Wednesday, 28 January 2015

ABA Journal on drones

The ABA Journal has an interesting article titled "How should states regulate drones and aerial surveillance?" in which the author reviews federal and state regulation - or non-regulation - of drones used as "aerial surveillance".< According to the article, According to the National Conference of State Legislators, more than 20 states have passed laws related to drones. Some limit law enforcement’s use of drones or other unmanned aircraft. One question that may arise from drone regulation is the difference between state and federal privacy protection. For example, the New Mexico Court of Appeals interpreted the state constitution as more protective of privacy than the U.S. Constitution. According to John Whitehead, president of a Charlottesville, Virginia-based nonprofit legal group called the Rutherford Institute, “Technology has outpaced law in this area. Traditional search warrants won’t work with drones. They have the ability to hack into Wi-Fi and use scanning devices from airspace. They represent the essence of a surveillance-police state.”

Friday, 23 January 2015

Zeta wins award

The Zeutschel Zeta bookscanner, which the Barco Law Library offers for the use of students and faculty, has won gold and silver awards from the 2015 inaugural Modern Library Awards, created to recognize the top products in the library industry. First released in 2011, the Zeutschel Zeta is a walk-up scanner for students and faculty.  Easy to use, the Zeta saves money on paper and ink, reduces staff time (no paper jams; intuitive operation) and allows patrons to use the same information technology in the library that they use at home.

hat tip: Karen Shephard

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Smithsonian offers access to Selma Freedom March songs

Carl Benkert was a successful architectural interior designer from Detroit who had come down South in 1965 with a group of local clergy to take part and bear witness to the historic march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. In addition to his camera, he brought a bulky, battery-operated reel-to-reel tape recorder to capture the history all around him, in speech but also in song; songs of hope, defiance and unity were directly captured and documented. In their struggles to make a stand against inequality, Benkert wrote, “music was an essential element; music in song expressing hope and sorrow; music to pacify or excite; music with the power to engage the intelligence and even touch the spirit.”
The Smithsonian offers free access to the sound recordings of the music of the freedom march. Note that a Spotify account is needed, but there is no charge to listen to the recordings.   

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

New Search Engine for USDA Research from the National Agriculture Library

The National Agricultural Library (NAL) has launched PubAg, a user-friendly search engine that gives the public enhanced access to research published by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists. NAL is part of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS). PubAg is a new portal for literature searches and full-text access of more than 40,000 scientific journal articles by USDA researchers, mostly from 1997 to 2014. New articles by USDA researchers will be added almost daily, and older articles may be added if possible. There is no access fee for PubAg.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Gender gap in online class discussions

The Chronicle of Higher Education's Wired Campus blog has a post titled "In STEM Courses, a Gender Gap in Online Class Discussions." The author describes the results of a recent study, and though it specifically looked at STEM courses, it also talks about the results in other classes. Some of the results:

  • Women are more likely than their male classmates to answer Piazza questions (Piazza is an online discussion platform used in many colleges) anonymously in computer-science and other STEM courses.
  • On average, women answer fewer questions than men in STEM and humanities courses, but more questions in social-science and business courses.

  • The study's authors suggest that the differences in behavior by gender represent a “gap in confidence” between women and men enrolled in courses.

    2014 Tech Fails

    MIT Technology Review has an article titled "The Top Technology Failures of 2014". The author explains that :Success means a technology solves a problem, whether it’s installed on a billion smartphones or used by a few scientists carrying out specialized work. But many—maybe most—technologies do not succeed, typically because they fail to reach the scale of adoption that would make them relevant. The reasons for failure aren’t predictable. This year we saw promising technologies felled by Supreme Court decisions, TV cameras, public opinion, and even by fibbing graduate students." Among the failures they note: Google Glass, Bitcoin, and sapphire iPhone screens.

