Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2015 Year in Review

As the end of 2015 nears, it's time to reflect on the year. To that end, please peruse the top posts from 2015. There's also a lot of other great content in the 176 total posts this year. 

Happy Holidays! See you in 2016!

Monday, December 21, 2015

LOC Acquires Portfolio of US Public Libraries

The Library of Congress recently acquired 681 photos of public libraries in what equates to an interesting anthropological portrait of the space that libraries hold in American life.

There are over 16,000 public libraries in the United States, and although photographer Robert Dawson only visited a fraction — 526 over two decades — his series presents a diverse portrait of this community space. The Library of Congress announced the acquisition of 681 of Dawson’s library photographs, adding to their ongoing archive of American library documentation.

From 1994 to 2015, he journeyed from coast-to-coast, crossing 48 states, turning his lens on this ubiquitous — and rapidly changing — local resource. Libraries still center around books, yet are increasingly incorporating new technology to engage the current needs and interests of their communities. His photographs capture how libraries are architecturally amorphous, from one nestled in an Abilene, Texas, strip mall alongside a Family Dollar franchise, to another in a trailer isolated in Death Valley National Park. Their only connection is that both serve as a free resource for reading and information.

Super Bingo, Family Dollar, and Mockingbird branch library, Abilene, Texas (2011)

Library, Death Valley National Park, California (photo by Robert Dawson)

“His extensive visual survey can help us understand the varied and changing roles of public libraries today, in all their different sizes and locations, from storefront rooms to grand civic spaces; from crowded book mobiles to cutting edge designs,” Helena Zinkham, Library of Congress director for collections and services. 

This portfolio will offer unfettered access to the changing landscape of American libraries for years to come.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Critical Librarianship or #Critlib

Because academic librarians provide services to a wide variety of faculty, many faculty members forget that librarianship is its own profession. Many times librarians get lumped together with other types of support staff (even if tenure track) without getting the deference and support that we need as a niche academic field.

But librarians study important factors that affect the search and retrieval of information. Part of the library profession is to look at librarianship with a critical eye, thus was born critical librarianship. So what is critical librarianship, you ask?

It places librarianship within a critical theorist framework that is epistemological, self-reflective, and activist in nature. According to Elaine Harger, librarians that practice critical librarianship strive to communicate the ways in which libraries and librarians consciously and unconsciously support systems of oppression. Critical librarianship seeks to be transformative, empowering, and a direct challenge to power and privilege.

Critical librarianship in academic libraries can support critical thinking, information literacy, and lifelong learning skills in students. According to Maria T. Accardi, Emily Drabinski, and Alana Kumbier, librarians and scholars that are incorporating a critical information literacy praxis into their teaching and learning practices are reflecting on their pedagogy beyond standards, competencies, and outcomes.This process involves self-reflection on pedagogical theory, teaching practices, and assessment of the student and teacher. It is the process and not the product that we have to be more mindful of. Lua Gregory and Shana Higgins argue that librarians, when applying a critical perspective in their work, consider the historical, cultural, social, economic, and political forces that interact with information in order to critique, disrupt, and interrogate these forces.Information is not neutral, thus the way that information is presented by librarians adds meaning and context for students. There is power and privilege in the ways in which information is presented and processed by instructors and students. The dialectical relationship between students who can access the information and those without access is separated by pay walls, skewed algorithms, and hegemonic authority controlled vocabulary. If we dig a little deeper into the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, we would find that authority, information, information creation, research, and scholarship are constructed and contextual.

Critical librarianship is involved when discussing bias in machine learning, for example.

Critlib has sprung out of this movement. Critlib is an informal gathering—discussion happens wherever interested library workers come together! The primary discussions have taken place on Twitter (using the hashtag #critlib; find our archived discussions here) and at conferences.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Art of Academic Book Reviews

Like most other types of writing, there is an art to writing academic book reviews.

According to InsideHigherEd
In fact, like other genres of academic writing, such as journal articles and research proposals, academic book reviews tend to have a standard, even formulaic, structure. Although of course this may vary slightly by discipline and/or publication venue, my advice is, if in doubt, to use the following framework, with one paragraph for each of the following seven sections:
  • Introduction. All good pieces of academic writing should have an introduction, and book reviews are no exception. Open with a general description of the topic and/or problem addressed by the work in question. Think, if possible, of a hook to draw your readers in.
  • Summary of argument. Your review should, as concisely as possible, summarize the book’s argument. Even edited collections and textbooks will have particular features intended to make them distinctive in the proverbial marketplace of ideas. What, ultimately, is this book’s raison d’être? If there is an identifiable thesis statement, you may consider quoting it directly.
  • About the author(s). Some basic biographical information about the author(s) or editor(s) of the book you are reviewing is necessary. Who are they? What are they known for? What particular sorts of qualifications and expertise do they bring to the subject? How might the work you are reviewing fit into a wider research or career trajectory?
  • Summary of contents. A reasonably thorough indication of the research methods used (if applicable) and of the range of substantive material covered in the book should be included.
  • Strength. Identify one particular area in which you think the book does well. This should, ideally, be its single greatest strength as an academic work.
  • Weakness. Identify one particular area in which you think the book could be improved. While this weakness might be related to something you actually believe to be incorrect, it is more likely to be something that the author omitted, or neglected to address in sufficient detail.
  • Conclusion. End your review with a concluding statement summarizing your opinion of the book. You should also explicitly identify a range of audiences whom you think would appreciate reading or otherwise benefit from the book.
I will keep this formula in mind as I embark on an academic book review for the Law Library Journal this spring. In addition, I will use the Journal's Reviewer Guide

As mentioned by InsideHigherEd, book reviews should not be understood as a matter of individual profit and/or loss. They are, rather, for the collective good; they are important voluntary inputs into the wider system of academic book publishing upon which the contemporary academic profession is symbiotically dependent.

And I look forward to adding to the law library profession in this way. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

United Smarts of America: The Continuing Need For Libraries

NPR posed the question, "do we really need libraries?" I bet you can guess the answer. 

For more than 100 years public libraries in this country have provided all members of the public with free access ... coveted access, to knowledge, information, and opportunity. Public libraries evened the playing field for allAll in all, [Andrew] Carnegie — in Johnny Appleseed fashion — planted 1,679 library buildings in communities throughout the nation between 1886 and 1919, according to the National Park Service. From Caribou, Maine, to Clarksdale, Miss; from Honolulu to Miles City, Mont. Many of the structures are grandiloquent cathedrals — edification edifices, little Louvres for the intellect — designed to send the message: Learning is everlasting.

They also gave us the sense that we lived in the United Smarts of America.

But with a world of information at our fingertips — virtually anytime, anywhere — do we still need physical book-and-mortar libraries? 

As a 1983 British conference on libraries observed, "We are a long way off producing true cost benefit data where you can assign a credible cash figure to the value of using any type of library." The proceedings of the 1983 conference, by the way, were titled: "Do We Really Need Libraries?" The answer seems self-evident. We are asking the same question more than 30 years later and many libraries are teeming with people. As the British study pointed out, there is a lot of opportunity when reckoning with naysayers "for developing costs per benefits but we do need to spend more time establishing exactly what these benefits are." 

What are the benefits of libraries in this day and age?

