Thursday 18 December 2014

Skype previews translation service

Skype communications software - now a part of Microsoft Corp. - is previewing/demonstrating a new real-time translation software tool. The Skype Translator project offers on-the-fly translation of both spoken and written languages for participants in Skype conversations, making it possible for two people who speak completely different languages to communicate with virtually no barriers to understanding. The preview program starts with support for English and Spanish spoken translation, as well as over 40 languages for real-time text chat. Currently it only works with Windows 8.1.

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Top Legal Stories: 2015 prediction

The New Yorker has an article by reporter Jeffrey Toobin titled "The Top Five Legal Stories of 2015" (he's making predictions). Topics include Obamacare, same-sex marriage, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Crowdfunding for legal fees

The ABA Journal has an article about a new crowdfunding site that helps individuals raise money to cover legal fees. Developed by a Chicago lawyer, the site is called Funded Justice. Since it's' very new, it hasn't had much success yet, but the founder hopes that will change especially if high-profile issues cases decide to use it.
hat tip: Karen Shephard

Thursday 11 December 2014

Obama Administration’s Announced Immigration Initiative: A Primer

On November 20, President Obama announced the commencement of a multi-pronged immigration initiative that could, among other things, enable a substantial portion of the unlawfully present alien population to obtain temporary relief from removal and work authorization. The new initiative also involves other actions, including narrowing the scope of aliens prioritized by federal immigration authorities for removal; using 'parole' authority to allow certain aliens to enter or remain in the United States; and modifying rules relating to visa eligibility (or processing). The Congressional Research Service has published a helpful Primer (3 page pdf with hyperlinks) online that summarizes the initiative.

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Rethinking academic libraries

Inside Higher Ed has an article today titled "Clash in the Stacks" about academic libraries and librarians. The article discusses how "one common trend... is that several library directors who have left their jobs have done so after long-term disputes with other groups on campus about how the academic library should change to better serve students and faculty. The disputes highlight the growing pains of institutions and their members suddenly challenged to redefine themselves after centuries of serving as gateways and gatekeepers to knowledge." It looks at how different institutions of higher education are dealing with their libraries and librarians.

Most corrupt states

A recent article in the Washington Post is titled "A state guide to political corruption, according to the reporters who cover it". Sadly (but not surprisingly) Pennsylvania ranks in the top 7 states for "most corrupt", along with New Jersey, Illinois, Georgia and Alabama. The study on which the article is based was done by fellows at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University; the full report is available on the Center's website.

Friday 5 December 2014

Free Law Reviews online

Robert Ambrogi recently posted about the Law Review Commons, a portal from BE Press with free access to more than 200 law reviews dating back to 1852. It includes the law reviews of the University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, and Berkeley. The portal has a search box that allows you to field search in title, abstract, subject, author, etc. Browsing is also possible.

Tuesday 2 December 2014

"Nature" moves towards open access

The Chronicle of Higher Education today has an article titled "In a Move Toward Open Access, ‘Nature’ Allows Widespread Article Sharing." The article discusses how Nature, one of the world’s most-cited scientific publications, has taken a step toward open access by granting its subscribers and journalists wide authority to let outside readers view its articles at no cost. Under the new policy, subscribers to 49 journals published by the Nature Publishing Group and collected on Nature’s website can create and share links to full-text versions of all of that content. About 100 media outlets also can include free links in news reports that reference articles in the group’s journals.

Monday 1 December 2014

Vendors: Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPATs)

The Electronic Resources in Libraries listserv recently held a discussion on vendor accessibility documentation. As a result,  a webpage has been created listing  all the vendor VPATs and accessibility statements received by list participants (the PDF is posted if the vendor gave permission, otherwise it says “available upon request”). The list will continue to be updated as information is gathered. The page is called the VPAT Repository and is hosted by Libraries for Universal Accessibility. 

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Kluwer Study Guides for Pitt Law students

The School of Law administration and the Barco Law Library have been working for the past six months on a pilot program to make available the study guides published by Wolters Kluwer as a digital package available to Pitt Law students. This includes the popular outline/study/Bar prep series Examples and Explanations, Emanuel's, Crunch Time, Siegel’s, Casenote Legal Briefs and many others. The study guides are available for most law school subjects including all the 1L subjects.  All of this material is provided at no cost to students. These ebooks have useful features like highlighting, bookmarking, copying, and download options. The link to the study guides can be found on the Barco Databases page, under K for Kluwer.
 As this is a trial program any decision regarding renewal next fall will be based on this year’s usage statistics. To help you utilize these materials appropriately, the 1L Academic Success Workshop on November 20 and the Upper Level Academic Success Workshop on November 25 will be dedicated to tips and strategies for using the online study guides. The workshops will focus on the appropriate use of the outlines and the other myriad study materials now available to you. Questions should be directed to Mr. Wible at . Any questions about or problems accessing these materials should be directed to Susanna Leers, our Electronic Services Librarian, at

Thursday 13 November 2014

Ebola info

The Homeland Security Digital Library is a hub for information about the Ebola virus. Searching the HSDL online catalog for "ebola virus", turns up hundreds of links to government information from the National Library of Medicine, the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and other reliable sources. For example you can find a link to a map and timeline of Ebola outbreaks in every country in the world, including the number of cases and deaths caused by Ebola. 

Wednesday 12 November 2014

PacerPro Live Webinar

On Tuesday, Nov. 18 at noon PacerPro is hosting a tutorial that will teach you how to use PacerPro, including conducting a boolean search, batch downloading.  PacerPro provides an advanced, user-friendly interface alternative to the clunky PACER interface.  

Friday 7 November 2014

Another new database for Pitt Law: Investor-State Law Guide

The Barco Law Library has purchased a subscription to another database that is now available to all University of Pittsburgh students, faculty and staff. The database is called the Investor-State Law Guide and should be accessible both on- and off-campus. Note that when you are on the main page of the ISLG you get into the database by clicking on the gray "Login" button in the upper right; but no login is required. The database contains resources for researching international investment law, including treaties, arbitration rules and decisions and other related documents.
 Reviewers say: “ISLG has been a very useful tool for research in investor-state arbitration. The search engine allows you to research for a very specific topic and obtain a quite comprehensive result of investment disputes dealing with the topic. The best thing is it points directly to the specific paragraph of each case dealing with the topic, and directly provides the excerpt." and "“ISLG is an invaluable research tool, particularly in an area of law that lacks a traditional system of precedent. It enables the user to have confidence that their research is thorough and up-to-date.”

