Thursday 31 January 2008

Social bookmarking site for academics

Inside HIgher Ed has an article about CiteULike, which is described as a nerdy version of Facebook or for academics. It's a social bookmarking tool that allows users to post, share and comment on each other’s links which, in this case, are citations to journal articles with titles like “Trend detection through temporal link analysis” and “The Social Psychology of Inter- and Intragroup Conflict in Governmental Politics.”

New Journal on Terrorism

There's a new online journal from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point that may be of interest to some. It's titled the CTC Sentinel , and the January 2008 issue (Volume 1, Issue 2) includes articles on Al-Qaida’s Extensive Use of the Internet and Al-Qaida’s “MySpace”: Terrorist Recruitment on the Internet.

Online Tutorials on Congressional Research

The library at U.C. Berkeley has created a website housing short online Flash video tutorials that teach how to do Congressional research. The tutorials teach about finding bills, hearings, and debates (including how to use the Congressional Record in paper), and allow the user to pause the tutorial at any point and practice in the live database below the tutorial (if there is a database). The website also contains links to current congressional news, recent votes, and a Google Custom Search Engine focused on Congressional websites. The site is still a work in progress, and the webmasters invite suggestions to improve these tutorials or ideas for a new tutorial on an aspect of Congressional research that isn't covered yet.

Library materials preservation

The Washington State Library has an active preservation program for their state and federal documents. They have created handouts on simple book repair materials and preservation techniques and have made these available on the State Library blog. Scroll down the page to the listing for Presentations and Events, and look at the links to the Conservation Kitchen. The handouts include information on book preservation methods and supplies, preservation of other sorts of materials, links to useful preservation websites, and a bibliography on preservation.

Wednesday 30 January 2008

UN Treaty Series online

There is news of the UN Treaty Series database. We were paying a subscription fee but recently they notified us that the treaty series is now FREE online (now there's something that doesn't happen too often.)
However, the database hasn't been updated since November, and the International Law Librarian listserv has posted the following message from the UN:
"we need to alert you to the fact that the website that you see will be abolished and replaced by a new website, which is currently under construction. As the opening page of the current site mentions: the site was frozen per 15 November. This means that the status of the multilateral treaties has not been updated since. The Depositary Notifications have been added since then. We do intend to inform you widely, once the new site is in place."
Thanks to Linda Tashbook, our Foreign and International Law librarian, for the information.

Tuesday 29 January 2008

PA has a new CIO

Brenda Orth is the new Pennsylvania Chief Information Officer and Deputy Secretary of Information Technology according to an announcement from the state Office of Administration. The state CIO's is responsible for leading and coordinating IT services for the state. She will oversee governmentwide technology policies, standards, architecture and solutions to enhance system interoperability, data security and cost effectiveness. Before she worked for the state of PA Orth served 20 years with Exxon Mobil Corporation as an information technology professional, where she implemented major, multi-national business projects and managed large, strategic information technology systems.

Leading State Industries

There is a new Census Bureau website that presents state-level industry data from the 2002 Economic Census. The data includes industries catagorized by their NAICS codes and their annual sales or receipts for 2002, both total and per capita. According to the press release about the website, "economically speaking, every state leads the nation at something." Industries in which Pennsylvania is first include pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing, pharmaceutical preparation manufacturing and railroad rolling stock manufacturing. We're also first - no other state comes close - in "Chocolate and confectionery manufacturing from cacao beans", shipping 44% of US shipments (by value). Mmmm, thanks Hersheys. Though I also have a soft spot for Wilbur Buds.
The 2007 Economic Census is underway - the economic census is done every 5 years.
Hat tip to beSpacific.

Law student solves a mystery

There's an interesting story in MIT Technology Review today about how an NYU law student and his fiancee returned a camera they found in a New York taxi - by doing some serious sleuthing (with the help of his mother). It doesn't say whether any of them are librarians but I wouldn't be at all surprised.

Monday 28 January 2008

Opensource legal database

An announcement came today from a law library listserv that there is a new opensource legal database called PreCYdent that employs a unique search strategy incorporating network science. The basis for the strategy is described in the SSRN paper The Web of Law by Thomas A. Smith of the UC San Diego law school, who was involved in developing the database. In the article Smith says that "preliminary analysis suggests the citation network of U.S. Supreme Court cases is nearly identical to the network of high-energy physics papers, and is well described by a two-power-law model. The Web of Law is organized with hub cases that have many citations and the vast majority of cases, which have very few."

