Monday 23 November 2009

Write your own eBooks online with Adobe Buzzword

Adobe has a new service called Adobe Buzzword at the new website (free registration required). The service allows you to write and publish your own ebook in a format that is compatible with most ebook readers (including the Kindle, Nook, and Sony eBook Reader). Adobe Buzzword is an online word processor that you can use to create and edit documents in any web browser. The service supports collaborative editing so multiple authors can work simultaneously on the same document from their respective location.
Buzzword allows you to write an eBook on any browser and then export documents directly as EPUB files, a format that is supported by all popular ebook readers - including apps like Stanza that let you read ebook on a mobile device. You just compose your document inside Buzzword, export it as an ePUB file and then import it in your ebook reader.

LexisNexis Academic adds database

LexisNexis Academic has announced the addition of a new database called "Discover America's Story". The publications in "Discover America's Story" focus on small-town and rural articles. The product is rich with articles relevant to geographic locations often under-reported or overlooked by mainstream news coverage such as natural resources, agriculture, land use, water rights and farming. "Small-town" news, op-ed, business, arts, government and life in general are covered well, plus published legal notices and obituaries are included. To see a list of publications included in the collection, go to LN Academic, click the “Browse Sources” tab and type “Discover America’s Story” in the blue Find a Source box. Click the “I” icon next to the source title for more information. You'll see a long list of smalltown publications including the Beverly Hills Weekly, Mouse River Journal, Turtle Mountain Star and Wahkiakum County Eagle.

Google Scholar Advanced Scholar Search Now Includes Free Case Law Database

The blawgosphere has been abuzz the past week about a new feature in Google Scholar: you can now use Google Scholar Advanced Scholar Search (still in beta) to find case law as well as patents and articles in legal journals! (Search options include Search all legal opinions and journals; Search only US federal court opinions; Search only court opinions from individual states).
According to Justia, the Google Scholar database includes US Federal Appellate, District Court, Bankruptcy & Tax Opinions since 1924, US 50 State Cases since 1950. Google Scholar also gives alternatives versions of cases from legal websites including Cornell's LII, Justia, and Carl Malamud's
The Case Western law library blog has done some testing and has a useful post that reports in more depth about how to use this feature and what content you can find.
Google explains the reasons for the new addition on the Official Google Blog: "Laws that you don't know about, you can't follow — or make effective arguments to change. Starting today, we're enabling people everywhere to find and read full text legal opinions from U.S. federal and state district, appellate and supreme courts... We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of several pioneers, who have worked on making it possible for an average citizen to educate herself about the laws of the land: Tom Bruce (Cornell LII), Jerry Dupont (LLMC), Graham Greenleaf and Andrew Mowbray (AustLII), Carl Malamud (Public.Resource.Org), Daniel Poulin (LexUM), Tim Stanley (Justia), Joe Ury (BAILII), Tim Wu (AltLaw) and many others. It is an honor to follow in their footsteps. We would also like to acknowledge the judges who have built this cathedral of justice brick by brick and have tried to make it accessible to the rest of us. We hope Google Scholar will help all of us stand on the shoulders of these giants."

Pitt's University Center for Social & Urban Research resources

Last week the University Library System hosted a workshop session on the publications, research, and services provided by University Center for Social & Urban Research (UCSUR). UCSUR serves as a resource for researchers and educators interested in the basic and applied social and behavioral sciences, and as a hub for inter-disciplinary research and collaboration, it promotes a research agenda focused on the social, economic, and health issues most relevant to our society.
In addition to the programs described on their website, they host the Pittsburgh Neighborhood Community Information System (PNCIS) project, which is a large collection of data describing property and neighborhood conditions in the Pittsburgh area. This data is freely available to all non-profit, government, or University-affiliated users, at the PNCIS website. A basic layer of data is readily available just by accessing as a guest (click on that tab), but to access the property level of detail, you need to register by attending a brief (1 hour) training session (more will be scheduled after the holidays).

