Magazine article Computers in Libraries

CD-ROM and Electronic Materials in Today's Law Library

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

CD-ROM and Electronic Materials in Today's Law Library

Article excerpt

"The ability to do word or phrase searches simultaneously through case law, statutory law, commentary, and related materials makes the old book or looseleaf service indexes seem laughably stiff, limited, and untimely."

If you run a law library or legal information center that has no CD-ROMs, Internet access, or e-mail capabilities, your firm is probably called Rip Van Winkle & Associates.

Legal information floods the data lines. Legal publishers are rushing to transfer their material to CD-ROM and even more quickly onto the Internet, complete with push technology for daily updates in subject specific areas. Here in Canada, the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, Carswell, and CCH Canadian are battling for the business. This year will be an interesting one. Debates over semantics--push vs. pull, intra/extra/supranets--are irrelevant. What is important is that the end user gets the latest news delivered to his or her desktop in the amount and form required. Companies like RIA, CCH, and LEXIS-NEXIS go head-to-head in the U.S. on similar issues.

Behind these reputable publishers, also active on the Internet, sits a host of government resources, e.g., the IRS and the Departments of Revenues, Finance, and Justice--both the domestic groups and their international counterparts. The Internet offers a total information package for those who need to get details and to confirm their findings quickly and relatively easily. Publishers wisely link to authorities (governments and large legal and accounting firms) on their own sites.

To assist in this transitional time, and to offer a value-added service, publishers generally offer training on the new services and delivery platforms, assuring that no client remains in the dark except by choice. Training options now come in many forms, including videos and multimedia, often on CD-ROM or transmitted via Internet. While the usual classroom method still exists, an increasingly popular training method is live one-on-one teletraining done at times that suit the legal client. This is distance learning for lawyers, librarians, and legal researchers. As a legal information manager your either undertake to be a trainer or outsource the job to those who specialize in it.

The question of copyright is hot once again. Laws and guidelines are being rewritten to match the new media. Copying in many forms is currently easier than ever, while copyright control is playing catch-up. The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) has on its Web site a Model Law Firm Copyright Policy that will help in cases of liability, but is quite restrictive in terms of work. According to this policy, "copies" include transmission or downloading of text or images from a computer--and these are subject to copyright restrictions. This puts into question the ability to quote or electronically clip data for your Power-Point presentations and other documents.

Today's New Reality

Why will managing the 21st century law library be different? Because information is increasingly a commodity that you lease rather than own. This is the new reality.

Licensing negotiations are now part of a legal information manager's mandate. I recommend a document entitled Principles For Licensing Electronic Resources (1997), found on the AALL site. It has been drafted by a consortium of library associations including the American Association of Law Libraries, American Library Association, Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries, Association of Research Libraries, Medical Library Association, and the Special Libraries Association, Excellent background information is provided, as it set of principles to help you conduct business in the electronic environment.

Research tools have changed. Looking at the ones that legal information managers must know to be effective decision makers, we see a mix of media from which to choose.

Legal Information on Disc

CD-ROM is an ideal format for storing and retrieving the great masses of complex legal text, and law is one of the largest subject areas in the corpus of information published on CD-ROM. …

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