Sunday, 11 October 2015

Practicing Law Institute online library now available

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

Friday, 9 October 2015

Infographic guide to the war in Syria

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

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Law Library eBooks

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

Friday, 2 October 2015

Fastcase buys Loislaw

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

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Barco Lost Book Processing Fee increase

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

Slaw on looseleafs

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

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

U.S. Web Design Standards

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

Legal information for laypeople

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

Save the Inner Temple law library petition

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

Saturday, 19 September 2015

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

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

Friday, 11 September 2015

U.S. elections guide

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

Friday, 4 September 2015

Do you like Google's new logo?

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

Legal Writing Tips from Justice Kagan

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

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Readex online training

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

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Voting booth privacy and selfies

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

New journal focuses on technology and privacy

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

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Amusing musings on The Bluebook

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

Tuesday, 18 August 2015


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

Monday, 17 August 2015

New HeinOnline interface for the new school year

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

Laptops in the Classroom?

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

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Georgia sues Public Resource for publishing annotated state code

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

Thursday, 16 July 2015

An independent Copyright Office?

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

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

New trial FOIA policy for some federal agencies

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

Saturday, 11 July 2015

New learning platform for law students learning cases

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

Friday, 10 July 2015

Everything Science Knows about Reading on Screens

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

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

learn about the ERIC thesaurus

ERIC, the national education database, is giving a free webinar on using the ERIC Thesaurus on Thursday, July 16 from 2-3 pm. The ERIC Thesaurus is a valuable search tool and an authority on the vocabulary of education. There are more than 11,000 education-related terms in the ERIC Thesaurus. The webinar will discuss the behind-the-scenes activities used to maintain this large controlled vocabulary, and how the Thesaurus supports ERIC users in their search for education resources.
The database includes peer-reviewed articles on legal education - for example, using the thesaurus users can quickly drill down to such articles as: Perrin, J. et al., Do Learners Fear More than Fear Itself: The Role of Fear in Law Students Educational Experiences (2014).
Registration for the webinar is free.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Free Webinars from the Government Printing Office

The GPO has announced free webinars that will be available during July. These sessions are presented virtually through GPO's FDLP Academy. Presenters from GPO, other Federal Government agencies, and from Federal depository libraries will present on topics related to Federal Government information and the Federal Depository Library Program.
 The upcoming webinar sessions:
 SHA in Action: An Overview of a Selective Housing Agreement An Overview of a Selective Housing Agreement, July 7 at 1:00 p.m. (Eastern), 60 min
SHA in Action: CONSORT and Case Western Reserve, July 15 at 2:00 p.m. (Eastern), 60 min
Introduction to GPO's Federal Digital System, July 16 at 11:00 a.m. (Eastern), 60 min
Advanced Navigation in FDsys, July 16 at 1:00 p.m. (Eastern), 90 min
SHA in Action: Experiences of a Regional Depository Library, July 23 at 2:00 p.m. (Eastern), 45 min
StatsAmerica – A Portal to Apps and Rich Data Tools for Economic and Community Development, July 30 at 1:00 p.m. (Eastern), 60 min
Webinar attendees will receive a Certificate of Participation from GPO for each webinar they attend. GPO's FDLP Academy offers a wide range of educational opportunities, tools, and resources related to Federal Government information.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Important FOIA decision for TRAC

the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University reports that in an important FOIA decision, Judge Christopher R. Cooper of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia has ruled that the purpose of TRAC is educational and journalistic and not business-related (the case docket number is 1:14-cv-00807-CRC). Judge Cooper's ruling focused on the response of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to a November 2013 FOIA request from TRAC seeking data on immigration enforcement.
The decision is important to TRAC's data gathering mission because fees charged to non-commercial entities for obtaining records are substantially less than they would be if the organization were considered commercial. In clarifying several key issues underlying the rules to be applied in assessing fees, the decision may also prove significant to other non-commercial requesters who might otherwise be persuaded to abandon their efforts to obtain government information by the imposition of unjustified fees.
The Bloomberg citation for the case is 2015 BL 206945; the Lexis citation is 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83835; the  Westlaw citation for the case is 2015 WL 3961312.

