Tuesday, 15 December 2015

New enhancements to Congress.gov

The law librarians of Congress have announced that Congress.gov has made a number of end-of-year enhancements. These include a new Quick Search for legislation, the Congressional Record Index (back to 1995), and the History of Bills from the Congressional Record Index (available from the Actions tab). They have also brought over the State Legislature Websites page from THOMAS, which has links to state level websites similar to Congress.gov. Text of legislation from the 101st and 102nd Congresses (1989-1992) has been migrated to Congress.gov. The Legislative Process infographic that has been available from the homepage as a JPG and PDF is now available in Spanish as a JPG and PDF. They've added Fiscal Year 2003 and 2004 to the Congress.gov Appropriations Table. There is also a new About page on the site for XML Bulk Data.
The improvements to the Quick Search interface were based on user feedback, and highlights selected fields most likely to be needed for a search.  The Advanced Search has added additional fields and ways to search for those who want to delve deeper into the data. 

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Secret History of the Bluebook

Fred Shapiro at Yale Law reports that The New York Times today has a story about the article by Fred and Julie Graves Krishnaswami entitled "The Secret History of the Bluebook." This article will be printed in the Minnesota Law Review in its April issue, and the unedited version is already posted on SSRN. From the Abstract:
The Bluebook, or Uniform System of Citation as it was formerly titled, has long been a significant component of American legal culture. The standard account of the origins of the Bluebook, deriving directly from statements made by longtime Harvard Law School Dean and later Solicitor General of the United States Erwin N. Griswold, maintains that the citation manual originated at the Harvard Law Review in the 1920s and was created or adapted by Dean Griswold himself. This account is wildly erroneous, as proven by intensive research we conducted in the archives of Harvard and Yale. In fact, the Bluebook grew out of precursor manuals at Yale Law School, apparently inspired by a legal scholar even more important than Griswold, namely Karl N. Llewellyn. The "uniform citations" movement that began at Yale was actually at first opposed by Harvard.

Friday, 4 December 2015

GPO's new Regional Discard Policy

At the end of October, the Government Publishing Office moved forward with a new Regional Discard Policy for depository libraries. The librarians at the Free Government Info blog recently posted a lengthy discussion of the new policy, which the GPO plans to begin testing in January 2016 (and will not be fully implemented until they analyze the results).  FGI poses a number of questions about the new policy, saying that
..."there will no longer be any Regional Depositories for documents more than seven years old. It removes the requirement that there be access paper copies of all documents in the FDLP. It weakens the FDL Program by continuing the shift of responsibility away from FDLP members and toward GPO. It does not increase flexibility (as advocates of the policy claim), it shifts flexibility away from Selectives and gives it to Regionals. It puts new burdens on Selective Depositories. It establishes a new model for the preservation of paper copies of documents that is undocumented, unproven, and risky. It ignores long-term implications in favor of short-term benefits to a few large libraries. It makes GPO’s “guarantee” of long-term, free access to government information nothing more than a hollow promise."

Monday, 30 November 2015

Amendments to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in effect 12/1/15

On Dec. 1, 2015, new amendments for the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure go into effect for the first time since 2010. The amendments will encompass changes to Rules 1, 4, 16, 26, 30, 31, 33, 34, 37, 55, and 84. The Supreme Court, through these amendments, emphasizes a policy of reducing inefficiency, transaction costs, time in litigation, and side litigation on discovery or other procedural issues. While the amendments are not major in the sense that they do not establish completely new procedures, they do encourage litigants and the district courts to reduce discovery abuses and costs. The amendments also further clarify issues regarding the proliferation of electronically stored information and its discovery. Law 360 has an article previewing the impact of some key amendments governing discovery. 

