Monday 31 December 2007

Index to Legal Periodicals Retrospective online changes

The H.W. Wilson Company has sent 'round an announcement that in January 2008 they are making major changes/enhancements to their database search interface. They have a description of the changes and some screenshots of the new interface on their website. These changes will affect our HWWilson subscriptions to the Index to Legal Periodicals Retrospective and the Biography Reference Bank, and should improve searching, finding, displaying and saving search results.

Google privacy videos

Google has created their own "YouTube Privacy Channel" where you can watch videos that share online privacy tips, "like how to use Google Chat’s “Off the Record” feature, how to limit the number of people who can view your Picasa photos, how to unlist your phone number from Google search results, and how to make the details of your Google Calendar entries private."

Scholarly Publishing Collaborative

Inside Higher Ed. reports that 5 university presses are collaborating in an effort to both reduce publishing costs and increase the number of scholarly books published each year. The collaboration is being funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon foundation. NYU Press will manage the grant, and the Fordham University Press, Rutgers University Press, Temple University Press and the University of Virginia Press will be involved in the collaboration.

EPA libraries update

The Enivronment News Service reports that the voluminous omnibus appropriations bill that Congress sent to the President earmarks $3 million for the EPA to restore its network of libraries recently closed or consolidated by the Administration and to report within 90 days on its plans to restore publicly available libraries to provide environmental information and data to each EPA region.

U. Maine law clinic Prof. on the RIAA case

P2pnet news has posted information from Prof. Deirdre Smith, the U. Maine School of Law clinical professor supervising the RIAA case. Prof. Smith explains why the clinic decided to take on this case.

Sunday 23 December 2007

U. Maine legal clinic takes on the RIAA

P2Pnet news reports that the University of Maine School of Law's legal aid clinic is the first law school clinic to take a case defending university students against the RIAA since it began its ex parte litigation campaign against college students. Law students at the clinic, under the supervision of law school prof. Deirdre M. Smith, have moved to dismiss the RIAA's complaint in a Portland, Maine, case, Arista v. Does 1-27, on behalf of two University of Maine undergrads. The students filed a reply brief (pdf) that cites the US Supreme Court opinion in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 425 F. 3d 99 (2007) and the subsequent California decision following Twombly, Interscope v. Rodriguez (2007 WL 2408484), which dismissed the RIAA's 'making available' complaint as mere 'conclusory,' 'boilerplate' 'speculation.'"

Saturday 22 December 2007

CMU student finds lost gloves

Web Site Reuniting Gloves Makes Matches from

(AP) -- Jennifer Gooch's mission was to create a simple Web site where people could go to find their lost gloves. Even if no happy reunions ever took place, she was just content to spread a little goodwill.


Thursday 20 December 2007

Living in the Library

The Wired Campus blog has a story about a student who lived in the campus library for more than a week during finals - the library was open 24/7 for exams. According to the blog, "The stunt is proof that libraries these days have more amenities than ever, and that students live much of their social lives on computer networks."

Chronicle of Higher Ed. winter break

The Chronicle is taking a 2 week print publishing break; it will resume print publication on Jan. 11 (appearing online on Jan. 7). The daily Academe Today emails will continue through the break. You might also like to check out Brainstorm, the new blog from the Chronicle Review. "If you enjoy reading The Chronicle Review, you no longer have to wait a week for high-minded, critical commentaries and maniacal musings. Brainstorm provides daily postings on ideas, culture, and the arts."

Online translation services reviewed

This morning the Wall Street Journal's Personal Technology column compares several free online translation services. The author tested Arabic-English translations using different texts: conversation, news stories, and legal and scientific documents. Not surprisingly, yhe weakest performance by all the services was the translation of legal and scientific texts, and the author urges caution in relying on any free online translations.

Wednesday 19 December 2007

Google and the future of search technology

Technology Review (Jan/Feb 2008) has an interesting interview with Peter Norvig, director of research at Google, where he talks about what Google search has been doing and where it's going.
on natural language searching: "...we don't think it's a big advance to be able to type something as a question as opposed to keywords. Typing "What is the capital of France?" won't get better results than typing "capital of France." But understanding how words go together is important. To give some examples, "New York" is different from "York," but "Vegas" is the same as "Las Vegas," and "Jersey" may or may not be the same as "New Jersey." That's a natural-language aspect that we're focusing on."
Over the next 2-5 years he sees increasing personalization of search results, increasing integration of various types of content, and the increasing importance of delivering information to cellphones and other small devices with small screens and awkward keyboards.

Magna Carta for sale

Tuesday 18 December 2007

More on fed. legislative histories in Westlaw

Westlaw's latest news bulletin includes more information on their new federal legislative history database that I mentioned recently. You can search the database FED-LH by Public Law number or popular name; the search produces an easy to use list of links to pdfs of all the pertinent documents including Congressional materials, Hearings, and Presidential documents. You can see an example of how to use the legislative history database in the latest Westlaw newsletter.

Emerging technologies and scholarship

The Horizon Project is a collaboration between the New Media Center and the Educause Learning Initiative that studies the applications of emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, and creative expression in higher education. The annual report, released last week, describes significant trends affecting higher education over the next 5 years. The section entitled New Scholarship and Emerging Forms of Publication discusses how the proliferation of audience- generated content combined with open-access content models is changing the way we think about scholarship and publication—and the way these activities are conducted.

Election information

Congressional Quarterly has created an attractive and useful companion website for their print reference title Race for the Presidency. The site has lots and lots of Presidential election info, including updated information on all of the state primaries and caucuses as well as delegates, procedures, and schedules.

Monday 17 December 2007

Trends in Federal Courts Caseload

The most recent edition of The Third Branch, Newsletter of the Federal Courts contains a new report “A Decade of Change in the Federal Courts Caseload: Fiscal Years 1997-2006” that examines the identifiable caseload trends and the forces behind the changing nature of the federal courts’ caseload in the past decade. Statistics on criminal and civil cases in the Courts of Appeals and the District Courts are examined. According to the report, “Between September 30, 1997 and September 30, 2006, appeals court filings steadily climbed, district court caseloads fluctuated, and bankruptcy filings hit a record high before tumbling following the enactment of sweeping bankruptcy reform legislation.”

Sunday 16 December 2007

Most important invention of the 20th C?

According to the Semiconductor Industry Association, the most important invention of the 20th century was the transistor, invented 60 years ago on Dec. 16, 1947 in Bell Laboratories in New Jersey. PC World has an article explaining how the transistor revolutionized the development of technology.

Knol: Google's new knowledge repository

Pandia Search Engine news has a story about a new project from Google called Knol. From the description it sounds like an encyclopedia. Google says in a blogpost about Knol: " Our goal is to encourage people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it." A knol is defined as a unit of knowledge, and Google says that the key idea behind the knol project is to highlight authors (in contrast, presumably, to Wikipedia). Google also says "A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read." (look out Wikipedia). Google invites select people to become involved in the project and write the articles; it doesn't say how it chooses the writers to invite. SearchEngineLand also has an article about Knol including screenshots of what a Knol page will look like.

50-State Agency Databases - by subject

The ALA gov docs 50-State Agency Databases Registry has launched a new set of subject-focused database collections under the heading of "history". Daniel Cornwall, the Alaska state librarian who spearheaded the project, explains: "Why these topics? Because after making solicitations here, and on govdoc-land on Facebook, more people wanted subject pages for historical materials than anything else. "
The topics so far are: Biographical Databases - Databases that provide biographical sketches of authors, state officials, famous state residents, etc.
Historical Media Databases - Databases that provide online access tophotographs, video, or audio.
Historical Newspaper and Magazine Indexes - Databases that indexarticles in older newspapers, journals and magazine that containhistorical information. These databases will usually lead one tomicrofilmed items that may be obtainable through Interlibrary Loan.
Museum Collection Databases - Catalogs of state museum holdings whichoften have historical notes. Museums listed here are either run by astate or by one of the state's political subdivisions
Official Records Databases - vital records, (birth, death, etc), war pensions, etc.
These pages just launched, and are a little light on content. The Registry volunteers will be adding to these pages soon... as the manager of the Pennsylvania section, I've added a little info but please feel free to make your own additions - it's a wiki!

