Monday, 12 June 2017

Ravel Law bought by LexisNexis

LexisNexis has issued a press release announcing their acquisition of Ravel Law, " a legal search, analytics, and visualization platform that aims to turn lawyers into data analysts." Ravel was started in 2012 by law student Daniel Lewis et al in a dorm room at Stanford. According to the email announcement that Daniel sent out, "Simultaneously, we will begin work on integration with LexisNexis. You can expect that Ravel's analytics offerings will continue to expand and be fully integrated into Lexis Litigation Profile Suite. Additionally, Ravel's search visualization will be integrated into Lexis Advance. Finally, Ravel's Harvard caselaw content will enrich the already expansive caselaw collection available from LexisNexis. We hope to complete integration with LexisNexis by early 2018, at which time we will ensure a seamless transition for our customers."
News of the acquisition has been widely reported as an indication that data analysis is of increasing importance to the practice of lawyering and conducting legal research.  The Wall Street Journal reported the acquisition as "When it comes to the future of lawyering, LexisNexis is doubling down on big data." SLAW says that "LexisNexis Seeks to Turn Lawyers into Data Analysts." The ABA Journal says that "LexisNexis Legal and Professional has acquired legal research and litigation analytics firm Ravel Law, and will integrate Ravel's data visualization and profiling technology into LexisNexis services."

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Publishers announce anti-counterfeiting measures

In March, academic publishers Cengage and McGraw-Hill Education, along with Elsevier and Pearson, formed the Education Publisher Enforcement Group to raise awareness about counterfeit textbooks. Now, Inside Higher Education reports that this Cengage Learning & McGraw-Hill Education textbooks will have a "certification seal" that can be scanned by a smartphone ?QR code-reading app to verify that the books are from the publisher and not a counterfeiter.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

LawPORT: Online tutorials from the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies

The University of London's Institute of Advanced Legal Studies has announced the launch of LawPORT, a collection of training tutorials "designed to improve the information literacy skills of law PhD students." Of course these are geared towards law students in the UK, but they are very well done. The tutorials "Researching customary international law" and "Treaties and international conventions" both have useful information for anyone doing international legal research (the third tutorial, using OSCOLA, is about using the Oxford University Standard for the Citation of Legal Authorities, similar to our Bluebook). The tutorials are free-to-use, can be accessed anywhere, at any time and be undertaken at your own pace.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Interactive database from the U.S. Courts

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts recently made available an enhanced database containing information about civil and criminal federal cases going back to 1970. The Integrated Database (IDB) is available to the public for free on the Federal Judicial Center website. According to the announcement, "The interactive database contains docket information from district, appellate, and bankruptcy court filings and terminations, including plaintiff and defendant names, filing date, termination date, disposition of the case, type of lawsuit, jurisdiction, and docket number. It excludes judges’ names as a preventative measure against judge-shopping by plaintiffs..."

Thursday, 18 May 2017

GPO Director on transforming the GPO for the 21st Century

The new Director of the Government Publishing Office, Davita Vance-Cooks, recently met with the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on House Administration at a hearing on "Transforming GPO for the 21st Century and Beyond." She reported on the continuing evolution and transformation of the GPO from a print-centric to a content-centric publishing operation, and detailed the GPO's current and future digital publishing initiatives for Congress and Federal Agencies. Her prepared statement is available on the GPO website as a 16 page pdf.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

UN Libraries announce new free resource

The librarians at the UN have announced that the United Nations Digital Library (UNDL) is now available and can be accessed globally free of charge. From the announcement:
"The new platform runs on innovative open source technology... and is a result of the successful collaboration between the Dag Hammarskj√∂ld Library at UN Headquarters and our sister library at the UN Office in Geneva...Phase 1 of the features the integration of ... 3  databases into one; it incorporates digital content, mainly official UN documents and selected UN maps, with metadata  as well as speech and voting records... We plan to add and integrate additional collections of digital materials as they are created or are made available to us by UN departments, offices, and agencies."
Features of the new platform include:
• Content organized into collections (by UN body, agency, and type of document).
• Various search options (simple keyword, advanced, Boolean, search using field tags, include/exclude search in full text).
• Links between related documents.
• Interface in 6 official UN languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish) – in progress.
Users who register for an account at the library can access additional features, such as search alerts, saved searches, and "baskets" for saving documents and collaborating with others.
There is a promotional video on YouTube.  The librarians add "We are developing more features and functionalities and are committed to implement enhancements on a continuous basis. You can help us by sending us your comments and observations."