Law 360 now available at Pitt Law

Students, faculty and staff at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law now have access to Law 360, the legal news service that bills itself as "the only news source that covers the entire spectrum of practice areas every single business day". The database is accessible to us via IP range, which, translated to English, means that it is only available when you are working at a computer in the Barco Law Building. However, Law 360 is owned by LexisNexis, and Law 360 content is available in Lexis Advance, which Pitt Law students, faculty and staff have access to from anywhere they have an internet connection.  

Large amounts of university archive sound & moving image media need preservation

There's an interesting - and rather discouraging - article in the Chronicle of Higher Education today that discusses how troves of old recordings are hidden away on campuses and are degrading into unusability because archivists aren't aware of what they have. "At research universities across the country, archivists are painfully aware that large portions of their institutions’ audiovisual legacies are in decay. Old formats must be digitized if they are to be used, but first they must be identified and salvaged."  The article cites to a census that was conducted recently at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - a census that turned up 408,000 items in 101 locations on the campus. These included rare 1920s films; caches of ethnomusicology field recordings; videotaped supercomputer animations; audiotapes for speech-recognition research; film documenting the Nobel laureate Paul Lauterbur’s work on magnetic resonance imaging; and a sociologist's pains­takingly indexed film collections of 1960s protests. A similar census at Indiana University turned up 600,000 audio, video, and film items, in 50 formats that require digitization and preservation.

Sunday 2 November 2014

ABA ? of the week: How many bound law books do you have? Do you still use them?

The ABA Journal's question of the week is one of interest to law librarians: How many bound law books do you have? Do you still use them?
Anyone can answer the question in the Comments section at the end of the post that asks the question. There are some interesting answers being posted:
"Black's Law Dictionary and a few specialized treatises."
"It's getting to the point where the bound books are almost relegated to part of the office d├ęcor. After all, you expect to see some law books in a lawyer's office, like you expect to see tools in a garage. I do, however, have all of the big green West's Hornbooks, and I do use them. The only bound volumes I still use regularly are the Bluebook, our state search and seizure citator, and the judge's bench manuals for our state."
and: "Anyone who has a set of encyclopedia or other voluminous reference material, e.g., American Jurisprudence, Corpus Juris Secundum, or Williston on Contracts, I will gladly take them off of your hands. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I still love books. My wife has a Nook and I find that I cannot focus or read as long as I can when reading an actual book. It makes my eyes weary."

Saturday 1 November 2014

Ebola and the Law

Justia's Verdict newsletter has posted an excellent discussion of the legal issues involved in the recent Ebola virus epidemic and how it is being handled. Titled "Travel Bans and Mandatory Quarantines" the article looks at how federal and state governments have been dealing with the threat of Ebola. 

Friday 31 October 2014

NTIS Reports more accessible

The National Technical Reports Library (NTRL) has announced that it is now offering the American public free public access to a searchable online database of approximately three million federal science and technology reports. The library is a service of the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Technical Information Service. NTIS, a federal agency that does not receive appropriations from Congress, previously charged a fee to provide full-text electronic copies of federal documents in its collection. The full text for 800,000 of these documents can be downloaded immediately in electronic PDF format without charge. The remaining NTRL reports, most published before 1995, must be scanned from microfiche archival files before being provided either as electronic PDF’s or in print for a fee. However, each time a microfiche document is scanned to fulfill such a request, the agency will add the electronic full-text PDF to its online database for subsequent free public download. “Our mission is to collect and broadly disseminate federal science and technology information using a self-supporting business model,” said NTIS Director Bruce Borzino. “However, we also recognize that a number of the documents previously offered for a fee through our website were available for free from other sources. The public should not be treated differently depending on which website they visit to download a federal document.”

Supreme Court more accessible (cont): Friday Fun

Serendipitously, a friend sent this YouTube video of the Supreme Court just after the previous post - speaking of how the Supreme Court has become more accessible to the average citizen - was written. 

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Supreme Court more accessible

The ABA Journal online has an interesting article about how the internet, social media and technology have made the Supreme Court more accessible because of blogs, websites, Twitter postings etc. People interested in the Supreme Court blog and tweet about cases and decisions; one lawyer writes haiku summarizing decisions; and a law professor even runs a fantasy Supreme Court league so participants can predict decisions. 

Thursday 23 October 2014

Asimov on creativity

The MIT Technology Review has published an essay titled "On Creativity" that was written by famous scientist and author Isaac Asimov, who died in 1992.  The essay was written in 1959, when Asimov was considering joining an MIT project looking for the most creative approaches possible for a ballistic missile defense system. Asimov never joined the project, and the essay was unpublished until now; but  its contents are as broadly relevant today as when he wrote it. It describes not only the creative process and the nature of creative people but also the kind of environment that promotes creativity.
Asimov says  "It is only afterward that a new idea seems reasonable. To begin with, it usually seems unreasonable...Consequently, the person who is most likely to get new ideas is a person of good background in the field of interest and one who is unconventional in his habits. (To be a crackpot is not, however, enough in itself.)" He also suggests working in groups, "For best purposes, there should be a feeling of informality. Joviality, the use of first names, joking, relaxed kidding are, I think, of the essence—not in themselves, but because they encourage a willingness to be involved in the folly of creativeness. For this purpose I think a meeting in someone’s home or over a dinner table at some restaurant is perhaps more useful than one in a conference room." 

Homeland Security Digital Library on Pandemics

The Homeland Security Digital Library's fall 2014 newsletter provides timely information and links to documents about communicable diseases and pandemics. Potentially deadly communicable diseases require additional vigilance and knowledge not only on the part of our nation’s medical and public health community, but also on homeland security professionals working in border security, customs, immigration, and transportation security.  The links provided include

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Write like an academic

Suffering from writer's block?  The University of Chicago has a webpage called "the Virtual Academic: write your own academic sentence" that can get you started. They provide 4 different dropdown boxes with academic phrases that will string together to amaze your friends and colleagues; for example, "The epistemology of post-capitalist hegemony functions as the conceptual frame for the discourse of the nation-state."

hat tip: Karen Shephard

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Some Federal Judges More Overburdened Than Others

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University has issued a report on the workload of federal judges in the United States. They have found that while the number of criminal and civil filings in federal district court has risen 28 percent in the last 20 years, the number of judgeships has grown by only 4 percent, so that the workload of all federal judges has increased. However, they also found that the increase in workloads and processing times is not evenly distributed, with some districts and judges shouldering significantly higher workloads than others. For example, judges in the Eastern District of Texas received an average of 1,510 weighted new filings each from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014 -- almost four times the national average of 388 -- making it the busiest federal court in the nation.
In addition, TRAC has developed individual caseload measures for all active and senior district court judges -- nearly 1,000 judges in all, available in their Judge Information Center. These figures are based on court records and millions of case-by-case data files TRAC has received as a result of 20 years of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests as well as several lawsuits to force compliance with FOIA.

