Thursday 21 July 2011

Information on the FDLP

There is a new document available from the GPO that is both concise and clear, titled the "Legal Requirements and Program Regulations of the Federal Depository Library Program".(16 page pdf)  This booklet has all the basic information about the program presented in a readable, user-friendly format.  It is one of the first efforts by our new Superintendent of Documents, Mary Alice Baish, who had worked at AALL for a number of years.  Kudos to Mary Alice and the GPO. 

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Magical law librarians

For a more upbeat read, check out this blogpost by "A UK Law Firm Librarian" on the "magical" law library staff. It points out that law librarians are magicians, quietly working behind the scenes to make sure that the books, databases, legal news, and legal research needs of the lawyers (and law faculty) are accessible and everyone is happy.
Of course everybody knows that.

Dispriting New York Times article on law school economics

You can pretty much tell from the title of the article in the Sunday NYT, "Law School Economics: Ka Ching!" that this isn't going to be encouraging for potential law students. Sure enough, the report focuses on the broken incentives that lead law schools to constantly raise class sizes and tuition costs despite a massive recession in the legal market. The article uses New York Law School, the stand-alone law school in lower Manhattan, as an example of what's wrong with law school economics.
Today Dean Matasar, who is mentioned frequently in the Times article, posted his response on the New York Law School website.  In his reply he refutes or explains a number of the points made by the NYT reporter. His argument is that:
"The article is misleading because it fails to acknowledge that:
1. Costs are outside of the control of any one school.
2. A legal education provides lifelong value.
3. Students can and do make informed decisions.
4. NYLS provides one of the most student-centric and innovative programs in the country."

Monday 18 July 2011

Microsoft announces project to assist scholarly empirical research

Microsoft has announced a new project, Daytona, that is designed to give scholars better tools for manipulating and analyzing empirical data. According to a post in the Chronicle's Wired Campus blog, the announcement was made during Microsoft's annual Faculty Research Summit, which focused this year on research around natural user interface technology, cloud computing, and machine learning. More information is available on the Microsoft Research website.

Libraries opting out of subscription "packages"

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article about academic libraries deciding to opt out of "packages" (termed "Big Deals") of journal subscriptions that publishers/vendors customarily offer.  Instead, libraries are going through and making individual decisions about keeping or cancelling journal subscriptions, resulting in overall cost savings.   The article says: "As publishers point out, Big Deals put an abundance of information at researchers' fingertips. More and more, though, librarians respond that a lot of that material doesn't get used. "'We were getting a lot of titles, but a large number of them were getting little or no usage.'" And, according to the article, "the consequences many libraries have feared—loud objections from faculty members and financial penalties from publishers—have not come to pass."

Nauru launches comprehensive legal database

Nauru, the world's smallest island nation, located in the South Pacific, has just recently launched a comprehensive legal database containing the country's legislation and court opinions, according to a report from Radio New Zealand International. The database is called RONLAW (, and is the result of an eighteen month effort by the Legal Information Access Project, funded by New Zealand and overseen by the Nauru Office of Parliamentary Counsel.  Over the course of the project Nauru's legislation was consolidated - a huge task, given that the last consolidation was in 1937.  RONLAW, which stands for Republic of Nauru Law,  contains the Constitution, Nauruan legislation, court decisions, gazettes and other relevant documents; over time, according to the website, "RONLAW will grow to house historical versions of legislation, all subordinate legislation and court decisions. As new legislation is passed in Nauru RONLAW will be updated to include that material, and amendments will be incorporated into consolidated versions of legislation within 24 hours of of being made. Superseded versions of legislation will progressively be added to the collection of historical legislation."

Friday 15 July 2011

Digital Preservation Courses and Workshops

The Library of Congress has created a national calendar of digital preservation courses and workshops as part of its Digital Preservation Outreach and Education (DPOE) initiative, an effort  "to foster national outreach and education to encourage individuals and organizations to actively preserve their digital content."  LOC is keeping the calendar current by scanning the web daily for new class postings. They also ask providers to submit information about their courses. Many of these courses are online and some are free.

