Paul Lomio and the librarians at Stanford have an excellent blog, and a recent post titled, Happy Days No More, caught my eye. The post concerns the library’s unenviable task of dealing with the “sea change in library collections…forced by changing budgets.” In ordinary times vendor price increase can have a big effect, but in these times, the effect can be disastrous.
In this post, Paul details a few of his upcoming difficult decisions. Such as the choice between USCA and USCS, he states:
We subscribe to both United States Code Annotated (USCA) and United States Code Service(USCS). Last year here’s what we paid for each:
We paid $1,645 for USCS (a Lexis product); and we paid a total of $5,376 to West for their USCA in 2008, including all bound volumes and pocket parts. (my emphasis)
Each set is a complete annotated version of the United States Code. The quality on both is extremely good. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that any student, professor or practitioner can perform adequate legal research with just one or the other — no one needs both. So faced with that fact and the budget reality, which one will the dean say “that’s easy” — the one that costs $ 1,645 or the one that costs $ 5,376?
Beyond print, Paul also wonders about the big (formerly untouchable) online databases, which contrary to popular belief, do come with a price tag:
Depending upon how my budget situation shakes out, we may even face the rather drastic step of cancelling some online databases. There are three gigantic legal online commercial databases, each with its own benefits and features, but each also a complete online law library. Here’s what they are costing us:
Bloomberg Law: Free
LexisNexis: $ 68.00 per FTE, with minimum of $ 15,000 and maximum of $ 50,850
Westlaw: $ 73.27 per FTE, with minimum of $ 15,878 and maximum of $ 64,206
Looking back over the past few years helps show pricing patterns, which could aid in the decision making:
2008: $ 34,980 (6% increase over previous year)
2007: $ 33,000 (5%)
2006: $ 31,497 (5%)
2008: $ 39,951 (7% increase over previous year)
2007: $ 37,338 (7%)
2006: $ 34,773 (14%)
So, we really are all in the same boat, and we will come out the other side of this crisis. However, I believe that the way organizations view legal research resources and library budgets will never be the same. I don’t know that the vendors have gotten this message yet, but they will.