Thursday, 14 August 2014

back-to-school shopping tips for law students

Above the Law has a post titled "The Essential Law School Shopping Guide" with lots of information on what every law student needs - or maybe not necessarily needs, but might want to pick up - before heading back to law school. It includes all-important tips on buying highlighters and post-it flags for marking up casebooks; buying a good bookbag; useful law student books; and some good sources of caffeine.

Hat tip: Karen Shephard

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

New website with Presidential Documents & information

The Legislative Research Special Interest Section of the Law Librarians Society of Washington, D.C., Inc. (LLSDC) is pleased to announce the availability of a new website entitled “Executive Orders and Other Presidential Documents: Sources and Explanations". The site attempts to briefly lay out and link to all major sources for these materials which includes Presidential directives, proclamations, signing statements, executive orders, memoranda, and other documents. In addition the site links to many sources, such as CRS reports, that explain these documents. Members of the Special Interest Section have also recently updated their publication, “Questions and Answers in Legislative and Regulatory Research”, which is now only available in (a 21 page) PDF. It's got answers to lots of frequently as well as infrequently asked questions about legislative research. 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Dept. of Energy to provide access to publications

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Department of Energy has developed a plan to give public access to the results of research funded by the DOE.   This is in response to a directive from the Obama administration to plan to make publicly supported research available within a year of publication. The DOE is the first agency to release its plan, which is an online site called "PAGES": Public Access Gateway for Energy and Science. The site is currently in "beta" but you can already search and find articles on the site. The advanced Search function allows you to search by a variety of metadata categories. The resulting documents are, as you might expect, very scientific in nature.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Words you will never hear a lawyer utter

This week's "Question of the Week" on the ABA Journal website is "What is something you will never hear a lawyer utter?" Readers are urged to provide answers in the Comment section. Lawyer jokes anyone? 

Internet Legal Research (on the cheap)

Attorney At Work is a website designed for practicing attorneys that provides "One Really Good Idea Every Day for Enterprising Lawyers".  The site was created by a team of  practice management experts. A recent post, called "10 Must-Know Tips for Internet Legal Research on the Cheap", has some great tips and is provided as a downloadable pdf.
Hat tip: lawlib listserv

Friday, 1 August 2014

Friday fun: Movies!

The ABA Journal has a story today titled "12 movies with pivotal lessons featuring lawyers".  Here's the alphabetical list, with links to the explanation of why each is important.

"Let Me Google That For You Act"

"Let Me Google That For You Act" is the informal title of Senate bill 2206 (summary) (full text of bill), which seeks to abolish the NTIS (National Technical Information Service). The companion bill in the House of Representatives  is H.R. 4382.  A number of library organizations, including the AALL, ALA and ARL have been involved in discussions with Congressional staff about the bill, working to support the NTIS. The Free Government Information (FGI) Blog has more information about the bill, and why these gov doc librarians are opposed to it. FGI points out that the sponsors of the bill seem to lack understanding of how Google works - that Google doesn't actually write the NTIS reports, it just links to them when you are searching on a particular topic. 
"The text of the bill observes that many reports available from NTIS can also be found through publicly searchable websites, such as Google and usa.gov, but fails to appreciate that this availability is often precisely because NTIS had a hand in collecting and publicly distributing them....Furthermore, many of the agencies which published reports in the NTIS collection no longer exist, leaving NTIS as their only surviving source. In fact, over two million of its reports exist only in paper or microform, and are not available in digital form from any source. Alarmingly, this bill makes no provision for the preservation of these reports or the cataloging data which facilitates access to them."

