Thursday, 16th October 2014
FreePint's 2014 research into the purchasing preferences of UK legal librarians looked at areas such as budgets, priorities, stakeholders and key vendors. Robin Neidorf reflects on the findings.
The opportunity to revisit areas of research is one of the great benefits FreePint gains from keeping our focus trained on information strategy. Over time, we can reflect back on projects completed last year or last decade, and go back to information professionals to find out what's changed, and what remains the same.
This has been the experience of our refreshed view on purchasing patterns, content requirements and perceptions of value in UK law firms. We first surveyed UK law librarians in 2010, then again in 2011. In early 2013 we undertook phone interviews to hear their thoughts on the just-announced acquisition of Practical Law Company by Thomson Reuters.
In the summer of 2014, we returned to them again, inviting librarians at the top 200 UK firms by revenue to respond to a survey and participate in interviews on the current status of their budgets, priorities and stakeholder relationships.
Growth in Budgets
For the first time in years, a survey population has reported budget increases. Over 40% of survey respondents reported that their most recent content budget increased by more than 5%, and another 35% reported more modest increases of less than 5%.
Figure 1: Change in content budget.
Certainly, there are always organisations where the budgets decrease, but the fact that the overwhelming majority of respondents report increases suggests improvements in the market.
At the same time, librarians we talked with in the interview portion of the project were quick to clarify that their increases did not necessarily translate into an increase in spending power. They felt that their budget increases were often already spent based on cost increases, particularly for "must have" content.
Librarians who provided inputs for this project are clearly still working very hard to stretch budget to meet current and anticipated firm needs for content and resources. They shared some of their favourite strategies and suggested ways vendors can better partner with them to achieve mutual benefit.
More detail on budgets can be found in this chapter of the full report.
Overall Discussion on Value
Organisations of all kinds, including law firms in the UK and elsewhere, are currently engaged in strategic discussions around how to maximise their investments in content. Law librarians can serve as content and source experts at the heart of this discussion. In many firms, we learned through our research, they have the support they need to do so.
However, law librarians face unique challenges when they take on this role, compared with their peers in other industries; the distributed decision-making that many law firms use and partnership structures that drives firm governance mean that a small library team (or single librarian!) must cultivate relationships with a wide array of stakeholders.
Furthermore, decision-making can take a long period of time: it's not unheard of for two years to lapse between product testing and purchase decision. The lag is due to tight budgets, many decision-makers and the difficulty in getting the right stakeholders to provide proper input into the process.
More detail on the challenges around discussions on value can be found in this chapter of the full report.
FreePint Subscribers can login now to download the full report, FreePint Report: UK Legal Purchasing Preferences and Needs. In addition to the findings discussed above, the full report also includes comprehensive data and analysis on:
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