Thursday, May 07, 2015

Canadian Association of Law Libraries Conference Session on Collection Issues

One of the sessions I attended at the annual conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries that ended yesterday in Moncton, New Brunswick had to do with "Collection Issues in Changing Times".

A panel of library representatives from academic, courthouse, and law firm libraries discussed the issues that each faces – some the same, some that are unique to each because of different user groups and mandates.

Louis Mirando, director of the library at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, started off the discussion by describing the issues he thinks are paramount when it comes to collections.

Among these are:
  • the need to discuss the creation of a Canadian print archive network that would guarantee that a best last copy of all important print materials would be preserved and made available via inter-library loan. The US-based PalmPrint project run by the New England Law Library Consortium of which my library is part provides this last print copy service for many American legal materials
  • doubts about whether academic library patrons are using the collection. Mirando explained that students appear to prefer reading little beyond the contents of their coursepacks and his library has no way of tracking e-books
  • the impact of e-licenses that are closing academic law libraries more and more to the general public who are often not seen as authorized users of the licensed e-resources
  • the impossibility of sharing e-books via inter-library loan again because of e-license restrictions. What if every library has ditched their print copies of important materials?
  • who bears the responsibility for maintaining specialty collections in an era of budget cuts? Osgoode may assume that Dalhousie continues to buy maritime and fisheries law, Dalhousie may assume the University of Alberta is buying print materials in energy law. etc. What if the assumptions are wrong?
  • many academic libraries are eliminating purchases of law reporters in print. Will there be anyone left soon to act as the repository of the last print copy for sharing with other institutions?
  • fair dealing provisions in Canadian copyright legislation have not prevented universities from being sued by copyright collectives
Cyndi Murphy, Knowledge Manager in the Halifax office of Stewart McKelvey, described the issues faced  by a regional law firm library serving offices spread across the Atlantic provinces.

Budget constraints have led to the centralizing of ordering and technical services in Halifax, the abandonment of one of the two major Canadian legal research platforms (she did not specify whether this was Quicklaw or Westlaw), and a change in acquisition practices. The firm used to buy all new major Canadian law books and now purchases what is needed. It has also cancelled many looseleafs in recent years, preferring to look for online options when available. The effect of these trends is that the print collection has become concentrated in two cities and materials will go to other offices via inter-library loan. Decisions have become much more usage-based, for example if a work is frequently loaned out to another office, a new copy will be purchased for that location.

The final speaker was Jenny Thornhill, Manager of Court Library Services for the Nunavut Court of Justice, located in Iqaluit, Nunavut. She is the sole person in charge of both the main Law Library and the Judges Chambers Library. Jenny is responsible for all Law Library services to the judges and lawyers of Nunavut.

Her description of the physical library and her technological infrastructure surprised many people.

Her library is tiny, inter-library loans are difficult since Library and Archives Canada abolished its ILL service, IT access is sometimes wonky with only one satellite available to serve the huge territory. She works with Windows XP and Internet Explorer 8. Many sites and databases load slowly and webinar training is not always easy because it often requires downloading software that is not supported by local staff.

The budget situation in Nunavut does not make thing easier. The budget, already very low at $220,000 per year, has not increased in 5 years. Dealing with vendors is also a headache since the library cannot use a government credit card for purchasing and still works with invoices (and cheques I suppose). Of course, the major problem from a collections point of view is the limited relevancy of many Canadian legal texts to the realities of the far North.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:24 pm


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