One of the workshops I was able to attend at the 2014 annual conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries (CALL) in Winnipeg this week was about "Resource Sharing: Where Do We Go Now?"
It tackled questions such as whether inter-library loans are still a valued service and what forms agreements between libraries should take for resource sharing, collaborative collection development and licensing.
Rosalie Fox from the Supreme Court of Canada set the tone by describing the new landscape many are facing. According to her, the cancelling and weeding of print law reporters and textbooks, licensing constraints to resource sharing, and quasi universal access to the same journal databases are creating a situation where collections are becoming more homogeneous across the country.
Kim Nayyer from the University of Victoria presented some preliminary findings of her CALL-sponsored research project into the future of resource sharing among law libraries.
This spring, Nayyer surveyed law librarians across Canada with collection development and management responsibilities on their attitudes towards resource sharing.
Questions covered such things as the scope of resource sharing activities via written and unwritten agreements, with whom such arrangements were made and what they covered, as well as future goals.
For a slight majority of respondents, agreements were informal, ie not in writing. Written agreements included ILL, document delivery and occasionally the determination of which institution would own the "last copy" in particular categories of material. Unwritten arrangements tended to include the same things, but they often also included agreements for shared purchasing with participating libraries allowed to borrow from each other.
A major area of uncertainty for many respondents had to do with shared or collective licensing. As well, a majority admitted that they have shared materials even when they were uncertain whether their licences allowed it, althought this did not happen very often in most cases.
Should shared licenses be a feasible option, 45% of respondents answered they would want this to be done through CALL, the second highest option being some kind of library consortium. Others mentioned local associations such as the Toronto Association of Law Libraries as well as ad hoc groupings of 2 or 3 local libraries. Other suggestions included law societies, the Canadian Bar Associatior regional bars, as long as they had experience in negotiating consortial licences.
Nayyer concluded by describing many of the current challenges libraries face when contemplating resource sharing: the everyday practical difficulties of rush requests, internal policies that may prevent participation, a restricted ability to engage in negociations for libraries that belong to a larger entity, the possibility of price increases by the publishers to compensate if their market is reduced because of consortial buying.
Andrea Zielinski, a private law firm librarian in Alberta, explained what the situation looks like from the point of view of a solo librarian.
She described recent changes to the Alberta Law Libraries network that significantly reduced the number of locations in the network from which it used to be possible to borrow. Alberta Law Libraries remains her first stop, but cuts to services have reduced the usefulness of the service.
Another large consotium she can turn to Is called NEOS. It offers a unified catalogue to collections in the province's colleges, universities and tech institutes. NEOS offers ILL, document delivery, and even shared collection development opportunities.
Like many solo librarians or staff in smaller collections, she has to be creative and resourceful. She can use NEOS to find a location for needed material and then go get it physically at the corresponding library and deliver to the lawyer the same day. As a workaround, she uses her public library card to gain access to the NEOS collection. For electronic resources, she uses a one day pass at the local university. She often just directly contacts the author of journal articles and that gets many good results. And she mentioned the CALL-L listserv as a lifeline.
Gail Hogan from the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador described the situation in her province where there is no local law faculty and where the collections at the department of Justice and three regional law firms have suffered from recent cuts. This has made the Law Society library the last place people can turn to for many documents.
The Law Society library manages to cope through formal agreements with law societiies in other regions, the provincial legislative library and the med school at Memorial University. Formal agreements for resource sharing amongst law libraries in the Atlantic region also allow for the sharing of bar admission materials, CLE materials and legislative materials.
However, as she noted, agreements easily become forgotten at the first sign of budget cuts.
Overall, the Law Society library does enjoy institutional support. The Law Society fact has increased the library's financing in recognition of its central role in promoting legal research by lawyers.
In her final comments, Hogan encouraged people to be persistent in asking when in need of materials and to be less afraid of our licences which may allow more occasional lending than we assume.
Anne Matthewman from Dalhousie University in Halifax offered the perspective from an academic library.
The province of Nova Scotia has a library network known as NovaNet based on a formal agreement among institutions for ILL and document delivery but it contains many restrictions, For instance, the network has a lot of the materials law firms want but it cannot supply them fast enough to rushed lawyers. On the other hand, firms can visit member libraries and make copies locally.
There are many Informal arrangements in terms of collection development. Dalhousie has agreed to collect in maritime, health, environmental law, etc., but it will not buy oil and gas or aerospace because other universities have special collections in those areas.
Questions do persist in relation to long-term preservation. Matthewman asked what happens in 10 years if people involved in informal arrangements retire and new directors or managers decide that any agreements are no longer valid.
As to whether formal or informal, or smaller or larger arrangements are more advantageous, Matthewman remarked that smaller, informal arrangements at the local level may be better because of their flexibility and because it is easier to work around any constraints. Larger, more formal agreements may often tie participants' hands.
Last but not least, she reminded people that there are many innovative consortia out there that focus on long-term preservation of historical materials and that are flexible when it comes to sharing: NELLCO, LLMC, Early. Canadiana Online, Internet Archive, etc.
Roxalie Fox summed up much of the discussion by pointing out a number of trends.
One thing that is clear is that speed of delivery is important for many clients. The idea that is gaining currency in parts of the US of shared repositories for print collections to which contributing members would have access may therefore not be applicable in Canada because delivery of materials could be considered too slow. She suggested that city-specific initiatives may be more suitable.
She also drew attention to the elephant in the room: Canada's National Union Catalogue AMICUS that should be the source of ILL information is no longer reliable. Fewer and fewer libraries report their holdings to its sponsor, Library and Archives Canada, with many academic libraries now reporting to OCLC instead and bypassing AMICUS altogether. We are headed towards an ackward situation where a database of an international consortium OCLC is fast becoming the de facto national union catalogue.
Labels: conferences, e-resources, inter-library loans, library management