Tuesday, 23 May 2017

LawPORT: Online tutorials from the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies

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

Friday, 19 May 2017

Interactive database from the U.S. Courts

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

Thursday, 18 May 2017

GPO Director on transforming the GPO for the 21st Century

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

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

UN Libraries announce new free resource

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

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

New Readex interface

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

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

TRAC reports increasing FOIA backlog at USCIS

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

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

the privacy paradox

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

Monday, 1 May 2017

Airtable online database creator

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