Friday 10 December 2021


 The Reuters headline grabbed me: "Free PACER? Bill to end fees for online court records advances in Senate." It's a bipartisan bill called the Open Courts Act of 2021 and the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure on voice voate without any recorded opposition (who could be against it?). It would certainly be a nice New Year's gift to law libraries and law librarians!

Tuesday 7 December 2021

Data Literacy online course from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

The Research Information Services Team at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis has developed a micro-credentialing program on data literacy skills for librarians. The program is free. It is administered via the Canvas CMS.  From the blurb:

The Research Division at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis is widely known for its flagship data service FRED®. An integral part of our work facilitating access to data is building capacity among consumers to use data effectively and accurately. Our Library Services and Economic Education teams have developed a fully asynchronous online professional development program on data literacy for librarians. This program focuses on seven foundational data literacy competencies and uses FRED® data to provide opportunities for hands-on learning. Each competency in the program is matched to a digital badge issued by Credly. Librarians successfully completing individual modules will receive, at no cost, Credly badges certifying their achievement. After completing all seven individual modules, librarians will receive a digital micro-credential on data literacy.

Participants will develop seven competencies: 
- Saving Graphs and Downloading Data
- Identifying Data Sources and Release Frequencies
- Understanding Data Types and Units
- Visualizing Data
- Storytelling with Data
- Acting on Data
- Using Data Ethically

 Information is available at this link. Register for the free program via this link.

Thursday 18 November 2021

Is IP authentication about to "break"?

An organization called SeamlessAccess warns that because of new privacy protections enacted by browser vendors, IP authentication, the predominant means of authorizing access to scholarly resources, may become obsolete.The article title is "FAQ on Browser Privacy Changes and Library Resource Access (Or Why Your IP Authentication is About to Break). The article reports that Apple recently announced that subscribers to their iCloud+ service will have their IP address obfuscated from website operators; other browser vendors are also moving in the direction of supporting consumer privacy and may follow Apple's lead.

Friday 24 September 2021

Have students lost the ability to mentally organize hierarchically?

There's an interesting article in The Verge titled "FILE NOT FOUND: A generation that grew up with Google is forcing professors to rethink their lesson plans." Apparently college faculty are increasingly finding that students are confused about the concept of hierarchical organizing.

(The professor) came to the same realization that many of her fellow educators have reached in the past four years: the concept of file folders and directories, essential to previous generations’ understanding of computers, is gibberish to many modern students. (Another professor) noticed that students in his classes were having trouble finding their documents.

According to the article, the mental model that most of us use to keep things organized is known as "directory structure." For example, it’s the idea that a modern computer doesn’t just save a file in an infinite expanse; it saves it in the “Downloads” folder, the “Desktop” folder, or the “Documents” folder, all of which live within “This PC,” and each of which might have folders nested within them, too. The directory structure connotes physical placement — the idea that a file stored on a computer is located somewhere on that computer, in a specific and discrete location. That’s a concept that’s always felt obvious to the professor but seems completely alien to her students. It’s a difficult concept to get across. Directory structure isn’t just unintuitive to students — it’s so intuitive to professors that they have difficulty figuring out how to explain it. “Those of us who have been around a while know what a file is, but I was at a bit of a loss to explain it,” lamented one educator 

Thursday 23 September 2021

New eCFR website!

 A welcome announcement from the Government Publishing Office and the FDLP:

"The Office of the Federal Register (OFR) and the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) have formally launched a new eCFR website (CFR = the Code of Federal Regulations.) Over the last few years, OFR and GPO developed significant improvements that are now available on the new eCFR website, including the ability to:
• Show which sections have been recently updated.
• Display and compare previous versions of text.
• Link references between content within the CFR and the Federal Register.
• Link references within the content to the United States Code.
• Jump directly to text by entering a citation in the “Go to CFR Reference” box.
• Provide expandable tables that are scrollable.
• View higher-quality images.
• Find documents with an improved search engine.
• Create a 'My eCFR'account to receive notifications when selected areas of the eCFR are updated.
• Present text in a new, more readable format with the ability to create links to lower levels of the codification. 

Read the "Getting Started" page for a comprehensive introduction to the main features of the new website."

