Showing posts from 2016

The Examined Life: A Reading List

A fairly recent Saturday Essay in the Wall Street Journal started out by noting: We all ask each other a lot of questions. But we should all ask one question a lot more often: “What are you reading?” It’s a simple question but a powerful one, and it can change lives. Here is a sampling of my reading list for the past year: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi "It’s impossible not to admire the ambition and scope of Homegoing , and thanks to Ms. Gyasi’s instinctive storytelling gifts, the book leaves the reader with a visceral understanding of both the savage realities of slavery and the emotional damage that is handed down, over the centuries, from mothers to daughters, fathers to sons. At its best, the novel makes us experience the horrors of slavery on an intimate, personal level; by its conclusion, the characters’ tales of loss and resilience have acquired an inexorable and cumulative emotional weight." —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times Hillbilly Elegy by J.D

Law Librarians Teaching Research Skills for Hire

Law librarians know how important legal research skills are for practice .  It appears that the legal industry is starting to understand how to parse through potential hires to find those with the best legal research skills.  The Thomson Reuters Legal Solution Blog recently posted a series of tips for evaluating a potential hire's research skills.   As noted, one of the key tasks that an attorney will be expected to complete throughout his or her career is legal research . When hiring or interviewing prospective candidates, a Partner will often want to ensure that the candidate has top notch legal research skills that can be put to use by the firm.  These skills include: Flexibility - knowing when to use natural language versus boolean searching Creativity - using creativity to distinguish or analogize a case to a results list instead of searching for the "perfect case" that may not exist Familiarity - looking beyond cases and statutes to other sources su

Gaming the Article Title

In past posts, I have highlighted the importance of a well-optimized article  title and abstract  for discoverability. Titles, in particular, are important because researchers often use keyword searching in the title field to find articles that are highly relevant to their research. Not only is a title important for discoverability, it's also important to catch the attention of a potential reader and up article views and downloads for impact purposes. Brian Leiter over at the Law Professor Blogs Network recently highlighted a story illustrating how to game the article title to increase downloads. I have an article with the (admittedly extremely boring) title "Rethinking Assignor Estoppel" coming out in the Houston Law Review. It has been on SSRN for nine months. I have posted about it twice on Facebook and Twitter, and it has shown up in all the SSRN journals. In that nine months it has garnered 982 views and 172 SSRN downloads. Late Friday afternoon, prompt

How the Librarians Saved History: Harvesting Government Information

The NYTimes recently highlighted the work of the End of Term Presidential Harvest 2016 -- a volunteer, collaborative effort by a small group of university, government and nonprofit libraries to find and save valuable pages now on federal websites. With the arrival of any new president, vast troves of information on government websites are at risk of vanishing within days. The fragility of digital federal records, reports and research is astounding.  Currently, no law protects much of it, no automated machine records it for history, and the National Archives and Records Administration announced in 2008 that it would not take on the job. “Large portions of dot-gov have no mandate to be taken care of,” said Mark Phillips, a library dean at the University of North Texas, referring to government websites. “Nobody is really responsible for doing this.” Enter the End of Term Presidential Harvest 2016. The project began before the 2008 elections, when George W. Bush was serving his se

AI as Premature Law Librarian Disruptor

Law librarians do similarly creative work as lawyers, so a computer program like ROSS won’t be able to replace us in the near future. That being said, there may be a time in the future when computer programs will be more adept at many of our tasks. Artificial intelligence relies on machine learning, which is highly dependent on natural language processing. There are three main levels of natural language processing: Syntactic (sentence structure/grammar) Semantic (understanding phrases) Pragmatic (understanding context) Computer science experts and philosophers have estimated a processing curve based on where computers are now and when computers will master pragmatic natural language processing. Based on the curve, we see that computer programs are currently at the end of the syntactics curve and are just beginning the semantics curve (think Siri). We still have a long way to go before computers do the high level pragmatic natural language processing, with estimates bei

