Copyright.

The United States Copyright Office provides a wealth of information to learn more about copyright. The homepage provides detailed information for anyone who wants to register a copyright or would like to learn more about the rights and responsibilities of a copyright holder. As with most federal agencies, the Copyright Office provides access to the relevant laws and regulations directly from their homepage in the “Law & Policy” tab. This section provides more than just primary law.

One of the useful links in this tab is for Copyright Office Circulars. The circulars provide detailed information about various aspects of copyright. The subjects range from simple topics such as “Copyright Basics” to more complex topics such as “How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work.” Some of these circulars are older but the Copyright office is in the process of refreshing and updating the circulars.

Another link in the “Law & Policy” tab that is extremely useful is the Fair Use Index. The Fair Use index is a database of cases dealing with fair use that have been curated by the US Copyright Office. The database can be sorted by jurisdiction, or category such as “parody/satire,” “music,” or “textual work.” In addition, each case entry has an outcome which indicates if Fair use was found.

The Copyright Office also has a “Research” tab, which provides links to the databases to find information about existing copyrights. In addition, the “Research” tab provides a series of videos known as the “Learning Engine Video Series”. The series provides information about copyright basics as well as links to more detailed information.

The Copyright Office’s “About” page has the History and Education section which provides more detail about history of copyright in the United States as well as resources to learn more about that history. Finally, there is an extensive Frequently Asked Questions page which provides answers to many of the questions that come up related to Copyright.

In addition to the Copyright Office, there are some guides that may help us learn more about copyright. The Stanford Libraries have a Copyright and Fair Use guide which provides detailed information about copyright. In addition to providing information about copyright generally, the page has a “What’s New” section with tabs to track up and coming information on copyright laws and how they may be changing.

CRIV / Wolters Kluwer Bi-Annual Call

The winter bi-annual CRIV / Wolters Kluwer call took place on January 14, 2022, at 9:00 a.m., PST. In attendance were:

  • Jenna Ellis, Wolters-Kluwer Liaison
  • Vani Ungapen, AALL Executive Director
  • Michelle Dewey Hook, AALL CRIV Board Liaison
  • Cynthia Condit, AALL CRIV Wolters Kluwer Liaison

Michelle Dewey Hook was introduced as the new CRIV Board Liaison, replacing Karen Selden. CRIV extends its sincere thanks to Karen for her wonderful service as Board Liaison and attendance at these important vendor calls.

Wolters Kluwer Programs, Activities, or Business of Interest to CRIV and/or AALL – Jenna Ellis.

VitalLaw — Wolters Kluwer rebranded Cheetah as VitalLaw in November 2021. To help answer questions from customers and ensure a smooth transition, Wolters Kluwer created an FAQ site, which is updated as additional feedback is received from users. The FAQs include answers about how to log in for the first time, the scope of changes, permalinks, MARC records, and authentication (e.g., Federated SSO, DRM tools, and proxy servers).

Comprehensive Training Site — Wolters Kluwer now offers multiple complimentary training options located all in one place. It provides a one-stop shop for videos, quick-start cards, and registration for training sessions. Types of training include:

  • Self-paced Tutorials: Short videos designed as an introduction to basic functionality that helps users get started quickly and improves research or workflow efficiency.
  • Feature Courses: LIVE instructor-led sessions. Designed to highlight trending issues these short and fact paced courses are open to registration from multiple organizations and typically include a Q&A component at the end to ensure users can locate the right answers on these topics fast.
  • Customized Training Courses: Also, LIVE instructor-led sessions. Often hands-on, customized training courses are designed for one or more users from a single firm, company, or organization. Wolters Kluwer Legal Training Consultants and professional training teams customize the session to specific subscription content, research needs, and time frame.

Platforms offering complimentary training include:

  • VitalLaw Training
  • VitalLaw for Corporate Counsel Training
  • Kluwer Arbitration Training
  • Clarion Training (due diligence and client advisement tool).
  • Corporate Counsel Profiler Training
  • ftwilliam.com Training (cloud-based employment benefit and pension software)
  • RBsourceFilings Training (integrates EDGAR filings, law firm memos, private placements, SEC No-Action letters, SEC comment letters, and includes IPO Vital Signs)
  • Kluwer Intellectual Property Training
  • Kluwer Competition Training
  • ktMINE Training (all-in-one IP analytics)
  • Almanac of the Federal Judiciary Training (judicial profiles)
  • Technical Answer Group Training (ERISA, retirement, and pension planning)

Seamless Integration Solutions Update — Wolters Kluwer provides a short 2-minute updated video on tech solutions it has implemented that allow access to deep domain expertise quickly and efficiently through a more efficient workflow. Practitioners can take advantage of new treatise search solutions, firm sign on authentication that avoids user sign on with ID and password, permanent links to chapters, subchapters, and practical content, access by citation feature, and over 850 customizable title and practice tool widgets.

