Cataloging Westlaw Records: A Question of Access

Recently, Cassidy Cataloguing Services announced a partnership with Thomson-West that would make available to law school libraries MARC 21 cataloging records for Westlaw items. In the words of Cassidy’s Donna Rosinski-Kauz “The Cassidy-Westlaw MARC21 records collections will be an expansion of the very popular “WLX E-Treatise Collection,” which was originally created and distributed by Cassidy Cataloguing. The new Cassidy-Westlaw MARC 21 records collections will be released in phases. All legal content of Westlaw will be covered by these new collections when they are completed.”

Already available from Cassidy are cataloging records for E-treatises, most Canadian titles, and directories published by Westlaw. The second phase, “Law Journals and Law Reviews”, is due out by January 2008. There is a “monthly update service” that informs user libraries of any dditions, deletions and other changes, while Name and Subject Authority Control is run on all records. “Authority files are available for purchase separate from the collections.”

This announcement has stimulated a lively discussion among several academic law librarians contributing to a Special Libraries Association (SLA) Listserv. These librarians largely elcomed the possibility of making these records viewable and accessible to their patron base, but everal also expressed specific concerns relevant to the specific nature of their individual libraries’ atalog as well as the broader user base that is allowed to access them. Among the expressed concerns are these: should the catalog be a “vender-neutral resource”? Some worry that an PAC overly controlled by a vendor group could contain too many restrictions.

But a more significant concern that came up throughout the discussion was the issue of ampus- wide access on campuses where the Law School’s library catalog is shared with the larger niversity community as a whole. The fear was that putting these records in such a catalog can give a misleading impression to those outside of the specific law school community of the vailability of items for which they in fact have no actual access. Similarly, this issue comes up
when the law library’s records are shared with a larger consortium that may include primarily public or other sorts of academic libraries. Joni Cassidy, of Cassidy Cataloguing, mentions, for
instance, that two law schools in Illinois are part of a larger Union Catalog of seventy-five ibraries. One of these libraries has Lexis and Westlaw records that are now visible to the ther74 members of the consortium. Ms. Cassidy says that they are trying to work out effective policies for these and similar situations.

Similarly, UCLA has contracted to receive Lexis and Westlaw but hasn’t taken possession of them because to move them to their new union catalog requires that all UC holdings be a part of OCLC. At this time, Cassidy has asked subscribers not to upload the Westlaw or Lexis MARC records to OCLC. However, this does not mean that the company has no working elationship to OCLC. Joni Cassidy points out that they have, for example, recently contracted with William S. Hein to create catalog records for the HeinOnline “World Trials Library.” This is an effort whereby Hein is currently digitizing the paper copy of trials of note, as well as books about trials going back to the 1700s. These items will be available by subscription. Cassidy ataloguing’s role in this endeavor is to create MARC catalog records for each new title; there will be a lag-time before these records go to OCLC. Cassidy also uploads any new P-CIP Cataloging-in-publication) records they create for publishers each month.

Examples of cataloging records created by Cassidy for Westlaw legal treatises can already be seen on the following academic law library websites: Yale University, Pence Law School at merican University, Boston University, Georgetown University, the University of Connecticut Law Library, the Biddle Law School at the University of Pennsylvania and the Law School of Louisiana State University.

To this observer, it seems fairly clear that the debate will be an ongoing one. There are no ertainties regarding what would most effectively convey the existence of these items to patrons previously unaware of them, while not at the same time simply “tantalizing” patrons of member libraries that lack access to them. Some of the law librarians on the SLA Listserv mentioned putting up phrases like “only available to members of the (school in question) law school community” or something like “requires Westlaw subscription” but, in that case, it would be interesting to observe what kind of response that might inspire from an interested patron of a non-subscribing library. Will it lead to complaints about their unavailability? Will it encourage
other consortium members to subscribe? Will more people “outside of the law school mmunity” now seek to gain access to the law library in question? All librarians -whether catalogers or not – who are members of consortiums that include law school libraries have an interest in seeing how these issues work themselves out, as well as their longterm impact on the cataloging of
online legal materials.

* Special thanks to Joni Cassidy of Cassidy Cataloguing Services whose
information and commentary immeasurably improved the final draft.

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