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Showing posts from September, 2013

Travel The World Through Reading A Book From Every Country

The BBC recently reported on a woman who made it her goal to read a book from every country around the world because, as she put it, "[her] reading was confined to stories by English-speaking authors."

"At the start of 2012, [she] set the challenge of trying to read a book from every country (well, all 195 UN-recognised states plus former UN member Taiwan) in a year to find out what [she] was missing." To come up with the list, she created a blog called A Year of Reading the World and asked for title suggestions that she could read in English.

Although it was sometimes difficult to come up with titles from other countries that were in English, she said that the effort was worth it. "As I made my way through the planet’s literary landscapes, extraordinary things started to happen. Far from simply armchair travelling, I found I was inhabiting the mental space of the storytellers. In the company of Bhutanese writer Kunzang Choden, I wasn’t simply visiting exotic …

Google's Constitute -- A Website That Digitizes The World's Constitutions

Google's Official Blog recently announced the creation of Constitute -- a site that digitizes and makes searchable the world's constitutions.

"Constitutions are as unique as the people they govern, and have been around in one form or another for millennia. But did you know that every year approximately five new constitutions are written, and 20-30 are amended or revised? Or that Africa has the youngest set of constitutions, with 19 out of the 39 constitutions written globally since 2000 from the region?"

"In the past, it’s been difficult to access and compare existing constitutional documents and language—which is critical to drafters—because the texts are locked up in libraries or on the hard drives of constitutional experts."

"With this in mind, Google Ideas supported the Comparative Constitutions Project to build Constitute, a new site that digitizes and makes searchable the world’s constitutions. Constitute enables people to browse and search const…

Judges Seem To Side With Google Over Google Books Copyright Issue

The NYTimes reports on the ongoing saga of the Google Books Project. "Google, based in Mountain View, California, has scanned more than 20 million books since its 2004 agreement with libraries worldwide to digitize books."

At issue is the content that has been scanned and put online without the copyright holders' permission. "The Authors Guild and groups representing photographers and graphic artists say the project amounts to massive copyright infringement."

However, "[a] federal judge on Monday appeared to favor Google Inc's legal defense of its digital books project, which could imperil efforts by authors seeking to block it. Google argues the practice constitutes fair use, an exception under U.S. copyright law, because it only provides portions of the works online."

Judge Chin noted that the "question of fair use relies in part on whether the project 'is a benefit to society.' Chin then rattled off several examples of how Google&#…

Supreme Court Opinions Subject To Link Rot

The NYTimes reported on a fairly new phenomena in Supreme Court jurisprudence -- the case of link rot.

"Supreme Court opinions have come down with a bad case of link rot. According to a new study, 49 percent of the hyperlinks in Supreme Court decisions no longer work. The problem is that "[t]hose citations allow lawyers and scholars to find, understand and assess the court’s evidence and reasoning."

Wow! Nearly half of the hyperlinks no longer work, and the problem is bound to get worse as the links age. "Links in Supreme Court opinions are less likely to work as they get older. But even some recent links are broken. A decision from February, for instance, included a citation to statistics from the Ohio court system; the link leads to a dead end."

Again, this is a fairly new problem. "For most of the Supreme Court’s history, its citations have been to static, permanent sources, typically books. But "[s]ince 1996 justices have cited materials found on…

Bryan A. Garner's Classic Word Challenge For A Larger Vocabulary

Bryan A. Garner recently posted a classic word challenge over at the ABA Journal.

So what's the big deal? Why should lawyers continue to build their vocabulary to include such words as those being tested in the challenge? According to Garner, "if [he] were to hazard a fairly educated guess, [he'd] say that American lawyers’ vocabularies range roughly from 45,000 to 135,000 words. Further, [he'd] guess that those who know 100,000 to 135,000 words have, on average, at least double the income of those who know only 45,000 to 70,000 words. [He] would also guess that there are many more lawyers at the lower end of the scale than at the higher end."

Garner goes on to further point out "E.D. Hirsch’s influential new essay, 'A Wealth of Words,' in which Hirsch makes several important arguments, including these three:

• 'Vocabulary size is a convenient proxy for a whole range of educational attainments and abilities—not just skill in reading, writing, lis…

The Official Draft Report From The ABA Task Force On The Future Of Legal Education Is Here

The NYTimes noted that the draft report from the ABA's Task Force On The Future Of Legal Educuation is here.

"Faced with rising student debt and declining applications to law schools, a task force of the American Bar Association is calling for sweeping changes in legal education, including training people without law degrees to provide limited legal services and opening the bar to those who have not completed four years of college and three years of  law school."

This call for change went from a working paper that was released on August 1, 2013, to an official draft report released today. It "recommends the elimination of the rules that law students must have 45,000 minutes in a classroom to graduate and that they cannot get credit for field placements that are paid." There is also new information on "standards on credit  for  work  before law school matriculation, distance education, student-faculty ratios, the proportion of courses taught by full-time fa…

Finding Time To Write At A Teaching-Focused Institution

I've often wondered about this issue -- how do faculty at teaching-focused institutions find the time to write? While many teaching-focused institutions do not place an emphasis on scholarship, some faculty still feel the pull to write. While I am not faculty (some law librarian positions are tenured faculty, others are not), I also feel the pull to add to the discussion of my profession. It can be a struggle to find time amid a busy teaching (including library sessions or reference) schedule, but one professor recently expounded on how he does it.

