Friday 30 April 2010

Immigration laws

The new immigration law passed by the state of Arizona has been in the news for the past couple of weeks. Yesterday Foreign Policy magazine featured an article titled The World's Worst Immigration Laws, in which it discusses immigration laws in other countries around the globe and how they are trying to deal with influxes of immigrants.

Thursday 29 April 2010

Sunday May 2 in Oakland: the Perfect Storm?

It has come to our attention - somewhat belatedly - that it might be a good idea to sleep late and stay out of Oakland this Sunday morning. The Pittsburgh Marathon is in the morning, and will shut down many streets as it progresses through city neighborhoods, including up Forbes Ave. in Oakland(see the map). Because of all the road closures Port Authority bus routes will be disrupted or rerouted (see the Port Authority announcement); according to their site,"Though some city streets will be opened as the race passes to allow for access to church traffic and businesses, to remain consistent with routings, all bus routes will remain on detour until the last runner turns the corner at Penn and 11th Street at the end of the race (anticipated to be around 1:30 PM). All bus routes will be returned to their regular route at the same time throughout the city."
In addition, the Pitt graduation is scheduled for 2:00 pm on Sunday. University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg will welcome graduating members of the Class of 2010, faculty, trustees, alumni, staff, and invited guests, families, and friends attending the 2010 Commencement in the Petersen Events Center. The Marathon website has directions (pdf) for getting to Oakland for the graduation if you are driving.
Finally, there's a hockey playoff game: the Penguins will be playing the Canadiens at the Mellon Arena, Uptown, at 2:00 pm.

Author files criminal libel suit over review of her book

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Karin N. Calvo-Goller, author of The Trial Proceedings of the International Criminal Court (Martinus Nijhoff), has filed a criminal libel suit in France against Joseph H.H. Weiler, NYU law prof and editor of the European Journal of International Law, over a review of her book that he published on the Global Law Books web site (a site that he edits). The review was written by Thomas Weigend, a professor of law at the University of Cologne and director of the Cologne Institute of Foreign and International Criminal Law. The Chronicle article also links to a blogpost on the Opinio Juris blog by Kevin Jon Heller, lecturer at the University of Melbourne's law school, which says that the review is not particularly critical and even if it were there is no justification for filing criminal charges against Joseph Weiler, who published the review.
The Trial Proceedings of the International Criminal Court is available in the Barco Law Library.

Graphical legal publishing history

Hats off to fellow law librarians Sarah Glassmeyer and Greg Lambert for making visual charts that graphically show the shrinking world of legal publishing, a topic that is of concern to all law librarians. First Sarah created a chart , linked from her blog, that gives a visual representation of some of the major mergers in the field. Then Greg Lambert, inspired by the idea, blogged about it and updated the chart to include more types of legal information companies and specifically the growth of Thomson Reuters. Greg also made his spreadsheet available on Google Docs so anyone interested can add information.

Wednesday 28 April 2010

Social Media, technology, education, and law News

This week there are so many interesting news articles on the topics of social media, technology, law, and education- and the intersections of all of the above. Here's a sampling.

ABA Journal: An Ohio judge who refused to step down from a serial murder case after a newspaper reported she may have posted anonymous Internet comments about the defendant and his lawyer was removed from the case by Acting Ohio Chief Justice Paul E. Pfeifer.

Chronicle of Higher Ed: Northern Arizona University is spending $75,000 to install an electronic system that tracks student class attendance by detecting student ID cards with an electronic sensor.

Chronicle of Higher Ed: The new internet trend Chatroulette, popular with college students, works on a simple principle: a screen with 3 boxes. One is your image, the second is a random other online person’s image (the randomness is what makes it Roulette), and the third is a box for typing messages and chatting. If either gets bored chatting they can click on a “Next” button to chat with a new random person and be 99-percent sure of never seeing each other again.

CNet: A woman in England appears in Google Streetview 43 times while she is out walking her dog.

ABA Journal: In a recent Florida felony gun case, the jurors admittedly were texting and making cell calls during deliberations and after the deliberations were over a prosecutor in the case posted a ditty about the trial on Facebook that can be sung to the tune of the theme song from Gilligan's Island.

