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."