Thursday 12 December 2019

Bloomberg Law discontinuing law reviews/journals

Bloomberg Law has announced that they will no longer have law reviews and law journals in the database collection. The announcement said:
"I am writing to inform you that Bloomberg Law will discontinue our limited collection of law review and journal articles. Law reviews and journals, currently available under Secondary Sources in the Browse Menu and from within Practice Centers, will be removed 12/31/2019.
We believe that removal of these materials will have a limited impact on our academic users. Law review articles are among the least used resources available on Bloomberg Law, and are readily available from other sources. Our editorial and product development teams are always primarily focused on producing highest quality practical guidance, analytics, and legal news, and this decision reflects a reallocation of resources to that end."

Monday 9 December 2019

HeinOnline updates

Two recent additions to HeinOnline that may be of interest:
• The U.S. Presidential Impeachment Library collection in the U.S. Presidential database includes Pres. Trump and access to the "whistleblower" documents.
• In the past month alone, more than 500 volumes and nearly 320,000 pages were added to the U.S. Congressional Serial Set. And the HeinOnline Blog includes a regular post called "Secrets of the Serial Set."  In the most recent post, readers can explore the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and its resulting investigations

Friday 6 December 2019

North Carolina Supreme Court adopts universal citation format

The NCAPB (North Carolina Appellate Practice Blog) reports that the North Carolina Supreme Court has officially made plans to change the citation format for NC appellate court opinions to the universal citation format.  ("universal citation",sometimes called a "media-neutral" or "vendor-neutral" citation, is one that is media-neutral and does not depend on being located in a print edition of a book).
The change will become effective at the beginning of 2021. The announcement from the courts says that:
..."opinions filed on or after 1 January 2021 will have an immediate, permanent, and medium-neutral ("universal") citation the moment they are issued. Because a universal citation is medium-neutral, it does not point to an official publication of the opinion. Opinions of the Supreme Court of North Carolina and the North Carolina Court of Appeals that are filed on or after 1 January 2021 should be cited using this format: [Case Name], [Traditional Citation to the Bound Volume and Page Number of the Court's Official Reporter], [Universal Citation to the Year, Court, and Opinion Number], [Pinpoint Paragraph Number].
e.g., State v. Smith, 375 N.C. 152, 2020-NCSC-45, ¶ 16.
State v. Smith, 255 N.C. App. 43, 2020-NCCOA-118, ¶ 23."

Tuesday 3 December 2019

Georgia v Public Resource in the Supreme Court, the organization founded by Carl Malamud with the motto “Making Government Information More Accessible," has been involved in litigation with the state of Georgia and its Code Revision Commission for several years. At issue is whether states like Georgia can claim copyright ownership over certain legal texts, specifically the official annotated versions of the Georgia statutory code. made the law of Georgia freely available online. Georgia objected. Georgia’s official code contains more than just the letter of the law. That extra content – like summaries of relevant court decisions – creates the legal question: can the whole book be freely-published online?
In CODE REVISION COMMISSION and State of Georgia v. PUBLIC.RESOURCE.ORG, INC., 244 F.Supp.3d 1350 (2017), the United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division decided that the annotations in the Code were copyrightable, and the alleged infringer's use was not a non-infringing fair use. appealed, and in Code Revision Commission for General Assembly of Georgia v., 906 F.3d 1229 (2018), the 11th Circuit Court overturned the lower court's ruling and held that "held that annotations editorially created for the annotated compilation of Georgia statutes, while not having the force of law, were sufficiently law-like so as to be regarded as sovereign work constructively authored by the People, and thus were not copyrightable."
The Code Revision Commission of Georgia appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in June the Supreme Court granted certiorari in GEORGIA, et al., petitioners, v. PUBLIC.RESOURCE.ORG, INC. 139 S.Ct. 2746 (June 2019) (note that this link goes to Westlaw). The case was argued before the Supreme Court on Monday, December 2. If you are interested in following the case, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued, under the authority of the state and via Internet, a transcript of oral argument prepared by HERITAGE REPORTING CORPORATION Official Reporters.

Fastcase news

Fastcase and ROSS Intelligence have announced a new partnership in which they will share content, research and development in order to allow both Fastcase and ROSS to innovate more quickly. According to the announcement, "As a result of the Fastcase partnership ROSS has achieved data completeness within its platform, which now contains case law, statutes, and regulations across all 50 states. Fastcase and ROSS will be progressively developing additional product integrations and joint features, to be released in the coming months."
Bob Ambrogi, on his Lawsiteblog, calls it a "unique partnership." He interviewed Ed Walters of Fastcase, who said that they are "jointly committing to work together on some collaborative new research projects going forward." Jean O'Grady, in her Deweybstrategic blog, calls the partnership a "paradigm shift," saying that "Fastcase is clearly positioning the company to play the disruptor."

Friday 22 November 2019

Friday: Is this good news?

In the "things that make you say hmmm" department: The Library of Congress has announced that they "are excited to share out a dataset of 1,000 random (PowerPoint) slide decks from U.S. government websites." If this appeals to you, you can download the entire 3.7 GB dataset of all the actual files (as a zip file).

Elsevier and CMU publishing agreement

Carnegie Mellon University , our neighbor up the street, has announced an agreement with publishing giant Elsevier that "marks an open access milestone." According to a story in Inside Higher Ed, the agreement will "radically change how the institution pays to read and publish research." The agreement prioritizes free and public access to research done at the university. "Instead of paying separately to access Elsevier’s catalog of paywalled content and publish open-access articles in Elsevier journals, Carnegie Mellon will pay one flat fee for both. The deal means that starting on Jan. 1, 2020, all principal investigators publishing in Elsevier journals will have the option of making their research immediately available to the public, at no additional cost. The “read-and-publish” deal is a first with a university in the U.S. for Elsevier and is the result of nearly yearlong negotiations."
To help Carnegie Mellon scholars navigate this agreement and its impact on their work, the University Libraries have created a website with helpful information for the community and answers to frequently asked questions.

