Thursday, December 15, 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:

"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 is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of poor, white Americans. The disintegration of this group, a process that has been slowly occurring now for over forty years, has been reported with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. In Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hanging around your neck."

“An exhaustively researched, vividly realized and above all, unignorable book—after Evicted, it will no longer be possible to have a serious discussion about poverty without having a serious discussion about housing.”

—Jennifer Senior, New York Times

"The Good Girls Revolt is as compelling as any novel, and also an accurate, intimate history of new women journalists invading the male journalistic world of the 1970s. Lynn Povich turns this epic revolt into a lesson on why and how we've just begun."

—Gloria Steinem

  • Tribe by Sebastian Junger

"I first read about this history several months ago in Sebastian Junger's excellent book, TRIBE. It has haunted me since. It raises the possibility that our culture is built on some fundamental error about what makes people happy and fulfilled."

―David Brooks, The New York Times

"Drawing on anecdotes from her adolescence and adult life, Adichie attempts to strike down stereotypes and unpack the baggage usually associated with the term. She argues that an emphasis on feminism is necessary because to focus only on the general "human rights" is "to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded."

—Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

The author of the Saturday Essay noted, At the trial in which he would be sentenced to death, Socrates (as quoted by Plato) said that the unexamined life isn’t worth living. Reading is the best way I know to learn how to examine your life. By comparing what you’ve done to what others have done, and your thoughts and theories and feelings to those of others, you learn about yourself and the world around you.

Each of these books have given me the wonderful opportunity to examine this life and learn about myself and the world around me.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Law Librarians Teaching Research Skills for Hire

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 such as Trial Court Documents
  • Exhaustive - knowing when to stop researching
These skills are important skills that law students must learn from law librarians. There is inevitably a "back and forth" that goes on in legal research. Legal researchers must be able to find meaningful sources AND analyze results to understand what they still need to find. 

Law librarians must bridge the knowledge in action gap to ensure that law students can find familiar resources while maintaining flexibility. Students must also have the analytical skills to creatively find answers and know when to stop researching

If law librarians leave it up to legal writing professors to teach the analysis portion, we are doing the students a disservice by providing the steps to find resources without having them practice the difficult task of analysis and revising searches. The students must struggle through the entire process to truly absorb the skills necessary for effective and efficient legal research. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

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, prompted by some friends teasing me for the boring headline, I posted the exact same article, with the exact same abstract, but with a new, click-baity title: "Inventor Sued for Infringing His Own Patent. You Won't Believe What Happened Next." I did this in part as a joke, and in part as an unscientific test to see how susceptible law professors were to clickbait.

The answer is, quite susceptible indeed. In less than two hours on a Friday night the number of views for this "new" article surpassed the old one. In 26 hours, by late Saturday, more people had downloaded the new article than the old one, even though before downloading you are exposed to the same old boring abstract. And by the end of the weekend, the article had been viewed nearly six times as often as the original and downloaded three times as often as the original.

The article will soon appear in the Houston Law Review under its old, boring title. But it sure looks like titles matter.

Authors would do well to keep this in mind when naming an article. This, coupled with a long, jargon-filled abstract, may just be the key to article impact success.

Monday, December 5, 2016

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 second term, and returned in 2012.

The ritual has taken on greater urgency this year, Mr. Phillips said, out of concern that certain pages may be more vulnerable than usual because they contain scientific data for which Mr. Trump and some of his allies have expressed hostility or contempt.

And this small group can use all of the help it can get. People can contribute to the effort by proposing a web page for preservation by the archives. Proposed pages should be on federal websites, since many states also use .gov in their addresses. A simple tool for nominating a page is at

As the article author notes, for the 10 people working on laptops at the academy, hunting for important federal records, another title might serve: How the Librarians Saved History.

Friday, December 2, 2016

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 being close to year 2100 and beyond.

