Boston University Law Library
Electronic Resources Collection Policy

LAST REVISED: January 10, 2003

Purpose | General Format Policy | Selection Process | Product Evaluation | Sources of Information | Faculty Requests |
Selection Standards
| Cost & Pricing Preferences | Licensing Considerations | Vendor Issues | Access Issues |
Storage & Upkeep Issues | Choice of Format | CD-ROM | Online Databases |
Websites & Electronic Reference Sources | Computer Disks & Software | Replacements |
| Cataloging Policy | Shared Access | Avenues of Purchase


The law library is a permanent scholarly collection being developed for future as well as present researchers. Therefore, all major legal resources will be collected in a format that is permanent and under the sole control and ownership of the law library. At this time, permanent reliable formats include print and microformat. In addition to collecting traditional formats, the library is purchasing information in newer formats. This policy augments our current general collection policy in regards to selection and maintenance of electronic formats including, but not limited to: electronic full-text sources (including online journals), electronic indexes, Internet tools, CD's and software.

General Format Policy:

Electronic resources acquired for the law library should adhere to the same selection criteria outlined in the current general collection development policy. Though much of the same criteria for selection can be used for content, digital format presents new issues including licensing, ownership, hardware support, access, and maintenance.

A. Selection Process:

The library's Collection Development Committee for electronic resources decisions, composed of the Collection Development Librarian, Associate Director, Head of Technical Services and Head of Reference Services, reviews all recommendations. Subject specialists are expected to maintain an awareness of resources in their respective fields.

Suggestions are received from reference librarians, staff, faculty, students via the reference staff, E-mail, flyers, Mugar Library or NELLCO staff, and/or listing in web-related review sources. If there is sufficient interest in a title, the Head of Technical Services arranges for a trial period and distributes the URL, user name and password to reference librarians. The information is also added to the library's Intranet Electronic Resources page.

The Head of Reference Services assigns a product evaluator/s who will use and evaluate the site. Product evaluators are usually reference librarians or other staff members and possibly subject specialists from the law faculty. A written evaluation and recommendation are completed by the evaluator/s and given to the Collection Development Committee for its review. The final decision is then referred to the Library Director. Electronic summaries of evaluations are available via the library Intranet and linked from the electronic resources sections.

If the purchase is approved by the Library Director, the purchase is negotiated with the vendor or source by the Head of Technical Services, who also reviews the license. The license is reviewed and signed by the Library Director. An Innopac record is created. The site/source will be cataloged and/or a link will be added to the library website from the research database pages. The site/source is reviewed annually by the Committee when the product comes up for renewal. Licenses are retained in Technical Services.

B. Product Evaluation:

Electronic product evaluations should include the following information, as appropriate for the title, and be completed using the e-resources web page template.

Information provided by Technical Services/Collection Development Committee:

      1. Cost? Is the online price tied to print product price?
      2. Internet or CD?
      3. Access: IP or password? Proxy allowed? BUSL only or BU campus? Limit on simultaneous users?
      4. Is the title already available elsewhere on campus?
      5. Do other academic law libraries own it? Which ones?
      6. Do we own it in other formats (print, micro) and what are the comparable costs?
      7. Do we own multiple copies and is it routed or of known interest to law faculty?
      8. How often is it updated as compared to print?
      9. Vendor's reputation
      10. Is training available?
      11. Format of documents in the database (PDF vs. HTML)
      12. Are usage statistics available?

Information requested from Reference evaluator:

      1. Content
      2. Subject and date coverage?
      3. Nature of content: full text? primary or secondary authority included? Other?
      4. Target audience: law students/faculty/journals/other law school programs? others at BU?
      5. Is the interface user-friendly? How easy is it to use?
      6. Is it available on Westlaw or Lexis or another online source with the same date coverage?
      7. How does it compare with other products with the same coverage?
      8. Is there a demand for it?
      9. Will it work for all kinds of browsers?
      10. Will special training be required?
      11. Could some title(s) or copies be cancelled for potential savings to help cover costs?
      12. General comments

C. Sources of Information:

In addition to recommendations, flyers, etc., the library subscribes to a number of electronic resources reviewing sources which serve as useful tools for locating and reviewing websites, electronic journals, CD-ROMs, etc. Most are available at the Reference Desk or in Technical Services.

D. Faculty Requests

For free sites, the Collection Development Committee decides if the site is of general interest to the law community and uses standard selection criteria to determine if the site should be added to the library website and/or cataloged for the online library system. For purchased material and site licenses, the following selection standards will be used.