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

New Readex interface

Readex has announced enhancements that are now available on a number of their databases. These enhancements include "Fresh new looks featuring compelling graphics and streamlined designs to spur fresh interest and higher use; More intuitive navigation, including a prominent search box and larger tabs to encourage searching and discovery; Better image viewing to make working with historical documents far easier for both novice and seasoned users.
The search page for each of the Readex databases looks quite different, with larger and more obvious visual cues for searching. And when you pull up a document to view, the display is larger and easier to navigate. You can see for yourself at the new Readex Congressional Serial Set homepage. ULS also subscribes to several other Readex databases that have been updated:

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

TRAC reports increasing FOIA backlog at USCIS

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University issued an FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) Project report yesterday which stated
"The backlog of unprocessed FOIA requests to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) continues to climb. In just a two-year period, the backlog of unanswered FOIA requests has tripled, climbing from 17,998 at the end of December 2014 to 46,550 at the end of December 2016. This means that countless requesters – including reporters, scholars, and those subject to immigration actions – are not getting the information they need to check against unlawful actions and to better hold the government accountable to the governed."
Detailed data is included at the website link.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

the privacy paradox

Harvard Business Review has an interesting article titled "Why We’re So Hypocritical About Online Privacy." The author discusses the "privacy paradox", or why so many say they are concerned about their online privacy yet so few do anything about protecting it. An example is that most of us are annoyed at the targeted marketing that follows us around as we browse online, but few of us actually change our online shopping behavior. A scary piece of information is that "Our digital footprint can already be used to infer our deepest character traits; a 2013 study of 58,000 Facebook users (who volunteered for the study) was able to reliably predict sexual orientation, gender, race, age, religious and political views, level of intelligence, alcohol and cigarette use, drug use, and whether the volunteer’s parents were separated. The researchers were also able to predict, to some degree, personality traits, such as extraversion, conscientiousness, openness, emotional stability, and agreeableness." This is particularly true of social media users, who, despite expressing concerns about privacy, are careless in what they reveal on social media and allow a wide range of external apps to access their information. The author of the article gives some psychological reasons for this behavior, but he questions whether there is, really, "any such thing as a 'secret' life anymore?"

Monday, 1 May 2017

Airtable online database creator

The Informed Librarian Online has a recent post titled "Is There Such a Thing as an Easy to Use, Lightweight Relational Database?" by Dana DeFebbo, a law librarian at the Tarlton Law Library at U of Texas. The article is about Airtable, a new online resource for building databases. The author says that "Airtable is a cloud-based, lightweight relational database that integrates the relational database function of something like Microsoft Access with the overall easier to understand layout of a spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel. However, Airtable is by and large much easier to use than Access and Excel, it is web-based so it can run on any machine with nothing to download, and it is mostly free."
Airtable is flexible like a spreadsheet, but it's made for organization rather than number crunching. You can use it to organize anything and when you start using the website you can view and explore of the ways Airtable is used for collections of information and project management. A nice feature is that you can customize your fields for a large variety of data types including text, attachments (like photos), checkboxes, date, email address, number, currency, formula, barcode, and many other types of information. Airtable has some preconfigured templates that you can modify for your own needs; you can also import an existing .csv file to create your own "base" from scratch. The interface is very user-friendly with "help" and "information" popups readily available.

Friday, 28 April 2017

The 14th Amendment

The ABA Journal has an excellent article that details the history of the 14th Amendment titled "The 14th: A Civil War-era amendment has become a mini-Constitution for modern times." The article features analysis and discussion by a number of prominent legal scholars. Included with the article is a digital slideshow of 14th Amendment Milestones, from the Dred Scott decision (1857) through Obergefell v. Hodges (2015)

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Microfiche webinar

The Federal Depository Library Program is hosting a webinar on Tuesday, May 9, at 2 pm titled "Everthing you need to know about Microfiche." From the description: "Managing a microfiche collection can be challenging, especially as this format becomes obsolete and collections of fiche begin to show signs of physical degradation. This webinar will discuss how microfiche is produced, examine risks and risk mitigation for microfiche collections, and options for reformatting microfiche to digital."
The webinar is free, but you should register here.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

