Monday 31 January 2011

U.S. Code Title 51

Thanks to sharp-eyed fellow law librarian Brian Huddleston who noticed that the Lexis interface now shows that  the US Code has a new Title, Title 51, "National and Commercial Space Programs". Title 51 is now included in the Lexis federal collection, along with its 7 Subtitles.  As of this morning it hadn't been added to Westlaw.  The new Title was created by Public Law 111-314, signed by President Obama on Dec. 18. A page further explaining the bill is available from the Office of the Law Revision Counsel (the people who prepare and publish the US Code, where laws are codified by subject matter). 

Friday 28 January 2011

Judge Posner pans the Bluebook

Judge Richard Posner has published a scathing  review of the latest (19th) edition of the Bluebook (12 page pdf) in the most recent Yale Law Journal. The review begins "Nowadays the word “hypertrophy” is used mainly to denote a class of  diseases in which an organ grows to an abnormal size because of the uncontrolled growth of the cells that constitute it. But the word is still used occasionally to denote a structure or activity that has grown far beyond any apparent functional needThe Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation exemplifies hypertrophy in the anthropological sense. It is a monstrous growth, remote from the functional need for legal citation forms, that serves obscure needs of the legal culture and its student subculture." 
He goes on to say that the first edition of the Bluebook (26 page pdf, with large font), published in 1926, was just 26 pages long; by the time Judge Posner was in law school in 1958, using the 10th edition, it was 124 pages long; and in the 52 years since it has grown by 400 percent.
If the Bluebook has ever caused you misery you will enjoy this review. 

The history of reading

BigThink has an interesting post entitled "From Papyrus to iPad: The Evolution of Reading" by technology writer Nicholas Carr.  The post consists of a video as well as the transcript of his talk.  He notes that spaces between words were only invented around 800 or 900 AD, before which reading was a more cognitively intensive act. The advent of eReaders threatens to revive this complexity. He says that  reading is again "becomes a more cognitively intensive act, the way it was back when there were no spaces between words. And as a result, I think we begin to lose the ability to read in the deepest, most interpretive ways because were not kind of calming our mind and just focusing on the argument or the story." 

Australian legislation online

The Law Librarians of Congress blog reports on "New and Improved Access to Australian Legislation". ComLaw, the main Australian website for up-to-date Commonwealth legislation, has been revised with major improvements in navigation and linkage to other Australian law websites. 

Prof. Deborah Brake on "Getting in the Game"

Today's edition of Inside Higher Ed. features an in-depth interview with Prof. Deborah Brake on her recent book, Getting in the Game: Title IX and the Women's Sports Revolution, and on Title IX.

Thursday 27 January 2011

Modeling a Sustainable Federal Depository Library Program

We reported in September that Ithaka has been contracted by the Government Printing Office (GPO) for a project to "develop sustainable models for the FDLP in the 21st century."  Ithaka has already released several draft documents: Background (final draft), Environmental Scan (final draft),  DRAFT White Paper on Existing Library Networks, and a Summary of Research Phase Findings and Implications.  For everyone interested in the FDLP program and/or government documents, the librarians over at Free Gov Info blog have provided a document that contains  the Ithaka  "Findings" document with many thoughtful comments and annotations by the bloggers.

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Do hawks like to read?

The Library of Congress blog reports that somehow a Cooper's Hawk has flown into the Main Reading Room of the LOC.  The blogger has an excellent sense of humor; no news yet of the hawk's sense of humor. A number of astute commenters have been suggesting names for the Hawk as well as possible ways for luring it out of the LOC.

Monday 24 January 2011

Is Google losing its edge?

The State of Search blog, written by a group of  websearch  strategists and social media experts, has a recent article called "We're tired of Google, it's time for a change." According to the post Google now takes the role of the lumbering and slow-moving giant of the web, incapable of dealing with the growing mountains of webspam (has anyone else noticed that Google results seem to be getting less satisfying?). The author goes on to discuss Bing, the search engine that Microsoft developed and is pushing, but says that "Bing suffers from nearly all of the issues Google is faced with: cluttered SERPs (that's Search Engine Results Pages ), spammy results, and an image lacking trust and, well, hipness." Instead, he prefers Yandex, a Russian search engine that has, according to the article, "everything that Google has lost over the past 10 years" , as well as some new technology called Spectrum that focuses on allowing the search engine to return a whole “spectrum” of results matching a variety of user intents based on the frequency of user searches and creating categories that become associated with keywords.  