Legal Blogwatch: Craigslist crimewave: Rapes, Fake 'Orgy Requested' Ads and robberies using Craigslist. For example, a Connecticut man, as part of a feud with a "soccer-mom" neighbor, targeted her with an explicit online posting (supposedly from her) that invited the Craigslist world to join her for an orgy.

MIT Technology Review: South Korea targets 2 million Internet addicts; the Culture Ministry announced a joint project with major South Korean gaming companies earlier this month to implement a "late-night shutdown" on Internet games popular among young users. Stories of internet addiction include a couple who let their 3-month-old starve while they raised a virtual child in an online game, spending most of their days at an Internet cafe instead of caring for their newborn and a 22-year-old who bludgeoned his mother to death for nagging him about playing Internet games and then played games online for hours, paying with his mother's credit card.

MIT Technology Review: Pope warns of Internet risks; says the Internet and the ongoing process of media convergence carry a risk of conformity of thought and control.

O'Reilly Radar: How the US military is using social media; Letters from the front have been replaced with Facebook updates.

ABA Journal: Juror in a reckless homicide case faces contempt of court charge for watching a YouTube video about the case before deliberations.

Summer access to Lexis & Westlaw for students

For most law students, access to LexisNexis and Westlaw are turned off for the summer months, under the assumption that they are working for law firms or government and their access should be paid for by their summer employers. However, in certain circumstances law students can have summer access; these circumstances normally include:
  • Students enrolled in summer law school classes
  • Students doing Law review or law journal work
  • Students working for a professor during the summer
  • Students who are working as Research Fellows for the library during the summer
  • Unpaid, nonprofit public interest internship/externship
  • Students doing pro bono work required for graduation
Here are the links to the Lexis (click on Summer Access in the lower right) and Westlaw (click on Current Student under to extend your Westlaw password) login pages where you can sign up for summer access.
In addition, graduating students preparing for the July bar exam can also have their passwords extended for the summer.
Lexis also offers the Aspire program, granting some access to current and graduating students who are engaging in qualifying non-profit work.
Finally, even if you don't qualify to extend your Westlaw password for the summer, your password can still be used 2 hours a month in June and July.

Monday 26 April 2010

Right On for the Write-On

The annual Write-On competition held an information meeting last week and over 175 1Ls attended, suggesting that many of our 1Ls plan to participate in the competition. There is always a crunch when the Write-On competition begins right after all the final exams are over.
The Write-On competition provides 1Ls with the opportunity to serve on one of the Pitt Law journals even if their grades don't place them within the top tier of their class. Since final grades and class rank aren't available until after the Write-On competition even the best students usually enter the competition.
The competition this year begins at noon on Friday May 14 and ends on May 28. The competition will require the students to write about a topic assigned by the Write-On committee, using 26 possible assigned research sources, 5 "free" sources like Black's Law Dictionary, and up to 5 additional sources.
Competitors should bear in mind several factors that tend to cause frustration every year:
1. When you print up all 26 of the research sources you will be printing several hundred pages. If you use the law school Lexis and Westlaw printers you will be one of many print jobs as every 1L tries to print at the same time.
2. Try to plan so as to allow yourself plenty of time to get the sources printed up. The print queues will be long. Please try to refrain from hitting the "Print" button more than once, unless you definitely know that your job wasn't sent to a printer.
3. We strongly suggest you use the Westlaw "find and print" service or the Lexis "Get & Print" service to print up the sources you want. These services allow you to enter a list of citations and print all of them at once. If you don't print this way, your print jobs will likely get all mixed up with the print jobs of other students.
4. The library goes on summer schedule on Friday May 14. This means the hours we are open are limited; hours are posted at .
5. The library and both Westlaw and Lexis will also be on their summer staffing schedules. This means that there will be fewer people available to help with printing problems like paper jams, low toner, and running out of paper. Please keep in mind that responsibility for fixing printer problems lies with our Lexis rep for the Lexis printers, our Westlaw rep for the Westlaw printers, and our IT department for the law school printers.
6. Campus libraries and computer labs will also be on summer hours, beginning May 2. Check their websites or call to make sure they are open when you need them.

