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."