Friday 15 November 2019

A UX review of the PACER website has an interesting post reviewing the usability of the Federal Court system's PACER website. The review tries to be fair and not overly critical of the site, but they also give constructive ideas on how the site could be more user-friendly. They focus on the main sections of the site:
  • The public landing page, originally designed in the early 2000's. The review says that there is too much clutter on the landing page, with key space taken up by secondary information - this could be cleaned up. Also, the page doesn't comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines in that the text does not have enough contrast and could easily be adjusted. 
  • The User Login and Dashboard is just a headache, with a lengthy registration process and unclear explanations for what is required. Once a user manages to get a login un and pw there are three different options for logging in and after logging in there are too many clicks to get to the case search screen.
The article goes on to critique the Search Results and the Case Record Detail. There is even a video of a particularly confusing web interface. The best part is that the article offers easy fixes for all of PACER's problems with graphic representation of what it could look like.

webinar on Legal Information Archive project

The Legal Information Preservation Alliance (LIPA) has announced that they are hosting an informational webinar on the Legal Information Archive Project hosted in conjunction with Preservica, the digital archive provider for LIPA, on Tuesday, November 19th at 11 a.m. (Eastern)/8 a.m. (Pacific). During the presentation, we will provide an overview of the project and answer any questions for members who may be interested in joining and preserving through the Legal Information Archive.
 In addition, Preservica will also cover how they:
 • Manage and safeguard institutional content and other legal resources.
• Enable you to easily upload and ingest new content into Preservica.
• Ensure permanent access to vital legal information through online publication.
You can register here for the webinar. 

Saturday 9 November 2019

HSDL Critical Releases in Homeland Security: The Crisis of Social Media

The most recent posting by the Homeland Security Digital Library includes a link to an interesting article titled Freedom On The Net 2019: The Crisis of Social Media (32 page pdf). It is subtitled "What was once a liberating technology has become a conduit for surveillance and electoral manipulation." (The report was prepared by Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world.) Freedom on the Net is a comprehensive study of internet freedom in 65 countries around the globe, covering 87 percent of the world’s internet users. It tracks improvements and declines in internet freedom conditions each year. The countries included in the study have been selected to represent diverse geographical regions and regime types. From the document:
"Internet freedom is increasingly imperiled by the tools and tactics of digital authoritarianism, which have spread rapidly around the globe. Repressive regimes, elected incumbents with authoritarian ambitions, and unscrupulous partisan operatives have exploited the unregulated spaces of social media platforms, converting them into instruments for political distortion and societal control. While social media have at times served as a level playing field for civic discussion, they are now tilting dangerously toward illiberalism, exposing citizens to an unprecedented crackdown on their fundamental freedoms. Moreover, a startling variety of governments are deploying advanced tools to identify and monitor users on an immense scale. As a result of these trends, global internet freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2019."

Friday 8 November 2019

Internet Archive & Better World Books are preserving books online

Against the Grain has a story about a partnership between Better World Books and the Internet Archive. It seems that BetterWorld Books is now owned by a non-profit affiliated with Internet Archive, called Better World Libraries. The Internet Archive will acquire, digitize, lend, store and digitally preserve millions of deaccessioned library books that go to BWB. At the same time, they will be sharing a major dissemination program for their digitized books through clickable citations in Wikipedia articles in 8 different languages. And any book that does not yet exist in digital form will go into a pipeline for future digitization, preservation and access.

Hat tip: Pat Roncevich

Wednesday 6 November 2019

1,300 Congressional Hearings dating back to 1958 now available on govinfo

The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) has announced that it has digitized more than 1,300 historical Congressional Hearings dating back to 1958 and made them available on govinfo. This project is part of a multi-year effort to digitize a collection of nearly 15,000 Congressional Hearings from Kansas State University Libraries; and is one of a series of recent projects in which GPO has worked to expand free public access to Congressional information in digital formats.

Wednesday 30 October 2019

Society for Empirical Legal Studies questions ULS News plans

Inside Higher Ed reports that the Board of Directors of the Society for Empirical Legal Studies has written a 5 page letter to U.S. News & World Report to "express concern" about its plans to create a law school "scholarly impact" ranking based on HeinOnline data. The letter says that
"HeinOnline’s present citation-measurement system has three principal problems: (1) it is biased against interdisciplinary legal scholarship; (2) it omits all book manuscripts and chapters; and (3) it systematically undervalues the academic contributions of junior scholars, which would inhibit law schools from recruiting diverse faculties."
They add that "For instance, Google Scholar’s database of citations includes nearly all academic publications, including books. It can also be tailored in different ways, such as giving more weight to recent publications. While Google Scholar currently contains some attribution errors, so does HeinOnline, and data scientists are already developing ways to clean and harvest more accurate citation data from Google Scholar."

Friday 18 October 2019

State government publications and copyright

Works of the federal government are in the public domain and free for anyone to use according to 17 U.S.C. § 105. What about States, territories and the District of Columbia? Harvard Library has a State Copyright Guide online that makes it easy to look up the copyright status of state documents. The site says: "It turns out that figuring out whether state documents are copyrighted is a tricky question, and we've created this website to help identify the relevant laws in each state."