Wednesday 12 December 2007

Interview: how the web is affecting education

From the Chronicle of Higher Education, a podcast of an interview with John Seeley Brown, former director of the Xerox Corporation’s Palo Alto Research Center; the topic is how the internet is radically changing education.

Make a Whiteboard using the Wii Remote

A v. cool idea by a guy from CMU.

Tuesday 11 December 2007

Online courses at Yale

The Chronicle of Higher Ed's Wired Campus Blog reports this afternoon that Yale is creating videos of some of its undergraduate courses and making them freely available online. There are also searchable transcripts of each lecture, as well as course syllabi, reading assignments, problem sets, and other materials - all free online. Yale's press release says that the project is funded by a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Upcoming PALINET workshops

PALINET has posted an online list of spring workshops for librarians, many of which will be conducted online.

Fast access to hearings online

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has started posting preliminary transcripts of its hearings on its website, making them accessible just days after the hearing is held. Until now, it took more than six months for public-domain transcripts of most hearings to become available because they had to go through an arduous proofing and approval process before finally being published by the GPO. The FGI blog has even posted a list of hearings resulting from a Google search of the committee website.
Hat tip to Free Government Info for this one.

Sunday 9 December 2007

Project to translate books into Arabic

Terry Teachout recently posted an article about Kalima, a translation project that is funding the translation, publication and distribution of high quality foreign writing into Arabic. The project has posted a list of the first 100 titles that are scheduled for translation, including 8 genres and many languages. American books on the list include Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom , Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, Edward Said's The Word, the Text and the Critic, Isaac Bashevis Singer's Collected Stories, Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury. There are a lot of heavy tomes on the list.
Mr. Teachout has made up his own list of titles that he feels would inform a reader about what America and its people were like; his list includes The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and O Pioneers! by Willa Cather.
This would make a good parlor game - what would you suggest translating into Arabic that would give non-Americans a true sense of our culture? Are there books in the law library? I might add our Constitution (annotated?), the Declaration of Independence, and the Gettysburg Address; The Common Law by Oliver Wendell Holmes... maybe Garrett Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons ...
Mr. Teachout ends his article by saying "In the long run, I doubt that we could do more to help shape Middle Eastern perceptions about America for the better than by translating these books into Arabic (his list), publishing them in pocket-size paperback editions, and distributing them throughout the Arab world by hook, crook, camel, backpack or parachute."

Friday 7 December 2007

I (heart) libraries

There was a story about a New York library in the Wall Street Journal this morning that any librarian or library-lover would enjoy. Unfortunately the WSJ isn't freely available online (though there are rumors that that's going to change) so the best I can do is give you a link through Lexis if you have a Lexis password. Or if you've got a print version or online subscription, read the story on the last page of the Weekend section, Taste -- de gustibus: Books of the New World and the Old by Lucette Lagnado.

Thursday 6 December 2007

Pa. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cappy

The ABA Journal reports that Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ralph Cappy is going to join Pittsburgh's Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney after he retires from the Court in January. He will join the firm’s litigation section and plans to play a significant role in the firm's mentoring program, particularly in the area of appellate law. Buchanan Ingersoll's chairman is quoted as saying "Chief Justice Cappy's nearly 30 years on the bench offers legal and professional insight that are as valuable to our clients as they are to the development of our young lawyers."
Chief Justice Cappy is an alumni of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He has served as an assistant public defender and chief public defender of Allegheny County and became a judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in 1978. Judge Cappy joined the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1990 and has served as its chief justice for the past five years.

Wednesday 5 December 2007

The future of books

Blogger Mark Pilgrim recently posted his "Play in Six Acts", a commentary on the difference between real books and ebooks based on statements made by Amazon ceo Jeff Bezos about books and publishing - before and after Amazon released its Kindle ebook reader. Unsettling.

Tuesday 4 December 2007

Attorney Directories overview

The latest edition of has an article entitled "Locating Lawyers (including Corporate Counsel): A Brief Overview of Attorney Directories and a 50 State Survey of Online State Bar Directories". The information contained in the article is comprehensive and includes links to a variety of online resources. Since some law firms are questioning whether they want to continue paying for Martindale-Hubbell listings this article is timely.

Free PACER pilot in Federal Depository libraries

Cindy Etkin, Sr. Program Planning Specialist at the Government Printing Office, has posted the following info to the govdocs listserv:
The (GPO) and the FDLP have entered into a 2-year pilot project with the Administrative Office of the U. S. Courts to provide access to its PACER service. As we know, users of PACER are able to access information about a case including the names of all the parties, judges and attorneys involved in the case, case history and status as well as many of the documents submitted by the parties to the court. Seventeen depository libraries, representing diverse types and sizes of libraries as well as different geographic locations, were selected to take part in the PACER pilot. GPO anticipages that the pilot will determine that FDL access to PACER expands usage to those who currently do not have it available to them or would be inhibited by going to a court house to use the service.
The Federal depository libraries participating in the PACER pilot are:
* Alaska State Court Law Library (Alaska)
* Sacramento County Public Law Library, (California)
* San Bernardino County Law Library (California)
* Library of Congress/Law Library of Congress (District of Columbia)
* Nova Southeastern University Law Library (Florida)
* 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Library (Illinois)
* Northern Kentucky University Steely Library/Chase Law Library(Kentucky)
* Portland Public Library (Maine)
* University of Michigan Law School Library (Michigan)
* Wayne State University Arthur Neef Law Library, (Michigan)
* Rutgers University, Newark Law Library (New Jersey)
* New Mexico Supreme Court Law Library (New Mexico)
* Fordham University School of Law Leo T. Kissam MemorialLibrary (New York)
* State Library of Ohio (Ohio)
* Rogers State University Stratton Taylor Library (Oklahoma)
* University of Tennessee College of Law Joel A. Katz LawLibrary (Tennessee)
* Lee College Library (Texas)

Monday 3 December 2007

Quotations from Legal and Literary Sources

The Legal Classics library from HeinOnline grows every month, but its contents are mainly of interest to the legal historian. I was, therefore, especially pleased to see that this month two very useful books have been added to the collection: Quote It: Memorable Legal Quotations Data, Epigrams, Wit and Wisdom from Legal and Literary Sources (1969) and Quote It Completely: World Reference Guide to More than 5,500 Memorable Quotations from Law and Literature (1998). Both are compiled by Eugene C. Gerhart, who drily explains in the preface to the first volume that "My collection of memorable legal quotations was started in 1934 while I was a student at Harvard Law School. It has grown to such proportions that it is larger than any other collection I have seen. That is reason enough for making it available to others through publication."
The first volume is almost 800 pages long; almost thirty years later, the second publication contains over 1300 pages. Both are searchable by subject and author and have extensive and excellent back-of-the-book word indexes.

The first registered domains

News from online: a list of the very first registered domain names. The Domain Name System (DNS) was created in 1984; in 1985 top level domains were defined. The first top level domains were COM, ORG, EDU, GOV, MIL and ccTLD.
In April 1985,, and were the first registered domain names.
The first .gov was and was registered in June 1985.
The first .org was and was registered in July 1985.
Now for the first .com was and was registered on March 15 1985. Better known domain names among the first 100 registered were,,,, and

Comparing proposed Pennsylvania climate change bills

An environmental lawyer at Ballard Spahr Ingersoll has published a helpful online article that discusses two pieces of Pennsylvania legislation dealing with climate change: House Bill 110 (passed the Pa. House of Representatives on October 31) and Senate Bill 266 (approved by the Pa. Senate on November 20). He analyzes both bills and compares their similarities and differences.

