Western Pennsylvania Law Library Association

A chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries.

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Current problems and concerns in Academic, firm, and county law libraries: Roundtable Minutes

WRITTEN BY Katy Frey, editing by Cindy Cicco.

Conducted by the members of the Western Pennsylvania Law Library Association

January 31, 2017

Cindy Cicco graciously hosted a gathering WPLLA members at Pepper Hamilton to discuss the problems in all types of Law Libraries in the Pittsburgh area.

Academic Libraries:

Kate Frey and Karen Shephard began the discussion of academic libraries with two problems, one is shrinking budgets and second a loss, or repurposing, of space.  Kate pointed out that monies cut during the recession of early in the 21st century would not be restored.  Also, that since many law libraries are cutting their print collections in favor of electronic online products, they have additional space which is being repurposed into things like study rooms or they are losing the space to other purposes for the law school.  As an example, Pitt is in process of getting rid of many of their periodicals in preparation for a major renovation.  The renovation is being fueled by the need to bring the clinics back to the main building, so the library will be losing a significant amount of space on the fourth floor.  After the periodicals are cleared, the fourth floor collection of state, reference and Pennsylvania materials, will be shifted to the fifth floor. Pat Roncevich further explained that although we are culling many periodicals each title is being reviewed as to whether it is on Hein Online and what Hein’s policy is about suppling current issues.  Joel Fishman added that Duquesne has not yet done away with their periodicals but that is probably a step they will take soon.

Rita Jones asked a question about whether curriculums at the schools had changed to more practical applications that the law students can actually use once out in the job market. The idea of more clinics was brought up.  Kate Frey said that finding faculty to teach the different clinic areas may be a deciding factor.  Pat Roncevich also discussed some new resources we have made available such as study guides.  These are items we normally would not have purchased but they are becoming more popular as more students find out about them, especially during exam time.

Law Firm Libraries:

Cindy Cicco opened this discussion with a question about Reference request systems such as Illumin and Quest.  Her question was basically is anyone using them, if so which one, and how did you decide which one to use?  A reference tracking system keeps track of requests, who is making the request, and how long it take to fulfill the request. This allows for statistical analysis of the requests and also provides a way to manage the workload among numerous offices and librarians.  Other systems discussed were Cherwell.  Lori Hagan said that she and her IT department at Reed Smith built their system from scratch.

Cindy also asked about Pennsylvania County Reporters, which are no longer available now that Smart Litigator is gone. Pat Roncevich replied that Pitt keeps the court reports and binds the decisions. Joel Fishman also said that Duquesne has some resources. Duquesne has reinstated the print subscriptions.

Rob asked a question about e-books and are any of the law firms using them.  The overall consensus was that they have not been well received for several reasons, the systems are not dynamic and fluid as lexis and westlaw.  Also, the hyperlinks often take you to the main page instead of to the particular item you want. Overall, the systems right now present more administrative headaches than anything else because they will often only print the entire thing, not just the section the lawyer wants etc. Kate Frey asked about e-books at Pitt, Pat Roncevich said there are some treatises.  The only really good e-book provider she has found is Cambridge who allows multiple people to use for one set price, unlike many vendor who limit the number of times a title can be used.  Another drawback being that with many of the licensing agreements for e-books they limit who can use them which often eliminate the public use.

Karen Erickson asked next about working with the firms IT department to setup up a library intranet page and how do you post items specific to one team or office location? Some law firms have an Electronic Resources Librarian who is responsible for setting up this sort of thing and maintaining it.  Some do curated group pages. Some do a general page on the library website broken down by category.  Ann Unger said her list of electronic items needs to be updated and she is looking into Lib Guides.  She will be setting up a meeting with a representative from Lib Guides is anyone else is interested in attending.

County Law Libraries

Joel and Patty Horvath said that County law libraries are also facing budget cuts and loss of resources.  A lot of patrons don’t understand the need for books and think everything is on electronic platforms.  Their clientele is split 50/50 between Attorney’s and public patrons.  They service a lot of small firms and sole practitioners who can’t afford the big platforms like Lexis, Westlaw, BNA and CCH.  The discussion morphed into a discussion of how to save on the databases, specifically was there any way to share?  The conclusion was no, because the vendors won’t allow it to be negotiated that way.  Could the participating WPLLA members come together to form a consortium?  The conclusion was no, but mention was made of the NELLCO consortium and the electronic platforms available through them at a significant savings.

Patty also mentioned that if there was a specific program, book, or periodical, that the firms needed the County Library would be happy to consider it, mention was made of Hein Online, PBI and PLI materials. Firm librarians would like to just get the part the firms need, say litigation or bankruptcy, but generally the way the contracts are written it an all or nothing deal. Between Pitt and the County Library and Duquesne we pretty much have everything from these publishers.


What a fun roundtable.  It was so nice to see the different ideas just flow. I personally learned a lot about the different libraries and how they interact.  Finding out that our problems are similar makes it easier to face them.  The brainstorming of different ideas on how to best use our strength as an organization to help make items available to the users was very uplifting.  The roundtable was very well attended and at least 3 people called in, although there was a problem with the phone participants hearing the people at the ends of the large conference table. To serve the legal community here is Pittsburgh is a privilege.  We all have different clientele but we all have the same purpose, to provide the best possible legal information available.


