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!

Tuesday 2 October 2007

new titles in the Gale Virtual Reference Library

News from the University Library System that ten titles have been added to our Gale Virtual Reference Library subscription :
Encyclopedia of World Biography
Encyclopedia of World Cultures
Encyclopedia of Religion
Dictionary of American History
Encyclopedia of Education
Encyclopedia of Modern Asia
Europe, 1450 to 1789: An Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World
St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture
Gale Encyclopedia of Science, 3rd ed.
Encyclopedia of Sociology
When you search the Gale Virtual Reference Library you can limit your search to one of these titles or any title in the Library.

GLBT-friendly law firms

Legal Blog Watch directs us to the Human Rights Campaign's annual ranking (pdf, go to page 21 for the list) of how equitably companies treat their GLBT employees and customers, and points out that the number of law firms with a perfect score has doubled from last year. Note that only large law firms are included in the rankings.

Justice Harry Blackmun papers online

Thanks to Pat Roncevich, our Acquisitions Librarian extraordinaire, for this one: Lee Epstein, a law professor at Northwestern, has created and is maintaining a digital archive of Justice Harry Blackmun's papers. The archive contains pdf files of the docket sheets and preliminary (pool) memoranda from Blackmun’s papers in the Library of Congress and is browsable or searchable by case docket number. Prof. Epstein also has on her website the U.S. Supreme Court Justices Database, which "contain(s) a wealth of information on individuals nominated (whether confirmed or not) to the U.S. Supreme Court (John Jay-Samuel A. Alito, Jr). Specifically, the database houses 263 variables, falling roughly into five categories: identifiers, background characteristics and personal attributes, nomination and confirmation, service on the Court, and departures from the bench."

New electronic subscription: Foreign Law Guide

Barco has added a new electronic subscription to our collection of online licensed databases: Foreign Law Guide: Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World. This is the online version of the print book Foreign Law: Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World by law librarians Thomas Reynolds and Alberto Flores (available in our international collection - K520 .R49). Containing information on more than 170 jurisdictions, the database is designed to locate primary and secondary sources of foreign law and is an excellent starting point for finding foreign law both in the language of the country and in translation. For each country there is a brief introduction to the legal system, a list of past and current sources of legal information including both print and online and a section listing sources of law by subject.
The simple search interface allows you to search the database for words or phrases by country. Access to the database is by IP address, which means that you can use the database from any computer in the Barco law building or via the law school wireless network.

Online "office productivity" resources news

The great trend this year is Everything 2.0. What does this mean? Lots of online interactive applications, aka "apps", and the hits just keep on coming. What's amazing is that most of these apps are free, at least for the basic versions - there are usually "better" and "best" versions with enhanced features for a monthly charge. These apps do things for which ten years ago we would've shelled out hundreds of dollars for a software program in a box.
For example, yesterday brought an article from PC World announcing that both Microsoft (with Office Live Workspace beta) and Adobe (by purchasing Buzzword) are moving into what they call the "online office productivity" market.
Last week, there was an article in Computerworld called "five free apps we couldn't live without" and it included one of my favorite apps, Zoho Creator. This is an application that does lots of cool things but here's what I love most about it: you can take an Excel spreadsheet and abracadabra turn it into a database in a few seconds! All you have to do is copy everything in the Excel spreadsheet, paste it into a box on Zoho, click the button, and in seconds you have a database that you can add records to and manipulate easily. And it's so much nicer than an Excel spreadsheet. Highly recommend trying it.
One bit of bad news though - eBay is having problems with Skype. When they bought Skype a couple of years ago there was a lot of hype but I guess it hasn't done very well. Which is too bad because it can be a really great communication service - especially for talking to people in other countries. But apparently the business model isn't working: "The Skype service has been tremendously popular as a free service. But at some point, free doesn't work anymore. It's not a management problem. It's a business model issue."

Monday 1 October 2007

U. Conn law library called "a monumental mess"

An editorial yesterday in the Hartford Courant bemoans the fact that the law library at the University of Connecticut law school was built in 1996 at a cost of $24 million and now needs $19 million in repairs. "Its majestic facade began to loosen from its anchors. Scaffolding had to be erected over the entrance to protect students in case a stiff wind sent the stones tumbling. Mold grew and so did the price tag for repairs." The university is working with the state attorney general to recover damages from the original contractors and designers.

CMU introduces the Anti- Phishing Phil game

It's not always easy to tell when you are being scammed by an email or website link, and it can cause a lot of trouble if you fall for a false website. Phishing, as it's called, tries to lure unsuspecting users to a website that LOOKS bona fide and then convince them to give out confidential information about credit cards, bank accounts, passwords, etc. Some of the websites are very sophisticated and very convincing.
To help consumers separate the bogus from the bona fide, CMU is beta-testing a game called anti-phishing Phil. The game teaches you to recognize websites that are phishing for information. Okay, it seems geared to small children, but grownups can benefit from playing too. You are shown url's and have to decide if the website is real or fake.
Sample questions: Is this the real Ameritrade website? (fake) Is this the real PayPal website? (real) Is this the real Citibank website? (fake)