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Search engine for Wayback

The Laura and John Arnold Foundation has announced that it’s donating $1.9 million to develop a search engine for the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. The search engine will allow researchers, historians, and others to retrieve data and information from the billions of webpages and websites stored in the Wayback Machine and will ensure that there is a comprehensive, open record of the Internet that is accessible to all.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

LexisNexis buys Lex Machina

The legal research community is abuzz about the acquisition of Lex Machina by LexisNexis. According to Bloomberg BNA news, Lex Machina, founded in 2010, provides analytics primarily around IP litigation. It crawls PACER, the USPTO and the ITC's EDIS databases, capturing data about judges, lawyers, parties and patents to inform lawyers’ litigation strategy, according to the company’s web site. With the transaction, which closed on Friday, Lex Machina will retain its management structure and name. Effective immediately, it has become a wholly owned subsidiary of LexisNexis, according to Lex Machina CEO Josh Becker. Bob Ambrogi at Law Sites Blog has been following the story. He interviewed a VP at LexisNexis who says that Lex Machinas analytics technology will develop in several directions - likely areas of development include other areas of federal court litigation such as securities and bankruptcy. He also sees Lex Machina being used to help power and enhance other LexisNexis products like Lexis Advance and Patent Advisor. 

The Statutes at Large Modernization Act

On November 16, 2015, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass) and Rep. David Brat (R-VA) introduced H.R. 4006, The Statutes at Large Modernization Act, calling for the digitization of entire run of the United States Statutes at Large. According the Rep. Brat's press release the act is "essential in ensuring the federal government is accountable to the American people." The aim of the legislation is to "ensure that Americans have easy access to the entire legal history of the United States by putting it online." The legislation is an acknowledgement that our federal government is dependent on an informed public. The Law Library of Congress has already made a version of the Statutes at Large available, but, according to Rep. Brat's office blog post, "The Law Library of Congress has published the Statutes at Large in a text-over-PDF format. It does not, however, include adequately defined and embedded data elements that enable advanced search functions, machine readability, and other useful options. It's a good start, but it isn't the modern, authoritative version we need." The legislation call for the new digitization process to be overseen by the Archivist at the National Archives and specifies a budget of $5M per year for the next five years. Leading groups working to improve government transparency have endorsed this bill including the Sunlight Foundation, R Street Institute, Demand Progress, Liberty Coalition, Data Transparency Coalition, OpentheBooks.com, and Niskanen Center.

hat tip:  Richard Leiter

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

HSDL blog compiles informational resources on Islamic State

The Homeland Security Digital Library has prepared a collection of information resources called Paris and the Threat of the Islamic State: Background and Context.

GPO enhances Ben's Guide to the U.S. Government

The Government Publishing Office has completely updated the "Ben's Guide" website, which explains how the government works for children of all ages. The enhancements include a glossary that includes over 80 terms and definitions; downloadable, printable activities that include Word Searches and Crossword Puzzles; and a graphic that libraries can use to link to the site.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

SuDocs libguide (attention library cataloging nerds)

Librarian Kelly Smith at the U.C. San Diego has created a new LibGuide that she hopes will be of some use to other librarians and users. Called "Browse Federal Documents by Call Number", the guide’s primary purpose is to allow users to browse UCSD’s federal documents collection by call number. However, it goes beyond that by including call numbers that are not in UCSD's collection – essentially, it’s an historical list of SuDocs assigned to agencies over the years. There’s also a companion guide that sorts the agencies by name and leads users to the associated SuDocs number. If you find cataloging fascinating - and what librarian doesn't? - it's a great guide to finding SuDoc numbers but more importantly it's fun to browse alphabetically to see all the federal agencies that have put out documents over the years.

Monday, 9 November 2015

webinar: Learn to navigate UN data information sources

There is a webinar this Wednesday Nov. 11, 2015 from noon - 1 pm called Making Peace with United Nations Data: Learn to navigate UN data information sources. This comes to us from the "Help! I'm an Accidental Government Documents Librarian" folks in the North Carolina Library Association. The description: "Learn where agencies and key initiatives store their data in the United Nation’s many repositories. This program will examine and differentiate between information sources at the United Nations Statistics Division, UNdata.com, UN Libraries and Information Centers. We will discuss where to find country, demographic and trade data in addition to how to field basic UN-related reference questions. The program will also briefly discuss the UN’s data visualization efforts in Comtrade and statistics promotion through World Statistics Day. Join this webinar to learn new reference sources for data and programming ideas for your college and university community."
 Register at this link. If you can't make the webinar they will send the recording to all registrants.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Open access and subscription database skirmishes