Court says Westlaw, Lexis use of lawyer's briefs not copyright infringement

The White v. West Publishing Company and Reed Elsevier case (S.D.N.Y, available online) begins: "On February 22, 2012, plaintiffs Edward L. White, Edward L. White, P.C., and Kenneth Elan filed a putative class action alleging copyright infringement against defendants West Publishing Corp. ("West") and Reed Elsevier, Inc. ("Lexis")." The plaintiffs were claiming that their legal briefs' inclusion in the Lexis and Westlaw databases was copyright infringement. However, District Judge Rakoff ruled that the use of the briefs by West and Lexis is fair use. Both companies transform the documents to a different purpose and use according to the Judge’s analysis: West and Lexis’s processes of reviewing, selecting, converting, coding, linking, and identifying the documents “add.. something new, with a further purpose or different character.” 

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act approved in DE

The governor of Delaware has signed UELMA,the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act, which allows the electronic versions of legal material published by the state to be designated as the official version. The material includes the Constitution, the Laws of Delaware, the Delaware Code, and the Delaware Administrative Code. The text of the new law is available on the Delaware General Assembly website.

hat tip: Cynthia Cicco, Janet Lindenmuth

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Studying law in prison helps convict win freedom

The ABA Journal online has an interesting (and inspiring) article today about Rodell Sanders, a Chicago man who spent 20 years in prison for murder. Sanders decided to learn the law while he was in jail, and committed himself to studying law after his family helped him purchase $1000 worth of law books (titles not mentioned). He was able to secure a new trial for himself based on ineffective assistance of counsel, and then got help from the University of Chicago law school's exoneration project. He was acquitted of the crime and is now suing the Chicago Heights police department. 

Friday, 25 July 2014

.These shoes were made for walking...

The Wall Street Journal reports that Ducere, a company in India, has come up with a new entry in the "wearable technology" field: the Lechal smart shoe, aka "interactive haptic footwear".  The shoes are bluetooth-enabled so that they can communicate with Google maps and guide your feet on their way to where you want to go. When you are at a crossroads the left or right shoe will buzz to indicate which way to turn. Insoles for shoes will also be available if you don't want to wear their shoes.  I can't find an estimated date of when they will be on sale, but the story does say that the shoes should cost between $100 and $150 which admittedly isn't super cheap but is a lot less than some shoes cost.  

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

New additions to Historical Newspapers database

The University Library System reports new additions to their ProQuest Historical Newspapers database. They have completed the collection of Black Newspapers (9 titles total) and added the 4 titles of the American Jewish Newspaper collection. The new titles added are:
Atlanta Daily World
Baltimore Afro-American
Cleveland Call / Post
LA Sentinel
Norfolk Journal and Guide
NY Amsterdam News
Philadelphia Tribune
American Hebrew and Jewish Messenger
American Israelite
Jewish Advocate
Jewish Exponent

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

New school year, new stapler

The library's new stapler for student use arrived yesterday. It's a Rapid Duax stapler and can handle from 2 to 170 pages at a time.  There's a demonstration video on YouTube.  

Friday, 18 July 2014

Research: reusing bad passwords not necessarily a bad idea

Slashdot has a post that links to a recent Microsoft research paper titled "Password Portfolios and the Finite-Effect User: Sustainably Managing Large Numbers of Accounts" (16 page pdf).  From the abstract: 
We explore how to manage a portfolio of passwords. We review why mandating exclusively strong passwords with no re-use gives users an impossible task as portfolio size grows... Our findings directly challenge accepted wisdom and conventional advice.
Or, as Slashdot explains it, not only do they recommend reusing passwords, but reusing bad passwords for low risks sites to minimize recall difficulty.

Georgetown Law symposium

The Georgetown Law Library is hosting a day-long symposium on Oct. 24 titled "404/File Not Found:Link Rot, Legal Citation and Projects to Preserve Precedent".  The symposium is "live" at Georgetown but you can also register to attend the symposium via webcast.  Registration is free.
From the description:
The Web is fluid and mutable, and this is a "feature" rather than a "bug". But it also creates challenges in the legal environment (and elsewhere) when fixed content is necessary for legal writers to support their conclusions. Judges, attorneys, academics, and others using citations need systems and practices to preserve web content as it exists in a particular moment in time, and make it reliably available.
 BTW the keynote speaker is Pittsburgh's own Jonathan Zittrain.  