Even when a computer program starts to do pragmatic-level natural language processing, it will still take time for it to master and emulate what the human brain can do on the pragmatic front. The more low-level tasks of lawyers and law librarians will go quickly (think finding a case by citation or party name).

But the high level, context driven, creative tasks will take much more time for computers to master. We may inevitably need fewer lawyers and law librarians over time, but AI will mostly work to augment our human brains. Personally, I would love them help.

What we all must be cognizant of is the notion of "premature disruption" – losing valuable players (lawyers and librarians) before the technology is truly ready to replace them. ROSS, for example, is really good at PR, but stakeholders must be careful to avoid premature disruption. ROSS is a great tool that will augment lawyers and librarians, but it will not replace us. And it won't replace us for the foreseeable future.

It's important that we all arm ourselves with this information so that the various stakeholders understand AI's current capabilities. I will spend December & January finalizing a full-length piece on this topic. More to come...

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

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 their specialty. In this clinic, students and their instructors (students cannot give legal advice, so the instructors, who are attorneys, are always present) research and offer answers in many areas of law to specific questions, large or small.

Great work Amy Emerson & Cornell! There is no better way to teach legal research than with real clients asking a wide variety of questions.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

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 profession from Wall Street to Main Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. features breaking legal news updated as it happens by staff reporters throughout every business day, a directory of more than 4,000 lawyer blogs, and the full contents of the magazine.

About the ABA:
With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.

Monday, November 21, 2016

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 site provided strong evidence of toxic conditions near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, even though no source or location was given for the photo.

As mentioned in a previous post, librarians are at the forefront of the war on fake news. Our main mission is to teach information literacy. Or maybe the correct terminology is that librarians should be on the forefront of the war on fake news. Fewer schools now have librarians, who traditionally taught research skills. And media literacy has slipped to the margins in many classrooms, to make room for increased instruction in basic reading and math skills.

Many think that the value of librarians is decreasing now that "everything is online." However, the fake news phenomena is a perfect example of why, in this day and age, librarians are more important than ever.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

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 really interrogate the information that is available to them, to see what is quality, to evaluate sources, et cetera. 

And many librarians see this as a problem of information overload. We’re just inundated with so much information it becomes just more difficult to parse out where the quality information is. And these fake news sites are increasingly savvy. We used to talk to students about “How does the website look? Does it look like you could have done it on your laptop or does it look like there’s a corporation behind it?” We used to and still do look at the url: “Is it a .net, is it a .org?” But these new sites are so savvy, the interfaces can be really slick, and they can look a lot like what we consider to be reputable sources. There’s is also now a lot of manipulation of the domains. I saw something not too long ago that had “” We say that if it has an “edu” it’s a reputable site but there’s that added manipulation with the “.co.” It becomes trickier to identify these deceitful sites right away unless you’re really paying attention and doing due diligence. 

The main takeaway to reduce fake news sources is to actually take the time to evaluate a source before you decide to forward it as truth. If you see something on Facebook or Twitter, a lot of people get caught up with just forwarding information without actually reading the article or examining the site. When you see a very salacious headline or something that’s challenging, sometimes the inclination is to forward it without checking. You have to ask: does this appear in multiple places or did you only see it on Facebook? This misinformation is perpetuated because people aren’t taking the time to evaluate sources before they accept it as truth and / or pass it on to others. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

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 constituents in a personal way that cannot be replicated by an electronic device. In addition, students who receive information-literacy instruction as part of their courses achieve higher grades and demonstrate increased research fluency than students who do not receive such instruction. Further, a library’s research and study areas offer a destination for those who can’t afford quiet space as well as fostering social and academic community among students. 

Far from being tangential to the learning process on our college campuses, libraries -- the physical buildings themselves -- are as essential to the classroom as an artery is to the heart. Or as I have previously posted, maybe it's the other way around with the classroom being an artery to the heart of the institution, i.e, the library.

