Saturday, 30 June 2007

Google Maps new features and mashups

I Google Maps. Of course, like everything Google, the Maps site is constantly improving and adding new features. On top of that, Google Maps is a phenomenally useful resource for creating mashups.* There is a blog called Google Maps Mania that tracks the websites, mashups and tools being influenced by Google Maps. Today the blog is reporting on a new feature of Google maps called "Draggable Driving Directions" that allows you to easily make changes in a route that Google maps plans for you (includes a brief video). The Google Maps Mania blog also has a listing of lots of other useful mashups and tools - check it out.

*A mash-up is a Web page or application that combines and integrates the content of two or more sources to create something new. For example, there's a zip code map mashup using Google Maps.

Rogets Thesaurus, the movie

Friday, 29 June 2007

iPhone launch, fake Steve Jobs, Microsoft

I feel like I should be saying something about iPhone on this day of days. But I'm sick of it already and I wish it didn't remind me so much of the Cabbage Patch Doll feeding frenzy. Anyway, the Fake Steve Jobs has been blogging about it all day, you can read his posts if you're interested.
Meanwhile, there's a digital hue and cry about ethics in the blogosphere. Computerword and PC World report that Microsoft asked some well-known bloggers to comment on their new slogan "People-Ready Business" and then used the bloggers' musings in ads. Microsoft paid the bloggers for every user who clicked through to the People Ready Business site.

Global Legal Monitor

The latest edition of the Law Library of Congress's Global Legal Monitor is online in pdf format. (and don't ask me why it's the May issue and this is June 29.) It's worth glancing over the TOC pages 3-4 to see if there is any news that might interest your faculty.
And BTW, I really like Adobe Reader 8.0, as the CNet review said "The completely redesigned interface in this latest version feels more intuitive and offers tools for viewing information more efficiently." I like the turn-the-page arrows at the top instead of the bottom, I like all the keyboard shortcuts, it all seems more flexible (if only it could stop my computer from occasionally choking on pdf's).

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Pennsylvania - we're number 50!

According to the Associated Press and, Pennsylvania's House today unanimously passed a bill (House Bill 976 (text; pdf)) that would make our PA statutes freely available on the internet. The bill has now gone to the Pennsylvania Senate for consideration. If it passes, we will be the 50th state to put our statutes online. Right now we are the only state that doesn't have an official free website with our statutes, according to the article (see this post about the recent AALL report on the topic for more detailed information).
Rep. Lisa Bennington, D Allegheny County, who was the prime sponsor of the bill, is quoted as saying "If ever there was a good first bill, this is it. We need to have greater transparency in government and in our laws." Rep. Bennington, a Pittsburgher who is a freshman in the legislature, was elected in the "Pennsylvania Earthquake" election of May 2006 when many longterm state politicians were defeated; she defeated longtime Rep. Frank Pistella of Morningside with 58% of the vote. A graduate of Chatham College and Duquesne Law School, she practiced family law with the Pittsburgh firm of Pollock Begg Komar Glasser before her election. When she introduced H.B. 976 in April she announced in a press release that "As we continue to examine ways to foster a more open and transparent government, I believe it is important that we ensure the general public has free online access to our state laws."

The Future of Reference, Cataloging, and Scholarship in Research Libraries

Today the Chronicle of Higher Education has a story about a study done by Thomas Mann, the author of The Oxford Guide to Library Research, who describes the differences between scholarly research and quick information seeking. He uses a specific information request to look at how librarians catalog and find information, as well as how quick searching can miss important information. In the conclusion of the study (pdf) he states that "We need to make the best possible use of our principles, our experience, our tested practices, and our technologies, and not yield to the temptations to let either the technologies themselves or transient fashions constrict our vision of what needs to be done to promote scholarship of the highest possible quality".

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Mossberg weighs in on the iPhone

As everyone knows, the iPhone goes on sale Friday June 29, but Walt Mossberg got his early and he's been testing it out for a couple of weeks. His review will be in tomorrow morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription required). Walt's verdict: despite some flaws and feature omissions, "the iPhone is a beautiful and breakthrough handheld computer." But there is a drawback: the slow AT&T network it runs on. Here's Walt's video about the iPhone(preceded by a brief advertisement.)