Friday 23 April 2010

National Data Catalog is now live online

After several months in development, the National Data Catalog is up and operational. This is a project of the Sunlight Foundation that aims to get all sorts of available government data gathered in one location. The NDC has a blog to keep interested people up to date on what they are doing. There is even a YouTube video explaining how it works. You can browse the datasets by Jurisdiction, Organization, Source Type, and Release Year. The collection should continue to grow rapidly as datasets are collected and added to the Catalog.

Law students' site willl publish employment stats

The ABA Journal reports that two law students at Vanderbilt have created a website that will publish more and better information about law school graduate employment.The site is called Law School Transparency and its mission is to "establish a new standard for employment reporting and to assist ABA-approved law schools improve insight into the legal profession."

Wednesday 21 April 2010

@ n'at.

The Department of Architecture and Design of the Museum of Modern Art in New York recently acquired @ for its collection. How's that, you say (or how's th@)? The MoMA Inside/Out Blog posted about why and how it acquired @, and the post includes a brief history of @ from the sixth century to the modern era. The blog explains that "The acquisition of @ ... relies on the assumption that physical possession of an object as a requirement for an acquisition is no longer necessary, and therefore it sets curators free to tag the world and acknowledge things that “cannot be had”—because they are too big (buildings, Boeing 747’s, satellites), or because they are in the air and belong to everybody and to no one, like the @—as art objects befitting MoMA’s collection."
The blog adds "Being in the public realm, @ is free. It might be the only truly free—albeit not the only priceless—object in our collection. We have acquired the design act in itself and as we will feature it in different typefaces, we will note each time the specific typeface as if we were indicating the materials that a physical object is made of."
The blogpost concludes that " @ symbol is now part of the very fabric of life all over the world. Nowhere is this more vividly demonstrated than in the affectionate names @ has been given by different cultures. Germans, Poles, and South Africans call @ “monkey’s tail” in each different language. Chinese see a little mouse, and Italians and the French, a snail. For the Russians @ symbolizes a dog, while the Finnish know @ as the miukumauku, meaning the “sign of the meow,” and believe that the symbol is inspired by a curled-up sleeping cat. The @ symbol has become so significant that people feel they need to make sense of it; hence it has inspired its own folkloric tradition.
The @ sign is such an extraordinary mediating symbol that recently in the Spanish language it has begun to express gender neutrality; for example, in the typical expression Hola l@s viej@s amig@s y l@s nuev@s amig@s! (Hello old friends and new friends!) Its potential for such succinct negotiations (whether between man and machine, or between traditional gender classifications and the current spectrum) and its range of application continue to expand. It has truly become a way of expressing society’s changing technological and social relationships, expressing new forms of behavior and interaction in a new world."A Pittsburgher would add "n'@".

Tuesday 20 April 2010

College experiments with iPad after Kindle flop

The Wired Campus blog reports that Reed College in Oregon is going to test out the use of Apple iPads for students. Students will receive iPads loaded with their course readings and will compare them with "traditional" textbooks. Reed did a similar experiment with the Amazon Kindle and found it to be an unexpected failure with students.

Niche search engines

Search engine land has an article called "8 Crazy-Cool Search Engines You Should Know". They are moderately crazy/cool and may even be useful to you:

  1. Dead Cell Zones offers a searchable map mashup of user-reported dead cellular zones. It lists U.S. dead spots that have been reported by users of AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and some smaller carriers. How many? The site claims to have more than 100,000 submissions from users.
  2. Things You Saw in a Movie helps you find things you, well, saw in a movie and wondered where you could pick one up yourself. Like the red stapler in Office Space, for example.
  3. Storm Events for people who love weather, info from the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) lists all U.S. weather events going back to 1996, and some (like tornadoes, high winds, and hail) going back to the 1950s.
  4. Pillbox from the NIH is a search engine for identifying unknown pills; you provide the size, shape, color etc and it provides a list of possibilities and links to more info.
  5. TypoBuddy is a search engine that helps you look for misspelled auction items on eBay or misspelled items on Craigslist. No kidding.
  6. Filler Item Finder If you are buying something on Amazon that costs $24.99 and you want to spend $25 to get the free shipping this search engine will find you low-cost Amazon products to bump up your total just enough.
  7. Soda Finder offers a search engine for rare, old, and discontinued soda pop. Yum!
  8. StorageFront offers a search engine for finding self-storage locations across the U.S. You can filter results by unit size and a dozen features, such as climate control, 24-hour cameras, and more.