HeinOnline now offers a live chat feature

HeinOnline has added a nice feature to their every-expanding website - live technical support chat. This feature, which is generally available on weekdays from 8-5, lets you chat with a technical support specialist at Hein. Look for the "Live Help" button (above) on the technical and training sections of the HeinOnline home page.

Software to organize your computer

MIT Technology Today reports that a software company called Pi Corporation will soon release a software program named Smart Desktop that will automatically organize all the stuff in your computer "intelligently" so that all the files dealing with a particular topic - whether they're Word files, Outlook emails, Xcel spreadsheets, etc - will be accessible in the same place.

Saturday 1 December 2007

spam, spam, spam, spam

Reuters reports that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Trial and Appeal Board has dismissed a lawsuit by Hormel, the Minnesota-based maker of Spam (the processed meat) against a Seattle-based software company that calls its e-mail filtering program “Spam Arrest". Hormel sued the software maker, claiming dilution on the trademarked name. Spam Arrest said that "consumers are smarter than to confuse us with the source for meat called spam." According to a local newspaper, Hormel Foods may appeal the decision.

CMU digital library contains >1.5 million volumes

Yahoo has a news story about the Universal Digital Library, a book digitization project that Carnegie Mellon University began over a decade ago with the hope of eventually digitizing all the published works of humankind and making them freely available online. Last week the project announced that they have digitized over 1.5 million books so far. The computer scientist in charge of the project, Raj Reddy, reports that books have been borrowed from institutions and people all over the world and scanned into the library. The library so far has digitized books published in 20 languages, including 970,000 in Chinese, 360,000 in English, 50,000 in the southern Indian language of Telugu and 40,000 in Arabic. Michael Shamos, a Carnegie Mellon computer science professor and copyright lawyer working on the project, said that they want to make vast amounts of information freely available while preserving rare and decaying books. Although both Google and Microsoft have also begun massive digitization projects, the CMU folks say that theirs is the largest university-based digital library of free books and that its purpose is noncommercial.

Friday 30 November 2007

Library robots

There's an article in Backbone magazine that tells all about the University of British Columbia's automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS), aka the "library robot". It's a system that uses a computerized crane and robotic arm to retrieve books requested through the online catalog (Voyageur). The article was brought to my attention by a govdoc listserv posting from a librarian in Washington state who says his state is very interested in using something similar and who wants to know if any FDLP libraries (especially regional depositories) are considering installing library robots.

Thursday 29 November 2007

Westlaw news

November's Westlaw newsletter of new features and databases has a few noteworthy items:
  • Search for Key Numbers is a fabulous addition: Click on the "Key Numbers" link at the top of the Westlaw research system page and you will pull up a page that lets you search for the key number that you want with your own keywords. For example I searched for the terms "landlord tenant light bulb" and it pulled up five key numbers that were pretty much perfect for what I wanted. No need for fancy query construction.
  • The US GAO Federal Legislative Histories (FED-LH) database contains the GAO's collection of comprehensive legislative history documents compiled for most U.S. Public Laws enacted from 1915 to 1995.This includes the Public Law, Reports, Committee Prints, Congressional Record entries, Bills and Resolutions, Hearing prints, Presidential signing statements, Presidential messages, and other documents, all in pdf format and broken down into three categories - Congressional Materials, Hearings, and Presidential Documents. There is a "rolling release" of these documents; the November 2007 release contains legislative histories for public laws enacted between 1988 and 1995.
  • Five Topical Views of ALR can now be searched as discrete databases:
    American Law Reports–Construction (ALR-CSTR)
    American Law Reports–Elder Law (ALR-ELD)
    American Law Reports–Environmental Law (ALR-ENV)
    American Law Reports–Immigration (ALR-IMM)
    American Law Reports–Workers' Compensation (ALR-WC) ; and remember that come January, Westlaw will offer exclusive access to the ALR.

Nazi archives opened to public

The International Committee of the Red Cross and the German government yesterday announced that extensive archives on the Holocaust are now open to to the public. The International Tracing Service archive, located in Bad Arolsen, Germany, comprises more than 50 million pages and takes up 16 miles of shelving and filing cabinets in six buildings. It includes meticulous records kept at concentration camps by the Nazis and a complete postwar index of every non-citizen who was on German soil during the war years. The Nazis kept meticulous records on the smallest details from the number of lice on a prisoner's head to the exact moment of execution.
Up until now the documents in the archive have been used mainly to help trace missing persons or provide information in support of compensation claims and only archive staff members have been able to see the originals. The US State Department has been at the forefront of a growing move in recent years to open up the archives to a broader public and their website states that "(w)e welcome the entry into force today of an agreement opening the extensive Holocaust-era archives of the ITS to survivors, their families and to researchers."
The archive is a labyrinth of paper that has never been organized by a historian or even by a professionally trained archivist and contains many old and brittle documents. The good news is that over the last 10 years 70 % of the documents have been digitised and the ITS plans to complete digitization by 2011 - and each country of the internation commission governing the ITS will receive a complete copy. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum will administer the US copy of the archive. Organizing the digital material to make it accessible will be a major job because there is a huge amount of material and many of the documents are hand-written, some in old German script, and spelling is inconsistent, making it difficult to convert files into digitally searchable format. Once the documents are formatted for the Holocaust Museum’s computer system, the Museum will facilitate access to the documents for researchers. According to the State Dept., he formatting process is now underway and is expected to take several months.

Wednesday 28 November 2007

ULS: New database on British Social History

ULS has added a new database called Mass Observation - British Social History, 1937-1972. It's not of any obvious interest to legal researchers, but it's an interesting and quirky collection. The Mass Observation project was created by three British researchers interested in everyday social history. Their plan was to create a collection of “meteorological stations from whose reports a weather map of popular feeling can be compiled." The researchers recruited 500 volunteers from the general public to form “a national panel.” The panel were asked to record the every day concerns of their lives on the twelfth of each month, including dreams, hopes, and fears. The first full-scale book by Mass Observation, "May 12th", provided reactions the coronation of George VI and accounts of what the panel thought and did on that day.
The"observers" also noted people's reactions to news; the idea was to collact a true, detached, scientific observation of popular attitudes and beliefs so that popular opinion could be properly understood.
The collection also includes photos, diaries, radio show transcripts, information about the project, and links to more information.

Congressional Research Service reports

The Congressional Research Service, an arm of the Library of Congress, provides Congress with non-partisan and in-depth legislative research and analysis on a variety of topics. The CRS produces more than 3,000 studies and publications each year, none of which are distributed to the public. The Thurgood Marshall Law Library has created an online collection, called the Congressional Research Service Reports Collection, in the subject areas of Homeland Security/Terrorism and Health Law and Policy. Examples of some recently added titles (with publication dates):
Congress's Contempt Power: Law, History, Practice, and Procedure 7/24/07
Extraterritorial Application of American Criminal Law 9/10/07
Presidential Claims of Executive Privilege: History, Law, Practice & Recent Developments 9/17/07
U.S. Arms Sales to Pakistan 11/8/07
The collection can be browsed by subject area or date.

Tuesday 27 November 2007

1Ls get full access to Lexis and Westlaw

On Dec. 1 the 1L Lexis and Westlaw accounts will be switched to “full access”. What does this mean? Up until now they’ve only been able to access the information in these databases with the precise citation for a desired document. So, for example, to read the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision they'd have to know that the citation for the case is 93 S. Ct. 705. Now they can search for cases by party name(s); search for legislation by the popular name of the law (Megan’s Law will get 110 Stat. 1345) and search both primary and secondary sources by keyword, author, title, subject, etc. In other words they can do anything we can do in Lexis and Westlaw. Problems or questions can be referred to Susanna or to one of the Lexis or Westlaw representatives.