Internet Law resource

Another good resource for keeping track of legal cases involving the internet is the Internet Library of Law and Court Decisions. This website, containing extensive analysis of internet caselaw, is maintained by attorney Martin Samson, who also provides a free update service. And, as icing on the cake, his update always includes a film trivia question!

llrx dot com

The June 25 issue of LLRX (that's short for Law Librarian Resource Exchange) is onlineand has some great articles. The article "An Overview of Selected Legal Digital Libraries" doesn't have any new surprises but it does give a good description of the ten online law libraries it reviews. There is an opinion piece entitled "Is a JD necessary for Law Librarians?" (the author disappointingly doesn't really answer the question.) And there are several other useful tips and articles to file away in your resource favorites list.
You probably shouldn't waste your valuable work time looking through the "60 gadgets in 60 minutes" presentation. I mean who could possibly be interested in a George Foreman USB Grill or a TV remote control gun?

as dead as Elvis

Sounds like the ALA is getting the same talks CALI got last week. Inside Higher Ed reports that yesterday there was a speaker who discussed the concepts of "digital natives" (i.e. people who grew up with the internet) and "digital immigrants" (i.e. those for whom digital is a second language). Also, “The librarian as information priest is as dead as Elvis”, and academic librarians who serve digital natives need to think like video game creators (though presumably not like the ones who stage violent shootouts in great English cathedrals).
Joking aside, many suggestions mentioned in the article merit thoughtful consideration, such as:
  • students shouldn’t be expected to read long explanations of tools they may use before they start experimenting with them. They should be rewarded for exploring.
  • Offer online services not just through e-mail, but through instant messaging and text messaging, which many students prefer.
  • Hold LAN parties in libraries. (These are parties where many people bring their computers to play computer games, especially those involving teams, together.)
  • Schedule support services on a 24/7/365 basis, not the hours currently in use at many academic libraries, which were “set in 1963.”
  • Remember that students are much less sensitive about privacy issues than earlier generations were and are much more likely to share passwords or access to databases.
  • Look for ways to involve digital natives in designing library services and even providing them.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Columbia U. Libraries get Google grant for video content creation

The Columbia University Libraries have announced that their Digital Knowledge Ventures project has received a grant from Google to make content for Google Video. The agreement is the result of an initiative by Google to add more meaningful educational content to the Google Video site, in particular course content from leading academic institutions.

The corrosive Blackberry

There's a posting on the "Conversation Starter" blog of the Harvard Business School online entitled "The Corrosive Blackberry". In complaining about people not paying attention, it's eerily reminiscent of the discussions about laptops/internet in classrooms that we've been having.
Here's a quote:
"Recently a member of the rock 'n' roll band Arcade Fire complained that it's hard to interact with fans because often they are more focused on preserving the moment via a mobile-phone photo than experiencing it in real time. Face-to-face interaction has... fallen victim to 'virtuality'."
So now we have a member of a rock ‘n’ roll band sounding a lot like... a law professor?

The brain-machine interface

For the second time in less than a week I came across an article detailing how technology companies are trying to harness brainpower. Yes, human brainpower, and no, this is not science fiction. Just thinking moves toy train with new technology from Hitachi and Human-Aided Computing: Microsoft researchers are trying to harness untapped brain power were both published in the MIT Technology Review on Friday. Both are fascinating. Sample sentences from the articles: " But subconscious computing is a nascent field." and "A key advantage to Hitachi's technology is that sensors don't have to physically enter the brain. Earlier technologies developed by U.S. companies like Neural Signals Inc. required implanting a chip under the skull." and "It's really fun to move a model train just by thinking."

U.S.News Rankings Debate

There was a major public rebellion against the U.S. News and World Report Rankings for colleges last week, when a group of colleges called the "Annapolis Group" vowed to stop providing information to the rankings survey.
This morning there is a podcast of an online debate at Inside Higher Education between Brian Kelly, editor of the magazine, and Lloyd Thacker, founder of the Education Conservancy. They debate the pros and cons of the rankings and their usefulness.
It will be interesting to see if this movement grows.
The podcast is in mp3 format and lasts about 30 minutes.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Washington Post and online media

Rob Curley, one of the plenary speakers at CALI, was hired by the Washington Post to help develop their online presence. His vision is for online journalism to be molded by the media rather than sticking print news on a webpage. As he put it, he didn't want the Washington Post online to look like "Barry Manilow rapping".
He helped develop the very interesting onBeing project at the Washington Post.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

A day at the public library

Are these the same folks who brought us the IT v. Librarian video?