Thursday 9 October 2014

Westlaw webinars

Westlaw is offering the following free webinars during the month of October.  If you are wondering where all of your favorite features and tools on Westlaw Classic are located on WestlawNext? There are webinars that will help you transition from Westlaw Classic to WestlawNext, learn to effectively use the new Alert Center, and discover the uses of Practical Law.

There is also a webinar for anyone who is new to TWEN, the Westlaw course management system. 

Learning from Libraries

There's an interesting article today in the Chronicle of Higher Education called "A Good, Dumb Way to Learn from Libraries" that discusses how data gathered by libraries might be useful, if only we were able to use it (of course librarians know that library usage data is private, very private). The author says that " What (libraries) do know... reflects the behavior of a community of scholars, and it’s unpolluted by commercial imperatives."

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Help! I'm an Accidental Gov Docs Librarian webinars

"Help! I'm an Accidental Government Information Librarian" webinars are sponsored by the Government Resources Section of the North Carolina Library Association.  The webinars are designed to help librarians do better reference work by increasing familiarity with government information resources and the strategies for navigating them.  Upcoming webinars include "The Bureau of Labor Statistics" on October 22 and "Data and Statistics for Researching Education" on December 3.  Their website has information on these upcoming webinars as well as links to webinar recordings of past webinars including "Regulate This! Federal Regulations",  "Geocoding for Beginners", "Historical Economic Data Sources", and "British and Commonwealth Legal Materials." 

Wednesday 1 October 2014

JSTOR launches daily magazine

JSTOR, the academic database used by scholars across the disciplines, has launched a new daily magazine called "JSTOR Daily: Where News Meets Its Scholarly Match" (still in beta). It already features over 100 blogposts and articles, including a post about Pitt's 2014 MacArthur fellow Terrance Hayes. The website says that "JSTOR Daily offers a fresh way for people to understand and contextualize their world. Our writers provide insight, commentary, and analysis of ideas, research, and current events, tapping into the rich scholarship on JSTOR, a digital library of more than 2,000 academic journals, dating back to the first volume ever published, along with thousands of monographs, and other material."  Catherine Halley, the magazine's editor, adds  "“Humankind’s best thinking is taking place at universities and scholars are helping develop this collective wisdom, and that’s what’s important about it.. Finding a way to take those thoughts and make them accessible to the public makes us all smarter.”
You can sign up to receive the email newsletter on the website.

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Congress dot gov out of beta

The Library of Congress has announced that the website is officially out of beta. There are also several new features and improvements: Resources A new resources section providing an A to Z list of hundreds of links related to Congress
An expanded list of "most viewed" bills each day, archived to July 20, 2014
House Committee Hearing Videos Live streams of House Committee hearings and meetings, and an accompanying archive to January, 2012
Advanced Search Support for 30 new fields, including nominations, Congressional Record and name of member

Friday 26 September 2014

Bestlaw extension for Chrome browser

A new browser extension for the Chrome browser has been developed by a Berkeley law student. It's called Bestlaw and it "adds features to Westlaw Next to make legal research more efficient, cost-effective and enjoyable".  Once you install it on your Chrome browser, it adds an unobtrusive toolbar to your Westlaw Next.  Then when you pull up a case, it offers some features that are useful:
Copy a perfect Bluebook citation with one click
Clean, readable view
Automatically-generated table of contents
Quick link to jump to footnotes
One-click copying for citations, titles, and full text
Collapse and expand statutory sections
Find the document on free sources like CourtListener, Cornell LII, Casetext, and Google Scholar
Prevent getting automatically signed off
Share the document by email or on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+
It's a neat little extension and the creator, Joe Mornin, says he is working on one for Lexis.

hat tip: Sallie Smith

Fastcase partners with Clio

Fastcase, the legal research database, has announced that it is partnering with Clio, the time tracking practice management software.  By integrating the two,  legal professionals can track time spent researching without focusing attention away from the task at hand. From inside Fastcase, you can now select from clients and matters in Clio, start a timer for your research session, and record the activity automatically in Clio. According to the announcement, "In addition to the smarter research already provided by Fastcase, this partnership means more billable time and less administrative time, more accurate invoices, and more time for you".

Thursday 25 September 2014

Title 52 of the US Code

The Office of the Law Revision Counsel recently announced new Title 52 of the United States Code (U.S.C.),  Voting and Elections. According to the OLRC, provisions relating to voting and elections are being transferred from Titles 2 and 42 into the new Title 52. The transfers are necessary and desirable to create a well organized, coherent structure for this body of law and to improve the overall organization of the United States Code. No statutory text is altered. The provisions are merely being relocated from one place to another in the Code. The transfers in the online version of the US Code occurred on Sept. 1, 2014. For the printed version, the transfers will occur with supplement II of the 2012 edition of the US Code. Westlaw's US Code Annotated included the changes online on Sept. 3, and Lexis and Bloomberg Law online also have the new Title 52. 

Wednesday 24 September 2014

More on laptops in the classroom

The Chronicle of Higher Education Conversation blog has an interesting post titled "Don't Ban Laptops in the Classroom."
The theme of the post is this:   "In the classroom as everywhere else, we must learn how to exercise control over our distraction impulse—not by some imposed rule, but by our own choice. Banning laptops—removing our choice to distract ourselves—is giving up on students, isn’t it?"

Tuesday 23 September 2014

law student annual technology survey

Every year for the past 11 years Rich McCue at the University of Victoria (BC) law school conducts a survey of law students asking about their use of technology. Here are this fall's results:
• Smartphones: 100% of incoming law students surveyed own "Smartphones" that can browse the internet (up from 96% last year and 50% four years ago), with 56% of the total being iPhones, 30% Android and 0% Blackberry. New law students are primarily using their mobile devices for directions, email, and looking up schedules & contact information.
• Tablet & eBook ownership has doubled in the past two years with 59% of students owning tablet devices or ebook readers, up from 31% two years ago. iPads make up 53% of those tablets. 35% of tablet owners bring it to school every day. Faculties should endeavour to provide course pack and textbooks in eBook formats for students.
• Videoconferencing: 100% of students use Skype for real-time audio/video calls and collaboration. 48% use Apple Facetime and 17% use Google Hangouts.
• Email: 62% of students use Gmail as their primary email account, and 4% use UVic email. To check their email, 56% forward their email to another service, and 28% use the UVic webmail interface. Over the past few years many students have complained at lack of storage space and antiquated email interface for students.
 • Document Sharing: 77% of students use Google Drive for collaborative document editing, and 62% use Dropbox, both up significantly from last year.
• Social Media: 92% of students use Facebook (down from 97% two years ago), 31% user Twitter, 19% LinkedIn, and 3% don’t use online social networks. In spite of some negative comments about social media, 79% of students used social media to connect with other students before the start of the school year.
• Laptops: 100% of students own laptops. 54% of laptops are Macs, up from 49% two years ago. 46% use Windows. 54% of students bring their laptops to school on a daily basis and 8% never bring them to school.
• Note Taking: 71% of students use laptops to take class notes, 92% use pen and paper, 8% use tablets and 8% use cell phones.
Consideration should be given to discussing the potential drawbacks associated with using laptops for transcription style class notes in a first year class, and faculty members should explore ways to creatively use personal technology to engage students more deeply during class time.
The full report is available online. 

