Monday, March 10, 2008

A Revolting Development

I was working with a student today and recommended that he run a search on Westlaw in PAIS-C (Public Affairs Information Service), one of the Dialog databases. PAIS is one of the databases I use most when working with students and faculty on law-related topics; it's a good way to access literature that often isn't picked up by other databases. Much to my surprise, the student came back and reported that the database identifier didn't work. I tried it myself, and had the same experience. So I asked one of the reference librarians to call Westlaw and find it if there was a technical problem or if the database had been taken down. The representative said that a number of Dialog databases had been taken down on February 29. When asked what other databases were no longer available to us, the representative replied that the list constituted "internal information." As such, she could not share it with us. I guess we'll have to figure out what else we've lost as we try to use other databases.

It's hard to imagine why Westlaw could not share the list with us. We cancelled our print subscription to PAIS ten years ago, relying on the fact that we had access through Westlaw. Thankfully, we have access to other public affairs and social science databases, and they will compensate for the loss. However, losing PAIS and whatever else is gone with no notice from Westlaw is unfortunate. It's a shabby way for Westlaw to treat its customers, and underscores how risky it is to base acquisitions decisions on what is currently available from LexisNexis and Westlaw.

1 comment:

James Milles said...

It's outrageous that Westlaw will not only delete databases like this without notice, but then refuse to let us know which other databases have been deleted.

I've long viewed Westlaw somewhat more favorably than LexisNexis. I still think that Westlaw's enriched content--Results Plus and the like--is better designed and more useful than what LexisNexis has to offer. But there is clearly a division between the technical development side of Westlaw and the marketing/customer "service" side. Westlaw's treatment of its customers is inexcusable, and it is becoming less justifiable to spend the sort of money we do on both Westlaw and LexisNexis. If I had to make a choice right now, I have very little doubt which service I would choose to drop.