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Your Law Librarian Is Watching: ‘Hot Stuff’ Tracking Software Can Cut Costs

Posted Sep 2, 2009 7:56 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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An increasing number of law firms are cutting their law library budgets, spurring some librarians to buy new usage tracking software to make decisions about resources.

Forty-six percent of law librarians surveyed reported that their budgets had been cut, a substantial increase from 9 percent who reported lower budgets last year, the American Lawyer reports. Fifty-seven percent said their firms had cut their library payroll, up from 18 percent last year. The average library budget is now $5.8 million, down from $5.9 million last year.

Law librarians trying to hold the line on costs are using new “hot stuff” software to track usage, according to the American Lawyer story. Armed with the results, law librarians can tell vendors they deserve a price break because they aren’t getting enough bang for the buck. Said one law librarian, “There are a lot of bizarre and complex pricing models out there, and we need to know if they are justified."

Five law librarians said they used Onelog from Info Technology Supply Ltd. or LookUp Precision Advanced Productivity Software Inc. Some law librarians also mentioned a third software package, Research Monitor from Priory Solutions. Four librarians said they planned to start using tracking software this year, and 18 said they would use it if they had the budget for it. A ballpark cost to track 1,000 different databases, according to one librarian who is considering LookUp Precision, is about $100,000 a year. (Nina Platt, product manager for LookUp Precision, says the $100,000 figure is inflated and "grossly incorrect," but did not agree to publicize more specific prices in an interview with the ABA Journal.)

But the money may be well spent, according to some of the law librarians. Steven Lastres, the director of library and knowledge management at Debevoise & Plimpton, has been testing Onelog. "The technology has only now developed to the point where a large law firm that wants to monitor 1,000 resources can do so," he told American Lawyer. "We can see who is using a database and how long they are using it, how many views a newsletter is getting," he says. Such information can help the law firm make decisions about which alternatives are most cost-effective.

Some law librarians who are trying to cut costs “are starting to ask a question that, up until now, seemed almost blasphemous: Lexis or Westlaw?” according to the story. One law librarian told the publication, "In good times, we could all have Coke and Pepsi. Now management is more willing to say that we'll make do with one.”

Law librarians at 86 law firms responded to the survey.

Updated at 1:20 p.m. to clarify cost to track 1,000 databases for a law librarian considering LookUp Precision and to include a comment from the marketer for the software.

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