ARCHIVED: Future of Law Libraries in the Digital Age Scenario #14: Academic - National and Regional Repositories/Print Resources

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(November, 2001)


As libraries deal with the shifting balance between print and electronic resources, the literature continues to suggest that preservation of legal materials in print and in microform will remain important for a long time. A popular point of view is that the major academic law libraries have a responsibility for preservation, but the reality is that there are only a handful of serious preservation efforts underway in academic law libraries.

At least one movement to create a national repository for primary law materials in print has already begun. Judith Wright, Associate Dean for Library and Information Services at the University of Chicago, has submitted such a proposal to the Center for Research Libraries. Wright's proposal influenced the development of this scenario.

Many other national agencies, including the Library of Congress, the Council on Library and Information Resources, and the Association of Research Libraries, are working on preservation and access issues. Law libraries must participate in these efforts in order to preserve legal materials for the future.


  • National and regional law libraries (or centrally funded agencies like the Center for Research Libraries) will assume primary responsibility for collection and preservation of assigned print resources.

  • Regional and state law libraries will assume collection and preservation responsibilities for state resources.

  • The repository model will serve the needs of other libraries, not necessarily the needs of the individual user.

  • Most academic law libraries will have something to contribute to repository collections

  • Librarians working in repositories will be responsible for the collection, organization, maintenance and preservation of identified print and microform resources.

  • Law schools and law libraries will work with the ABA to revise the Standards for Approval of Law Schools and Interpretations to reflect the trend toward access to resources rather than ownership of physical collections and to suggest some qualitative measures of evaluation. For example, Standard 606, which mandates "ownership or reliable access," might be strengthened by direct reference to the repository concept. Interpretation 606-4 might be revised to provide more detail on resource sharing in the repository model.

Implications/strategies for library areas

  • Facilities

    • Repository locations will be high density storage facilities for print and microform materials. Many such facilities exist in universities and research institutions; the shared use of existing facilities will require negotiation. In addition to providing controlled storage for print and microform materials, the facilities will house equipment for ongoing preservation microfilming and state-of-the-art preservation laboratories for treatment of the collections.

  • Collections/content

    • Law librarians and legal scholars will collaborate to select the primary and secondary titles to be housed and preserved in the repositories. Law libraries will be invited to participate by contributing older materials from their collections. Procedures will be developed to collect materials on an ongoing basis.

  • Staffing

    • Administrative body to coordinate repository system and work with national preservation programs. Librarians with expertise in legal literature, collection development, interlibrary loan, preservation, and reformatting techniques will be most important in the repository situation.

  • Services

    • Repositories will not be public library facilities, but rather will exist to provide resources for other libraries through interlibrary loan or duplication. Materials will be preserved in their original format or reformatted in another medium. Using new microform scanning technology, repositories will provide digital copies to users.

  • Training

    • Continual training in conservation methods and new technologies for reformatting print and microform; continuing education in law librarianship.

  • Budget

    • While collections will be largely contributed by participating institutions, funds will be needed for administration, staffing, facilities, and equipment.

SWOT Analysis


  • Law libraries collectively share the responsibility of preserving a large body of legal literature for future generations
  • Law libraries individually can make the decision to weed print collections without fear of losing access to information


  • By necessity the collections must be selective
  • Difficulty of securing funding at both consortial and institutional levels


  • Take advantage of national preservation efforts
  • Rethink local library collections to serve primary clientele


  • Resistance to giving up autonomous collections
  • Older print materials are deteriorating faster than they can be preserved