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Clever way to create illustrated characters in PowerPoint

Here is a tutorial that shows how to create illustrated characters in Power Point. Clever. Move over Photoshop.

working group: Statistical Resources on the Web Guide

A working group of the Assn. of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) is looking into the possibility of "resurrecting" the Statistical Resources on the Web Guide originally compiled by Grace York at the University of Michigan and last updated in 2008. This feasibility project will:
1. Explore feasibility of  ALA/ACRL units adopting and maintaining the site.
 a. Consider possible platforms for site.
 b. Consider how content would be approved, added, and updated.
 c. Explore potential grant funding for project.
 d. Explore overlap with other similar projects and existing sites.
 e. Potentially create a timeline for implementation and maintenance.
 2. Timeline a. Initial meeting by end of July 2014.
 b. Progress check-in by October 2014.
 c. A final report by Midwinter 2015.
Anyone interested in helping with the project should contact Chad Kahl at Illinois State University, stating why you are interested in working on the project and what skills you could bring to the process, by July 11. 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Minnesota state documents digitized

The Minnesota Legislative Reference Library reports that it, along with the MN Office of Secretary of State, has completed a digitization project in which 40,000 official state documents were digitized and made available online. Titlted "Secretary of State Documents - 1900 - 1990", the collection includes a wide variety of documents spanning much of the 20th century. The index cards that had been used as finding aids were digitized and can be searched in the database. 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Phone-charging trousers

Microsoft has partnered with Nokia and British fashion designer Adrien Sauvage to create trousers with wireless cellphone charging capability. Woven into the front pocket is the new Nokia DC-50 wireless charging plate, which grants the wearer the ability to charge a phone by simply placing it into the pocket without the worry of having to plug it in. The Nokia wireless charging trousers will be available on Amazon 'soon'. You can read more on IT Pro.
No word on a phone-charging skirt.  Yet.  

New CALI website launched

The Computer Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) website has been completely revamped (upgraded to Drupal 7) and was relaunched yesterday.  You can check it out at www.cali.org.  Kudos to Elmer Masters and Dan Nagy for a job well done.  

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Westlaw webinars on transitioning from Westlaw Classic to WestlawNext

Westlaw has provided links to two recorded webinars that teach about  transitioning to WestlawNext from Westlaw Classic. The recordings will be available until May, 2015.
From Classic to Next: Basic
From Classic to Next: Advanced 

LOC recommends digitial formats for library collections

The Library of Congress has announced a set of recommended formats for a broad spectrum of creative works, ranging from books to digital music, to inform the Library’s acquisition practices. The format recommendations will help ensure the LOC's collections processes are considering and maximizing the long-term preservation potential of its large and varied collections.  The document describes the hierarchies of physical and technical characteristics of creative formats, both analog and digital, which will best maximize the chances for preservation and continued accessibility of creative content.
The Library was able to identify six basic categories of creative output, which represent significant parts of the publishing, information, and media industries, especially those that are rapidly adopting digital production and are central to building the Library’s collections: Textual Works and Musical Compositions; Still Image Works; Audio Works; Moving Image Works; Software and Electronic Gaming and Learning; and Datasets/Databases. Expert technical teams brought specialized knowledge in technical aspects of preservation, ongoing access needs and developments in the marketplace and publishing world. Standards were established to identify recommended formats for each of these categories and to establish hierarchies of preference among the formats within them.
 The Recommended Format Specifications are available here.

hat tip: Margie Maes, LIPA

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Lexis Academic training in July