Tuesday 15 October 2019

NASIG webinar of interest to librarians

NASIG is offering a Webinar titled "Designing for Accessibility" on Thursday, Oct. 24 at 1 pm EST. The webinar is not free but is $35 for NASIG and NISO members, #50 for non-members. Description:
From online course materials to documents and presentations, we all share some responsibility when it comes to creating accessible content. This session provides a brief introduction to designing for accessibility: the importance of accessible design and high-impact practices digital content creators can apply to create documents, images, audio, video, and web content accessible to users of all abilities.
Webinar participants will:
Discover the importance of accessible design
Explore common accessibility challenges and solutions
Identify resources for creating accessible content.
You can find out more and register at the NASIG website.

Tuesday 8 October 2019

Search term emphasis on Westlaw

A recent announcement from Thomson Reuters points out a new enhancement to Westlaw searching called "Search Term Emphasis." You can see this when you are searching Westlaw Edge and click on the "Search Tips" button under the jurisdiction selector next to the search box:
Add emphasis to your most important search terms if your initial search did not return desired results. Search Term Emphasis can promote documents containing the emphasized terms. Apply Search Term Emphasis by adding a caret '^' after an important term. The caret symbol '^' is above the 6 on the keyboard 
dog canine /p detect! /s drug /p trunk tire^ car automobile
qualified immunity excessive force taser^
Note that the "Search Tips" guide is also newly expanded and offers more help in conduction searches on Westlaw.

Wednesday 25 September 2019

PLI announces tool for tracking CLEs

The Practising Law Institute (PLI) has announced the launch of My Credit Tracker, a tool that you can use to track, organize, and manage your CLE credit compliance progress, in any jurisdiction for any credit type. My Credit Tracker enables you to keep all your credit information in one convenient location and is available to anyone who sets up a free account. Credits earned from PLI are automatically shown, and you can also enter credits earned elsewhere. All credits are displayed on an elegant user interface accessible from a computer or mobile device. When you complete your "compliance profile" using the Compliance Date Wizard, My Credit Tracker will alert and remind you of CLE deadlines.
And the Barco Law library's subscription to PLI Plus also gives you online access to the full collection of PLI Press publications containing over 87,000 documents including Treatises, Course Handbooks, Journals, Answer Books, Legal Forms, and Program Transcripts. The extensive PLI collection is updated regularly to reflect the latest in legal developments and includes practical materials for professional lawyers.

Impeachment information

With impeachment in the news, you can become more informed about the subject by using the libguide "Government Sources by Subject: Impeachment of a U.S. President" created by librarians at the University of Washington.

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Citation Counts: Interdisciplinary Scholarship

Tax Prof Blog has an interesting post that discusses a new article on SSRN written by scholars at Vanderbilt University titled "Total Scholarly Impact: Law Professor Citations in Non-Law Journals."
From the SSRN Abstract:
"This Article provides the first ranking of legal scholars and law faculties based on citations in non-law journals. Applying the methods, as much as possible, of the widely used Leiter-Sisk “Scholarly Impact Score,” which includes only citations in law publications, we calculate a “Interdisciplinary Scholarly Impact Score” from the non-law citations over a five-year period (2012-2018) to the work of tenured law faculty published in that period in non-law journals. We also provide the weighted scores for law faculty at the top 25 law schools as ranked by the US News rankings, a school-by-school ranking, and lists of the top five faculty by non-law citations at each school and of the top fifty scholars overall."

Constitution Day

In honor of Constitution Day, the Law Library of Congress has announced that "The Constitution Annotated Is Now Easier to Search and Browse" with a link that takes us to the Congressional Research Service's new version of the Constitution Annotated.  According to the announcement,
"The Constitution Annotated allows you to “read about the Constitution in plain English…providing a comprehensive overview of Supreme Court decisions interpreting the United States Constitution.” The Constitution Annotated is a Senate document created by the Congressional Research Service that makes the Constitution accessible to all Americans, regardless of their background in law. In the past, the web version of this document, which is linked from, consisted of PDFs that could be challenging to search. With this release, the document is available in a more accessible and user-friendly HTML format that is convenient to search and browse."

Tuesday 10 September 2019

Two nice sites created by Government Information librarians

Two library sites created by government info librarians that may be of interest to law librarians and legal scholars:
1. Weekly Roundup of U.S. Government Information is a great libguide that provides a current awareness resource about happenings in the federal government. Created by Kelly Smith, a GovInfo librarian at UC San Diego, she collects content from agency press releases, reports from the Office of Inspector General, Congressional Budget Office, the Congressional Research Service, the Government Accountability Office, and other items in the news. The page is updated weekly to provide links to important, news-worthy, or interesting federal government material published during the previous week. You can subscribe to the Weekly Roundup by going to this page and entering your email address in the "Subscribe" box.
Oh, and her entire U.S. Government Information libguide is really well done.

2.The Cold War & Internal Security Collection website from the J.Y. Joyner Library at East Carolina University includes over 1,500 volumes of congressional hearings, committee prints and committee reports published between 1918-1977, primarily covering congressional investigations of organizations deemed "subversive" or "un-American". David Durant, the Federal Documents & Social Sciences librarian at the library also keeps a blog related to the collection; his most recent post looks at the history of Russian efforts to influence public opinion in the US and its allies, from the late 1970s to the 2016 US elections. These efforts, collectively labeled as "active measures", are the subject of an exhibit currently at the Joyner library. 

Thursday 5 September 2019

Lexis interface change...

This just in from LexisNexis: "Find a Source" and "Find a Topic", formerly on the "Browse" dropdown menu, have moved to "Explore Content" on Lexis Advance "for a more intuitive and streamlined user experience."