Stat-USA: government info on the US economy

The director of Stat-USA (a service of the US Department of Commerce) posted a reminder on the gov-docs listserv that their website is a great one-stop source for lots of useful statistical information about the US economy - including the latest figures on general economic indicators, housing and construction, monetary policy, employment, and international trade. If you know the statistics you want, there is also an extensive spreadsheet with a schedule of the release dates for over a thousand Principal Federal Economic Indicators.

Internet filtering information

Filtering Facts is a newly improved website maintained by David Burt, a former librarian with professional interest in internet filtering (his concern about protecting children from pornography on the Internet led him to start Filtering Facts, a nonprofit organization that encourages libraries to voluntarily adopt filters). The website is an excellent reference resource for anything related to internet filtering and filtering software. It includes a legal page with exhaustive coverage of US legislation and caselaw involving internet filtering. There is also a library policy page that has a list of many public libraries that use Internet filtering software, including links to all the library internet policies online. In addition there is a lot of information about internet filtering and filtering software, including research and legal papers about filtering software and reviews of filtering software products.

Monday 26 November 2007

Thanksgiving statistics from the government

The Free Government Information blog has an entertaining post of Thanksgiving statistics available from the government. For example: 1 billion pounds: Total pumpkin production of major pumpkin-producing states in 2006. Illinois led the country by producing 492 million pounds of the vined orange gourd.

Lecture Browser

Technology Review has a fascinating report about how researchers at MIT have developed the Lecture Browser (RealPlayer required), a search tool that lets users search the library of online video lectures at MIT by keyword. Using the Lecture Browser you can locate a lecture video and pinpoint the segment of that lecture that interests you without having to go through the whole video.

Lexpionage: espying new words and phrases

Wordspy is a useful website for language lovers - it's a site dedicated to tracking new words and phrases and their meanings. According to the website, they track "new terms that have appeared multiple times in newspapers, magazines, books, Web sites, and other recorded sources." For example, the top new term today is listed as:
Cyber Monday n. The Monday after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, when online retailers reportedly experience a surge in purchases.
The entry also includes citations for use of the term and the earliest usage of the term.
Hat tip to beSpacific.

New book to be authored by Justice Scalia

The Legal Times reports that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is co-authoring a book with Bryan Garner (editor of Black's Law Dictionary) on the art of persuading judges, both orally and in written briefs. The tentative title of the book, which will be published by West, is Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges. According to Justice Scalia “The object of the book is to make available, in a compact and (we hope) readable format, what we think to be the best advice on how to argue a case. It covers both brief-writing and oral argument. And it includes both advice from modern sources and advice from ancient sources adapted to modern American circumstances. We hope it will be helpful to the bar; if so, it will benefit the bench as well.”

Friday 23 November 2007

Allegeny County real estate website

Just as we were leaving home for Thanksgiving we heard on the radio that the county council voted to remove the 'search by name' option from the Allegheny County real estate website. Drat.

Tuesday 20 November 2007

Turkey Day talking points

As the family gathers 'round the table on Thursday, librarians can be prepared for the usual questions (Read any good books lately? Are books becoming extinct?) and converse knowledgeably and intelligently with friends and family by checking out a few links:
Are Books on the way out? :
The BIG BIG news is Amazon's Kindle. Read the press release, and read about it in the Chronicle, PC World, the ZDNet review - and don't forget to visit Amazon where you can read about it AND buy it if you want.
also check out The new Sony e-reader: a review from ArsTechnica
About e-ink and e-paper
20 places to find public domain e-books ...
When asked for book recommendations, I'm pleased to have two solid ones that are appropriate for pretty much anyone. Both are good reads about the joys of reading. The first is Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones, which was on the Booker Prize short list this year. ("in its exploration of how literature can bring joy amid great suffering, Mister Pip is a heartwarming and worthwhile coming-of-age novel. ") The second is The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett ("a perfect gem... that celebrates the pleasure of reading."). They'll warm the cockles of any library-lover's heart.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday 18 November 2007

Jack Bauer circa 1994

The previously unaired 1994 pilot for the TV show 24.

US-China Security Economic Review report

The U.S. China and Security Economic Review Commission released its 2007 report yesterday. While the full report won't be posted on their site until Monday Nov 19th several parts are available on their website now, including the Intro (which gives the good news/bad news view)the Executive summary and the Commission's Recommendations. The report cites Chinese progress in certain areas but describes some negative trends including a retreat by China from market-based economic principles, the growth of China’s information control regime, and the use by China of espionage to acquire military and industrial technologies; the report also offers 42 recommendations for congressional action.

hat tip to G. Marlatt, Homeland Security Digital Library Content Manager

Friday 16 November 2007

Fair Use of DVD's

There's an article in Inside Higher Ed. reporting that the Society for Cinema and Media Studies has published a new set of best-practices guidelines for fair use of media DVD's for professors who use media for educational purposes in classes that rely on films, television shows and media clips.

Fast Case caselaw in the public domain

Good news travels fast. On Wednesday Carl Malamud of and of and Lisa Miller of Fleishman-Hillard/Fastcase, Inc. sent out a press release announcing FastCase - and the story was picked up by the New York Times and Corey Doctorow at Boing Boing - and soon everyone was talking about it. What is Fast Track doing? They will release a large and free archive of federal case law, including all Courts of Appeals decisions from 1950 to the present and all Supreme Court decisions since 1754. The archive will be public domain and usable by anyone for any purpose.
Free caselaw online is a big deal. As Elmer Masters, the Internet developer at CALI said on the listserv, "Finding case law on the web has always been a crap shoot. It is all over the place, in
different formats, and coverage is haphazard. The release ...of all of this material in a single, uniform collection is an incredible boon to anyone looking for that case law or trying to build tools that use case law.
You can see a preview of the collection or search the preview collection with a Google custom search engine that Elmer made.
Thanks to everyone who sent me info about the collection, and especially to Elmer and the other teknoids.

Let the sun shine in...

There's an interesting website called that "was created to advance the values of open and accountable government." The site gathers government documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and other public disclosure laws and publishes them online. Once you register with the site (free registration) you can review and comment on any of the available documents, adding your "insights and expertise."
The website is a project of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). Thanks to Valerie Weiss, Faculty Services Librarian, for alerting me to this website.

GPO online guide to members of Congress

The helpful Government Printing Office has produced its first online guide to members of the 110th Congress, intended to be a single point of access for Member information from several different official sources.
Hat tip to the Resource Shelf.

Friday fun

It's snowing outside. Good time to snuggle up to your monitor and watch the Greatest Hits of online video, brought to you by PC World; they're all here, from Diet Coke and Mentos to The Christmas Lights House.

Wednesday 14 November 2007

Fed. Rules of Civil Procedure changes

After a flurry of posting on the lawlib listserv about the changes in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (see Saturday's Barco 2.0), a helpful post from West noted that they've created a helpful 5-minute video on their website: Major Federal Civil Procedural Rules Changes Effective Dec. 1st, 2007 . In the video, Steven F. Baicker-McKee of Babst, Calland, Clements & Zomnir in Pittsburgh and Professor William Janssen of the U. of Charleston discuss the dramatic amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and why every major rule and form is changing on December 1, 2007. They are the authors of the Federal Civil Rules Handbook published by West just in time for the rule changes. All the rule changes are in their book, along with all the new forms, annotated commentary, and a "roadmap" at the end of each rule indicating the Style Project changes and the non-stylistic (substantive) changes to the rules.

Legal Technology

I’m “attending” an AALL webinar tomorrow afternoon (11/15) at 2:00 entitled “A Law Library Q & A on Legal Technology” that promises to provide the latest info on the technology that practicing lawyers are using for their day-to-day work. We are invited to ask questions, so if anyone at Pitt Law has questions they'd like to pose just email me.