LexisNexis Academic is offering several free webinar training sessions in the month of July.  The links will take you to the registration page for each webinar.
1. LexisNexis Academic : Learn how to use this general reference tool provides access to the most news, business, and legal information available from one interface. Newly redesigned with a simplified, single-search box and improved search options.
• Wednesday, July 9, 2014 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. (EDT) - Register
• Tuesday, July 15, 2014 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. (EDT) - Register (TELEPHONE ONLY)
2. LexisNexis Academic - Business  This seminar focuses on business resources and Company Dossier.
• Tuesday, July 15, 2014 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. (EDT) - Register
3. LexisNexis Academic – Legal Research  This webinar will focus on legal and criminal justice resources within LN Academic.
Check back for dates/times
4. LexisNexis Academic - News
• Tuesday, July 8, 2014 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. (EDT) - Register
5. LexisNexis Academic - Shepard's® -  The webinar will cover the features and benefits of using Shepard's® on-line.
• Tuesday, July 8, 2014 12:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. (EDT) - Register 

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

HathiTrust digitization ruled fair use

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has issued an opinion upholding the lower court's ruling in the  HathiTrust case, in which the Author's Guild was suing HathiTrust for copyright infringement for its book digitization project. The court ruled that HathiTrust’s book digitization and accessibility efforts are be fair uses of copyrighted works. The Conclusion of the opinion reads:

"The judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED, in part, insofar as the district court concluded that certain plaintiffs appellants lack associational standing; that the doctrine of “fair use” allows defendants‐appellees to create a full text searchable database of copyrighted works and to provide those works in formats accessible to those with disabilities; and that claims predicated upon the Orphan Works Project are not ripe for adjudication. We VACATE the judgment, in part, insofar as it rests on the district court’s holding related to the claim of infringement predicated upon defendants appellees' preservation of copyrighted works,and we REMAND for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Metadata in Twitter tweets

The Wall Street Journal Digits blog reports that there is more metadata in a Twitter tweet than there are characters.  Twitter is famous for its 140-character limit on tweet length; but in order to facilitate data-mining for companies that gather information from social media there are 150 separate points of metadata (information about the tweet) for each tweet, so each tweet can yield a wealth of information: "For a tweet, metadata includes a unique numerical ID attached to each tweet, as well as IDs for all the replies, favorites and retweets that it gets. It also includes a timestamp, a location stamp, the language, the date the account was created, the URL of the author if a website is referenced, the number of followers, and many other technical specifications that engineers can analyze." The blogpost includes a link to a map of all the metadata contained in a tweet.

hat tip: beSpacific

Saturday, 31 May 2014

ABA Journal: Who owns the law?

The ABA Journal this week has an excellent in-depth article titled "Who owns the law? Technology reignites the war over just how public documents should be."  In the article they interview some of the major players in the free access to law movement, including Carl Malamud of Public Resource dot org and Ed Walters of Fastcase, and discuss the issues at stake. They also point to a major case that is currently underway: American Society for Testing and Materials v. PublicResource.org, where the ASTM is suing PublicResource for copyright infringement, asserting that PublicResource.org  committed copyright violations when it published ASTM codes and standards  that government entities had incorporated into law.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Taylor and Francis to host a Twitter party

Taylor and Francis has issued an invitation to take part in qualitative research and engage with other librarians through one of the most popular means of social communication, Twitter. Taylor & Francis is investigating how social media is used in the academic library and how this differs based on the experience level, knowledge, and focus of librarians. They plan to  produce a White Paper on the topic and, as part of the research, they are hosting a Twitter party on Thursday June 5 between 10:00-10:45 AM, EDT, to discover your thoughts on using social media in the library.
Register by June 4th and sign into Twitter on the time and day above, and then search for #tfsocialmedia. You can join in by tweeting @librarylantern, using #tfsocialmedia to share your thoughts on:
• The challenges and opportunities social media presents to the library community
• Social media as a teaching tool - the role social media plays in information literacy
• User engagement & perception of using social media in the library
• Accessibility– how SNS are being promoted in the library
• Measurability - the impact of social media  To register for the event click here.   