Privacy of Court Records online presentation

Tom Bruce, Director of the Legal Information Institute at Cornell has announced that the LII, along with Cornell's Information Science program and the University Computer Policy and Law group, is streaming a presentation by Peter Winn about issues of privacy in court electronic filing systems. The presentation by is Wednesday from 4-5 at The presenter, Peter Winn, is an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice. He is a part time lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law, where he teaches privacy law, and a senior fellow at the University of Melbourne where he teaches cybercrime. He received his J.D. from Harvard Law School, his B.A. from Williams College, and an MPhil in Philosophy from the University of London, where he studied as a Marshall Scholar.

Old Faithful online

OK, the legal connection is tenuous, but if you're feeling cooped up inside you might enjoy this news: the National Park Service has announced the first webcam at Yellowstone National Park. Donated by Canon USA, the full-motion, live-streaming webcam is located near Old Faithful and brings online visitors views of several other geysers in the area. When geysers such as Beehive, Lion, or Giantess are erupting, the camera will be aimed at them and zoomed in for optimal viewing enjoyment. When bison, elk, coyotes, or the occasional bear wander into the camera’s view, live video images will be transmitted.
At the moment it looks very snowy and cold there, but darned if there aren't a bunch of people all bundled up watching the geyser erupt.

WSJ online not free after all

Wall Street Journal publisher Rupert Murdoch has quashed speculation that the Online Journal would become freely available, according to stories in a WSJ blog and Business Week. The site, (subscription required for some content), will continue to operate on a hybrid of advertising and subscription dollars and will keep a significant portion of its content behind its paid-subscription wall.
During a talk at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland Mr. Murdoch remarked that
“We are going to greatly expand and improve the free part of the Wall Street Journal online, but there will still be a strong offering (for subscribers). The really special things will still be a subscription service, and, sorry to tell you, probably more expensive.”
An anonymous comment on the WSJ blog said that the price is due to rise from $99 to $119 a year sometime in March but this could not be verified.

Religious Liberty Archive

The Religious Liberty Archive is a resource from the religious institutions law group at Rothberger Johnson & Lyons LLP (offices in Denver, Colorado Springs, and Casper WY). It contains links and information about state and federal laws pertaining to religious freedom in the United States including religious liberty cases, commentaries, federal statutes, state constitutions, and important historical materials relevant to religious freedom in the United States.
Hat tip to the latest edition fo InSITE-L from Cornell.

Saturday 26 January 2008

Books that make you dumb

A guy named Virgil Griffith at Cal Tech has a website called "books that make you dumb". His basic premise is "Ever read a book (required or otherwise) and upon finishing it thought to yourself, 'Wow. That was terrible. I totally feel dumber after reading that.'? " He does some statistical hocus-pocus with Facebook's "favorite books" at various colleges and said colleges' average SAT scores.
I wish he'd do the same with high school reading. I would wholeheartedly nominate The Scarlet Letter.
(Yes, it's tongue-in-cheek. But kinda funny.)

Friday 25 January 2008

The life of a law student

There's a new documentary called The Trials of Law School about what it's like to be a law student. The website tells us that it "captures both the stress and emotion, both inside the classroom and out, as they try to juggle family and relationships with school commitments. These students, including a single mother looking for a fresh start, a husband and father of four, and a military wife trying to raise six children, compete with competitive and highly successful peers for grades and jobs that will determine their future. Their journey is contrasted with insight from over 25 acclaimed law professors and legal scholars from around the country."
Hat tip to Joe Hodnicki at Law Librarian Blog and Brian Hare who works here at Barco. Here's a YouTube trailer:

Thursday 24 January 2008

Campaign fundraising information, "Money and Politics: Illuminating the Connection" is a public database meant to "illuminate" the connection between campaign donations and legislative votes. According to the website, "Elected officials collect large sums of money to run their campaigns, and they often pay back campaign contributors with special access and favorable laws. This common practice is contrary to the public interest, yet legal. makes money/vote connections transparent, to help citizens hold their legislators accountable."
MAPLight combines three data sets: Bill texts and legislative voting records, Supporting and opposing interests for each bill, and Campaign contribution data from the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in State Politics in order to make visible key information that could never before be determined easily.
They also have a cool Presidential Money Race widget that you can add to your blog or website.