Academic libraries provide, in part:

  • (for the haves and the have-nots) spaces or commons -- primarily “high-tech ready” in nature -- that offer general and subject-specific equipment, software and web-delivered content for individual access and study. They also offer collaborative spaces for students to work together with each other in small groups and with classroom faculty to study and create content.
  • spaces for STEM and STEAM discovery or maker space environments for students anywhere in the program or the curriculum -- especially those who don’t have access to departmental labs, where spaces are often reserved for students majoring in those specific areas.
  • open labs and flexible, individual computer spaces with equipment and software unique to special research or subject area populations, such as geographic information systems or statistical software packages to process data used in the study of social and natural sciences. They also serve special needs students, faculty members and staff.

Academic libraries provide not only access to content within their buildings but also equipment and technology that students can check out and use in their educational pursuits. (This takes space for not only storage but also delivery of resources.)

Additionally, academic library professionals, often faculty members themselves, are experts in areas of research, and they work in partnership with classroom instructors in the design and delivery of curricula. They also:
  • partner with classroom faculty members in the design and delivery of courses requiring critical thinking and information literacy as well as subject-targeted assignments;
  • are champions for and leaders in open educational resources that provide vetted, free content for students who can’t afford textbooks, a large part of the price tag of college;
  • build digital as well as print collections to reflect classroom faculty research, recommended research by other experts and subject content required by external regional and national accreditation bodies -- such as digital and print content for the health sciences and business-management curricula; and,
  • acquire, curate, design and deliver online content and competency lessons (online tutorials, streamed office hours with library experts) for students to access on their smartphones.
While facilities are a huge issue for keeping costs under control, it is shortsighted to take aim at the library. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

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.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

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 first glance, the library’s function is to provide information services of a high quality. But, with a sudden shift in perspective, we may see that the work we do in providing that service itself creates the library, an information system the value of which transcends any particular service.

What a wonderful, well-stated reminder that law librarianship is a profession with an identity far beyond the supplementary or secondary nature that it is often characterized as. Especially on the days when others think that this career is a default for people who didn't do well at something else. The reality is that many of us chose this profession because we saw value and believed in it.

This leads me to a post on InsideHigherEd where the author argues that librarians are falling short of their profession's needs. The author notes that when researching libraries, there's not enough information from the profession itself. To round out his literature review on libraries, the author had to "tap deeply into non-library and information studies literature." The author erroneously determines that LIS educators and researchers must not recognize the value in "library as place" ideals because they do not write about it. He notes that people outside of the profession and "already overworked library practitioners" have taken the initiative to research and write about the profession, and asks "where is the LIS research community?"

This may be the wrong question to ask, however. My first inclination, based on my knowledge of academia and the number of tenure-track positions nationwide (and where LIS faculty fall in funding), is that would-be LIS researchers can't meaningfully exist. How many faculty members in LIS programs across the country are tenure track with the full support to research and write in-depth studies on "longitudinal studies evaluating library activities...?"

It's important work that must be done, but it's nearly impossible to perform meaningful research while not being supported to do so. The right question to ask would be "where are the LIS programs that support a meaningful LIS research community?"

Librarianship is an important profession that has a lot to say. However ,because we are often treated as supplementary or secondary within our institutions, we don't have a lot of time or support to say it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

FREE GPO Webinars In November

Check out these free, educational webinars from the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO), taking place this November.

Presenters from GPO, other Federal Government agencies, and from Federal depository libraries across the Nation will present on topics related to Federal Government information and the Federal Depository Library Program. All sessions are presented virtually through GPO's FDLP Academy:

Attendees will receive a Certificate of Participation from GPO for each webinar they attend. Closed captioning is available for all webinars. Registrants will be sent access information upon registering.

View the complete archive of recorded webinars and webcasts at:

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

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 recently stated that he was sort of glad to be stepping down. When asked "why?," Rich’s answer went something like this: “I do love it, but my world has changed. When I began, parents brought their sick and dying children to me. I said, ‘This is what we’ll do,’ and they said, ‘Yes, doctor.’ Nowadays, they bring 300 pages of internet printouts. When I offer a prognosis and suggest treatment, they point to the papers and ask, ‘Why not do this or this or that?’” He added, “Don’t get me wrong. This new world is better than the old one. It’s just quite a bit to get used to.”