MySpace has launched a "minisodes network" website, where you can view edited-down versions of old TV shows. Half-hour shows are boiled down to about 5 minutes - kind of like the Reader's Digest, only for TV, and with old stuff. Among the shows you can see: Facts of Life, Starsky and Hutch, Charlie's Angels and many others.

Michigan Law Review publishes symposium on televising the Supreme Court

There are currently bills in both the House and the Senate to permit the televising of Supreme Court proceedings. Michigan Law Review has published, online, a symposium of a diverse group of authors discussing the ramifications of these bills. Commentators include Tony Mauro, the Supreme Court reporter for the Legal Times, Christina Whitman, Professor of Law at the University of Michigan, and the Hon. Boyce F. Martin, Jr., Sixth Circuit Court judge.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Did You Know 2.0

Here's the version of the video that Scott McLeod showed at CALI.

JSTOR Sandbox

I just used the "Facted Search" feature that I found in the JSTOR Sandbox (a Sandbox is an online place for testing out new ideas, like Google Labs etc.) It was very useful to me in the search I was doing. Faceted searching offers a number of different features to expand and deepen your search results. After completing a search, you can see how the returned articles are distributed among different categories, or “facets.” The faceted search will show how many results appear in each discipline, how many are book reviews or full-length articles, how many articles have images, and other useful facets.
Facets available in the current version of JSTOR's faceted search include:
Article type
Publication date
Times article cited in JSTOR
Number of pages
Articles with Images
By selecting facets, you can narrow your results to fit particular characteristics.

libraries - do we need 'em?

Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher poses a Random Friday Question: Do We Need Libraries Anymore? The reader comments seem to answer that yes we do!

computers v. handhelds

- A couple of weeks ago Walt Mossberg said that the PC has peaked.
- At a CALI plenary on Tuesday Rob Curley waved his handheld at us and told us that this is where the media need to push information now.
- Today it's being reported that AT&T has hired 2,000 extra workers for the launch of the iPhone on June 29.
On top of all of that, I got really sick of dragging my laptop around in the 100+ degree heat in Las Vegas. Lots of the people at CALI were using laptops (a significant percentage of which were Apple machines). But there were a number of laptopless geeks using various handheld devices who were getting covetous looks from everyone else. And those iPhones look mighty nice.

Duelling digitization

Both the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required) and Inside Higher Ed are reporting this morning that the two companies working with Emory University to digitize its library plan to take that model to many other colleges and universities — as well as other large library collections. The two companies are Kirtas Technologies, which works on digitizing books and other materials, and BookSurge, a unit of that focuses on print on demand. Initial clients — beyond Emory — include the University of Maine, the Toronto Public Library and the Cincinnati Public Library. Unlike the Google and Microsoft digitization projects, this project will not limit people to reading the books online. Thanks to print-on-demand technology, readers will be able to buy hard copies of out-of-print books and have them shipped to their homes.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

HeinOnline announces new content

HeinOnline has announced that it is adding 2 new "library modules" to its collection: the U. S. Congressional Documents and the American Law Institute Library.
The initial release of the U.S. Congressional Documents library will include:
The Congressional Record - bound Volumes 1-10 and Volume 142-149
The three predecessor sets which include the Annals of Congress, Register of Debates, and Congressional Globe
Journals of the Continental Congress
American State Papers
Hein intends to continue forward with the bound volumes and simultaneously continue backward until the backfile has been completed; completion of the Congressional Record is scheduled for 2008.
The initial release of content in the ALI library will include:
a Digital version of the ALI Guide
Special Publications as printed in section one of the ALI Guide, which includes Miscellaneous Publications, Annual Reports, Proceedings of ALI Annual Meetings, and The ALI Reporter
the Uniform Commercial Code, 23 volume set & 10 volume set
Archival material from the Statement of Essential Human Rights, a pioneering ALI project of the mid 1940’s, that has been stored in the dark archives.
Restatement, Second, Torts
The Model Penal Code
Both of these modules will be sold as separate a-la-carte collections.

Back in the 'Burgh

The YouTube video below was shown at one of the CALI plenary sessions by Scott McLeod, who lectures on education for the 21st century.