hat tip: Sallie Smith

Two new databases from ULS

The University Library System has added two new databases to its Databases A-Z list:
1. GreenFILE from EBSCO is a research database focusing on the relationship between human beings and the environment. Comprised of scholarly and general interest titles, as well as government documents and reports, GreenFILE offers perspective on the positive and negative ways humans affect the ecology. GreenFILE draws on the connections between the environment and a variety of disciplines such as agriculture, education, law, health and technology. Topics covered include global climate change, green building, pollution, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, recycling, and more. The database provides indexing and abstracts for ~ 384,000 records and full text for more than 4,700 records.
2. Rand Reports is a full text archive of over 17,000 Rand Corporation titles dating back to 1948. The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis. Their research areas are wide-ranging and include Child Policy, Civil Justice, Population & Aging, Terrorism and Security, Transportation & Infrastructure, International Affairs, Education, Health & Health Care, Environment, Substance Abuse, and the Arts. Recent reports include Going Jihad: The Fort Hood Slayings and Home-Grown Terrorism: testimony presented before the Senate Homeland Security & Govt. Affairs committee, Nov. 19, 2009.

Monday 16 November 2009

From Harvard: Report from Task Force on University Libraries

Now available online, Harvard University's Report from the Task Force on University Libraries suggests sweeping changes. From the report: "At a time of rapid change and severe financial stress, the Task Force on University Libraries was
charged to make clear recommendations to the President and Deans to adapt the Harvard
Library system to the 21st century and to make a stronger and more efficient library system.
Given the long history and labyrinthine complexity of the library system, the pressing need to
move forward effectively in the face of technological change and financial challenge, and the
universal desire to avoid unintended harm to the existing strengths of the library, the Task Force
recommends that the University and its libraries undertake a significant and focused initial effort
in five principal areas. "

New resource: Regulation Room (beta)

A new resource from those excellent folks at Cornell law, Regulation Room is "a public participation research site" for "people talking to people talking to government". It has the laudable ambition of making federal agency rulemaking more transparent and participatory. It also educates users about the federal rulemaking process and how any interested citizen can participate effectively. As a first step in the beta test of Regulation Room, users are encouraged to learn about, react to, and discuss a proposed National Highway Transportation Safety Administration rule: Tire Efficiency Consumer Information Program. Please note that the comment period for this proposed rulemaking closed in late August; Reg.Room is using materials from this rule for testing purposes only. Users can read and respond to daily posts on the tire rule and comment on particular aspects of the rule. Next Nov. 23, the research team will post a summary of the discussion. Users will then be able to comment on that summary and suggest changes to it.

Lawberry Camp Midwinter

Excellent news announcement from the AALL Computer Services SIS via Sarah Glassmeyer and Jason Eiseman!: Save the Date

When: January 16, 2010 9am - 5 pm (Casual dinner outing Friday evening)

Where: Harvard Law School Library

Why: Why wait until July to meet, learn and laugh with other law librarians and legal information professionals?

Lawberry Camp Midwinter will be a full day of activities...including lightning talks, open round table discussions and ending with the exciting and fun Battledecks Powerpoint Karaoke competition.

Have you tried an interesting project in your library and want to give a 5 minute talk about it? Is there some pressing issue that you'd like to hash out and discuss? Public services, technical services, private, court or academic...whatever your job title is and no matter where you work, if you are interested in law libraries or legal information, you should come to Lawberry Camp!

Registration is not open yet! We'll announce that closer to the date. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the organizers, Jason Eiseman or Sarah Glassmeyer. We hope to see you in Boston!


Jason Eiseman and Sarah Glassmeyer

p.s. Sharp eyed individuals may note that this is the same weekend as ALA Midwinter, also happening in Boston. This is not entirely a coincidence! So come to Boston! Make a weekend of it! ALA exhibit passes are available for only $25…double your professional development fun!