Weight Discrimination Resources

The AALL Patron Services blog has a post on Weight Discrimination Resources that provides a sizable collection of information resources on a relatively new legal topic collected by Hofstra law librarian Yasmin Alexander. Here are the resources she found:
- This NPR piece is about an incident in which film director Kevin Smith was expelled from a Southwest flight because of his weight and/or size. Of course, because of Mr. Smith’s celebrity status and his prolific Twittering, the incident became a popular news/blogging item. This NPR story inspired Yasmin to find more legal literature regarding weight discrimination.
- Primary Law: Generally, persons of a certain size or weight are generally not considered to be a protected class. Of the fifty states, only Michigan has a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of weight (the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976). A handful of municipalities have similar laws.
The Council on Size and Weight Discrimination has a web page listing laws, ordinances and rulings relevant to weight discrimination.
- Secondary Sources
There is some legal literature discussing discrimination on the basis of size and weight. The literature tends to use the terms “weight discrimination,” “size discrimination,” “obesity discrimination” and more recently “fat rights.”
Helpful sources providing an overview of the topic,:
Weight Bias: Nature Consequences and Remedies offers several articles on weight discrimination. Most of the articles are sociological/psychological in nature, but two articles: Legal Theory on Weight Discrimination by ElizabethTheran; and Remedies for Weight-Based Discrimination by Sondra Solovay give a solid explanation of weight discrimination and current anti-discrimination laws.
The Fat Studies Reader includes several articles about weight discrimination in contemporary society. Of particular interest is an article titledNo Apology: Shared Struggles in Fat and Transgender Law as well as an article discussing airlines and size limitations. The book also includes an Appendix entitled Legal Briefs which provides excerpts from laws and ordinances that prohibit discrimination on the basis of weight.
Anna Kirkland’s Fat Rights: Dilemma’s of Difference and Personhood examines anti-discrimination laws within the context of weight discrimination. Using her“logics of personhood” it offers an interesting analysis of how difference is treated in the legal system and how difference should be treated.
Finally, the Congressional Research Service Report titled Obesity Discrimination and the Americans with Disabilities Act gives a good overview of cases in which weight discrimination was addressed using the ADA.
Thanks to Ms. Alexander and the AALL Patron Services SIS for sharing the information.

Friday 16 April 2010

PACER new video on US Courts website

Judiciary Announces Improvements to Public Access to Electronic Records (PACER): watch the new PACER video, Remote Access to Court Records Easier With Search Improvements . From the announcment:
"There are more than 500-million documents on file in the federal judiciary's electronic records system, and the number of cases is growing everyday. Improvements to the system will make it easier to search the massive electronic data base."

Canadian law student launches Nomus, case law database

A law student at McGill University in Montreal has launched a free website with Canadian caselaw, according to a story in the Montreal Gazette. Nomus, named after the Greek god of law, was developed over the course of a year by 28 year old Kent Mewhort and is still in "beta". Searching can be done in English or French, and a page shows the datbase's coverage of the various Canadian courts.

Most Amazing Libraries

The Huffington Post is celebrating National Library Week with photos of 9 of "America's most amazing libraries". Included are the New York Public, Boston Public, and the Peabody library at Johns Hopkins. For some unknown reason they did not include Barco in the list.