The eCFR is a web version of the CFR that is updated daily to reflect its current status. It is an editorial compilation of CFR material and amendments published in the daily Federal Register. It has been developed and maintained, by the GPO and the OFR as an informational resource. The OFR/GPO partnership is committed to presenting accurate and reliable regulatory information on the eCFR with the objective of eventually establishing the eCFR as a publication officially recognized by the ACFR. This means that while they try to ensure that the material on the eCFR is accurate, those relying on it for legal research should verify their results against the most current official edition of the CFR, the daily Federal Register, and the List of CFR Sections Affected (LSA).

Friday 16 July 2021

Studying for the Bar Exam

 The ABA Journal has an article titled "When it comes to studying for the bar exam, how much is too much?" - which may be of interest to all sleep-deprived Class of 2021 law school graduates. The article reports on a study of 107 California law school grads, and how they fared in taking the bar exam in 2017. Some of the results: 

  • The study group had a 77% bar pass rate.
  • The median for daily study was 8.1 hours, and candidates who studied that amount had a better than 75% likelihood of passing the bar exam.
  • Candidates who studied 10 or more hours daily were more likely to report running out of time and also reported feeling they studied the wrong material
  • Candidates who worked at a job while studying for the bar, even if it was only for 2 hours a day, had a lowered likelihood of passing the bar: 63%. Candidates who did not work had a 78% chance of passing.
  • Candidates who averaged two daily study sessions with a break in between had a 75% chance of passing, compared with 45% for those who only had one study session.  

Friday 25 June 2021

How have law student perceptions of online learning changed over the past year?

 Professor Victoria Sutton of Texas Tech School of Law has published the results of a study she has done comparing law student perceptions of online learning in May 2020 and May 2021.  Her article, titled "Perceptions of Online Learning and COVID-19 Countermeasures Among Law Students in a One-year Followup Study" is available on SSRN.  From the abstract:

..."preference for online courses is increasing by 17%, despite the fear that burnout or frustration from the COVID-19 transition to online learning for law schools would create a general dislike for online courses. There are still a significant number of students who have difficulty with online learning of as many as 25%. About 72% of the respondents feel safe returning to class with no pandemic precautions, but accommodations should be considered early in the planning stages for the semester for those 15% who still do not feel safe enough to return to the classroom. In general, the survey dispelled a wide concern that online courses would sour students to online teaching, but it had the opposite effect, resulting in a significant increase in interest in online learning in law schools."

Prof. Sutton conducted her study via an email survey that was reviewed by the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center Institutional Review Board. She had a 42% return rate, which is "exceptionally high" for an email survey.   

Wednesday 23 June 2021

Library of Congress: new finding aid for RBG Papers

 The Library of Congress (LOC) website has a new finding aid for the Ruth Bader Ginsburg papers, 1897-2005
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was, of course, a U.S. Supreme Court justice, judge, lawyer, and educator. The LOC collection contains "correspondence, memoranda, case files, speeches, lectures, writings, reports, interviews, briefs, orders, opinions, motions, depositions, and other papers relating chiefly to Ginsburg's efforts as an advocate for women's rights, particularly through her speeches and writings and her endeavors as general counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union and director of its Women's Rights Project. Documents her work as a proponent for the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s, as law professor at Columbia University, and as a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 1980-1993. Also includes family papers and material relating to Ginsburg's travels." The finding aid includes a list of the the collection contents, an Index of the creators, collectors, and other individuals and families associated with this collection, and information on copyright and restrictions on use of the collection.

Tuesday 22 June 2021

Copyright Public Modernization Committee announced by the Library of Congress

 The Library of Congress has announced the members of the new Copyright Public Modernization Committee (CPMC), which includes several librarians:  

Todd CarpenterNational Information Standards Organization
Susan ChertkofRecording Industry Association of America
Brewster KahleInternet Archive
Roy KaufmanCopyright Clearance Center
Keith KupferschmidCopyright Alliance
Melissa LevineUniversity of Michigan Library
Pamela MalpasAssociation of American Literary Agents; Copyright Committee co-chair
Micah MayDigital Public Library of America
James NealColumbia University Librarian Emeritus, ALA, ACRL
Kathleen RodriguezWarner Media
Jeff SedlikPicture Licensing Universal System (PLUS) Coalition
Scott WeingartCarnegie Mellon University Libraries