Friday 19 September 2014

First digital-only Federal Depository Library

The Government Printing Office and the Federal Depository Library Program recently welcomed the newest Federal depository library, Sitting Bull College, of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, serving the people of North and South Dakota. The library is the Federal Depository Library to opt for digital-only publications. Sitting Bull College is building a digital collection to meet their community's need for access to Federal information. Any selective depository now has this same option. GPO recognizes the number of libraries interested in hosting and providing access to digital content continues to increase as the information community moves toward more digital collections. Libraries that participate in the FDLP are required under law to provide free public access to and assistance in using depository resources.

PACER documents news

The Washington Post reports  that the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has a plan to restore online access to the PACER documents that were removed. The AALL is following this closely and will be following up to clarify the Post's information, including whether or not the restoration will include entire case files or just the docket sheets. 

PA legislators pass UELMA

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved SB 601, a bill adopting the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA). The bill's purpose is:
"Amending Titles 44 (Law and Justice) and 45 (Legal Notices) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, modernizing publication of Commonwealth legal materials; providing for uniformity in electronic legal materials in the areas of designation, authentication, preservation and access; conferring powers and duties on various Commonwealth agencies; and, in publication and effectiveness of Commonwealth documents, further providing for definitions, for the Joint Committee on Documents, for general administration, for payment for documents, for distribution of publication expenses, for effect of future legislation, for publication of official codification, for deposit of  documents required, for processing of deposited documents, for preliminary publication in Pennsylvania Bulletin, for permanent supplements to Pennsylvania Code, for pricing and distribution of published documents, for automatic subscriptions, for required contractual arrangements, for official text of published documents, for effective date of documents and for presumptions created."
The bill is now on to Governor Corbett's desk, where hopefully it will be signed into law. Kudos to Patricia Fox, the Western Pennsylvania Law Library Association (WPLLA) and the Greater Philadelphia Law Library Association (GPLLA) for their successful advocacy.
 To keep up with the status of UELMA bills in the states,  see AALL's bill tracking chart.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

CALI Time Trial II

Did you enjoy playing with your CALI Time Trial cards last year? Or did you go directly to the fiendishly captivating online version, available on the CALI website?  Well there is an all new set of Time Trial cards - available for free at the Barco Law Library desk. And it's also available again online.  From the description:
Each card represents a significant case, amendment or Supreme Court Justice. From the clues on the card determine the year of the case or the year the Justice was first appointed. Put the cards into ascending date order from left to right by dragging and dropping them to the left, right or between the cards in the top row. If a card turns red you've put it in the wrong spot. Shift it to the correct spot before placing the next card. The oldest played card will be discarded once there are five cards in play.
It's Educational and fun! And the music is pretty good too. 

More on the PACER brouhaha

There has been a fair bit of negative commentary about the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts recent announcement that a whole bunch of case dockets have been removed from PACER in preparation for their move to a new, updated system.  Jim Jacobs of FreeGovInfo has pointed out that "Neither PACER nor the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, which runs PACER, claims that the removal of court cases from PACER was accidental. There are always reasons and excuses and these are usually used to make it sound as if the agency responsible for the removal had no choice (or intention), but that is rarely the case. So far, we have heard two excuses from PACER: The "backwards compatibility" excuse and the "reason" that "the cases that were removed were closed and that many had not been accessed in several years.""
He also provides a link to an interesting article in Tech Dirt titled "PACER Officials Give Weak, Nonsensical Excuse For Why PACER Deleted Tons Of Public Court Records With No Notice" .  He closes by saying
Although digital preservation certainly does require attention and resources and skills, it is not *only* a question of skills or technologies. It is a question of who wants to save information and who does not. This is often a question of who will use the information. Agencies may have a different perspective on who their users are (or who their users might be) than libraries do. For me, and I hope for all of us, there should be one simple lesson from the removal of the PACER court case files: If a library wants to ensure preservation and access for digital information it can do so (can *only* do so) by getting that information and preserving it. Relying on the government to provide perpetual, free access to everything our users want is always going to fail at some point. The question is not "when" or "if" it will fail. The questions are "how much?" and "how soon?" and "who will be hurt by the loss?"

Thursday 28 August 2014

Free Federal Rules books from LII and CALI

CALI has announced that 2015 versions of the Federal Rules of Evidence, Criminal Procedure and Civil Procedure are now available. These books are powered by the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University Law School and distributed by the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction's eLangdell Press. The books come in .epub format, which is compatible with iPads, Nooks, Android devices and basically everything but kindles.
 These editions of the books include:
• The complete rules as of December 1, 2014 (for the 2015 edition).
• All notes of the Advisory Committee following each rule.
• Internal links to rules referenced within the rules.
• External links to the LII website's version of the US Code.
And yes, all totally free. You are more than welcome to download as many copies as you'd like and add to digital collections.
 Here are the direct links to the books:
 2015 Federal Rules of Evidence 
2015 Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure
2015 Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

hat tip: Sarah Glassmeyer

PACER news

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has cause an uproar with the recent announcement that many previously available dockets in the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) system are no longer available electronically. This is due to an upcoming upgrade in the electronic file management system that they are using - according to the announcement, "the locally developed legacy case management systems in the five courts listed below are now incompatible with PACER; therefore, the judiciary is no longer able to provide electronic access to the closed cases on those systems." No longer available are: 
U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit: Cases filed prior to January 1, 2010
U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit: Cases filed prior to January 1, 2008
U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit: Cases filed prior to January 1, 2010
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit: Cases filed prior to March 1, 2012
U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California: Cases filed prior to May 1, 2001
Stosh Jonjak, a Pittsburgh law librarian at Reed Smith, has blogged about the news and included links to the major news reports on the topic.  Ars Technica, in a scathing article titled "US courts trash a decade’s worth of online documents, shrug it off", points out that the dockets were removed without any warning, and the announcement came afterwards.
The American Assn. of Law Libraries is monitoring the developments and is considering a more detailed response to the AOC (comments from members to the Govt. Relations Office are welcomed).
Meanwhile, some of the dockets are available from Bloomberg Law, depending on whether they were ever requested by a Bloomberg account holder.  The same is true for Lexis and Westlaw.

