I’ve been interested in electronic resource management (ERM) since I worked with the first CD-ROM services back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Implementing these services demonstrated how very difficult it was to implement and/or support electronic access to content than to it was and is to purchase a book. Beyond the difficulty of adding a record to the catalog for this new medium (at least it brought up a number of questions from the catalogers that I had never thought of), there were problems with networking and little reason for any researcher to want to take the time to try to use the CD-ROMs for research.
As networks improved and the Internet and World Wide Web were introduced for commercial use, the number of online services and the use of those same services increased. While you would think librarians and publishers should had worked out the problems in managing these resources, they only increased. This led Nola Vanhoy (Alston & Bird) and Cindy Adams (Mckenna, Long & Aldridge) to dream of a better mousetrap.
Ultimately the cost recovery vendor, Advanced Productivity Software (APS) – maker of the client/matter validation tool called Online Lookup as well as other law firm software application, was contacted and asked for support. APS responded by working to create Lookup Precision – a tool that allows firms to use validation, but also track sites, auto-populate userids and passwords, and report on usage across all services.
APS licensed Lookup Precision to Thomson Elite for exclusive sales to the legal market. While with Thomson Elite and later Thomson West, the product was branded with two different names – Elite Research Manager and West Research Partner respectively, Then sometime during the last two years, APS took the license back and rebranded it with the original name, Lookup Precision. If this seems confusing, you’re not alone. To set the record straight, the product is Lookup Precision and the company you buy it from is APS.
During the same time, Research Agent, a ERM product sold by a company with the same name, was eventually sold to nQueue, a legal software vendor that provides solutions for expense recovery. They rebranded Research Agent to Research Tracker and eventually took it off the market according to the staff at their exhibit booth at ILTA. What is curious to me is the fact that the Research Agent web site is back on line. I haven’t recieved an answer to my query about the status of their product and would appreciate an answer to anyone who might know.
OneLog, produced by Info Technology Supply Ltd (ITST) which is based in the UK is a newcomer to the legal market. While implementing their OneLog product at a US law school a few years back, the suggestion was made by the school that ITST should enter the law firm market. At that time, OneLog had only been sold primarily to schools for user authentication from remote sites, etc. Entering the law firm market meant changing functionality. As they began to approach law firms, they found librarians willing to work with them to develop the tool and have since sold OneLog to a number of firms.
LexisNexis has been part of this market as well with LexisNexis Cost Recovery Manager. At this time, I don’t have much information about their product except I believe it evolved from their validation tool (Westlaw has a validation tool as well) but does more, (e.g., site tracking for other services). If anyone has more information about the product and/or are using it, I would appreciate hearing from you.
Finally, while at SLA this summer, I ran across another vendor from the UK. Priory Solutions Ltd, maker of Research Monitor is an interesting entrant to the market. They do not have a client base in the US as of yet, but expect to hear more from them.
While these products have been available for the last four years or so, the adoption has been slower than one would expect. I think that will change, as a survey conducted recently indicated a large number of firms will be purchasing in the near future. As the vendors have been selling their software to law firms, librarians have provided feedback that has already produced functionality which changes how those firms manage their online services making the use of these products attractive.
I think this is just the beginning of better ERM. Now, if we could just figure out better ways of presenting the hybrid (print & electronic) library interface beyond the traditional online catalog, we may be able to better turn our attention to other challenges like the on-demand training needed by our users.