The reason the Committee is being convened is "to expand and enhance communication with external stakeholders on IT modernization of Copyright Office systems" and "to enhance communication and provide a public forum for the technology-related aspects of the U.S. Copyright Office’s modernization initiative."   
The first public meeting of the committee is a virtual meeting scheduled for Thursday, July 22 from 1-4 pm. The meeting is free and open to the public, but participants must register here in advance
According to the announcement, "Register of Copyrights Shira Perlmutter and Library of Congress Chief Information Officer Bud Barton will provide opening remarks and Library subject-matter experts will provide an update on the development of ECS and other modernization efforts. Attendees will have an opportunity to hear directly from CPMC members and participate in a live Q&A. The meeting will be recorded and made available for viewing after the event."

Tuesday 8 June 2021

Book discusses bias in algorithms, searching, and library "discovery" systems

The beSpacific blog today featured a post about a book titled "Masked by Trust: Bias in Library Discovery" by librarian Matthew Reidsma, who works at Grand Valley State University Libraries. He starts by discussing how most librarians develop, on their own, a favorite search that they use to evaluate "the dizzying array of search tools that are a part of modern librarianship." But as he studied the way variations in search terms can pull up results that can vary significantly, he decided to look more closely at the inner workings of search and the sorts of biases that can happen.

For this research, I investigated four library discovery systems, with varying degrees of access to each: Ex Libris’ Summon and Primo, OCLC’s WorldCat Discovery, and EBSCO’s EDS...Because these systems bear a remarkable resemblance to one another, it is easy for users to assume that they will all give the same results for similar searches. But in fact, the combination of di#erent centralized indexes, varied collection development practices at subscribing institutions, and competing relevancy algorithms means that it is unlikely that these systems will return the same results for the same searches.

The book is full of great examples and provides many useful  citations to other articles. It is written in plain language without a lot of technical terminology, and is available both from Library Juice Press and as a PDF download under a Creative Commons license.  

Hat tip: Sabrina Pacifici

Sunday 6 June 2021

Bar exams will be in person next year

The ABA Journal has an article titled "Online bar exams axed by NCBE beginning next year," in which it reports that law school graduates planning to take the bar exam next year should expect to take the exam in person. According to the article, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) has announced that its test will be made available to jurisdictions only in an in-person form beginning in February 2022. The NCBE develops licensing tests for lawyers that are used by most U.S. jurisdictions. Since October 2020, states could choose either an in-person or an online exam developed by the NCBE. Twenty-nine jurisdictions are planning a remote bar exam in July, while 24 jurisdictions are planning in-person exams. Pennsylvania is one of the states that will administer the July 2021 bar exam remotely.

Friday 4 June 2021

New Maryland state law supports library e-book usage

The Association of Research Libraries has a great (for libraries) story reporting that Maryland is the first state in the nation to enact a state law ensuring that libraries can license e-books and audiobooks under the same terms available to consumers. The law, House Bill 518 in the MD legislature, was enacted by the Governor on May 31. It begins:

"FOR the purpose of requiring a publisher who offers to license an electronic literary 4 product to the public to also offer to license the electronic literary product to 5 public libraries in the State on reasonable terms that would enable public libraries 6 to provide library users with access to the electronic literary product..."
The article points out that  while the bill specifically names public libraries, academic and university libraries will also benefit from improved terms and business practices. The Maryland public libraries expect that the legislation will cause publishers to bring down the prices they charge libraries for e-books, although some price discrimination likely will remain. Additionally, the legislation will result in Maryland public libraries obtaining access to titles now available only to consumers. Similar legislation is pending in other state legislatures, and the adoption of the law in Maryland can be expected to accelerate this legislation.