Wednesday 4 September 2019

What's your PPQ?

The Teaching Newsletter from the Chronicle of Higher Education recently had an article titled "How Calling on Random Students Could Hurt Women," in which a psychologist who studies gender differences in public performance urges instructors to encourage classroom participation in ways that avoid putting students on the spot. There is a link to a longer article "Teaching Tips: Asking Questions" that goes into detail about how students feel about being called on and ways to engage students and increase student participation without causing undue embarassment. One idea is to monitor your PPQ ratio - how much participation per question do you get in class?
"When many students offer answers to a question, the ratio is high. A consistent pattern of stony silence lowers the PPQ ratio but more importantly leaves teachers feeling frustrated... The absence of student response may well be the most common stimulus for initiating “calling on” behavior."

The article then offers a number of suggestions on how to "increase your PPQ" and promote interchange in class, as well as ways to encourage students to ask questions.

Thursday 22 August 2019

Women who reshaped the federal Judiciary

The United States Courts website is running an inspiring series of articles about 23 women judges who in 1979 reshaped the federal Judiciary. In coming weeks, profiles of individual judges will be published each Wednesday. View the stories in the series and read the introductory article.

Tuesday 20 August 2019

The Essential FDLP

The Government Publishing Office (GPO) has begun a new intiative called "The Essential FDLP." They are gathering stories, testimonials, and short videos about the importance, value, and vital nature of the FDLP (Federal Depository Library Program) and Government information. These will be featured on,, and via GPO social media. To learn more and contribute your thoughts, please complete this form. Note that form fields are optional. Please contribute to any or all questions. Photos, video clips, and audio clips are all welcome and encouraged.
Examples might include:
 · Your favorite Government publication
 · Reference success stories
 · Descriptions of how Government information was used in your teaching or your work
 · Illustrations of a time when Government information helped a member of your community
 · Testimonials received from patrons
 · Any words you have to say about the importance of the FDLP.

Thursday 1 August 2019

Lexis Advance CourtLink now on Lexis lawschool accounts

From the blurb:
The most comprehensive docket research tool available is now easier to use than ever with the new CourtLink® on Lexis Advance®! All faculty and students now have access to the exceptional court coverage of the CourtLink service, redesigned with familiar Lexis Advance features as well as enhanced capabilities and faster navigation. Lexis Advance CourtLink provides: • A single, simplified search form • One-click set up for alerts and tracks • The same unmatched court coverage • Access with one ID (Lexis Advance ID)
To access, sign in to and select the "product switcher menu", top left (looks like the side of a Rubik's Cube).
Lexis also provides a "Quick Reference Guide" to CourtLink as well as a set of CourtlLink training videos

Friday 19 July 2019

GPO & DPLA Partnering to Make Government eBooks More Accessible

The Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) has announced that the Government Publishing Office (GPO) and the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) are partnering to make Government eBooks more accessible. DPLA has created Open Bookshelf, a platform for eBooks where open-licensed eBooks are available to the public. GPO is going to use this platform to make its books available.
"Through Open Bookshelf, GPO can provide a service model to meet the needs of modern-day users. There are over 500 eBooks available on the Catalog of Government Publications (CGP); partnering with the DPLA eBook program will help GPO to continue to achieve its goals."
Learn more about the project on the FDLP/DPLA eBook Pilot Project page.

hat tip: Pat Roncevich

Thursday 18 July 2019

Dean Wildermuth discusses Justice Stevens

Pitt Law Dean Amy Wildermuth clerked for U.S Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens who passed away recently.  She was interviewed about her time as Justice Stevens' law clerk on Pittsburgh's public radio station WESA. Interviewer Kevin Gavin spoke with Dean Wildermuth on his program called "The Confluence." You can read about the interview on the WESA website where you can also listen to a recording of the program; the interview with Dean Wildermuth begins at minute 12:23.

Thursday 11 July 2019

GPO has digitized the Public Papers of the Presidents

The Government Publishing Office has announced that the GPO and the National Archives' Office of the Federal Register have digitized The Public Papers of the Presidents for Presidents Herbert Hoover (1929) through George H.W. Bush (1990), with the exception of the Franklin D. Roosevelt presidency. (The papers of President Franklin Roosevelt were published privately before the commencement of the official Public Papers series.) Each volume of The Public Papers of the Presidents is comprised of a forward by the President, public writings, addresses, remarks, and photographs.
This digitization effort joined the already digital version of Public Papers for Presidents George H. W. Bush (1991−1992), William J. Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack H. Obama.
The compiled and published Public Papers of the Presidents began in 1957 in response to a recommendation of the National Historical Publications Commission. Noting the lack of uniform compilations of messages and papers of the Presidents before this time, the Commission recommended the establishment of an official series in which Presidential writings, addresses, and remarks of a public nature could be made available. This recommendation was issued under section 6 of the Federal Register Act (44 U.S.C. 1506).

Westlaw and ICE?

Two listserv posts came in yesterday alerting us to this interesting topic. The first offered a link to this article in SSRN titled "When Westlaw Fuels ICE Surveillance: Ethics in the Era of Big Data Policing." The abstract opens with this:
Legal research companies are selling surveillance data and services to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) and other law enforcement agencies. This Article discusses ethical issues that arise when lawyers buy and use legal research services sold by the same vendors responsible for building ICE’s surveillance systems.
The second post followed with a link to a blogpost by law librarian Tom Boone titled "Why I'm Boycotting Thomson Reuters at AALL19." Tom adds that:
"I’ve written this post to share information with other AALL attendees so they’re aware of TR’s business relationship with ICE and its non-response to Privacy International’s inquiries. Each person can then decide for themselves—on an informed basis—whether to take any action."

