Friday, 27 March 2015

New website connects lawyers, non-profits

A new website called, appropriately, Lawyer/Nonprofit Connect was launched recently. The site is designed to enable nonprofit organizations to easily find interested lawyers to serve on their boards, and conversely, lawyers to easily find nonprofit boards on which to serve. According to the site, "Typically, nonprofit executives reach out to the people in their business or social networks for a board referral or recommendation. Their reach is only as far as their network. Lawyer | Nonprofit Connect broadens that network to find those lawyers interested and willing to serve on a board in their area of service. Lawyer | Nonprofit Connect also removes obstacles for busy lawyers. Nonprofits are able to search for lawyers with similar interests and with the skills most needed by the organization. Lawyers are able to search for nonprofits with open board seats that are involved in areas that excite them. Lawyer | Nonprofit Connect brings the two together and gives them the opportunity to connect with each other."

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Access to Justice programs

An interesting v recently discusses how courtroom innovations in New York and elsewhereare helping self-represented litigants navigate the legal waters. One example is an initiative in New York, begun by Justice Fern Fisher, called the Court Navigator Program. It helps unrepresented litigants in New York City navigate the legal areas of consumer debt and housing; there are plans to expand the program into family court and uncontested divorces. An evaluation beginning this summer will help to quantify the success of navigators, but Fisher said the anecdotal results are “very good.” “There are more defences being raised,” she said. “Our litigants clearly have a better feel about their experience in court.”

Friday, 20 March 2015

Proposal to make all .gov sites secure HTTP

Federal News Radio reports that  the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) of the United States has proposed a plan to make HTTPS the standard for all .gov websites. “The majority of Federal websites use HTTP as the primary protocol to communicate over the public internet,” says the plan, which also states that HTTP “create a privacy vulnerability and expose potentially sensitive information about users of unencrypted Federal websites and services.” The plan goes on to say that "HTTPS verifies the identity of a website or Web service for a connecting client, and encrypts nearly all information sent between the website or service and the user. Protected information includes cookies, user agent details, URL paths, form submissions, and query string parameters. HTTPS is designed to prevent this information from being read or changed while in transit."
The OMB is asking for feedback and suggestions for this proposal and technical assistance materials. They add that you may email to provide private comments. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

News on the Georgia State copyright case

Publisher's Weekly reports that the lawyers for Georgia State University have filed a brief opposing reopening the record of the high-profile e-reserves copyright case that pitted GSU against several academic publishers (Cambridge University Press, et al. v. Patton et al.,). GSU argues that the previous trial record “was fully developed at trial and is complete,” and that reopening the record would “unduly burden" the court and defendants. PW reports that "In 2012, Judge Evans ruled against the publishers, finding infringement on just five of 99 claims. But late last year, the case was remanded by the Eleventh Circuit with instructions for Evans to re-balance her four factor fair use analysis. The publishers say new evidence is needed if Evans is to fashion an appropriate injunction following the remand. But the publishers also appear to be angling for “a second bite at the apple,” says Brandon Butler, practitioner in residence at the American University Washington College of Law, telling PW that re-opening the record would essentially mean "a whole new trial." And that matters because the publishers may have botched their first shot. Of the 99 counts of alleged infringement presented for the first trial in 2010, only 48 actually got to a fair use analysis, as many were knocked out by technicalities and record-keeping issues. And for 33 of the works in question, digital licenses were not available at the time, a fact that weighed heavily against infringement in Evans’ fair use analysis, but would almost certainly not be the case today."