Thursday 14 August 2014

back-to-school shopping tips for law students

Above the Law has a post titled "The Essential Law School Shopping Guide" with lots of information on what every law student needs - or maybe not necessarily needs, but might want to pick up - before heading back to law school. It includes all-important tips on buying highlighters and post-it flags for marking up casebooks; buying a good bookbag; useful law student books; and some good sources of caffeine.

Hat tip: Karen Shephard

Wednesday 13 August 2014

New website with Presidential Documents & information

The Legislative Research Special Interest Section of the Law Librarians Society of Washington, D.C., Inc. (LLSDC) is pleased to announce the availability of a new website entitled “Executive Orders and Other Presidential Documents: Sources and Explanations". The site attempts to briefly lay out and link to all major sources for these materials which includes Presidential directives, proclamations, signing statements, executive orders, memoranda, and other documents. In addition the site links to many sources, such as CRS reports, that explain these documents. Members of the Special Interest Section have also recently updated their publication, “Questions and Answers in Legislative and Regulatory Research”, which is now only available in (a 21 page) PDF. It's got answers to lots of frequently as well as infrequently asked questions about legislative research. 

Sunday 10 August 2014

Dept. of Energy to provide access to publications

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Department of Energy has developed a plan to give public access to the results of research funded by the DOE.   This is in response to a directive from the Obama administration to plan to make publicly supported research available within a year of publication. The DOE is the first agency to release its plan, which is an online site called "PAGES": Public Access Gateway for Energy and Science. The site is currently in "beta" but you can already search and find articles on the site. The advanced Search function allows you to search by a variety of metadata categories. The resulting documents are, as you might expect, very scientific in nature.

Friday 8 August 2014

Words you will never hear a lawyer utter

This week's "Question of the Week" on the ABA Journal website is "What is something you will never hear a lawyer utter?" Readers are urged to provide answers in the Comment section. Lawyer jokes anyone? 

Internet Legal Research (on the cheap)

Attorney At Work is a website designed for practicing attorneys that provides "One Really Good Idea Every Day for Enterprising Lawyers".  The site was created by a team of  practice management experts. A recent post, called "10 Must-Know Tips for Internet Legal Research on the Cheap", has some great tips and is provided as a downloadable pdf.
Hat tip: lawlib listserv

Friday 1 August 2014

Friday fun: Movies!

The ABA Journal has a story today titled "12 movies with pivotal lessons featuring lawyers".  Here's the alphabetical list, with links to the explanation of why each is important.

"Let Me Google That For You Act"

"Let Me Google That For You Act" is the informal title of Senate bill 2206 (summary) (full text of bill), which seeks to abolish the NTIS (National Technical Information Service). The companion bill in the House of Representatives  is H.R. 4382.  A number of library organizations, including the AALL, ALA and ARL have been involved in discussions with Congressional staff about the bill, working to support the NTIS. The Free Government Information (FGI) Blog has more information about the bill, and why these gov doc librarians are opposed to it. FGI points out that the sponsors of the bill seem to lack understanding of how Google works - that Google doesn't actually write the NTIS reports, it just links to them when you are searching on a particular topic. 
"The text of the bill observes that many reports available from NTIS can also be found through publicly searchable websites, such as Google and, but fails to appreciate that this availability is often precisely because NTIS had a hand in collecting and publicly distributing them....Furthermore, many of the agencies which published reports in the NTIS collection no longer exist, leaving NTIS as their only surviving source. In fact, over two million of its reports exist only in paper or microform, and are not available in digital form from any source. Alarmingly, this bill makes no provision for the preservation of these reports or the cataloging data which facilitates access to them."

Court says Westlaw, Lexis use of lawyer's briefs not copyright infringement

The White v. West Publishing Company and Reed Elsevier case (S.D.N.Y, available online) begins: "On February 22, 2012, plaintiffs Edward L. White, Edward L. White, P.C., and Kenneth Elan filed a putative class action alleging copyright infringement against defendants West Publishing Corp. ("West") and Reed Elsevier, Inc. ("Lexis")." The plaintiffs were claiming that their legal briefs' inclusion in the Lexis and Westlaw databases was copyright infringement. However, District Judge Rakoff ruled that the use of the briefs by West and Lexis is fair use. Both companies transform the documents to a different purpose and use according to the Judge’s analysis: West and Lexis’s processes of reviewing, selecting, converting, coding, linking, and identifying the documents “add.. something new, with a further purpose or different character.” 

Thursday 31 July 2014

Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act approved in DE

The governor of Delaware has signed UELMA,the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act, which allows the electronic versions of legal material published by the state to be designated as the official version. The material includes the Constitution, the Laws of Delaware, the Delaware Code, and the Delaware Administrative Code. The text of the new law is available on the Delaware General Assembly website.

hat tip: Cynthia Cicco, Janet Lindenmuth

Saturday 26 July 2014

Studying law in prison helps convict win freedom

The ABA Journal online has an interesting (and inspiring) article today about Rodell Sanders, a Chicago man who spent 20 years in prison for murder. Sanders decided to learn the law while he was in jail, and committed himself to studying law after his family helped him purchase $1000 worth of law books (titles not mentioned). He was able to secure a new trial for himself based on ineffective assistance of counsel, and then got help from the University of Chicago law school's exoneration project. He was acquitted of the crime and is now suing the Chicago Heights police department. 

Friday 25 July 2014

.These shoes were made for walking...

The Wall Street Journal reports that Ducere, a company in India, has come up with a new entry in the "wearable technology" field: the Lechal smart shoe, aka "interactive haptic footwear".  The shoes are bluetooth-enabled so that they can communicate with Google maps and guide your feet on their way to where you want to go. When you are at a crossroads the left or right shoe will buzz to indicate which way to turn. Insoles for shoes will also be available if you don't want to wear their shoes.  I can't find an estimated date of when they will be on sale, but the story does say that the shoes should cost between $100 and $150 which admittedly isn't super cheap but is a lot less than some shoes cost.  

Wednesday 23 July 2014

New additions to Historical Newspapers database

The University Library System reports new additions to their ProQuest Historical Newspapers database. They have completed the collection of Black Newspapers (9 titles total) and added the 4 titles of the American Jewish Newspaper collection. The new titles added are:
Atlanta Daily World
Baltimore Afro-American
Cleveland Call / Post
LA Sentinel
Norfolk Journal and Guide
NY Amsterdam News
Philadelphia Tribune
American Hebrew and Jewish Messenger
American Israelite
Jewish Advocate
Jewish Exponent

Tuesday 22 July 2014

New school year, new stapler

The library's new stapler for student use arrived yesterday. It's a Rapid Duax stapler and can handle from 2 to 170 pages at a time.  There's a demonstration video on YouTube.  