Friday 28 June 2019

GPO digitization projects need content

From the Federal Depository Library Program:
"GPO is actively digitizing content, with an immediate focus on adding historical, retrospective content to existing govinfo collections. GPO may accept materials from depository libraries for digitization.
If your depository is weeding any of the titles listed here, and volumes are not claimed within your region, please contact us at If any of the materials meet our digitization needs, GPO will cover the cost of shipping the material to GPO. GPO's needs are also listed in FDLP eXchange, and will automatically match to any depositories that are offering nationally."
On the same page you can download Excel spreadsheets listing the content they need for the Federal Register Index (2005-12), the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, and the Congressional Directory (1809-1905) so if your library is deaccessioning any of your print versions of these documents they would be grateful.

Monday 24 June 2019

Supreme Court agrees to hear Georgia v Public Resource case on copyright of state government law

Law360 reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case filed by the state of Georgia against (the nonprofit organization founded by Carl Malamud dedicated to "Making Government Information More Accessible"). Public Resource published the annotated Georgia code without permission. The 11th Circuit had tossed the case out last November, "saying citizens should have 'unfettered access to the legal edicts that govern their lives.'”
The case is Georgia et al. v. Public.Resource.Org Inc., case number 18-1150, in the U.S. Supreme Court. Docket is here.

Fastcase transitioning

Fastcase has announced that they are getting ready to move from Fastcase 6 (classic) to Fastcase 7 (the latest in cutting edge legal research). Currently, if you use Fastcase you can use the button in the top right of the screen to toggle to Fastcase 7. Fastcase 7, with expanded tools, features and content, will become the default access over the summer.
They have training videos available about Fastcase 7. They are also offering training webinars on several Monday afternoons; register here if you're interested.

ALA removes Melvil Dewey from the award with his name

Inside Higher Ed reports that: "The Council of the American Library Association voted Sunday to remove the name of Melvil Dewey, one of the founders of the association and inventor of the book classification system named for him, from the association's medal. A resolution passed by the Council said that 'whereas Melvil Dewey did not permit Jewish people, African Americans, or other minorities admittance to the resort owned by Dewey and his wife' and 'whereas Dewey made numerous inappropriate physical advances toward women he worked with and wielded professional power over,' his name should not remain on the medal."

Friday 21 June 2019

Webinar on the Congressional Research Service

The excellent "Help! I'm an Accidental Government Information Librarian" series of webinars continues. Up next:
from the announcement:  " Help! I'm an Accidental Government Information Librarian presents... Congressional Research Service Reports.     The Government Resources Section of the North Carolina Library Association welcomes you to a series of webinars designed to help us increase our familiarity with government information. All are welcome because government information wants to be free. Do you want to make the most out of Congressional Research Service reports? Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress and former CRS legislative attorney, will showcase, an innovative new website that puts a modern face to these authoritative reports. We will meet together online on Thursday, July 18th from 12:00 - 1:00 p.m. (Eastern). Please RSVP for the session using this link.

Thursday 20 June 2019

Westlaw webinar on natural language and Artificial Intelligence

Westlaw Thomson Reuters offered an interesting webiner last week called "Westlaw Edge: AI & Language," in which Director of Research at Thomson Reuters R&D delivered an insightful talk about artificial intelligence and language and succinctly walk us through examples of how linguistic structure and meaning are modeled by NLP algorithms and how those algorithms are used in Westlaw Edge. If you missed it, don't worry - a recording of the webinar is available for you to view at your convenience.

Do YOU love your librarian?

The American Library Assn. (ALA) announces: The“I Love my Librarian” award nominations are now open. From the press release: The American Library Association (ALA) is inviting all library users to nominate their favorite librarians for the prestigious I Love My Librarian Award. The national award recognizes the outstanding public service contributions of librarians working in public, school, college, community college or university libraries who transform communities and improve lives.
Nominations are being accepted online now through Oct. 21, 2019.

hat tip: Linda Tashbook

GPO and Office of Law Revision Counsel survey: discontinue print USC supplements?

AALL members:  The U.S. Government Publishing Office and the Office of the Law Revision Counsel (OLRC) of the U.S. House of Representatives to conduct a survey of AALL members on the use of the United States Code (USC) and its supplements. OLRC is the office that produces the USC. The office is investigating whether the USC can be produced more efficiently by eliminating printed USC annual supplements. All AALL members are welcome to complete this survey, including those who completed a similar survey for the Federal Depository Library Program. The OLRC wants to continue to serve the needs of its users, and your completion of the survey will provide important feedback.
You may see a copy of the survey before you begin.
Please complete the survey by June 24.

Monday 17 June 2019

Pitt's Lynda training will be replaced by LinkedIn Learning July 9

Pitt's CSSD has sent out a campus-wide message that the Lynda on-demand training system will be replaced on July 9 by "LinkedIn Learning." As the switch is made, there will be an extended outage of on-demand training from 6 a.m. on Tuesday, July 9, through midnight on Tuesday-Wednesday, July 9-10. According to the announcement, "LinkedIn Learning merges the best parts of and LinkedIn, providing additional benefits for users." Beginning on July 10 Pitt users can sign into this training on their my dot Pitt dot edu pages. If you are already using Lynda lessons and have an active Lynda account you should receive additional information via email.