Two kerfuffles pitting subscription databases against open access academia took place over the last week. First, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports, in an article titled "Subscription Scare Fuels Worries Over Who Controls Data That Scholars Need," that database giant ProQuest was involved in a controversy with the Renaissance Society of America. Scholars who make up the Society were upset when ProQuest suddenly cancelled their subscription to an important collection of early Englist texts. Access was eventually restored but "it was also clear that the episode had touched a nerve among those who think about the future of scholarly research. 'What really enrages me about this is not that ProQuest is for-profit," said one English scholar. "The problem is that by prioritizing profits over access it is really contributing to major barriers for the research in the field".
A few days later, Inside Higher Education had a story titled "Elsevier Battle Escalates", reporting that the entire editorial board and editorial staff of the journal Lingua had resigned to protest Elsevier's policies on pricing and its refusal to convert the journal to an open-access publication that would be free online.
Inside Higher Ed reports that "While Elsevier has faced protest resignations in the past, this one has people talking, including people in the corporate world, not just the academic world"... evidenced by the fact that Fortune magazine has a recent story called Elsevier Mutiny: Cracks Are Widening in the Fortress of Academic Publishing.'"

Friday Fun: Pronunciation Quiz

The ABA Journal has a Pronunciation Quiz to help you find out if you've been pronouncing some difficult-to-pronounce words properly or improperly all you life (chicanery, anyone?).

Law Librarian of Congress discusses Harvard/Ravel Law Project

In Custodia Legis, the blog of the Law Librarians of Congress, recently posted that Roberta Shaffer, who is currently Acting Law Librarian of Congress, has praised the recently announced collaboration between Harvard Law and Ravel Law. The "Free the Law" project plans to make over 40 million pages of US caselaw available for free online, according to Robert Ambrogi. Ms. Shaffer said that "she looked forward to exploring ways the Law Library of Congress can contribute to innovative projects such as this one", adding that "greater collaboration among institutions on projects like this would not only avoid duplication of effort, but also provide an opportunity for institutions around the world to contribute content from their unique, multi-faceted collections to create a “coral reef of knowledge” that encompasses a variety of subject-matter disciplines."

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

New Bloomberg Law Privacy & Data Security center

Bloomberg Law has a new Privacy and Data Security practice center available on its website, with interesting new ways of presenting information with interactive tools and visually attractive graphic displays. Legal research on the topic can be challenging because privacy and data security are global issues. The Bloomberg Privacy & Data Security product offers tools to simplify the research. Each country has very different regulatory schemes. BBNA uses big data technology to aggregate and normalize regulations and laws from around the globe, "attempting to shrink the problem of global research and add transparency". The product is organized into four main functional areas Stay Current for news, Research for primary sources, Advise for specialized insights , Plan & Execute for drafting policies. The product offers some terrific On the home page there is an interactive news “heat map” which shows were specific issues are “hot” around the globe.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Amazon opens physical bookstore

The Verge reports on Amazon opening its first physical bookstore in Seattle this week. The store's name - wait for it - Amazon Books. It's in Seattle, near the University of Washington. The store will rely on Amazon's website data, including customer reviews and popularity, to decide which books to stock; and books are displayed "cover out" rather than "spine out". The store also carries Amazon devices: Kindle, Fire TV, Fire tablet.

Monday, 2 November 2015

NYT major story on arbitration in the US

The front page story in the Sunday New York Times yesterday was a lengthy article titled "In Arbitration, a Privatization of the Justice System". The article says that "Over the last 10 years, thousands of businesses across the country — from big corporations to storefront shops — have used arbitration to create an alternate system of justice. There, rules tend to favor businesses, and judges and juries have been replaced by arbitrators who commonly consider the companies their clients, The Times found." The article has a great deal of supporting stories and information that leads them to conclude that "it has meant that tens of millions of Americans have lost a fundamental right: their day in court."

Thursday, 29 October 2015

News for Canadian lawyers...

