The State of Law Library eBooks 2017-18 Part Three: What Law Libraries are Doing

This article will discuss our hybrid model at NYLI and how we’re utilizing aggregators and individual publisher platforms as well as subscription models and patron-driven acquisitions to create the largest and most comprehensive eBook collection of any membership law library in the US.

Our eBook Evolution

When we first started our eBooks program in November of 2012, we began it with an offering of 52,000 eBooks through the EBL aggregator using a patron-driven acquisitions (PDA) model.  This allowed us to, in essence, offer a million dollars eBook collection to our members without any upfront costs to us.  We started by setting up a detailed profile with EBL, determining the categories and subject headings and keyword terms that we wanted included in our custom eBook collection.  We even specified terms such as “for dummies” that we didn’t want in our holdings.  After talking with our members, we ended up choosing many categories beyond the area of law such as; finance, business management, many different engineering topics for our patent and IP firm members, as well as pharmacy topics, industry and labor, politics, and more.  We were striving to meet the ancillary needs of today’s multi-disciplinary research that law firms undertake.  We knew that this would be a great collection of titles that firms might not want to buy and store on their library shelves because often these titles were only needed for a single case.

We chose to offer 1, 7, and 14 day loan periods, and we chose to have our system initiate 3 short-term loans (STLs) and then on the 4th loan to auto-purchase the title.  We went with the non-linear lending model which allowed us to have an unlimited number of readers checking out the same eBook at the same time.  This worked for several years and the program became enormously popular with our members.  Many libraries even opted to implement our (free) Seamless Catalog in order to integrate all of our bibliographic records into their own catalogs because this gave them an instant eBook collection for their library.  And with our profile in place and new titles being published each month that fit its criteria, our collection grew to double its original size – to 100,000 eBooks.

However, with the recent rise in publisher prices for eBooks, we had to adapt in order to continue to offer quality eBooks to our members.  With 100,000 eBooks on an open, PDA model, and with members who were actively borrowing them, this started to become cost-prohibitive as we saw our expenditures begin to skyrocket, tripling from our initial annual budget allotments.

In response, we decided to adopt a subscription model from ProQuest called Academic Complete (part of ebrary) at a fraction (10%) of the cost of what we were paying annually for our PDA model.  We also determined to combine that with a much-reduced PDA model to fill in the gaps of what the subscription model didn’t offer.  So, we still have ownership options and STLs, but we have set our profile to only include those titles which meet the Access-to-Own (ATO) model which will much-reduce our PDA expenditures.  And we also have the titles that we previously purchased as well.  We hoped that by managing our costs for this, we could offer our members more electronic resources.

To that end, we have recently adopted the OverDrive Lexis Digital Library as well as other titles available through the OverDrive service including the complete series of West Academic Nutshells titles.  We are also in talks with individual publishers about also acquiring their eBooks as well.  This new hybrid model of combining lending/pricing models as well as gaining access through multiple aggregators and perhaps publishers in the future has definitely worked for us, and allowed us to (affordably) offer our members access to over 160,000 eBooks.

As we continue to strive to provide our members with the highest quality of digital resources, we have found that the most important thing to do is to stay on top of what’s happening in the industry and to be ready, willing, and able to adapt as the market does.

What are other Law Libraries Doing?

Purchasing Direct from Publishers

Many law libraries, and those in law firm libraries in particular have chosen to go directly to publishers to purchase their eBooks. Along with purchasing annual deskbooks in an eBook format for attorneys, many law libraries subscribe to Lexis Digital Library, and/or PLI Discover Plus.

Highlighting Existing Collections

Other law libraries are simply highlighting collections to which they already have access to.  HeinOnline Legal Classics Library which contains several hundred historical legal texts is listed, as well as the Oxford Scholarship Online collection as resources available at The New England Law Library.  The University of Oklahoma Law Library highlights the Gale Making of Modern Law Collection, as well as the Hein Online Legal Classics.  Although none of these eBooks may be downloaded to devices, all can be read within a web browser.

Purchasing eBook Collections Through Aggregators

Many academic law libraries are choosing to go with eBook aggregators for both subscriptions and PDA lending models.  The Florida State Law Research Center (FSU) and the The Lawton Chiles Legal Information Center at the University of Florida joined together to subscribe to a shared eBooks program powered by MyiLibrary, while Hofstra Law Library has chosen to bet eBooks on EBSCOhost.  CUNY Law School Library has subscribed to ProQuest ebrary and UNH Law Library is using the Lexis Digital Library through OverDrive.

Accessing eBooks through Membership Libraries

A great way to access eBooks without having to go through the hassle of purchasing them yourself is to access them through your membership library.  [Warning: upcoming shameless plug!] Here at The New York Law Institute, members have free access to a robust collection of over 160,000 eBooks through our ProQuest eBooks and our OverDrive Lexis Digital Library.  Other membership libraries such as Social Law, and Jenkins Law Library have also begun to offer eBooks as a part of their services and resources.

Combining eBook Strategies

And finally, many law libraries are combining the aforementioned eBook strategies to create their own custom, hybrid eBook solutions as we did.  Many have started with subscribing to an aggregator, either with their subscription package or ownership model and have tapped key publishers for missing titles.

This concludes this three-part series on The State of Law Library eBooks 2017-18.  Be sure to check out Parts One and Two if you haven’t already.

Posted in: E-Books, Electronic Subscriptions, Law Library Management, Legal Research, Technology Trends