Like a good librarian, Tony Marx of the New York Public Library has some answers. Today's libraries still lend books, he says. But they also provide other services to communities, such as free access to computers and Wi-Fi, story times to children, language classes to immigrants and technology training to everyone.

"Public libraries are arguably more important today than ever before," Marx says. "Their mission is still the same — to provide free access to information to all people. The way people access information has changed, but they still need the information to succeed, and libraries are providing that."

Or as Andrew Carnegie said many years ago: "A library outranks any other thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert."

This article is a perfect example of the changing landscape of libraries but that the relevance of libraries still remains. We've been having the relevance discussion for decades. We are constantly "spend[ing] more time establishing what [the] benefits [of libraries] are." It's hard to rely on the basic "access to information" premise in light of shrinking budgets and naysayers, but libraries are necessary as "clinics of the soul." And will continue to be so.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Senior Partner Complaints Re: Associate Brief Writing

Thank you, FindLaw, for succinctly substantiating the things I try to teach my international LL.M. students regarding the pitfalls of brief writing.

Associates have spent years writing, from their undergrad thesis papers, to their torturous legal writing courses, to their summer internship memos. Writing is their strong point -- right?

Not if you ask partners, who can quickly rattle off a litany of problems with their associate writing. Here's a brief rundown of partners' biggest complaints.

1. Typos and Grammatical Errors

Sure, there are some areas of ambiguity. Is it caselaw or case law? Do you Oxford comma or not? But aside from those, every typo or grammatical makes you look bad -- and lazy.

2. Too Many Abbreviations (TMA)

Use standard abbreviations and acronyms when appropriate. ERA, CERCLA, and IRS are all fine. Never abbreviate party names, avoid creating novel abbreviations, and for the sake of all that is good in writing, don't let the things like gov't, ass'n, or W. Va. show up anywhere but your citations.

3. Weak Use of Authorities

Cases from other jurisdictions, statutes that have been amended or repealed, and citations that only sort of support your assertions -- they're not of much use. 

4. Sloppy Organization

Make sure arguments are laid out clearly and coherently. Avoid rambling or jumping between arguments and issues.

5. Wordiness and Passive Voice

Passive voice makes issues that are often already very boring and complicated even more boring and complicated. The same goes for wordiness. Focus on what matters and keep things short and tight.

This is all spot on advice. Beyond the obvious punctuation and grammar, I try to leave my students with an organization scheme that they can rely on in any situation. Is it an element driven analysis? Or a factor analysis? Is it a shifting burdens test? Or are some arguments stronger than others? All of these things will drive the organization scheme of the brief. While learning this material in one class is great, we need to teach research and writing across the curriculum to give the students enough practice to make these things second nature.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Child's Development From Books On Shelves

There's something to the culture of records or books on shelves that piques a curiosity in children that is good for their intellect during their formative years.

A NYTimes article noted:
Perhaps the strongest case for a household full of print books came from a 2014 study published in the sociology journal Social Forces. Researchers measured the impact of the size of home libraries on the reading level of 15-year-old students across 42 nations, controlling for wealth, parents’ education and occupations, gender and the country’s gross national product.

After G.N.P., the quantity of books in one’s home was the most important predictor of reading performance. The greatest effect was seen in libraries of about 100 books, which resulted in approximately 1.5 extra years of grade-level reading performance. (Diminishing returns kick in at about 500 books, which is the equivalent of about 2.2 extra years of education.)

Libraries matter even more than money; in the United States, with the size of libraries being equal, students coming from the top 10 percent of wealthiest families performed at just one extra grade level over students from the poorest 10 percent.

The implications are clear: Owning books in the home is one of the best things you can do for your children academically. It helps, of course, if parents are reading to their children and reading themselves, not simply buying books by the yard as décor.

“It is a big question of whether it’s the books themselves or the parental scholarly culture that matters — we’re guessing it’s somewhere in between,” said Mariah Evans, one of the study’s authors and an associate professor of sociology at the University of Nevada, Reno. “The books partly reflect intelligence.”

As discussed, there's a question whether it's the culture of the parents or the books themselves that matter, but there's no denying the strong correlation.

It's also important to give children (and researchers) the chance to find information serendipitously. With the keyword searching that often goes into looking for information electronically, it's easier to consider an idea then try to substantiate it through research. But with serendipitous information, it causes the brain to make connections that may have otherwise not been considered had the researcher not accidentally run across the information.

And there's nothing better than a living space full of books and vinyl records.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Origins Of The Bluebook Revealed

The things we spend our time on: Two librarians at Yale Law School have found that Yale Law School created The Bluebook, not The Harvard Law Review.

As noted in the NYTimes article:
Among the low points in an American legal education is the law student’s first encounter with The Bluebook, a 582-page style manual formally known as “A Uniform System of Citation.” It is a comically elaborate thicket of random and counterintuitive rules about how to cite judicial decisions, law review articles and the like. It is both grotesque and indispensable.

True, true, and true. And the creation of this behemoth was originally credited to The Harvard Law Review.

The Harvard Law Review has long claimed credit for creating The Bluebook. But a new article from two librarians at Yale Law School says its rival’s account is “wildly erroneous.” 

The standard account of the origins of The Bluebook is reflected in a 1987 speech by Erwin N. Griswold, who had been president of The Harvard Law Review, dean of Harvard Law School and solicitor general of the United States. The speech is reproduced on the law review’s website.

The Bluebook, he said, was based on a booklet prepared by Harvard students in the 1920s. “Other law reviews heard about it, and made suggestions for its improvement,” he said. “This led to a meeting of the presidents of the Harvard, Columbia and University of Pennsylvania Law Reviews, and The Yale Law Journal.”

Mr. Shapiro and Ms. Krishnaswami trace the origins of The Bluebook to an eight-page booklet prepared in 1920 by Karl N. Llewellyn, who was editor in chief of The Yale Law Journal and would become an enormously influential law professor. A page of the booklet, possibly written with a colleague, set out a few sensible citation conventions, illustrating them with fake examples.

A decision from the Connecticut Supreme Court should be cited this way, it said: “Jones v. Smith (1911) 92 Conn. 34, 3 Atl. 56.” That example appeared again in a little pamphlet The Yale Law Journal distributed the next year called “Abbreviations and Form of Citation.” Both documents had blue covers, perhaps because that is Yale’s school color.

There is a 1922 document in Harvard’s files called “Instructions for Editorial Work” that Mr. Griswold said was the basis for The Bluebook, first published in 1926. But there is vanishingly little overlap between the Harvard document and the first Bluebook. On the other hand, the exact Connecticut Supreme Court citation and similar specific examples, as well as a great deal of other material, had somehow migrated from Yale into The Bluebook.

And there you have it.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Libraries As Complicated Places

Libraries are lovely, complicated places. We abandon and demolish libraries. But we also place them in odd places to make books and literacy more accessible.

The Mark Twain branch of the Detroit Public Library system was opened in 1940 and abandoned in the 1990s. Its tale follows the boom and bust of Detroit closely. Like any institution dependent on the public for funding, if the public is hurting, so too will the library.