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Pitt Law's first MOOC

Pitt Law has announced that the law school is offering its first free online course (MOOC), called Epidemics, Pandemics, and Outbreaks, which teaches the basic facts about infectious diseases like measles and Ebola—what they are, how they’re transmitted, and what determines whether or not there will be an epidemic. This four-week class begins March 16, 2015. Course participants will learn about the laws and policies that enable us to fight infectious diseases—everything from quarantines to vaccinations to bioterrorism defense. The class is taught by Pitt Law faculty members Elena Baylis, a U.S. law and policy expert, and Elizabeth F. Bjerke, who specializes in the public health system with respect to emergency preparedness and response, along with infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, senior associate at the UPMC Center For Health Security, and Ryan Morhard, currently with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

New Unique HeinOnline ABA Law Library Collection Periodicals now in Pittcat

Catalog records for the 44 titles unique to the HeinOnline ABA Law Library Collection Periodicals have been added to PITTCat. You can scan these records by doing a PITTCat keyword phrase search for “HeinOnline ABA Law Library Collection Periodicals.”
These new periodicals include the following titles:
- Civil Rights Litigation
- Bankruptcy & Insolvency Litigation
- Children's Rights Litigation
- Environmental Litigation
- LGBT Litigator
- Trial Evidence
- Real Estate Litigation
- Scitech Lawyer

Thanks and a hat tip to Sallie Smith.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Friday Fun: the blue/black white/gold dress

The big news this week has been, of course, the great internet furor over whether a certain dress is blue and black or white and gold.  If you have any science geek leanings you will certainly enjoy Wired magazine's explanation of WHY people can see the same dress so differently; the article is titled "The Science of Why No One Agrees on the Color of This Dress".

ps  It's blue and black.  But it created such a sensation that the manufacturer is going to make a white and gold version, and is auctioning it off on eBay (custom tailored to the winner) with proceeds going to charity.  

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

ProView, Westlaw's ebook platform, updated

Thomson Reuters has announced that it is in the process of revamping their ProView ebook platform "in anticipation of further platform enancements that will launch later this year". Something to look forward to! 

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

ACBA Pittsburgh Legal Journal

The Allegheny County Bar Association has put the biweekly Pittsburgh Legal Journal onto a members-only accessible site (including the past years, search box, and indexes). Even if you have a subscription, you cannot access it - you must be a member of the ACBA and log in.
Thanks to Dr.  Joel Fishman at the Duquesne law school for the heads up.

Monday, 23 February 2015

EBSCO buys Yankee Book Publishing and GOBI

News from the library world: EBSCO Information Services has acquired Yankee Book Publishers (YBP) Library Services, including the GOBI (Global Online Bibliographic Information)  platform. YPB and GOBI are relied upon by academic libraries to provide access to discovery and acquisition information about more than 12 million monographic print and digital titles. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

Worldcat search tip

This little tip arrived via the govdocs listserv that members of the American Library Assn.'s government documents group uses.
When you are searching Worldcat, if you are looking for government documents on a topic, here's what to do: add the letters "ngp" to find national materials,  or "sgp" to find state materials. So, for example, if you use the basic Worldcat searchbox and type "ebola sgp" you will find state-level government documents about the ebola virus outbreak.

Hat tip: govdocs librarian L. Zellmer

Computer Lab cyberbar is open!

Kudos to IT director Kim Getz for the great new addition.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

UN Flagship Publications Website

The UN Chief Executives Board for Coordination has created a website of the major/flagship publications from the UN Specialized Agencies (FAO, ICAO, UNESCO, WIPO, etc.) :  Please note  that this website links out to each of the agencies- it isn't gathering them in one place- still it can be a handy tool.

hat tip: govdocs listserv

Saturday, 14 February 2015

UN Database of human rights cases

The UN Human Rights Office has launched a new public online database, OHCHR Jurisprudence, providing easy access to all case law from the UN human rights expert committees, the Treaty Bodies, which receive and consider complaints from individuals. These are: the Human Rights Committee (CCPR), the Committee against Torture (CAT), the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED), the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), and the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC). According to the website the database "enables the general public, governments, civil society organizations, United Nations partners and international regional mechanisms to research the vast body of legal interpretation of international human rights law as it has evolved over the past years."