Google maps

How did this one get by me? I used Google maps today and now there's a Distance Measurement Tool that is typically Google -easy to use, and fun. You click on a link that says "I'm feeling geeky", and then you can measure distances on a map in meters, miles, yards, feet, inches, cubits, furlongs, light years, parsecs, football fields, Olympic swimming pools, and much more! For instance, the distance from Barco to the swimming pool in Bellefield Hall is 14 Olympic swimming pools.
It doesn't take topography into account - yet. Maybe that's coming, so we can measure the walk from Barco to, say, the medical library realistically (taking the hill into account somehow).

Wednesday 23 January 2008

Gov Docs - tagging project

The librarians at Free Government Information are investigating the usefulness of tagging government documents that don't get cataloged in a "traditional" way and are asking for help from anyone with a account (you can set up a free account at ).
They have posted 32 documents that the GPO picked from the EPA web site and posted them to the Internet Archive. Over the next three months, they hope to have as many
people as possible tag and describe these documents using the bookmarking service. For a full project description and instructions on how to participate, please visit

Hoover Institute to get Iraq archives

Approximately 7 million pages of records and other artifacts from Saddam Hussein's regime as Iraq's president are going to find a new home at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University according to an article in today's Chronicle of Higher Ed. The items have been sitting in 2 large shipping containers at a US Naval facility for almost 2 years. The Hoover Institute is getting the items through a deal it has made with the Iraq Memory Foundation—a private, nonprofit group that has had custody of the documents since just after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003. According to the terms of the agreement, the records will be held at the Hoover Institute for 5 years, and at the end of that period, the two parties will examine the possibility of repatriating the documents to Iraq.
The deal came despite recent impassioned calls from Iraq's national archivist for the collections' immediate repatriation back to Baghdad. Saad Eskander, the director general of the Iraq National Library and Archive, argues that the records of the Baath Party—which ruled Iraq from 1968 to 2003—are inalienable public property and belong in the national archive without delay

Tuesday 22 January 2008

Peer reviewers v. blog commenters

Here's something from the Chronicle that grabbed my attention: the title is "Blog Comments and Peer Review Go Head to Head to See Which Makes a Book Better." Wha? There's a professor of communications from (of course) California who is publishing a book with MIT Press (title Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies). He also writes a blog called "Grand Text Auto" with 5 colleagues, and the blog is read by many of the same scholars he sees at academic conferences. He is going to post sections of his book on the blog and invite readers to add critiques right in the margins. He expects the blog-based review to be more helpful than the traditional peer review because of the variety of voices contributing. His editor at MIT Press insisted on running the manuscript through the traditional peer-review process as well. So the "experiment" will provide a side-by-side comparison of reviewing—old school versus new blog.
Ben Vershbow, editorial director at the Institute for the Future of the Book, concedes that comments on blogs are unlikely to fully replace peer review - but thinks that academic blogging can play a role in the publishing process.

Geotagging of photos increasing

The MIT Technology Review has an article about the rise of "geotagged" digital photos. Cellphones and digital cameras increasingly have built-in GPS (Global Positioning System) capabilities, allowing users to easily add metadata about exactly where a photo was taken. Why? If a picture is worth a thousand words, a picture with geotagging can add a few hundred more. Uses mentioned in the article: naturalists can map their bird sightings or chart out seal populations; archaeologists can mark where they unearth artifacts; travelers can add a new dimension by adding maps to slideshows.
The geotagged photos are showing up online, of course - one site, Jelbert, is trying to create a photographic map of every street in the world.

Monday 21 January 2008

Reasonable Doubt

The Chronicle Review has an interesting article about the origins of the doctrine of "reasonable doubt". According to a new book, The Origins of Reasonable Doubt: Theological Roots of the Criminal Trial by Yale Law professor James Q. Whitman, reasonable doubt was not designed primarily as a protection for defendants, nor as a rule of factual proof. Rather, the doctrine emerged in common law as a protection for jurors' souls, an assurance that jurors could convict a defendant without risking their own salvation.