Friday 18 July 2014

Research: reusing bad passwords not necessarily a bad idea

Slashdot has a post that links to a recent Microsoft research paper titled "Password Portfolios and the Finite-Effect User: Sustainably Managing Large Numbers of Accounts" (16 page pdf).  From the abstract: 
We explore how to manage a portfolio of passwords. We review why mandating exclusively strong passwords with no re-use gives users an impossible task as portfolio size grows... Our findings directly challenge accepted wisdom and conventional advice.
Or, as Slashdot explains it, not only do they recommend reusing passwords, but reusing bad passwords for low risks sites to minimize recall difficulty.

Georgetown Law symposium

The Georgetown Law Library is hosting a day-long symposium on Oct. 24 titled "404/File Not Found:Link Rot, Legal Citation and Projects to Preserve Precedent".  The symposium is "live" at Georgetown but you can also register to attend the symposium via webcast.  Registration is free.
From the description:
The Web is fluid and mutable, and this is a "feature" rather than a "bug". But it also creates challenges in the legal environment (and elsewhere) when fixed content is necessary for legal writers to support their conclusions. Judges, attorneys, academics, and others using citations need systems and practices to preserve web content as it exists in a particular moment in time, and make it reliably available.
 BTW the keynote speaker is Pittsburgh's own Jonathan Zittrain.  

Wednesday 2 July 2014

Clever way to create illustrated characters in PowerPoint

Here is a tutorial that shows how to create illustrated characters in Power Point. Clever. Move over Photoshop.

working group: Statistical Resources on the Web Guide

A working group of the Assn. of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) is looking into the possibility of "resurrecting" the Statistical Resources on the Web Guide originally compiled by Grace York at the University of Michigan and last updated in 2008. This feasibility project will:
1. Explore feasibility of  ALA/ACRL units adopting and maintaining the site.
 a. Consider possible platforms for site.
 b. Consider how content would be approved, added, and updated.
 c. Explore potential grant funding for project.
 d. Explore overlap with other similar projects and existing sites.
 e. Potentially create a timeline for implementation and maintenance.
 2. Timeline a. Initial meeting by end of July 2014.
 b. Progress check-in by October 2014.
 c. A final report by Midwinter 2015.
Anyone interested in helping with the project should contact Chad Kahl at Illinois State University, stating why you are interested in working on the project and what skills you could bring to the process, by July 11. 

Tuesday 1 July 2014

Minnesota state documents digitized

The Minnesota Legislative Reference Library reports that it, along with the MN Office of Secretary of State, has completed a digitization project in which 40,000 official state documents were digitized and made available online. Titlted "Secretary of State Documents - 1900 - 1990", the collection includes a wide variety of documents spanning much of the 20th century. The index cards that had been used as finding aids were digitized and can be searched in the database. 

Thursday 26 June 2014

Phone-charging trousers

Microsoft has partnered with Nokia and British fashion designer Adrien Sauvage to create trousers with wireless cellphone charging capability. Woven into the front pocket is the new Nokia DC-50 wireless charging plate, which grants the wearer the ability to charge a phone by simply placing it into the pocket without the worry of having to plug it in. The Nokia wireless charging trousers will be available on Amazon 'soon'. You can read more on IT Pro.
No word on a phone-charging skirt.  Yet.  

New CALI website launched

The Computer Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) website has been completely revamped (upgraded to Drupal 7) and was relaunched yesterday.  You can check it out at  Kudos to Elmer Masters and Dan Nagy for a job well done.  

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Westlaw webinars on transitioning from Westlaw Classic to WestlawNext

Westlaw has provided links to two recorded webinars that teach about  transitioning to WestlawNext from Westlaw Classic. The recordings will be available until May, 2015.
From Classic to Next: Basic
From Classic to Next: Advanced 

LOC recommends digitial formats for library collections

The Library of Congress has announced a set of recommended formats for a broad spectrum of creative works, ranging from books to digital music, to inform the Library’s acquisition practices. The format recommendations will help ensure the LOC's collections processes are considering and maximizing the long-term preservation potential of its large and varied collections.  The document describes the hierarchies of physical and technical characteristics of creative formats, both analog and digital, which will best maximize the chances for preservation and continued accessibility of creative content.
The Library was able to identify six basic categories of creative output, which represent significant parts of the publishing, information, and media industries, especially those that are rapidly adopting digital production and are central to building the Library’s collections: Textual Works and Musical Compositions; Still Image Works; Audio Works; Moving Image Works; Software and Electronic Gaming and Learning; and Datasets/Databases. Expert technical teams brought specialized knowledge in technical aspects of preservation, ongoing access needs and developments in the marketplace and publishing world. Standards were established to identify recommended formats for each of these categories and to establish hierarchies of preference among the formats within them.
 The Recommended Format Specifications are available here.

hat tip: Margie Maes, LIPA

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Lexis Academic training in July

LexisNexis Academic is offering several free webinar training sessions in the month of July.  The links will take you to the registration page for each webinar.
1. LexisNexis Academic : Learn how to use this general reference tool provides access to the most news, business, and legal information available from one interface. Newly redesigned with a simplified, single-search box and improved search options.
• Wednesday, July 9, 2014 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. (EDT) - Register
• Tuesday, July 15, 2014 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. (EDT) - Register (TELEPHONE ONLY)
2. LexisNexis Academic - Business  This seminar focuses on business resources and Company Dossier.
• Tuesday, July 15, 2014 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. (EDT) - Register
3. LexisNexis Academic – Legal Research  This webinar will focus on legal and criminal justice resources within LN Academic.
Check back for dates/times
4. LexisNexis Academic - News
• Tuesday, July 8, 2014 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. (EDT) - Register
5. LexisNexis Academic - Shepard's® -  The webinar will cover the features and benefits of using Shepard's® on-line.
• Tuesday, July 8, 2014 12:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. (EDT) - Register 

Wednesday 11 June 2014

HathiTrust digitization ruled fair use

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has issued an opinion upholding the lower court's ruling in the  HathiTrust case, in which the Author's Guild was suing HathiTrust for copyright infringement for its book digitization project. The court ruled that HathiTrust’s book digitization and accessibility efforts are be fair uses of copyrighted works. The Conclusion of the opinion reads:

"The judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED, in part, insofar as the district court concluded that certain plaintiffs appellants lack associational standing; that the doctrine of “fair use” allows defendants‐appellees to create a full text searchable database of copyrighted works and to provide those works in formats accessible to those with disabilities; and that claims predicated upon the Orphan Works Project are not ripe for adjudication. We VACATE the judgment, in part, insofar as it rests on the district court’s holding related to the claim of infringement predicated upon defendants appellees' preservation of copyrighted works,and we REMAND for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Metadata in Twitter tweets

The Wall Street Journal Digits blog reports that there is more metadata in a Twitter tweet than there are characters.  Twitter is famous for its 140-character limit on tweet length; but in order to facilitate data-mining for companies that gather information from social media there are 150 separate points of metadata (information about the tweet) for each tweet, so each tweet can yield a wealth of information: "For a tweet, metadata includes a unique numerical ID attached to each tweet, as well as IDs for all the replies, favorites and retweets that it gets. It also includes a timestamp, a location stamp, the language, the date the account was created, the URL of the author if a website is referenced, the number of followers, and many other technical specifications that engineers can analyze." The blogpost includes a link to a map of all the metadata contained in a tweet.

hat tip: beSpacific

Saturday 31 May 2014

ABA Journal: Who owns the law?

The ABA Journal this week has an excellent in-depth article titled "Who owns the law? Technology reignites the war over just how public documents should be."  In the article they interview some of the major players in the free access to law movement, including Carl Malamud of Public Resource dot org and Ed Walters of Fastcase, and discuss the issues at stake. They also point to a major case that is currently underway: American Society for Testing and Materials v., where the ASTM is suing PublicResource for copyright infringement, asserting that  committed copyright violations when it published ASTM codes and standards  that government entities had incorporated into law.

Friday 30 May 2014

Taylor and Francis to host a Twitter party

Taylor and Francis has issued an invitation to take part in qualitative research and engage with other librarians through one of the most popular means of social communication, Twitter. Taylor & Francis is investigating how social media is used in the academic library and how this differs based on the experience level, knowledge, and focus of librarians. They plan to  produce a White Paper on the topic and, as part of the research, they are hosting a Twitter party on Thursday June 5 between 10:00-10:45 AM, EDT, to discover your thoughts on using social media in the library.
Register by June 4th and sign into Twitter on the time and day above, and then search for #tfsocialmedia. You can join in by tweeting @librarylantern, using #tfsocialmedia to share your thoughts on:
• The challenges and opportunities social media presents to the library community
• Social media as a teaching tool - the role social media plays in information literacy
• User engagement & perception of using social media in the library
• Accessibility– how SNS are being promoted in the library
• Measurability - the impact of social media  To register for the event click here.   

Friday 23 May 2014

Stacks stories

Lovers of library stacks are fighting back in two recent news stories.  In a recent edition of online magazine Slate, Rebecca Schuman has a story titled "Save Our Stacks" in which she reports on a faculty petition at Colby College in Maine protesting a plan to move 170,000 of the library's books to storage. As she points out, many many other academic libraries are engaged in the same process of de-stacking and de-booking library spaces. She goes on to say that "The Bookies are quite right to want to save the stacks but not just for the reasons they give, all of which could be dismissed as the sentimental drowning cries of Luddites. We must also save the stacks for another, more urgent reason altogether: Books, simply as props that happen also to be quite useful if you open them up, are the best—perhaps the only—bastions of contemplative intellectual space in the world."
She also points to a second big and under-reported library stacks news item: the New York Public Library has quietly dropped its controversial plan to remove its famous stacks and send most of its books to storage in New Jersey (and elsewhere). This is probably not the end of the story which continues to unfold. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal has suggested that the grand main library building should be renamed for Ada Louise Huxtable, the noted architecture critic who spent her final months researching and writing a scathing commentary on the plan (she died in Jan. 2013 at the age of 91; her article ran in the Wall Street Journal on Dec. 4, 2012). The publication of her critique, titled "Undertaking its Destruction", marked a turning point for the library. She had said of the plan, "This is a plan devised out of a profound ignorance of or willful disregard for not only the library's original concept and design, but also the folly of altering its meaning and mission and compromising its historical and architectural integrity. You don't "update" a masterpiece. "Modernization" may be the most dangerously misused word in the English language."
The New York Times broke the story that the plans were dropped; for some reason they neglected to mention Ms. Huxtable's role. 

Thursday 22 May 2014

e-mail like a lawyer

The Thomson Reuters Legal Solutions Blog has a post (authored by Adam Gropper) that gives excellent advice on using good judgment in e-mail communications. The 12 tips are good e-mail practice for lawyers - and everyone else. For example, Tip #4: "Instead of criticizing, finding fault, or complaining, provide solutions (or do not send the e-mail). Treat every e-mail as if the contents could end up on the front page of the New York Times."

Wednesday 21 May 2014

PITTCat+ gets a makeover

A message from Sallie Smith, our Cataloging and Systems Librarian:  Monday, June 2, PITTCat+ will have a new look when the University Library System upgrades to Summon 2.0. You can preview the new version by clicking here.    If you try the new interface, here are a few things to remember:
• Use the drop-down arrow at far right of search box to access the advanced search screen.
• Search results can now be filtered by discipline (i.e. Law) – but remember that refinements are “sticky”, meaning that the filters are not cleared until you start a new search.
• The new interface has infinite scrolling – you won’t reach the bottom of the page unless you have a very small number of retrievals.
 It’s not perfect... but it is an improvement over the current version.

Tuesday 20 May 2014

New TWEN webinars for faculty, librarians and staff

If you are interested in using TWEN as your course management or project management system, ThomsonReuters Westlaw has created a series of five minute pre-recorded webinars for faculty, librarians and staff.  These will help anyone interested in learning the basics about TWEN. These are all webex webinars that should play on any computer.  

TWEN Fine tuning:

TWEN Security:

TWEN Updating:

Embedding Youtube videos in TWEN courses:

Friday 16 May 2014

New CALI site coming soon!

CALI, the Center for Computer Assisted Legal Instruction, is launching an all-new website on June 2 & 3 11-12,  2014.  They have scheduled a downtime for for all day Monday June 2, 2014 and the new design will be available on June 3 12, 2014. There will be no ability to register, run Lessons, login, access LessonLink or anything else all day on Monday June 2 June 11 2014.
The new site will have a number of improved features including better search for finding more of CALI's resources, a responsive design to improve usability for mobile visitors, and improved navigation. Some things won't change like URLs for key resources including Lessons. Account information and data is staying the same so usernames and passwords will still work after the launch and faculty and students will have access to all of their LessonLink and Lesson Run data.
For more info and some screenshots see the CALI blog.

