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Demonstrating the Need for Print Legal Materials

[Editor's note: the following is a guest post by Emily Feltren, Director of Government Relations for the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). This post grew out of a conversation we had about "advocacy tips" sent out to the listserv of the Northern CA chapter of AALL (NOCALL) to which I subscribe. This is a great example of how a community can advocate successfully about the important work that FDLP libraries do to collect, describe, preserve, give access to government information. Emily can be reached at efeltren AT aall DOT org.]

Last year, the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) began collecting stories from our members and chapters about their use of U.S. legal materials in print. Our goal was to demonstrate to Congress that researchers, attorneys, students and members of the public continue to use and value print legal resources. I’m pleased to report that our members responded with great enthusiasm to our call for stories! Through our Print Resource Usage Log, we’ve collected more than 40 examples that illustrate the ongoing need for access to print legal materials.

Stories range from urgent faculty requests where print “saved the day,” to law review cite checking, to patron preference. In several cases, law librarians said that using the print made it easier to find exact language in a document, look at multiple provisions simultaneously, and verify language and proper citations.

We’ve already described some of the excellent entries to the log on AALL’s Washington Blawg. For example, a law librarian at a private firm noted how much more practical print resources can be when attorneys use multiple titles of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) every day. She prefers the print “to be able to look at multiple provisions simultaneously without having to continually expand the table of contents at FDsys to find other provisions, or hav[ing] to bear the search expense of looking in Westlaw or Lexis.”

Maria Willmer, Legal Research Specialist at DePaul College of Law Library, shared her story of how the print not only ruled, but it saved the day! She wrote, “During a rush request from a Professor for his class, I needed to find a Proposed Rule and track it through to when it became a Final Rule and then find where it was codified in the CFR. Using the print issues and volume were the best way to track this down. I pulled a 2010 FR issue in paper – found a proposed rule – pulled the CFR volume where this potential rule would be codified and then back tracked to find the final rule. I honestly believe having the print volumes in front of me, helped me quickly navigate and find all three documents in a short [amount] of time …print rules (pun intended)!”

AALL continues to collect stories of print usage, and we invite you to join our efforts. If you find yourself referring to print legal materials, such as the print Code of Federal Regulations, Congressional Record, and U.S. Code, please log your usage on our SurveyMonkey form. We will continue to collect the responses and share them, with names and identifying information removed, with the Government Printing Office and key Committees on Capitol Hill.

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