Legal Research Clinic Bridges Gap to Help Community

Cornell Law School has started a Legal Research Clinic where 2Ls & 3Ls help local residents, nonprofit organizations, and entrepreneurs with specific questions that do not require full legal representation. The students also assist public-interest lawyers who need legal research assistance, which is a wonderful way to provide greater access to justice. The director of the Legal Research Clinic, Amy Emerson, noted that she was often trying to construct artificial issues for students to research. At the same time, people from the community were coming to the library with legal questions, but librarians are not supposed to give legal advice. As Emerson noted, the Legal Research Clinic was a way to bridge the gap. The Clinic meets the community's needs while giving the students very practical experience. The broad range of topics is what makes this legal clinic unique, said Emerson. Most clinics focus on a defined area of law, forcing them to turn away requests outside of th

ABA Journal Names The Ginger (Law) Librarian to Blawg 100

Editors of the ABA Journal announced today they have named The Ginger (Law) Librarian to the Blawg 100  -- one of the 100 best blogs for a legal audience. “For 10 years, the Blawg 100 has helped shine a light on the stunning breadth of legal topics and voices to found in the legal blogosphere,” Acting Editor-Publisher Molly McDonough said. “Journal editors have selected yet another stellar list of blogs. We hope you’ll find legal information sources in this list that are completely new to you and bookmark them for regular reading.” Other law librarian honorees include, Dewey B Strategic , Jean P. O'Grady; In Custodia Legis , Law Library Congress; and beSpacific , Sabrina Pacifici. Thanks to the ABA and Molly McDonough for this wonderful honor. About the ABA Journal : The ABA Journal is the flagship magazine of the American Bar Association, and it is read by half of the nation’s 1.1 million lawyers every month. It covers the trends, people and finances of the legal profes

Information Literacy Now: Most Students Can't Spot Fake News

The Wall Street Journal is reporting on a new study out of Stanford that shows that preteens and teens are clueless about evaluating the accuracy and trustworthiness of "news." Some 82% of middle schoolers couldn’t distinguish between an ad labeled “sponsored content” and a real news story on a website, according to a Stanford University study of 7,804 students from middle school through college.  The study, set for release Tuesday, is the biggest so far on how teens evaluate information they find online. Many students judged the credibility of newsy tweets based on how much detail they contained or whether a large photo was attached, rather than on the source. More than two out of three middle-schoolers couldn’t see any valid reason to mistrust a post written by a bank executive arguing that young adults need more financial-planning help. And nearly four in 10 high-school students believed, based on the headline, that a photo of deformed daisies on a photo-sharing sit

Librarians at Forefront on War Against Fake News

The Verge recently interviewed a librarian about the abundance of fake news. It's a real problem, and concern has escalated since the presidential election. The central focus of the concern is Facebook , which has grown beyond a social platform and is now a key information distributor from which 44 percent of Americans get their news. Google and Facebook both recently announced that they would block fake news sources from using their ad networks. All of this is compounded by the reality that a lot of people don’t know fake news when they see it, sensationalized reports are more likely to go viral on social media than sane ones, and distrust of traditional (and genuinely more reliable) media sources is rising. As Verge points out, librarians are well positioned to tackle the fake news problem. Librarians... we’ve always talked about information literacy. Information literacy is just trying to get people to be savvy consumers of information, and getting them to be able to reall

Library as Heart of Institution not "Vanity Projects"

In an Instagram video , former Fox News host Greta Van Susteren proclaimed that she is “scandalized” by the cost of education and how college students are saddled with “gigantic student loans.” Law schools are certainly at the forefront of this criticism as nearly  85% of law students graduate with over $100,000 in student debt . Van Susteren went on to post similar comments on Twitter, exclaiming, “Colleges should stop building vanity projects like huge libraries and billing students -- full libraries are on our smartphones!” As noted on InsideHigherEd , those comments ... are destructively misleading to the general public as well as higher education administrators and legislative decision makers about the significant contributions academic libraries make to teaching and learning. Academic librarians play a vital part in the education ecosystem, putting information into context for students by distinguishing information from knowledge and offering direct assistance to constituen

RIPS Law Librarian Blog - The Skills Needed for Summer Associate Research

Lexis released a new report outlining the time that summer associates spend on legal research. The report also highlights where additional research instruction is needed. Check out the full announcement over at the RIPS Law Librarian Blog .