Prisoner Locator Database

The irrepressable Alaskan librarian Daniel Cornwall continues to improve the State Agency database wiki that he started,with the assistance of many librarians all over the US. He has started to create subject pages for the database where we can collect links to agencies in all 50 states that provide information on a certain topic. He has created a page of Prisoner Locator info by state and asks for help with adding to the information and providing annotations if you can. He also links to an unannotated list of state prisoner locators put together at USA dot gov.
As the point person for Pennsylvania in this project, I can tell you that this is truly a collaborative project and if anyone wants to contribute ideas or information to the wiki it would be great. The "state agencies by subject area" is something that we can build that would really be a great service to librarians everywhere. If you're not sure how to wiki just email me and I'll be happy to help.

Tuesday 13 November 2007

Street view of Pittsburgh

Google maps has added Pittsburgh to the list of cities that can be seen in "street view", which means you can cruise around the 'burgh virtually and look at the whole city in photos - buildings etc.
note: another cool new thing from Google Maps - send a Geo Greeting , which spells out your greeting message in buildings.

GSA publishing collection about the internet and government

News from the GovDocs listserv poster Steven Clift that the GSA is publishing a collection of papers about “How E-Government is Changing Society and Strengthen Democracy.” This is especially interesting because according to it is the first time a major govt. agency is publishing something about e-government.
The GSA website also has a list of "Who's Who in e-government and IT".

Monday 12 November 2007


News from Westlaw: WestCheck is now compatible with Firefox. WestCheck is the nifty little tool from West that automatically extracts citations and applies KeyCite to citations from the documents you type; retrieves KeyCite and Table of Authorities results; and retrieves Westlaw full-text documents using Find. You have to download it onto your computer, and now you can use Firefox to do so.

The RIA Checkpoint tax database

We now have access to RIA Checkpoint via IP range (i.e. at all law school computers including via the wireless network in the law school).
However, in order to use the database you MUST REGISTER with RIA (everyone in the law school is eligible to register). And you must be at a computer in the Barco law building when you register (using the lawschool wireless is ok).
Once you register, you can access RIA from OFF-CAMPUS (any computer, anywhere) using your RIA username and password.
Here’s what to do:
1. Go to
You should see “University of Pittsburgh” in large blue letters at the top of the page (meaning the IP address of the computer you’re using is recognized).
2. Check the box to agree to the license terms (a popup box with the terms will appear).
3. Fill in the boxes with your first and last names, email address and the semester you wish to use the database.
4. RIA will immediately send your PERMANENT username which will be in the format UNP60-XXXXXX(6 random letters chosen by RIA)
and a TEMPORARY password to your email address.
5. You must then login to RIA using the PERMANENT username and the TEMPORARY password.
6. Before you can use RIA you must choose your own unique password. (Password rules: must be 7-20 characters, at least 1 letter and 1 number.)
NOTE that your username remains the one RIA assigned you.
7. You should then be given access to the database.
8. In the future, go directly to and log in with your RIA-assigned username and your own password.

Questions? Contact Susanna Leers.
Updated 11/11/07


Yesterday we were watching TV and my husband was "multitasking" which means he was working on his gorgeous new red Dell laptop... or trying to work, because it came with the Windows Vista OS and he's constantly having problems (the fact that it also came with Office 2007 doesn't help) and one of the new Vista-skewering Mac v. PC ads came on. Hilarious.

Sunday 11 November 2007

Google sorting search results

Pandia Search Engine News reports that Google has started to sort search results into categories. The example they give is that on the search results page for "cafe con leche" there is a heading "Results for cafe con leche recipe" with links to recipe websites. Sounds promising.

Sunday fun

via Larry David takes on an annoying bluetooth talker.

Saturday 10 November 2007

Social networks for scholars

There's an interesting little story in the Chronicle of Higher Ed's Wired Campus blog about how scholars are building online social networks - and these allow users to “remix” content posted to the site by others (with everyone involved getting proper credit, one hopes), creating new, custom publications that the social networking site will then market, with all editors and authors sharing in any revenues.

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

The newly restyled Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCPs) will become effective on December 1, 2007. The changes are mostly stylistic and intended to carry forward the substantive meaning of the old rules, but the revisions have resulted in changes to both the language and numbering of the rules. The restyled rules are available on the U.S. Court’s website at
Hat tip to Gloria Jean Glasbrenner for posting this info on the law-lib listserv.


I fell out of love with Photoshop a few years ago, I'm sad to say. When I started using it a decade or so ago I was completely enamored - the power! the amazing things it lets me do to images! But it's so big and complicated (not to mention expensive) that I found myself using simpler image editors most of the time; and Gimp, which is free, keeps getting better.
So I'm happy to see that the folks at Adobe are working on it, according to this blogpost by a senior product manager.

Browser options

This morning CNET notes that Mozilla Firefox, everyone's favorite Explorer alternative, is taking up more space and working more sluggishly lately. They offer a list of the five favorite browser alternatives to Firefox. I've been using Avant Browser (#3 on the list) for years. Why? Because I like it. And because I can never remember if the Mozilla browser is called Firefox or Foxfire.

October Acquisitions

The new books acquired by Barco in October are now listed on our website by Author and by Subject. Faculty should email Susanna Leers if they'd like to check out any of the new books.

Friday 9 November 2007

Copyright duration chart update

Peter Hirtle, who is the intellectual property officer at the Cornell University Library, sent out an announcement that he's recently updated the very useful handydandy Copyright Duration Chart on the Cornell library website. The update has added two new sections : published and unpublished sound recordings, and architectural works. Other small changes have been made to clarify some of the problems other readers have identified. Thanks Peter.

The 1L Plaint

Friday fun? Remember to be kind to our students - especially the 1L's - as exams loom.

Animal law resources

A lengthy article about the growing field of Animal Law in the ABA weekly newsletter points to an excellent online resource on the topic: This website is maintained by David Favre, a law professor at Michigan State University, and has comprehensive links to caselaw, statutes, books, podcasts, and answers to faq's for both attorneys and laypeople.

"laptops are pedagogical nuisances"

An article in the ABA Journal Weekly Newsletter discusses - yet again -the idea of banning laptops in law school classrooms and presents the spectrum of opinions on the topic. According to the article Duke Law has abandoned its laptop requirement because so many professors were banning laptops in their classrooms.

Thursday 8 November 2007

Refworks now available university-wide

Refworks is a web-based research management, writing, and collaboration tool similar to EndNote that is now available university-wide. ULS has announced that training will be offered in mid-November, and I am currently learning about RefWorks and putting together information on how RefWorks can be used by our faculty and students. Unfortunately RefWorks doesn’t do Bluebook citation format.
If anyone has used Refworks for their scholarly research and writing please let me know your opinion about it.

Defining Gender database

The database Defining Gender, 1450-1910, from Adam Matthew Publishers, is now available throughout the university. This is a collection of original source material from 21 British and European libraries and should prove useful to researchers interested in history, literature, sociology, education, and cultural studies from a gendered perspective.
The collection includes manuscripts, printed works and illustrations that are indexed to provide accessibility by person and subject. Documents include ephemera, pamphlets, college records and exam papers, commonplace books, diaries, periodicals, letters, ledgers, account books, educational practice and pedagogy, government papers from the Home Office and Metropolitan police, illustrated writings on anatomy, midwifery, art and fashion, manuscript journals, poetry, novels, ballads, drama, receipt books, literary manuscripts, travel writing, and conduct and advice literature.

ULS database trial: Islamic studies

From Hillman: we now have a trial of Oxford Islamic Studies Online. ULS is interested in feedback. From the publisher's description: “Oxford Islamic Studies Online offers unrivaled online access to the history and culture of Islam and provides full-text access to great Oxford reference and scholarly works, including The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, The Oxford History of Islam, The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, two classic interpretations of the Qur'an, a Concordance of the Qur'an, What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam, and the forthcoming Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World (due to publish in 2008).”