    Thursday, 18 December 2014

    Skype previews translation service

    Skype communications software - now a part of Microsoft Corp. - is previewing/demonstrating a new real-time translation software tool. The Skype Translator project offers on-the-fly translation of both spoken and written languages for participants in Skype conversations, making it possible for two people who speak completely different languages to communicate with virtually no barriers to understanding. The preview program starts with support for English and Spanish spoken translation, as well as over 40 languages for real-time text chat. Currently it only works with Windows 8.1.

    Wednesday, 17 December 2014

    Top Legal Stories: 2015 prediction

    The New Yorker has an article by reporter Jeffrey Toobin titled "The Top Five Legal Stories of 2015" (he's making predictions). Topics include Obamacare, same-sex marriage, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

    Crowdfunding for legal fees

    The ABA Journal has an article about a new crowdfunding site that helps individuals raise money to cover legal fees. Developed by a Chicago lawyer, the site is called Funded Justice. Since it's' very new, it hasn't had much success yet, but the founder hopes that will change especially if high-profile issues cases decide to use it.
    hat tip: Karen Shephard

    Thursday, 11 December 2014

    Obama Administration’s Announced Immigration Initiative: A Primer

    On November 20, President Obama announced the commencement of a multi-pronged immigration initiative that could, among other things, enable a substantial portion of the unlawfully present alien population to obtain temporary relief from removal and work authorization. The new initiative also involves other actions, including narrowing the scope of aliens prioritized by federal immigration authorities for removal; using 'parole' authority to allow certain aliens to enter or remain in the United States; and modifying rules relating to visa eligibility (or processing). The Congressional Research Service has published a helpful Primer (3 page pdf with hyperlinks) online that summarizes the initiative.

    Wednesday, 10 December 2014

    Rethinking academic libraries

    Inside Higher Ed has an article today titled "Clash in the Stacks" about academic libraries and librarians. The article discusses how "one common trend... is that several library directors who have left their jobs have done so after long-term disputes with other groups on campus about how the academic library should change to better serve students and faculty. The disputes highlight the growing pains of institutions and their members suddenly challenged to redefine themselves after centuries of serving as gateways and gatekeepers to knowledge." It looks at how different institutions of higher education are dealing with their libraries and librarians.

    Most corrupt states

    A recent article in the Washington Post is titled "A state guide to political corruption, according to the reporters who cover it". Sadly (but not surprisingly) Pennsylvania ranks in the top 7 states for "most corrupt", along with New Jersey, Illinois, Georgia and Alabama. The study on which the article is based was done by fellows at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University; the full report is available on the Center's website.

    Friday, 5 December 2014

    Free Law Reviews online

    Robert Ambrogi recently posted about the Law Review Commons, a portal from BE Press with free access to more than 200 law reviews dating back to 1852. It includes the law reviews of the University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, and Berkeley. The portal has a search box that allows you to field search in title, abstract, subject, author, etc. Browsing is also possible.

    Tuesday, 2 December 2014

    "Nature" moves towards open access

    The Chronicle of Higher Education today has an article titled "In a Move Toward Open Access, ‘Nature’ Allows Widespread Article Sharing." The article discusses how Nature, one of the world’s most-cited scientific publications, has taken a step toward open access by granting its subscribers and journalists wide authority to let outside readers view its articles at no cost. Under the new policy, subscribers to 49 journals published by the Nature Publishing Group and collected on Nature’s website can create and share links to full-text versions of all of that content. About 100 media outlets also can include free links in news reports that reference articles in the group’s journals.

    Monday, 1 December 2014

    Vendors: Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPATs)

    The Electronic Resources in Libraries listserv recently held a discussion on vendor accessibility documentation. As a result,  a webpage has been created listing  all the vendor VPATs and accessibility statements received by list participants (the PDF is posted if the vendor gave permission, otherwise it says “available upon request”). The list will continue to be updated as information is gathered. The page is called the VPAT Repository and is hosted by Libraries for Universal Accessibility. 