Direct Email Support – Legal Pro Training Tech Group — If you need tech support, have access issues (e.g., EZproxy, Federated SSO), have questions about a specific training session, or other needs, you can contact the Legal Pro Training Tech Group’s direct email at legalprotraining@wolterskluwer.com. The mailbox is checked daily.

Requests for Assistance – Cynthia Condit, Jenna Ellis.

Since the last bi-annual call, two requests were received. Jenna responded to the requests and currently no request for assistance are pending.

AALL Programs, Activities, or Business of Interest to Wolters Kluwer – Vani Ungapen.

Vani thanked Wolters Kluwer for being an exhibitor at AALL’s annual meeting in 2021.

She provided information about AALL’s upcoming 2022 annual meeting, which will be held in Denver, Colorado July 16-19. Currently, the event is scheduled for in-person attendance. New this year, AALL is working with a conference planner, which will manage both the conference and the exhibit hall event. AALL is working on finalizing sponsorship and will reach out to Wolters Kluwer later this month to further discuss participation.

Adjournment.

As there were no other items for discussion, the meeting adjourned at 10:23 a.m.

PACER Access in 2022

As the Open Courts Act of 2021 progresses along its hopeful path to passage, promising the end of exorbitant PACER fees, many of us in academia are wondering what this will mean for the docket access we currently purchase (or wish we could purchase) through vendors such as Bloomberg, Lexis, Westlaw, and/or Fastcase.  It’s worth it at this point to take a look back at where we’ve been, and forward to where we may be headed, and we are optimistic at the prospects.

PACER fees have been a long-standing headache for academics. The money generated in accessing electronic public court records provides the judiciary with a substantial revenue stream, with predicted PACER revenue for both fiscal years 2021 and 2022 of about 142 million, yet PACER itself lacks the enhancements commercial providers offer, like alerts. For academic institutions, the financial burden incurred by clinics and researchers who need to follow cases can be substantial and often prohibitive. When Bloomberg Law entered the legal research market in 2010, law school libraries breathed a sigh of relief as this new service provided unlimited access to PACER for academic accounts. Unfortunately, years later and in the face of mounting costs, this was walked back with dollar limits, returning many institutions to the dreaded “before” days of limited PACER access and looking for alternatives. Other platforms offer some forms of docket access, but not to the extent Bloomberg once provided, and academia is often charged large additional fees, if our academic accounts have docket access at all.

PACER fees have been the target of both creative solutions and lawsuits, with limited or yet-to be-seen success. Recap offers free access to PACER documents uploaded by users in a crowdsourced database, but access is limited to those documents others have sourced and included. The 2016 lawsuit filed by the National Consumer Law Center and the National Veterans Legal Services accusing the US Government of overcharging and misusing PACER fees achieved preliminary success in the DC Circuit but still churns on, although the end may be in sight. While this action has very recently (and tentatively) settled, we don’t yet know the terms, or what relief may be included for academic institutions. A status report is scheduled for January 20. We’ll see.

In the meantime, Congress is working hard on a legislative fix. In the 116th Congress, the Open Courts Act of 2020 passed the House, and was sent to the Senate where it died in the Judiciary Committee, but not without garnering substantial support. That bill had only two sponsors, and it would have still allowed the charging of fees for “power users,” with the caveat that these fees “may not impair access to justice and the public right of access to court records,” nor “restrain innovation” or “inhibit not for profit research of the business of the Federal courts.” 

So, is relief finally coming? The current Open Courts Act of 2021 was introduced last August in the Senate by Republican Rob Portman with the bi-partisan support of 14 co-sponsors. This version would still allow fees against users who spend more than $25,000 a quarter, along with federal agencies, which will help fund a new case management system.  Although it has been reported favorably out of the Judiciary Committee, and an identical bill was re-introduced in the House last November, GovTrack only gives it a 13% chance of passage, and Lexis+ bill tracking also predicts the chance of passage as low. Perhaps these algorithms don’t read press releases or don’t factor in the bi-partisan support, the lack of any vocal opponents, or the ongoing legal disputes it would resolve, but plenty of us put the odds of passage much greater as this issue has gained wide traction.

Which leads us to ask our vendors, what will you do once PACER fees become free to the public? Will you allow academic institutions to subscribe to all of your docket alert and tracking services? Will the large added fees for docket access be waived, allowing our students to gain practice in researching dockets and thereby draw more customers to your product? Or, will this allow for the development of new and even more user-friendly docket search platforms?  As Bloomberg discovered, docket access can be a great magnet drawing users to your platforms. Once PACER fees are contained, or perhaps in anticipation thereof, we are anxiously awaiting the enhanced docket access the new year may bring.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t: Is it an A/B Test?