New on Lexis

The LexisNexis lawschool page has a new look and offers a new feature that is really useful: Search by Topic or Headnote. Go into the Research System and look at the Search tab at the top of the page – click on the option “by Topic or Headnote”. I love the way this new search works. It lets you drill down into the area of law you’re interested in, and search across Cases, Statutes, Analysis and more. For example, choose the topic “Computer and Internet Law” and then choose one of the relevant topics, like “Privacy and Security” and find specific topics that are relevant. Check it out.

Tuesday 6 November 2007

Database accessiblity for the visually impaired

There was an interesting post on the ERIL (electronic resources in libraries) listserv today. A librarian who is very interested in accessibility wrote that when looking at databases we should ask whether the pdf's in the database are "locked" or "unlocked". If they're locked you're not able to use the Text selection tool to copy any text. But more importantly, if they're locked they are not accessible to patrons with vision disabilities . A locked PDF is an image file with inaccessible text. An unlocked PDF has text that is accessible, that can be manipulated by screen readers designed for the print disabled. You can read her thoughts on open access on her blog, poetic economics. Another librarian added that librarians should look for databases that have multiple full text options, such as PDF and HTML because PDFs--even accessible ones--can be quite problematic. He pointed us to an article on website accessiblity for the visually impaired.

Federal Gov. information

GPO Access, the website of the General Printing Office, is undergoing a transformation. The new website, which is being developed in phases, is called "FDSys" (pronounced "fed sis"). FDsys is intended to make it easy for federal agencies to create and submit content to the website that can then be preserved, managed and delivered upon request. When it is completed, FDsys will include all Federal Government documents within the scope of GPO’s Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), whether printed or electronic. Content will include text, graphics, audio, and video files. It will be available for online searching and viewing, downloading and printing, and as document masters for conventional and on-demand printing.
A summary powerpoint presentation of the development of Fedsys is on the GPO website. There's also a FDsys blog where you can keep up to date and share ideas.

How the heck are they going to organize all this digital information so we can find it, you may be asking. Well, they are also testing various "naming structures" to identify information that will be entered into the bib records. If you're a cataloging librarian, or just love organizing stuff, you can check out the naming structures and comment on them (by Nov. 26) on the FDLP website.

I've added a page of useful federal forms links to our library website. If there are forms that aren't there let me know and I'll add them.

Hat tip to Pat Roncevich for the info about FDsys and the federal forms.

Monday 5 November 2007

WSJ blogs freely available

The Wall Street Journal remains resolute in restricting its online content to those who pay for subscriptions. However, the wsj has been quietly building a collection of blogs - available to one and all -on favorite topics including the Law Blog, Business Technology Blog, and Energy Roundup Blog. Most recently, The Daily Fix blog , featuring reporting on the best sports reporting on the web, was launched today with a lengthy report on Sunday's epic Patriots v. Colts battle.

Has the internet affected offline reading?

The Center for the Digital Future at USC is conducting a longitudinal research project on how computers, the internet and related technologies affect families and society. Their 2007 Digital Future Report is now available online and to make it more digestible here's they will highlight a specific focus area every other Monday. Today's highlight focuses on the question: How has the use of the internet changed the amount of time you spend reading books, newspapers and magazines off-line?

NSSE Annual Report 2007

NSSE, the National Survey of Student Engagement, has released its annual report for 2007. The report, a summary, and more information is available on the NSSE website. NSSE, established in 1999, gathers information from colleges and universities nationwide about student participation in programs and activities provided for their learning and development. NSSE hopes to provide an estimate of how undergraduates spend their time and what they gain from attending college. It was developed in part to provide more meaningful measures than those used by US News to rank colleges. Though it addresses undergraduate education directly, it is also very pertinent to education at the graduate level.

The future of scholarly communication

With technology changing the way so many forms of communication are changing, the Association of College and Research Libraries held a meeting last July to to "collectively brainstorm the evidence needed to inform strategic planning for scholarly communication programs". They have now published an online paper that discusses the results of that meeting and details a range of research questions related to new forms of scholarly communication.
The participants in the meeting identified eight major themes that characterize the transformations occurring in scholarly research and publishing:
The Impact and Implications of Cyberinfrastructure
Changing Organizational Models
How Scholars Work
Authorship and Scholarly Publishing
Value and Value Metrics of Scholarly Communications
Adoption of Successful Innovations
Preservation of Critical Materials
Public Policy and Legal Matters
The paper suggests and encourages further research into these eight themes and closes with an invitation to everyone in the academic community to join the conversation by posting to the ACRL wiki created for the topic: Establishing a Research Agenda for Scholarly Communication: A Call for Community Engagement.

Sunday 4 November 2007

Build it and they will read?

There's a report in this week's City Paper that some dedicated citizens in the borough of Millvale - best-known for its French bakery and its frequent floods - would like to establish a library. They think that the lack of a library contributes to Millvale's depressed status (less than 5 percent of Millvale residents have a college degree) and they're trying to build community support and collect donations to build one. They've got a website where you can find out more.
It reminds me of one of my favorite childhood books, Emily's Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary. Emily is a little girl who lives in a small town in Oregon in the early 20th century when libraries are luxuries few towns can afford. Emily dreams of a town library and with her spunk and imagination she makes one happen.

Saturday 3 November 2007

Economic Globalization news

This month's Liber8 newsletter focuses on economic globalization and has links to free data resources for global economic information. Liber8, "an economic information portal for librarians and students", is a nicely designed and easily navigated portal that has links to various international, national and regional economic free data resources including, for example, "How Much is That" where you can find out how the value of a dollar in 1950 compares with today's dollar and see the daily closing values of the Dow Jones Average every day since 1885.

Notable Quotes ideas?

Fred Shapiro, Yale law librarian and editor of the acclaimed Yale Book of Quotations, recently posted on the lawlib listserv. He says that he compiles an annual list of quotations for Reuters as an update to his book, and he welcomes "any suggestions of famous or otherwise notable quotations uttered or published in 2007". Quotations can come from politics, popular culture, sports, or any other field" and can be emailed to Fred.

National Book Awards: you vote

The Library and Information Science News blog points us to the Publisher's Weekly poll on whom you expect will win the National Book Award prizes in the 4 main categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People's Literature.
Which reminds me, the Booker Prize was awarded while I was in China, so I completely missed it. And the Prize went to .... The Gathering by Anne Enright, a novel described as "exhilaratingly bleak".

First Sunday in November: Fall Back

In my household, my husband is in charge of the clocks. This is partly because he has to be at work by 7 am and partly because his sense of time is so lame that a number of years ago the OR nurses chipped in and bought him a superatomic clock that is somehow operated by the US Government to ensure that it is always precisely correct to the micromillisecond. But last Sunday I said hey, it's the last Sunday in October, weren't we supposed to Fall Back? I was told that the Government decided to change the Fall Back day to November. My first reaction was that this is a great idea, though too late for me - Congress finally realized that it's much better to Trick or Treat when it's light out. But then I heard that no, this isn't about Halloween, it's somehow supposed to be an energy saving move. Right, whatever. But do take the opportunity to read about Daylight Savings Time and peruse the charming website of the Time and Frequency Division, National Institute of Standards and Technology, where you can set your clocks to the official US time.
You can also read one person's opinion about why the energy argument is deeply flawed in a blogpost by The Numbers Guy at the Wall St. Journal.

Friday 2 November 2007

Surveillance librarians?

The Washington Post and the Chronicle of Higher Ed. Wired Campus report today that the Association of Research Libraries, the American Library Association, and the Association of American Universities are lobbying against measures in the House and Senate that would grant federal intelligence agencies greater latitude in gathering data on library patrons. Draft House and Senate bills would allow the government to compel any "communications service provider" to provide access to e-mails and other electronic information within the United States as part of federal surveillance of non-U.S. citizens outside the country. The library groups are lobbying to have the bill amended to make clear that the term "communications provider" does not include libraries.

