by Robert Guerrero, Philadelphia Chapter, Legal Division
In 2002, I attended my first SLA Annual Conference in Los Angeles where I took in a session discussing a device fresh to market, the Sony eReader. Much of the debate centered on its shortcomings and deficiencies, and ultimately on its greatest flaw…. it wasn’t a book! Yet, I remember leaving that conference thinking the ebook was something to keep an eye on for The Future.
Hello Future! In April 2011, CNN reported that ebook sales topped paperbacks for the first time in history. All the major book retailers have released their own e-book readers, and those that were late to market (i.e. Borders), fell victim to this tsunami of sea change. But what does this mean for my users in the legal profession? How can I assist them in this great transition? Being ready for the future requires investigation, preparation and (ultimately) implementation.
First, it is important to know what your users are using. For me, I prefer to engage my users in casual conversations in the elevator or by the water cooler. Do you use an ereader? Which kind? What do you think? What are the pluses and minuses? But this may only scratch the surface of potential adopters. I also bring this up during training sessions. This forum allows us to get into more of the technical aspects. But to really conduct a full investigation, a formal survey is the best route. I make it a part of summer and fall associate orientation. Hard data on what tools users are using is gold for preparing for the next step.
It is also important to know if the information your users use and need is available in their preferred format. In the legal industry, electronic book content is growing at an exponential rate. For example, the number of legal ebooks available through Lexis has more than doubled in just the last three months alone! And if the content isn’t yet available, let your publishers know. Will this reduce the amount of print materials required in the library? How does licensing and access work in this new medium? These are questions worth asking and answering. Your users will certainly want to know before fully embracing any new format.
Finally, it is important to know where and how it will be used. Can ebook readers be taken into court? Can these devices replace cumbersome print source materials such as rules, codes, and case notebooks? Before implementation can be realized, many of these questions need to be addressed. But as we move along during this transition from a print to a shared print/electronic medium, many questions remain. Taking the time to investigate and prepare are key to the implementation process and to ensuring that information professionals lead the way as books become more compact, digital and accessible to our users.
Robert Guerrero is the library manager at the law firm of Richards, Layton & Finger in Wilmington, DE, He is the current president of the Philadelphia Chapter of SLA, and a member of the Legal Division and Baseball Caucus. He can be reached at email@example.com.