Would the last person to leave the building please turn out the lights?

22Nov16

Libraries have a duty to preserve information as well as provide access to current information. The largest ones – academic, courthouse, the National Library – are seen by smaller libraries as the “library of last resort”. What happens when these institutions cut their collections?

I’ve watched the Manitoba Great Library and the University of Manitoba Law School library cut back on their collections. I understand the fiscal pressure – my own library is not as big as it was when I started here five years ago. Legal publishers have been mining the looseleaf services gold for too long. The only way for law libraries to fight back is to cancel subscriptions. We then face the problem of potentially not having the resources for our members to perform their job competently.

It’s very difficult to provide the resources necessary when your budget is being cut. No one service can provide everything. The Federation of Law Societies is putting  a lot of resources into CanLII, but CanLII is a database of decisions and legislation. While much work has been done on improving its content and functionality for primary sources, it isn’t able to fulfil the need for lawyers for secondary sources. These authoritative texts, many published in looseleaf format and available by subscription only, provide the commentary necessary to understand and interpret the primary sources.

So what is the solution? Maybe a Federation of Law Society libraries, where each library agrees to be the library of last resort for a particular area? Or a consortium of law school libraries? Or a combination of both? What about the role of provincial archives, or Library and Archives Canada? How do we preserve historical  material and ensure it’s also available for use?

~ Karen

UPDATERepository of Ontario materials launched

Five university libraries in Ontario (at the University of Ottawa, the University of Western Ontario, Queen’s, University of Toronto, and McMaster) are participating in the Keep@Downsview partnership, which is a shared last print copy repository project.

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