EPA blog discusses acid rain

The EPA has announced the creation of a blog focusing on acid rain as part of a monthlong discussion of its Acid Rain Program, which has been in existence for 20 years. According to the announcement, starting April 8th and ending on April 29th, the EPA will post daily to inform and engage the public in an interactive web discussion. Topics will include an overview of acid rain and its effects, a description of the Acid Rain Program’s cap and trade policy, an explanation of how EPA monitors power plant emissions, and how air and water quality monitoring data are used to measure environmental improvements. The EPA is hosting the month-long online discussion to "celebrate the significant progress its Acid Rain Program has made to reduce emissions of harmful pollutants from the electric power industry".

GAO issues IP report on effects of counterfeit & piracy

CNet News reports that the GAO's recent report to Congress (41 page pdf) says that most of the published information, anecdotal evidence, and records show that piracy is a drag on the U.S. economy, tax revenue, and in some cases potentially threatens national security and public health. But the problem is, according to the GAO, the data used to quantify piracy isn't reliable. The GAO report sees problems with the methodology used in studies that Hollywood and the recording industry have long relied on to support claims that piracy is destructive to their businesses. The GAO even notes the existence of data that shows piracy may benefit consumers in some cases.

DOJ is planning an online FOIA "report card" on 92 federal agencies

In its Open Government Plan (22 page pdf) the US Department of Justice announced that it will create a Web site called the “FOIA Dashboard,” that will collect cross-government data about agency FOIA performance and presents it in an easy‐to‐understand, interactive format. The site will compares 92 federal agencies' compliance with the Freedom of Information Act in hopes that the virtual "report card" will encourage them to improve their responses to the public. According to a DOJ blog post about the plan, the DOJ has a unique responsibility when it comes to FOIA because federal law requires that the department provide guidance on FOIA-related issues to other agencies and that it collects information on FOIA compliance.
According to the DOJ, the FOIA Dashboard will be launched in two key phases. In the first phase, the Department will develop the functionality of the Dashboard with 2009 FOIA data from 25 key executive departments, including DOJ; they estimate this will be completed in September 2010. The second phase, estimated to be completed by March 2011, will involve supplementing this initial data with the 2010 FOIA compliance data from all 92 federal agencies that report it.

Supreme Court Justices Breyer & Thomas at budget hearing

The Blog of LegalTimes reports that Justices Breyer and Thomas spoke at the Supreme Court's annual budget hearing before the House Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on financial services and general government. Among the topics they answered questions about were the size of the Court's docket (about 75 cases a year, down from twice that 25 years ago); law clerk diversity (or rather lack of diversity); and cameras in the courtroom. Justice Breyer offered the theory that that the Court's docket tends to increase a few years after passage of a major piece of federal legislation, and in a few years the Court will be considering many more cases because of litigation over the newly passed health care bill. In the discussion about law clerk diversity, Rep. Barbara Lee, (D-CA)urged the Court to issue an "edict" announcing its desire for more minority applicants and asked for a report from the Court on the demographics of its clerks. And Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) urged the Court to allow cameras, saying it is increasingly anachronistic to keep cameras out.

HeinOnline 10th birthday

HeinOnline recently announced a new product: World Constitutions Illustrated: Contemporary & Historical Documents & Resources, and beginning on Monday, April 19th, we will have free access to this new library on HeinOnline. This free access is by way of celebrating HeinOnline's 10th birthday in May. According to the announcement, World Constitutions Illustrated: Contemporary & Historical Documents & Resources is only in the beginning stages; Hein will be continually adding constitutional documents, books, periodicals, articles, and links to expand the constitutional hierarchy for every country.

Tuesday 13 April 2010

last week for BNA's Internet Law News

BNA has notified subscribers that this is the last week BNA will be sending out BNA's Internet Law News, an online publication of internet law news that has been compiled by Prof. Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa for the past ten years. According to the announcement, "with internet law evolving so quickly, BNA has recently turned its weekly Electronic Commerce & Law Report into a continually updated web subscription service. Subscribers receive an e-mail notification every day that the website is updated, in addition to a weekly e-mail wrap up of highlights." Prof. Geist adds his thanks to BNA for hosting ILN and says that "While BNA's Internet Law News is coming to an end, I plan to continue work in the area. If you would like to stay updated, send an email to"

Monday 12 April 2010

Google books bibliography

Charles Bailey Jr. has created an online bibliography of articles and other works relevant to Google Books. As he explains, the bibliography "primarily focuses on the evolution of Google Books and the legal, library, and social issues associated with it. Where possible, links are provided to works that are freely available on the Internet, including e-prints in disciplinary archives and institutional repositories."