E. Selection Standards:

In addition to the selection criteria outlined in the Library's selection policy, other criteria to be applied include:

1. Resource offers some value-added enhancement to make it preferable over, or a significant addition to print equivalents, i.e.:

  • More timely availability, updated more frequently
  • More extensive content
  • Greater functionality such as the ability to link to local and/or related sources
  • Greater flexibility in searching
  • Remote access via proxy server authentication

2. Resource is updated often enough to be useful (at least as often, if not more so, than its print counterpart).

3. Web resource permits access via IP address rather than individual passwords.

4. Resource meets technical standards in the industry and production quality is satisfactory.

5. Resource has a stable source and authority (i.e. sites with a track record).

6. Resource is compatible with existing library technology.

7. Resource is user-friendly. Sources requiring significant training by and for staff and students may be deemed counter-productive. Resource should be "intuitive" to use with appropriate help screens, tutorials, index browsing and general ease of use.

8. Resource provides greater access for users than other formats. May be accessed from office, home and library.

9. Email updating is available.

10. Resource provides users with options for exporting retrieved results, preferably including downloading, e-mailing and printing of citation lists and/or full-text documents in formats desired by users.

F. Costs and Pricing Preferences

1. Electronic content should provide substantial added value such as full-text.

2. Publishers should have separate pricing for electronic and print versions and have flexibility concerning bundling of electronic vs. print licenses.

3. Pricing is preferred based on the actual recorded use of the digital information, opposed to pricing based on the entire law school population or BU community.

4. Published reviews are consulted if available. WorldCat, RLIN and other library catalogs may be consulted to see which libraries have added the electronic resource.

G. Licensing Considerations

1. The license should include permanent rights to information that has been paid for, in the event that a licensed database is subsequently canceled or removed.

2. Vendors should employ a standard agreement that describes the rights of libraries and their authorized users in terms that are readable and explicit, and they should reflect realistic expectations concerning the library's ability to monitor use and discover abuse. Agreements should contain consistent business and legal provisions, including, for example, indemnification against third-party copyright infringement liability and permission to use records in personal bibliographic systems.

3. Authorized users should include faculty, staff and students of the law school and may also include the entire BU community. Off-site locations of the above may also be included and are preferred.

4. The licensed content, plus any associated features and capabilities, should be accessible from all institutionally-supported computing platforms and networked environments; this access must be based on current standards in use by the library community (including i.e.: PC, Mac, Windows, Windows NT, etc.).

5. License should permit "fair use" of all information for non-commercial educational, instructional and research purposes by authorized users, including unlimited viewing, downloading and printing.

6. Information providers should be able to link their access control mechanism to BU's authentification infrastructure; IP addresses. Access should not require individual passwords and/or user Ids.

7. Licenses should not limit the library's rights to enhance or reformat data (if content integrity is preserved) to make it more visible or convenient for library users (e.g. by providing links to other BU holdings or annotation for use within the BU community.

8. The confidentiality of individual users and their searches must be fully protected. Use data generated by the library may be available to the information provider.

H. Vendor Issues:

1. Trial period is available for examining the utility and value of the resource before a final commitment is made.

2. Vendor license allows an appropriate number of users.

3. Resource is networkable.

4. Vendor gives a reduction in price if more than one format is owned. Is it necessary to own a paper format in order to get price reduction?

5. Will vendor provide archival material for older years?

6. What is cost for setup, storage and maintenance?

I. Access Issues:

1. Physical location of CD-ROM material -- where will it reside? CD tower? with a book or other printed resource? in the stand-alone media cabinet in Reference?

2. How will access be provided -- a cataloged record in the online library system? A link from the library web page?

3. Retention/archival policy -- will library retain material that has been updated?

4. Vendor license should allow an appropriate number of users.

5. Will resource be available to wider BU community or just limited to law faculty and students? If the BU community is allowed access, does the law library need to coordinate with Mugar Library?

6. Will access be provided by IP address? Password? Unrestricted? The library prefers access using IP addresses rather than individual passwords if unrestricted access is not provided.

7. Will remote access be available using the university's proxy server authentication?

J. Storage and Upkeep Issues:

1. Who will be responsible for updating disks, will older disks be discarded?

2. The Library has limited space on its CD tower. Preference will be given to online sources over CD's if pricing is similar.

3. If a source is used by the entire BU community, how will costs be shared? Establish procedures for future evaluations before renewal dates.

K. Choice of Format

If a variety of formats are available, i.e. print, online, CD-Rom, the Committee will make a determination based on scope, cost, license requirements and value-added enhancement. A website or CD that merely reproduces a paper edition without providing well-indexed searching capability is not a significant reason for purchase.

