In the new survey, we asked about more services, since many of them have changed dramatically in recent years. They are more likely to be performed by several entities. Item 1 (in the infographic) shows the full list of domains and services included in the survey.
Another change we made to the survey in 2015 was the addition of “university” and “vendors” as service providers. In 2010, the only options available were “law library,” “law school,” or “other.” We noted that in some services, the responses recorded for “other” were notably high or exceeded those recorded for “law library” and “law school.” Therefore, it was necessary to add more options in order to have a better understanding of who provides those services.
The survey was distributed from July 2015 until mid-October 2015 through the academic law library directors’ listserv as well as the Mid-America Law Library Association’s listserv. In prior years, the survey had a participation of around 150 schools. However, in 2015, we only received responses from 102 law libraries. Nevertheless, our poll is representative and includes libraries from all geographical regions and U.S. court circuits (see item 2 in the infographic).
By analyzing the survey results from 2010, we discovered some discrepancies regarding the administration of IT functions. When asked directly, participants tended to exaggerate the role of law schools in the administration of all IT functions. This conflicted with responses regarding the administration of specific functions. It is perhaps due to the different interpretation of the “administration” versus “performance” among participants.
Therefore, we decided to analyze this question by compiling the answers to the specific IT functions to draw a conclusion. In 2010, 35 out of 148 respondents answered that the library and/or the law school has some responsibility in all IT functions. In 2015, only 12 out of 102 participants had such involvement (item 3). At the same time, the overall third-party (identified as “other” in 2010 and “university,” “vendor,” or “other” in 2015) involvement in IT functions jumped from 16% in 2010 to 50% in 2015 (item 3).
While the university involvement in the administration of all IT services has increased, it’s important to note that law libraries are still heavily involved in training, instruction, and service-related tasks; the university supports the overall infrastructure and core elements of technology infrastructures such as networks and communication systems, security, and enterprise infrastructure (item 4).
In 2010, the trend was that law libraries were delegating responsibility of IT functions to separate entities within law schools (Watson and Reeves, 2011). In 2015, the trend continued to evolve by delegating more IT responsibilities to the main university. This trend also was evident in the responses to the new question, introduced in 2015, regarding shared services. In 2015, 48% of law schools were in a shared services agreement with the university IT department. Four percent were considering entering an agreement; 12% were open to the possibility of an agreement; and 32% were not considering it (item 5).
The trend registered in 2015 seems to also have influenced the number of full-time employees (FTEs) devoted to IT support in law libraries and in law schools. In 2015, the average number of FTEs supporting law libraries dropped to 1.5 compared to 2.14 in 2010. And for those supporting law schools, it dropped from 5.49 in 2010 to 4.65 in 2015 (item 6).
The “2015 Law School IT Staffing and Services” survey results clearly reflect a continuation of the trend registered in 2010: the delegation of core IT functions—and, in some cases, all IT functions—from the law library to the law school and now from the law school to the main campus. The trend is also accompanied by a constant involvement of libraries in functions and domains directly related to student success and engagement (such as end-user training, instructional technology, photocopier services, web services, and library systems, which remains the only domain in which the majority of libraries are still managing).
And regarding our first question, whether the library is still capable of effectively managing its web services infrastructures, the answer is: absolutely. The survey results show that when it comes to web services—especially on the content side—most libraries are largely in control (item 7). According to Watson and Reeves (2011), the conflict between library and technology staffs arises from the division of labor among them. However, one cannot exist without the other.
While librarians are proficient and prefer dealing with content organization and its dissemination with close interaction with their users, IT professionals tend to lean toward systems management and maintenance (Watson and Reeves, 2011). The key to successful implementation of technology initiatives in libraries is a cross-departmental collaboration and open communication between librarians and IT professionals. Shared services bring this reality closer by providing access to specialized personnel whom most law libraries and law schools wouldn’t have access to otherwise.