"Although it’s true that I may have more regular, day-to-day responsibilities that limit the time I can spend on research than those in more research-intensive positions, I’ve found ways to keep up a meaningful research and publishing program. Given my teaching schedule and other responsibilities, it’s rare for me to have huge chunks of uninterrupted time that can be used for research and writing. My free time during a normal day i…

Barbara Fister's 10 Reasons To Love Librarianship

Here's Barbara Fister discussing ten reasons she finds librarianship rewarding in the Library Journal.

1. It’s never boring. There is always something new coming along, something to learn, something to try out, some new idea to consider. It’s hard to get in a rut when no two days are alike. Anyone who claims our profession is doomed to extinction hasn’t used a library in a very long time.

2. It’s a social profession. We help each other out. It’s terrific to live in an era when we can have so many ongoing conversations to tap into whenever we need to recharge our batteries, ask a question, or try out an idea. Locally, we bounce ideas off one another, and I can hop on a venerable email list or FriendFeed or Twitter and get instantly educated, entertained, and inspired, often all at the same time. I have a lot of friends who are librarians, and they are some of the smartest, most generous people on Earth.

3. The work we do is important, but we don’t get hammered by our user community…

A Bookless Library Opens In Texas

NPR recently reported that an all-digital public library opened in Bexar County, Texas. The BiblioTech library facility offers about 10,000 free e-books. "The library has a physical presence with 600 e-readers and 48 computer stations, in addition to laptops and tablets. People can also come for things like kids' story time and computer classes, according to the library's website."

The question is whether the bookless library will take off this time. "[T]he idea of a bookless library has been tried before — perhaps a bit too early. That was in 2002, when Arizona's Santa Rosa Branch Library went digital-only. Years later, however, residents — fatigued by the electronics — requested that actual books be added to the collection, and today, enjoy a full-access library with computers."

It'll be interesting if this starts a trend around the country. I am sure many public libraries will be watching statistics at BiblioTech to see how things have changed si…

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Underused

The New York Times reports that Public Service Loan Forgiveness is being underutilized. More public service employees need to know that this option is at their disposal. It's what keeps my student loan payments manageable with a 10-year end in sight.

"The federal government is trying to encourage more participation in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which was created in 2007. The program and other debt assistance options have been underused because of complex rules and sometimes conflicting benefits." But it's not that hard -- it's easy to consolidate most federal loans under one direct loan consolidation -- and these loans qualify for PSLF.

"There are some restrictions. Only federal direct loans — those originated by the federal government — are eligible for the public service forgiveness program. But older loans that were made by private lenders and guaranteed by the federal government — like those made under the Federal Family Educational Loa…

Librarians Should Always Promote Reading

There was an article on Gawker recently about a New York library director who asked a little boy who loves books to quit reading so much because he's making the other kids look bad.

"The Glen Falls Post-Star reports that Marie Gandron, Director of the Hudson Falls Public Library accused 9-year-old Tyler Weaver of 'hogging' the summer reading club's annual 'Dig into Reading' competition, because he's taken the top prize five years in a row."

"The contest requires each participating child to read at least 10 books over the course of six weeks in order to get invited to an end-of-summer party. By comparison, Tyler won the latest event by reading 63 books in just over a month."

Gandron, the Director, thinks that "[o]ther kids quit because they can’t keep up."

"She believes Tyler should 'step aside' and has even proposed a raffle-style selection of next year's winner in order to ensure the fifth grader doesn't w…

FREE CALI Access For Most Law Students

When academic law librarians do library instruction for law students, we all mention the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI). It is a wonderful product that tests comprehension and has been around for nearly 40 years. And it is FREE for most law students to use!

CALI produces online interactive tutorials written by law professors. It gives students a hypothetical and a flowchart that walks through various choices. The students are tested with multiple choice questions, and if they get the answer wrong, they are told why they got it wrong.

CALI currently has 207 member law schools, and law schools that belong to CALI pay $7,500 a year for membership. In exchange, students get unlimited FREE access to the center's library.

Previously, professors wrote CALI material on a volunteer basis or received grants. CALI now pays $1,250 per lesson, and its library has about 950 lessons in more than 35 law school subjects. So nearly every topic is covered.

CALI is not resting …

All Hail The (Very) Short Sentence!

The Draft blog for NYTimes had a great article on the effectiveness of the short sentence. In Scholarly Writing, I try to reiterate that shorter sentences help with clarity. The longer the sentence, the more likely the reader is to get lost in the words and lose the overall idea. As a guideline, about 20 - 25 words per sentence is ideal and even shorter sentences may be more effective.