    Wednesday, 19 November 2014

    Kluwer Study Guides for Pitt Law students

    The School of Law administration and the Barco Law Library have been working for the past six months on a pilot program to make available the study guides published by Wolters Kluwer as a digital package available to Pitt Law students. This includes the popular outline/study/Bar prep series Examples and Explanations, Emanuel's, Crunch Time, Siegel’s, Casenote Legal Briefs and many others. The study guides are available for most law school subjects including all the 1L subjects.  All of this material is provided at no cost to students. These ebooks have useful features like highlighting, bookmarking, copying, and download options. The link to the study guides can be found on the Barco Databases page, under K for Kluwer.
     As this is a trial program any decision regarding renewal next fall will be based on this year’s usage statistics. To help you utilize these materials appropriately, the 1L Academic Success Workshop on November 20 and the Upper Level Academic Success Workshop on November 25 will be dedicated to tips and strategies for using the online study guides. The workshops will focus on the appropriate use of the outlines and the other myriad study materials now available to you. Questions should be directed to Mr. Wible at . Any questions about or problems accessing these materials should be directed to Susanna Leers, our Electronic Services Librarian, at

    Thursday, 13 November 2014

    Ebola info

    The Homeland Security Digital Library is a hub for information about the Ebola virus. Searching the HSDL online catalog for "ebola virus", turns up hundreds of links to government information from the National Library of Medicine, the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and other reliable sources. For example you can find a link to a map and timeline of Ebola outbreaks in every country in the world, including the number of cases and deaths caused by Ebola. 

    Wednesday, 12 November 2014

    PacerPro Live Webinar

    On Tuesday, Nov. 18 at noon PacerPro is hosting a tutorial that will teach you how to use PacerPro, including conducting a boolean search, batch downloading.  PacerPro provides an advanced, user-friendly interface alternative to the clunky PACER interface.  

    Friday, 7 November 2014

    Another new database for Pitt Law: Investor-State Law Guide

    The Barco Law Library has purchased a subscription to another database that is now available to all University of Pittsburgh students, faculty and staff. The database is called the Investor-State Law Guide and should be accessible both on- and off-campus. Note that when you are on the main page of the ISLG you get into the database by clicking on the gray "Login" button in the upper right; but no login is required. The database contains resources for researching international investment law, including treaties, arbitration rules and decisions and other related documents.
     Reviewers say: “ISLG has been a very useful tool for research in investor-state arbitration. The search engine allows you to research for a very specific topic and obtain a quite comprehensive result of investment disputes dealing with the topic. The best thing is it points directly to the specific paragraph of each case dealing with the topic, and directly provides the excerpt." and "“ISLG is an invaluable research tool, particularly in an area of law that lacks a traditional system of precedent. It enables the user to have confidence that their research is thorough and up-to-date.”

    Law 360 now available at Pitt Law

    Students, faculty and staff at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law now have access to Law 360, the legal news service that bills itself as "the only news source that covers the entire spectrum of practice areas every single business day". The database is accessible to us via IP range, which, translated to English, means that it is only available when you are working at a computer in the Barco Law Building. However, Law 360 is owned by LexisNexis, and Law 360 content is available in Lexis Advance, which Pitt Law students, faculty and staff have access to from anywhere they have an internet connection.  

    Large amounts of university archive sound & moving image media need preservation

    There's an interesting - and rather discouraging - article in the Chronicle of Higher Education today that discusses how troves of old recordings are hidden away on campuses and are degrading into unusability because archivists aren't aware of what they have. "At research universities across the country, archivists are painfully aware that large portions of their institutions’ audiovisual legacies are in decay. Old formats must be digitized if they are to be used, but first they must be identified and salvaged."  The article cites to a census that was conducted recently at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - a census that turned up 408,000 items in 101 locations on the campus. These included rare 1920s films; caches of ethnomusicology field recordings; videotaped supercomputer animations; audiotapes for speech-recognition research; film documenting the Nobel laureate Paul Lauterbur’s work on magnetic resonance imaging; and a sociologist's pains­takingly indexed film collections of 1960s protests. A similar census at Indiana University turned up 600,000 audio, video, and film items, in 50 formats that require digitization and preservation.

