Thursday 31 May 2007

ULS database trials

During the month of June, ULS has arranged trials to 2 databases: Points of View Reference Center from EBSCO and Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center from ThomsonGale. If you check out these databases and have any opinions about them let me know - ULS is considering subscribing to one of the two.
Points of View Reference Center is described by the publisher as " a full-text database designed to provide students with a series of essays that present multiple sides of a current issue. "
User Id: upitt
Password: upitt
Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center is described as "a one-stop source for information on today's hottest social issues. (it contains) full-text magazine and newspaper articles, primary source documents, statistics, images and podcasts, and links to Websites. "
User Id: upitt_trial
Password: upitt_trial

Wednesday 30 May 2007

Apple announces iTunes U

Apple has announced the official opening of "iTunes U", a special section of the iTunes store where colleges and universities can put their digital content and make it available to students. Colleges and universities have been making their content available on iTunes for some time, but up until now you had to know it was there and search it out. The news is that with iTunes U anyone can easily see what lectures, videocasts, etc. are available at any university. Pitt Law is in there...

Summer Reading

The New York Times Book Review asks some writers if they've read any good books lately. This is a good place to start if you're looking for summer reading recommendations.

Firefox secrets (caution: 9 on the nerd scale)

If you use Firefox as your browser, and you like to fiddle with stuff on the computer, you may have noticed that the number of settings you can change under the "Options" tool is pretty small. A posting in Slashdot points out that there are many customizable settings in Firefox that don't show up in Options. An article in Computerworld gives a thorough explanation of how to go about changing various Firefox settings such as "Open search results in a new tab." Now you can customize Firefox to your heart's content.

Surface: the latest from Microsoft

Microsoft introduces its new product, Surface, on the web. It's kind of like the large touch-screen computer in room G46, only lying down and built into a coffee table.

Digitizing video & other "rich media" holdings for online use

PALINET organized a conference for librarians yesterday at Robert Morris University. A company called CDigix gave a presentation about their C-Labs program, aimed at academic libraries. C-Labs allows libraries to digitize their "rich media" holdings (videos, dvd's, podcasts, etc.) and make them available for academic usage online. Libraries that sign up for the program MUST send a hard copy of any media materials that they want to have digitized and an assurance that the library owns the hard copy. C-Labs then digitizes the material and provides academic libraries with everything they need to post and maintain this media online while complying with copyright laws. Digital rights management (DRM), encryption, licensing, distribution, authentication, and course management are all handled by the CDIGIX server provided to the library. Faculty and students can use the online media anytime, anywhere - as long as they are registered for the courses that use the media. Illegal downloading, copying, or emailing are prevented by the C-Labs software. It's a clever idea, and PALINET is negotiating consortium pricing with CDigix. Yale was the first user to test this product, and currently has over 1800 titles digitized; other schools, both large (the entire Univ. of MD system) and small (Mt. Holyoke) are signing on.
For more information about C-Labs, see the CDIGIX website, or ask Sallie or Susanna about the presentation.

Tuesday 29 May 2007

Google maps street view

Now Google Maps offers a 360-degree view of many streets in San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas, Denver and Miami, with other cities coming soon, according to ZD Net. Here's a screenshot of 620 W. 116th St. in New York, where I once lived. You can move the picture around to see buildings from different angles and zoom in or out.

Blog etiquette

PC World gives us "Ten Commandments" of blog and wiki etiquette. They also invite additional contributions to the list.

Google News and newspapers

Newspapers are still trying to figure out their relationship with Google News, according to a story in CNET News. Some newspapers question whether it makes business sense to let Google use their content for free. Others think that they need the online traffic that Google's links to their content provide. Google's stance is that they don't pay to index news content, and they are providing a service by indexing that content.

Sunday 27 May 2007

Sony's flexible, full-color display

The suspense builds at HeinOnline...