Law Journal Rankings page updated

John Doyle from Washington & Lee Law School has sent around an announcement that the W & L Law Journals: submissions and ranking page has been changed/updated because they have tweaked the statistical methodology in several ways, detailed on the methodology webpage.

LOC Report

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article today about a recently released report , "On the Record: Report of the Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control", from the Library of Congress. Termed a "call to action" for libraries, it is the result of a year of work by research librarians and executives from technology companies like Google and Microsoft, with input from the public. They looked at how libraries can improve the distribution and use of their materials in a technology-centric environment and suggest that they should share records more with one another, make greater use of the Web, and bring more attention to their special collections.
The study is worrisome to some in the library community because it suggests that the Library of Congress should scale back its role as the leading organization for cataloging and classifying library materials.

50 states database: media

As part of the ongoing work at the ALA wiki project "State Agency Databases Across the Fifty States", we've constructed a list of "media" databases produced by states or their political subdivisions that provide online access to historical photographs, video, or audio. As always, the wiki welcomes any additional databases that aren't on the list - you can add them yourself, or contact the wiki project coordinator , or (if they are for Pennsylvania) the PA coordinator with the information.

Thursday 17 January 2008

Emprical Legal Studies database

Collaboration between law librarians at Cornell and UCLA has created a new online database - the Empirical Legal Studies bibliography. You can read about the collaboration or just go straight to the search page. Searching is straightforward - you can search by Author, Year, Title or Subject. The dropdown menu of Subject categories is long and interesting, including such topics as War, Globalization, Competency to Stand Trial, Academic Tenure, and lots more.

Wednesday 16 January 2008

Technology helps pro se litigants

The National Center for State Courts recently released a report (pdf here, 122 pages) on Trends in Courts: 2007. The report examines key issues facing the nation's courts and identifies effective ways to handle them. One section of the report , titled " Increasing Access to Justice for the Self-Represented Through Web Technologies " , finds that technological advances in the courts, such as e-filing and e-delivery mechanisms and live-chat features are benefiting pro se litigants. Another section, Using Technology to Improve Customer Service , suggests a number of ways for courts to make things easier for "customers" such as check-in kiosks for defendents.

Top Tech in Pgh

Today's issue of Pop City features a story on the Top 10 Pittsburgh Tech companies to watch in 2008. Included in the list is Vivisimo, the search engine company in Squirrel Hill, which was also was named 2008 Technology of the Year for the third year in a row for the best Enterprise Search Solution by InfoWorld magazine. According to InfoWorld, "Vivisimo Velocity 6.0 extends its easy search interface and ability to crawl enterprise repositories with social tagging, bookmarking, and networking. Voting and ratings improve search accuracy, while tagging provides another way to filter results. Searches can be annotated with comments for increased collaboration."

Tuesday 15 January 2008

Library In-Service Day

ULS held its First Annual Library In-Service Day on Dec. 17, and there's a webcast of Rush Miller's speech as well as his powerpoint presentation on the CIDDE website.

Monday 14 January 2008

Librarians in the Wired Chronicle

Today in the Chronicle of Higher Education's Wired Campus blog 8 of the 10 stories come from the ALA midwinter meeting. Don't miss the story featuring Rush Miller, the Director of the University of Pittsburgh Library System : according to the story, Mr. Miller, who holds a doctorate in medieval English history, said that when he came to Pittsburgh, in 1994, he concluded that the library was a feudal society. “I said, Whoa, I haven’t seen this since I studied it,” he said, as the audience broke out laughing. “You had kings and lords and people surrounded by moats.”

Thursday 10 January 2008

Blawging lessons

Jones Day partner and blawger Mark Herrmann has an online article about the lessons he's learned from blogging. Apparently the Wall Street Journal's Journal Blawgrecently made amention of his book, The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law - and within a day it rocketed from #47,369 to #434 in the Amazon rankings!