And then there's the more deliberate demolition of libraries to make way for parking garages. The sad tale of the  Public Library of Cincinnati - once a magnificent structure:

Demolished for this:

The lyrics, "they paved paradise and put up a parking lot..." come to mind here. While these tales are not unique, there are also parts of the library world that make a librarian's heart swell. The unconventional libraries that pop up to help create an informed citizenry. This is my favorite example:

One of the things that I love about libraries is that they are as complicated as society itself. Libraries reflect the best and worst of society. The anti-intellectual as well as the search for knowledge. They certainly are complicated, lovely places.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What Librarians From 1957 Have In Common With Librarians From 2015...

A lot! But, more specifically, the notion that computers are about to replace us at any moment. Admittedly, I am way behind. I finally watched Desk Set last night. The movie was released in 1957 (*swoon worthy mid-century modern furnishings) and follows the Reference Department at the Federal Broadcasting Network through a scare that it will be replaced by a computer. I identified with the Reference Department in the movie as facing some of the same issues in 2015.

Bunny Watson (played by Katharine Hepburn) is head of Reference when an impending computer purchase is threatening to replace her and the rest of the Reference staff. The Reference Department is very busy with the phone ringing off the hook (when phones actually rested in a hook). The Reference Department's knowledge base is very impressive - using a stereotype of librarians that I can get behind.

It was plain to see that the types of questions the Ref Dept answered in 1957 could easily be answered with a simple Google search in 2015. But the overall idea that computers cannot make the same types of connections as the human brain still rings true - especially when analyzing the law.

We may find ourselves in a time when Ross can retrieve cases and statutes for us, but we won't be at a point anytime soon where we find that Ross can analyze an intricate set of client facts and compare those facts to case precedent and statutory interpretation to argue a result.

To do effective legal research, a lawyer must build on her knowledge of the law to issue spot facts and identify the relevant law. The lawyer must find statutes and cases that offer an analysis of the law to the set of facts. This often requires making tough analogies that force  the lawyer to build on the analysis and fill holes through additional research to advocate successfully for a client. It's not enough to find a case citation or the correct statute on point. It takes special skill to find the law and use it effectively. This is not something that machine learning or artificial intelligence is capable of, yet.

While technology is stronger than ever before, this movie reminded me that librarians have been facing the threat of extinction by computer for a very long time now. Yet we are still here and thriving. And we will still be here and thriving for many years to come.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Bias in Machine Reading & Artificial Intelligence

In August, The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting article on social bias in web technology (sub. req'd). The article noted that [w]hile automation is often thought to eliminate flaws in human judgment, bias—or the tendency to favor one outcome over another, in potentially unfair ways—can creep into complex computer code. Programmers may embed biases without realizing it, and they can be difficult to spot and root out. The results can alienate customers and expose companies to legal risk. Computer scientists are just starting to study the problem and devise ways to guard against it.

One common error is endemic to a popular software technique called machine learning, said Andrew Selbst, co-author of “Big Data’s Disparate Impact,” a paper to be published next year by the California Law Review. Programs that are designed to “learn” begin with a limited set of training data and then refine what they’ve learned based on data they encounter in the real world, such as on the Internet. Machine-learning software adopts and often amplifies biases in either data set.

In other words, machine learning deals with designing and developing algorithms to evolve behaviors based on empirical data. One key goal of machine learning is to be able to generalize from limited sets of data (paraphrased from. Machine learning is the specific capability to "adapt to new circumstances and to detect and extrapolate patterns".

This differs from artificial intelligence in that AI encompasses other areas apart from machine learning, including knowledge representation, natural language processing/understanding, planning, robotics etc.

When it comes to the social bias embedded in web technology, [t]ake recent research from Carnegie Mellon that found male Web users were far more likely than female users to be shown Google ads for high-paying jobs. The researchers couldn’t say whether this outcome was the fault of advertisers—who may have chosen to target ads for higher-paying jobs to male users—or of Google algorithms, which tend to display similar ads to similar people. If Google’s software notices men gravitating toward ads for high-paying jobs, the company’s algorithm will automatically show that type of ad to men, the researchers said.

From this work, there is an emerging discipline known as algorithmic accountability taking shape. These academics, who hail from computer science, law and sociology, try to pinpoint what causes software to produce these types of flaws, and find ways to mitigate them. Researchers at Princeton University’s Web Transparency and Accountability Project, for example, have created software robots that surf the Web in patterns designed to make them appear to be human users who are rich or poor, male or female, or suffering from mental-health issues. The researchers are trying to determine whether search results, ads, job postings and the like differ depending on these classifications.

One of the biggest challenges, they say, is that it isn’t always clear that the powerful correlations revealed by data-mining may be biased. Xerox Corp., for example, quit looking at job applicants’ commuting time even though software showed that customer-service employees with the shortest commutes were likely to keep their jobs at Xerox longer. Xerox managers ultimately decided that the information could put applicants from minority neighborhoods at a disadvantage in the hiring process.

This is an important consideration as we start to rely more and more on machine learning and artificial intelligence to do our thinking for us. While we should be using machine learning to augment our intelligence rather than to replace our analysis, if machine learning is resulting in biased data for our decision making, it can lead to disastrous results. And if we start to rely on machines to do our thinking for us, there is no system of checks and balances. Kudos to the academics focusing on this area.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Nextgen Wayback Machine Slated For 2017

As a big fan of the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine (blogged here, here, and here), I was excited to hear that there is a nextgen Wayback Machine in the works.

The Wayback Machine, a service used by millions to access 19 years of the Web’s history, is about get an update.  When completed in 2017, the next generation Wayback Machine will have more and better webpages that are easier to find.

Today, people’s work, and to some extent their lives, are conducted and shared largely online. That means a portion of the world’s cultural heritage now resides only on the Web. And we estimate the average life of a Web page is only one hundred days before it is either altered or deleted.  “The Internet Archive is helping to preserve the world’s digital history in a transformational way,” said Kelli Rhee, LJAF Vice President of Venture Development. “Taking the Wayback Machine to the next level will make the entire Web more reliable, transparent and accessible for everyone.”

Project goals include:

– Highlighting the provenance of pages found in the Wayback Machine. Hundreds of organizations and individuals participate in building web collections at the Internet Archive. Patrons will be able to see the partner that selected websites or webpages for collection by the Internet Archive.

– Rewriting the Wayback Machine code. This will enable us to improve reliability and functionality.

– Optimizing the scope and quality of pages we crawl. We now capture about 1 billion pages per week. This project will help us improve what we capture.

– Improving the playback of media-rich and interactive websites. Supporting new formats while maintaining older ones is a key challenge for keeping as many webpages visible as possible.

– Updating the user interface. Making it easier for patrons to discover archived websites and learn from our digital history.  

– Finding websites based on keywords. While indexing all of the pages in the Wayback Machine is beyond what we can do, we will index homepages of websites so that patrons won’t have to enter specific URLs to dive into the Wayback Machine.

– Partnering with other services to repair broken links by pointing to the Wayback Machine. For example, we are working with the Wikimedia Foundation to identify broken links in Wikipedia sites and replacing them with links to archived pages from the Wayback Machine.

Please help us make the Wayback Machine better by sending suggestions for features and capabilities you would like to see to info@archive.org.

This is a huge undertaking from the Internet's biggest archive. As mentioned, please email the Archive with suggested features or capabilities to make the nextgen service even better.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Polish Copyright Law Accomplishes What US Is Trying To Do Via Litigation

The Polish have figured something out that the United States can't seem to get right. While the United States is slowly allowing digitization of print after long, drawn-out litigation, (i.e., HathiTrust & Google Books), the Polish have revised their copyright law to account for the digitization of materials.