Hein's marketing department is certainly trying to keep us on the edges of our seats as we await the unveiling of HeinOnline's website redesign. This week's Hein email brings news of a new - and final - online video about the new website: "to see a sneak peek of what the HeinOnline home page will become, view our Final Sneak Peek video here:"
Also available is a pdf of The User's Guide to Navigating the New HeinOnline Interface and a PowerPoint presentation that illustrates the basic features and how to navigate within the new interface. Both can be found at
Although the email doesn't give an exact date, the new interface is supposed to be up and running when Hein sends out its monthly release information for May, so it should be soon!

ULS adds EU collection

There's a story in the Pgh. Tribune-Review this morning announcing that the EU depository collection from the Delegation of the European Commission to the US has been acquired by the ULS and will be available online as part of Pitt's Archive of European Integration. University Librarian Rush G. Miller is quoted as saying that the addition of this unique collection "continues our mission to aggressively acquire European Union documents and make them available to the public."

Friday 25 May 2007

Distorted letter recognition helps improve book digitization

Those clever folks at CMU have done it again. A CMU professor invented "Captcha" technology that has users recognize distorted letter/number sequences in order to log into blogs or websites - eliminating some spam. Now a team of CMU students has launched a service that is using the same technology to scan and digitize books that can't easily be digitized using conventional OCR (optical character recognition) technology. The service, launched Tuesday May 21, is called "ReCaptcha" and is already being used on 150 websites. The CMU project is using the technology to digitize books in the Internet Archive, a project building a digital library of cultural materials.

New SCOTUS database

We now have online access to the Gale database The Making Of Modern Law: U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832-1978 (description). This database contains nearly 11 million pages of official court filings - records and briefs from over 150,000 cases brought before the U.S. Supreme Court - offering the most complete digital collection of Supreme Court cases for this time period. It concentrates on the history of the Supreme Court from the final years of the court’s fourth chief justice, John Marshall, through the first 10 years of the court’s 15th justice, Warren Earl Burger.
In this database we have access to the full text of more than 350,000 documents, including appellant's and appellee's briefs, oral transcripts, and petitions for writ of certiorari. You can search for specific terms, or you can browse the collection by Author or case name : here's a screenshot of the documents available for Plessy v. Ferguson, for example. Please note, however, that this collection does not include the Court’s rulings, opinions or decisions.
The database is available at any Pitt computer.
Update: Please note that the database is available on the Barco Law Library home page under "Licensed Resources".

Google Translate expands its capabilities

Google has announced that it's added a new tool (still in Beta) to Google Translate that should help searchers to find results in other languages. Called a "cross-language search feature", you can get search results on foreign language web pages in your own language. This new feature is available in the following languages: English, Arabic, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese (Traditional), and Chinese (Simplified. On the search interface, you choose your native language and specify the language you would like to find results in. For example, if you want to find out about trademark law in France, you could enter "trademark law" in the english search box, select "french" for your results, and Google would give you french language pages about trademark law both in French and translated into English.
The translations are still very clunky, as they are for any machine translation system; and the feature currently seems geared towards travellers and businesspeople, but it's bound to improve.

Database Trials from ULS

Dennis Smith, who coordinates Collection Development for the University Library System, has announced that ULS currently has trials for 3 databases.
1. Black Thought and Culture from Alexander Street Press, is a database of the published works of many historically important black leaders. Subjects indexed include segregation, poverty, education, Jim Crow laws, the Scottsboro and Herndon trials, miscegenation, civil rights, and many more. The trial is by IP address (you can access from any Pitt computer and remotely via until June 21.

2. Harper's Digital Archive contains pdf images of Harper's magazine since 1850. Harper's has a tradition of fine writing, and the archive includes articles by Mark Twain, Woodrow Wilson, and Winston Churchill, to name a few. Access is by login and available until June 30.
username: nerl
password: nerl2007

3. North American Congress on Latin America digital archive contains the bimonthly magazine published since 1966. NACLA has information on U.S. - Latin American relations and on a range of political, social and economic issues. NACLA "examines the interrelationships between multiple forms of social exclusion - class, race, gender, ethnicity and sexuality-that are at the heart of the ongoing militarism, human rights violations, environmental destruction and poverty that plague the region." Access is by login and is available until June 30.
username: nerl
password: nerl2007

new laptop

Business Week has an online article about a new laptop that is as thin as the Motorola Razr cellphone. It's design is a collaboration between Intel and Ziba Design. Do look at the slide show.