WL and Lexis battle it out (just in fun)

"I'm just going to make an arbitrary decision the night before my major memo is due"

Hat tip once again to Joe Hodnicki at the Law Librarian Blog.

Wednesday 31 October 2007

Digitization: Yale and Microsoft

The Yale university libraries have struck a deal with Microsoft to digitize 100,000 out-of-copyright books in the Yale collection. The books' content will then be accessible to Microsoft's Live search, according to the press report.

Mwahhaha halloween scary downloads

In honor of Halloween CNet has a video about the Top Five scariest downloads including the disgusting Food and Flies. A little lame, but what do you expect from geeks?

Martindale Hubbell losing cachet?

Recently on the law librarian listserv a firm librarian announced that her New York firm of 200 attorneys has decided to stop listing the firm in Martindale Hubbell "given the high cost of the Martindale Hubbell listing." She proceeded to ask if other law firms are considering dropping their MH listing, and today she has posted the responses she received: "3 firm librarians ... had made the decision to drop MH. The firms represent varying size ranges – an international practice of 1400 attorneys, a national firm of 700 attorneys, and Midwest firm of 120 attorneys.
Five other firms of varying sizes and demographics reported that they are considering dropping their listings. Attorneys in those firms express concerns about losing MH ratings and about missing out on the portion of the market that still views Martindale as THE directory of choice. Some of those firms are trying to negotiate better rates with Martindale, and most are doing cost benefit analysis to help with the decision making process." The original post explained that the firm's marketing department had analyzed how people found the firm and that they were getting more results from web searches than from MH.


Friend and colleague Jeff Wisniewski has a terrific article in Internet Reference Services Quarterly (you can see the abstract online here, but the full article is only available in print at the moment - Barco has a subscription). Jeff is the Web Services librarian for the University Library System. In his article Jeff explains in depth how ULS has implemented federated searching and customized the federated search system we use (for non-librarians, "federated search" means having a single search interface that can search multiple databases at the same time). Pitt's federated search is named Zoom and uses federated search technology developed and patented by Webfeat.
Jeff's article about the redesigned ULS website appeared in the University Times in July.

Tuesday 30 October 2007

WPLLA inspires art

According to an article from Fayette County, the art that adorns the Fayette County courthouse law library- created by lawyers, county employees, and other "courthouse artists" - was inspired in part by a September visit from WPLLA.

Friday 26 October 2007

Mandate for public access to NIH-funded research

The Alliance for Taxpayer Access announced today that passage of S. 1710 - the 2008 Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Bill. The bill includes a requirement that NIH-funded research be freely available to the public, and amendments 3416 & 3417 - which would have made this voluntary rather than required - were not brought up for consideration. NIH-funded researchers will be required to deposit copies of eligible manuscripts into the National Library of Medicine's online database, PubMed. Articles will be made publicly available no later than a year after publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
For any of you active in the ALA (especially the Government Documents section) or the ARL, you probably know that there was concern that the public access to these documents would be limited by amendments to Appropriations Bill, and the passage of the Bill is cause for rejoicing.

1L concepts set to rock music

Josh Keeson, a student at Boalt law school, has an album available on iTunes called "The Law of Rock Vol. 1". The 5 songs on the album are entitled "Contributory Negligence," "Promissory Estoppel," "Raffles v. Wichelhaus," "Sherwood v. Walker," and... wait for it..."Mens Rea "(sample lyrics: Ohhh, mens rea, it's a guilty mind. The girl gives me mens rea because she's so fine.")
I hope there are many more volumes!
Hat tip to Joe Hodnicki, at Law Librarian Blog.

Library of Congress called on the carpet

Following a report from the Library of Congress's inspector general that was reported in the Washington Post, James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress, was summoned to a hearing before the House Administration Committee on Wednesday. Lawmakers asked questions about why the LOC can't find at least 10 percent of their general collection and raised questions about the agency's inventory, funding, security and priorities.
About one-sixth of the books, monographs and bound periodicals at the LOC weren't where they were supposed to be because of flaws in the systems for shelving and retrieving materials. Officials at the library say they believe most of the missing materials are misplaced, not stolen or lost. A review found that 4 percent were either on nearby shelves, checked out to the public or marked with the wrong call numbers, leaving nearly 13% unaccounted for.
Committee members suggested that the LOC should implement a system similar to that used by Wal-Mart or Target for keeping track of inventory, saying that if they were missing 10% of inventory they would be out of business. Billington responded that ""We are a working library, not a storehouse. It requires a different approach," and Deanna Marcum, associate librarian for library services, added that a library doesn't have the same resources as corporations.
Since 2002, the Library has been working to update the system by electronically tagging each item. Those items under the upgraded system can be scanned and run through a computer, updating their status every time they are checked out or moved to a new facility. Originally slated for completion by 2010, the agency has completed the transition for only 20 percent of the 17 million items. Billington noted the unprecendented size of the effort, and committee members agreed that more staff and money would help.
Several witnesses from the American Bar Association at the hearing also brought up inventory problems at the LOC's Law Library. Former Rep. Bill Orton (D-Utah), a member of the ABA standing committee on the Law Library of Congress, testified that the Library cannot catalogue, classify and shelve items quickly enough because of funding shortages. But while the larger Library may find it hard to get any increases for its inventory process, committee members hinted that they would work to solve this problem in a new way: a partnership of public and private funds.

Thursday 25 October 2007

classrooms and students

University classrooms - the view from the seats.

This is a short video summarizing some of the most important characteristics of students today. Created by sociology prof. Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University.

S. California law libraries

In case you're not on the law library listserv, there is a blog reporting on how the wildfires are affecting southern California law libraries. And both Lawdotcom and the Wall St. Journal law blog have information about how the fires have affected the legal community there.

Apple v Microsoft

Today there's a lot of buzz about the big launch, tomorrow, of the new Apple operating system called "Leopard". The big event is happening at 6pm tomorrow evening. Today there are reviews online - Walt Mossberg gives Leopard an enthusiastic endorsement, saying that "while it is an evolutionary, not a revolutionary, release, I believe it builds on Apple's quality advantage over Windows. In my view, Leopard is better and faster than Vista, with a set of new features that make Macs even easier to use." Computerworld gives an in-depth review of all the new changes and features, and PCWorld is running a poll on whether your next computer will be a Mac. Meanwhile, there have been reports that Microsoft has been changing the Automatic Updates settings in Windows XP and Vista without telling users or getting their approval.

Wednesday 24 October 2007

Electronic nose, eye

OK, this doesn't have anything to do with law libraries, but guess what, Cal Tech has announced that the Caltech Nose Team (and wouldn't you love to get one of their team uniforms) has a working model of an electronic nose. According to the article "The Caltech Nose has shown the ability to function well in normal room temperatures and varied setting. It can detect an odor and then by robotics turn its attention to the odor or vapor it identifies as a concern." I expect librarians can think of ways this might be useful to us. :-)

And another thing: Another report that scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) have developed an electronic chip that is a step towards the design of retinal prostheses that will come close to mimicking human vision.

Tuesday 23 October 2007

Historical Newspapers database expands coverage

Good news from ULS: The Historical Los Angeles Times (1881-1986) and The Historical Washington Post (1877-1991) have been added to Pitt's collection of ProQuest Historical Newspapers. These databases contain images of the original newspaper articles and photos (availability of photos depends on copyright ownership). The Los Angeles Times provides in-depth analysis of the development of California and the Pacific Rim, a focus on immigration issues and the development of the American West, coverage of the early days of the film industry, and unique coverage of Native American culture and society. The Washington Post provides comprehensive political and government reporting, distinguished opinions and editorials, photo essays, and investigative reporting.
We have had the Washington Post available via Lexis with coverage beginning from January 1, 1977 through current (Westlaw has only the Business Section for the past 90 days) and the LA Times available via both Lexis and Westlaw From January 01, 1985 through current. The historic archives are also available on the WaPo and LATimes websites on a pay-per-article basis.