Like librarianship, technology is changing medicine in radical ways. Cardiologist Eric Topol writes extensively about how converging technologies are democratizing medicine. With inexpensive smartphone apps, patients can check their children’s ears for infections, differentiate between bronchitis and pneumonia, and perform myriad other services that were once the exclusive domain of physicians. A patient with atrial fibrillation can use a smartphone and a tiny AliveCor peripheral to take an electrocardiogram in 30 seconds. (I have one on my own iPhone.)

Ponder this for a moment: Topol argues that the smartphone will soon be the most important device in medical history and that, relieved of rote tasks, physicians will be free to use their minds and talents where they are truly indispensable.

Like medicine, libraries have changed dramatically with technological advances. Librarians have moved from granting access to material (although there is some of that) to helping people navigate the overabundance of information. For centuries, the librarian’s job was providing scarce information to dependent patrons. Now, the job is helping patrons navigate superabundant information of wildly varying quality and uncertain provenance. The new job, unlike the old, requires marketing — librarians must persuade patrons that a navigator is worth the time and trouble. For better or worse, the digital age forces experts to make the case that a Google search doesn’t replace the librarian, and WebMD doesn’t replace the doctor.

And very few people are likely to argue that technology should replace all physicians any time soon. Likewise, very few people should argue that technology will replace all librarians any time soon.

Monday, October 31, 2016

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.

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 asks what books you keep on your nightstand. 

There a feeling to this website that is very empowering to women, and it's all done through books. So good!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

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 property license that allows for the 5 R's of reuse rights.
The benefits of open educational resources cannot be overstated. To show OER impact, one must look no further than the cost of textbooks:
  • 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.
OER would make textbooks free to students. And a multi-institutional study in the Journal of Computing in Higher Education shows that open textbook adoption has the following impacts on learning outcomes of post-secondary students:higher or equivalent grades
  • higher average credit load
  • higher or equivalent completion rates
Ultimately, using OER in 1 course per year could save US students $1.42 billion (Student PIRGs).
If you would like to find and use open educational resources, The University of Minnesota created an Open Textbook Library that is a "tool to help instructors find affordable, quality textbook solutions."
Have a happy Open Access Week!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

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 discussions, and the Idea Bank.

The Task Force has issued its preliminary report, which includes a comprehensive vision for the Libraries in the coming decades.

The MIT task force arranged ideas about the MIT Libraries into four “pillars,” which structure the preliminary report. They are “Community and Relationships,” involving the library’s interactions with local and global users; “Discovery and Use,” regarding the provision of information; “Stewardship and Sustainability,” involving the management and protection of MIT’s scholarly resources; and “Research and Development,” addressing the analysis of library practices and needs. The preliminary report contains 10 general recommendations in these areas.

For the “Community and Relationships” pillar, the report notes that MIT library users may have varying relationships to the system in the future, and suggests a flexible approach simultaneously serving students, faculty, staff, alumni, cooperating scholars, participants in MITx classes, the local Cambridge and Boston community, and the global scholarly community.

In the area of “Discovery and Use,” the report suggests that the library system enhance its ability to disseminate MIT research to the world; provide “comprehensive digital access to content in our collections”; form partnerships to “generate open, interoperable content platforms” for sharing and preserving knowledge; and review the Institute’s Faculty Open Access Policy.  

Regarding “Stewardship and Sustainability,” the task force envisions the MIT Libraries as the leading repository of the Institute’s history and as a leader in the effort to find solutions for the “preservation of digital research,” which the report describes as a “major unsolved problem.”

Finally, in the area of “Research and Development,” the report proposes the establishment of an initiative for research in information science and scholarly communication, to support both research and development on the grand challenges in the field.