Wednesday 23 May 2007

How to be a good reference librarian

There's an interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education this morning about the future of academic reference librarians and how we can best respond to changes in information technologies.

Google Bans "Plagiarism" Company Ads

Google has taken to heart complaints from universities, and has banned advertisements from companies that sell customized essays to students, according to the BBC. This ban will be enforced worldwide, according to a spokesman.

A Fair(y) Use Tale

A clever video about copyright by a group of students.

Tuesday 22 May 2007

But did they remember the "h" in Pittsburgh?

The Khaleej Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required) report that organizations in Bangalore threatened to stage a protest in front of the local office of Oxford Press Union tomorrow and burn copies of the latest edition of the Concise Dictionary of World Place Names. The reason is that there are a few glaring errors about Bangalore and the state of Karnataka, including mistakenly identifying the language spoken in Bangalore as Bengali - the language spoken in Bangalore is actually Kannada. Oxford University Press has suspended publication of the dictionary and apologized for the errors.

Digitization projects announced

The National Library of Australia is digitizing its collection of Australian newspapers which will be freely available online. The project, which should become available at the beginning of next year, is reportedly scheduled to be completed in five years.

And in other digitization news, Google is going to digitize over 800,000 books and manuscripts at Mysore University in Karnataka, India. "Written in both papers and palm leaves, there are around 100,000 manuscripts in our library, some dating back to the eighth century. The effort is to restore and preserve this cultural heritage for effective dissemination of knowledge," said J. Shashidhara Prasad, the vice chancellor of the university.

Monday 21 May 2007

Open Access to Scholarly Research

The Society of Automotive Engineers publications board is considering removing "Digital Rights Management" controls on its database of scholarly papers. This comes in reaction to MIT's decision to cancel access to the database because of the DRM controls. Ellen F. Duranceau, scholarship publishing and licensing consultant for MIT Libraries, said that “The core issue is the reaction of the authors here in discovering that when they had written papers and given SAE the right to the materials, [the group] betrayed their trust,” she said. “No one was under a naive assumption that everything should be free, but there was an understanding that things should be made as barrier-free as possible.”

Copy and Paste

Jason Fry of the Wall Street Journal reports today (subscription to the online WSJ required) that Yahoo has reached an agreement with a company named Gracenote to be able to offer online the lyrics to hundreds of thousands of songs owned by the 5 major music publishers. The only catch is that there is built-in technology that prevents anyone from copying and pasting the lyrics. The article's author considers this to be a bad decision by the music publishers. As librarians, we need to be concerned about how this sort of decision is going to affect the flow of information on the internet.

Saturday 19 May 2007

State primary materials online

Presentation of the state-by-state report on the authoritativeness of online legal resources made everyone aware of the big problems legal researchers are facing in trying to use online materials. State materials are rarely "official" or "authoritative" but states are eliminating the print versions.T

One of the best points that was made was that nobody has been aware of this problem. The AALL has found that when we are able to alert lawyers, judges and legislators about the way authoritative state law sources are disappearing they understand the need for action. And as larger and more powerful groups they are able to work together with the AALL to effect change.

The information about Pennsylvania's online legal resources is on page 175 of the report. Pennsylvania certainly isn't a leader in providing online legal authority.

Friday 18 May 2007

HeinOnline's new interface: sneak peeks

HeinOnline is trying to build the suspense about the unveiling of their new interface. They have provided us with three "sneak peek" online videos to show us how it will look and how it will work.
Sneak Peek video 1
Sneak Peek video 2
Sneak Peek video 3

Back to the Future

I'm in the Chicago Kent College of Law attending an all-day symposium called Back to the Future of Legal Research. The focus is on how electronic legal resources are causing an evolution and revolution in doing legal research. I just heard Ian Gallacher, the Director of the Legal Reading and Writing Program at Syracuse, discuss his proposal that American law schools should form a consortium to publish American law and make it freely accessible on the internet. Lots of food for thought.