Wednesday 26 May 2021

Article: The “Legal Epidemiology” of Pandemic Control

General Counsel News recently referenced an interesting article in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine titled "The 'Legal Epidemiology' of Pandemic Control:"

"The centrality of law as a public health intervention has been undeniable during the Covid-19 pandemic. In just the first half of 2020, more than 1000 laws and orders were issued by federal, state, and local authorities in the United States in an effort to reduce disease transmission... It is past time for a broad recognition in our health system that law is a ubiquitous treatment, one to which hundreds of millions of people are routinely exposed. If that simple but telling analogy is accepted, a more pressing point follows: we should devote much more health research money and talent to the scientific study of the health effects of laws and legal practices (“legal epidemiology”)...
The imperative is to scale up the infrastructure for at least three kinds of research: study of the mechanisms, effects, side effects, and implementation of laws designed to influence health, such as Covid control measures; research on how the legal infrastructure of the U.S. health system — the allocation of powers and duties, as well as limits on authority — influences the effectiveness of the system; and perhaps most important for addressing health equity, studies of how laws that may appear to have no health purposes — such as the tax code, minimum wage, and labor rules — shape the social determinants of health."

The article was authored by Scott Burris, J.D., Evan D. Anderson, J.D., Ph.D., and Alexander C. Wagenaar, M.S.W., Ph.D., affiliated with the Beasley School of Law, Temple University (S.B.), and the Schools of Nursing and Medicine, University of Pennsylvania (E.D.A.) — both in Philadelphia; the University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville (A.C.W.); and the Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta.  

Tuesday 11 May 2021

University of Maryland Libraries becomes the institutional home of SocArXiv

The University of Maryland (UMD) Libraries has announced that it has become the institutional home of SocArXiv. SocArXiv is an open archive of the social sciences that provides a free, non-profit, open access platform for social scientists to upload working papers, preprints, and published papers, with the option to link data and code. SocArXiv is dedicated to opening up social science, to reach more people more effectively, to improve research, and build the future of scholarly communication.

hat tip: Pat Roncevich

Pittsburgh: free housing legal help available

 WESA, Pittsburgh's NPR news channel, reports that Pittsburgh residents can Now apply For free housing legal help. According to the report, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has announced a $1 million initiative to help renters and homeowners alike deal with housing issues like eviction and forecosure. Renters can access everything from legal advice to full courtroom representation to deal with an eviction. But the aim is to prevent evictions in the first place. To that end, the program will offer mediation between landlords and tenants. Homeowners, meanwhile, can work with a lawyer to get clear title to a home or to prevent foreclosure. Mayor Peduto said that "for too many Pittsburghers during this pandemic the threat of losing homes has been a constant worry, especially for those with low incomes.”
Those who need help can contact RentHelpPGH or the Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation.

hat tip: Karen Shephard

Wednesday 28 April 2021

Law Libraries after Covid

 Susannah Tredwell over at Slaw, "Canada's Legal Magazine," has an interesting article in which she discusses the changes law libraries have undergone during the Covid pandemic, and whether these changes will stick.  How will library services be affected post-Covid? She covers several topics: 

  • Death of the looseleaf?  
  • Greater adoption of digital library resources by users, in which she points out the dramatic increase in print resources now available online as well.
  • Library space continues to shrink (or disappear completely?)
  • Greater flexibility in how publishers licence (Canadian spelling) products?
  • Increase in library staff working remotely. 
We are all looking forward to finding out how our law library will continue to be affected by the changes during Covid. 

Friday 19 March 2021

FDLP: No more "Fugitive Documents"

The Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) has announced that it is discontinuing use of the term "fugitive documents" to describe "Public information products that are not discoverable through the Government Publishing Office's Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP)."  According to the announcement, "It is time to replace the phrase “fugitive documents.” Going forward LSCM will use “unreported publications.” This change was approved by the Depository Library Council, the Superintendent of Documents, and the GPO Director.
You may notice some changes over the next several weeks as LSCM staff work to reflect this change in external and internal documentation, public facing web pages on, and in askGPO. We will not replace the term in past conference presentations or in previously published articles. Our goal is to have changes completed by the end of May 2021."