Cornell Law Library revamps search sites

Julie Jones, Editor of Legal Research Engines at the Cornell Law Library, has informed us about improvements and updates that they recently made.
The InSITE website has been revamped to feature both a quick search and an advanced search. You can also search all the websites ever annotated by InSITE at once: this is a full search of over 1,000 law-related websites that have been vetted by professional law librarians, updated with each new issue of InSITE.
The library's Legal Research Engine now has three searches : you can search for authoritative legal research guides, search the legal web (using the InSITE search), search academic blawgs, or search all three together.

Wednesday 9 January 2008

Big Think: a "YouTube for intellectuals"

There's an article in Computer World about Big Think, a website that is a sort of YouTube for serious intellectuals (motto: "We are what you think"). Big Think is still in beta but is already offering over 100 hours of video interviews with leading thinkers, movers and shakers. You can search the videos and - here's the main point of the site - respond to them with your own video, audio, comments and ideas (registration is required but free and easy).
You can browse the videos by category - in the category of law, for example, the videos include Alan Dershowitz on "How did we develop legal systems?", Justice Stephen Breyer on "Does globalization pose new challenges for the Supreme Court?" and Yale Law professor Stephen Carter on "What are the great issues facing the legal system today?"
Find out more on Big Think's About page.

ACRL Insider blog

There's lots going on in the "library world" what with the ALA midwinter meeting coming up in 2 days (ah, Philly in January!).
The website includes an announcement of a new blog from the ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries) called the ACRL Insider, "designed to keep you informed on the activities, services, programs, and governance of ACRL." The blog so far includes an interesting podcast of the ACRL President interviewing filmmaker John Waters about early influences on his work, censorship, and freedom to read.

Tuesday 8 January 2008

Pittsburgh Courier Historical Archive

The Historical Archive, 1911-2002, of the Pittsburgh Courier is now available in the Pitt digital library via ProQuest Historical Newspapers. The link hasn't been added to the A to Z Databases list yet, so until it gets listed you can find it in PITTCat (do a title search for Proquest historical newspapers Pittsburgh courier). So far, all I've done is browse the archive. Once you're in the database, click on the "Publications" tab, choose the timespan you would like to browse, and then select the months/years you would like to browse. There are pdf files of all articles and also pdf files of every page in the newspaper.
The Pittsburgh Courier is one of the oldest and most prestigious African-American newspapers in the United States. Established in 1907 by Edwin Harleston, a guard in the H. J. Heinz plant, the Pittsburgh Courier gained national prominence after attorney Robert Lee Vann became the newspaper’s editor and publisher, treasurer, and legal counsel in 1910. In his lifetime, Vann saw the Courier grow to become the largest, most influential Black newspaper in the nation with a circulation of 250,000 and over 400 employees in 14 cities.
This historic database is a wonderful and remarkable addition to Pitt's digital library.

Annotated Justinian Code

The University of Wyoming law library now has the Annotated Justinian Code available digitally on its website. It contains pdf's of Justice Fred Blume’s copiously annotated (4,500+ pages) English translation of Justinian’s Code—the only English translation made from the Latin version regarded as most authoritative. The site also contains Blume’s scanned translation of the Novels, his “The Code of Justinian, and it’s Value" address delivered to the Riccobono Society in 1938 but never published, and a few other Blume-related items. Right now the "Quick Links" aren't live links, and every link on the page goes to a pdf document.

Purdon's (unofficial) online

West's Unofficial Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes is online and linked from the PA General Assembly homepage. The website allows free access to an unannotated version of West's Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes and Consolidated Statutes. There is a basic natural language searchbox. Links to annotations and cases appear on the search results page, but you have to pay by credit card to go to those links if you don't have a Westlaw account.

Monday 7 January 2008

Google's Book project update

There's a very interesting article in the most recent issue of Campus Technology that takes a long, thorough look at Google's Book project and how it's going. It starts out with "Once you get past the freakishly high numbers bandied about, the two-dozen-plus distinguished institutions that have signed on, the legal paranoia and the ultra-ultra-secret processes and technologies involved-you'll find that Book Search (from the fifth most valuable company in America) is simply another high-cost effort that is simultaneously visionary and crude. It doesn't even have to succeed in order to impact the transformation of scholarship activities."
The author interviewed Daniel Clancy, the engineer in charge of the project, who has many interesting things to say. Food for thought: "As you open up all this content, these are research challenges for libraries, for the research communities, and for Google to say: How does this change scholarship?"

new PALINET wiki for "library leaders"

PALINET is going to formally announce its new wiki - the PALINET Leadership Network - at the big ALA midwinter meeting next week in Philly. The wiki already has interesting articles and links that librarians (not just 'library leaders') may find worthwhile.