Thursday 15 May 2014

Ranking law schools

There is an interesting article titled Sense and non-sense of a European ranking of law schools and law journals in the latest edition of Legal Studies, the Journal of the Society of Legal Scholars. The article focuses on whether it is possible to rank European law schools, but it also offers a clear-eyed look at law school rankings in the U.S., the good, the bad and the ugly.   The Abstract:
Rankings of law schools and law journals are part of a trend towards more emphasis in academia on transparency and accountability with regard to the quality of research and education. Globalisation increases the need to compare law schools and law journals across borders, but this raises complicated questions due to differences in language, education systems, publishing style and so on. In this contribution, it is argued that ranking of law schools and law reviews runs the risk of driving us away from quality based on substance towards proceduralisation and quality assessment based on proxies favoured by managers of law schools, funding bodies and government agencies, instead of by the forum of legal scholars.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

GPO unveils plan for the future of the FDLP

The Government Printing Office just unveiled a new National Plan for the Future of the FDLP at the 2014 Depository Library Council Meeting & Federal Depository Library Conference. This is the result of much work by GPO and the depository library community, based on the FDLP Forecast Study. The National Plan aims for a sustainable FDLP, which is proposed to be renamed the Federal Information Access Library Program and expanded to include more types and sizes of libraries and a new category of Federal Information Access assurance Partners. Although this is a proposal, and much work still needs to be done, it’s a very positive milestone. Law librarians should be pleased with the emphasis on information access, preservation, and program sustainability. Superintendent of Documents Mary Alice Baish will be discussing the plan at the AALL Annual Meeting.

Monday 12 May 2014

Federal legislation visualization

An interesting new visualization tool called Leg/Ex (short for Legislative Explorer) comes from the University of Washington Center for American Politics and Public Policy. It's an interactive visualization that allows anyone to explore actual patterns of lawmaking in Congress. To use it, go to the website and click the "Launch" button.. Choose any year/Congress  back to 1973. Then hit Play and and watch the tiny points of light (bills introduced) fly to their various committees until the committees start to look like little nuclei (bills are coded blue for Dems, red for Reps, yellow for Inds). You can also choose from 19 major topics and many minor topics and watch the numbers increase like a sports ticker on the bottom of your screen. You can search by individual member, see members ranked on an ideology scale, explore by State, and lots more possibilities.

Thursday 8 May 2014

Visualizing legal research

An article in the ABA Journal discusses a new website called Ravel (still in beta) that is called a legal research alternative. Ravel was developed by 2 law students at Stanford who were interested in data visualization. Ravel does not look like traditional legal research platforms because it gives a visual presentation of search results. Rather than display a list of text results,  Ravel draws a visual map of the results, showing the relationships among cases and their relative importance to each other. Results are displayed in a cluster map, with a timeline shown below. Each dot in the cluster is another case.
Ravel is currently free during beta-testing.  

Monday 5 May 2014

Crowdsourcing the Statutes at Large

This recent email came from James Jacobs, one of the Government Information librarians at Stanford University library and a founder of the Free Government Information blog :
Hi All, Do you love the Statutes at Large? (note: who doesn't???) then please help... the Congressional Data Coalition ( with a project to proofread digital SaL for permanent free public access! You can find directions for this project at

WestlawNext webinars for faculty

To help ease the transition for faculty from Westlaw Classic to WestlawNext, which is being phased out over the next couple of months, Westlaw is holding a series of free webinars to help introduce (or refresh) faculty to using WestlawNext.
There are 2 webinars available on a number of dates in May and June:
1.  From Classic to Next Basic
 In this basic webinar, you will learn where to find and how to use your favorite aspects of Westlaw Classic on WestlawNext. Learn about conducting finds and searches, including Boolean searches, and KeyCite and Key Numbers. We will also review how to save your Research Trails so you can have them available in WestlawNext.
2.  From Classic to Next Advanced
 In this advanced webinar, you will learn about Alerts on WestlawNext, how to use Custom Pages (similar to tabs on Westlaw Classic), Folders, and Practical Law. We will also review how to save your Research Trails so you can have them available in WestlawNext.
If interested, go to Westlaw's Faculty Webinar Page, select the date and time you prefer, and register for the webinar. 

Friday 2 May 2014

William & Mary Law Library launches historic digital project

In honor of Law Day, the College of William & Mary's Wolf Law Library has launched a new digital project, "Wythepedia," an online encyclopedia named for William & Mary's -and the nation's - first law professor: George Wythe. Wythepedia features pages describing the library's George Wythe Collection, aspects of Wythe's life and death by poisoning, his letters and papers, and even some poetry. "Wythe has always been a somewhat forgotten Founding Father," said Linda K. Tesar, Head of Technical Services and Special Collections, and the project's Managing Editor. "Wythepedia was designed to bring some much deserved recognition to a statesmen who was a revolutionary, jurist, and mentor to the likes of Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and Henry Clay."


Not the movie, not the TV show. Elmer Masters of CALI fame has written a blogpost on Slaw about Fargo the Outliner. Elmer's recommendations are always useful, and Fargo looks like super useful web-based software that helps you easily create outlines on the fly. Not only that but it has some excellent additional features that let you, for example, easily turn your outline into a presentation, or set up a note/link blog to track interesting things on the internet.  Thanks Elmer!
p.s. You need to have a Dropbox account (they're free) to use Fargo. 

Speaking of photocopying...

The ABA Journal  reports on a new feature created by the New York Times called "Verbatim". Verbatim is a performance series that will transform "verbatim legal transcripts into dramatic and often comedic performances". In this dramatization of transcripts from a legal deposition, a lawyer becomes embroiled in an absurd argument about the definition of a photocopier. It is from a real case in Cuyahoga County, Ohio that involved a challenge to a Cuyahoga County Recorder's Office policy.

Thursday 1 May 2014

Photocopying and copyright

Librarians are uncomfortably aware of the potential copyright issues posed by photocopiers. A fascinating article in a recent Journal of the Copyright Society of the U.S.A. titled "Modern Technology, Leaky Copyrights, And Claims Of Harm: Insights From The Curious History Of Photocopying " (58 page pdf) by NYU Law Professor Diane Leenheer Zimmerman looks at the law of copyright by way of the history of the xerox machine. She says, "The approach taken by this paper in trying to shed light on this topic is somewhat unusual in that it looks not so much to theory as to experience."
From the abstract: "The core problem this article attempts to address is what should count as “economic harm” in determining whether particular kinds of copying are appropriately treated as copyright infringement....What the paper concludes is that adequate copyright protection does not mean virtually airtight control over works by their owners. Considerable room for compromise between the public’s desire for free access, and the owners’ interest in retaining incentives to produce exists."