Presidents' Letter
By Beth Youngdale




SWALL Bulletin
The Official Publication of SWALL: 
The Southwestern Association of Law Libraries
A Chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries

Fall 2001, Vol. 32 No. 3



A Corporate Computer Lab: 

Hybrid of the Future?

Reference Librarian at the 

San Diego County 

Public Law Library

The San Diego County Public Law Library (SDCPLL) needed a computer lab, but did not have the funding to set one up. So some of the senior managers at SDCPLL got creative and came up with a great solution- a hybrid lab sponsored by West Group.

The managers proposed the idea to the West Group last fall and West Group proved receptive to the idea. West Group donated about $10,000 worth of computer equipment and furniture at the end of the year. The gift includes 8 laptop computers, 3 laser printers, 4 LAN drops, a hub, and computer tables and chairs. The gift was used to set up a computer lab at the SDCPLL's Main library and a smaller lab at the SDCPLL North County Branch.


In return for this generous gift, West Group is able to have access to two rent-free training facilities for their subscribers for an indefinite period. Additionally, West Group is able to post promotional materials in the labs. SDCPLL benefits as they now have two computer labs and are able to use the labs to offer classes to their members and to the public in specialized legal information searching on the Internet.

SDCPLL's Information Services department worked with West Group's technical support professionals to make sure that all the software on the machines was compatible with SDCPLL's system. While there are still some bugs to be worked out, the lab at SDCPLL's Main location is up and running. The computer lab at the North County Branch in Vista was expected to be up and running in early March.

Once the lab at the Main location was set up, West simply closed its downtown San Diego training center and relocated it to the downtown location of the San Diego County Public Law Library. West Group plans to open and operate a smaller training lab at the Public Law Library's North County Branch in Vista in March.

A master schedule for the lab is kept at the Access Services desk of SDCPLL and about once a month the West representative sends out an e-mail listing the training dates. Those dates are noted on the schedule and then all activities in the lab are scheduled around those dates. West subscribers sign up for West training sessions by either logging on to: www.westlawsandiego.com or by calling 1-800-544-5330.

This kind of collaboration is not unique to the San Diego County Public Law Library. The Sacramento County Public Law Library has a similar arrangement with Lexis.

Back in 2001, Lexis made a combined gift of equipment and money worth $55,000 to the Sacramento Law Library to set up a computer lab. According to Coral Henning, Reference/Computer Services Librarian at the Sacramento County Law Library, the lab took about one month of full time work by the Sacramento Law Library's Information Services department to get the lab up and running. "They had to configure computers, lock the systems down, and make sure everything was compatible with everything else," said Henning.

In return for the gift, Lexis is entitled to use the lab exclusively for one day a week for three years. This partnership came about after Lexis did a cost/benefit analysis of what it cost to maintain a training center in a facility in downtown Sacramento that did not receive full-time usage and compared it to what it would cost to set up a facility inside the Sacramento County Law Library. The numbers revealed that it would be better for Lexis financially to make the move.

The lab has been up and running for more than a year and seems to be working beneficially for all involved. Scheduling at the Sacramento Law Library is handled similarly to the scheduling at the San Diego Public Law Library- the representatives publish their own training schedule separately and plan events independently. All that is required of the law libraries is to keep the lab space free on the agreed-to dates.

For those libraries interested in setting up these kinds of partnerships, the following checklist may be helpful: 

  1. Contact your local representative for Lexis or West Group and ask if there is a training facility near your library. If so, ask how often it is used and what the costs are to keep it running. 

  2. Put together a proposal outlining why it would be in West Group or Lexis' best interests to fund a computer training lab in your library (cost/benefit analysis, accessibility, etc). Get approval from your directors and/or boards. 

  3. Approach and present the proposal to your regional representative, noting that such collaborations have been successful in the past (feel free to use this article for a source).

For more information about these programs, feel free to contact the author at 619-531-4437, ahale@sdcll.org, or contact Coral Henning at 916-874-7427, chenning@saclaw.lib.ca.us.




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