GPO. LOC release digitized Congressional Record for the 1960's

The Government Publishing Office and the Library of Congress have announced that they have partnered in making the digitized Congressional Record 1961-70 available on GPO's govinfo website. Comprising ~ 380,000 pages, these Congressional Records include Congressional debates and proceedings from the turbulent 1960's. They cover important historical topics including:
·The Administrations of Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and the first two years of the Administration of President Nixon
·The Civil Rights Era
·The Vietnam War
·The Space Program and Moon Landing
·Legislation of the Great Society and the War on Poverty, including:
    The Civil Rights Act of 1964
    The Voting Rights Act of 1965
    The Fair Housing Act of 1968
    The Medicare and Medicaid Economic Opportunity Act of 1964
    The Immigration Act of 1965
    The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
    The Endangered Species Act of 1966
    The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967
The bound volumes have been digitized chronologically and are available as pdfs.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Google Earth relaunched

Google Earth has been completely revamped, in a "stunning relaunch" according to Search Engine Watch.  They have an article authored by Clark Boyd that gives a detailed look at the new product. For those of us who use Google Chrome as our browser the best news is that Google Earth is built into Chrome so one no longer has to download the app.  It works quickly and smoothly and is quite amazing. When you launch it for the first time there is a brief video tour "This is the new Google Earth, here are the top 5 things to try" which can help you get started. 

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Fake Review Detector

Have you every doubted a review on Amazon or Yelp?  There's an app/browser extention/website to help with that. It's called Fakespot.  Because there are lots and lots of fake reviews out there, and this will help you separate the junk from the useful ones. It also has a webpage called "worst fake reviews" where you can see products whose online reviews are pretty much 100% fake. 

Friday, 21 April 2017

New: USA Facts website

CIO and others report that Steve Ballmer, late of Microsoft, has a new project called USA Facts (Our nation, in numbers) that has the grand goal of fixing the US government.  According to the New York Times, "The database is perhaps the first nonpartisan effort to create a fully integrated look at revenue and spending across federal, state and local governments." The website states that "USAFacts is a new data-driven portrait of the American population, our government’s finances, and government’s impact on society. We are a non-partisan, not-for-profit civic initiative and have no political agenda or commercial motive. We provide this information as a free public service and are committed to maintaining and expanding it in the future. We rely exclusively on publicly available government data sources. We don’t make judgments or prescribe specific policies."  The site already contains a wealth of information but it is still in beta. 

WK Study Guides: interface update tomorrow

Wolters Kluwer has informed us that they are upgrading the portal for the WK Online Study Aid library with the release planned for April 22, 2017. Their website will be unavailable for about one hour on April 22 beginning at 1:00 am while they implement the changes. There will be no change to the content, to a student’s settings, notes, highlights, or bookmarks. Students will continue to access content as previously. Benefits of the new interface for students include:
• Updated online and offline readers.
• Sync notes and highlights between online/offline access when same file format is used.
• Option to view EPUB or PDF when reading online.
• Export notes.
• My Shelf: create custom shelves to organize your books.
• Responsive design for the desktop site and a mobile site for tablets and smartphones.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The very first 1040 form, from the LOC

In a timely post, the Law Library of Congress blog today posted an image of the very first Form 1040, from 1913. The current federal income tax can be traced back to the Revenue Act of 1913, which was passed after the ratification, by the states, of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution. The act provided that taxes on individual taxpayers would be imposed beginning for the year 1913 on incomes of $3,000 and up.
Despite being over 100 years old, the 1040 from 1913 resembles our current form in its structure and bureaucratic language, as well as the several "see instructions page ___" However, it was due on March 1, and only taxed income earned between March 1 and December 31 for some reason.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

GPO Launches New GPO.gov Website

The Federal Depository Library Program has sent out an announcement that the Government Printing Office has launched a new website (still in beta) that is meant to be more user-friendly for customers, vendors, Federal agencies, libraries, and the public looking for Government information. The site is https://beta.gpo.gov. Eventually this site will replace the current site, developed in 2009.
They welcome your feedback on the site at this feedback form.