Write your exam anxiety away

There's an interesting article in Science magazine this month titled "Writing About Testing Worries Boosts Exam Performance in the Classroom".  It reports on a study by two psychology professors at the University of Chicago who found that having students write about their test anxiety for ten minutes  before taking a high-stakes exam significantly improved students' exam test scores.
College students were given a challenging math test involving a subject they hadn't encountered before (sounds like a nightmare I've had). Then they learned they'd win $10 if they increased their score on a second test, and that their performance would also determine whether another student got $10. To add to the pressure, they'd be videotaped and their methods evaluated. Before the second test, the students either sat quietly for 10 minutes or wrote about what they were feeling. The nonwriters "choked," the researchers said, with their scores dropping by 12 percentage points. But those who wrote about their anxiety raised their scores by four percentage points. In field studies in real high-school biology classes, students with high test anxiety scored the equivalent of B-plus on a final exam when they did the writing exercise, and B-minus when they didn't.
The authors conclude that a brief expressive writing assignment that occurred immediately before taking an important test, can significantly improve students’ exam scores, especially for students habitually anxious about test taking. Simply writing about one’s worries before a high-stakes exam can boost test scores.

Thursday 20 January 2011


The Wall Street Journal today had an article titled "Not a Book, a 'Vook'". What's a vook?  According to the article, it's an interactive digital book from Vook Inc., a company selling which offers digital books that combine video, text, photos and social sharing. Its Sherlock Holmes vook, for instance, features two classic stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—"The Man with the Twisted Lip" and "The Adventure of the Speckled Band"—and enhances them with videos that delve into the history and legend surrounding the character of Holmes.
According to the Vook website, "A vook is a new innovation in reading that blends a well-written book, high-quality video and the power of the Internet into a single, complete story. You can read your book, watch videos that enhance the story and connect with authors and your friends through social media all on one screen, without switching between platforms."
Vooks are available in two formats: As a web-based application you can read on your computer and as a mobile application for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad for reading on the go.  The company released about 150 titles last year and will publish more than 1,000 vooks this year. Most vooks sell for about $7 but range up to about $16.

Monday 17 January 2011

Kindle Lending Club

Lifehacker (among other blogs) reports on the Kindle Lending Club, which recently launched. The Lending Club came about because at the end of December Amazon introduced  Kindle lending, which allows you to borrow or lend a book for 14 days. Currently publishers have to enable lending, so not all ebooks are available to be shared.

New music industry law database has a story today about a website called The Discography,  an online database of over 2,400 court decisions relating to the music industry that are searchable by artist, case type, location and date. The website was created by Loren Wells, a recent graduate of Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. The site, which he officially launched last month, is supported and underwritten by the Wash U  law school's Center for Empirical Research in the Law.

Friday 14 January 2011

Wikipedia celebrates 10th anniversary

On Saturday January 15 Wikipedia will celebrate its 10th anniversary.  As Computerworld says, Wikipedia "has become an Internet juggernaut by spreading access to information with a model that lets anyone edit its articles." To celebrate, Wikipedia and its users are planning more than 300 events across six continents and have set up a special webpage called where event organizers can list information (and yes, there is an event listed for Pittsburgh, on the South Side at the Carson City Saloon).
Wikipedia has also set up a timeline page that lists important events and milestones. Currently there are about 17 million Wikipedia articles, of which about 3.5 million are in English.

ABA may make LSAT optional

The ABA Journal reports that an American Bar Association panel reviewing law school accreditation rules may recommend an end to a requirement that law schools use the Law School Admissions Test. If the panel makes that recommendation and the ABA approves the change then law schools would be able to make the LSAT optional or drop the test requirement entirely. A special report last summer criticized the impact of the U.S. News & World Report rankings that stress high LSAT scores, among other data. Many undergraduate colleges have made the SAT and ACT optional in recent years and generally have found that such shifts attract more applicants and a more diverse applicant pool without leading to any loss in academic performance.