This report is great information for anyone interested in the future of libraries. MIT is a premier research institution, and we would all be better served by considering the future of our libraries much like MIT has envisioned.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

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. includes 8,255 CRS reports. The number changes regularly. If you’re looking for older reports, our good friends at may have them.

While this is wonderful new, and a partnership on this scale is an amazing feat, Congress should go further and enact The Equal Access to Congressional Research Service Reports Act of 2016 (S 2639 and HR 4702).

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

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 particular, narrow background or those with access to more resources, adherence to that style is inconsistent with the mandate of the Journal.

Second, conforming to Bluebook citation style requires an investment of editorial time and effort which is wildly disproportionate to the utility of the style.

Thirdly, the Bluebook citation system is inaccessible to the unfamiliar reader.

Uniformity of style is an admirable goal and one for which the Journal will continue to strive. However, we believe that uniformity is not the only goal of citation, and is in fact only a minor one. The most important goal for a system of legal citation is to allow a reader to trace an author’s intellectual process. Clear, accessible, simple, and consistent citations serve this goal. The Journal will be using a seven-page citation guide, borrowing heavily from the system Judge Posner describes in his article and retaining useful elements of the Bluebook.

As a Faculty Services & Scholarly Communications Librarian who often gets requests from faculty to spend vast amounts of time "Bluebooking" articles - I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree. Additionally, I've seen numerous instances when law journal editors use draconian measures to ensure that cite checkers italicize a period, for example. This is an unnecessary abuse of power (only half-jokingly stated).

The overall concern with citation should be to provide the relevant information necessary to allow the reader to access the cited sources.

Friday, October 14, 2016

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.

Monday, October 10, 2016

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 shifting to public-access requirements.

And it's only a matter of time before legislation is passed that mandates open access on an even broader scale. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs moved legislation to the Senate floor that matches the 2013 White House memo.

The reaction from libraries is to assist researchers in meeting these new requirements. At the University of Minnesota Libraries, staff members are laying the groundwork for greater oversight of grant compliance. The university also began an institutional open-access policy this year.

Cornell University has created a network of library liaisons to reach out to its colleges and academic centers about research and scholarly communication.

In the past decade, some institutions have built their own repositories for articles and other research materials, putting researchers in the practice of making their findings available after completing a project.

Many experts anticipate that the next step will be to require public availability of full data research — not just research papers — as the next mandate that comes down from funders.

In any case, most institutions have libraries that are well equipped to help researchers comply with these fairly new mandates. For a very long time, librarians tried to convince researchers to make their works publicly available for the moral good of society. Now librarians have a stronger compliance argument to stand behind.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

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 rules to highlight the importance of the overall foundations so that the students understand the rules in context.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

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 jurisdictions that the court may follow. 
When drafting a question presented, I use Bryan Garner's "deep issue" method that frames the issue using the following formula: Law, facts, question. 

When drafting a single-issue memo, I remind the students of IRAC (issue, rule, analysis, conclusion) as the formula for drafting an essay exam answer. I then show them how IRAC can transfer to a full-length, single-issue memo through the Introduction (issue as topic sentence followed by succinct recitation of rule). Then go onto Rule explanation (case precedent interpreting rule). Then go on to Application of facts (analysis), ultimately leading to Conclusion.

We then break each section down even further. For the case precedent section, for example, each case should have a topic sentence of about the overall legal issue, the relevant rule from the case, the relevant facts from the case, the analysis (holding and reasoning), and a conclusion. The application to facts portion should consist of the strong argument first, followed by weaker arguments.

These mini checklists provide guidance to the students as they learn to incorporate "good legal writing" into an effective legal document. 

Throughout the course, I am constantly asking things like, "What is the 4-step legal research process?" Or "How do you frame the question presented?" Or "What is IRAC?" I'm hoping that the repetition will make it stick. 

Bryan Garner also discusses using checklists to improve writing. Garner includes a sample timeline and checklist based on a filing deadline for a brief. 