New AALS website on law school curriculum

In the wake of last week's AALS (Association of American Law Schools) meeting in New York, a new website has been created to highlight and encourage innovation in the law school curriculum. Information on the website is divided into four sections: an overview of curricular innovation; descriptions of innovations that some law schools have already implemented; starter documents containing brief discussions of important themes in curricular innovation; and resource documents consisting of brief surveys of published materials, websites and other resources on themes relevant to innovation.

Saturday 5 January 2008

Public Domain Day

The dedicated librarians who run the Free Government Information blog celebrated this New Year's Day by reminding us that it's the day when the works of authors who died in 1957 (for life +50 copyright countries) or those that died in 1937 (in the life+70 countries) go into the public domain.
They also provide a link to a useful spreadsheet of information about copyright laws in different countries (yes, it's in Wikipedia but it's still a good quick reference).
And a link to a copyright blogger in California who goes one better by listing many creators (not just authors), American and foreign, who are now in the public domain.

Friday 4 January 2008


Against the Grain, a journal for librarians that reports "the latest news about libraries, publishers, book jobbers, and subscription agents" now has a website where it is compiling useful information about eBook publishers and their products.

New website shows decline in law school diversity

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a report today on the dicussions at the AALS meeting that focused on today's law students, both in terms of what it's like to teach "millennial" students and on the sobering statistics showing a decline in diversity of law students. These statistics from the Law School Admission Council are highlighted on a new website created by the Lawyering in the Digital Age clinic at Columbia Law School. The website includes a page of links to online diversity resources .

Thursday 3 January 2008

Wikia: new search engine set to launch

The buzz is all over the internet - Wired, CNet, and the WaPo to name a few sources - that Wikipedia is set to launch the new Wikia search engine next Monday, Jan 7. The main difference with Wikia search is transparency- users will be able to contribute to how pages are ranked and to edit search results, and the search engine will have open-source search algorithms and application program interfaces. WebProNews is a little dubious about the venture - their editorial entitled "Wikia Shmikia" reminds readers that there are other ways to search that aren't getting much press.

Wednesday 2 January 2008

Words to banish list, 2007

Lake Superior State University has released its 33rd annual list of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness.

Institutional repositories

There's an interesting article on LLRX about establishing institutional repositories for storing and organizing disparate information online. What's interesting is that the author talks about creating institutional repositories for small "institutions" - she mentions a law firm that can store these kinds of information: "an associate has prepared a continuing legal education PowerPoint presentation that resides on the hard drive of the associate's laptop. Another associate has served as an expert witness at a U.S. congressional hearing and the testimony is available on the GPO's website. The law firm's annual report from last year is stored on the intranet on the firm's web server. The firm's librarian has delivered an educational presentation at a professional meeting that is available on the web as a podcast." If the firm has an institutional repository all of these diverse items can be captured, archived, organized and readily accessible on the web in one location for public access.

Tuesday 1 January 2008

Google tools you forgot about

Lifehacker has a blogpost about 10 Google tools you probably forgot about (or never knew about) and might find useful. Google Alerts, for example, is a great easy current awareness tool.

Federal information not easily Googled

Federal Computer Week reports that Google searching doesn't find much Federal information. Agencies do not let commercial search engines index their sites and they have been slow to adopt the Sitemap protocol - a web management tool that invisibly indexes online content and makes it easier for search engines to find.

Boston Public Library digitizing govdocs

The New York Times reports that the Boston Public Library is embarking on a project to digitize its entire print Government Documents collection. The digital documents will be made freely available online. The library will begin the project by digitizing the House Committee on Un-American Activities hearings from the 1950s, which are regularly sought after by its patrons. Public.Resource.Org, a nonprofit group seeking to open public access to government records, and the Internet Archive, a San Francisco-based digital library, are partnering with the library on the project.