Lexbox is a free Google Chrome extension for use in Canada that helps users organize and monitor online legal research. It enables users to assemble in one central location relevant legal information from various online sources, and to create personalized alerts. Legal research is not a task completed on one single website. You may start with Google, then identify a few relevant cases on CanLII, note a regulation on a Queen’s Printer website, as well as a few web pages specifying the administrative policies of a regulatory body. The idea behind Lexbox is to provide a workspace to keep track of all this information in one centralized location. You can setup folders by client/file name or topics of interest, whatever makes most sense in your context. And because the documents saved in your Lexbox account remain on the publisher’s website, they keep being updated as the law changes..

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

TWEN to drop the term "dropbox"

An announcement from Westlaw Academic about TWEN:
* Important TWEN Announcement:
We are not changing functionality, but we will saying goodbye to the term, drop box.
Why? The term drop box has been confusing administrators and students alike since the advent of
Dropbox.com©.
What’s the plan?
Spring semester professors will see the term sections wherever they previously saw drop box. If, for
example, professors use their TWEN course(s) for more than one set of students, they will add an
additional section.
Spring semester, students will go to Assignments & Quizzes (currently they go to Assignment & Quiz
Drop Box). Neither the term drop box nor sections will be seen by students.


I have always found the term “assignment and quiz dropbox” to be awkward and confusing for both faculty and students, so the change is probably a good thing.

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

Orientation!

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 Congress.gov Webinar offered by the Law Library of Congress is June 11 from 2:00-3:00 EDT. Congress.gov, 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 Congress.gov 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.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Federal Courts report improved use of jurors

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts on behalf of the Federal Judiciary reports that 2014 shows a better Use of jurors in the Federal Courts. According to their statistics, the national average of jurors in federal district courts who were not selected, serving or challenged (NSSC) on the first day of jury service fell to 36.8 percent in 2014, compared to 37.7 percent in 2013. They add that "If you’re a potential juror, that’s very good news. It means 3,046 potential jurors were not called to the courthouse unnecessarily." Decreasing the number of prospective jurors who are NSSC is a Judiciary-wide goal. The Federal Judicial Center conducts regular Juror Utilization and Jury Management Workshops, the most recent in March 2015, to help courts better use jurors.

Open Government Guide to state open records policies

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has an online Open Government Guide containing a complete compendium of information on every state's open records and open meetings laws. Each state's section is arranged according to a standard outline, making it easy to compare laws in various states. There is also a search function that allows you to compare one "outline point" across your selection of multiple states.
hat tip: BeSpacific

Friday, 29 May 2015

Open-access academics denounce Elsevier's new policy

Both The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed have articles this week discussing how academic, library and technology organizations are denouncing a new academic sharing policy announced by Elsevier. Critics say it undermines open-access policies at colleges and universities and prevents authors from sharing their work. 23 organizations, among them Creative Commons, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and library and open-access associations in countries such as the U.S., Australia, Canada, China, Brazil and the U.K., have issued a joint statement calling on Elsevier to reconsider the policy.

The Bluebook!

The 20th Edition of The Bluebook is now available. For this edition, when you purchase a printed copy of The Bluebook, you will get a FREE 30 day trial to the Bluebook Online; look for your free trial key on the back of the title page. The Bluebook for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch are available via the Rulebook app in the App Store.
Perma.cc is pleased to see that this Bluebook now recognizes Perma.cc as a reliable tool for preserving internet sources. The Bluebook includes a new rule: 18.2.1(d), which states:
“Archiving of Internet sources is encouraged, but only when a reliable archival tool is available. For citations to Internet sources, append the archive URL to the full citation in brackets” – the rule includes the following example: Letter from Rose M. Oswald Poels, President/CEO, Wis. Bankers Ass’n, to Elizabeth M. Murphy, Sec’y, SEC (Sept. 17, 2013), http://www.sec.gov/comments/s7-03-13/s70313-178.pdf [http://perma.cc/B7Z7D9DJ]. Perma.cc is also the example used to demonstrate the archived sources rule in the Rule 18.1 Basic Citation Forms for Internet Sources table on page 178: Rocio Gonzalez, Puerto Rico’s Status Debate Continues as Island Marks 61 Years as a Commonwealth, HUFFINGTON POST (July 25, 2013, 9:00 AM), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/25/puerto-rico-status-debate_n_3651755.html [http://perma.cc/C6UP-96HN].