Friday, 7 April 2017

FDLP webinar: resources from the Army War College

The Federal Depository Library Program is offering a free webinar on Thursday, May 11, 2017 at 2 pm titled "U.S. ARMY WAR COLLEGE INFORMATION RESOURCES: LANDPOWER, GEOPOLITICS, ARMY HISTORY, AND EDUCATIONAL TREASURES." The presenter is Prof. Bert Chapman,who is a Political Science and Economics Librarian/Professor of Library Science at Purdue University. This webinar will introduce students to the rich variety of information resources provided by the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, PA. Examples of these resources from the Army’s premier professional military education institution include materials such as course syllabi, podcasts, and detailed studies on the role of land power and strategy in the U.S. and foreign militaries. It will also cover historical materials produced by the War College’s Army Heritage and Education Command that can enhance understanding of the U.S. Army’s role in U.S. and international history. Register here.

Reuters adds "Trust Principles" and "Backstory" to news reports

Reuters recently announced that they "have attached a link to the Trust Principles at the bottom of all stories on Reuters.com. In addition, from time to time, when we think it might be useful to the reader, we will also provide an explanation – which we are calling Backstory – of how we have reported a particular piece. Backstory will be presented as a statement of methodology or a Q&A with a Reuters journalist. These additions reflect our commitment not only to deliver accurate, unbiased news but to share more information about the way we work and the standards under which we operate."

hat tip: Karen Shephard

Saturday, 1 April 2017

A graphical history of Google search results

Google has been around for almost twenty years now. Search Engine Watch has created a visual history of Google's evolution, "including its many successes and its few notable failures, through the lens of the humble Search Engine Results Page (SERP)". They also provide an updated look at search engines that are currently an alternative to Google - even though about 80% of desktop computer users vhttps://www.netmarketshare.com/search-engine-market-share.aspx?qprid=4&qpcustomd=0 Google for their search engine.  

Friday, 31 March 2017

USDA website redesign

The United States Dept. of Agriculture recently announced a complete redesign of thei website. According to the announcement, the  redesign features "stronger visual storytelling components, a more modern user-experience with easy to find services and resources, and to top it off, a completely mobile-friendly design. Through careful planning, thoughtful design, and a primary focus on user experience and usability, we’ve taken the best of government and industry expertise and put it into creating our new website."

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

GODORT prisoner locator update

GODORT, the ALA section of government documents librarians, maintains the State Agency Databases Project and, as a subsection, the Prisoner Locator Tools page on the State Agencies website. They recently updated the url for that site, which links to inmate locators in a number of US states; they also provide a link to the prisoner locator for Federal prisons.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Unpaywall helps find free online papers/articles

A new Chrome extension called "Unpaywall", though still being tweaked, is available - the official release is April 4th. It searches Open Access sites for accessible materials that are known to be behind paywalls. The organization behind Unpaywall is Impactstory, "a nonprofit working to supercharge science by making it more open, reusable, and web-native." According to the site, Unpaywall is able to get articles behind paywalls for free about half the time, though they claim that this is improving regularly.

hat tip: Karen Shephard

Monday, 20 March 2017

Alternative law school ranking system

The Volokh Conspiracy blog has a post titled "This law school ranking system is much better than U.S. News," by David Bernstein. The related paper, A De Gustibus Approach to Ranking Law Schools by Christopher J. Ryan and Brian L. Frye, is available on SSRN. From the abstract:
This article assumes that the purpose of ranking law schools is to help students decide which school to attend. Accordingly, it describes an approach to ranking law schools based entirely on the revealed preferences of students. Law schools admit applicants based almost entirely on their LSAT score and undergraduate GPA, and compete to matriculate students with the highest possible scores. Our de gustibus approach to ranking law schools assumes that the “best” law schools are the most successful at matriculating those students. This article concludes with a “best law schools ranking” based exclusively on the LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs of matriculating students.
hat tip: Karen Shephard

Pitt diversity book club March 30

The University of Pittsburgh Diversity Book Club is having a panel discussion next Thursday, March 30, from 4-6 pm in the William Pitt Union Lower Lounge.  In honor of Women's History Month, the topic will be the book Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. Goodreads review of the book says:
"In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman of color while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years and commenting on the state of feminism today. The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture. Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better."

