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.