Hat tip: Margie Maes at the Legal Information Preservation Alliance (LIPA)

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Universal Citation meeting during AALL

A group of law librarians and legal educators interested in pursuing the goal of a uniform legal citation format  is convening for the first time during the AALL annual conference. The group has a website,, that explains the purpose of the meeting and has a link where you can register to attend (at no cost). The meeting will be held on Monday, July 25, from 9am to 12 noon, at the Rutgers-Camden School of Law, Room E112. Yes, it's in another city in another state, but it is an easy and very short subway ride from the convention location in Philly, just across the Delaware River, so the location shouldn't be a barrier to attendance.
From the webpage: "As legal research shifts to a digital environment, there is a growing need for a new way to refer to court decisions and other documents on which the law depends. With the potential for great increases in the availability of legal information, there needs to be a citation style that does not depend on the increasingly outdated print editions that form the basis for legal reference. As of this date, several American jurisdictions have adopted a Universal Citation format, but most have not. There are a variety of reasons why courts have hesitated to adopt Universal Citation, but given its success as a citation form in the jurisdictions that have adopted it, and the ease with which it has been adopted in Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and elsewhere, its value and utility are hard to deny.  Given this continued reliance on print citations, and the restrictions that this places on open access to the law.... Universalcitation.Org is being organized to fill the gap."

West Publishing history featured in the Green Bag

The latest edition of  The Green Bag has an entertaining look at a 1901promotional pamphlet published by West publishing called "Law Books by the Millions: An account of the largest law-book house in the world, the home establishment of the National Reporter System and the American Digest System".  An introductory essay by Ross E. Davies discusses this historic artifact and how it illustrates that the more things change, the more things remain the same. For example, the pamphlet describes the lawyers working on theditorial staff : "as a body there is not another to match it. The tests given applicants make it certain that only lawyers of West Publishing Co.
more than average ability, and with special mental aptitude for this class of work, are engaged in this very important position. A lawyer of scholarly tastes and abilities finds a more attractive field in legal literary work than in the competitive struggle which awaits him if he enters the practice, and the rewards, if less dazzling, are more assured."

Monroeville restaurant makes the news by banning young children

Many news outlets are carrying the story of a Monroeville restaurant that has announced it will no longer allow children under age 6 to dine at the establishment. McDains Restaurant, located at 4440 Broadway Boulevard in Monroeville, started as the "19th hole" for the McDain's Golf Club and proved so popular that it developed into an "upscale, quiet and casual" restaurant with outdoor dining. Owner Mike Vuick announced the ban on children under 6 after he'd received noise complaints from customers about crying kids at neighboring tables. In an email to customers, Vuick explained: "We feel that McDain's is not a place for young children. Their volume can't be controlled and many, many times, they have disturbed other customers." The Reuters story asks if this is legal, and answers Yes; while restaurants can't discriminate against race, color, religion or national origin, "Nowhere in that list is there a category for "kids."

Tuesday 12 July 2011

World Statistics visualization project

The World of 100 is an interesting visualization project that looks at world statistics.  Artist Toby Ng looks at various statistics asking the question:  "If the world were a village of 100 people, how would the composition be?" He has built a set of 20 posters visualizing various world statistics.  For example, the "Languages" poster shows that  if the world were a village of  100 people, 17 would speak Chinese, 9 would speak English, 8 would speak Hindi, 6 would speak Russian, 6 would speak Spanish, 4 would speak Arabic, and 50 would speak "other languages".

Law Technology News: web tools

A recent article in Law Technology News by Louis Abramovitz, a Washington D.C.-based law librarian, provides a list of free and low-cost online resources now available to lawyers, including websites for Pubic Records searches.

Database: Gender Law Library

The Gender Law Library is a collection of national legal provisions impacting women's economic status in 183 economies (it is hosted by the World Bank, and supported by the World Bank’s Gender Action Plan and the Norwegian Trust Fund). The database can be used for comparative analysis of legislation affecting women. It serves as a resource for research, and contributes to reforms that can enhance women’s full economic participation. The materials are generally organized into categories including geographic region, income level grouping, legal topic, and type of law. The collection is updated regularly.

hat tip: InSITE

Monday 11 July 2011


The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse recently published a report titled Social Security Awards Depend More on Judge than Facts: Disparities Within SSA Disability Hearing Offices Grow. Embedded in the report is a special interactive table giving the public access to extensive counts and rates that further document the degree of the disparities among individual judges in a Social Security hearing office as well as disparity measures for each office as a whole.
In response, the Social Security Administration published a statement sharply criticizing TRAC's study on several different grounds. TRAC has now issued a point-by-point refutation of the SSA's sweeping statement regarding TRAC's original report.
Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse is a non-partisan research organization associated with Syracuse University.  Using Freedom of Information Act requests, the organization gathers highly detailed but easy-to-access information on selected federal enforcement agencies, special topical reports, and "bulletins" about federal enforcement, staffing and expenditures.  .