As he mentions, checklists are "informational job aids that reduce mistakes."

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

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. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

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 the Silence by Marion Dane Baue
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Girl
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X; Alex Haley
Baby Be-Bop by Francesca Lia Block
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out  by Susan Kuklin
Black Boy by Richard Wright
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A Anaya
Color of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa
Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
Geography Club by Brent Hartinger
George by Alex Gino
Habibi by Craig Thompson
Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman
Hoops by Walter Dean Myers
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
King & King by Linda de Haan
Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino
My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis
Nappy Hair by Carolivia Herron
Nasreen’s Secret School by Jeanette Winter
Palestine: A Nation Occupied by Joe Sacco
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D Taylor
Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
So Far From the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox
This Book is Gay by James Dawson
This Day in June by Gayle Pitman
Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher

Check out the Banned Books website for other information on promotional events to support the right to read!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

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 educational resources cannot be overstated. A multi-institutional study in the Journal of Computing in Higher Education shows the impact of open textbook adoption on the learning outcomes of post-secondary students:
  • higher or equivalent grades
  • higher average credit load
  • higher or equivalent completion rates
If you are interested in making your educational resources open, Creative Commons is a wonderful way to release under an open intellectual property license. 

If you would like to find and use open educational resources, The University of Minnesota created an Open Textbook Library that is a "tool to help instructors find affordable, quality textbook solutions."

Ultimately, using OER in 1 course per year could save US students $1.42 billion (Student PIRGs).

The full presentation can be found here:

Monday, September 19, 2016

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. Citation impact for mature researchers has been shown to increase dramatically through open access.

So, you  may ask, what is being done to fix this problem? Currently there is a Presidential Policy Memorandum from 2013 expanding open access to the results of federally funded research.

And there are various stakeholders trying to memorialize this policy memorandum into law with S.779 - Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act of 2015.

This is a huge step forward in the open access movement. You might consider contacting your representatives to promote the passage of this law.

For more information and to see the PowerPoint from the presentation, please see this link:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

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."

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

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. We all know that most people will start their research where they feel comfortable - generally with their favorite search engine. We know this because librarians often do the same thing.

But as Kim notes, the appearance of ubiquitous information - the Google effect - has served to increase the the professional value of my relationship with academic librarians. The reason for this conclusion about the importance of the value of these relationships can be found in what Google can’t do - and in what academic librarians do beautifully. What I can’t do with Google is have a conversation.  I can’t discover what I don’t know when interacting with Google. I can’t evolve my understanding in dialogue with Google. From Google I can get facts, data, and information - but I can’t contextualize that information within the problem that I am trying to solve.  Nor can that information be placed within the cultural and organizational context in which I’m trying to utilize that information to answer a question or tackle a challenge.

And I use this way of thinking when I teach my students legal research. I understand that they will use Google, but I want them to also be able to contextualize the information that they find. I teach them a 4-step legal research strategy that starts with a preliminary analysis that includes planning their research and looking in secondary sources to find an overview of the law. After I've talked about the reputable secondary sources available through library subscriptions, I have a frank discussion with them about using Google to find information. I then have a discussion with the students about what they might find on Google and how that information fits into the 4-step process.

In the InsideHigherEd article, Kim goes on to discuss the other benefits of working with his academic-librarian colleagues. My librarian colleagues bring a deep level of expertise to these conversations that is different from other folks in my network. This expertise may be around information science, or open access and open resources, or how a new discipline (such as the digital humanities) is forming.  This expertise may be subject matter related.  This expertise may have to do with how physical and digital spaces change, merge and interact. Almost always, I learn from my librarian colleagues in our conversations new things about how learning and knowledge production are changing, and how we can be most effective in an environment of ever-increasing demands and ever-shrinking resources, time, and attention.

Lastly, Kim asks if there Is a shared understanding across higher ed that Google is in reality the best friend of the profession of academic librarianship - as ubiquitous information makes contextualized knowledge and ongoing collaborations ever more essential as drivers of both individual productivity and institutional quality?