    Sunday, 2 November 2014

    ABA ? of the week: How many bound law books do you have? Do you still use them?

    The ABA Journal's question of the week is one of interest to law librarians: How many bound law books do you have? Do you still use them?
    Anyone can answer the question in the Comments section at the end of the post that asks the question. There are some interesting answers being posted:
    "Black's Law Dictionary and a few specialized treatises."
    "It's getting to the point where the bound books are almost relegated to part of the office d├ęcor. After all, you expect to see some law books in a lawyer's office, like you expect to see tools in a garage. I do, however, have all of the big green West's Hornbooks, and I do use them. The only bound volumes I still use regularly are the Bluebook, our state search and seizure citator, and the judge's bench manuals for our state."
    and: "Anyone who has a set of encyclopedia or other voluminous reference material, e.g., American Jurisprudence, Corpus Juris Secundum, or Williston on Contracts, I will gladly take them off of your hands. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I still love books. My wife has a Nook and I find that I cannot focus or read as long as I can when reading an actual book. It makes my eyes weary."

    Saturday, 1 November 2014

    Ebola and the Law

    Justia's Verdict newsletter has posted an excellent discussion of the legal issues involved in the recent Ebola virus epidemic and how it is being handled. Titled "Travel Bans and Mandatory Quarantines" the article looks at how federal and state governments have been dealing with the threat of Ebola. 

    Friday, 31 October 2014

    NTIS Reports more accessible

    The National Technical Reports Library (NTRL) has announced that it is now offering the American public free public access to a searchable online database of approximately three million federal science and technology reports. The library is a service of the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Technical Information Service. NTIS, a federal agency that does not receive appropriations from Congress, previously charged a fee to provide full-text electronic copies of federal documents in its collection. The full text for 800,000 of these documents can be downloaded immediately in electronic PDF format without charge. The remaining NTRL reports, most published before 1995, must be scanned from microfiche archival files before being provided either as electronic PDF’s or in print for a fee. However, each time a microfiche document is scanned to fulfill such a request, the agency will add the electronic full-text PDF to its online database for subsequent free public download. “Our mission is to collect and broadly disseminate federal science and technology information using a self-supporting business model,” said NTIS Director Bruce Borzino. “However, we also recognize that a number of the documents previously offered for a fee through our website were available for free from other sources. The public should not be treated differently depending on which website they visit to download a federal document.”

    Supreme Court more accessible (cont): Friday Fun

    Serendipitously, a friend sent this YouTube video of the Supreme Court just after the previous post - speaking of how the Supreme Court has become more accessible to the average citizen - was written. 

    Wednesday, 29 October 2014

    Supreme Court more accessible

    The ABA Journal online has an interesting article about how the internet, social media and technology have made the Supreme Court more accessible because of blogs, websites, Twitter postings etc. People interested in the Supreme Court blog and tweet about cases and decisions; one lawyer writes haiku summarizing decisions; and a law professor even runs a fantasy Supreme Court league so participants can predict decisions. 

    Thursday, 23 October 2014

    Asimov on creativity

    The MIT Technology Review has published an essay titled "On Creativity" that was written by famous scientist and author Isaac Asimov, who died in 1992.  The essay was written in 1959, when Asimov was considering joining an MIT project looking for the most creative approaches possible for a ballistic missile defense system. Asimov never joined the project, and the essay was unpublished until now; but  its contents are as broadly relevant today as when he wrote it. It describes not only the creative process and the nature of creative people but also the kind of environment that promotes creativity.
    Asimov says  "It is only afterward that a new idea seems reasonable. To begin with, it usually seems unreasonable...Consequently, the person who is most likely to get new ideas is a person of good background in the field of interest and one who is unconventional in his habits. (To be a crackpot is not, however, enough in itself.)" He also suggests working in groups, "For best purposes, there should be a feeling of informality. Joviality, the use of first names, joking, relaxed kidding are, I think, of the essence—not in themselves, but because they encourage a willingness to be involved in the folly of creativeness. For this purpose I think a meeting in someone’s home or over a dinner table at some restaurant is perhaps more useful than one in a conference room." 

