Why Do I Need a Book When Everything is Online?

Librarians often hear questions like, "why does this library continue to buy so many books when everything is available online?"

"'When people say everything's online,' says Jerry Dupont of the Law Library Microform Consortium, 'they're woefully uninformed.' Dupont, founder of the LLMC, a nonprofit law library cooperative, estimates that of the 2 million unique volumes contained in America’s law libraries, only about 15 percent are available in digital form. That figure includes access via proprietary, commercial services like Westlaw and LexisNexis."

Even though there is still a lot of information that is only available in print, many people continue to rely solely on electronic information. Generally, researchers tend to prefer the most convenient resource (aka online). Take with this library-budget constraints, "and the pressures are creating concerns that the public will lose access to essential legal documents" that may only be found in print. 

Most law librarians see an upside to increasing public access through the use of electronic resources but are concerned about the accuracy and preservation of legal information that is born digital, as well as the potential for lost information. "[T]he concerns facing modern law libraries are incredibly complex, noting that it’s difficult to keep up with the sheer volume of legal information being generated." Additionally, “[s]o much is now represented by what’s online. The concern is that materials that are not online will disappear from history and won’t be part of our societal knowledge.” With these concerns, many libraries have started to digitize their print resources, but it is expensive, and generally moves at a slow place.

Not only are librarians asked about the need for books, we are also asked about the need for librarians, in general. Librarians still need to teach how to access information whether it is online or in print. It would seem that with all of this online information, legal research should be easier, but "in some ways it’s more complicated. Where print research relied on a linear process, the transition to Internet research often requires mastery of multiple websites with different search mechanisms. Accuracy and reliability are often hard for the novice researcher to determine."

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