Friday 13 November 2009

PACER survey

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts announced on November 2 that it is looking for feedback on PACER through an online survey to assess user satisfaction and generate suggestions for future improvements to the system. The survey is part of the Administrative Office's year-long, comprehensive assessment of PACER. According to the announcement, the survey will be open for approximately 30 days.
It's important for the Courts to hear from law faculty, law librarians, and law students. Please take a moment to participate in the survey, and share this info with your chapters and colleagues. Note that you must have a PACER account to take the survey.

Thursday 12 November 2009

Helpful info for law journals

Lee Ryan at the University of San Francisco School of Law has put together a great resource for students who are cite checking for law reviews. Called the Source Collection for Law Reviews & Journals at USF , it provides information on where to find reliable digital versions of documents that are frequently cited in law reviews and journals. Many of the sources are subscription databases, but fortunately we have most of those subscriptions.

hat tip: Elmer Masters

Wednesday 11 November 2009

CRS Report: Congressional Printing: Background and Issues for Congress

The Congressional Research Service has published a report (37 page pdf) entitled Congressional Printing: Background and Issues for Congress. It is a must-read for gov docs librarians (and law librarians who deal with Congressional documents). The report gives an overview of the GPO and the statutory requirements it must fulfill, as well as the actual practices of the GPO and statistics of what it publishes and how much it spends.
Some tidbits from the Summary:
"In current practice, more than half of all government documents originate in digital form, and are distributed electronically. As a consequence of electronic production and dissemination, some congressional materials are now more readily available to wider congressional, governmental, and public audiences than when they were only produced and distributed in paper form."
and " (T)he transition to electronic distribution of materials may raise questions about the capacity of current law and congressional practices to effectively oversee GPO’s management and distribution responsibilities regarding congressional information."
Finally, the report lists "Potential Options for Congress", should Congress believe that action on government printing practices might be necessary or desirable, (p. 16) which include:
1. Maintain the status quo.
2. Conduct Studies related to congressional printing policieson such topics as how users access congressional documents; whether current distribution practices for GPO-printed and electronic documents
are effective or efficient; the costs of creating paper and electronic documents, including retention of
archival documents, and disposal of obsolete materials; the extent to which current congressional printing and document distribution practices support Congress in its work; and what potential changes to congressional rules and practices might be necessary if Congress were to transition to “paperless” operations.
3. Consider legislation to amend current printing authorizations, found in 44 U.S.C. 906 and 44 U.S.C. 701 , to reflect current printing practices.

United States Supreme Court’s Recorder of Decisions to visit Pitt Law

Who edits and compiles the official US Supreme Court case decisions? And what is it like to deal with the dynamic and powerful personalities of the Supreme Court justices? And, by the way, do the justices write their own opinions or do they farm that work out to the clerks? Wouldn’t you love to know what goes on behind the scenes in the making of the U.S. Reports?
Here’s your chance….
On Thursday November 19, 2009 from Noon-1:00 Mr. Frank Wagner, the United States Supreme Court’s Recorder of Decisions will speak at University of Pittsburgh School of Law in Room G-12. Please join us for this exciting and illuminating presentation. For more information, contact Marc Silverman. Please note that this program is being sponsored by Jurist- Legal News and Research .
hat tip: Linda Tashbook

Veterans' Day

Today, Nov. 11, is Veterans' Day in the US. The date commemorates the signing of the Armistice that ended WWI, when Germany signed the Armistice on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed an Armistice Day for November 11, 1919. The United States Congress passed a concurrent resolution seven years later on June 4, 1926, requesting the President issue another proclamation to observe November 11 with appropriate ceremonies. An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday; "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day'."
Other US legal documents from 20th Century wars:
April 2, 1917 President Woodrow Wilson's Joint Address to Congress Leading to a Declaration of War Against Germany (1917)
April 6, 1917 40 Stat. 1 Public Resolution 65-1 Joint Resolution: Declaring that a state of war exists between the Imperial German Government and the Government and the people of the United States and making provision to prosecute the same.
Dec. 8, 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Joint Address to Congress Leading to a Declaration of War Against Japan
Dec. 8, 1941 55 Stat. 795 Public Law 77-328 Joint Resolution: Declaring that a state of war exists between the Imperial Government of Japan and the Government and the people of the United States and making provisions to prosecute the same.
Aug. 7, 1964, 78 Stat. 384 Public Law 88-408 The Tonkin Gulf Resolution This joint resolution of Congress (H.J. RES 1145) authorized "all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the UniteStates" and all steps necessary for the defense of U.S. allies in Southeast Asia. This gave President Lyndon Johnson authority to increase U.S. involvement in the war between North and South Vietnam.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