Sunday, 19 March 2017

webinar Saving government data: A conversation with the future

On Wednesday, March 29, 2017 from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. (Eastern) there's a Help! I'm an Accidental Government Information Librarian Webinar about the DataRefuge project and other projects like it that work in conjunction with the End of Term Web Archive to capture and make available federal web content during administrative transitions. The discussion will explore the fragility of digital information, and expand on ideas about what data is. We’ll talk about current projects and efforts, and explore the future of this work. Finally, we’ll address the concept of sustainability, and propose a paradigm of empowered experimentation that aligns with our values and roles within libraries. The webinar is free; RSVP here.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Report on European case law availabilty

A project called BO-ECLI - Building On the European Case Law Identifier - has published "Online Publication of Court Decisions in the EU: Report of the Policy Group of the Project 'Building on the European Case Law Identifier' (178 page pdf)." BO-ECLI is a project involving sixteen partners from ten Member States (Italy, Greece, Croatia, Estonia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Spain, Romania) that aims to broaden the use of ECLI and to further improve the accessibility of case law. BO-ECLI is co-funded by the Justice Programme of the European Union.  

The report is a comparative study regarding the on-line publication of court decisions within all 28 Member States of the European Union, as well as at three European Courts. The Executive Summary states that "It focusses on three main themes – policy and practices with regard to on-line publication, data protection and Open Data – and two accessory topics: citation practice and the implementation of the European Case Law Identifier... After an introductory section, the five themes (publication, data protection, Open Data, legal citation and ECLI) are discussed in separate sections. Section 7 contains reports for all 28 EU Member States as well as for three European courts: the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Court of Human Rights and the Boards of Appeal of the European Patent Organization. Section 8 contains the conclusions and a set of 25 recommendations. "

hat tip: LII (Legal Information Institute)

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Online resource for veterans appealing denial of benefits

The ABA Journal reports that there is a new resource for veterans who want to appeal denial of benefits hosted by the Veterans Consortium ProBono Program. Through the site, available as an application form, veterans can either appeal their cases on their own or request a free attorney to help with the appeal. The site focuses on helping veterans appeal adverse decisions from the Board of Veterans’ Appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. There are informational materials and explanatory videos explaining the appeals process.
The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program site also has a resource library with materials on a variety of topics pertinent to veterans.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Federal courts: An Inside Look at the Jury Experience

The Office of the United States Courts has posted a 1-hour video to their website titled "An Inside Look at the Jury Experience." The video is of a discussion panel composed of two U.S. district judges, a clerk of court, and a law professor and author on the jury process. Panelists included Judge George O’Toole, District of Massachusetts; Judge Reggie Walton, District Court for the District of Columbia; Robin Tabora, Clerk of Court, District of Connecticut; and Andrew Ferguson, law professor at the University of the District of Columbia. The video of the question-and-answer session also includes several brief educational videos about federal juries.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

ACRL: From Shelf to Online Repository

The Association of College and Research Libraries is hosting an online presentation Thurs. 3/16/17 at 2 pm called "From Shelf to Online Repository: Creating a Collaborative Teaching and Research Collection." The presentation will feature a case study from archivists, academics and publishing editors on their involvement in producing Race Relations in America, sourced from the Amistad Research Center. Guest speakers will provide an insight into selection, views on digital preservation, motives for digitisation and value to academics in teaching and research. From the description:
"Curating, digitizing and building a digital collection of primary sources is a truly collaborative process between archive, scholar and publisher. Highlighting the power of digital research, this webinar will discuss different perspectives on processes involved, from development and selection, to digitization and usage."
Registration is free; register here.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Volokh Conspiracy blog cites Prof. Dickinson

Prof. Ilya Somin, who blogs at the Washington Post's Volokh Conspiracy, recently posted an entry titled "Potential pitfalls of building Trump’s Great Wall of eminent domain," in which he discussed Prof. Gerald Dickinson's recent WaPo article about the difficulty of procuring the land needed for a U.S./Mexico border wall. Prof. Dickinson went into detail about the difficulty of using eminent domain to acquire all the necessary land, and the history of protracted legal battles when the government "takes" land using emininent domain.