Thursday 30 May 2019

Federal Depository Library Council recommendations & commendations to the GPO

After the close of the Spring 2019 Depository Library Council (DLC) meeting the DLC began work on developing formal recommendations and commendations for the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) Director. Two recommendations and one commendation have been presented to the GPO and are being reviewed and discussed in detail by GPO staff. Formal GPO responses are being drafted and will be shared with the FDLP community in the near future. Briefly, the 2 recommendations are:
  1. The FDLP Modernization Act of 2018 lacks the requirement for conduction a biennial survey or any assessment of depository libraries. The DLC recommends continuing the biennial survey and keeping a core group of questions in the survey unchanged in order to be able to analyze changes over time. 
  2. The GPO should continue to provide guidance and develop standards for digital-only depository libraries; a set of best practices should be adopted. 

Wednesday 29 May 2019

Secrets of the Serial Set from Hein

HeinOnline has just introduced a series of monthly blog posts called "Secrets of the Serial Set," with the inaugural blogpost "The Lewis and Clark Expedition."
Hein says the blog will unveil "the wealth of American history found in the United States Congressional Serial Set. Anyone familiar with the Serial Set has some idea of the hidden gems just waiting to be unearthed."

Friday 24 May 2019

"Voice assistants" criticized for reinforcing harmful stereotypes

The MIT Technology Review has a story about a new UN/UNESCO report titled "I'd blush if I could: closing gender divides in digital skills through education" that criticizes the default voices used for "voice assistants" like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana. According to the article, 
"Most AI voice assistants are gendered as young women, and are mostly used to answer questions or carry out tasks like checking the weather, playing music, or setting reminders. This sends a signal that women are docile, eager-to-please helpers without any agency, always on hand to help their masters."
The report aims to expose the gender biases that are being hard-coded into our technology and the internet of "things" that is expanding rapidly.  The title of the report comes from a response that Siri gave after being called "a b****." The report contains a section on the responses that "voice assistants" give to abusive and gendered language. "The assistants almost never give negative responses or label a user’s speech as inappropriate, regardless of its cruelty, the study found."

Thursday 23 May 2019

ABA adopts tighter bar passage standard

The ABA Journal reports that the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has adopted a proposed revision to tighten the bar passage accreditation standard. To be in compliance with the revised Standard 316. Bar Passage;, at least 75% of a law school’s graduates who sat for a bar exam must pass within two years of graduation. Under the previous rule, there were various ways to meet the standard, and no law school had been found to be out of compliance with it.

Monday 20 May 2019


This morning's walking-to-work podcast on 99% Invisible was a great story - and of particular interest to librarians (the title is "Weeding is Fundamental").
It's about the San Francisco Public Library and a recent earthquake, and covers such topics as library weeding, card catalogues, online catalogues, and even has an interview with Nicholson Baker about his book Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper.
As an added bonus there is also a story about the packhorse librarians of Eastern Kentucky, riding horses loaded with books through the mountains, creeks and hollows of Kentucky during the Depression - and even reading the books to illiterate patrons. 

Thursday 2 May 2019

Changes to ProQuest Congressional coming this summer

News from ProQuest about a redesign of the Congressional database that will be happening over the summer. Promised improvements include:

  • Search results will be organized by Content Type. A new section at the top of the search results page will direct users to the best results for each Content Type and give them more information about the content type choices they can select. 
  • Improvements to the Advanced Search Form layout provide search options for specific content types (Hearings, CRS Reports, House & Senate Documents/Reports, etc.). Duplicate entry points to content have been eliminated and streamlined to make it easier for users to select the content they need. 
  • The Search by Number form has been improved and made more intuitive through clearer navigation. 
  • Search results relevance is improved to emphasize content types that are expected to be most useful for the search that was performed.
Customers are welcome to provide feedback at any time through this development and design process by contacting the Product Manager.

Wednesday 1 May 2019

Wiley journals

News from ULS/HSLS: they have recently switched the Wiley journal subscription so that we now have access to all Wiley subscription journals’ contents, generally from 1997 (if the title existed then) to present. Also, going forward, we will have access to any new titles that Wiley launches or that they acquire from other publishers.
You can browse the Wiley subscription by going to the Wiley journal online library and, in the lefthand menu select “Law & Criminology."

Friday 19 April 2019

Mueller Report is now in HeinOnline

If you would like to read the newly released redacted Mueller Report about Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, it's now available in HeinOnline. Per their instructions: "To read the report in HeinOnline, enter the U.S. Congressional Documents database. Next, click on Other Works Related to Congress. Select the letter R in the A-Z list and scroll down until you find the title Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election (Redacted). To search within these volumes, open up a volume and click the magnifying glass. This tool gives the user the option of searching within the section, page, volume, or entire title.

Monday 1 April 2019

Dean Wildermuth to speak at teleforum on Supreme Court case

On March 27, the Supreme Court heard the oral argument in Kisor v. Wilkie, a case in which the Justices will consider whether to keep, modify, or end the doctrine of judicial deference to agencies’ interpretations of regulations — better known as Seminole Rock or Auer deference.
The ABA's Section on Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice is hosting a teleforum on Wednesday, April 3, at 4 pm EST titled "The Future of Seminole Rock Deference? Analyzing the Oral Argument in Kisor v. Wilkie," in which "experts will discuss the justices’ questions and the advocates’ answers."
Pitt Law Dean Amy Wildermuth is one of the panelists who will be speaking. Registration is free, but required, and the deadline is Tuesday, April 2. To register, Please send an email with your contact details.

Update: If you missed the live version of this very interesting discussion you can listen to the recording provided by the ABA's Section on Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice.