2016 Holiday Party – Wed. Dec. 7th

When: Wed. Dec. 7th from 5:30 – 8:00 pm
Where: Babst Calland (2 Gateway Center – 6th Floor)
Cost: Members $10 / Guests $15

RSVP with dinner selection due by Friday, Dec. 2nd to Pat Roncevich (roncevic[at]pitt[dot]edu) or 412-648-1321. Please let Pat know if you are interested in purchasing a copy of Greatness in the Shadows – there will be limited copies available. 

Dinner will be catered by Hazelnut Catering. The menu will be:

  • Appetizers
  • Salad
  • Lemon oregano braised chicken OR vegetarian tortellini
  • Desserts

Our special guest speaker will be Douglas M. Branson, W. Edward Sell Professor of Business Law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. For more information about Professor Branson, please see his bio.

He is the author of a new book called Greatness in the Shadows: Larry Doby and the Integration of the American League.

greatness-in-the-shadows-coverJust weeks after Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, Larry Doby joined Robinson in breaking the color barrier in the major leagues when he became the first black player to integrate the American League, signing with the Cleveland Indians in July 1947. Doby went on to be a seven-time All-Star center fielder who led the Indians to two pennants. In many respects Robinson and Doby were equals in their baseball talent and experiences and had remarkably similar playing careers: both were well-educated, well-spoken World War II veterans and both had played spectacularly, albeit briefly, in the Negro Leagues. Like Robinson, Doby suffered brickbats, knock-down pitches, spit in his face, and other forms of abuse and discrimination. Doby was also a pioneering manager, becoming the second black manager after Frank Robinson.

Well into the 1950s Doby was the only African American All-Star in the American League during a period in which fifteen black players became National League All-Stars. Why is Doby largely forgotten as a central figure in baseball’s integration? Why has he not been accorded his rightful place in baseball history? Greatness in the Shadows attempts to answer these questions, bringing Doby’s story to life and sharing his achievements and firsts with a new generation.

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Monthly Business Meeting – Nov. 22nd

Our special guest will be Allegheny Co. Court of Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick, Jr.

Judge Wettick celebrates his 40th anniversary this year as a judge of the court and will retire at the end of December after serving eight years as senior judge.

What: Business Meeting
When: November 22nd, noon
Where: Allegheny County Law Library (921 City-County Building, 414 Grant Street)

RSVP to Joel Fishman by Monday Nov. 21st at 11 am

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2016 Business Meeting – October 25

Our Annual Business Meeting will be held:

Tuesday October 25, 2016

Noon – 1:00 PM

Babst Calland (2 Gateway Center – 7th Floor

Agenda Items:

  1. Welcome – Introduction
  2. Recap 2015/16
  3. Treasurer’s Report – Liz Whittington
  4. Membership
  5. Objectives
  6. Committees – Ann Unger
  7. Programming – Joel Fishman
  8. Web Site – Liz Whittington
  9. Social Media – Sarah Steers
  10. Newsletter
  11. Legal Education Ad Hoc – Karen Shephard
  12. Grants/Opportunities


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2016 Annual Banquet


Wednesday May 18, 2016  5:30-8:00 pm

Alcoa Room & Rooftop Patio (2nd Floor –  Barco Law Building  3900 Forbes Avenue)

Please join us for our last program of the  2015-2016 WPLLA  year.

Paula Reed Ward the Courts Reporter  for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette will be our guest speaker to talk about her research and work.

We will be honoring Past President, longtime WPLLA member Joel Fishman on his retirement acknowledging his many contributions to our organization.

We will be recognizing Sallie Smith, WPLLA secretary &  Newsletter Editor for her work.

Dinner to  include: Balsamic Glazed Chicken  or Vegetable Lasagna, Salads, Appetizers and Desserts

Member Cost— $20.00             Guest—$30. 00

Thank you to LexisNexis for their generous sponsorship of this event!

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WPLLA Programs March 16th

Two programs presented from Noon – 1 pm at K&L Gates

Keeping the Wolves at Bay: Tips for Improving Productivity and Maintaining Your Sanity in Our Busy and Hyperconnected Lives – Rob Duncan (K&L Gates), presenter

Before the advent of email and instant messaging, productivity required mostly sound time management.  However, with today’s expanded working hours and information overload, one must manage not just their time, but their energy, too.  This segment will synthesize some of the leading recommendations for managing your time, energy and stress while staying productive.

Keeping Current with Law Librarianship: How to Efficiently Monitor the Latest News about our Profession – Stosh Jonjak (Morgan Lewis), presenter

Relevancy, in this age of information overload, is the most important attribute of what we deliver. But, we are so accustomed to delivering relevant and timely information to our users to satisfy their information needs that we often overlook our own. This presentation will walk you through employing free news curation software in order to stay on top of the latest happenings in law librarianship. We will also discuss the best outlets for law librarian news to ensure you stay ahead of the curve and informed about our profession.



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Free,Low-Cost, and New Legal Research Sites: Surveying the Landscape

A Webinar Presented by Ann Unger (Dickie McCamey) and Sarah Steers

We will be taking a look at “lower cost” alternatives like CaseMaker and Fastcase and free sites like Google Scholar and newer offerings like Ravel and Pacer Pro.

  • How are these accessed and how do they “perform”?
  • How may research practices be affected by them now and in the future?
  • How might their use change the dynamic between librarians and their research customers be changed?
  • What are some of the cool new offerings out there?