We recently got an inadvertent peek behind the curtain of the process for evolving legal research database interfaces. Early this fall, working on research exercises for our incoming 1L students, we found ourselves cross-editing each other’s’ instructions for how to run a simple Lexis+ search. Why tell students to click on “content” when the label says “categories”? And why not just tell students the icon for editing looks like a pencil? Thanks to the screen sharing function on Zoom, we discovered we were simultaneously looking at different versions of the same interface, and after polling our colleagues, about half of us were on “team content” and the other on “team categories.” It turns out, we were unknowingly part of an “A/B” interface test:

This kind of testing is a common way for developers to compare two versions of a design and see how these variations change user behavior. Some companies use A/B testing quietly to see if subtle changes in font size, color, position or wording increase visits, clicks, or purchases. We reached out to Lexis, and learned from the product development team that this is standard practice, intended to test variables and improve user experience:

LexisNexis uses online experimentation or A/B testing to improve our products by evaluating potential changes before rolling those changes out to the entire user population.  For Law Schools we take steps to avoid disruptive testing during times of peak usage during the school year to minimize any challenge to your preparation and teaching of legal research with our products.

Bloomberg law also uses beta testing of its interface:

Bloomberg Law occasionally might engage in beta testing where we enlist specific firm/school accounts. We won’t do it with just random individual users, however. Users who participate in beta testing are enlisted by a Client Service Partner or someone from our Bloomberg Law team. Random users are not selected to participate in our testing.

We reached out to Westlaw, but we received no statement about interface testing by the time of this posting.

As a practical matter, the variations we saw were subtle and unlikely to cause confusion, and as of this afternoon, we are all on “team content.” We were never actually asked which term we preferred, so we can assume website metrics showed “content” must have gotten more clicks than “categories.” Legal researchers are constantly watching for and adjusting to changes in research database interfaces, as each new academic year our vendors seem to roll out yet another new menu of changes. Some changes are significant re-developments, while others, like the ones we discovered, are much more nuanced. A word to the wise for all legal instructors for the spring: even if you are not alerted to a major interface change, be sure to double check your screenshots.

AILALink Immigration Resources

For the 75th anniversary of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), it’s a good time to check out AILALink. AILALink has been around for several years and is a go-to database for immigration resources. Readers can access key primary and secondary resources such as Kurzban’s Immigration Law Sourcebook; AILA’s Immigration Law Practice and Procedure Manual; the USCIS Policy Manual; Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM); court and agency decisions such as BIA (Board of Immigration Appeals) and selected cases from BALCA (Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals), United States Supreme Court and Court of Appeals cases, and AAO (USCIS Administrative Appeals Office) adopted decisions. Content also includes conference handbooks, government manuals, “toolboxes” such as AILA’s Immigration Litigation Toolbox, AILA’s Immigration Practice and Professionalism Toolbox, AILA’s U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Law Toolbox; and many other AILA publications. Click here to see a list of all content included in AILALink.

AILA editors have added notes to selected statutes and regulations, including the Immigration & Nationality Act. This year, AILA editors also started highlighting Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) provisions that were altered by a rule which may be subject to a court order prohibiting its implementation.

Users can search using a variety of methods: citation, keywords, and Boolean. Fastcase Premium is included and contains curated immigration content which allows users to update case law.

Libraries can subscribe to selected numbers of users (e.g., 1-3, 4-8, etc.). Unlike individual subscribers, libraries will not have access to features such as bookmarks, folders, notes, and saved searches.

AILA provides a title list for the library catalog and quarterly newsletters highlighting new books that have been added to AILALink. They can also provide usage data indicating dates of use and number of sessions.

And, for libraries looking to add immigration monographs and literature to collections, AILA has provided title lists!

Inflation & CRIV

Recently inflation is in the news (see the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and AP). Rising inflation is a hot economic topic as the prices for many common items soar. Even bacon is 20% more expensive from 2020 to 2021. Bacon!

So, what does this have to do with CRIV?

Well, potentially nothing, but it also might be a useful metric in gauging the reasonability of vendor pricing increases during negotiation of renewals.

The Department of Labor created a Consumer Price Index (CPI) Inflation Calculator available here. This calculator allows you to enter in prices for a particular year and month and see the equivalent in other years & months. The calculator lets users compare prices from 1913 to present. Although the calculator is handily displayed on one screen, there are extensive resources to look behind the curtain available.

For example, $10,000 in November 2016 has the same buying power as $11,459.94 in October 2021. Furthermore, that same $10,000 in November 2006 now has a buying power of $13,726.50 today. Needless to say, this calculator can be a great distraction but it does help provide some context for vendor pricing.

Of course, there are drawbacks to this resource. Notable, it is the Consumer Price Index. It is looking at the buying power of “. . . All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) U.S. city average series for all items, not seasonally adjusted”. Needless to say, there are many categories such as food and gasoline, but legal databases and books are not included.

But don’t worry bacon costs are well documented in the CPI.

Is this background useful when negotiating with vendors? Are law library resources too specialized that a general consumer price index is too disconnected to be useful? Should there be a law library inflation index? Let me know in the comments below.

VitalLaw FAQ

Update: As you all know, Wolters Kluwer introduced VitalLaw, formerly Cheetah, the beginning of November this fall. To help you answer any questions you may receive from your staff and to ensure a smooth transition, Wolters Kluwer has prepared an FAQ for you. Wolters Kluwer will continue to update it as they hear additional feedback from customers.