Friday 29 March 2019

ProQuest Congressional announces a redesign

The email from ProQuest reads "You told us what you wanted. We listened. Updates to ProQuest Congressional inspired by customer feedback." The online announcement says that Congressional will be improved with major updates during Summer 2019.
Among the improvements:
  • Search results will be organized by Content Type. A new section at the top of the search results page will direct users to the best results for each Content Type and give them more information about the content type choices they can select for further exploration. 
  • Improvements to the Advanced Search Form layout provide search options for specific content types (Hearings, CRS Reports, House & Senate Documents/Reports, etc.). 
  • The "Search by Number" form has been improved and made more intuitive through clearer navigation.
  • Basic Search has been updated to analyze search queries for key citations.
  • Search results relevance is improved to emphasize content types that are expected to be most useful for the search that was performed.
All of this is good news for law librarians and ProQuest Congressional users eveywhere. In addition, ProQuest welcomes feedback from users during the development and design process: Please send your comments and feedback to ProQuest Congressional Product Manager Catherine Johnson.

Tuesday 26 March 2019

EU Parliament passes European copyright directive

The Guardian reports that the EU Parliament has passed the controversial European Copyright Directive in spite of an intense lobbying campaign led by Google and internet freedom advocates. The sweeping copyright reform could have " could have far-reaching consequences for the business models of tech giants like Google and Facebook." Wired has a good analysis of the copyright plan.
Generally the directive makes websites responsible for preventing any copyright infringement that occurs because of content that users upload (think YouTube, photos...). There is also what is called a "link tax" that requires companies like Google to pay licensing fees to publications like newspapers that are aggregated by the search engine. According to the Guardian, "Supporters say it prevents multinational companies from freeloading on the work of others without paying for it, but critics argue that it effectively imposes a requirement for paying a fee to link to a website."
Critics of the directive have been warning that it could damage the Internet's openness by forcing the adoption of upload filters and new limits on linking to news stories. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which calls itself "The leading nonprofit defending digital privacy, free speech, and innovation," has been vehemently opposed to the Copyright Directive, saying that the automated copyright filters that will need to be developed "will subject all communications of every European to interception and arbitrary censorship if a black-box algorithm decides their text, pictures, sounds or videos are a match for a known copyrighted work. They are a gift to fraudsters and criminals, to say nothing of censors, both government and private."

Friday 22 March 2019

video: Rules for using law library reference

Favorite rule: "When I tell you that you need to use a book, do not give me that look. You know the one I mean."

hat tips: H. Morrell and L. Louis-Jacques

Thursday 7 March 2019

Alternative search engines

The Search Engine Watch website has an article about a new search engine alternative called Mojeek, whose developers believe " believes a truly independent and tracking-free search engine must be built from scratch."
The post also has links to a longer article from May 2018 that discusses 12 other search engine alternatives along with screenshots and a discussion of the pros and cons of each.
Why bother? Growing concerns about privacy and biased results in Google searches are making alternatives more appealing to users.

Wednesday 6 March 2019

Ah, spring in Pennsylvania

Good grief. It's colder now that it ever was in December. Or January.
But don't worry, there are a few signs that Spring, if not exactly here, is right around the corner:
1. The Pitt Peregrine Falcon cam, high atop the Cathedral of Learning, has caught signs that Hope, the mama falcon, is getting ready to lay an egg. Probably not today, though. Earliest it's happened before was on a March 6.
2. The Pennsylvania Game Commission has just turned on a new live web cam in a bear den in Monroe County. A mother and several new cubs are visible- the cubs typically emerge from the den the first week in April.
3. The Pittsburgh news organizations have begun their important coverage of Lenten Fish Fries. KDKA, the Post-Gazette, the Trib... just google "2019 fish fry Pittsburgh" and click any of the links.  I rather like the "code for Pittsburgh" fish fry map.

Tuesday 5 March 2019

Drop metadata from the Catalog of Government Publications?

The great geeky librarians over at the Free Gov Info blog have posted their opinions of a new GPO proposal. GPO has proposed dropping "historic URLs" from govinfo records in the Catalog of Government Publications (CGP) and wants to know if this would have any negative effects. James R. Jacobs and Jim Jacobs (no relation) feel that it is a bad idea for three reasons:
1. GPO's premise is wrong
2. Historic URLs are valuable to users
3. The proposal ignores the future of govinfo
They explicate these reasons in their blogpost; but the conclusion is this:
The “historic URLs” in CGP provide information to users that PURLs do not. That information is useful to users because it will help them identify, understand, and locate copies of resources. “Historic URLs” may seem unnecessary to GPO today, but they will increase in value to users over time. Making a decision for “resources in govinfo” today fails to take into account what resources may be in GPO’s TDR in the future (including harvested content and digitizations). The proposal to drop historic URLs is short-sighted. Dropping historic URLs today would be a mistake that users would resent in the future. GPO should clarify the scope of the policy and how it would be applied in the future and evaluate its effects on users and long-term access.

Monday 4 March 2019

Mayor Peduto's Executive Order on self-driving cars

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has released an executive order that describes the city's expectations for testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh.  It designates the city's Department of Mobility and Infrastructure for leading oversight of of self-driving vehicles and developing guidelines for the vehicles as well as policy recommendations going forwards.
According to the city, the mayor's order that spells out the "Pittsburgh Principles" is the first of its kind to be issued by any city.

