Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Search engine for Wayback

The Laura and John Arnold Foundation has announced that it’s donating $1.9 million to develop a search engine for the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. The search engine will allow researchers, historians, and others to retrieve data and information from the billions of webpages and websites stored in the Wayback Machine and will ensure that there is a comprehensive, open record of the Internet that is accessible to all.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

LexisNexis buys Lex Machina

The legal research community is abuzz about the acquisition of Lex Machina by LexisNexis. According to Bloomberg BNA news, Lex Machina, founded in 2010, provides analytics primarily around IP litigation. It crawls PACER, the USPTO and the ITC's EDIS databases, capturing data about judges, lawyers, parties and patents to inform lawyers’ litigation strategy, according to the company’s web site. With the transaction, which closed on Friday, Lex Machina will retain its management structure and name. Effective immediately, it has become a wholly owned subsidiary of LexisNexis, according to Lex Machina CEO Josh Becker. Bob Ambrogi at Law Sites Blog has been following the story. He interviewed a VP at LexisNexis who says that Lex Machinas analytics technology will develop in several directions - likely areas of development include other areas of federal court litigation such as securities and bankruptcy. He also sees Lex Machina being used to help power and enhance other LexisNexis products like Lexis Advance and Patent Advisor. 

The Statutes at Large Modernization Act

On November 16, 2015, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass) and Rep. David Brat (R-VA) introduced H.R. 4006, The Statutes at Large Modernization Act, calling for the digitization of entire run of the United States Statutes at Large. According the Rep. Brat's press release the act is "essential in ensuring the federal government is accountable to the American people." The aim of the legislation is to "ensure that Americans have easy access to the entire legal history of the United States by putting it online." The legislation is an acknowledgement that our federal government is dependent on an informed public. The Law Library of Congress has already made a version of the Statutes at Large available, but, according to Rep. Brat's office blog post, "The Law Library of Congress has published the Statutes at Large in a text-over-PDF format. It does not, however, include adequately defined and embedded data elements that enable advanced search functions, machine readability, and other useful options. It's a good start, but it isn't the modern, authoritative version we need." The legislation call for the new digitization process to be overseen by the Archivist at the National Archives and specifies a budget of $5M per year for the next five years. Leading groups working to improve government transparency have endorsed this bill including the Sunlight Foundation, R Street Institute, Demand Progress, Liberty Coalition, Data Transparency Coalition,, and Niskanen Center.

hat tip:  Richard Leiter

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

HSDL blog compiles informational resources on Islamic State

The Homeland Security Digital Library has prepared a collection of information resources called Paris and the Threat of the Islamic State: Background and Context.

GPO enhances Ben's Guide to the U.S. Government

The Government Publishing Office has completely updated the "Ben's Guide" website, which explains how the government works for children of all ages. The enhancements include a glossary that includes over 80 terms and definitions; downloadable, printable activities that include Word Searches and Crossword Puzzles; and a graphic that libraries can use to link to the site.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

SuDocs libguide (attention library cataloging nerds)

Librarian Kelly Smith at the U.C. San Diego has created a new LibGuide that she hopes will be of some use to other librarians and users. Called "Browse Federal Documents by Call Number", the guide’s primary purpose is to allow users to browse UCSD’s federal documents collection by call number. However, it goes beyond that by including call numbers that are not in UCSD's collection – essentially, it’s an historical list of SuDocs assigned to agencies over the years. There’s also a companion guide that sorts the agencies by name and leads users to the associated SuDocs number. If you find cataloging fascinating - and what librarian doesn't? - it's a great guide to finding SuDoc numbers but more importantly it's fun to browse alphabetically to see all the federal agencies that have put out documents over the years.

