Posts

Showing posts from December, 2015

2015 Year in Review

Image
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. 

The Bluebook 20th Edition is Available (June)Student Loan Tax Bomb: IBR, PSLF, PAYE (June)Intelligence Augmentation v. Artificial Intelligence (July)Experiential Legal Education (May)Bibliotech to Spawn a Library Revolution? (April)ABA Drops 20-Hour Work Limit (May)Law Librarian Conferences (August) LOC's In Custodia Legis Law Librarian Blog (August)Fastcase Acquires Loislaw (September)
Happy Holidays! See you in 2016!




LOC Acquires Portfolio of US Public Libraries

Image
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 f…

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 po…

The Art of Academic Book Reviews

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

According to InsideHigherEdIn 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, ultim…

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 all. All 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…

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, …

A Child's Development From Books On Shelves

Image
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…

The Origins Of The Bluebook Revealed

Image
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 Harva…

Libraries As Complicated Places

Image
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 t…

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

Image
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 …

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. …