Calgary Law Library Group

Alberta Law Libraries (ALL) Review: Executive summary & final report

18 Nov 2015 10:44 AM | Anonymous

On June 30, we posted an update regarding the activities of the Alberta Law Libraries Review Committee. Upon request, we are sharing the Executive Summary below. The full final report and recommendations are available on the Alberta Law Libraries website.

Executive Summary

Alberta Law Libraries (ALL) support the administration of justice and the rule of law in the Province of Alberta. ALL manages a comprehensive collection of primary and secondary legal resources, in print and electronic media, and provides reference and legal research services which are delivered by law librarians and coordinators.

In April 2015, Alberta Justice and Solicitor General convened the Alberta Law Libraries Review Committee (ALLRC), comprised of library stakeholders, to provide strategic guidance and options for the future of Alberta Law Libraries in a digital age. Specifically, the ALLRC was asked to provide options and recommendations regarding ALL’s mission (i.e., scope and purpose), operating (i.e., service delivery) model, funding and governance.

Review Approach
Over seventy structured one-on-one and group interviews, in-person and telephone, were conducted with Committee members and ALL stakeholders (i.e., the judiciary, legal counsel, Alberta Crown Prosecution Service, Legal Services Division, and the legal profession); other players in Alberta’s justice system such as the Law Information Centres and Legal Aid Alberta; law firm, municipal and university law libraries; and law libraries in other jurisdictions. Print and electronic surveys were made available to members of the public who visited the libraries over the course of the review and to members of the Law Society of Alberta.

The main findings of the stakeholder consultation were as follows:

  • The administration of justice is increasingly complex. This has increased the demand for efficient and effective access to high quality legal information.
  • ALL is an essential element of Alberta’s justice system and the rule of law, which are the underpinnings of civil society. ALL is critical to the effective functioning of Alberta’s justice system.
  • Separate judicial libraries are an important feature of the current service delivery model.
  • The scope of required legal resources is far more than statutes and case law. Up-to-date textbooks are crucial to effective and efficient legal research.
  • The 2013 budget cuts resulted in a significant reduction in ALL’s print resources, to the point that stakeholders say they have fewer resources than they need.
  • The role of the law librarian is viewed as “hugely critical” to the effective operation of ALL and, by extension, to the functioning of Alberta’s justice system. Librarians provide essential training in legal research as well as valued current awareness services. The majority of stakeholders interviewed preferred interacting face-to-face with a law librarian.
  • While the use of online legal resources is established across all stakeholder groups, the “digital age” of libraries is, currently, more myth than reality.
  • Law libraries are ‘price takers’ in terms of print and online legal resources; they are subject to frequent, unpredictable and sometimes extremely large percentage price increases. Licensing restrictions have a negative impact on accessibility and collection cost management.

ALL is at a critical decision point with respect to its future. The review and analysis undertaken by the Committee have established the following:

  • ALL’s current service delivery model is not meeting the needs of the library users.
  • Maintaining current funding levels or proceeding with planned reductions in funding would result in further cuts to staff or the ALL collection to levels which would be unacceptable to library users.
  • No service delivery alternatives have been identified which would be acceptable to the library users, would maintain or enhance ALL services and which would be sustainable given expressed funding constraints.

The ALLRC recommends the following:

  1. More funding is required. ALL funders should meet at the earliest opportunity to explore a sustainable funding regime which will enable ALL to maintain, for the long term, a high quality collection and superior library services. The Committee recognizes that discussion and implementation of any changes will take time; in the interim, bridge funding may be required to meet the needs of library users and address staff wellness issues.
  2. The existing governance model is not working. Design and implementation of a more robust governance structure and supporting processes which foster trust among ALL stakeholders is a critical next step in achieving operational stability.The Committee is in agreement that any new governance structure should be supported by a new principle-based Memorandum of Understanding among ALL’s stakeholders, confirming the Library’s mission, funding contributions by funder, and establishing high-level collection and service standards. It should also enshrine the funders’ commitment to consultation with all stakeholders prior to implementation of decisions which could impact ALL’s execution of its mission.
  3. The assumption that all legal information is either available for free on the internet or through paid subscriptions is false. No database carries all legal texts; some materials are only available in print. Doing proper legal research online is often an impossible task for the average user. When the online format becomes adequate, a transition period will be required for users to familiarize themselves with the resources found in what will be a wholly new library and information services environment.
  4. Alberta Justice and Solicitor General and the Law Society of Alberta should work together to promote a national coalition of Ministries of Justice and the Federation of Law Societies, with the objective of addressing copyright/licensing, pricing and usability issues with the two largest legal publishers.


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