Monday, 9 November 2015

webinar: Learn to navigate UN data information sources

There is a webinar this Wednesday Nov. 11, 2015 from noon - 1 pm called Making Peace with United Nations Data: Learn to navigate UN data information sources. This comes to us from the "Help! I'm an Accidental Government Documents Librarian" folks in the North Carolina Library Association. The description: "Learn where agencies and key initiatives store their data in the United Nation’s many repositories. This program will examine and differentiate between information sources at the United Nations Statistics Division,, UN Libraries and Information Centers. We will discuss where to find country, demographic and trade data in addition to how to field basic UN-related reference questions. The program will also briefly discuss the UN’s data visualization efforts in Comtrade and statistics promotion through World Statistics Day. Join this webinar to learn new reference sources for data and programming ideas for your college and university community."
 Register at this link. If you can't make the webinar they will send the recording to all registrants.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Open access and subscription database skirmishes

Two kerfuffles pitting subscription databases against open access academia took place over the last week. First, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports, in an article titled "Subscription Scare Fuels Worries Over Who Controls Data That Scholars Need," that database giant ProQuest was involved in a controversy with the Renaissance Society of America. Scholars who make up the Society were upset when ProQuest suddenly cancelled their subscription to an important collection of early Englist texts. Access was eventually restored but "it was also clear that the episode had touched a nerve among those who think about the future of scholarly research. 'What really enrages me about this is not that ProQuest is for-profit," said one English scholar. "The problem is that by prioritizing profits over access it is really contributing to major barriers for the research in the field".
A few days later, Inside Higher Education had a story titled "Elsevier Battle Escalates", reporting that the entire editorial board and editorial staff of the journal Lingua had resigned to protest Elsevier's policies on pricing and its refusal to convert the journal to an open-access publication that would be free online.
Inside Higher Ed reports that "While Elsevier has faced protest resignations in the past, this one has people talking, including people in the corporate world, not just the academic world"... evidenced by the fact that Fortune magazine has a recent story called Elsevier Mutiny: Cracks Are Widening in the Fortress of Academic Publishing.'"

Friday Fun: Pronunciation Quiz

The ABA Journal has a Pronunciation Quiz to help you find out if you've been pronouncing some difficult-to-pronounce words properly or improperly all you life (chicanery, anyone?).

Law Librarian of Congress discusses Harvard/Ravel Law Project

In Custodia Legis, the blog of the Law Librarians of Congress, recently posted that Roberta Shaffer, who is currently Acting Law Librarian of Congress, has praised the recently announced collaboration between Harvard Law and Ravel Law. The "Free the Law" project plans to make over 40 million pages of US caselaw available for free online, according to Robert Ambrogi. Ms. Shaffer said that "she looked forward to exploring ways the Law Library of Congress can contribute to innovative projects such as this one", adding that "greater collaboration among institutions on projects like this would not only avoid duplication of effort, but also provide an opportunity for institutions around the world to contribute content from their unique, multi-faceted collections to create a “coral reef of knowledge” that encompasses a variety of subject-matter disciplines."

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

New Bloomberg Law Privacy & Data Security center

Bloomberg Law has a new Privacy and Data Security practice center available on its website, with interesting new ways of presenting information with interactive tools and visually attractive graphic displays. Legal research on the topic can be challenging because privacy and data security are global issues. The Bloomberg Privacy & Data Security product offers tools to simplify the research. Each country has very different regulatory schemes. BBNA uses big data technology to aggregate and normalize regulations and laws from around the globe, "attempting to shrink the problem of global research and add transparency". The product is organized into four main functional areas Stay Current for news, Research for primary sources, Advise for specialized insights , Plan & Execute for drafting policies. The product offers some terrific On the home page there is an interactive news “heat map” which shows were specific issues are “hot” around the globe.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Amazon opens physical bookstore

The Verge reports on Amazon opening its first physical bookstore in Seattle this week. The store's name - wait for it - Amazon Books. It's in Seattle, near the University of Washington. The store will rely on Amazon's website data, including customer reviews and popularity, to decide which books to stock; and books are displayed "cover out" rather than "spine out". The store also carries Amazon devices: Kindle, Fire TV, Fire tablet.

Monday, 2 November 2015

NYT major story on arbitration in the US

The front page story in the Sunday New York Times yesterday was a lengthy article titled "In Arbitration, a Privatization of the Justice System". The article says that "Over the last 10 years, thousands of businesses across the country — from big corporations to storefront shops — have used arbitration to create an alternate system of justice. There, rules tend to favor businesses, and judges and juries have been replaced by arbitrators who commonly consider the companies their clients, The Times found." The article has a great deal of supporting stories and information that leads them to conclude that "it has meant that tens of millions of Americans have lost a fundamental right: their day in court."