Friday 9 April 2010

Save $$ by changing your font

MIT's Technology Review has an article that explains how you can save money by changing the font you use in documents you print. Yes, really. Apparently the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay expects to save $5,000 to $10,000 a year on ink and toner cartridges because they have asked faculty and staff to use Century Gothic for all printed documents. The school also plans to change its e-mail system so it uses Century Gothic. This is based on data from a company called When tested popular fonts for their ink-friendly ways, Century Gothic and Times New Roman topped the list. Calibri, Verdana, Arial and Sans Serif were next, followed by Trebuchet, Tahoma and Franklin Gothic Medium. Century Gothic uses about 30 percent less ink than Arial. The amount of ink a font drains is mainly driven by the thickness of its lines. A font with "narrow" or "light" in its name is usually better than its "bold" or "black" counterpart, said Thom Brown, an ink researcher (how's that for a great job title?) at Hewlett-Packard Co., the world's top maker of printers. Also, serif fonts -- those with short horizontal lines at the top and bottom of characters -- tend to use thinner lines and thus less ink than a "sans serif".
The article also points out that the greenest way to save on ink is not to print at all. That's the philosophy Microsoft Corp. said it uses in deciding which fonts to include in its Outlook and Word applications. The more pleasing a font looks on the screen, the less tempted someone will be to print, said Simon Daniels, a program manager for Microsoft's typography group. That's why the company changed its defaults in Office 2007 from Arial and Times New Roman to Calibri and Cambria (Yes, there was an environmental reason). "We're trying to move the threshold of when people hit the print button," he said.
There is no discussion of the ink usage of Comic Sans, the annoying font that inspired the Ban Comic Sans movement.

Cass Sunstein OMB memo: agency guidance on using social media

InformationWeek reports that Cass Sunstein, White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs administrator, has issued a memo (7 page pdf) providing guidance to federal government agencies and making it easier to communicate with citizens and collect feedback from them by way of the Internet and social media. The memo explains that the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), which requires federal agencies to get approval from the OMB before collecting information from the public, does not in most cases apply to agencies' use of social networks, wikis and blogs. Federal agencies are increasingly using social media applications like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to solicit public comment and hold virtual public meetings. The memo explains that agency websites that let the public rate comments through a thumbs-up/thumbs-down voting mechanism or through numerical ratings and tag clouds are not subject to the PRA. Government agencies may employ on their Websites general "suggestion boxes" or applications for brainstorming to enable the public to submit feedback. However, the OMB recommends agencies limit use of the information generated by these tools to organizing, ranking, and sorting comments.

Friday Fun: vote for your favorite Peeps-in-Law

The ABA Journal has chosen its top five contestants in the Peeps-in-Law contest from submissions to Below the photographs is a poll where you can pick your favorite of the five. The top two vote-getters will receive prizes from Just Born, the maker of Peeps. Even if you don't want to vote, it's fun to look at the entries; they include a black and white "To Kill a Mockingpeep" and "The Trial of Rod Peepovich" featuring a Peep with amazing hair whose every other word has to be "peeped" out.

HeinOnline collection development survey

What new content would you like to see on popular legal db HeinOnline? That's the question Hein asks in a new online survey for law librarians and other legal researchers. It's a simple survey in which you assign a number from 1 to 5, with one being low priority and 5 high priority, to nine potential online collections:
  • State Attorney General Reports & Opinions
  • Congressional Serial Set
  • Census Historical File
  • Social Security & Health Care Reform
  • British Statutes
  • Native American
  • Case Law
  • Intellectual Property
  • International Trade
There is also a box where you can suggest other new digital collections of legal resources that you would like to see.