I, for one, certainly hope so.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

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 where or how you look, that's a sign that you've reached the foundational cases on point. Again make sure to Shepardize or Keycite. 
  • Your project deadline is fast-approaching. Remember that the best research is pointless if you don't leave enough time to write the paper or to tell the client or assigning attorney what you've found.

What if you're not finding authorities that address your research issue?

If research hasn't yielded any results after 30-45 minutes, it may be time to reevaluate your research strategy. Think comprehensively and creatively. Research broader rules, analogous facts or doctrines, and⁄or the law of other jurisdictions.

Make sure you are:
  • applying a variety of research techniques
  • using both primary and secondary sources
  • using both print and online sources
  • consulting resources from different publishers or vendors (remember that Lexis and Westlaw offer a lot of the same primary sources (cases, statutes, regulations, etc.), but the secondary sources available on each system, like treatises and practice guides, tend to not overlap very much.)

Consult a librarian.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

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 fill out their incoming classes, some programs began admitting less-qualified students who are more likely to struggle on the bar exam and to find employment after taking on large student debt loads, experts say. Those issues were clearly on the minds of members of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity -- the federal body that oversees higher ed accreditors -- at its July meeting. Ultimately, the NACIQI suspended the ABA from accrediting new institutions for one year. 

The action of the NACIQI does not come without its own set of criticism, however. Ohio State University law professor Deborah Jones Merritt said the ABA’s accrediting arm hadn’t taken enough of a nuanced approach toward UNT Dallas specifically. Whether a school is admitting students who will succeed in law school and in taking the bar exam is not just a matter of LSAT scores, Merritt said. UNT has sought to train lawyers interested in representing lower-income residents by admitting students from more diverse, and non-traditional backgrounds. The school, which was launched in 2014, also placed a lower priority on LSAT scores than many institutions. Instead, it looked for work experience and other accomplishments that indicated applicants could succeed in classes and on the bar exam. And UNT is charging thousands less in tuition and fees than even other public law schools in the state. But ABA staff cited those admissions standards and concerns over financial stability in recommending against accreditation. 

As one commenter on the InsideHigherEd article points out, Bar passage rates have been the elephant in the room of law school affirmative action admissions since the 1970s - affirmative action admits were almost all (there were exceptions, but very, very few) admitted with LSAT scores a full standard deviation below that of 'nonminority' students, and the bar passage rates reflected this. At one law prominent public school where [the commenter] saw the numbers in the late 1970s-early 1980s, 20% of the class was admitted on affirmative action. The 'white' first time bar passage rate averaged over several years around 92%, with the 'black' first time bar passage rate running around 67% and the Hispanic first time bar passage rate running around 80%. This sort of thing is discussed at some length in the book Mismatched.... Now, as law school applications are down, you're seeing schools below the elite levels admitting lots of 'nonminority' students who have similarly low LSAT scores and concomitantly lower first time bar passage rates.The biggest problem here is that toughening standards - insisting on LSAT scores that suggest a student has a reasonable chance of first time bar passage - will hit minorities and poor nonminority prospective law students worst. Which the ABA types don't want to do.

And I would further add that they shouldn't do it. We already have issues with diversity in the legal field, and this sort of gatekeeping will continue to exacerbate the problem. This isn't because minorities or poor nonminority students are dumb. It's because the current state of legal education and higher education, in general, advances students who have been supported and encouraged throughout their education with better schools and test prep, etc.... Instead of gatekeeping before law school, we should consider innovative ways of teaching during law school that will ensure success in the legal field on a broader scale. Of course there are other issues with the cost of legal education and making sure that students who take on the huge debt load for a JD degree can successfully take a bar exam, but that isn't done with LSAT score alone.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

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:
  • Incremental: 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 way, many libraries are combining eBooks from multiple publishers in a single digital resource that also provides analysis tools to measure usage.
After considering your approach, it is best to develop a strategy and build your timeline to determine what to expect and what to plan for. 