Librarianship as Profession

I was completely inspired by reading a post on the RIPS Law Librarian Blog by my friend and colleague, Paul Gatz. The post, in essence, is a reminder that librarianship is its own profession. We need this reminder because we are often relegated to a "supplementary or secondary character" within our institutions. And, to be sure, law librarians do provide the service that is often thought of as supplementary or secondary. As noted: We pride ourselves on the high level and quality of service that we provide to our patrons – performing research, developing collections, and even crafting mission statements based on the needs of our primary institutions, whether law school, firm, or court But we are more than that.  Service is no doubt a necessary function of any library, but that recognition need not commit us to the idea that the library is a secondary or supplementary institution or that service occupies the whole of our professional identity as librarians.  Indeed, at f

FREE GPO Webinars In November

Check out these free, educational webinars from the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO), taking place this November. Beyond Google – Another Look at Finding Government Information, November 9, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. (Eastern):   OSHA’s Web Pages: A Wealth of Occupational Safety Information, November 10, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. (Eastern): Measuring America Series: Accessing International Data, November 16, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. (Eastern):   U.S. Naval War College Information Resources: Maritime, Naval History, Geopolitical, and Educational Treasures, November 17, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. (Eastern): https:/

PBS Column Asks, "Do We Need Librarians Now That We Have the Internet?"

A recent PBS column asked the question that librarians get all.the time : "Do We Need Librarians Now That We Have the Internet?" The column author astutely compares librarians to doctors to observe that, in fact, we do still need librarians. Observe librarians, and you’ll learn quite a bit about 21st century physicians. Digital technologies are hurling both professions into disintermediated worlds where they are no longer sole providers of vital services. Both must change their skills year by year and prove their value day by day. Both must choose whether the change is liberating or suffocating. When the question is posed next to the same question for doctors, it starts to be apparent that librarians still have a place. “Why do we need libraries now that we have the internet?” “Why do we need doctors now that there are computers?” Take, for example, Rich Schieken, who retired after a 40-year career as a pediatric cardiologist and medical school professor. He rec

Recommended Website: Girls at Library

Once in a while, I run across a website that speaks to why I became a librarian. This time that website was Girls at Library . About GAL : Girls At Library (GAL) is an online journal that features engaging literary interviews with and book recommendations from remarkable, diverse women who share a passion for reading. A unique online resource for literature lovers, GAL invites the exchange of ideas, perspectives, and emotions that underscore what makes reading such a universal pursuit. The books one reads both shape the mind and reflect the soul: literature empowers, transports, and inspires. To this end, GAL promotes reading as a constructive and enriching act for everyone. Each interview offers keen insights, personal portraits, and an artful, intimate look inside the libraries of women from all walks of life. The " There's a Book for That " link helps you find a book for any situation.  There's also a " Nightstand Series " link that as

Happy Open Access Week Oct. 24-30

This year’s Open Access Week theme of “Open in Action” is all about taking concrete steps to open up research and scholarship and encouraging others to do the same. One way to open up research and scholarship is through open educational resources (OER).  The Hewlitt Foundation defines   Open Educational Resources as "teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or are released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and repurposing by others. OER include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge." To truly be open, the OER resources should be free and have the 5 R's of reuse rights: Retain Reuse Revise Remix Redistribute If you are interested in making your educational resources open,  Creative Commons  is a wonderful way to release course content under an open intellectual

MIT Releases Report on Vision for Libraries

MIT decided that the time is now to look at the future of its research library. Transformative changes in culture, technology, publishing, research, and pedagogy require equally transformative changes in research libraries; both in response to a changing scholarly landscape and as a catalyst for new ways of producing, using, and preserving knowledge. As MIT takes the lead in helping to reinvent the future of education, so too must we take the lead on reinventing the future of research libraries.   To that end, an Ad Hoc Task Force on the Future of Libraries was charged with developing a vision of how the MIT Libraries ought to evolve to best advance the creation, dissemination, and preservation of knowledge, not only to support MIT’s mission but also to position the Institute as a leader in the reinvention of research libraries. The Task Force, composed of faculty, staff, and students from across the Institute, sought input from the broader MIT community through open forums, group di

CRS Reports Are Back & More Accessible Than Ever!