CALI webinar: law profs using CALI lessons

This Friday, Nov. 13, at 3pm Eastern time, CALI will host a free webinar for law school faculty about using CALI lessons in your course, including how you can integrate CALI lessons with TWEN. The presenters will be Prof. Debra Cohen, Visiting Associate Professor & Interim Director of Academic Support at the University of Baltimore School of Law; and Prof. Sally Wise, Director of the Law Library and Professor of Law at the University of Miami School of Law Register for the webinar on the CALI website.

Don't be Evil for the holidays...

Two items of Google (our motto: Don't be evil") holiday news. First, CNET reports that Google is subsidizing free wifi in 47 airports from now until January 15 - and indefinitely in the airports of Burbank CA and Seattle WA. A full list of the airports is at Google's free holiday Wi-Fi site.
Second, Computer World has a report that Google has unveiled - also in time for the holidays - a new search engine service called Google Commerce Search, designed specifically for e-commerce sites.

Penn State's Second Life requirement

Hard to believe, but the Chronicle of HIgher Ed. reports that academic advisors at Penn State are required to be available at the Penn State World Campus Island in Second Life. The site provides the avatar names for advisors, though I don't see any real-life photos..

Monday 9 November 2009

Luzerne County court asks lawyers to hear cases

The ABA Journal reports that the court in Luzerne County PA, where two judges were forced to resign due to federal corruption charges in the "kids for cash" scandal, is asking for seasoned lawyers to volunteer as special trial masters. According to the Luzerne County Times Leader the county court is facing a serious backlog in the trial calendar with 24 pending homicide cases (seven of which are death penalty cases) and 356 civil cases. Luzerne County President Judge Chester Muroski has asked experienced lawyers to lend a hand by serving as judges in some civil cases.

New ULS database: Brill's Encyclopedia of China

ULS has added Brill's encyclopedia of China to its database content. According to the description, Brill's contains "sound, in-depth information on China from its early beginnings up to today, with a clear focus on the modern period from the mid-nineteenth century to the 21st century. The encyclopedia is the result of an international academic effort, and covers the history, geography, society, economy, politics, science, and culture of China." It includes articles on the history of the legal system in China , Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, and much more.

Google Books adds magazine browsing

Google Books is in the process of scanning new and old magazines for the Google Books database. They have added a webpage for browsing and searching magazines; at the top you will find a search field that lets you limit your search to the content of magazines. You can also browse the editions of a given magazine - for example, you can browse every edition of Life magazine from 1935 to 1972. The magazines are all at least one year old, the number of magazines included is limited and they are all American.

Friday 6 November 2009

Supreme Court Database

The Supreme Court Database created by Prof. Harold Spaeth (Michigan State College of Law) has been around for a long time, but it was just this week updated with new technology to make it much more user-friendly. The database has 247 pieces of information for each case, roughly broken down into six categories: (1) identification variables (e.g., citations and docket numbers); (2) background variables (e.g., how the Court took jurisdiction, origin and source of the case, the reason the Court agreed to decide it); (3) chronological variables (e.g., the date of decision, term of Court, natural court); (4) substantive variables (e.g., legal provisions, issues, direction of decision); (5) outcome variables (e.g., disposition of the case, winning party, formal alteration of precedent, declaration of unconstitutionality); and (6) voting and opinion variables (e.g., how the individual justices voted, their opinions and interagreements). The interface has been modernized to make it easy to access all variables (with descriptive names) and quickly select a case or set of cases.

Friday fun: Making it fun to take the stairs

Maybe next time an elevator breaks we should do this...