But lest you think it was all work at the CALI conference, here's a picture of John Mayer, the Director of CALI, opening the conference.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

CALI announcement

John Mayer, the executive director of CALI, has announced the creation of Elangdell, a partnership between CALI and the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School. Elangdell is a "legal education commons", with the purpose of stimulating innovation in American law schools through a new educational resource sharing platform. The first CALI-Berkman Research Fellowship will be held by current Berkman Fellow Gene Koo, a 2002 graduate of Harvard Law School, whose research has centered on the use of technology in legal instruction (you can read his recent article on the topic in SSRN).

Carlow v Mortons

Pittsburgh's own Carlow University, our Oakland neighbor, is involved in a trademark dispute with Morton's Steakhouse.

ABA proposes change in bar exam passage determination

ABA has proposed new accreditation standards for the way law schools demonstrate that a sufficient portion of their graduates pass state bar exams. Under one option, a law school would have to show that in at least three of the most recent five years, in the jurisdiction in which the largest proportion of the school’s graduates take the bar exam for the first time, they pass the exam above, at or no more than 10 points below the first-time bar passage rates for graduates of ABA-approved law schools taking the bar examination in that jurisdiction. For schools from which more than 20 percent of graduates take their first bar examination in a jurisdiction other than the primary one, the schools also would be required to demonstrate that at least 70 percent of those students passed their bar examination over the two most recent bar exams. Law schools unable to satisfy the first alternative still could comply by demonstrating that 80 percent of all their graduates who take a bar examination anywhere in the country pass a bar examination within three sittings of the exam within three years of graduation. The proposed rules are now subject to a comment period.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

CALI conference

I'm not getting many opportunities to sit and blog, I'm too busy going to presentations; one thing about the CALI conference is that there are always 2 or 3 presentations going on that I want to see, and I have to choose.

The plenary today was Hyperlocalism, the speaker was Rob Curley, who is a reporter currently working for the Washington Post. It was a fascinating presentation, check out Rob's blog.

We have a new BNA rep serving the Barco law library and I met him today. Name: John M. Baldwin. He actually lives in Pittsburgh (Upper St. Clair). Ivan Rahmen still works for BNA - he's here too - but he's not serving Pittsburgh any more. I got information about some new BNA products for perusing when I get back to the 'burgh.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Plenary: the times they are a'changin'

The plenary this morning was about preparing students for the 21st century, and the speaker mentioned the book "Everything is Miscellaneous" by . Here's a quote about libraries from an interview with the book's author, David Weinberger:
"You know, in a library, a physical book has to go on only one shelf under one category. That’s not a natural restriction; a single book is about many different things. But even when you try to make up for that restriction with the catalog card, which is a very reduced form of meta-data for the book, the size of the card is dictated by the inconvenience of atoms. The size of the card means that you can’t put in very many of those references. But on the web, everybody can put in his or her own references. We can have hundreds or millions of references and links and connections of meaning linked to a single resource. There’s no limit. So, in some ways, the web reflects better the complexity of the linked nature of the world."

Sunday, 17 June 2007

NOAA offers portal to collaborate on environmental databases

I'll be blogging from the CALI conference in Las Vegas for the next couple of days.
PC World reports that today the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is unveiling a new portal that uses Web 2.0 mashup technology to let users access data contained in federal government and nongovernment Web sites and databases that aren't accessible by search engines. The new portal, called, is a collaborative effort by agencies, academia, NGOs and private organizations to provide a credible online portal of information and tools related to the human dimensions of natural resource management. Included on the site is a “Laws and Policies” section that provides annotated links to databases of laws and policies related to natural resource management.

Saturday, 16 June 2007


There's an article in the WSJ (subscription required) this morning about the game called wikigroaning: a game that involves competing to come up with the best examples of how Wikipedia, the Web's home-grown reference source, is skewed towards pop-culture topics. For instance, the West Wing of the White House merits a 1,100-word entry on Wikipedia, while "The West Wing," the TV drama, has an 6,800-word write-up. Gray's Anatomy, the medical books gets 1,000 words; Grey's Anatomy, the TV show, gets 6900. If you don't have a WSJ subscription you can read a blog entry about wikigroaning on the "Something Awful: the Internet makes you stupid" website.
It's sort of like googlewhacking.

Friday, 15 June 2007

How do you index a video collection?

