Academic journal article St. John's Law Review

Books vs. Non-Book Information

Academic journal article St. John's Law Review

Books vs. Non-Book Information

Article excerpt

"We have preserved the Book, and the Book has preserved us."

-David Ben-Gurion

I. INTRODUCTION

For five hundred years the book has survived as the unchallenged primary source of recorded information. The book continues to flourish in this century, despite the growth in popularity of information in multimedia formats. Silent and moving pictures did not displace books, but rather in many instances promoted them. Although television may have enticed some readers away from books, book publishing has not declined during television's existence. Book publishing statistics indicate that non-book publications have had little impact upon the volume of sales in the book publishing industry or the number of readers.l

A. Microform

Thirty to forty years ago, the conversion of books and other written materials to microfilm and microfiche was regarded as the new technology that would enable libraries to accumulate vast numbers of books on film or fiche in lieu of book collections. Most libraries did initiate programs to acquire microform, expecting to reduce cost, conserve space, and acquire out-of-print materials. No one library, however, has been reduced to microform only. For example, the American Bar Association's 1992-93 statistics on law school library collections indicate that, on average, only one-third of law library collections are composed of microform.2 Such figures suggest that microform has not become the major substitute for printed publications that it was anticipated to be.

B. Law Book Collections

The legal profession thrives on information and has been totally dependent upon books for many years. Until recent decades, most law libraries contained basic legal reference collections with ample tools for locating information in those books. Treatises and other monographs, which supplemented primary source materials, comprised smaller segments of the collections. In the past several decades, the American Bar Association prompted improvements in law school library collections by emphasizing library content as a requisite for accreditation. In the 1970s and 1980s, the expansion of law library collections resulted from adherence to the A.B.A. Standards for books.3 The core collection list of required general, federal, and state law books published in the 1977 version of Standards for Approval of Law Schools was generally accepted and the titles changed very little until 1985 when the Standards were revised to contain more generic titles.4

C. Effect of Electronic Information on Book Collections

With the introduction of WESTLAW and LEXIS to the legal profession and the rapid expansion of sources included in those services, the eventual replacement of the law library's core collection with online services appeared probable. A presumed corollary of the advent of electronic information was that libraries with fewer holdings and limited financial resources or insufficient space would subscribe to the computer services and reduce expenditures on books. Conversely, it was presumed that larger libraries would not need to spend large sums on computer services, but instead would continue to allocate funds for printed acquisitions.

In 1985, nearly a decade after the introduction of computer services in law schools, the A.B.A. released figures for law libraries, comparing expenditures on computer retrieval systems against expenditures on printed materials.5 The survey revealed that there was no discernable pattern in allocation of funds to books or computer services by different sized libraries.fi Some of the twenty largest law school libraries spent the most money on library materials as well as on computer services.7 Thirteen of the twenty largest law libraries ranked in the top twenty for expenditures on library materials and five of the largest law libraries ranked in the top twenty for expenditures on computer retrieval.8 Only half of those libraries that spent the most on computer retrieval services were below the mean for the amount of volumes held. …

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