GPO's annotated Constitution

Senator Russell Feingold, chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has sent a letter requesting that the Government Printing Office post the Constitution Annotated online in xml format. He points out that the Constitution Annotated has been continuously published by the Congressional Research Service for almost 100 years and contains analysis of nearly 8,000 Supreme Court cases. Currently the Constitution Annotated is only available in pdf format and is cumbersome to browse. Sen. Feingold points out in his letter that it would be much more navigable if it were available in xml format - and since CRS provides the publication to the GPO in xml format it shouldn't be difficult for GPO to comply with his request.

Thursday 5 November 2009

leaks of Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement negotiations are taking place in Seoul, Korea with representatives from the United States, European Union, Canada, Mexico, Korea and a few other countries. The US government has been disappointingly secretive about the agreement, claiming national security interests. Prof. Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa Law School has been writing about the negotiations on his blog (Prof. Geist is a specialist on internet law and compiles BNA's Internet Law News). Despite the secrecy of the talks, he has been getting leaked information that he summarizes on his blog. BoingBoing blogged about the leaks succinctly in a post entitled "Secret copyright treaty leaks. It's bad. Very bad. " If you are interested in internet law, it is well worth taking the time to follow Prof. Geists reporting and discussion.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Password complexity

Has the Westlaw "Strong OnePass Initiative" got you down? Do you worry that your aging brain will never be able to remember all the passwords and updates? Do you fear that some day you will be unable to use Purdon's because you just can't remember how to get into Westlaw?
Well cheer up, some people have it worse. Here's a (tongue-in-cheek) McSweeney's post containing a letter from Corporate Security on Secure Passwords. A quote from the letter:
"Here's a sample password that meets the new requirements: J8JΒΝzγΨfΛδ@6%vΤfShr57w/
(This password is for example purposes only and cannot serve as your personal password.)"

Carl Malamud on Law Librarian radio

This Friday, November 6, at 3:00 PM Eastern Time,The Law Librarian on BlogTalkRadio will welcome Carl Malamud, founder of EDGAR, FedFlix, and Public Resource dot org to discuss his newest project,Law.Gov. Host Richard Leiter of the University of Nebraska law school, co-host Marcia Dority-Baker, Margi Maes, (Executive Director of LIPA) and Roger Skalbeck, Associate Librarian of Electronic Resources, will delve into the subject of Open Access to Law, and explore the nuances of the "nation's operating system." You can call in and/or join the chat room to participate. (Follow the link above for phone numbers and log in information.) The transcript of the chat room will be posted online after the show.

CRS report on ADA implications for Flu

In a recent report , the Congressional Research Service said that individuals now infected with the H1N1 virus “would most likely not be considered” individuals with a disability under the ADA but warned that situation might change if “the virus were to mutate to cause more severe illness.” The report outlined possible applications of the ADA for employers and individuals who might become infected with the H1N1 virus, aka “swine flu.”

Library of Congress rebuffs calls to retract Honduras report

The Resource Shelf reports that the Law Library of Congress is refusing calls from Sen. John Kerry, Chair of the Senate foreign relations committees and Rep. Howard Bermanthe, Chair of the House foreign relations committee, to retract a report on the military-backed coup in Honduras that the lawmakers say is flawed. A spokesperson for the Law Library of Congress said that the research agency stands by the report and that Librarian of Congress James Billington is preparing a response to the lawmakers who, according to Resource Shelf, don’t like what the August report said: that the government of Honduras had the authority to remove deposed President Manuel Zelaya from office.

Somerset County Jail to allow Westlaw for prisoners

The Somerset (PA) Daily American reports today that Somerset County Jail inmates will be able to research cases online with Westlaw after Jan 1. Currently, when inmates do their legal research they have to ask jail staff to go to the county law library to look up and print cases that they want. The jail’s subscription will be restricted to Westlaw so inmates can’t navigate away from that site to see other online sites. They will only be able to see Pennsylvania and Supreme Court cases, not others.