Judith Wright Defends Law Journals in Print

Law journals: Do people consider the print version a relic?
Jerry Crimmins
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
April 21, 2010

What should happen to law journals that arrive in a big, fat brown envelope?

And who reads them anymore?

Regarding the first question, a group of librarians confronted the problem of printed law journals on Nov. 7, 2008, and issued "The Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship."

"If stable, open, digital formats are available," it says, "law schools should stop publishing law journals in print, and law libraries should stop acquiring print law journals."

Pretty clear.

Yet two librarians who signed the Durham Statement, Judith M. Wright of the University of Chicago Law School and James W. McMasters of Northwestern University School of Law, say their schools still subscribe to almost all the American law journals in printed, bound pages. They said they will continue to subscribe to print for the time being.

"This university is committed to retaining not all but most print publications [of law journals] as long as they're published," said Wright, associate dean for library and information services at the D'Angelo Law Library.

Asked why, she cited what happened in England.

In 1086, William the Conqueror ordered a great land survey called the Domesday Book, which can still be read today. In 1986, one million people in England contributed data to the New Domesday survey, which was put on computer disks.

Fifteen years later, nobody could read the New Domesday survey. The disks and computer systems had become obsolete and unusable. A project to extract the 1986 information from the old computer disks has begun. The project will take several years, according to the Domesday Book Online.