There's an article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. (subscription) about how human indexers at USC have indexed every minute of the 120,000 hours of Holocaust testimony in the Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education's video collection. It is one of the most comprehensively indexed video collections of its size. The indexing allows researchers to search for various topics through keywords and gain access to the testimonies at the very moments that those topics begin to be discussed.
USC hopes that the institute's labor-intensive, manual method will be a model for other video archives. Video isn't much use as a research tool unless it is indexed. The method of indexing the tapes in one-minute segments and using keywords has been patented, and the university plans to market the patents to other archives. The technology has already been licensed to the state archives of Italy, which is processing video in its holdings.
You can see how the online search of the collection works in the Testimony Catalog.

The Congressional Research Accessibility Act

The Coaltion of Journalists for an Open Government is reporting the introduction of The Congressional Research Accessibility Act (H.R. 2545) in Congress. You can monitor the bill, view commentary from the blogosphere, or start a Congresspedia collaborative analysis of the bill on GovTrack.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Funding database added to ULS collection

News from ULS: The Community of Science (COS) Funding Opportunities Database is now listed in the A-Z list and cataloged in PITTCat. COS Funding Opportunities is a compiled database, paid for by the University's Office of Research, containing available opportunities for grants, fellowships, prizes and other type of funding. ULS would like to broaden access to and awareness of this important resource.
This is an up-to-date database of announcements for funding from around the world, for any academic discipline, comprising more than 22,000 records worth over $33 billion. There is information about grants in both the public and private sector, including local, state and national governments, foundations and societies, and corporations. The database includes complete information on deadlines, amount of award, eligibility criteria, and contact information for more information from the sponsoring organization.
One feature is that you can register yourself and get email alerts about new funding opportunities; you can also include information about your scholarship so that other scholars can find you. Preliminary exploration of the database found many law-related grants. The search interface is user-friendly and uses the familiar search operators and qualifiers.
Since this is a University database you can use it from any University computer or remotely by using the VPN. If you'd like more information about the database or would like some assistance ask Susanna Leers, electronic services librarian.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

librarians and Google

Attention librarians: I highly recommend the June 2007 issue of Library Philosophy and Practice; it's a special issue on Libraries and Google and it's free online.
Titles of some of the articles:
  • "Have You Searched Google Yet?" Using Google as a Discovery Tool for Cataloging
  • Google 'til They Goggle: Trawling Electronic Databases to Build Your Collection and Better Serve Your Client Base
  • What About the Book? Google-izing the Catalog with Tables of Contents
  • You and Me and Google Makes Three: Welcoming Google into the Reference Interview

Barco in Pitt Police Blotter June 13

Here's a link to the Barco story in today's Pitt News: Pitt Police Blotter.

Gov Docs

GPO Congressional Publication Releases for June 4-8 are now available on the LLSDC website; as always they can be viewed by House Committee, Senate Committee, and PL number.

hope for EPA libraries

OMB Watch reports that the House Appropriations Committee has approved a budget that increases the EPA budget for FY 2008, which may allow the EPA to abandon its controversial plans for shutting down EPA libraries and labs.

Phoenix School of Law

I just got a note from Kris Niedringhaus announcing that Phoenix School of Law has received provisional accreditation by the ABA. They have a press release on their website.
Phoenix School of Law, Florida Coastal School of Law and Charlotte School of Law are part of a consortium of private for-profit law programs geared towards non-traditional students owned by InfiLaw.

LoC working group on the future of bibliographic control

The final public hearing of this working group is going to be held on July 9 at the library of Congress and will be limited to 140 registered attendees (registration form will be on the website next week). The hearing, titled Economics and Organization of Bibliographic Data, will also be webcast live in order to reach a wide audience. Discussion at the hearing will center around several questions posed in the working group's background paper and everyone is invited to submit written testimony on the topic to the working goup chairman, Dr. José-Marie Griffiths, Dean of the School of Library and Information Science at UNC Chapel Hill (and recently of Pitt's SIS).
note for non-librarians: "bibliographic control" is a broad term referring to the systematic organisation and management of information so that it can be found again - library catalogs and the formal cataloging schemes like the Library of Congress classification system are examples, as are database indexing systems.

