Margaret Maes Axtmann
University of St. Thomas
In my last column I promised to write about the ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools and the ABA Annual Questionnaire, in particular those issues relating to electronic resources. This is a topic that has generated heated discussion in recent years, especially with respect to quantifying web-based resources for the questionnaire. Naturally I had second thoughts about this as I began to talk to colleagues about the complexity of the issues, but at the very least I would like to present a basic overview of the current situation.
ABA Standard 606 and its interpretations define a law library core collection without prescribing titles or formats. Generally these standards provide broad indicators of what the collection should do:
We have a two-part problem. The first aspect of the problem is how to evaluate the quality of a library's "collection" of electronic resources as part of the overall measurement of the collection. What do you look at, how does it compare to the print collection, what value do the resources add, and what additional access do they provide? The second half of the problem is how to count the electronic resources for reporting and statistical purposes. What are we counting, how are we counting it, and are libraries being consistent? The ABA questionnaire is the vehicle for the quantitative measurement, but the questions relating to electronic resources (both counting them and paying for them) have generated a great deal of confusion.
Law librarians should know about two recent developments related to the standards and the questionnaire. The first is the work of the Law Libraries Committee of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. The second is the newly formed AALL Standards for Academic Law Libraries Task Force.
The ABA Law Libraries Committee, under the leadership of Judith Wright, recently proposed changes to the ABA Annual Questionnaire that would address some of the concerns about counting and reporting electronic resources in both the Information Resources section of the questionnaire and in the Fiscal section. The Committee had solicited comments on various proposals and had collected feedback from a variety of sources before making their recommendations. If the recommendations are implemented, the Committee hopes to place a greater emphasis on expenditures for electronic resources and to eliminate the confusion caused by questions that require counting of electronic resources. Unfor-tunately I was unable to learn what action the Questionnaire Committee has taken on these recommendations at the time of this writing, so I will provide more detail about this development in my next column.
The AALL Task Force was created to work cooperatively with the Law Libraries Committee and other relevant groups to review the existing ABA standards and the annual and site evaluation questionnaires. The task force will recommend changes that reflect the changing nature of our collections and the impact that electronic resources have had on collections and services. The Task Force had its first meeting in February 2003, and its final report is due to the AALL Executive Board in November 2004.
I am hopeful that these efforts will help law librarians come to grips with the questions posed by the need to evaluate collections and services in the digital era.