Shedding West

There’s been quite a flurry of e-mails on the law librarians listserv with the subject line “West thinks you shouldn’t know your librarian’s name.”    It traces back to a marketing campaign by West which wanted to convey the notion that attorneys need West, and only West, and not librarians. “All it takes is West” was the message. It caused quite a stir, commented about on the Law Librarian’s blog here.  

“All it takes is West” was, perhaps, more or less true MANY years ago, in the dark days of using the digests to find cases.  Today, all it takes is a good librarian to save the organization and its clients tons of money.   We are shedding West publications left and right (mainly because of, in my opinion, outrageous annual price increases), and our patrons (all of whom know our first names) are doing just fine, producing outstanding scholarship and achieving significant clinical victories.

Let me provide an example of an outrageous price increase for a title we are shedding:  Today we received Women and the Law, 2009 Edition, edited by Jane Campbell Moriarty.  It’s a paperback volume accompanied by a invoice for $ 569.75.  The volume starts with reproducing the Lilly Ledbetter Act, and also including some of that act’s legislative history.    The rest of the volume seems to consist mainly of reproductions of articles published elsewhere and readily available to us from a variety of sources.   Handy?, sure.  But worth it?  I’d love to know how that price was set.

Obviously the selection of the content took thought and effort.  And there is also a handy table of cases and what appears to be a fairly detailed index (e.g., looking up “assisted reproduction” led me to “Fetal drug laws” which led me to many topics, including “zona pellucida manipulation” which was not an obvious search phrase to me).  So there is most certainly added value to the compilation.  But  for $ 569.75 ?  I showed to a law professor who researches women’s issues and she said she didn’t need it.   

The previous edition cost us $ 495.00, so the price for the newer edition has gone up by about 15% (the same percentage I need to trim from my budget!).  Now that’s something to get up-in-arms about (not so much the bone-headed marketing campaign, which is really just the left hand of a big corporation not knowing what the right hand is doing).