Thursday 17 May 2007

International Center for Not-for-Profit Law's Online Library

Gary Price at the Resource Shelf reports today about the ICNL Online Library. The Library is a searchable directory of legal documents, court cases, reports, and other civil society resources from countries around the world. ICNL's Online Library currently contains 2338 resources from 144 countries in 37 languages. It's easy to use, and it's easy to just browse the collection by country or language. For example, if you browse to see what documents the library has for Russia, you find that there are 144 Resources:

  • All Laws (129 items)

  • Key Laws (1 items)

  • Other Laws (128 items)

  • Research & Policy Papers (10 items)

  • Forms (5 items)

  • Court Cases (0 items)

The ICNL homepage has more information about the organization.

Monday 14 May 2007

Second Life Library School

San Jose State University's School of Library and Information Science announces that it will be opening its 16 acre Second Life campus on May 16.

Saturday 12 May 2007

Do you Google?

Google is beta-testing a new search engine called SearchMash. It's actually the same Google search engine but with a different user interface. According to Google, it's very much an evolving site. Here's a brief summary of what I've found out about it by using it a little:

Searching: The search page is totally basic stripped-down Google, just a search box, clean and elegant. There's no advanced search page or preferences. But you can use the same Boolean operators as on Google, and the same field limiters (like - although I found that the "filetype" limiter doesn't work on SearchMash which is a drawback.

Results: The real difference between SearchMash and Google is how your search results are presented. You get a list of results somewhat similar to Google. But they are numbered, and they are more compact. There are no ads or sponsored sites (at the moment). And the usual list of webpages is on the lefthand side of the page, but on the righthand side of the page you can see what search results were found in Images, Blogs, Videos and Wikipedia, which I found useful in some cases. A nice feature is that when you go to look at the next page of results the first page results are still displayed, so that it's like scrolling infinitely through the search results.

I read about SearchMash on the SearchEngineWatch blog, and the writer contacted Google to ask about SearchMash. Google replied that "SearchMash is an experimental search site operated by Google. The goal of SearchMash is to test innovative user interfaces in order to continually improve the overall search experience for our users." When you use SearchMash, you can give feedback to Google about how you liked it right from the results page.

Making text easier to read

As reading shifts from print to screens, researchers are trying to figure out how to make that reading easier. A company called Live Ink has spent ten years studying how our eyes move when we read, and reports research findings that the way we currently display text - in large blocks, just like you're seeing here - isn't the most effective because the natural field of focus for our eyes is circular, so our eyes view the printed page as if we’re peering through a straw. They have devised algorithms to reformat text to make it easier and faster for our eyes and brains to process. A scientific report of their work is available online in the e-journal Reading Online.

Googling employees

Ars Technica reports that a judge has upheld a ruling that it's ok for an employer to Google an employee...

Thursday 10 May 2007

Federal Judiciary Wiki

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has set up a wiki. The wiki was the brainchild of Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, who began the wiki by adding the contents from the Seventh Circuit Practitioner's Handbook and linking to the wiki from the 7th Circuit homepage. Judge Easterbrook said that the goal of the wiki is to concentrate on court procedure but not to cover substance, and that any pages that go beyond this scope of practice and procedure will be taken down. U.S. district judges from the 7th circuit held an annual meeting in Milwaukee this week, and Judge Easterbrook encouraged them to add their own pages about their procedures or preferences.
You can read more about the wiki in the May 8th edition of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin available on Westlaw and Lexis (each requires a password).

Los Alamos and information

The Secrecy News blog of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy reports that Los Alamos National Laboratory is no longer allowing researchers to access archival records because the lab has been privatized: it's now being operated by a private contractor named Los Alamos National Security that doesn't have a policy allowing researchers in. A graduate student at Harvard studying the history of nuclear secrecy policy was denied access to the archives and told to pursue his research through the FOIA. But scholars say this is a cumbersome method and doesn't allow browsing archival records.


The BBC ruminates on what a font says about its users on Helvetica's 50th birthday. Note: Helvetica is not an option on Blogger.