Friday, 13 February 2015

HeinOnline: ABA Law Library Collection

HeinOnline has annouced that it has created a new collection with the American Bar Association to offer electronic access to the ABA Law Library Collection Periodicals. The collection contains a complete archive of more than 100 ABA periodicals, including 45 titles that have only been available to ABA members. By the end of February 2015 the complete archive, including current editions, will be digitized and available as full-color pdfs.

Think before you Tweet...

The New York Times magazine has a great story titled How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life that takes a sobering look at what might happen if you aren't careful about what you say and post on social media. A cautionary tale.
hat tip:MIT Technology Review

Thursday, 12 February 2015

2015 National Security Strategy

Greta Marlatt, the librarian who serves as the content manager for the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL), reports that the White House recently released the 2015 National Security Strategy. You can download and read the 32-page document as a pdf; there is also an online "Fact Sheet" that provides a summary of the report.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Assessment of MOOCs as "the hype fades"

The Chronicle of Education Wired Campus blog has an interesting article titled "The MOOC hype fades, in 3 Charts".  The author discusses how the popularity of MOOCs - Massive Open Online Courses - has leveled off, and how MOOCs don't seem to be a sustainable tool for universities. He says that "Those findings may not come as much of a surprise. The MOOC hype has been flagging since mid-2013, when it started becoming clear that this particular breed of online course would not transform the economics of mainstream higher education. The conventional wisdom now is that free online courses offer a promising recruiting tool and an interesting (but not essential) research tool for colleges that can afford the upkeep, while also nudging more-conservative institutions to finally start integrating online coursework into the curriculum."

Monday, 9 February 2015

How copyright law controls your digital life

The Consumerist blog has a post that discusses the theme of Cory Doctorow's (BoingBoing) new book, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free. The author says: "what most of us don’t really think about is how broad the net of copyright law really is... Realistically, here in 2015, copyright law is a far cry from the original question of who has the right to copy a work. Now, copyright law is so much bigger. The tendrils of copyright law reach worldwide into almost everything we consume, do, and are in the digital era. The rules and regulations about how the internet works, what privacy rights you have, and how the entire digital economy functions all spring from copyright." It's an interesting read.

Cathedral of Learning elevator project

Pitt is undertaking a major project in completely rebuilding the elevators in the Cathedral of Learning, which date back to 1931. There's a video on the project's Facebook page that explains how the new elevator system will work.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Uber Laws

The Wall Street Journal's law blog has a post titled Uber Laws: A Primer on Ridesharing Regulations" which goes through how the Uber ridesharing system has been going into cities and how cities respond with regulations. Uber has also been in the local news here in Pittsburgh because Uber and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) recently announced a strategic partnership that includes the creation of the Uber Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, near the CMU campus. The center will focus on "the development of key long-term technologies that advance Uber’s mission of bringing safe, reliable transportation to everyone, everywhere". And speaking of CMU and transportation, CMU has developed a Pittsburgh bus-tracking app called Tiramisu that provides easy access to schedule and real-time arrival information for the local public transportation.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Font for dyslexia

There's an interesting article about a font that has been developed by a person with dyslexia that makes reading easier for people who are dyslexic. The typeface is called “Dyslexie,” and was developed as a thesis project by a student at the Utrecht Art Academy in the Netherlands. The font makes reading easier for people with dyslexia by varying the letter shapes more, making it harder to confuse similarly shaped letters like “b” and “d,” for example. The font is free at

FDLP webinar on consumer stats

FDLP is planning a webinar titled Buying Stuff: Comparing Personal Consumption Expenditures Data from the BLA and BEA  at 2:00 p.m.  on February 26. The webinar will focus on  personal consumption data: the goods and services that Americans buy; about 2/3rds of spending in our nation is for goods and services. The goods we buy are our material possessions: either durable goods that have a shelf-life of 3 years or longer, or nondurable goods that last less than 3 years. The services we buy are such transactions as paying a company to compute your taxes or hiring someone to mow your lawn. Two federal agencies compute this data, the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because of different survey methodologies their data for the same goods and services can be wildly different.  The webinar will look at  how to work with their websites to get this data. You can register here.  

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.