After you launch, it is important to build usage and adoption through awareness and training initiatives. Even with an intuitive digital library solution, a successful plan needs to include initiatives that:
  • Build awareness of the offerings and their benefits
  • Train people to access and use resources, whether they are in the office or off site using a mobile device
An awareness plan should include repeated communication through various channels such as practice groups, intranet or portal posts, and special launch events like an open house. Read here about an awareness plan that worked well for a large law firm

Ulitmately, after lauching it's a good idea to determine your ROI: 
  • First calculate expected annual savings: Total annual cost for status quo minus total annual cost for digital library. The factors in determining annual costs can include expenses for print volumes vs. eBooks, as well as costs for space, shipping and subscriptions. Costs can include salaries and wages, materials expenditures and operating expenses. If desired, you can explore lifecycle costs of traditional vs. digital materials, as well as recent expenditure, staffing and related statistics from the Association of Research Libraries
  • Then calculate percentage return on investment: Expected annual savings divided by total annual cost for status quo. 
It's important to carefully plan for a migration to digital content. It's also important to build awareness so that your digital content is used effectively. Ultimately, you want to be able to prove that any migration is successful by showing a positive ROI to the various stakeholders that control the purse strings. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

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, yet rewarding process - most of all because it got me thinking about my own leadership philosophy.

The process was also good for what it taught me about fitting full-length pieces into my everyday work. Admittedly, a lot of the writing happened on weekends when I had more time to fully devote to it. I suppose that's why it's so important to find a topic that interests you. Otherwise writing will feel like a chore and become an over-extension of the work week and ultimately cause burnout.

A couple of points of advice for anyone undertaking a full-length writing project as a law librarian:
  • Choose a topic that interests you - This cannot be overstated. 
  • Find a writing project with a reasonable deadline - I find that a deadline means that I make it a priority. 
  • Keep your writing muscle toned every day - After outlining, a full-length piece is naturally broken into shorter, more manageable subparts. Choose a subpart and devote a set amount of time to it each day.
  • Choose the best time of day for you to make progress - I can't start writing until after my first cup of coffee. But I need to start before there are too many demands on the day. This will be different for everyone, but make sure to carve out the time and guard it.
  • Have a RA help with the citations - Because of the various demands on my day, I focused on spending writing time working on the substantive parts of my chapter. I provided my research assistant with enough information in the footnote to know where the source came from, and I provided the original sources. This was well worth the money, and I'll never go back if I can avoid it. 
I spent just enough time on the book chapter to be happy to see it go off to the editor. My writing muscle is toned to the point where I am excited to maintain it by delving into another full-length piece on a different topic. Hopefully I can follow my own advice. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

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 access to information of traditional journal publishing has led to the open access revolution in which grant funding agencies (such as NIH) are increasingly requiring publications stemming from research they support to be made publically accessible. 

As part of the open-access movement, many academic disciplines now permit preprint publication of works in arXiv and similar scholarly repositories, as well as institutional archives.

Why is academia so far behind in terms of open access? Perhaps the simplest answer is that in academia promotion and tenure are still tightly linked with publishing in top-tier journals, which are largely well-established commercial venues. Faculty who choose to simply post their research on their personal or institutional websites or in archives like arXiv will find that those papers do not count towards their performance reviews for tenure and promotion.

As noted, one possible solution is to transfer the burden of subscription costs to the national government as a service to its citizens. Last year the government of Egypt launched an ambitious initiative called the Egyptian Knowledge Bank, described as “the biggest digital library in the world, housing contents of the most prominent publishing houses all over the world such as National Geographic, Discovery Cambridge, Oxford, Reuters, Britannica and others.” Instead of the American model in which each individual university purchases its own journal subscriptions and ordinary citizens have no access at all, the Egyptian government purchased national site licenses to a wide array of content, making it freely available to its citizens.