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Dejure Design: where law & justice go to be seen

An interesting legal-related firm in San Francisco,  Dejure Design provides interactive and visual design services to social justice organizations seeking to make their legal work more accessible and engaging. Dejure Design was founded in 2014 by an experienced human rights lawyer and acts as a bridge between the legal and visual design communities. You can see some of their infographics work on the main page of their website.

Sundowning Westlaw "classic"

Law Sites blog has a post titled "Westlaw's Days are Numbered" which points out that the end date of Westlaw Classic will be August 10.  The post also gives a nice history of Westlaw, Westlaw Classic, and Westlaw Next, from dial-up terminals to internet access to plain-language searching. As author Bob Ambrogi says, "Of course, with Westlaw gone, there will be no need to call its successor WestlawNext. In just a few months, that means, there will be just one Thomson Reuters legal-research service, WestlawOnly."

Friday, 22 May 2015

Bloomberg BNA launches new tool for corporate transactions

Bloomberg BNA today announced the launch of Bloomberg Law: Corporate Transactions, a  web-based product that includes a technology-driven drafting workflow tool with its analytics powered by Bloomberg's financial databases, primary resources, secondary materials and practical guidance. This new offering allows corporate lawyers to know what deal terms are "market standard." Putting "big data" to practical use, the new tool searches over one million documents, comparing agreements and clauses to yield "market standard" language. According to the press release, "Just as searchable databases of case law revolutionized the way litigators approached their work 30 years ago, Bloomberg Law: Corporate Transactions is set to dramatically change the workflow for transactional lawyers".
"We've developed an all-in-one solution that allows transactional lawyers to quickly draft, negotiate, and finalize a wide variety of agreements," said Carl Sussman, Commercial Product Director for Bloomberg Law. "The product's real power is the way it synthesizes over a million documents and returns results that are easily incorporated into a deal document. This is what leveraging big data is all about and where we clearly differentiate ourselves from the competition."

Thursday, 21 May 2015

resources for learning to code

Knowing how to write code (various types) is a skill that is always useful, and especially useful for librarians and others in the information biz.  The Digital Inspiration blog has a post titled The Best Websites to Learn Coding Online that provides links to websites where you can a variety of programming languages like Java, SQL, PHP, Ruby, Python etc. The post also has links to free programming books and online sites and apps for children that can help them learn programming basics. 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Federal Agencies aren't making docs available online...

The National Security Archive reports that an FOIA Audit has found that 19 years after the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments (E-FOIA) were passed by Congress, only 40 percent of agencies have followed the law’s instruction for systematic posting of records released through FOIA in their electronic reading rooms. The Archive team audited all federal agencies with Chief FOIA Officers as well as agency components that handle more than 500 FOIA requests a year — 165 federal offices in all — and found only 67 with online libraries populated with significant numbers of released FOIA documents and regularly updated. More details on the findings are available in an article on NetworkWorld.
hat tip: Sabrina Pacifici on beSpacific

Monday, 18 May 2015

Fair Use Index from the US Copyright Office

Register of Copyrights Maria A. Pallante recently announced the launch of the U.S. Copyright Office's Fair Use Index, which is designed to provide the public with searchable summaries of major fair use decisions. The Index was undertaken in support of the 2013 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement prepared by the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator within the Executive Office of the President. Although not a substitute for legal advice, the Index is searchable by court (all federal courts) and subject matter (16 Subject categories, including "Other") and provides a helpful starting point for those wishing to better understand how the federal courts have applied the fair use doctrine to particular categories of works or types of use, for example, music, internet/digitization, or parody. For each decision, the index provides a brief summary of the facts, the relevant question(s) presented, and the court’s determination as to whether the contested use was fair. Users can browse all of the cases, search for cases involving specific subject matter or categories of work, or review cases from specific courts. The Index ordinarily will reflect only the highest court decision issued in a case. It does not include the court opinions themselves, but it does include the full legal citation so you can look it up easily.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

