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.