Friday, 23 May 2014

Stacks stories

Lovers of library stacks are fighting back in two recent news stories.  In a recent edition of online magazine Slate, Rebecca Schuman has a story titled "Save Our Stacks" in which she reports on a faculty petition at Colby College in Maine protesting a plan to move 170,000 of the library's books to storage. As she points out, many many other academic libraries are engaged in the same process of de-stacking and de-booking library spaces. She goes on to say that "The Bookies are quite right to want to save the stacks but not just for the reasons they give, all of which could be dismissed as the sentimental drowning cries of Luddites. We must also save the stacks for another, more urgent reason altogether: Books, simply as props that happen also to be quite useful if you open them up, are the best—perhaps the only—bastions of contemplative intellectual space in the world."
She also points to a second big and under-reported library stacks news item: the New York Public Library has quietly dropped its controversial plan to remove its famous stacks and send most of its books to storage in New Jersey (and elsewhere). This is probably not the end of the story which continues to unfold. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal has suggested that the grand main library building should be renamed for Ada Louise Huxtable, the noted architecture critic who spent her final months researching and writing a scathing commentary on the plan (she died in Jan. 2013 at the age of 91; her article ran in the Wall Street Journal on Dec. 4, 2012). The publication of her critique, titled "Undertaking its Destruction", marked a turning point for the library. She had said of the plan, "This is a plan devised out of a profound ignorance of or willful disregard for not only the library's original concept and design, but also the folly of altering its meaning and mission and compromising its historical and architectural integrity. You don't "update" a masterpiece. "Modernization" may be the most dangerously misused word in the English language."
The New York Times broke the story that the plans were dropped; for some reason they neglected to mention Ms. Huxtable's role. 

Thursday, 22 May 2014

e-mail like a lawyer

The Thomson Reuters Legal Solutions Blog has a post (authored by Adam Gropper) that gives excellent advice on using good judgment in e-mail communications. The 12 tips are good e-mail practice for lawyers - and everyone else. For example, Tip #4: "Instead of criticizing, finding fault, or complaining, provide solutions (or do not send the e-mail). Treat every e-mail as if the contents could end up on the front page of the New York Times."

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

PITTCat+ gets a makeover

A message from Sallie Smith, our Cataloging and Systems Librarian:  Monday, June 2, PITTCat+ will have a new look when the University Library System upgrades to Summon 2.0. You can preview the new version by clicking here.    If you try the new interface, here are a few things to remember:
• Use the drop-down arrow at far right of search box to access the advanced search screen.
• Search results can now be filtered by discipline (i.e. Law) – but remember that refinements are “sticky”, meaning that the filters are not cleared until you start a new search.
• The new interface has infinite scrolling – you won’t reach the bottom of the page unless you have a very small number of retrievals.
 It’s not perfect... but it is an improvement over the current version.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

New TWEN webinars for faculty, librarians and staff

If you are interested in using TWEN as your course management or project management system, ThomsonReuters Westlaw has created a series of five minute pre-recorded webinars for faculty, librarians and staff.  These will help anyone interested in learning the basics about TWEN. These are all webex webinars that should play on any computer.  


TWEN Fine tuning:

TWEN Security:

TWEN Updating:

Embedding Youtube videos in TWEN courses:


Friday, 16 May 2014

New CALI site coming soon!

CALI, the Center for Computer Assisted Legal Instruction, is launching an all-new website on June 2 & 3 11-12,  2014.  They have scheduled a downtime for www.cali.org for all day Monday June 2, 2014 and the new design will be available on June 3 12, 2014. There will be no ability to register, run Lessons, login, access LessonLink or anything else all day on Monday June 2 June 11 2014.
The new site will have a number of improved features including better search for finding more of CALI's resources, a responsive design to improve usability for mobile visitors, and improved navigation. Some things won't change like URLs for key resources including Lessons. Account information and data is staying the same so usernames and passwords will still work after the launch and faculty and students will have access to all of their LessonLink and Lesson Run data.
For more info and some screenshots see the CALI blog.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Ranking law schools