Thursday 8 April 2010

Photographers & visual artists sue Google books project

The New York Times reports that the Google books project is facing another lawsuit, this time from the American Society of Media Photographers and other visual artist groups. The class-action lawsuit asserts that the Google project, which is digitizing millions of library books, infringes on photographer and visual artist copyrights.

Tuesday 6 April 2010

HeinOnline beta testing new Journals home page

The HeinOnline Blog reports that a recent survey they conducted has led them to create a new Betal Collection Home page for their Law Journal Library. Through their survey, they learned that the majority of users are searching the database or they are accessing articles and documents using a citation.The new Beta Collection Home page presents users with:
  • Quick search option where you can quickly search for an article
  • Simple citation box in which you type the bluebook citation
  • The title lookup tool to quickly search for a publication title
  • Google Scholar search widgets where you can search just HeinOnline titles using the Google Scholar interface, or search all of Google Scholar .
You can test the Beta page to see how it works, and then email HeinOnline with any feedback you may have.

Open Government plans audit, welcomes assistance

In his committment to creating an "unprecedented level of openness in Government" in order to "strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government", President Obama's administration issued an Open Government Directive requiring Federal agencies to take several steps to build transparency into the way they operate. One of the key requirements of the Open Government Directive is for agencies to develop and publish Open Government Plans by April 7th, 2010. These plans are meant to provide the public with information about how agencies intend to create a lasting culture of openness.
Open the Government dot Org, a coalition of journalists, consumer groups, environmentalists, library groups (including the AALL and ALA), and others is arranging an audit of these Open Government Plans with the goal of having each plan evaluated by April 16. The audit will evaluate the agency Plans and grade them on whether they live up to both the letter and the spirit of the Directive. Several organizations have volunteered to evaluate plans, but anyone interested in how an agency is doing, and willing to help by filling out an evaluation form, can email with information about what federal agency you would like to grade, and a little bit about your involvement with the agency.
The public can view these evaluations, comment on any part of the plans they think are impressive, and make concrete suggestions on how the agency could improve its plan on the Evaluating Open Government Site.

OCLC adds Google Books & HathiTrust library to WorldCat

OCLC has announced that it is adding records to WorldCat that represent digitized books from the Google Books Library Project and the HathiTrust Digital Library to provide greater access to and increased visibility of these digitized collections. WorldCat users will begin seeing these new records in WorldCat immediately, and OCLC will continue to add records for these collections to WorldCat on an ongoing basis. Users will be able to locate digitized books from these collections and link to the associated book landing page, and in some cases can access the full text of eBooks. Jon Orwant of the Google Books project is quoted as saying "Google is excited to be surfacing its digitized books through WorldCat."
The HathiTrust Digital Library is a repository for some of the US's greatest research libraries, including the University of California system and other major state universities, allowing these universities to archive and share their digitized collections. OCLC and the HathiTrust are working together to implement a public interface for the HathiTrust catalog through a WorldCat Local interface, to be introduced later this year.

Public Libraries & Access to Justice conference curriculum

In January 2010, a two-day Conference on Public Libraries and Access to Justice was sponsored by the Self‐Represented Litigation Network of the National Center for State Courts. The goal of the conference was to help train public libraries on how to provide information about and online access to legal resources for their users. The full curriculum of the two day conference, including presentation slides and case study examples, is now posted on the WebJunction Web site.

"cloud" computing for Institutional repositories

The Chronicle of Higher Education Wired Campus blog has a post that reports on an effort to build and store institutional repositories - university-wide collections of faculty research papers - in off-site data storage systems aka the "cloud". The blog points out that many academic libraries have been striving to build institutional repositories; now in a new project called DuraCloud developers are building software to make it easier for librarians to put those repositories in off-site data storage services that are increasingly popular because they are experts at data storage.
A nonprofit group called DuraSpace is leading the effort. The group was formed by a merger of two groups that produce software to manage digital repositories—the DSpace Foundation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Fedora Commons at Cornell University. The project is still in beta, but hopes to be available to more libraries by next fall.
The goal of the new service is to add features that support what libraries care about most: access, preservation, re-use and sharing.