The new Polish Copyright Act enters into force on 20th November 2015 bringing library services in Poland into the twenty-first century.

Major new provisions enabling digitization for socially beneficial purposes, such as education and preservation of cultural heritage, are the centrepiece for libraries of the new law.

The law also implements a European Directive enabling the use of orphan works (in-copyright works where the copyright holder cannot be identified or found to obtain permission), and an EU Memorandum of Understanding on the use of works that are no longer commercially available. In addition, the introduction of public lending right is limited to works in public libraries.

As a result, library services in Poland can be said to have entered the twenty-first century. Crucially, the library community participated for the first time in high-level policy discussions on copyright, and librarians became recognized as important stakeholders in a national reform process.

This is a wonderful step forward to allow access to information and potentially pave the way for a global library. United States - take note!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Libraries In The Year 2100

Libraries have been around for a very long time, and they will continue to be around for a lot longer, albeit in a different form that what we are used to seeing today.

So what will libraries look like in 85 years? Jim O'Donnell from Slate put it into perspective:
That’s not so very far away. The next time you see a tiny baby, bear in mind that she or he has a very good chance of living to see the 22nd century. What will the world of libraries look like then? Nobody can know—but perhaps we can talk about what libraries should be in that imaginable future.

O'Donnell posits three variations of libraries in the future:

1. One Global Library: 

Once an encyclopedia or a book or a journal or a database is in digital form, there is no good reason why it should not be made as universally and freely available as possible, and no good reason why it should not be centrally held and maintained. Right now, major university libraries harbor knowledge riches galore, astonishing things, really—and we cannot share them. Most people who live on the planet today are unable to have access to sources of knowledge that, from a technical point of view, could be reached on their smartphones today—literally today, within the next hour of the moment you read this, if the provider made the choice to allow the access.

If that has to change, it will change. We will see the consolidation of collections and a consolidation of the technical infrastructure of presenting those collections. (Oh, there will be redundancy and backups, just as there is now for things like Google searches, hosted on many servers in many locations, transparently sharing the load. Such distribution speeds service and improves the resilience in case of disaster or emergency.) And we will see the emergence of business models for paying for what we now think of as “publishing” that allow completely free and open access to the contents of this global library.

2. Many Small Libraries: 

Physical collections will all be what we now call “special collections”: unique materials they possess uniquely because of where they are and what their history might be. Readers will still make their way to the [the various] libraries to see whatever unique collections they have, but readers will also find in those places much of what they now go there to find: intelligent people engaged in the work of knowledge and the work of community. Librarians will be there as coaches, mentors, guides, facilitators, and other members of the public will be there as knowledge-seekers, knowledge-sharers, entrepreneurs of the spirit, and entrepreneurs of the world of business. Libraries are the ideal “third place” for a free society and will never lose that powerful attraction. 

3. No Libraries:

We could also lose libraries to hubris and shortsightedness. “We don’t need libraries any more; it’s all digital”—we’ve all heard some version of that peremptory dismissal, entirely worthy to be heard on the stage of a debate among presidential candidates.

But we do need libraries. In a world of superabundant information, they curate and collect and discriminate and care for the good stuff—the stuff really smart people have worked to create and preserve, the stuff you can rely on when you want to understand the world deeply and accurately, the stuff too complicated to come into existence by crowdsourcing, too unpopular to be foisted on us by corporations or politicians. Librarians—smart, professional, dispassionate about everything but the truth—are the Jedi knights of our culture’s future and deserve to be respected for that.

If we let ourselves be taken in by techno-optimism and carelessness and if we then let libraries fade away, we will be in a poorer place. There are many historical explanations offered for the disappearance of the great ancient library of Alexandria, but my personal judgment is that it did not fall victim to Julius Caesar or Christian monks or Islamic warriors. Libraries are more likely to disappear because the responsible leaders of a community deprive them of support, take them for granted, treat them dismissively.

Like O'Donnell, I aspire to something closer to numbers 1 & 2, but I fear that number 3 will happen anyway. If we are already at a point of the public questioning a library's existence, then what will it be like when the algorithms are finding material and thinking for us? My hope is that we will stay sophisticated enough to realize that access to reputable, unbiased information is the key to an informed citizenry and a truly democratic society. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Google Truth Rankings: Vetting or Gatekeeping?

Salon is reporting about a proposed Knowledge-Based Trust score that Google might implement to keep "bad information" at bay.

Google could launch an effort to keep trolls and bad information at bay, with a program that would rank websites according to veracity, and sort results according to those rankings. Currently, the search engine ranks pages according to popularity, which means that pages containing unsubstantiated celebrity gossip or conspiracy theories, for example, show up very high.

New Scientist’s Hal Hodson reports on the proposed Knowledge-Based Trust score:

The software works by tapping into the Knowledge Vault, the vast store of facts that Google has pulled off the internet. Facts the web unanimously agrees on are considered a reasonable proxy for truth. Web pages that contain contradictory information are bumped down the rankings.

Vetting for truth is a good thing. It seems as though people will believe anything on the Internet so long as it gets enough views or shares. Because Google's current algorithm takes popularity into consideration, there is a chance for "bad information" to rise to the top of the search results, which has a circular effect of causing more people to believe in the truth of the story.

However, technology acting as a gatekeeper to information is not so good. Particularly when it comes to science; there are times when what was a "truth" yesterday is "bad information" today. We need the ability to vet information for ourselves. To bring information together in a way that creates breakthroughs. If we have a machine do this for us, we lose the ability to use our critical thinking skills and make connections between various sources of information.

Vetting information is such an integral part of the research process. And it often leads to new ideas. I'm not so sure that this is a function that we want to relieve ourselves of in favor of artificial intelligence for many reasons.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

AALL Rebranding Initiative

The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) is currently investigating rebranding the name of the Association.

AALL's comprehensive, Association-wide rebranding initiative is steadily moving forward. At its November 7 meeting, the AALL Executive Board voted unanimously to recommend to the membership a new name, "Association for Legal Information." This is our opportunity to redefine and reinvigorate the value of the law librarians and legal information professionals and to shape the brand to align with and support our strategic goals.

From the FAQs:

Why the name Association for Legal Information?

An Association is an organization of people who work for a common purpose (legal information).

With the object or purpose of legal information.

Legal Information
Knowledge concerning a particular subject.

Why is AALL undertaking a branding project?

AALL, its members, and the legal profession have undergone significant changes in recent years. Rapid advances in technology, the proliferation of information, and the compression of the legal profession have transformed what it means to be a law librarian. As physical law libraries shift to virtual information hubs, new skills and expertise are required. 

Today, 51 percent of AALL members do not have “librarian” in their titles, and 57 percent work in an organization that does not have “library” in the name. AALL has a tremendous opportunity to be at the forefront of this change. 

This project allows us to clarify who we are and what we do, and to tell the story about our work and profession in a way that makes it clear and compelling. 

My first question: why is AALL spending up to $185,000 on this? We should stop worrying about how others perceive us and let our actions speak for us. We should use this money, instead, to explore comprehensive consortiums that take into account the fact that most law libraries are starting to license the majority of information publishers. We need a plan in place to deal with the inevitable roadblocks that we will face, etc....

