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.”
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