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.

    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.