At least one publisher appears to be experimenting with issuing flash drives to accompany at least some of the serial volumes they publish. How, or should, libraries process flash drives received in this matter and incorporate them into their collections. Below is a question posed via e-mail by someone actually receiving such materials and some responses and recommendations:*
“Recently our library received an ABA serial, the 23rd Annual National Institute on White Collar Crime, with an accompanying flash drive. We have not received flash drives with print material before, and since this is sure to be a trend, I wanted to find out how others are handling this situation. The flash drive contains the contents of the entire volume, plus some unique material not replicated in the serial volume. Since we’d prefer to keep the information on the flash drive and the book together, one potential idea was to burn the flash drive contents to a CD-ROM and insert the disc in the back of the book.”
“We are copying the contents to CD. A flash drive’s contents can easily be erased. It also doesn’t shelve well.”
“We agree that we’ll be seeing more of these. So we purchased some small plastic cases from Gaylord and will put this drive and others that come on Reserve. Like the old floppy drives, they’re not secure from viruses and the potential for the data to be erased or corrupted remains. User beware. But they’ll be available if someone wants them.”
“Some flash drives have locking mechanisms, which may help with ersing data, but I know that is not a complete solution. It sounds like some checkin procedure where the flash drive is checked for data corruption needs to be in place?”
“I wonder if there is a way we could use our collective consternation to stop this from becoming a trend. I don’t understand why they are putting this on a flash drive to begin with instead of a CD-ROM. If it is considered a convenience, it isn’t and actually adds to the cost of the book because of time and material. ”
“If I could speculate on this, my guess is that the ABA was not thinking about libraries or the potential that libraries would want to keep the flash drive. Instead, they were probably thinking about the attorney who would probably want to have a copy for his or her laptop, in which case the flash drive is probably a better choice (easier to carry around, give to someone else, lose, etc.)”
“I agree that is exactly what ABA is thinking. If they want to make the flash drive available (for personal users), I think they should also offer a CD-ROM version (for libraries). They may just not be aware of how incovenient this is for libraries.
Is this an area where AALL CRIV could get involved to share our concerns?”
“Regarding the ABA serial “White Collar Crime” that was issued with an accompanying flash drive; I just received word from …DELETED…, ABA Library Relations, that it was okay to copy the flash drive to a cd-rom. This is the route our library will be taking to handle the material issued on the flash drive.”
“Somehow I don’t think the ABA publications folks care very much if librarians find the flash drives a problem. The vast majority of their customers will probably find the flash drives useful. We’re planning to just toss ours and not mess with copying files to a CDROM.”
______________________________________ *In deference to privacy and confidentiality concerns expressed by some readers, all references to personal names in the above responses have been deleted. This however does not detract in any way from our appreciation of the professionalism and generosity of spirit exhibited by those participating in this discussion.