Thursday, 29 October 2015

News for Canadian lawyers...

Lexbox is a free Google Chrome extension for use in Canada that helps users organize and monitor online legal research. It enables users to assemble in one central location relevant legal information from various online sources, and to create personalized alerts. Legal research is not a task completed on one single website. You may start with Google, then identify a few relevant cases on CanLII, note a regulation on a Queen’s Printer website, as well as a few web pages specifying the administrative policies of a regulatory body. The idea behind Lexbox is to provide a workspace to keep track of all this information in one centralized location. You can setup folders by client/file name or topics of interest, whatever makes most sense in your context. And because the documents saved in your Lexbox account remain on the publisher’s website, they keep being updated as the law changes..

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

TWEN to drop the term "dropbox"

An announcement from Westlaw Academic about TWEN:
* Important TWEN Announcement:
We are not changing functionality, but we will saying goodbye to the term, drop box.
Why? The term drop box has been confusing administrators and students alike since the advent of©.
What’s the plan?
Spring semester professors will see the term sections wherever they previously saw drop box. If, for
example, professors use their TWEN course(s) for more than one set of students, they will add an
additional section.
Spring semester, students will go to Assignments & Quizzes (currently they go to Assignment & Quiz
Drop Box). Neither the term drop box nor sections will be seen by students.

I have always found the term “assignment and quiz dropbox” to be awkward and confusing for both faculty and students, so the change is probably a good thing.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Practicing Law Institute online library now available

The Barco Law Library has purchased a subscription to the PLI collection of treatises, forms, course handbooks, and answer books for the University of Pittsburgh. The PLI collection is available both on- and off-campus, and the content has been catalogued so it is available through PittCat. You can browse the full collection or limit your search by such fields as author and date of publication. Users are encouraged to set up their own personalized accounts so they can save the books they want to use in one place. All the usual database functionality is available, such as creating permalinks, bookmarks, pdfs, emailing content, printing, etc.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Infographic guide to the war in Syria

The dizzyingly complex war taking place in Syria involves many countries, rebel forces, and other groups/actors. The online magazine Slate has published a helpful infographic chart showing who is fighting whom. The author also points out that "Many of the powers involved in the conflict have found themselves on the same side as countries they’re normally at odds with, and vice versa."

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Law Library eBooks

Digital materials continue to pose problems for libraries. On the RIPS-SIS law librarian blog, librarian Jamie Baker (Texas Tech law school) has an interesting post titled "Issues Surrounding eBook Collections in Law Libraries." She uses Suffolk University Law School library as a case study, noting that Suffolk drastically cut its library budget by 50% and will be using the Lexis Nexis Digital Law Library as a partial replacement. Her analysis offers much food for thought.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Fastcase buys Loislaw

Recent big news in legal research land: Fastcase has purchased Loislaw from Wolters Kluwer. Dewey B. Strategic has a good blogpost examining the news, and talking about what this might mean for law libraries.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Barco Lost Book Processing Fee increase

Barco Law Library patrons FYI: the processing fee for lost books at the Barco Law Library has been increased to $35. This increase brings Barco's policy in line with the University Library System. If we can find a replacement copy the charge will be the replacement cost plus the $35 processing fee. IF a replacement copy is unable to be located then the fee will be a flat rate of $75 + the $35 processing fee.

Slaw on looseleafs

Slaw, Canada's online legal magazine, has taken on the thorny question of looseleafs in a series of articles. According to columnist Gary Rodrigues, "At the most recent meeting of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries in Moncton, it was clear that the present, past and future of looseleaf services continue to be a source of angst and concern in the legal research community." In another column entitled "The Curse of the Loose Leaf Law Books" the author says " there is no future for loose-leaf publications, a publishing format on life support that should have died a natural death years ago."

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

U.S. Web Design Standards

The federal government recently posted U.S. Web Design Standards online. These are the outcome of a project to develop a U.S. government set of "common UI (user interface) components and visual styles for websites. It's a resource designed to make things easier for government designers and developers, while raising the bar on what the American people can expect from their digital experiences."
They are soliciting feedback for improvements via GitHub, and there are already over 2000 comments on the standards, including comments proposing that they incorporate recommendations for archivability within the standards.