New BloombergLaw enhancements

Bloomberg BNA has announced new enhancements to transactional resources in the Bloomberg Law database. To find them, look under the Transactional Law tab/menu bar, where you will now see  links for the new "Draft Analyzer" and "Deal Analytics" tools.
The "Draft Analyzer" allows you to take your draft provisions/language and build out market based standardized versions of that language. It shows you the developing consensus among drafters based on Bloomberg's analysis of each paragraph from virtually every agreement and organizational document filed as an EDGAR exhibit. After running the analyzer, the results page shows you up to 10 matching consensus templates (market based standards) as well as analytical information so that you can determine the consensus template’s strength and relevance to your transaction. For example, for each market based standard you will see information telling you the number of documents making up that standard, the law firms that used that language, when they used it, etc.
The "Deal Analytics" tool contains information on 500,000 public and private M&A deals and allows you to search through all these deals using a plethora of search filters/options. For example, you can search by party, advisor, industry sector, deal type, deal size, exchange, date, etc.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Updated Federal Courts website launched

The federal Judiciary website, uscourts.gov, has undergone a major facelift.  The newly launched site has a fresh look, improved functionality, and webpages that adjust automatically for optimal use on all sizes and types of devices. Features include:
-  An improved Court Locator that helps users find their local court more easily. Search by city and state or ZIP code, and choose a court type on any page of the website.
- Maps display with search results.
- Individual district court information pages include direct links to the court’s website, e-filing, juror information page, and eJuror log-in.
- All court forms are now grouped in a central location, so users can search by keyword or filter by topic. Download forms directly from the main forms page, or click on the form name for more information. Relevant form instructions or committee notes are found on the specific form’s page.
-  Federal Rules:  Records and Archives of the Judicial Conference Committee on Rules and Practice and Procedure and its advisory committees can be filtered and searched by committee and year for meeting Minutes, Committee Reports, Agenda, Books, Rules Suggestions, and Rules Comments.
- Statistics:  An enhanced search for Judiciary data tables allows users to search by publication, specific type of data, and date range, and includes related analysis of the data tables.

Monday, 11 May 2015

.....and more apps

Legaltech News reviews a few new apps that lawyers can use. One that is especially timely is 
Moble Justice CA, a mobile app from the California ACLU that lets users who witness public interactions with law enforcement automatically upload their cellphone videos to ACLU servers for review by ACLU lawyers.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

60 minutes, 60 apps for lawyers

The iPhone JD blog has posted information from a presentation, titled "60 apps in 60 minutes",  given at the ABA Techshow recently.  They aren't necessarily free but they won't break the bank either.  For example, Wolfram (the giant math database) has an app for lawyers called Wolfram Lawyer's Professional Assistant ($4.99) that will provide all sorts of calculations that a lawyer might need to do, such as historical value of money, statutes of limitations, or family relationships.  

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Pitt apps

And speaking of apps, Pitt's Computing Services and Systems Development (CSSD) recently  announced the Pitt App Store, designed to serve as a one-stop shop for University-related apps. It includes apps for the University’s web-based course management system, lynda.com training videos, Box cloud storage and collaboration, Microsoft Office, campus news, etc.  The Pitt App Store can be downloaded for iOS or Android smartphones and tablets, and it also has a list of apps currently available. 

Mobile Apps for Law site updated

The Informed Librarian Online has announced that the Mobile Apps for Law database was recently updated with the addition of a number of new entries; the entire database was also updated. The database is a comprehensive directory of mobile applications for law and lawyers includes both legal research and utility apps for all mobile devices. Whether you use an iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Blackberry, Android, etc. you can use the database to find out which law apps are available for your device. The advanced search screen lets you search for apps using a number of different critiera including mobile device, date added, and subject. 