Even if we do rebrand, why ALI? Who are we trying to kid, here? "Librarian," in today's world, can mean legal information professional. We don't have to be originalists. The meaning of our name can evolve. AALL has such a strong, rich identity. It was founded in 1906. When I talk about "AALL" with my law school colleagues, they know what I mean. I don't feel good about saying that I am a member of ALI (even if pronounced "ally"). I already feel like I spend a lot of time defending what I do, and I don't feel like explaining this new ALI affiliation - as in, "no, I am not a member of the American Law Institute."

Ultimately, I chose this profession because I want to be a law librarian - one who is cutting edge and deals in the legal information profession.

The AALL member discussion board on topic seems to reiterate our unease with this change. And, in some ways, this plays into the stereotype of librarians as old curmudgeons who are adverse to change. Well, in this case, it may just be true - although the consensus seems to be that we are not opposed to a change, rather, just this particular change.

What if the members do not vote for the name change?

The rebranding project will proceed to phase two, creative development, using the name American Association of Law Libraries. A new visual identity and comprehensive messaging will continue to be developed and implemented.

Phase two of the project should have been phase one. Now let's move forward.

For a great post on why the name should change, see Dewey B. Strategic.

Monday, November 16, 2015

NELLCO & MALLCO Webinars: Nerd Know How Series

NELLCO & MALLCO are hosing a "Nerd Know-How Series" with Beth Ziesenis.

Author Beth Ziesenis is a technology expert who speaks to 60-plus groups a year about the best free and bargain apps and online resources that will help you Release Your Inner Nerd to become more organized, efficient and awesome at work and home.

Each 90 minute webinar is based on one chapter of Beth's most-recent book, Nerd Know How: The 27+ Best Apps for Work and How to Use 'Em! In each session, attendees will learn about low- or no-cost technology tools to help you maximize your efficiency and effectives in each of the 8 areas. Attendees can register for one or all of the sessions by clicking on the register now button below.

The eight sessions are:
Webinar 1: Organize - Tuesday, December 1 - The webinar series kicks off with the building blocks of organization. Learn how to get your ducks in a row with in-depth looks at Dropbox, Evernote, IFTTT and LastPass.

Webinar 2: Collaborate - Thursday, December 17 - How can you play well with others? This webinar has the answer. You'll discover collaboration tools such as Trello, ScheduleOnce, Join.me and Zoom.

Webinar 3: Share - Tuesday, January 12 - Everyone suffers from information overload, so you need to be clear and precise when you communicate. This webinar focuses on four tools that help you share information with technology: Jing, Adobe Reader, Issuu and Prezi.

Webinar 4: Design - Monday, January 25 -Graphic designers have talent that many of us don't. This webinar gives you tools that will put the power of someone else's genius into your hands. Join us for facts about Pixlr, Canva, 123RF and Dafont.

Webinar 5: Create - Tuesday, February 2 - Building on the Design Webinar, you'll learn more about how to create professional-quality graphics and multimedia for next to nothing with Animoto, Piktochart and Tagxedo.

Webinar 6: Travel - Friday, February 19 - If you've ever found yourself in an airport taxi trying to dig out the reservation confirmation for the hotel you need to go to, you need this webinar. We'll look at travel tools such as TripIt and Waze that get you where you need to go without the hassle.

Webinar 7: Outsource - Tuesday, March 1 - So maybe you have attended all the webinars in this series, and you're thinking, "How am I going to find time to put these apps into action?" The answer... outsource! This webinar shares services that let you outsource tasks and projects without breaking the bank. Focus: Fancy Hands, Fiverr and Upwork (formerly Elance).

Webinar 8: Google - Tuesday, March 22 - For the final webinar in the series, you'll discover free Google services that can streamline your organization, email, collaboration, research and much, much, MUCH more.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Legal Writing Institute: Program On Teaching International Law Students

As my first semester teaching legal research and writing to international LL.M. students comes to a close, I am excited to review my course materials to improve for the next go-round.

The Global Legal Writing Skills Committee of the Legal Writing Institute provides invaluable resources for teaching research and writing to international law students.

In addition to their bibliography of resources, they also have a video series on Teaching International Law Students that is hosted by Michigan State College of Law.

At the website you will find presentations such as:

  • Adapting Classroom Techniques & Materials for International LL.M. Students

The beauty of teaching is that you can review and revise and incorporate new methods for comprehension each time. These presentations will be invaluable as I contemplate ways to make my class even better. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Show Love On 'Love Your Lawyer Day'

Lawyers throughout the nation are urged to celebrate ‘Love Your Lawyer Day’ to help promote a positive and more respected image of lawyers and their contributions to society.

(The use of Atticus Finch is questionable after reading Go Set a Watchman)
It's interesting that the public perception of lawyers seems to be making a positive change.

According to the WSJ, a recent Gallup poll found that the percentage of Americans who think lawyers have high ethical standards is greater than it has been in more than two decades—21%. Interestingly, public opinion has improved at a time when fewer young people are deciding to become lawyers.

As noted:
Friday is also national Nacho Day and national Saxophone Day so sharing some nachos with a lawyer while listening to some Coltrane or Charlie Parker sounds like a good time.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Learners Need To Consider Value Over Use

A recent Chronicle of Higher Education article got me thinking about students taking responsibility for their learning. 

The author of the article laments the questions, "When am I going to use this?"
There’s one question that we should all put down immediately, and rage against with the last shreds of our academic freedom: the old refrain, "When am I going to use this?"

This question, I think, manages to embody the worst of our cultural situation. It is a complaint, a subterfuge, an insult, a lazy way out. And before you think I am simply railing against the generational deficiencies in our current crop of students, I’m not. I’ve heard versions of the theme from parents, administrators, politicians, and even, I am chagrined to add, esteemed colleagues. We must put an end to it all. Our obsession with utility — and our childish demands for it to reveal itself immediately lest we "waste" a precious second of our time that could be better spent watching Netflix — reveals our ugliest selves.

It's a wonder why some feel the need to ask this question. 

Consider the narcissism involved here. This question implies that its askers have thoroughly considered every possible reality and determined that in no future world could this course, or text, or concept, or material serve any purpose. 

There are exercises in futility in education. After nine years of higher ed., I know this to be true. But I never had the audacity to actually ask the question. There was something inherently fascinating about learning to me. I, like this author, understood that there might be value later on that I am just not aware of in the moment.

And I can't help but consider the sleepy eyes and gaping mouths that occur in many of my legal research sessions. You wouldn't think that new lawyers spend over 30% of their time doing legal research. I care about how the information is delivered, and I make sure that most of my sessions include a hands-on exercise for reinforcement (so as not to bore the students to death).

By starting with a fact pattern and working from there - just like the students will do in practice, I make sure to bring in "real-world" situations. It still seems like the majority of students are put out by having to attend these sessions. Like they can't be bothered because they need to check their social media accounts.

Like the author, I am certainly ranting. It's curious to me how one can spend so much on their education to feel like it's all a waste of time. I suppose that paying for college, law school, and library school myself was a motivating factor to find value in all of it - not just the parts that I could immediately use on a paper.  