    Homeland Security Digital Library on Pandemics

    The Homeland Security Digital Library's fall 2014 newsletter provides timely information and links to documents about communicable diseases and pandemics. Potentially deadly communicable diseases require additional vigilance and knowledge not only on the part of our nation’s medical and public health community, but also on homeland security professionals working in border security, customs, immigration, and transportation security.  The links provided include

    Wednesday, 22 October 2014

    Write like an academic

    Suffering from writer's block?  The University of Chicago has a webpage called "the Virtual Academic: write your own academic sentence" that can get you started. They provide 4 different dropdown boxes with academic phrases that will string together to amaze your friends and colleagues; for example, "The epistemology of post-capitalist hegemony functions as the conceptual frame for the discourse of the nation-state."

    hat tip: Karen Shephard

    Tuesday, 14 October 2014

    Some Federal Judges More Overburdened Than Others

    The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University has issued a report on the workload of federal judges in the United States. They have found that while the number of criminal and civil filings in federal district court has risen 28 percent in the last 20 years, the number of judgeships has grown by only 4 percent, so that the workload of all federal judges has increased. However, they also found that the increase in workloads and processing times is not evenly distributed, with some districts and judges shouldering significantly higher workloads than others. For example, judges in the Eastern District of Texas received an average of 1,510 weighted new filings each from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014 -- almost four times the national average of 388 -- making it the busiest federal court in the nation.
    In addition, TRAC has developed individual caseload measures for all active and senior district court judges -- nearly 1,000 judges in all, available in their Judge Information Center. These figures are based on court records and millions of case-by-case data files TRAC has received as a result of 20 years of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests as well as several lawsuits to force compliance with FOIA.

    Thursday, 9 October 2014

    Westlaw webinars

    Westlaw is offering the following free webinars during the month of October.  If you are wondering where all of your favorite features and tools on Westlaw Classic are located on WestlawNext? There are webinars that will help you transition from Westlaw Classic to WestlawNext, learn to effectively use the new Alert Center, and discover the uses of Practical Law.

    There is also a webinar for anyone who is new to TWEN, the Westlaw course management system. 

    Learning from Libraries

    There's an interesting article today in the Chronicle of Higher Education called "A Good, Dumb Way to Learn from Libraries" that discusses how data gathered by libraries might be useful, if only we were able to use it (of course librarians know that library usage data is private, very private). The author says that " What (libraries) do know... reflects the behavior of a community of scholars, and it’s unpolluted by commercial imperatives."

    Wednesday, 8 October 2014

    Help! I'm an Accidental Gov Docs Librarian webinars

    "Help! I'm an Accidental Government Information Librarian" webinars are sponsored by the Government Resources Section of the North Carolina Library Association.  The webinars are designed to help librarians do better reference work by increasing familiarity with government information resources and the strategies for navigating them.  Upcoming webinars include "The Bureau of Labor Statistics" on October 22 and "Data and Statistics for Researching Education" on December 3.  Their website has information on these upcoming webinars as well as links to webinar recordings of past webinars including "Regulate This! Federal Regulations",  "Geocoding for Beginners", "Historical Economic Data Sources", and "British and Commonwealth Legal Materials." 