Friday, 1 May 2015

Westlaw: new KeyCite flag


Westlaw has added a new flag to KeyCite. In addition to the red flag, warning that a case is no longer good law for at least one of the points of law it contains and the yellow flag, warning that the case has some negative history but has not been reversed, there will now be a blue-striped flag.  This flag will be used to indicate that a case has been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court.  The new blue-striped flag appears in the results list and at the top of a case. The flag will be added to any case appealed to the U.S. Courts of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court, including those appealed from state supreme courts. Appeals from agencies like U.S. Military Boards, U.S. Patent and Trademark Offices, Veterans Claims, etc., will not receive the flag on the lower court opinion.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Members of Congress: preservation of files

The Library of Congress has an interesting article in "The Signal: Digital Preservation" newsletter, titled "Helping Congress Archive Their Personal Digital Files."  The article points out that "official records" are defined by House and Senate rules as any records, regardless of format, that are created or received in the course of the business conducted by congressional committees. These official committee records are eventually transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration and preserved. However, papers from a Member's congressional office are outside the scope of official records; Members maintain ownership of records created in the course of their congressional service, are responsible for effectively managing them, and determine the ultimate disposition of these papers. Members’ papers comprise both textual and electronic records and include things like personal notes, legislative research files, photos and correspondence with constituents. Members are encouraged to properly preserve these documents on their own, with guidance provided by the House and Senate archivists.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

LIPA launches digitization project registry

The LIPA (Legal Information Preservation Alliance) Digital Inventory Task Group has launched the Survey on Digitization Projects. The survey is available and open to all LIPA, NELLCO, and MALLCO members.
The information gathered from this survey will allow LIPA to build a registry of digitization projects in order to share expertise, avoid duplication of effort, and publicize and promote the work of LIPA members. Focused on member projects with existing ties, it hopes to enhance collaboration and identify ways to support the digitization efforts of LIPA members. Building an inventory of digitization projects will also position LIPA to participate and coordinate with other digitization registries. The Task Group's goal is to make initial data available this summer and to continue to work on the infrastructure.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Georgetown Law designs firm to help low-income individuals

Georgetown Law has announced that it has teamed up with law firms DLA Piper and Arent Fox to create a new nonprofit law firm designed to help low-income individuals with their civil law needs. Named the D.C. Affordable Law Firm (DCALF), it will be a nonprofit low bono law firm that will provide affordable, high quality legal services to D.C. residents who do not qualify for free legal aid and to small businesses and nonprofits in the District. The anticipated opening date is October 2015. The firm will be staffed by 6 Georgetown Law graduates; the law school will provide them with 15-month fellowships to work at the firm, and will offer a cost-free LLM program for them. The law firms will provide attorneys to act as mentors as well as free office space.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Online Privacy: international report

A recent report from the Global Commission on Internet Governance states that online privacy protection should be built around a “social compact” that will safeguard the digital economy by boosting security and trust in internet services.  More specifically, the report suggest that a a balance between privacy and security should be struck by ensuring robust rules around surveillance, including adherence to the principles of necessity and proportionality, while promoting international cooperation in the face of cybersecurity threats. The Global Commission on Internet Governance is a panel of lawmakers, officials, academics and other specialists established by think tanks the Centre for International Governance Innovation and Chatham House, and led by Carl Bildt, a former prime minister of Sweden.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Update on HathiTrust govdocs

The latest Update on HathiTrust Activities  announces that the US Federal Government Documents Initiative report is now available, reporting on the status of the Hathi govdocs initiative as well as recommendations for future action and development of the govdocs program. This report, as well as the Program Steering Committee report, have been published online so that the wider community can be informed of discussions and planning.  More information on the US Federal Government Documents Initiative, including information about the Advisory Group and some Frequently Asked Questions , can be found on the HathiTrust website.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

ABA Techshow starts tomorrow

ABA Techshow takes place in Chicago April 16-18. For those of us who aren't able to attend, Attorney at Work has a "Scouting Report" on some of the highlights.  

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

A brief history of technology and law

The ABA Journal recently had an article titled "100 innovations in law" that gave an interesting history of how the evolution of technology has changed the law, and the way law is practiced, over the years. The examples range from the earliest use of shorthand in 63 BC to cameras, DNA testing, the LSAT, computers, geolocation and space law!