Legal information for laypeople

An interesting article in SSRN titled "Lay Deployment of Professional Legal Knowledge" by three law professors looks at legal self-help materials that have been developed by the access to justice movement. From the abstract:
This Article makes two contributions. First, we develop a theory of the obstacles LMI individuals face when attempting to deploy professional legal knowledge. Second, we apply learning from fields as varied as psychology, public health, education, artificial intelligence, and marketing to develop a framework for how courts, legal aid organizations, law school clinics, and others might re-conceptualize the design and delivery of civil legal materials for unrepresented individuals. We illustrate our framework with examples of re-imagined civil legal materials.

Save the Inner Temple law library petition

A fellow law librarian in the UK has started an online petition to save the Inner Temple Library, located at the Inner Temple (one of the 4 Inns of Court in London). According to the petition, "the Inner Temple library, which has existed since 1440, is one of the finest law libraries in the world. It lies at the heart of the Inner Temple providing a free invaluable service to practitioners and students alike and serves a core charitable function of the Inn. Aesthetically, it is a masterpiece of library design with its double-height galleried rooms mentioned in Nikolaus Pevsner’s Buildings of England. All of this is under threat" because of a proposal to "re-develop" the space. And there is an alternative possibility that is less expensive and wouldn't ruin the library.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

U.S. Code Online - Quick Links to the Statutes at Large

Since 1926, the United States Code has been the official codification of Federal statutory law. The United States Code contains the general and permanent laws of the United States, organized into titles based on subject matter. The printed and online versions of the United States Code are prepared by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel, an independent, nonpolitical office in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Law Library of Congress blog, In Custodia Legis, recently had a post about enhancements that the Office of Law Revision Counsel has made to their  online US Code. For example, users can now easily jump from the US Code to pinpoint page citations in the Statutes at Large. Easy navigation tools allow users to jump to other volumes/pages. The newly expanded coverage now includes every page of the Statutes at Large, from volume 1, page 1 (Declaration of Independence) to the most recent slip laws published by GPO.

Friday, 11 September 2015

U.S. elections guide

A gov docs librarian in Mobile, Alabama has created a useful, thorough guide to U.S. elections with links to relevant informational websites. The guide includes information about the 2016 Presidential election candidates, the electoral college, election history, campaign finance, voter registration, and other relevant topics.  

Friday, 4 September 2015

Do you like Google's new logo?

Many do not; the reasons are explained by Sarah Larson in an excellent essay in the New Yorker. 

Legal Writing Tips from Justice Kagan

Time magazine has a story describing an interview with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan in which she offers helpful hints on legal writing - and writing in general.
"The key, Kagan explains, is understanding that legal writing and writing for a general audience aren’t so different. If you work in a technical field — like law — don’t write like you’re addressing a technical audience. Kagan implored law schools to teach better writing skills to their students. 'There’s not some special magic to good legal writing. To be a good legal writer, honestly, is to know the law, and to be a good writer.'”
hat tip: Karen Shephard 

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Readex online training

Readex is offering free fall training sessions for its various database collections, including a September 29 training in America's Historical Government Publications (including U.S. Congressional Serial Set and American State Papers).  You can find out more about the trainings and register on the Readex website. 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Voting booth privacy and selfies

The ABA Journal has an article about... well, another article, in the New York Times... about whether people who take selfies in the voting booth (to show their cast ballots) are violating laws that protect privacy in the voting booth.  The NYT is quoted as saying "concerned that the practice could threaten voting rights, some lawmakers have expressly banned doing so. In other states, existing laws concerning voting and photography at least arguably prohibit selfies".