The library may provide access to selected resources by making them available in more than one format, for example, in both CD-ROM and print, or both online and print. Such resources are primarily those with significant historic, scholarly or popular value. Multiple format access may be provided when:

1. The electronic version is poorly supported by the vendor.

2. One format is unstable.

3. Hardware/software necessary to use the resource in a particular form is limited or unreliable.

4. There is a cost benefit to providing access in multiple formats.

5. Different formats are necessary to meet the differing needs and use levels of user groups.

6. The resource is not archived sufficiently or in a format accessible by current technology.

The Library will want to look at the benefits of:

  • Websites vs. "permanent" additions to the collection (cataloged on Innopac)
  • Free sites vs. licensed access
  • CD's vs. websites
  • Networked vs. stand-alone
  • Formats in hardcopy or microfilm: see Choice of Format in the general selection policy


The library prefers not to purchase material in CD-ROM format unless the content is not available in any other format. In addition to the qualities listed in our original Selection Policy, including greatly enhanced searchability or comprehensiveness, ease of use, cost and ability to easily print, other considerations include:

  • Will this be used with a paper product? If so, does it provide additional enhancements?
  • Can it be used separately as a stand-alone product?
  • Does the licensing require the Library to subscribe to the paper edition as well?
  • If the CD is a stand-alone product, how does its content enhance our collection?
  • Does the content warrant a CD product or would this information be better as a print or online product?
  • Is this a one-time purchase or will we want updates?
  • How often is CD updated, more often than online or print counterpart?
  • How does vendor handle updates? What is price structure for maintenance?
  • Will CD run on our existing hardware? Will we require additional software to run this?
  • Will CD reside on our server or individual workstations?
  • Are there any special licensing arrangements, i.e. copyright, concurrent users, audience restrictions, etc.
  • How will vendor support archiving? Will Library want older material?
  • Can we/do we want to eliminate paper version?
  • Do we need to have a permanent print copy for present and future researchers?

M. Online Databases

The Library prefers the Lexis and Westlaw databases for infrequently used legal or non-legal titles, general newspapers and nonscholarly titles. Hein-on-Line is preferred for online access to PDF formats of retrospective legal periodicals. As vendors begin supplying subject specialized databases online, the Library will use standard selection policies (D-H) above, as well as those listed:

  • What special licensing is needed? Who will be allowed to use the site? Students/faculty/entire law community/BU community/unrestricted?
  • Will the site use passwords, IP addresses, unrestricted?
  • Hardware and software requirements?
  • Will we continue our paper products?
  • Software allows downloading and printing?

N. Websites and Electronic Reference Sources

Many law libraries provide links to appropriate websites from their web page or online catalog. The law library will provide access to law-related sites that support the research needs of the law school community.

Generally the library will provide cataloged access to law related material. More general sources such as general address and telephone directories, zip code directories, etc. may have links through the library web page but will not be cataloged by the law library, though Mugar Library may choose to catalog them.

O. Computer Disks and Software

Those disks and software included with hard copy of books will be kept with the book in most cases and given a separate item record to circulate.

Our preference is for software and disks that enhance the paper product rather than reproduce it, i.e. superior searching and indexing capabilities. Those disks containing forms can be useful for selected products, but generally the Library doesn't acquire these unless already included with the book.

P. Replacements

The criteria used in deciding whether an electronic resource should be replaced will not differ essentially from those used when considering the replacement of books and other materials. These criteria include: demonstrated demand for the resource, cost of replacement, and availability through other campus or remote sources.

Q. Gifts

The library will accept, evaluate and process gifts of electronic resources consistent with the criteria stated above. All other issues regarding electronic materials received as gifts will be handled in accordance with the library's general gift policy.

R. Cataloging Policy

S. Shared Access

The library may have access to various databases through Mugar Library, Boston University as a whole, the Boston Library Consortium, NELLCO, etc. Their decisions pertaining to licensing, discontinuing paper product, access, etc. will be closely followed.

T. Purchasing/Licensing Options

In-house--for law community only, to be housed in the law library, or remote location

Cooperative agreement--with Mugar/other BU libraries: who will pay, where will it be housed, who will arrange maintenance and service?

Cooperation with NELLCO--what will be library's individual charges? Can we discontinue a paper product? What is NELLCO's commitment to archiving? How long will they continue service?

Through Boston Library Consortium--Same questions as above. In addition, will Mugar Library be responsible for the electronic resource, will it be housed in Mugar, IT, etc.

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