I Don't Just Shelve Books

Here's a preview for The Hollywood Librarian: A Look at Librarians Through Film

Wednesday 9 May 2007

The Open House Project

The Open House Project held a press conference yesterday during which it delivered recommendations for a series of technological reforms designed to increase transparency and public access to the work and members of Congress. A project of the Sunlight Foundation, the Open House Project is a collaborative effort by government and legislative information experts, congressional staff, non-profit organizers and bloggers to study how the House of Representatives currently integrates the Internet into its operations, and to suggest attainable reforms in its internet use so it can be the transparent, open-source kind of legislature appropriate for the 21st century.


Cheating and Plagiarism

In light of the cheating scandal at Duke's business school, Business Week commentator Michelle Conlin discusses the concept of cheating for today's wired and wireless cut-and-paste generation.


I hadn't heard this definition of the word "astroturf" before: industry groups masquerading as grassroots consumer movements, usually on the Internet, to influence lawmakers' decision-making.
You can read about astroturfing in the telecom industry and how consumer apathy helps astroturfing succeed on Ars Technica.

Tuesday 8 May 2007


Ars Technica reports that the Library of Congress has told a wiki author that he may not mention the LOC or THOMAS in his wiki marketing materials. The wiki, Washington Watch, had made the claim that " provides a more user-friendly and interactive way for the public to learn about legislation than the Library of Congress' THOMAS site. It's all about government transparency."
The LOC invoked Library of Congress Regulation 112, which says that "the use of the Library's name, explicitly or implicitly to endorse a product or service, or materials in any publication is prohibited, except as provided for in this Regulation." Ars Technica reports that for the LOC, the issue is that the wiki was critical of the Library's work in a way which endorsed the wiki author's work.

Monday 7 May 2007

Behind the Web 2.0 YouTube video

There's an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education this morning about Michael Wesch, the anthropologist from Kansas who made the YouTube video about Web 2.0 that I posted a few days ago. The article describes research he is having his students do about YouTube and other online social networks. Accompanying the article is (ahem) a video.

Sunday 6 May 2007

Google indexing state government websites

Google has announced that it is working with state governments to index the information on government websites in order to make it more accessible. Four states - Arizona, California, Utah and Virginia - are involved in the project so far. Google hopes that more state governments will use this free service to make it easier to search for hard-to-find public information.

Bibliography: conflict of laws

The fall 2006 American Journal of Comparative Law contains an updated conflict of laws bibliography. The article, Conflict of Laws Bibliography: U.S. Sources, 2005-2006, compiled by Symeon C. Symeonides (54 Am. J. Comp. L. 789) can be accessed through Lexis or Westlaw.


Apparently laptops aren't just controversial in law school classrooms. The New York Times has a story about high schools that are cancelling their student laptop programs because the expenses of repairing laptops, difficulties of school network management, and discipline problems stemming from pornography, cheating, and hacking more than outweigh the educational benefits. Some schools have concluded that laptops either have had no effect or have actively hindered academic performance.

Saturday 5 May 2007

GPO and SMU create digital collection of WWII publications

The GPO has announced that it is collaborating with SMU to create an archive of publications that were published during WWII. The GPO has a description of the contents on their website, and a link to the database so that you can search or browse the collection.

The British library has announced that it is creating a first-of-its-kind digital collection called Email Britain; they are collecting emails from people all over Britain to create a sort of digital time capsule, a snapshot of British life by email.

Friday 4 May 2007

EPA continues to dismantle libraries

A May 2 press release from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)reports that the EPA has directed its libraries to continue to dismantle their collections and dispose of the contents. The EPA claims that there will be no harm to the accessibility of EPA information because all of the information will be made available online. The libraries' dismantling has been formally opposed by the AALL (American Assn. of Law Libraries), SLA (Special Library Assn.), ALA (American Library Assn.), and ARL (Assn. of Research Libraries).

The PEER press release contains links to more information about the situation.

Thursday 3 May 2007

The Machine is Us/ing Us

This is where the internet is going. It's exciting. For everyone, but especially for all of us in the information field.

Tuesday 1 May 2007

Using Skype to learn a language

Interesting article in PC World magazine about how a woman in China is teaching Chinese to businesspeople using Skype. An example of the potential creative benefits from planetwide connectivity made possible by VoIP.