Wednesday 12 January 2011

JSTOR teams with university presses to publish books online

JSTOR (a non-profit service that is part of the ITHAKA organization) has announced  that it is teaming up with several university presses to expand its catalog to include digital books in its searchable online database. The five university presses currently involved in the project are Chicago, Minnesota, North Carolina, Princeton, and Yale. Books from these presses are expected to be available in 2012. According to the JSTOR press release, “'Books at JSTOR' will make front and back list titles available to libraries around the world in flexible ways that encourage purchase, adoption, and use." JSTOR is already familiar to many of us as an excellent source for digital academic journals and scholarship.
The President of ITHAKA explains that longevity and stability is an important focus of the initiative. “Authors, users, and librarians need to know these books and related work will be available over the very long term.  Preservation is fundamental to our mission and a critical part of what we have worked with the scholarly community to achieve since 1995.” All of the books will be preserved in ITHAKA's Portico digital archive. "Books at JSTOR" will eventually be open to all kinds of publishers, whether non-profit or commercial, so long as the share the collaborative spirit and values of  JSTOR and ITHAKA.

Sudoku app

Slashdot reports on a cool - and slightly scary - feature in the latest version of Google Goggles. If you're having trouble solving a Sudoku puzzle all you have to do is take a picture of it with your cellphone and Google Goggles will solve it for you - there's a YouTube video that demos.

Wednesday 5 January 2011

Law School Student Engagement Survey results

Both Inside Higher Education and the Chronicle of Higher Education have articles today that report on the just-released 2010 Law School Survey of Student Engagement, conducted at Indiana University at Bloomington's Center for Postsecondary Research.  The survey is based on feedback from nearly 25,000 students at 77 law schools in the United States and Canada, including the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. The articles focus on different aspects of survey results.  Inside Higher Ed's headline is "Law Students in Search of Jobs", and the article highlights survey results showing that most law school graduates last year were dissatisfied with the job placement help they got from their schools. The Chronicle's article is headlined "Law Students, Particularly Women, Have Limited Contact With Faculty, Survey Finds".  The article goes on to talk about disparities between male and female law students, reporting that even though almost half of law students are women, they are less likely to speak up in class or meet with their professors.

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Ninth Circuit upholds right of blind law grad to use assistive technology on Bar Exam

The Chronicle of Higher Education's Wired Campus blog reports that Stephanie Enyart, a blind graduate of UCLA School of Law, won a legal victory today in her fight to take two legal exams with help from assistive software. Ms. Enyart tried to take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam and the Multistate Bar Exam using a computer equipped with assistive technology software known as JAWS
and ZoomText. The State Bar of California had no problem with Ms. Enyart’s request but the National Conference of Bar Examiners refused to approve this particular accommodation (though they did offer other options). She sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act seeking injunctive relief, and a district court ruled that the conference must let her take the exams with the assistive software. Today’s decision, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, upheld the lower court’s rulings.  A pdf of the Ninth Circuit opinion can be found here.

List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness

From Lake Superior State University comes the 2011, 36th  edition of  Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.  Included on the list:
Adjectives:  fail, viral and epic
Verbs:  refudiate, Facebook and Google
Nouns:  Wow factor, A-Ha moment, and BFF
Other phrases:  Man Up, The American People.

$1 million grant to support new law school in Boise

Concordia University in Portland, Oregon  reports  that they have received a $1 million gift to support their opening of a new law school in Boise, Idaho. Concordia will name their new law library the "George R. White Law Library" to honor Mr. White, the Boise philanthropist who made the gift. Last year, Concordia purchased a 74,000-square-foot LEED gold-rated building in Boise which it is renovating in anticipation of opening Boise’s first law school.
According to the proposed law school's Dean Cathy Silak, "having a private option for legal education in Boise ensures that, no matter the economic condition of the state and the city, there will be a privately funded option, whose program offerings are distinctive from other regional options."
The school will serve 85 students per class. Concordia is expanding to Idaho in part because it has a large number of alumni there. The private, Lutheran liberal arts university formed in 1905 in Northeast Portland and serves 2,500 students.

It's 2011!

The Barconians have just returned from our Winter holiday break and are easing back into working mode.  As a  New Year's first post, we give you Digital Inspiration's "101 Most Useful Websites".  According to blogger Amit Agarwal, all  the sites on this list solve at least one problem really well and they all have simple web addresses (URLs) that you can easily learn by heart thus saving you a trip to Google. We haven't tested all of them yet, but many look like tools we can imagine using during our daily work.
You can also download the list as a PDF eBook and read it anywhere.

hat tip: Digital Inspiration