Textbook distributor v. price comparison service

The Follett Higher Education Group Inc., the largest distributor of textbooks to campus bookstores across the country, has filed a complaint against Ugenie, a website that offers "cheap college textbooks - ISBN search with price comparison" according to a story in the Wired blog.
The complaint was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (case 1:07-cv-05943) and claims that Ugenie is violating the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (17 USC 1201 et seq.) and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 USC 1030) by "systematically and surreptitiously" using a "bot" to "misappropriate... extremely valuable data" from Follett's computer network.

Monday 22 October 2007

playing catchup

After a week+ away it's time to catch up with news of the world in general and topics of interest to legal researchers in particular. Some mentionworthy items (in no particular order):

- Blogging has spread almost all the way to the top of the federal government's executive branch according to a report in Business Week. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt and Michael Chertoff at the department of Homeland Security are the first two members of President Bush's Cabinet who are blogging.

- An article about the "Teaching the Teachers: Effective Instruction in Legal Research" conference held at the Tarlton Law Library at the U. of Texas last weekend reports that national bar examiners are likely to add bar exam questions testing legal research skills. Law school programs should ensure that their students can navigate both a law library and a Web site.

- The Boalt Hall School of Law, the law school at the University of California at Berkeley, is changing its name to the UC Berkeley School of Law in January. Apparently a "branding consultant" was paid $25,000 to help choose the new name.

- For librarians out there, there's an online "radio show" called LibVibe that gathers library news from around the world into a daily broadcast.

Wednesday 10 October 2007

WI court system training law librarians?

The Wisconsin Court System is helping to train librarians in WI public libraries to become knowledgeable about the law so they can better assist patrons who are representing themselves in court, according to Library Journal. More than 50% of litigants in family court in Wisconsin are pro se and the court system wants public librarians to be equipped to help them. The Court system is holding workshops where local and state court officials, lawyers, and the state law librarian make presentations on the range of resources available, including how to research statutes and laws, find information in court offices and at the state law library web site, or download and fill out forms, many of which were developed specifically for self-representing litigants.

Thomson and Reuters

The New York Times is reporting that the EU intends to carefully scrutinize Thomson's plan to purchase Reuters because the sale raises competition concerns for the supply of financial information.

Report on Iraq

There is an interesting and informative report on Iraq from the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) with charts and graphs depicting topics such as: sectarian & ethnic divisions, oil fields, weeklyattack trends by type, high profile and IED attacks, major threats andthe state of Al Qaeda, insurgent concentrations, US aid status, crudeoil production and more. Hat tip to the Homeland Security Digital Librarian.

Monday 8 October 2007

Current awareness

The Tarlton Law Library at the University of Texas in Austin offers a "current awareness" service for several areas of law: copyright law, capital punishment, domestic violence, and actual innocence. Law review articles and other materials are studied by the library staff who look for pertinent articles about the selected area of law, then scan the first page of relevant articles for online viewing. The website explains that "the availability of the first page of the article should better enable readers to know if they are interested in reading the whole article."

WWW milestones

PC World has an online article that chronicles "The 16 greatest moments in web history". They include milestones like the first sale on eBay (Sept. 3, 1995), Matt Drudge breaking the Monica Lewinsky story, and the beginning of Craig's list. The authors also ask readers to post any important moments that they might have missed.

Sunday 7 October 2007

Law Firm Authors Online Treatise

The law firm of Proskauer Rose has published a 28 chapter e-treatise on international litigation and arbitration and made it available for free online. Proskauer on International Litigation and Arbitration provides guidance on managing, resolving, and avoiding international litigations/arbitrations and cross-border regulatory investigations and proceedings. It was written by 50 lawyers in Proskauer's international practice group. You can search it, download it, email links or excerpts, copy and paste, etc. And the authors plan to update it - they see at as a dynamic work that will benefit from the comments and questions of users.

Saturday 6 October 2007

Help! desk

Computerworld has an article with links to the "ten funniest help desk videos" from YouTube. If you've ever thought about taking your computer to India so the guy at the other end of the phone connection can SEE what you're dealing with...
I'd seen a couple of them before and frankly I just don't get the obsession with Star Wars; but there are still some laughs to be had.

I see OCLC

There's a post with the amusing title "In the Hall of the Mountain King" on a librarian blog. The title refers to a behind-the-scenes look at OCLC - the librarian's Mecca - in Dublin Ohio. More specifically the author took a tour of the data storage facilities there. 90 million bibliographic records and 10 Petabytes of storage space! Be still my heart!

West Headnote of the Day

Our friend Nikki has sent us notification of a new West service, the result of a presentation at this year's AALL, called Headnote of the Day. From the West blurb, "Every day, we dip into our archive of more than 24 million West headnotes to bring you one that's especially humorous, profound or otherwise interesting. IMPORTANT: The West Headnote of the Day is offered as a diversion, and the point of law it contains may no longer be good law." You can take a look at the HNOD website and decide if you want to sign up for the service.

Wednesday 3 October 2007

HDTV has unforseen results

There was a funny article in the New Yorker this past week about books in movies. Now, as a librarian I freely admit that I look at the books that appear as props and scenery. I notice that Law and Order has appropriate-looking (Atlantic Reporter? Federal Supplement?) books in judges' chambers and lawyers' offices. I also sometimes idly wonder who gets to pick the books - and as it turns out, it's a little cottage industry. The Strand bookstore in New York will build imaginary libraries and reading rooms for movie and TV sets. And apparently because of the detail you can see in high definition TV's they have to be extra careful now to select books that not only LOOK right, they have to have the right titles and publication dates.
The cost of these pretend libraries ranges from $10 a linear foot for "random hardbacks" to $75 a linear foot for a "leather looking" set of books. Still, it's cheaper than the faux book panels that you can buy for decorating your library - even on sale, they're $119 for about a linear foot.

Software nostalgia

PC World had an article this morning called Before They Spoiled the Software - very timely for me, because I spent a couple of hours last night helping an unhappy owner of the new Office 2007 figure out how it works. PC World lists 13 software programs that were better in earlier versions, in their opinion. But the best part is that they have links to sites where you can actually find and download the OLD versions of software that you loved -, and The magazine also has a poll where you can vote for software that you thought was wonderful, before they fixed it.

Student evaluations of faculty

There's an interesting article in Social Science Quarterly this month that reports the results of a study of bias in student evaluations of faculty. The article, Leveling the Playing Field: Should Student Evaluation Scores be Adjusted? by Michael A. McPherson and R. Todd Jewell presents some interesting findings:
  • teachers can "buy" better evaluation scores by inflating students' grade expectations
  • the teaching experience of instructors has an impact on evaluation scores, but this effect is largely an increase in the score of faculty who have received tenure
  • there is a bias against nonwhite faculty

Google update

I Google. Really I do. But it's not perfect, and one of the imperfections that I run into all the time is that I can't search by date. It's especially frustrating because most databases do have searching by date, and they have very flexible and usable searching by date and even arranging results by date ascending or descending.
So I was happy to see that the Advanced Search page now offers the ability to search by date. It's a limited ability - the date dropdown box offers the choices "past 24 hours, past week, past month, past 2 months, past 3 months, past six months, past year." But you can tweak this in the search URL. The date search parameter is "as_qdr=" , so you can change the value of as_qdr to custom intervals by adjusting the values of "as_qdr" parameter:
d[number] - past number of days (e.g.: d10)
w[number] - past number of weeks
y[number] - past number of years
So if you wanted to search for everything added to the internet about the Steelers in the past 3 days your search url would be .
They still have a long way to go but it's a start!