When I teach students about researching for scholarly articles, I mention Congressional Research Services Reports as a gold mine of information. However, my go-to source,  OpenCRS , is no longer active and is only available via archive. But a new organization has stepped in to fill the vast hole left by OpenCRS: is now the go-to source for CRS Reports. About EveryCRSReport : CRS is Congress’ think tank, and its reports are relied upon by academics, businesses, judges, policy advocates, students, librarians, journalists, and policymakers for accurate and timely analysis of important policy issues. The reports are not classified and do not contain individualized advice to any specific member of Congress. (More: What is a CRS report?) Until today, CRS reports were generally available only to the well-connected. Now, in partnership with a Republican and Democratic member of Congress, we are making these reports available to everyone for free online. EveryCR

Law Journal Abandons Bluebook

In what many may consider a smart move, The Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice has said goodbye to The Bluebook . The BGLJ outlined three main reasons for its decision: First, the Bluebook presents an enormous and unnecessary barrier to publication in law journals for scholars from other disciplines, young scholars, legal practitioners, and others without access to students and clerks to Bluebook their work . The 20th Edition of the Bluebook is 560 pages long, a Russian doll of rules within rules. It strictly regulates when to use small-caps, when to italicize commas, and how to abbreviate the proper names of over 1000 law journals. Conforming citations to the Bluebook is an immense undertaking, even for attorneys who have presumably been trained to use it. For the non-attorney, reading the hundreds of pages of legal rules and then applying them is daunting. To the extent that the Bluebook citation style privileges the publication of work created by authors of a particul

A Coloring Book for Legal Research Instruction

CALI published what we believe to be the first Coloring Book for Legal Education – “ What Color is Your C.F.R.? ” by Elizabeth Gotauco, Nicole Dyszlewski and Raquel M. Ortiz. It can be downloaded as PDF for free or you can purchase a paper copy here , (which makes it easier to color) here for $3.78 + shipping. This is a coloring book for adult law students with the goal of experimenting with the new trend in adult coloring books that purport to help deal with anxiety and stress. Law school can be stressful. What an obvious and uncomplicated statement! Coloring has been found to help calm the mind and even to increase focus .

Librarians Aiding in Compliance of Open Access Rules

In 2015, the Chronicle of Higher Education ran an article discussing new open access mandates, specifically noting how librarians are aiding in compliance. As more federal agencies begin requiring grant recipients to make research results freely available to the public, college librarians have taken on a new role: helping researchers comply with open-access rules. A February 2013 memorandum from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy said federal agencies with more than $100 million in research-and-development expenditures would have to require that results be available within a year of publication. New open-access rules at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, among other agencies mean that researchers will risk losing grant support from those sources if they don’t make their findings freely available to the public. Several private funders, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, are also s

Going Beyond Checklists in Legal Writing

As I prepare to lead a Scribes Student Legal Writing Society discussion on "good legal writing," I am reminded of my post yesterday on using checklists to teach legal research and writing . A wonderful article by Professor Mark Osbeck called What is "Good Legal Writing" and Why Does it Matter? underscores the importance of going beyond checklists. As Osbeck mentions: Legal writing that is clear, concise, and engaging is good writing. Yet there is something about the very best examples of legal writing that goes beyond these three fundamental qualities.  Writers do not become proficient at their craft by memorizing a lot of picayune rules, or by applying checklists to their writing. They become proficient by reading the works of good writers and by practicing their own writing.  He goes on to recommend a pedagogical structure that highlights the foundations of good legal writing: clarity, conciseness, and engagement. Then using things like checklists and r

