All this aggravation ain't satisfactioning me

Yesterday there was uproar in the law library community over this charming ad Westlaw sent to some of its subscribers:

Click to enlarge; the fine print punchline reads "If so, chances are, you're spending too much time at the library. What you need is fast, reliable research you can access right in your office. And all it takes is West."

Yes, I agree. It's insulting and offensive. But beyond the outrage, I'd love to see it lead to more discussion of the positive things we as law librarians are going to do to change things so that next time a major legal publisher makes such a blunder, we all just laugh it off. And more important than discussion, action. What do we, the legal information experts, do to take more control of legal information back from vendors?

Do we start at home, encouraging our in-house reviews and journals to publish in accordance with the Durham Statement (have you signed yet?): commiting "to keep the electronic versions available in stable, open, digital formats"?

Do we continue to advocate for better and easier access to government information that ought to be free anyway? How many law librarians have signed the Improve PACER petition yet? There are definitely more than 682 of us.

Do we get more active finding creative ways around such shortcomings, like creating RECAP?

Do we help come up with more tools like handy LibX, the brainchild of a Virginia Tech librarian collaborating with a VT computer science professor?

Do we go continue to call for better user interfaces from vendors? How about going beyond critiquing the vendors to become expert interface designers on our own, making more useful library websites, less sucky OPACs, and engaging institutional or regional repositories?

Do we support our local legal information institutes and figure out ways to make them even better for research?

There's obviously not any set answer here, just lots of possibilities we need to get serious about exploring and implementing so we don't have any reason to get freaked out next time a vendor encourages users to make an end-run around us.

I'm not big on sports metaphors, but in his AALL 2009 keynote, Jonathan Zittrain mentioned the concept of library defense. Even I know enough about sports to know that you can't win only playing defense. So what's our offense?


Mary Paige Smith August 26, 2009 at 10:55:00 AM EDT  

You go Meg!!

jmckinney August 26, 2009 at 12:25:00 PM EDT  

Not that I'm excusing West for this blunder by any means, but I wonder if the outcry was greater due to being 4 weeks from the close of AALL and the zero sponsorship dollars from West hub-bub. Poor timing on West's part has aggravated the offense, I think. Just a reflection...

Anonymous August 30, 2009 at 12:02:00 PM EDT  

Although I agree the ad was a major gaffe, I'd like us as a community to do more to get West to respond to our cost concerns rather than focus on the insult. Another recent thread on LawLib has been about West claiming to law firms that they can't block Westlaw content which is outside of contract - something we know they do for law schools and courts. And what about pushing for true quantity discounts on all print products and updates - not just for paperback codes. Tying our hands behind our backs with LMAs when we need to make serious cost cuts doesn't help!

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

This site is closed as of May 2010. The new url is

Creative Commons License

Locations of visitors to this page

i am a major geek

Change Congress