Law Librarians Survey: The New Normal

Librarians have gotten accustomed to squeezing more out of their budgets, according to our 12th annual Law Librarian Survey.

, The American Lawyer


Librarians have gotten accustomed to squeezing more out of their budgets, according to our 12th annual Law Librarian Survey.

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Originally appeared in print as The New Normal

What's being said

  • Kendall Svengalis

    What most law librarians realize, but which most non-law librarians, including law firm managers, are not fully cognizant is that legal publishers derive 80-90% of their revenues from continuing sales, whether in the form of online subscriptions or supplements to either print or electronic publications. Getting a handle on these continuing subscriptions can be a significant means of controlling costs. Legal publishers depend on standing orders for much of their revenue and rarely miss an opportunity to churn out the next pocket part of loose-leaf release because they know that most customers will unquestioningly accept them and pay the invoice.

    Yet, it can be argued that in the case of most secondary materials (e.g. legal treatises, practice books, etc.) supplementation is, at best, of only marginal utility, and, in most cases, will never be consulted. Moreover, it's far more cost-efficient to use citator services (Shepard's, KeycIte, or your own system for tracking developments in your own specialty) to update the relevant primary law than to expect or depend on the supplement to a legal treatise to perform this function. Yet, millions of dollars are made annually by legal publishers selling often unnecessary supplements to secondary sources.

    This is a point I have made for 17 years in my "Legal Information Buyer’s Guide & Reference Manual.” Among many other features, I track the costs of more than 3,000 legal treatises, monographs, reference books, and state practice titles, including supplementation costs going back as far as 1993. Purchasing and, more importantly, standing order decisions must only be made after due consideration of the publishers’ track record of supplementation costs and whether that level of supplementation and cost are compatible with your firm’s budget. My latest edition also includes costs of used copies, and electronic formats. The big legal publishers will not provide you with this essential data; yet knowing it will save you thousands of dollars in unnecessary expense. This is even more critical if you are in the unfortunate position of lacking a professional aw librarian to monitor these things for your firm. For more information, visit:

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