Using Checklists to Teach the Foundations of Legal Research & Writing

In my legal research & writing course, my students are predictably concerned with writing a specific memo and brief to earn a good grade in my course. Of course they are. But I am more concerned with teaching them the fundamentals of legal research & writing so that they can employ the processes no matter what legal issue they face.  To that end, I use acronyms and checklists to make it easier to remember. For example, when teaching legal research, I discuss a 4-step legal research process : Preliminary Analysis - reviewing client interview, noting jurisdiction, parties, legal issues, defenses, etc... to use effective keywords in secondary sources to find an overview of the law with citations.  Search for Codified Law - looking for constitutions, statutes, court rules, and regulations on point.  Search for Binding Precedent - finding case law from the jurisdiction that the court must follow.  Search for Persuasive Precedent - finding case law from other juri

Texas Tech Providing Document Delivery of 3D Printed Materials

Here at Texas Tech University, we just received word that starting in Spring 2017, the Texas Tech Libraries Document Delivery department will offer a new 3D object service. You can have 3D objects fabricated for instructional use.This includes anything like carbon nanotubes and molecules, architectural features and buildings, and even more unusual items like human vocal cords. The SHAPES Project is currently looking for ideas to fill its catalog with document delivery material that will be useful to a major research university. For more information about 3D printing at Tech, see our 3D printing services FAQs . What a cool way to fuse library services with new technology. 

Happy Banned Books Week!

Banned Books Week runs from September 25 - October 1, 2016. This year, Banned Books Week is specifically celebrating diversity. From the Banned Books website : Below is a selection of books by diverse authors or containing diverse content that have been frequently challenged and/or banned. While diversity is seldom given as a reason for a challenge, it seems, in fact, to be an underlying and unspoken factor. These challenged works are often about people and issues which include LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities—people or issues that, perhaps, challengers would prefer not to consider. A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest J. Gaines A Hero Ain't Nothin But a Sandwich by Alice Childress A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by  Sherman Alexie All American Boys by Jason Reynolds Always Running by Luis J Rodriguez Am I Blue?:  Coming Out from th

Open Educational Resources in Higher Ed.

During the SPARC presentation last week , in addition to discussing open access, the representatives also discussed open educational resources (OER). A few interesting facts and figures: Since 2002, college textbook costs have increased 82% (GAO) 2 in 3 students say they decided against buying a textbook because the cost is too high (Student PIRGs) 1 in 3 students say at some point they earned a poor grade because they could not afford to buy the textbook (Student survey) 1 in 2 students say they have at some point taken fewer courses due to the cost of textbooks The Hewlitt Foundation defines Open Educational Resources as "teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or are released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and repurposing by others." To truly be open, the resources should be free and have the 5 R's of reuse rights: Retain Reuse Revise Remix Redistribute The benefits of open educa

Current Open Access Initiatives

Last week, I attended a wonderful presentation by representatives from SPARC on open access initiatives in the United States. Some interesting facts and figures include: US Libraries spend 2.1 billion dollars on journal subscriptions per year (2014).  Elsevier and Springer have profit margins higher than Microsoft, McDonald's, Apple, Pfizer, Google, Disney, Starbucks, Exon Mobil, or Walmart (2014).  The overarching question is how can research be so expensive to access, especially when the federal government funds (i.e. taxpayers) so much it? That's where open access initiatives come in. Foundationally, "open access means free, immediate online access to scientific and scholarly articles with full reuse rights." ( Budapest Open Access Initiative ) Currently there are to two major paths toward open access for research: 1) Open access journals and 2) Self-archiving And there is a huge incentive for researchers to make their work accessible and open. C

A Must Read: StevenB's Designing Better Libraries Blog

If you haven't run across Steven Bell's blog  Designing Better Libraries , it's a must read. It explores "the intersection of design, user experience, and creativity for better libraries."