2011 National Strategy for Counterterrorism released by White House

The White House recently released its new counterterrorism strategy, the National Strategy for Counterterrorism (19 page pdf). They also released a Fact Sheet that summarize the strategy, saying that "this strategy builds upon the progress we have made in the decade since 9/11, in partnership with Congress, to build our counterterrorism and homeland security capacity as a nation. It neither represents a wholesale overhaul-nor a wholesale retention-of previous policies and strategies... This Strategy stands to testify to our friends, our partners, and to our terrorist enemies: Here is our plan of action to achieve the defeat of al-Qa‘ida and its affiliates and adherents . It is this outcome we seek, and indeed it is the only one we will accept ."
Contents include:
  • The Threat We Face
  • Principles That Guide our Counterterrorism Efforts
  • Overarching Goals
  • Area of Focus
  • Other Terrorist Concerns Requiring Focus and Attention
  • Conclusion

Wikipedia Higher Education Summit

Inside Higher Education reports that Wikipedia, in its efforts to improve and expand its relationship with academia, held the first Wikipedia in Higher Education Summit last week. Attendees were professors who have actively incorporated Wikipedia into their teaching, as well as faculty who are interested in doing so. According to the report, over two dozen universities now have courses where students are working on Wikipedia as part of their formal coursework, and many of these campuses have “Wikipedia ambassadors” tasked with helping professors weave writing and editing Wikipedia entries into the syllabus. David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, was the speaker who gave the opening address, saying that his office at the National Archives and Records Administration now employs a “Wikipedian in residence” in charge of fostering relationships with galleries, libraries, archives and museums.
At the Summit, Carnegie Mellon University researcher Rosta Farzan demoed a set of new course software tools aimed at making it easier for professors to assign and evaluate Wikipedia-related assignments. The free software includes a dashboard for instructors to track student work and provide private feedback on edits, as well as a new course page builder to help instructors create useful and well-structured course pages.

Chief Justice John Roberts on relevance (or irrelevance) of legal academia

A recent post on the Legal Skills Prof Blog points to an interview with U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals' 77th annual judicial conference. A video of the 47 minute interview is available on C-Span.
The blogpost specifically talks about Justice Roberts' comments on the relevance of legal scholarship to the practice of  law,  as evidenced by law review publications. You can watch this part of the interview by forwarding the video to minute 28:50. Dean Raymond C. Pierce of the North Carolina Central University School of Law in Durham, N.C., poses this question to Chief Justice Roberts:
“Your comments earlier about the use of your law clerks caused me to think about a comment by Judge Harry Edwards of the D.C. Court of Appeals where Judge Edwards strongly suggests that our judiciary on all levels, and the practicing bar, are unfortunately too disconnected from our academies, from our law schools. I want to know your thoughts on that as to whether or not you agree with that or whether you think the relationship between the practicing bar and the bench, and our legal academy, our lawschools is fine, or whether or not there is some impact on instruction as it relates to the good future of our profession.”
Chief Justice Roberts replies:
"Judge Edwards and I are on the same page on that point. There IS a great disconnect between the academy and the profession. Pick up a copy of any law review… and the first article is likely to be (on an abstract topic) that I’m sure is of great interest to the academic who wrote it, but isn’t of much help to the bar. Now I hasten to add, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. If the Academy wants to deal with the legal issues at a particularly abstract and philosophical level that’s great, that’s their business, but they shouldn’t expect that it would be of any particular help or even interest to members of the practicing bar or judges. At the same time we’re not looking for vocational guidance like “this is how you fill out the form for an entry of appearance”. At the same time, I do think that if the academy is interested in having an influence on the practice of law, on the development of law, they would be wise to stop and think, “Is this area of research going to be of help to anyone other than other academics?”. It’s their business, but people ask me what the last law review article I read was, and I have to think very hard before coming up with one."