There are both advantages and disadvantages to using fee-based or commercial databases within a law library setting. The actual setting of the law library, whether it is academic or corporate, may also make a difference in whether fee-based databases prove to be advantageous.
There are many advantages of electronic sources of legal information, both from the aspect of the librarian as well as from the user aspect. First, electronic databases require no shelf space as compared to print materials, a particularly important aspect as the significant number of law books tend to take up a large area of shelf space. It is debatable whether the cost of new library space to store print materials is more expensive than the cost of a subscription to an electronic database, but there could be circumstances of library renovation that would certainly prove to be more expensive than database subscriptions.
Another advantage of fee-based databases from an administrative standpoint is that the resources are continually monitored and updated by the vendor rather than the librarian.
Subsequently, less of the librarians' time is spent in the shelving and filing of various loose-leaf materials. Less time is also spent on updating each legal publication.
Third, typically a database allows multiple user access to the same case or article, depending on the license of the particular database, thus permitting more than one patron to view the material. This alleviates the frustration of the library user in not being able to locate materials that have been checked out or in use by another patron. In addition, an attorney, law student, or other patron is able to access a database such as Lexis-Nexis from remote locations.
Fourth, searching in electronic databases also offers advantages to both the patron and librarian staff who are conducting searches...