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Librarian Cultural Representation

American Libraries Magazine ran a wonderful work outlining the rise of the librarian stereotype.
There are numerous librarian stereotypes, with the most recognizable being the middle-aged, bun-wearing, comfortably shod, shushing librarian. Others include the sexy librarian, the superhero librarian, and the hipster or tattooed librarian. These stereotypes are all characterized predominantly as feminine, white women. Newer librarian stereotypes, particularly those proffered by librarians themselves, tend to be depicted as younger white women. The original librarian stereotype, which was superseded by the introduction of his prudish sister, was that of the fussy (white) male curmudgeon.

As noted in the article, the stereotypes do not fall far from history.
Early American librarians almost exclusively came from New England gentility or, by virtue of their educational background and politics, became accepted as part of that class. They believed in the possibilities of moral uplift for the poor and uneducated and saw themselves as the perfect missionaries for the job.

As gentility was abandoned by young men, it became more identified both with old-­fashioned values and with femininity. Women were looked to as keepers of the culture, and they took that responsibility seriously. As genteel society became almost entirely embodied by the “lady,” the genteel lady became “a new social type—a curious transitional blend of feminist and domestic queen.” So, as librarianship resisted the hypermasculine modern consumerist culture, it also became a natural harbor for the newly adventurous modern woman.

This shift is when we went from the male curmudgeon stereotype to his prudish sister.

Many newer librarians take very seriously the tenet of providing access to information, following the belief that in informed citizenry makes a robust democracy. This has lead to newer stereotypes such as the superhero librarian, and the hipster or tattooed librarian.

As the author notes:
Reviewing the history of librarianship and librarian stereotypes helps us to remember that libraries reside fully within current cultural climates. When we address library stereotypes at face value without taking into account the broader social realities that not only make them possible but also reinforce their potency, we put ourselves in a quixotic situation.

Very interesting, indeed!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Nearly 1/3 Of Adults Didn't Read A Book Last Year

A new survey on American reading habits reveals a statistic that's all too real: 27 percent of U.S. adults didn't read a single book within the last 12 months.

The survey, which was conducted by Pew Research, asked adults if they had read a book in any format. The number of people who answered "yes" has fallen in recent years, from 79 percent in 2011 to 72 percent in 2015.

Though the survey reports that the average American adult read 12 books in the last year — a number that seems to be skewed high by book lovers, as the median is only 4.

The news comes on the heels of mixed information about the book publishing industry. While print seems to be enjoying a resurgence, ebook sales are waning. That’s reflected in the survey data, too: 63 percent of respondents said they read a print book during the last 12 months, but ebook readership flattened during the same period.

In all honesty, I would've expected the percentage of non-readers to be higher. And it could be high because of self reporting. It may be that the non-readers wish they had read a book, so they said "yes."

I would have guessed the stat was somewhere closer to this.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Harvard Law Library Sets Out To Digitize Decisions Going Back To Colonial Times

The NYTimes ran an article yesterday about Harvard Law Library working to digitize a vast trove of cases.

Shelves of law books are an august symbol of legal practice, and no place, save the Library of Congress, can match the collection at Harvard’s Law School Library. Its trove includes nearly every state, federal, territorial and tribal judicial decision since colonial times — a priceless potential resource for everyone from legal scholars to defense lawyers trying to challenge a criminal conviction.

In what some librarians may see as a controversial move, the Harvard librarians are slicing off the spines of all but the rarest volumes and feeding some 40 million pages through a high-speed scanner. They are taking this once unthinkable step to create a complete, searchable database of American case law that will be offered free on the Internet, allowing instant retrieval of vital records that usually must be paid for.

“You can imagine the way your heart skips a small beat when you put a book under a chopper like that,” he said. After the volumes are scanned, workers reattach the spine to the pages, encase the book in shrink-wrap and, he said, “put it back in the depository for the apocalypse.”

Harvard Law Library sees this as an access to justice mission. Rather than keeping this information just for show, they want to put the primary documents online in a convenient format.

Complete state results will become publicly available this fall for California and New York, and the entire library will be online in 2017, said Daniel Lewis, chief executive and co-founder of Ravel Law, a commercial start-up in California that has teamed up with Harvard Law for the project. The cases will be available at www.ravellaw.com. Ravel is paying millions of dollars to support the scanning. The cases will be accessible in a searchable format and, along with the texts, they will be presented with visual maps developed by the company, which graphically show the evolution through cases of a judicial concept and how each key decision is cited in others.

This is a worthwhile endeavor, in part, because more and more libraries are canceling print and moving digital. Many of us are counting on libraries like Harvard to be the keepers of the print that we can call on as needed. This makes that job easier for everyone.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Plain Language For Academics

The Atlantic ran an article recently that is near and dear to the heart of Scribes --The American Society of Legal Writers' mission (disclosure: I am executive director of the organization). The article works to promote plain language.

As noted, the problem of needlessly complex writing—sometimes referred to as an “opaque writing style”—has been explored in fields ranging from law to science. Yet in academia, unwieldy writing has become something of a protected tradition.

Take this example:
The work of the text is to literalize the signifiers of the first encounter, dismantling the ideal as an idol. In this literalization, the idolatrous deception of the first moment becomes readable. The ideal will reveal itself to be an idol. Step by step, the ideal is pursued by a devouring doppelganger, tearing apart all transcendence. This de-idealization follows the path of reification, or, to invoke Augustine, the path of carnalization of the spiritual. Rhetorically, this is effected through literalization. A Sentimental Education does little more than elaborate the progressive literalization of the Annunciation.


A disconnect between researchers and their audiences fuels the problem, according to Deborah S. Bosley, a clear-writing consultant and former University of North Carolina English professor. “Academics, in general, don’t think about the public; they don't think about the average person, and they don't even think about their students when they write,” she says. “Their intended audience is always their peers. That’s who they have to impress to get tenure.” 

And legal academics have the added pressure of not only having to impress their peers but also 2Ls who choose the articles for publication.

So why is plain language such a problem? The years of deep study required of academics to become specialists in their chosen fields actually work against them being able to unpack their complicated ideas in a coherent, concrete manner suitable for average folks. Translation: Experts find it really hard to be simple and straightforward when writing about their expertise. He calls this the “curse of knowledge” and says academics aren’t aware they’re doing it or properly trained to identify their blindspots—when they know too much and struggle to ascertain what others don’t know. In other words, sometimes it’s simply more intellectually challenging to write clearly.

But it's worth it. In 2006, Daniel Oppenheimer, then a professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University, published research arguing that the use of clear, simple words over needlessly complex ones can actually make authors appear more intelligent.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Library As "Clinic Of The Soul"

The NYTimes ran an interesting piece over the weekend discussing the reinvention of libraries.

[T]he principal danger facing libraries comes ... from ill-considered changes that may cause libraries to lose their defining triple role: as preservers of the memory of our society, as providers of the accounts of our experience and the tools to navigate them — and as symbols of our identity. In the United States, while the number of libraries that have disappeared is not remarkably high, public libraries have seen their budgets cut, their stocks culled, their staffs reduced and their opening hours shortened.

Librarians today are forced to take on a variety of functions that their society is too miserly or contemptuous to fulfill, and the use of their scant resources to meet those essential social obligations diminishes their funds for buying new books and other materials. All these activities are good and useful, and may grant libraries a central role in society once again, but we must be prepared to invest the system with more, not less funds, to allow it to reinvent itself. Librarians are not trained to act as social workers, caregivers, babysitters or medical advisers. All these extra tasks make it difficult, if not impossible, for librarians to work as librarians: to see that the collections remain coherent, to sift through catalogues, to help readers read, to read themselves.