Academic Librarians & The Google Effect

I am often asked "Now that everything is online why do we need librarians?" It's a question that I would have likely considered myself before I became a librarian. And it's a tough question because it implies that the very nature of your work - the work that you know to be more important than ever in a time of ubiquitous online access - is not necessary anymore. I'd like to think that this way of thinking, that libraries and librarians are no longer necessary, is more of the exception than the rule, but I'm not so sure. Joshua Kim on InsideHigherEd did a great job of articulating the value of librarians in the Google age. He was recently asked "When it is time to do research on educational technology do you start with your favorite search engine or do you invest time delving into your academic library's education research databases?" It's a fallacy that librarians expect people to start with the research in the library's database. W

Legal Research: Knowing When to Stop

Beginning researchers often ask, "How do I know when I'm done?" This is a legitimate question because legal research can send you down many rabbit holes with seemingly endless resources to sort through. The University of San Francisco School of Law put together a wonderful research guide on point. Here are a few good indicators that you've reached the end of your research project: You've found the answer. Sometimes — this is rare — you will quickly find the authoritative law that applies to your fact pattern. Be sure to Shepardize or KeyCite to check to see if your sources are still good law.  You keep finding the same primary authority no matter which research method you use or which sources you consult. It's usually a good idea to double-check your research by checking two or three sources on the same topic to see if they all cite to the same authority. When you've done thorough research, and you keep turning up the same citations no matter wh

ABA Adversely Reviewing Schools in Light of Criticism

InsideHigherEd provided a comprehensive overview of recent actions by the American Bar Association (ABA) in what is seemingly a response to the long-standing criticism of legal education. As noted , earlier this month, the ABA’s accrediting arm recommended against approving the University of North Texas-Dallas College of Law, citing low admissions test scores scores of entering students. Days later, it found Ave Maria Law School in Florida out of compliance with its standards, again citing admissions practices. The ABA is also considering tightening bar-passage standards to make them tougher for schools to meet.  The long-standing criticism stems from the law school bubble  that was created during the recession. Law schools, like many other areas of higher education, saw increased enrollment during the recession. But the job market for law graduates has tightened in recent years. That’s meant more lawyers looking for work and fewer applications from prospective law students. To fi

Best Practices for Creating a Digital Law Library

If you are considering creating a digital law library, Lexis put together a wonderful white paper on topic that guides you through the process.  While there is product placement throughout, this white paper is helpful for anyone considering a digital law library. The white paper offers general best practices, along with information on the LexisNexis Digital Library product.  According to the white paper, one of the first things to consider is the approach that your law library will take to digital migration: I ncremental: Some organizations have an ongoing preference for printed volumes and offer eBooks for just a select portion of titles. Accelerated: Others place more emphasis on mobility or are concerned about the administrative overhead that comes with physical books; they may choose to replace a large percentage of hard-copy volumes with eBooks. According to the 2015 ABA technology survey, one third of lawyers report using legal eBooks for work.  Holistic: Either w

Writing While Law Librarianing

Being on the tenure track is hard for everyone. It's really hard for law librarians because we have so many roles to fill. We often have our administrative library roles, as well as the teaching, research, and service required of faculty. Writing tends to be the thing that gets cast aside as other, more pressing concerns carry the day. For the last few years, I've designed my weeks to write on this blog and a couple of others because I enjoy learning and thinking about the profession. Being required to write full-length law review articles or book chapters has been a good change of pace because it allows me to dig deeper into a topic, but it is much harder to carve out the time and attention necessary to write a full-length piece. Last weekend, I finally submitted a book chapter for publication in a forthcoming book called Millennial Leadership in Libraries . My chapter covers creating a leadership philosophy. I had been working on it since April, and it was a challenging,

The State of Open Access in Academia

Earlier this year, Forbes ran a great article on the state of open access in academia. More than any other technology, the web has revolutionized access to the world’s information. While nearly every other form of informational output has been reinvented in some fashion in the internet era, academic literature has remained steadfastly locked in the centuries-old subscription format, paywalled away from all but those who can afford to purchase access Even at public universities, where the salaries of faculty and staff and the operating costs of the institution are often heavily subsidized by taxpayer money, either directly by their states or indirectly through grants from NSF, NIH and other federal agencies, the majority of the research output of the institution is not publicly accessible. Instead, much of the world’s scholarly knowledge is owned and controlled by commercial enterprises that operate the journals that academic researchers publish in. The extreme cost and paywalled