WSJ Law Blog : critiques of US News rankings

The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog recently featured a post about the methodology used by US News & World Report for ranking law schools. The blog mentions the frequents criticism that it is too easy to game the system to bolster a school's rank. In addition, it looks at an interesting critique from the Concurring Opinions blog that takes aim at one of the most important pieces of information used in the rankings: the "reputation" rankings done by law school faculty, practitioners and judges. Concurring Opinions blogger Daniel Solove tries to go through the process of ranking 200 law schools 1-5, with 5 being the best. The exercise leaves him questioning how anyone can " fill out the US News ranking forms in good faith to reflect accurately their sense of law school reputations?”

Friday 2 April 2010

Group calls for updating privacy framework for digital age

On March 30, a coalition of privacy groups, think tanks, technology companies and academics issued a call for updating federal privacy law for the internet age. The principles of the coalition, which maintains the website "Digital Due Process: Modernizing surveillance laws for the internet age", are to simplify, clarify, and unify Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) standards, providing stronger privacy protections for communications and associated data in response to changes in technology and new services and usage patterns, while preserving the legal tools necessary for government agencies to enforce the laws, respond to emergency circumstances and protect the public.
According to the coalition's website, the ECPA is a patchwork of confusing standards that have been interpreted inconsistently by the courts, creating uncertainty for both service providers and law enforcement agencies. The ECPA can no longer be applied in a clear and consistent way, and, consequently, the vast amount of personal information generated by today’s digital communication services may no longer be adequately protected. At the same time, ECPA must be flexible enough to allow law enforcement agencies and services providers to work effectively together to combat increasingly sophisticated cyber-criminals or sexual predators.
Members of the Digital Due Process coalition include the ACLU, American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, Google, eBay, Microsoft, Intel, the EFF, and faculty from a number of law schools and universities.

Digital Preservation symposium

Inside Higher Education reports that symposium called "A National Conversation on the Economic Sustainability of Digital Information" was held in Washington DC on April 1, 2010, hosted by the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access . The symposium brought together a diverse group of speakers from the academic, private, and public sectors to discuss the recent Report (116 page pdf) prepared by the task force and titled "Sustainable Economics for a Digital Planet: ensuring Long-Term Access to Digital Information". The group discussed the problems of digital preservation, especially in academia, where too little has been done to systematically preserve the massive quantities of cultural artifacts being produced daily in digital formats. In its report, the task force analyzes the problem according to four different types of information that ought to be preserved — scholarly work, research data, commercially owned cultural content (e.g., television shows, films, online publications, etc.), and collectively produced Web content (e.g., blogs, social networking sites, etc.) — and makes recommendations for each.

Research Guides from GlobaLex updated

GlobaLex is an electronic legal publication dedicated to international and foreign law research published by the Hauser Global Law School Program at NYU School of Law. GlobaLex is "committed to the dissemination of high-level international, foreign, and comparative law research tools in order to accommodate the needs of an increasingly global educational and practicing legal world." Recently updated research guides include A Guide to Fee-Based U. S. Legal Research Databases by Mary Rumsey which includes descriptions of all the major fee-based legal research database and the Basic Guide to Researching Foreign Law , also by Mary Rumsey, which describes basic strategies for finding the laws of countries other than the U.S, primarily in English.
Also updated recently are the guides on Icelandic Law; Moldovan Legal Research; and South African Law .

hat tip: Joe Hodnicki

GPO launches blog

The Government Printing Office has launched a new blog called "Government Book Talk" at The blog's goal is "to raise the profile of some of the best publications from the Federal Government, past and present. We’ll be reviewing new and popular publications, providing information about new publications in the offing, and talking about some out-of-print classics. The goal is to spotlight the amazing variety of Government publications and their impact on ourselves and our world – and have fun while doing it." The author of the blog is Jim Cameron, a long-time GPO employee. One of his first posts is about a pamphlet illustrated by Private Ted Geisel of the U.S. Army - better known to us as Dr. Seuss. The illustrated pamphlet is called “Meet Ann…She’s Dying to Meet You,” and is about the perils of contracting malaria from the Anopheles mosquito.