There is an interesting article titled Sense and non-sense of a European ranking of law schools and law journals in the latest edition of Legal Studies, the Journal of the Society of Legal Scholars. The article focuses on whether it is possible to rank European law schools, but it also offers a clear-eyed look at law school rankings in the U.S., the good, the bad and the ugly.   The Abstract:
Rankings of law schools and law journals are part of a trend towards more emphasis in academia on transparency and accountability with regard to the quality of research and education. Globalisation increases the need to compare law schools and law journals across borders, but this raises complicated questions due to differences in language, education systems, publishing style and so on. In this contribution, it is argued that ranking of law schools and law reviews runs the risk of driving us away from quality based on substance towards proceduralisation and quality assessment based on proxies favoured by managers of law schools, funding bodies and government agencies, instead of by the forum of legal scholars.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

GPO unveils plan for the future of the FDLP

The Government Printing Office just unveiled a new National Plan for the Future of the FDLP at the 2014 Depository Library Council Meeting & Federal Depository Library Conference. This is the result of much work by GPO and the depository library community, based on the FDLP Forecast Study. The National Plan aims for a sustainable FDLP, which is proposed to be renamed the Federal Information Access Library Program and expanded to include more types and sizes of libraries and a new category of Federal Information Access assurance Partners. Although this is a proposal, and much work still needs to be done, it’s a very positive milestone. Law librarians should be pleased with the emphasis on information access, preservation, and program sustainability. Superintendent of Documents Mary Alice Baish will be discussing the plan at the AALL Annual Meeting.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Federal legislation visualization

An interesting new visualization tool called Leg/Ex (short for Legislative Explorer) comes from the University of Washington Center for American Politics and Public Policy. It's an interactive visualization that allows anyone to explore actual patterns of lawmaking in Congress. To use it, go to the website and click the "Launch" button.. Choose any year/Congress  back to 1973. Then hit Play and and watch the tiny points of light (bills introduced) fly to their various committees until the committees start to look like little nuclei (bills are coded blue for Dems, red for Reps, yellow for Inds). You can also choose from 19 major topics and many minor topics and watch the numbers increase like a sports ticker on the bottom of your screen. You can search by individual member, see members ranked on an ideology scale, explore by State, and lots more possibilities.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Visualizing legal research

An article in the ABA Journal discusses a new website called Ravel (still in beta) that is called a legal research alternative. Ravel was developed by 2 law students at Stanford who were interested in data visualization. Ravel does not look like traditional legal research platforms because it gives a visual presentation of search results. Rather than display a list of text results,  Ravel draws a visual map of the results, showing the relationships among cases and their relative importance to each other. Results are displayed in a cluster map, with a timeline shown below. Each dot in the cluster is another case.
Ravel is currently free during beta-testing.  

Monday, 5 May 2014

Crowdsourcing the Statutes at Large

This recent email came from James Jacobs, one of the Government Information librarians at Stanford University library and a founder of the Free Government Information blog :
Hi All, Do you love the Statutes at Large? (note: who doesn't???) then please help... the Congressional Data Coalition (http://congressionaldata.org) with a project to proofread digital SaL for permanent free public access! You can find directions for this project at https://hackpad.com/Statutes-at-Large-TOC-Signup-List-WEXNPB8aSp2

WestlawNext webinars for faculty

To help ease the transition for faculty from Westlaw Classic to WestlawNext, which is being phased out over the next couple of months, Westlaw is holding a series of free webinars to help introduce (or refresh) faculty to using WestlawNext.
There are 2 webinars available on a number of dates in May and June:
1.  From Classic to Next Basic
 In this basic webinar, you will learn where to find and how to use your favorite aspects of Westlaw Classic on WestlawNext. Learn about conducting finds and searches, including Boolean searches, and KeyCite and Key Numbers. We will also review how to save your Research Trails so you can have them available in WestlawNext.
2.  From Classic to Next Advanced
 In this advanced webinar, you will learn about Alerts on WestlawNext, how to use Custom Pages (similar to tabs on Westlaw Classic), Folders, and Practical Law. We will also review how to save your Research Trails so you can have them available in WestlawNext.
If interested, go to Westlaw's Faculty Webinar Page, select the date and time you prefer, and register for the webinar.