ABA Section of antitrust law creates online oral history

The Oral History Task Force is creating an online archive of interviews to permanently document the perspectives and memories of prominent figures in the development of US antitrust law. These notable individuals include former high-level government officials, distinguished antitrust practitioners, and others. The interviews are available in streaming video using Quicktime, or can be downloaded in iTunes.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Mossberg: the PC has peaked

Has the PC jumped the shark? Walt Mossberg, technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal, spoke at the Presidents Forum sponsored by the Chronicle of Higher Education today at the Ritz Carlton in Washington D.C. The forum provides a learning and networking experience for higher-education leaders. Mr. Mossberg's special presentation was entitled What's Next for the Internet, the PC, and Handheld Gadgets.
During his presentation, the Chronicle reports, Mr. Mossberg showed the audience the Apple iPhone that he is in the process of reviewing for his column (everyone's buzzing about it!). Mossberg called cellphones one of the top three technologies to watch at the moment, arguing that the era of the PC is ending. “The PC’s been a big deal. It has peaked. This is the next level or elevation of the cellphone,” he said of the iPhone. “Not because it’s better or necessarily better than your Blackberry … but this runs a real computer operating system” and therefore can offer full-featured e-mail software on the go.

Emory libraries digitizing collection

Move over GoogleBooks. Emory University has announced that it's launching a new model for digital scholarship through a partnership with Kirtas Technologies Inc., a maker of digital scanning technology. The partnership will enable Emory to apply automated scanning technology to thousands of rare, out-of-print books in its research collections, making it possible for scholars to browse the pages of these books on the Internet or order bound, printed copies via a fast, affordable print-on-demand service. The project is limited to materials in the public domain. The project is not a part of the Google digitalization project, but rather represents a stand-alone effort. Certainly the text will be indexed by Google, but the project remains under the control of Emory University so it's a scholarly project with roots in archiving and education, not a a quasi-commercial operation rooted in drawing ad dollars.

American Law Center in Paris

The Cornell Sun reports that on July 17 chief justices from Europe and the United States will gather in Paris to dedicate the Cornell University Center for Documentation on American Law, which will contain American court decisions and law reviews from Cornell’s Law Library. The 13,000-volume collection will be housed in France’s Court of Cassation, the highest court in the French judicial order. In addition to providing print sources, Cornell’s law librarians will also offer electronic assistance and training in online research. Cornell law librarian and former AALL president Claire Germain has been working with French judges to meet the Court of Cassation’s needs.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

"Clickwrap" arbitration terms under fire

The BNA E-Commerce and Tech Law Blog reports that in a decision that could have far-reaching implications the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has held that the California arbitration clause in the 'take it or leave it' clickwrap Terms of Service (TOS) agreement on the Second Life website is unconscionable, and therefore unenforceable. Judge Eduardo C. Robrino wrote the opinion in Bragg v. Linden Research, Inc., No. 06-4925 (E.D. Pa. May 30, 2007), : "Taken together, the lack of mutuality, the costs of arbitration, the forum selection clause, and the confidentiality provision that (Second Life) unilaterally imposes through the TOS demonstrate that the arbitration clause is not designed to provide Second Life participants an effective means of resolving disputes with (Second Life); rather, it is a one-sided means which tilts unfairly, in almost all situations, in (Second Life's) favor."

The Sacramento Bee reports on another case filed by a California man filed against Gateway computer company in small claims court. A trial was scheduled but Gateway responded with a Bay Area lawyer and a 2-inch thick stack of legal documents.The company had the case moved to a higher court and then tried to compel private arbitration on its own terms. Sheehan argued in a court filing that he had never accepted Gateway's "clickwrap" arbitration agreement. In a tentative ruling on May 24, Superior Court Judge Daniel Proud sided with Sheehan and said the dispute should remain in small claims court. On June 4, Gateway tried to persuade Proud to change his ruling and send the case to arbitration. The judge urged the parties to settle their case, but said he would take the matter under submission; he has 90 days to issue a final ruling.