New journal focuses on technology and privacy

beSpacific reports the launch of an important new academic journal, The Journal of Technology Science.  The new journal focuses on the intersection of technology and its various impacts on society. The journal is examining this topic in breadth and depth, explaining on its web site: “The scientific study of technology-society clashes is a cross-disciplinary pursuit, so papers in Technology Science may come from any of many possible disciplinary traditions, including but not limited to social science, computer science, political science, law, economics, policy, or statistics.”  Institutional one-year subscriptions are listed as costing $25,000, "which (according to the license agreement) is currently discounted at 50 percent from the $50,000 regular license fee. " (!)
The first articles in the new journal include:
Did you really agree to that? The Evolution of Facebook’s Privacy Policy, and
Who’s Paying More to Tour These United States? International Travel & Price Discrimination.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Amusing musings on The Bluebook

With school starting and a new batch of 1Ls arriving and the publication of the 20th edition of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, the ABA Journal has published some amusing commentary by Bryan Garner on the Bluebook.
A few quotes:
"What I’ve come to realize is that when it comes to The Bluebook, small changes are made for the sake of making small changes."
"From an author’s standpoint, the most irksome thing about a new Bluebook is the nettlesome changes that take place."
"There are rules, you see, exceptions to rules and exceptions to exceptions. These are all elaborated in the 560 pages of the 20th edition. By contrast, the earliest edition of The Bluebook in my possession is the 10th edition of 1958. It weighs in at 124 pages."

Tuesday, 18 August 2015


1L orientation for the Class of 2018 begins Tuesday August 18 and runs through Friday. The schedule is available here on the Pitt Law website.
 Welcome everyone!

Monday, 17 August 2015

New HeinOnline interface for the new school year

HeinOnline has updated their website for the new academic year. The Hein interface is clearer and better than ever - and it has always been a straightforward website to use. In addition, Hein is continuing to link to caselaw on Fastcase, and Fastcase has also made some major improvements to their website - you can read a review titled "Fastcase 7: Better than a Tesla" on Internet for Lawyers.

Laptops in the Classroom?

Whether or not to allow students to use laptops in the classroom has been something of an issue for many years - but usuallly it's the faculty who question laptop use. Now the Harvard Business Review has published an article titled "What You Miss When You Take Notes on Your Laptop" that may convince some students that they will learn a lot more if they go back to the old-fashioned pen-and-notebook method of note-taking. Studies show that synthesis and retention of lecture information are much better when notes are taken by hand.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Georgia sues Public Resource for publishing annotated state code

The ABA Journal reports that the state of Georgia is suing Carl Malamud's Puublic Resource organization for publishing the annotated code of Georgia online. His website provides members of the public access to a searchable and downloadable scan of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated -- that is, the entire body of state law. The state is seeking a court order forcing Malamud to stop.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

An independent Copyright Office?

The American Library Association - among others - has questioned a proposal from Congress to remove the Copyright Office from the Library of Congress and make it an independent agency according to Publishers Weekly. Called the CODE Act (Copyright Office for the Digital Economy), the draft legislation was released on June 4, and pitched as a bid to “modernize” the Copyright Office. However, the ALA president said that "“The bill’s proposal to make the Copyright Office an independent agency does not address the longstanding problems facing the agency, specifically that the Copyright Office’s information technology systems are woefully inadequate in serving both rightsholders and the public in the digital environment,.. Instead of independent authority, the Copyright Office needs resources—both in the form of funding and technical expertise—to bring it out of the typewriter age."

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

New trial FOIA policy for some federal agencies

Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press reports that several federal government agencies recently announced a trial program of  a “Release-to-One is Release-to-All” policy. Under the program, documents responsive to most Freedom of Information Act requests would be published online and accessible to any member of the public.
Hat tip: BeSpacific

Saturday, 11 July 2015

New learning platform for law students learning cases

JD Journal has a story about LearnLeo, a program that was developed to help 1Ls read through their casebooks faster so they can spend more time studying the information they have read. Currently it is available at the top 20 law schools in the US, and hopes to be in more law schools by the end of 2015. Students at the supported schools are able to view cases organized by their class and syllabus.
You can see how LearnLeo helps students do the tedious highlighting of cases in casebooks and organize their studying on this example from Chicago Inno news. 

Friday, 10 July 2015

Everything Science Knows about Reading on Screens

LIS News tells us that thanks to technology, we’re reading more than ever—our brains process thousands of words via text messages, email, games, social media, and web stories. According to one report, the amount people that read tripled from 1980 to the late 2000s. Do you prefer reading a print book or reading on a screen? Here's info about how reading on a screen is different.