Monday, 13 April 2015

National Bridge Inventory

Pittsburgh is sometimes called the City of Bridges, so you might think that bridges are a topic of interest here. Unfortunately, the Federal Highway Administrations webpages about bridges are eye-glazingly boring - though with some effort you can find an excel spreadsheet that tells you that Allegheny County has 1,267 bridges, which is way more than any other county in PA.
However, Congressional Quarterly has kindly provided an interactive map called "National Bridge Inventory - Deficient Bridges"  that takes the data and makes it interesting and easy to see where the worst bridges are located, state-wise. The good news is that Massachusetts and Rhode Island have more deficient bridges than PA (the annual National Bridge Inventory identifies deficient bridges across the nation. According to the FHWA, structurally deficient bridges, though not inherently unsafe, have been identified through inspection and rated to be in poor condition. Functionally obsolete bridges are those that do not conform to updated design standards.) The bad news is that PA is in the second-to-worst of 5 categories.  

Sunday, 12 April 2015

National Holidays and the national pasttime

The Law Library of Congress has a recent blogpost about how national holidays come to be... and whether Opening Day of baseball season for any team might become a national holiday. The short answer is: probably not, unless you could somehow get everyone behind the idea. Even with the Pittsburgh diaspora the Pirates probably don't have enough support...

Saturday, 11 April 2015

JSTOR now has ebooks

JSTOR, the well-known database for academic journals in many subject areas, now has books available to Pitt users for a limited time. To see what they have, go to the main JSTOR page and click on the link at the top for BROWSE, by Subject. The list of Subjects includes General Law, and you can access an alphabetical list of titles available by clicking on the "Law" link. You can read the books on line or download them.
JSTOR is also offering online webinars for librarians on using the JSTOR ebooks platform as well as purchasing options for libraries. These half-hour webinars will be held on 4-27-15, 5-12-15, and 5-27-15; registration is free on the JSTOR website. 

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Report on privacy laws and student data

A new report from the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) has found that the computer technology that enables school districts to aggregate, collate, analyze and store massive amounts of student information – and the heavy reliance on private contractors to help manage that information collection, analysis and storage – pose significant concerns about the privacy rights of students. The report concludes that there need to be guidelines and policies to provide stronger privacy protection for students and their families.
The entire report, titled On the Block: Student Data and Privacy in the Digital Age (49 page pdf), can be downloaded from the NEPC website. 

Barco Librarian is Where in the World Winner!

Congratulations to Karen Shephard, Barco's Information Services Librarian, for winning Hein's monthly "where in the world" contest this month! Her prize: a Hein Where in the World t-shirt.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Three random cool things

These cool tools might be useful for the law school community.... in a tangential kind of way.
1. Volvo's Life Paint for bikers.  If you bike, watch the video.
2. Periscope, an app for your phone, was recently bought by Twitter.  It's a live-streaming video app that lets you see what anybody in the world is looking at. Read about in MIT Technology Review. Give it a whirl.
3. If you're thinking of binge-watching on a rainy day, Slashgear provides Nielsen infographics on how long it will take to binge-watch some of the favorite binge shows. 

Saturday, 4 April 2015

The law school library/laboratory

Sarah Glassmeyer (CALI) has written an excellent blog post for Slaw, the legal online magazine from Canada. Titled "The Law School Laboratory", she wrote it in response to an article on Above the Law that basically dissed law school libraries as obsolete money sinks. Aargh!
Sarah's response includes some basic facts:
- "While, in the above example, the library budget is increasing by 2%, I can almost guarantee that its material costs are going up 10% or more. Annually.
- The subscription databases that are “replacing libraries” are actually paid for from the library budget. They are not a competitor to the library, but rather they are a digital branch of it.
- Yes, even books are on the databases. But not all are. Also, depending on the agreement with the database vendors, they may or may not be accessible to members of the public. As many academic law libraries are open to the public and are a filler of the Access to Justice, it’s important that the library has resources available to them.
- Everything is not on the Internet. Not even close."
She also points out that librarians work very hard to make legal research as smooth and seamless as possible - which unfortunately means what we do doesn't get noticed - because we want it to be invisible!

Friday, 27 March 2015

New website connects lawyers, non-profits

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

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Access to Justice programs

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

Friday, 20 March 2015

Proposal to make all .gov sites secure HTTP

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

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

News on the Georgia State copyright case

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

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Pitt Law's first MOOC

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