Note: This is the second in what is hoped will be a series of columns about the experiences of those new to the academic law librarianship profession-ed.
I am often amazed at the amount of money spent by vendors to provide promotional items and sponsor various events at law schools. Now I should make clear that I am just as likely as anyone else to accept the free promotional items and facilitate these events. I have the obligatory vendor clock on my work desk. I have even been known to ask vendors to sponsor food and drink for legal research workshops. However, I cannot help but feel a twinge of guilt when I think about the money spent on these things. How many times would a third-world country's gross domestic product divide into the amount of money vendors spend on marketing? Yet, I realize that these vendor promotions and sponsorships are necessary both for the vendor and the recipient.
Marketing is a critical function for vendors. Because law schools provide vendors access to the next generation of attorneys who are going to use their products, they are a prime venue. And law schools also benefit from this relationship in that law students gain experience with tools that are arguably necessary for their future employment. When I began teaching online legal research to first year law students, I wonder if I was like a drug supplier getting them hooked on something that would later prove very costly. I now realize that as long as we promote awareness of cost-effective search techniques and free or low-cost alternatives, we are creating conscientious consumers. And law students are savvy enough not to be fooled by the hype. I am sure they view it as a win-win situation.
But is there a point where you draw the line? Is the packet of vendor peanuts I received the other day where the line should be drawn? I have yet to resolve this ethical quandary. I suppose that until I do, I will sit back and enjoy a nice cup of hot tea from a vendor's insulated mug. Every job has its perks, right?