Justice Clarence Thomas "goes rogue on the Bluebook"

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recently made the headlines in both the ABA Journal and Law 360 for using what both publications termed a "rogue" Supreme Court citation in the opinion he wrote for Brownback v. King, 141 S.Ct. 740 (Legal Writing Professors take note). 
The ABA Journal says that Justice Thomas "went rogue on the Bluebook when he embraced an appellate lawyer’s suggestion for dealing with 'citation baggage'... that distracts from the point."
What was this bold move? Justice Thomas used the suggestion to used the parenthetical "(cleaned up)" after a citation to denote the court's omission of quotations within quotations and the need for a quoting citation parenthetical, as dictated by Bluebook Rule 5.2. The appellate lawyer who made the suggestion in an SSRN article is Jack Metzler of the Federal Trade Commission. Metzler told the ABA Journal that this is a big deal, "at least in the world of legal citation."

Thursday 18 March 2021

Open Access to Research and the Covid pandemic

 An interesting article on Slaw (Canada's online legal magazine) by John Willinsky discusses growth in the Open Access movement during the past year. 

It is influencing the opening of scholarly publishing, more generally...After an initial start with two publishers, there are now, one year later, nine publishers moving away from selling traditional subscriptions to research libraries to having those same libraries pay much the same price to make this research publicly available. The growth of this model over the course of this extraordinary year has meant that what is now available to readers everywhere includes research reviews in areas of public health and cancer biology, as well as research in anthropology, water, mathematics, political economy and other areas.
And what's more, the article says, "Librarians are making clear the serious consideration that some are giving to moving research and scholarship to open access." The author has embarked on an interesting project to develop usage statistics for open access articles. 

Wednesday 17 March 2021

Coronavirus Regulations State-By-State

 Law360 has an article titled "Coronavirus Regulations: a State-by-State Review." The article has an interactive map of the United States (powered by LexisNexis state-net) that lets you click on any of the states or territories of the US to view legislative, regulatory, and executive order information with a link to full text reports for each measure. The site tracks federal, state, and local government activity related to coronavirus, including pending bills, new regulations, and executive orders. 

Monday 15 March 2021

2021 NELLCO Symposium for Law Libraries begins this Wednesday

 The 2021 NELLCO Symposium: Uncertainty - Living with Reality. Finding Opportunity. is scheduled to begin this Wednesday, with a host of interesting sessions spread out over 6 days March 17-19 and 24-26. Registration is free. The Symposium will be conducted on Zoom. Some of the sessions: 
3/17 from 1-2 pm,  Best Practices for Negotiating with Vendors
3/17 from 4-5 pm, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging in Collections & Acquisitions
3/18 from 1-2:30 pm, Back to Normal? Law Libraries After the Pandemic
3/24 from 2:45 - 3:30 pm, The Fight for the Right to Loan: Digital access, lending, and preservation in crisis
Plus lots more interesting sessions, and presentations from law library vendors like Fastcase, Bloomsbury, PLI Plus, vLex, and others. 
The full program is available here. Register here

Wednesday 6 January 2021

LexisNexis Launches Law360 Pulse

 LexisNexis has introduced "Law360 Pulse: a comprehensive business of law news service." Law360 Pulse is a news service that combines the journalism and research of Law360 (which was acquired by LexisNexis a few years ago) with data and analytics from Lexis. Pulse complements Law360’s legal news coverage, offering single source for comprehensive legal news. LexisNexis is offering legal professionals complimentary access to Law360 Pulse for a limited time. And the good news for us is that law school faculty and students have complimentary access to Law360 Pulse.

Casemaker & Fastcase merge

 Casemaker and Fastcase have announced that the two companies are merging to create "a powerful alternative for legal information." According to the joint announcement of the merger, "The two companies will combine their teams and technologies to innovate research, analytics, and workflow offerings that empower lawyers with powerful digital solutions for their clients."  Both products have been popular lower-cost alternatives with Bar associations, and have over one million subscribers. Ed Walters, who is one of Fastcase's co-founders and current CEO, is quoted as saying "With the hard-won editorial and production expertise of Casemaker, we’re now ready to accelerate our climb, rewarding all our bar partners who believed in our companies as strong alternatives.”  

For law school subscribers (Pitt Law's Barco Law Library is a subscriber), the announcements says that "Fastcase and Casemaker access for law school students will remain in its current state until a unified law school student plan is finalized. All changes and improvements will be made in the best interest of law school students who will eventually be bridging into practice, and the newly combined Fastcase and Casemaker team wish to be the preferred legal technology provider for those future attorneys."