ARCHIVED: Future of Law Libraries in the Digital Age Scenario #10: Academic - Academic Law Library Collaborating with External Partners

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(November, 2001)


The digital age has brought profound change to academic law libraries. Numerous outside entities with which we work - accrediting agencies, publishers, other libraries, library organizations and consortia, information technology departments on campus and in legal education, to name a few - are also dealing with, and reacting to, the impact of digital technology from their perspectives. Academic law libraries cannot operate in a vacuum in responding to change, particularly if we want to master the future we envision rather than drift towards a future with no controls. Collaborations with these external entities, whose response to the digital challenge will greatly impact our futures, will enable us to influence their direction and achieve outcomes that best serve the academic law library and its place in legal education.

The importance and necessity of these collaborations, therefore, prompt this scenario of the future.


Law libraries as active participants in design and implementation of new models and standards. Working with campus libraries and IT departments to develop campus wide information portals. Collaborations with legal publishers in design of new products and the next generation of legal information systems. Law librarians assuming leadership among colleagues in development of instructional tools and programs. With the ABA and AALS to revise standards and regulations to better address digital realities. With IT professionals in legal education in development and management of digital content and services. With courts, the bar and other library organizations in influencing the direction of information policy in a digital age.


Successful collaborations with all of the above listed entities will have significant impact on library facilities, collections, staffing and services, as described in other scenarios. The fact of the collaborations, however, will also have implications for academic law libraries.

  • Facilities:

Space devoted to programs, development and testing of products and services, meeting spaces for conferences and collaborations with colleagues. The law library may house the central office for staff supporting initiatives. Technology to accommodate initiatives undertaken (e.g., digitization, teleconferencing) on-site and virtually.

  • Collections:

Depending on nature of the collaborations, collection impact could include reduction of print, and transfer of portions of collection to a repository. Digitization collaborations could result in creation of any number of subjects, jurisdictional, retrospective or interdisciplinary electronic collections. Product development collaborations with publishers may result in innovative and creative legal information tools. Similarly, access to resources in the collection may be affected as consortial or other collaborative research portals are tested and implemented.

  • Staffing:

Perhaps the biggest implication here. If law librarians and others are involved in these important collaborations with external partners, who is minding the store?

  • Services:

Faculty and students as guinea pigs testing products and services developed through collaborations.

  • Budget:

Academic law libraries will need to invest in these collaborations: librarian travel and development funds, facilities modifications, technology, additional staffing. Many collaborative initiatives are ideal candidates for grant funding, e.g., from publishers, governmental or other organizations.

SWOT Analysis


  • academic law libraries are stakeholders; institutional self interest
  • academic law libraries have specialized expertise and perspectives to contribute to collaborative efforts
  • benefit from knowledge and resources of collaborating partners


  • difficulty of balancing and prioritizing external collaborations with internal demands
  • budget and staffing implications


  • bring about change in ways that best serve academic law libraries
  • influence direction of legal information resources, services,
  • expose law library's clientele to exciting new developments
  • enhance the profiles of academic law libraries


  • work very hard on collaborations that are not successful - eg, products or services that don't work or are buggy; standards or policy revisions that do not get adopted
  • and meanwhile, neglect of primary clientele and internal focus causing a diminished appreciation for the law library within the law school
  • resistance of law school to providing resources for external rather than internal projects