Any restructuring must also ensure that the librarians’ primary purpose is not forgotten: to guide readers to their books.

I mostly agree with the author's assessment, but instead of guiding readers to their books, we might broaden the primary purpose of librarians as guiding users to their information. This reinvents the role of librarians in a society where books are providing diminishing returns.

There was a time earlier this year when I grew tired of defending the library. I was fatigued at being attacked at all sides with the question of "why do we need libraries when everything is online" and budget constraints. But then I realized that it says something very negative about a group that doesn't find any value in libraries - especially at an academic institution. No one can truly call themselves academics without the resources of a robust library to store the knowledge necessary for academic scholarship.

With this realization, the feeling of being compelled to defend the library went away. The library will always hold intrinsic value, and if I find myself feeling the need to defend the library to someone, it says more about that person than it does about the library.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Library - A New Short Film

The backdrop of this story takes place in a beautiful library that invokes the idealized view of libraries that most librarians hold dear.

From the director: The story told in The Library initially came from wanting to explore the relationship between memory and place. I have strong recollections of my neighbourhood library in Houston, Texas in the US. I can recall the layout, where certain sections of books were, the smells, and the sounds.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Google Books Sufficiently Transforms To Be Deemed Fair Use

Many outlets, including The Chronicle of Higher Ed, note that Google Books recently received another big win in favor of fair use. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit handed Google another victory on Friday in a high-profile case about copyright infringement, declaring that its scanning of books as part of the Google Books project constitutes fair use. In its ruling, a unanimous three-judge panel of the court upheld a federal judge’s 2013 ruling against the Authors Guild, which sued the tech giant in 2005.

As The Atlantic notes, "the Google Books case had seemed to drag on forever: The Authors Guild first filed suit 10 years ago. But the theory behind the eventual ruling was a quarter-century in the making."

In 2004, Google began scanning books—copyrighted and non-copyrighted alike—in academic libraries with the plan of making portions of that material available online for free. Users of Google Books now know how this works: You can search Google’s scanned-book database for a fact or a quote and see part of the page that includes that fact or quote. Google Books will then show you a “snippet” of the book without revealing the rest of the book. 

The Authors Guild, a professional group of published writers which had alleged Google’s scanning of library books and displaying of free “snippets” online violated its members’s copyright. 

But the court has deemed the Google Books project as fair use.

Fair use—which lets people use and adapt copyrighted works without getting the explicit permission of their owner—is a distinctly American concept. Instead of setting out specific statutory exemptions to copyright, as many other countries do, U.S. law issues four broad factors which guide whether the permission-less use of a copyrighted work is fair. This means that fair use can evolve and change over time; it also means that the only real way to find out if something is “fair use” is to ask a federal court.

Ultimately, the court found that Google’s unauthorized digitizing of copyright-protected works, creation of a search functionality, and display of snippets from those works are non-infringing fair uses. The purpose of the copying is highly transformative, the public display of text is limited, and the revelations do not provide a significant market substitute for the protected aspects of the originals.

This is a boon for access of information! We can continue to search the actual texts of books through Google Books to determine, through the snippets, if the book is relevant to us. Once we determine relevance, we can find the book in a local library.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Interactive US Map Showcasing Copyright Laws

Harvard Library has created an interactive map of the copyright policies in all 50 states. The map is color coded for openness.

Federal copyright law says that “Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government.” 17 U.S.C. § 105. This is a broad and clear statement that works of the federal government are in the public domain and are free for use by all, but by specifying works of the United States Government, the statute fails to address the copyright status of any works of state governments, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. 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.

If you click on the individual states, along with the openness score, you will find:
  • The copyright status (red for copyrightable, green for presumptively public domain)
  • Binding law
  • Advisory sources
  • Related law
  • Specific examples of what the state actually does with its documents

This is a wonderful 50-state survey of copyright as it pertains to documents created by the individual states. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

How To Ask For Feedback On Writing

A post over at Vitae, a Chronicle of Higher Education blog, gives pointers to academic writers on getting a useful critique. 

In anticipation of the first draft conferences with my international LL.M. students, I couldn't help but wish that they knew this information. The writing coach noted that the writer should reflect on what he or she really wants to know about specific aspects of the piece. 

In short, the first step to getting helpful feedback is to define your reader’s job. For example, are you wondering how you might expand the discussion section of your draft? Are you uncertain whether its current organization logically supports your thesis? Are you thinking you need more context to set up your argument? Do you suspect a certain point needs further explication?

Many students come to draft conferences with the notion that they did their (half-hearted) part; now it's the professors turn to tell them how to completely improve their paper to get an A. And when that doesn't happen, you end up with problems after grading with questions like, "why did I get a B? You didn't tell me that in the draft conference...." 

I make a point to warn my students that I will only comment on what they turn in. This is an incentive to turn in a well-developed draft. The more that they give me, the more I will give them. I also tell them to come to me with questions - which parts of the writing assignment did they specifically have trouble with? 

In the future, I may just share this article with them so that they get a better idea of what the feedback process should be. It's not a time to sit back and relax and let someone else do your work for you; it's a time to reflect on your writing and determine where you could use the most help. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Library Maintenance Agreements

There is an interesting thread running on the AALL My Communities email list regarding West Library Maintenance Agreements (LMA).

From the email list:

Responses to Leaving Your LMA “Survey”

This posting appears to have hit a raw nerve in the US law librarian community. I received approximately seventeen responses from law firm, court/government, and academic law librarians. Out of the seventeen, two law libraries have already left their LMA contracts. But, many of you have contemplated doing so. Several of you mentioned that they decided not to cancel their LMA because they received as much as a fifty percent discount on their contract, or they did not cancel because they were concerned about the extra paperwork and hassle of reconciling invoices and monthly statements if they did NOT keep their LMA intact.

The common concerns I saw threading through the attached comments were these:

  • LMA is not flexible enough for me.
  • We need to reduce as much print as possible, but if we reduce any further we will not really see the value in our reduction.
  • We do not know the true cost of our subscription items with the LMA.
  • We do not want to pay for a print copies of materials included in our WestlawNext contract.
  • The prices are still outrageous.
  • The discount on volume purchased does not make sense.

I am all for collection re-balancing and prudent budgeting. I would prefer not to purchase treatises, encyclopedias, or monographs that are also in my WestlawNext plan …especially if the print does not appear to circulate in my library.

Lastly, it seems to me that TR and other publishers do not seem to understand that most law libraries cannot continue to purchase both the print and online (Westlaw) versions of all titles. We are reducing more and more print and need to maintain only the bare bones print items (statutes, regulations, some court rules and a few treatises here and there).

One thing is constant: change and prices going UP!

This email survey is interesting because it highlights an ongoing issue in law libraries nationwide. There is an overall trend to reduce print collections in favor of electronic subscriptions, but the publishers are keeping libraries bound to print with expensive and opaque library maintenance agreements. And as fewer libraries are purchasing print titles, the more expensive the print titles become for all.

Although there is an intrinsic value to a print collection, it is hard for a library to justify the exorbitant cost of print.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Proposed Legislation Regarding Librarian of Congress

With the recent retirement of James Billington as the Librarian of Congress, the United States is set to get its first new Librarian in nearly three decades.