As the article on the blog notes, you should "[e]xpress your most powerful thought in the shortest sentence. Writers can use it to give even preposterous statements the ring of truth. The bigot can use it to foment hate. The propagandist can slap it on a bumper sticker. But for the writer with good intent, the short sentence proves a reliable method for delivering the practical truth. With punch."

Additionally, "[u]sing short sentences to their full effect is a centuries-old strategy, found in opinion writing, fiction and nonfiction, poetry and plays. It works in a formal speech or in a h…

A Frank Discussion About Narrow Scholarship

Library Babel Fish (Barbara Fister) on InsideHigherEd wrote a thoughtful piece about librarian agendas. It's interesting and something that all librarians should consider.
There were viewpoints discussed in the piece that got me thinking about a discussion that I once had with my mentor librarian. He was in the midst of in-depth faculty research, and the particular faculty preferred to churn out scholarship generally citing sources that already agreed with his own narrow viewpoint. My mentor and I would discuss this in terms of academic incest -- the same few scholars with the same viewpoints using each other's scholarship for support. We were concerned with the type of knowledge that was being added to the discussion. We both thought that it was important for scholars to look to other viewpoints to make their case stronger and offer other interpretations so that readers could make up their own minds about the issue.
As Library Babel Fish pointed out, "[l]ibrarians often be…

Practical Grammar Instruction For The Non-Grammarian

I ran across a great article in The Chronicle of Higher Education where the author discusses the practical side of grammar.

Rachel Toor, the author, starts out discussing the confusing nature of sentence structure instruction -- things that we all learn in grade school but most of us forget. "Once someone starts talking about verb moods, dangling whosits, and misplaced whatsits, I squirm. When I try to struggle through their prose explanations, my brain hurts. I've learned enough to be able to explain basic things to my students about common writing mistakes, but I can't get technical. I refer to words ending with "ing" as "ing words." (I know that they can be gerunds or participles, and that there's a difference.) When I tell students that adverbs are not their friends, I explain I mean words with "-ly" on their tail. (I know different kinds of adverbs and adverbial phrases are essential, and they don't all end in "-ly." Wh…

80% Of New Jobs Are Part-Time

The ABA Journal recently covered a story that was first seen in the Detroit Free Press about the ubiquity of part-time work in the United States.

The Detroit Free Press story focused on Derrick George, an attorney and business owner from Birmingham, Michigan. George recently hired Scott Neal, a new attorney who is currently working three part-time jobs.

"To make ends meet, newly minted attorney Scott Neal is working three part-time jobs. He’s practicing law in a Birmingham firm, keeping tabs on the North Oakland Family YMCA as a building supervisor and trimming trees. The 26-year-old can even show off the scar he got while sawing a branch."

The United States is becoming a nation of part-time workers as more employers want to avoid paying health care costs for full-time workers. "Nearly 1 million new jobs were created this year, but 80 percent of the positions were part-time. Involuntary part-time workers who are looking for full-time work or working multiple jobs make u…

LawMeets: A Moot Deals Competition

Law students need as much hands-on experience in a controlled setting as possible before setting out on their own. To that end, there are moot court and mock trial competitions that help develop appellate and litigation skills for law students interested in those fields. But until recently, there has been nothing geared toward transactional law.

In steps Karl Okamoto. Okamoto designed a competition called LawMeets specifically geared toward transactional law.

In the competition, "students get fact patterns for a deal and play the roles of buyer, seller and client. Over a period of months, they have conferences; draft, exchange and mark up documents; and then negotiate the deal. Prominent transactional lawyers judge their documents and negotiations, as well as offer feedback. Then the students get to watch the pros haggle over the same terms."

The competition has rapidly grown in popularity. "In 2010, teams from 10 law schools competed at Drexel in Philadelphia. By 2011,…

Growing Support To Cut Third Year Of Law School

It's a legal education reform idea that's been around for years: cut law school from three years to two.

Last week the idea picked up steam when President Obama announced that he thinks cutting the third year of law school is a good idea.
"He questioned the utility of a third year of classes and suggested that students use their final two semesters to gain work experience. 'In the first two years, young people are learning in the classroom,' Mr. Obama said. 'The third year, they’d be better off clerking or practicing in a firm even if they weren’t getting paid that much, but that step alone would reduce the costs for the student.'"

Obama made these remarks during his tour on college affordability. He has proposed tying financial aid to the performance metrics of the school. Obama wants to rein "in rising tuition costs by creating a system to rate colleges and eventually tie federal student aid to the institutions' performance. The president c…

Law Review Commons -- Open Access To Many U.S. Law Reviews

There's a great new open access venture happening at Law Review Commons.

Many United States law reviews that use bepress Digital Commons as their repository are now accessible -- for FREE -- through Law Review Commons.

From the site:
The Law Review Commons brings together a growing collection of law reviews and legal journals in an easily browsable and searchable format. It contains both current issues and archival content spanning over 100 years.

All Law Review Commons publications are made freely available online through their institutions’ bepress Digital Commons repositories. The Commons includes many of the leading U.S. law reviews—such as the California Law Review and the Duke Law Journal.

It's a wonderful step in the right direction for open access in legal scholarship!