Westlaw and Lexis in Pittcat

We recently purchased a collection from a cataloguing service called CassidyCat. The collection consists of catalog records for the treatise titles available in the Westlaw and Lexis databases (including the full Matthew Bender library) and monthly updates. Why did we do this? Well, Lexis and Westlaw are enormous databases with thousands and thousands of titles that are available to everyone in the law school - but none of the titles have been listed in PittCat until now. Finding a legal treatise has been a lengthy procedure because we've had to individually search PittCat, Lexis and Westlaw for titles. Now the catalog record that gets pulled up by searching PittCat will include information about availability in Lexis and Westlaw, and links into both databases.
We have run into a difficulty, though, that stems from adding these databases to PittCat. Last week a patron came to the law library because he found a treatise PittCat that was through Westlaw only, and he didn't understand that only law students and faculty are able to use these databases. Maybe we can add some language to the records to make this clearer.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Google Street Views redux

WebProNews has an interesting opinion piece about a number of issues that Google Street View is raising - questions about privacy, public domain, and humanity itself. Because Google Street View lets us see people being people, in a Candid Camera kind of way.

Friday, 8 June 2007

A new chair for the library?

Educational podcasting

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a 10 minute podcast guide to college podcasts. It "stars" Daniel Colman, a dean at Stanford, who blogs about educational podcasts on his blog, Open Culture. He's collected a large library of educational podcasts (it also includes some videocasts) and organized it by subject matter on his blog.

Customized law library OPAC

The law library at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul MN has announced the launch of its new, customized, user-friendly online catalog. "By making the interface more user-friendly and more ‘Google-like,’ we hope to increase the use of the catalog as a tool for locating information in electronic as well as traditional formats,” said Anne Poulter, acquisitions/government documents librarian. The library is planning to integrate free online resources into the catalog as well.

How law school affects law students

There's an interesting article in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin entitled Understanding the Negative Effects of Legal Education on Law Students: A Longitudinal Test of Self-Determination Theory. The author studied law students at 2 different law schools for 3 years and found that law school has a corrosive effect on the well-being, values, and motivation of students.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

New databases from ULS

Dennis Smith of the ULS has announced 2 changes to the A-Z Databases list.
1. In the First Person database "is a free, high quality, professionally published, in-depth index of close to 4,000 collections of personal narratives in English from around the world. It lets you keyword search more than 700,000 pages of full-text by more than 18,000 individuals from all walks of life. It also contains pointers to some 4,300 audio and video files and 30,000 bibliographic records. The index contains approximately 20,500 months of diary entries, 63,000 letter entries, and 17,000 oral history entries." It indexes all sorts of collections, from the Busselton Historical Society (western Australia) to the U.S. Senate Historical Office.
2. The FIAF (International Federation of Film Archives) Database has switched vendors and been upgraded to FIAF International Index to Film Periodicals Plus. Now available from ProQuest, FIAF Index to Film Periodicals Plus is a bibliographical resource offering coverage of hundreds of the world's foremost academic and popular film journals right up to the present day. Many key titles are now available in full text including complete runs.

Watching Darfur

Amnesty International's website Eyes on Darfur uses high resolution satellite imagery to keep watch over imperiled villages in the Darfur region of Sudan and puts the images online to enlist help preventing violence. The website was launched Wednesday in conjunction with a conference at UC Berkeley. "We're hoping that by shining a light that we will deter the abuse from ever happening," said Ariela Blatter, director of the Crisis Prevention and Response Center for Amnesty International USA.

GPO bill summary database

There's a report on the Free Government Information blog about a meeting that an Open House Project representative had with the folks who are responsible for Thomas. The report says, among other things, that the GPO is creating a new XML bill summary database that will probably be available through GPO but might not be freely available to the public. "The XML version of bills and roll call votes is currently available to the public for free, and it would be a very problematic break with that precedent if GPO began selling legislative XML data." The blogpost also has a link to the official report on Legislative Information System plans for 2007.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

New email from Microsoft gets a thumbs up

Walt Mossberg's column today gives a very favorable review to the new Microsoft email program called Windows Live Mail. The program can be downloaded free at . Mossberg reports on technology for the Wall Street Journal and writes a regular technology column.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

FTC decisions only in electronic format

The Federal Trade Commission has informed GPO that they will no longer publish FTC Decisions in print. Decisions will be available in electronic format only beginning with Volume 129. Access to the Decisions is available at: or via The last volume distributed in print to the FDL's was Volume 128 (FT 1.11:128, item no. 0534) on Shipping List 2004-0019-S dated 01/12/2004.

Cool new stuff

Footnotes, a new blog from the Chronicle of Higher Education is a guide to the latest issues academics are writing about in their own blogs.