The current librarian, James Billington, has held the title since his appointment by President Reagan in 1987. Though named by the president and confirmed by the Senate, the Librarian doesn’t change with every new White House. After being appointed, Librarians are free to serve as long as they want—that’s why there have been only 13 of them since 1802.

In other words, this will be the first time a new Librarian has been appointed since the invention of the web.

Some interesting facts about the Librarian of Congress:
The Librarian of Congress doesn’t need vocational experience as a librarian or a library science degree to hold the position. He—every Librarian since the position was created in 1802 has been male—is appointed by the President of the United States, must be approved by the Senate, and is responsible for the world’s largest library.

So what exactly does the Librarian of Congress do?
The Librarian is in charge of overseeing the Library of Congress, managing congressional relations, appointing staff—including the Poet Laureate—and supervising administrative work related to budgetary concerns, legal services, communications, and events. The Librarian also oversees the Copyright Office, which in 2013 registered 496,599 claims to copyright and forwarded almost 642,000 copies of works to the Library’s collections. In a 2010 statement, current Librarian of Congress James H. Billington explained that every three years, in accordance with the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) [PDF], the Librarian reexamines the copyright law in relation to new technologies to reassess who is eligible to circumvent the pre-existing regulations “in order to engage in noninfriging uses of works.”

After a 2013 audit found that Billington had not sufficiently managed the Library's technological resources, there is now proposed legislation to limit the term of the Librarian of Congress to 10 years as opposed to a lifetime appointment. This legislation's purpose is to ensure that future Librarians do not fall behind in technological advances.

Just yesterday it was announced that David Mao has been appointed acting Librarian of Congress. While Mao has a wonderful resume, I am a little disappointed that a woman was not chosen for the role - especially considering that a librarian is considered a "pink collar" profession by some.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Library 2.015 All Day 10/20

Library 2.015 is all day on Tuesday, October 20th. Anyone from anywhere in the world can participate for free (as long as they have an Internet connection)! Links for the conference are below. There are 50 sessions and 3 keynotes, and the schedule with connecting information is listed for time zones throughout the world.

The fifth annual Library 2.015 Worldwide Virtual Conference will be held on October 20th, 2015 from 7am - 8pm US Pacific / 10am - 11pm US Eastern.

Everyone is invited to participate in the conference, designed to foster collaboration and knowledge sharing among information professionals worldwide.

The School of Information at San José State University is the founding conference sponsor. Register as a member of the Library 2.0 network to be kept informed of future events!

Quick Links:
All of the session and keynote recordings from previous years are available under the Archives tab above and the Library 2.0 YouTube channel has the past four years' keynote sessions.

This year, we were excited to continue the conversation about the future of libraries with a complementary Library 2.0 Webinar Series. Recordings of those events can be accessed by clicking on the name links.

The conference hashtag is #lib2015

Thursday, October 8, 2015

SCOTUS Addresses Opinion Editing & Link Rot

Supreme Court of the United States

In May 2014, the NYTimes wrote about the Supreme Court continuing to edit opinions after release. Earlier this week, a NYTimes article noted that SCOTUS is now disclosing after-the-fact changes to its opinions.

The move on editing is a major development. Though changes in the court’s opinions after they are issued are common, the court has only very seldom acknowledged them. Many of the changes fix spelling or factual errors. Others are more substantial, amending or withdrawing legal conclusions.

Starting this term, a court statement said, “post-release edits to slip opinions on the court’s website will be highlighted and the date they occur will be noted.” The court’s website includes sample opinions to show how all of this will work. “The location of a revision will be highlighted in the opinion,” the statement said. “When a cursor is placed over a highlighted section, a dialogue box will open to show both old and new text.”

And in other wonderful news, SCOTUS is also addressing the problem of link rot in opinions.

The court said it would also address what it called “the problem of ‘link rot,’ where Internet material cited in court opinions may change or cease to exist.” The court will now collect and post the materials it links to on a dedicated page on its site.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Attorneys Respond To AI

The ABA's new Law Technology Today series kicked off with a series of questions about artificial intelligence in the legal profession.

In the inaugural roundtable of a Law Technology Today series, we asked the LTRC Board, and other lawyers and legal professionals, five questions about AI and lawyers. Their answers range from skeptical to optimistic.

What does artificial intelligence mean to you?

To me, as a full-time practicing lawyer, artificial intelligence is sophisticated computer programming that allows your smart devices to provide more relevant responses to your inquiries. This could include narrowly tailored legal research results or more accurate search capabilities in document management programs. Artificial intelligence also means smart devices that learn more as you use them more.

What area of your practice, or of the law, has benefited the most (or could benefit) from artificial intelligence?

In my experience, legal research has benefited the most from artificial intelligence and, in the near term, will continue to do so. The legal research experience for lawyers has changed and will continue to change dramatically as artificial intelligence is used to provide relevant research results for natural language inquiries. I also expect that these research capabilities will increase to allow functionality where your device will monitor and update your research by alerting you to possibly relevant changes in the law. I also see a future design whereby you can directly tailor your research to the judge who presides over your case.

I would suspect that AI use in data mining for e-discovery might be one of the most helpful advancements. This would include the ability to examine data for contextual relevance.

Where in your practice, or in the legal profession, is artificial intelligence being underutilized?

Online dispute resolution, predictive outcomes, game theory—whatever terms of art you like to use, I believe that these areas will explode as artificial intelligence enjoys more common application by lawyers. I see tremendous value in the time-efficient, cost-effective synthesis of data and relevant law to assist lawyers and clients in risk evaluation and case-outcome analysis. I expect that programming applied in this format will be beneficial across all price structures and case values and will even address access to justice concerns.

What practical AI applications should lawyers be watching out for?

In the litigation arena where I practice, aside from predictive outcomes and online dispute resolution, lawyers can expect to see programming that allows their smart devices to synthesize complaints or answers in a matter of minutes and provide them with an almost immediate analysis of relevant case or statutory law. This will be particularly useful as a first step in narrowing the lawyer’s time and focus spent preparing or responding to litigation filings.

Should lawyers be afraid of or encouraged by AI?

Whether lawyers are afraid of or encouraged by the use of artificial intelligence in legal applications, artificial intelligence is here to stay. I believe lawyers should embrace artificial intelligence and other technologies that make our practices more efficient. Lawyers are often slow to adapt to technology, but when we do adapt, we adapt quite well. I strongly believe that as lawyers embrace technologies they will find that the resulting practice efficiencies will free their time so that they can use their intellect, knowledge and skill to truly add value for their clients—something all lawyers desire. This is a real chance to re-elevate our prestigious profession.

It's interesting to see the practicing lawyer's perspective on AI. The above answers focus more specifically on legal research implications. While this attorney notes that legal research has changed significantly as "artificial intelligence is used to provide relevant search results for natural language inquiries," it is a mistake to think that we are at the point where we can rely solely on the algorithms to determine relevancy for us.

AI is not at the point where it provides total relevant results that are also contextual to the issue at hand. When the lawyer notes that we should be watching out for AI applications that provide "an almost immediate analysis of relevant case or statutory law," that's exactly the type of thing that we are currently nowhere near. AI can search for keywords in a document and knows how many times a particular case, for example, has been cited by other cases (all very valuable), but it cannot analyze the law to determine a complex issue.

Not to say that we won't be there in the future.