    Wednesday, 1 October 2014

    JSTOR launches daily magazine

    JSTOR, the academic database used by scholars across the disciplines, has launched a new daily magazine called "JSTOR Daily: Where News Meets Its Scholarly Match" (still in beta). It already features over 100 blogposts and articles, including a post about Pitt's 2014 MacArthur fellow Terrance Hayes. The website says that "JSTOR Daily offers a fresh way for people to understand and contextualize their world. Our writers provide insight, commentary, and analysis of ideas, research, and current events, tapping into the rich scholarship on JSTOR, a digital library of more than 2,000 academic journals, dating back to the first volume ever published, along with thousands of monographs, and other material."  Catherine Halley, the magazine's editor, adds  "“Humankind’s best thinking is taking place at universities and scholars are helping develop this collective wisdom, and that’s what’s important about it.. Finding a way to take those thoughts and make them accessible to the public makes us all smarter.”
    You can sign up to receive the email newsletter on the website.

    Tuesday, 30 September 2014

    Congress dot gov out of beta

    The Library of Congress has announced that the website is officially out of beta. There are also several new features and improvements: Resources A new resources section providing an A to Z list of hundreds of links related to Congress
    An expanded list of "most viewed" bills each day, archived to July 20, 2014
    House Committee Hearing Videos Live streams of House Committee hearings and meetings, and an accompanying archive to January, 2012
    Advanced Search Support for 30 new fields, including nominations, Congressional Record and name of member

    Friday, 26 September 2014

    Bestlaw extension for Chrome browser

    A new browser extension for the Chrome browser has been developed by a Berkeley law student. It's called Bestlaw and it "adds features to Westlaw Next to make legal research more efficient, cost-effective and enjoyable".  Once you install it on your Chrome browser, it adds an unobtrusive toolbar to your Westlaw Next.  Then when you pull up a case, it offers some features that are useful:
    Copy a perfect Bluebook citation with one click
    Clean, readable view
    Automatically-generated table of contents
    Quick link to jump to footnotes
    One-click copying for citations, titles, and full text
    Collapse and expand statutory sections
    Find the document on free sources like CourtListener, Cornell LII, Casetext, and Google Scholar
    Prevent getting automatically signed off
    Share the document by email or on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+
    It's a neat little extension and the creator, Joe Mornin, says he is working on one for Lexis.

    hat tip: Sallie Smith

    Fastcase partners with Clio

    Fastcase, the legal research database, has announced that it is partnering with Clio, the time tracking practice management software.  By integrating the two,  legal professionals can track time spent researching without focusing attention away from the task at hand. From inside Fastcase, you can now select from clients and matters in Clio, start a timer for your research session, and record the activity automatically in Clio. According to the announcement, "In addition to the smarter research already provided by Fastcase, this partnership means more billable time and less administrative time, more accurate invoices, and more time for you".

    Thursday, 25 September 2014

    Title 52 of the US Code

    The Office of the Law Revision Counsel recently announced new Title 52 of the United States Code (U.S.C.),  Voting and Elections. According to the OLRC, provisions relating to voting and elections are being transferred from Titles 2 and 42 into the new Title 52. The transfers are necessary and desirable to create a well organized, coherent structure for this body of law and to improve the overall organization of the United States Code. No statutory text is altered. The provisions are merely being relocated from one place to another in the Code. The transfers in the online version of the US Code occurred on Sept. 1, 2014. For the printed version, the transfers will occur with supplement II of the 2012 edition of the US Code. Westlaw's US Code Annotated included the changes online on Sept. 3, and Lexis and Bloomberg Law online also have the new Title 52. 

    Wednesday, 24 September 2014

    More on laptops in the classroom

    The Chronicle of Higher Education Conversation blog has an interesting post titled "Don't Ban Laptops in the Classroom."
    The theme of the post is this:   "In the classroom as everywhere else, we must learn how to exercise control over our distraction impulse—not by some imposed rule, but by our own choice. Banning laptops—removing our choice to distract ourselves—is giving up on students, isn’t it?"