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.