2015 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction

ABA Journal reports that Deborah Johnson has been awarded the 2015 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction for The Secret of Magic. The prize is intended for the best novel-length work of fiction published that year to illuminate the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change. It is sponsored by the ABA Journal and the University of Alabama School of Law, and named for the author of To Kill a Mockingbird. “We’re thrilled with this year’s selection,” said Allen Pusey, editor and publisher of the ABA Journal, who was on the selection committee for the Harper Lee Prize finalists. “The Secret of Magic is exactly the kind of book the Harper Lee Prize is intended to honor; and the quality of legal literature we hope to encourage. The language is rich, the storytelling is gripping, and the subject fits squarely in today’s discussions about race, courage and the rule of law.”
You can visit Deborah Johnson's website to find out more about her and the book; links to online booksellers are also there.
For University of Pittsburgh faculty, staff and students the book is also available online through the University Library System

Friday, 19 June 2015

European Court of Human Rights agrees websites are responsible for user comments

Slashdot reports that a recent ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the case of Delfi AS v. Estonia has found it perfectly acceptable to hold websites responsible for comments left by users. In the surprise decision, the court has ruled that the Estonian news site Delfi may be held responsible for anonymous and allegedly defamatory comments from its readers.
A blogpost from the Media Legal Defence Initiative summarizes the reasons why the court came to this unexpected decision. The ECHR cited "the 'extreme' nature of the comments which the court considered to amount to hate speech, the fact that they were published on a professionally-run and commercial news website," as well as the "insufficient measures taken by Delfi to weed out the comments in question and the low likelihood of a prosecution of the users who posted the comments," and the moderate sanction imposed on Delfi.
Experts are worried the ruling will encourage websites to censor content posted by users out of concern that they're opening themselves up to legal liability. The judgment also seems to support the claim that "proactive monitoring" can be required of website owners.

Congress dot gov webinar available as recording

If you missed the Introduction to Congress dot gov webinar on June 11, it is now available as a ~1 hour recording from the Library of Congress. Very useful.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports availability

The New York Times has an editorial titled "Congressional Research Belongs to the Public" in which they urge the incoming Librarian of Congress to make CRS reports readily available to the public. "Given the extreme partisanship and gridlock in Congress, it’s more crucial than ever to have an informed electorate. Putting these reports in the public domain is an important step toward that goal."

Thursday, 11 June 2015

LLOC index of Congress reports

In an effort to highlight the legal reports produced by the Law Library of Congress (LLOC), their display on the Library of Congress website has been revamped. The new Comprehensive Index of Legal Reports will link to all reports available on the website. This will also be the exclusive location to find reports written before 2011, including some of the more popular reports. The reports listed on the Comprehensive Index page are divided into specific topics designed to point users to the reports of greatest interest and relevance. Each report listed is under only one topic and several topics are not yet filled (“forthcoming”). The LLOC plans to add many reports from our archives to this page over the next few months, filling in all of the topics.
The Current Legal Topics page will now only contain the most current reports. This list of reports also includes a short description explaining what you will find in each report.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Congress dot gov webinar June 11

The next Webinar offered by the Law Library of Congress is June 11 from 2:00-3:00 EDT., the official website for U.S. federal legislative information, was launched Sept. 19, 2012. This orientation is designed to give a basic overview of the site. While the focus of the session will be searching legislation and the Congressional member information attached to the legislation, the new features of will be highlighted. Registration is free.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

News from the US Copyright Office

"The U.S. Copyright Office has published a Federal Register notice requesting written comments to assist it in developing draft legislation that would establish a legal framework for certain mass digitization activities. For the past several years, the Copyright Office has been exploring ways to facilitate and support mass digitization projects serving the public interest while appropriately balancing the interests and concerns of copyright owners. In its recently issued Orphan Works and Mass Digitization Report, the Office proposed the creation of a limited “pilot program” that would allow certain types of mass digitization projects to be authorized through a system known as extended collective licensing (ECL). The ECL pilot program recommended by the Office would enable users to digitize and provide access to certain works for research and education purposes under conditions to be agreed upon between rightsholder and user representatives. Because the success of such a system depends on the voluntary involvement of both copyright owners and users, the Office is inviting public comment on several issues concerning the scope and operation of the pilot program. The Office will then seek to facilitate further discussion through stakeholder meetings and, if necessary, additional requests for written comment. Based on this input, the Office will draft a formal legislative proposal for Congress’s consideration.
Written comments are due on or before August 10, 2015."

Monday, 8 June 2015

Albany Law School & U. Albany move toward affiliation

The Albany Business Review reports that the Albany Law School and the University at Albany have announced they are finalizing an agreement to affiliate. A joint letter from the Albany Law School Dean and the President of the University of Albany describes the plan, and says that the schools plan to complete a formal agreement by the end of October. The letter states that the affiliation is not a merger, as both schools will remain financially independent and there are no plans to change their names. Additionally, the schools would retain their respective accreditations and continue to issue their own degrees. But benefits of affiliation include cost-savings for students, expanded course and degree offerings and joint research and funding initiatives..  Albany Law has an enrollment of 477 students. U Albany enrolls more than 17,000.

Friday, 5 June 2015

FBI tells Congress new law needed to address social media

Computerworld reports that the FBI told the the U.S. House of Representatives' Homeland Security Committee that a new wiretap law is needed that will require social media websites to share customers' communications with law enforcement agencies the same way that telecom carriers do. Terrorists are increasingly using social network tools to recruit converts, but much of the recruiting is done in the open, three government witnesses told the committee.