Mac fans are excited: the new Macbook Pro is here, with Santa Rosa, LED backlightsand Nvidia's new GeForce 8600-series GPU.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Journalists' guides to the law

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) website has links to a number of articles, reports and practical guides pertaining to laws that affect journalists. In addition to a handbook of first amendment law there are many other resources. Included in many of the reports and guides are 50-state surveys about these laws - for example, there are 50-state surveys of laws governing wiretapping and eavesdropping laws; access to electronic records; photographers' guide to invasion of privacy laws ; and other useful and informative guides. It's a good resource to remember.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

One-click video downloading

RealNetworks has announced that the latest iteration of their free RealPlayer is the first media player to make it "one-click simple" to download online videos from websites. It will do this by floating a "download this video" button next to any video on any website. This free downloadable video player will allow anyone to easily save and organize video files in all major formats including Flash, QuickTime, RealMedia and Window Media. Note, however, that it will only download DRM-free files (DRM, or digital rights management, is a security technology that protects copyrighted works). The new RealPlayer will be available beginning next month at

Google search

There's a feature article about Google on the front page of the NY Times Business section today. The reporter who wrote the article was allowed to spend a whole day with the Google search-quality team, attending some internal meetings and talking to several top engineers whose job it is to keep tweaking the search engine to make it better and better. The Google folks didn't give away any secrets - no access to the magical algorithms - but did shed some light on how they continue to improve search results. One of the engineers explained what Google has done in a nutshell:
“Search over the last few years has moved from ‘Give me what I typed’ to ‘Give me what I want’ .” Let's hope that Lexis and Westlaw can evolve the same way.

Speaking of Google, a rumor is going around that they're adding new functionalities to the Google Image search. Pandia Search Engine News reports that Google has made a silent launch of a new face search function; according to Ars Technica, the technology is a result of Google's 2006 acquisition of Neven Vision, a company that had developed techniques for facial recognition in photos. To see what it's about, go to Google Image Search, type in your search terms (I used "Sidney Crosby"), and click Search. On the Results page, go up to the website url and add "&imgtype=face" at the end of the url; when you enter this url, you will see results that are more face than anything else. Ars Technica also says if you add "&imgtype=news" you will get results that are from news articles. Where is all this going? "Even cooler (or creepier, as the case may be), one day Google's image search may be able to find faces of specific people based on image analysis/recognition alone instead of relying on the text associated with that image to identify the person in the photo."

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Censorship workaround in Venezuela

Ars Technica reports that since Hugo Chavez of Venezuela shut down RCTV for being critical of his government they have started their own station and been reporting their news on You Tube.

All About The Librarian

The video is old, but the fundamentals of librarianship haven't changed all that much.

Friday, 1 June 2007

HeinOnline's new site is up and running!

Yes, everything looks fresh and new when you go to HeinOnline now. The new interface has a nice clean look to it, though it is extremely blue. I'm not sure how much they've improved the actual search experience, though. I had some trouble finding an advanced search page, and I'm not sure you can do one search across all the databases. Let's try to use it over the summer before passing judgment.
You can access HeinOnline from off-campus by using the Pitt vpn to get into the University Library System's digital library, where Heinonline is on the "databases A-Z" list.

Microsoft puts copyrighted books online

More news about the publishing industry. There's a report in Computerworld that Microsoft is going to include copyrighted books in its Live Search Books service. They have gotten permission for the inclusion of all the copyrighted books in order to avoid battling over copyright issues with authors and publishers. Live Search Books will index "tens of thousands" of copyrighted books from publishers including McGraw-Hill Companies, Simon & Schuster and Yale University Press.

Radical changes in textbook publishing

A federal panel has completed an exhaustive study of the textbook publishing market and is recommending sweeping changes that focus on the digital delivery of information. The panel was created because of increasing concerns about the rapidly rising cost of textbooks (ask any law student!). The final report "Turn the Page: Making College Textbooks More Affordable," says that "a supply-driven, producer-centric market must be transformed into a demand-driven, college- and student-centric market". The solution that the panel recommends is a digital marketplace - a centralized data library of textbook resources. It envisages a website, customized by institution, where faculty will be able to review and choose course materials and assemble pieces from various publishers. Then students will be able to order course items in print or electronic formats.
The study, published on the U. S. Dept. of Education website, includes a Fact Sheet and a table of current state legislation that deals with the cost of textbooks.
This should have librarians abuzz!