Thursday 28 February 2019

Win for Open Access: U. of California system cancels all Elsevier subscriptions

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that, after months of negotiations, the University of California's 10-campus system has cancelled its subscriptions with Elsevier - one of the largest academic publishers in the world. The previous 5 year contract with Elsevier had cost about $50 million.
In a press release, the UC Office of the President stated that "As a leader in the global movement toward open access to publicly funded research, the University of California is taking a firm stand by deciding not to renew its subscriptions with Elsevier. Despite months of contract negotiations, Elsevier was unwilling to meet UC’s key goal: securing universal open access to UC research while containing the rapidly escalating costs associated with for-profit journals." A member of the negotiation team is quoted as saying, "Make no mistake: The prices of scientific journals now are so high that not a single university in the U.S. — not the University of California, not Harvard, no institution — can afford to subscribe to them all. Publishing our scholarship behind a paywall deprives people of the access to and benefits of publicly funded research. That is terrible for society.”
The University of California had asked for contract terms that would integrate subscription charges and open access publishing fees, making open access the default for any article by a UC scholar and stabilizing journal costs for the university.

Wednesday 6 February 2019

Lexis news: chatbots & bubbles are coming

Bob Ambrogi reports on the news from a a Legalweek media briefing he attended- Lexis Advance will soon have "chatbots" guiding our research and "speaking" with users via a chat bubble. He has an iPhone photo of what this will look like. Mr. Ambrogi also spoke with LexisNexis product developers at Legalweek to learn more about the chatbots and how they will be used.
"When the researcher is exploring an unfamiliar area or topic of law (t)he bot can be like an electronic mentor, guiding the researcher to the sources people typically look at for that topic.
We see in the future an interaction with Lexis Advance that is highly conversational,” Pfeifer said. “You ask a question, we present results. The interaction becomes more human-like."

Tuesday 29 January 2019

The Report of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania's Election Security

Pitt Law Prof. David Hickton has just shared the Report of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania's Election Security (72 page pdf) which he chaired. From the announcement:
The 2016 elections revealed the vulnerability of the U.S. election system. This is especially true in Pennsylvania, where the vast majority of the voting systems are simply unable to provide the assurances of security and reliability our citizens deserve.
We formed this commission with the belief that with study and practicality, we would be able to identify achievable solutions for the Commonwealth’s election security. Solutions that ensure that all of us—regardless of precinct or party—can have faith in our elections. After an eight-month study and consultations with a range of experts and the public, we have done just that.
Implementing the recommendations in this report will allow Pennsylvania to be better prepared to manage the cyber threats that targeted us in the past—and anticipate the ones of the future. We urge officials throughout Pennsylvania to address the policy and funding aspects of these risks in a clear-eyed manner.

Wednesday 16 January 2019

Access to government info during the shutdown

Over on the Free Government Information blog, James R. Jacobs posts an excellent article about the information access problems caused by the federal government shutdown. He notes that "There are at least two reasons why users cannot get the documents they need from government servers during the shutdown. In some cases, agencies have apparently shut off access to their documents. (This is the case for both NIST and CSRC.) In other cases, the security certificates of websites have expired — with no agency employees to renew them! — leaving whole websites either insecure or unavailable or both."
But he goes beyond this explanation to say that the loss of access was forseeable and avoidable because libraries, especially FDLP libraries, make decisions about how we select and preserve government documents.
"...too many libraries have chosen to adopt a new model of “services without collections.” GPO proudly promotes this model as “All or Mostly Online Federal Depository Libraries.” GPO itself is affected by this model. Almost 20% of the PURLs in CGP point to content on non-GPO government servers. So, even though GPO’s govinfo database and catalog of government publications (CGP) may still be up and running, during the shut-down GPO cannot ensure that all its “Permanent URLs” (PURLs) will work.
This no-collections-model means that libraries are too often choosing simply to point to collections over which they have no control — and we’ve known what happens “When we depend on pointing instead of collecting” for quite some time. When those collections go offline and users lose access, users begin to wonder why someone hasn’t foreseen this problem and put “all those publications somewhere public.”

Entire editorial board of Elsevier journal resigns

Nature has a story titled "Open-access row prompts editorial board of Elsevier journal to resign: "The board of the Journal of Informetrics has launched a new open-access publication." The International Society for Informetrics and Scientometrics has more:
Over the last few years, the editorial board of the Journal of Informetrics (JOI) has grown increasingly dissatisfied with Elsevier’s actions and policies. While some of those have specific effects on our field—such as Elsevier’s refusal to participate in the Initiative for Open Citation (I4OC)—others are affecting all fields of science—such as its restrictive open access policies and prohibitive subscription costs. The editorial board of JOI expressed these concerns to Elsevier on numerous occasions, with no success. Given the inability of Elsevier to address these issues, the editorial board unanimous resigned on January 10th 2019. As of January 12th 2019, names of associate editors and editorial board members have been removed from the website of the Journal of Informetrics."
You can read the entire resignation letter here. The group of editors that resigned has launched a new, freely available journal called Quantitative Science Studies (QSS). It is being published by MIT Press.

Tuesday 15 January 2019

A font to help you remember...

WIRED magazine has an article titled "Can't Remember What You Read? Blame the Font, Not Forgetfulness." The font, named "Sans Forgetica," was developed at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in Australia. According to their website,
Sans Forgetica is a font is a downloadable font that is scientifically designed using the principles of cognitive psychology to help you to better remember your study notes. It was created by a multidisciplinary team of designers and behavioural scientists from RMIT University.
WIRED says that "Sans Forgetica is purposefully hard to decipher, forcing the reader to focus. One study found that students recalled 57 percent of what they read in Sans Forgetica, compared with 50 percent of the material in Arial, a significant difference. No word yet on the retention rate of Comic Sans." You can download it for free from the RMIT website. There is also a Chrome extension that you can download and use to display any text on the web in the Sans Forgetica font. Here's what it looks like: