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November 30, 2005

Change in WisBlawg Email Delivery

To those of you who subscribe to WisBlawg via email:

I've decided to change the service I use to syndicate via email from Bloglet to FeedBlitz. I'm making the change because Bloglet, unfortunately, has not always been reliable. In addition, the layout of the FeedBlitz email messages should be a bit more organized.

Fortunately, you won't need to resubscribe because I'll be importing the addresses from Bloglet. However, you should receive a message from FeedBlitz prompting you to confirm your new subscription. Thanks for your patience.

Which Search Engine Should I Use When I'm Looking For...?

Information specialist, Phil Bradley has compiled a very useful guide to finding information with search engines.

The chart is divided into two columns: What do you need to find, and what do you already know? and then tells you What is the best resource to make use of?

For example, when you want a quick factual answer, Bradley lists several search engines, such as AskJeeves and Brainboost, that can provide it. Or if you want people's opinions on a subject, try Google Groups or Daypop. Bradley also notes which search engines offer RSS feeds for your searches.

This is a great resource for those who can't keep all the different search engines straight; So, pretty much everyone, I guess.

November 29, 2005

Compare States Open Records & Meetings Laws

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is has developed a handy little tool for comparing state open records and open meetings laws.

Keyword search or browse the topic outline. Select multiple states for a comparison of provisions such as "who can request records - purpose of request"

As with any legal information you find on the Internet, you'll want to verify the accuracy of the information before relying on upon it.

Source: PI Newslink

Track Packages via RSS

More shopping tips - this one from Jenkins Law Library Webblits

Track your holiday packages with RSS

This is a nifty little tool. Simple Tracking offers a way for you to track your holiday packages with RSS. Simple Tracking will let you plug in any UPS, USPS, FedEx or DHL number and it will either let you generate an RSS feed or immediately display your tracking information. I don't have any outstanding packages right now so I can't play, but if you're buying a lot online this holiday season you can give it a go.

For the Book Lover on Your List

I never know what to get my brother-in-law for the holidays. In desperation, I asked his wife hoping that she might know. Bingo - apparently, he wants books on the natural history of the Canadian Maritime Provinces. Not too surprisingly, she was at a loss where to look. Librarian to the rescue.

So I worked a little magic and came up with several interesting looking titles. But where to buy at the best price? Enter AddAll.com, a wonderful comparison shopping site for books, movies, and more. Simply enter the title, author, etc. and AddAll will return a list from online merchants sorted by lowest price. Shipping costs are also included.

But what to do when you don't know which book to buy for that special someone? If its fiction you seek, you're in luck. What Do I Read Next is a great fiction recommendation database available from the South Central Library System. Use it at any Madison area public library or remotely from home or office with your library card.

In addition to the standard author and title searches, What Do I Read Next offers some useful browsing options.

  • Do you know the title of her favorite book? With Help Me Find a Book, just type it in to find similar books.
  • Does he love a good legal mystery? Use Genre Search to see what's new.
  • How about a Newbery Award winner for the young person on your list? View the list in the Award Winners and Top Picks section.
  • Maybe she loves historical fiction. How about a novel set in 18th century London? With Who? What? Where? When? you can search by character, topic, setting, and time period.

For each title, you will find a plot summary, character names, genre, setting, time period, and more. Once you've found a couple of good ones, head over to AddAll.com and start shopping.

November 28, 2005

Sex Offender Registry to Include Addresses

Soon Wisconsin residents will be able to find out if any of their neighbors are sex offenders. The WI Department of Corrections sex offender registry, which started in 1997, will be adding addresses to its database starting on Thursday. The database contains about 17,800 sex offenders.

According to The Capital Times, the Web site currently lets people search by ZIP code, with no indication of where the offenders live within that area. When the Department of Corrections makes the change, people still will need to punch in their ZIP codes to bring up all the sex offenders in their area. Then they can scroll through the offenders to see where they live.

The Biggest Poinsettia You've Ever Seen

It's a close call, but I think that this year's poinsettia from our LexisNexis reps is even bigger than last year's model. Note the tiny looking volume of the Wisconsin Statutes Annotated that I placed nearby for comparison.

Felly's delivered the "tree" this morning. Come by to visit it, and us, before I either over or under water it to death. Or perhaps, one of our staff members with a greener thumb than I will take pity on it.

Our sincerest thanks to our LexisNexis team for brightening up the reference desk. It really is beautiful.

November 23, 2005

ALSO: An Awesome Site for Legal Research on the Internet

One of my favorite sites for researching law on the Internet is American Law Sources Online (ALSO).

ALSO has compiled an outstanding, well organized collection of links to freely available primary and some secondary legal resources for federal and state law. It includes case law, statutes, local ordinances, administrative code, forms, research guides, and more. See the Wisconsin Sources page.

Links to some Mexican and Canadian sources are also available.

Library, Info. Science & Technology (LISTA) Database Free from EBSCO

Kudos to EBSCO for making the database, Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts (LISTA) freely available on their Web site. As someone who writes and speaks about the use of technology in libraries, I use LISTA fairly often.


This world-class bibliographic database provides coverage on subjects such as librarianship, classification, cataloging, bibliometrics, online information retrieval, information management and more. Delivered via the EBSCOhost platform, LISTA indexes more than 600 periodicals plus books, research reports, and proceedings. With coverage dating back to the mid-1960s, it is the oldest continuously produced database covering the field of information science.
Source: Vancouver Law Librarian Blog

Low-Tech Privacy Tips

From inter alia:

Chris Hoofnagle, the Director of EPIC West, presents this nice Consumer Privacy Top 10 list of things you can do with little money, effort, or knowledge of technology. It's a great list with non-techie things you can do to protect your privacy.

November 22, 2005

Lawsuits Against Bloggers

Media Law Resource Center has compiled a list of libel and related lawsuits against bloggers.

Source: Depraved Librarian

A Dialog with the Audience

On Friday, I had the pleasure to talk with some librarians from the Southwest Wisconsin Library System on the topic of Blogging @ Your Library. Although the talk was centered around my Powerpoint presentation, it was the dialog with the attendees that really made the program, I thought.

Ironically enough, it was a technical glitch with the network that forced me to pause my presentation and engage these women in a conversation about themselves, their patrons, and how they hoped that a blog might create a bridge between them. When, finally, the network was restored, I was able to speak directly to their questions and concerns - within the structure of my Powerpoint presentation.

As presenters, we always hope for this kind of a connection with our audience. And now that I've got a fair number of presentations under my belt, I think I finally understand the secret: audience interaction.

You were hoping for something more profound? Sorry. It sounds like a no brainer, but it's a concept that a lot of presenters just don't get.

This is a concept that was really brought home to me at BlawgThink. As a speaker, they asked me not to use Powerpoint. Not use Powerpoint? I'd always used Powerpoint. What was wrong with Powerpoint?

I think I know now. Taken away from it, I realized how easy it was to use Powerpoint as a crutch to carry me through my presentations. My attention was directed at my Powerpoint, instead of where it should have been: my audience. I think a lot of speakers do this. I suspect that the BlawgThink organizers had figured this out, too.

Don't get me wrong - there is nothing inherently wrong with Powerpoint. I still plan to use it when I speak - not as a crutch, but as a tool for structuring the dialog with my audience.

DCLRC to Sell Discarded Law Books

The Dane County Legal Resource Center is having a moving sale. From librarian, Paula Seeger:
Does your office or firm library need law books? Take advantage of discarded sets from the Courthouse. In the upcoming weeks, as DCLRC and judges prepare for the move to the new courthouse, we will be discarding certain sets of books and individual volumes.

If you are interested in obtaining these sets (for a small donation to DCLRC), please send an email to dclrc.ref@wicourts.gov with your contact information. We anticipate have at least a couple sets of Wisconsin Reports 1st series available, along with other misc. items. For more information please contact DCLRC at the email above.

*1st come, 1st served
*You must pick up and transport the books with your own boxes and equipment by Jan. 6.

November 17, 2005

Milwaukee County Board Restores Some Court Funding

From Burning Ears Blawg:
The County Board overrode the County Executive's budget amendment vetoes and the future of the Milwaukee Legal Resource Center looks much brighter. Story from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

BlinkxTV Creates a "Virtual Lecture Space"

BlinkxTV, a search engine for audio and video content, has unveiled what SearchEngineWatch's Gary Price has coined a "virtual lecture space."

From Netimperative:

Search engine blinkx has formed agreements with several universities and an educational content partnership with the University Channel, to make hundreds of hours of academic audio content. . .

Blinkx.tv users can now enter a search on a specific thought, idea, or law, and jump to the exact point in a speech that it’s being discussed. . .

Universities from around the world are making content from the arts and humanities, as well as social, biomedical, and physical science disciplines, available through the partnership.

Source: SearchEngineWatch

WI State Bar's Fillable Forms Bank to Launch in December

Next month, the Wisconsin State Bar will be releasing the first practice area library (real estate) of its new online Fillable Forms Bank.

According to Inside the Bar, November 2005, the Forms Bank will incorporate nearly 2,000 electronic forms, sample language documents, and checklists developed by State Bar CLE Books.

This is a wonderful idea. Gathering these electronic forms in one easy-to-access place, ensuring that they are up-to-date, and making them available for fill-in-the-blank use just makes good sense.

November 16, 2005

Juror's View of the Chai Vang Trial

In another one from The Third Branch, Eileen Kilbane, deputy clerk in the Dane County Clerk of Courts Office, shares her experiences as a juror in the Chai Vang trial. "“I have seen how the court system works on a day-to-day basis and thought it would be interesting to see how it works from a juror's perspective," she observed.

From the article:

  • On being chosen as a juror: "Glad"” didn'’t come to mind when she first got the news that she had been selected to sit on a sequestered jury, 300 miles from home, in a case where security concerns were heightened and the media glare was bright, Kilbane acknowledged.

  • On her fellow jurors: "“We had a great group of jurors,"” Kilbane said. . . They spent their off hours during the next eight days swimming (with bailiffs), taking walks (with bailiffs), watching TV in a common room (with bailiffs), going out to lunch and dinner (with bailiffs) and reading newspapers "“that looked like Swiss cheese."”

  • On the emotional intensity: While the defendant, Vang, sat stoically throughout the trial, Kilbane said the witnesses were very emotional. "That was tough. Watching grown men and teenage boys break down on the stand was very hard to watch and not cry."

Small Claims Assistance Program Volunteers Talk

This month, The Third Branch takes a look at the experiences of Dane County Small Claims Assistance Program (SCAP) volunteers.

"“This is a walk-in program where unrepresented small claims litigants can get legal information -– but not legal advice, representation, or advocacy -– from volunteer lawyers and paralegals,"” explained Atty. Jennifer L. Binkley, co-chair of the Dane County Bar Association Delivery of Legal Services Committee. "“Its purpose is to assist pro se litigants and to make the entire small claims system run more efficiently."

Now in its second year, SCAP has assisted more than 300 people since it began operations in summer 2004. Every Tuesday from 9 to 11 a.m., litigants meet one-on-one with a volunteer from a revolving staff of approximately 40 local attorneys and paralegals.

The amount of effort litigants put into documenting evidence and filing forms (often in duplicate or triplicate) is apparent, and a bit overwhelming, even to the experts. "“I look at this form, and..."” [Assistant Attorney General Barbara L.] Oswald trails off, gesturing in utter confusion at the sample form spread before her. "“I have a law degree! I mean, there are eight different forms for garnishments."

November 15, 2005

Wex - A Legal Research Wiki

Wex, a collaboratively built, freely available legal dictionary and encyclopedia.

I heard about this at BlawgThink this weekend. Looks to me like Cornell has developed a legal research wiki. Excellent idea! But unlike the anyone-can-say-anything-variety wiki, Cornell is screening authors. Keep your eye on this one.

Thanks to Out of the Jungle for the link.

Madison Premier of Documentary Film After Innocence & Exoneree Discussion

From Keith Findley, Co-Director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project:

The Wisconsin Innocence Project is hosting the Madison premier of the award winning documentary film After Innocence on Thursday, November 17th at 7:00 p.m.

After Innocence tells the powerfully moving stories of the exonerated — innocent men wrongfully imprisoned for decades and then released after DNA evidence proved their innocence.

Directed by Academy-award nominated Jessica Sanders, this film interweaves the stories of seven exonerees as they struggle to rebuild their lives after having years taken away from them.

After the film, recent exonerees will share their personal experiences of life after exoneration.

Date: November 17, 2005
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Place: Wisconsin Historical Society (located across the street from Memorial Union on the library mall).
Cost: Admission is free

November 14, 2005

Revisor of Statutes Web Site New and Improved

Kudos to the Wisconsin Revisor of Statutes for its new and improved web site redesign. The organization is intuitive and the layout is both attractive and consistent.

In the handy features category, I especially like the Wisconsin Law Archive with quick links to Statutes & Acts back to 1969. The "go to" by citation boxes at the top left of the Statutes and Administrative Code are also handy.

"Web Site of Shame" to Identify Delinquent Taxpayers

There's nothing like the threat of public humiliation to get people to pay their back taxes - or so hopes the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, at least.

From the front page of today's Wisconsin State Journal:

More than 7,250 delinquent taxpayers got especially bleak news this week, when letters were sent out notifying them their names are about to be posted on the department's upcoming "Web site of shame."

The Web site will list the names, address and amount owed for all individual and corporate taxpayers who owe more than $25,00 in back taxes. . .

The site goes live on January 2nd at http://www.dor.state.wi.us.

Disturbing Post of the Day: Books Bound in Human Skin

Anthropodermic bibliopegy - the technical term for books bound in human skin. Ok, I'm a librarian and this one is even new to me. And I took a class on book binding in library school.

But a 3L at Harvard has written an interesting, albeit it disturbing, piece about this practice. From the article in the The Record, the Independent Newspaper at Harvard Law School:

While it's not clear how many extant books actually have been bound in human skin, many older libraries (such as the library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia which has four such books, including one with a visible tattoo) have such tomes in their collection, suggesting that anthropodermically bound books number somewhere in the hundreds. Many of these books were likely bound in the 18th or 19th centuries, though some may be centuries older, while a few may even be younger.

Thanks (I think) to my colleague Mary Jo Koranda for passing this on.

My Favorite Part of the Day

The other day, I asked my preschooler about his favorite part of the day. “Play time,” he responded. I smiled - not exactly the reply I was expecting. Then I thought - how little things change. Play time is one of my favorite parts of the day as a law librarian, too.

The toys I play with now are a little different then they used to be. Web sites, databases, and blogs fill my toy box now. Experimenting with these technologies and teaching others how to play nicely with them is both fun and rewarding for me.

Your play time might be different. But it’s important to find what you enjoy most about the profession and go with it. Let it inspire you. You know what they say about “all work and no play.”

  • Each month AALL Spectrum runs a "Member to Member" section in which law librarians are asked to answer a question about the profession. The above is my response to the question: What is your favorite part of the day as a law librarian? Why? I'm told it will appear in the December issue of Spectrum.

BlawgThink - My Blog and I Thank You

If I actually use one-tenth of the stuff I came away with at BlawgThink, I'll consider it a smashing success. This gathering of legal bloggers was, by far, the most invigorating conference I've ever attended. The sessions were informative and the guest list impressive.

But the best part was the networking with other blawggers. Yeah - you say that about every conference you go to - but this was some supercharged networking. In fact, it was built right into the the structure of day two which was based on the Open Space model. Imagine identifying everyone in the room who wants to talk about the same thing you do - then having a designated time to meet.

Among many other great conversations, the following were stand-outs for me:

Thanks again to organizers Dennis Kennedy and Matt Homann for inviting me to present at this amazing conference. My blog and I thank you.

November 10, 2005

Subscription Databases Free from your Local - and not so Local - Library

Legal and business information can be very expensive. That's why I'm a big believer in taking advantage of subscription databases available from your local public libraries. The library has already paid for them so you can use them for free. What a bargain!

Don't have time to trek all the way down to the library, you say? You may not have to! Just enter your library card number on the library's web site and you're in. Access databases containing an index to legal periodicals, full-text journal & news articles, business directories, medical info, recreational reading guide. Each library's collection of databases is unique.

Usually the only stipulation to using a library's databases remotely is that you hold one of their library cards. Each library imposes certain restrictions on who can obtain a card, often based residence.

However, I just learned of a library in Middletown, CT that allows anyone to register for a card, regardless of where they live. For a $35 annual fee, you can obtain a Godfrey Memorial Library "Scholar's Card" which entitles you to access the library's subscription databases.

The sources include newspaper archives (NYT, LA Times, Washington Post, etc), Marquis Who's Who, ProQuest'’s HeritageQuest Online, Columbia Gazetteer, etc. They might just have some databases that your local libraries do not.

Thanks to my UW Madison Libraries colleague, Nancy McClements for the tip.

November 9, 2005

Technology in the WI Courts Topic of Wisconsin Law & Technology Conference

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending/presenting at the Wisconsin Law and Technology Conference put on the Milwaukee Bar Association. It was the first time I had attended the annual conference and I must say I was impressed. With four simultaneous tracks, there was something for the tech novice to the tech expert.

At the lunch presentation we heard about the state of technology in the Wisconsin court system. John Voelker, Director of the State Courts Office spoke about the court's case management system (WCCA - a.k.a. CCAP) system, court reporting, and e-filing.

About the WCCA system, I was surprised to learn the Web site receives 2-3 million hits per day! The site, it seems, is used by everyone from legal professionals to singles doing a quick "background check" on their date as evidenced by the noticeable spike in use at bar time.

As we reported in August, some privacy advocates have raised concerns that the site makes available too much information which can be misinterpreted by the casual reader. Voelker reported that the committee appointed to study this issue is expected to issue its recommendations in early 2006.

Regarding court reporting, the court is developing pilot programs to address the shortage of court reporters. In two counties, digital recording systems are being tested.

We also received an update on the status of e-filing which is slowing being rolled out in Washington County. On this project, we also heard from Kristine Deiss, Washington County Clerk. Although the system has only been made available to one firm so far, is has so far been a success.

Voelker and Deiss emphasized that the e-filing system developed in Wisconsin is unique. Unlike other state's systems, our state system will integrate e-filings directly with the case management system (WCCA). Both believed that this would result in an increase in cost savings and accessibility.

November 7, 2005

Crime & Arrests in WI - 2004 Report

From DCLRC Blawg:
Reported Index crime decreased by 5 percent in 2004, including a 11.5 percent decrease in murder, according to the “Crime and Arrests in Wisconsin - 2004 Report” issued today. The report was prepared by the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance and is based upon monthly reports submitted by more than 370 law enforcement agencies within the State.

Search Books with Google Print

Despite pending lawsuits, Google Print has beta launched. As it's name indicates, with Google Print, you can search the content of selected books.

To see what it is all about, run a simple search for the word "blawg." Your results will include a handful of books containing that keyword. The relevant page(s) will be displayed (you may be prompted to register with Google to view them). Although many books are scanned in their entirety, you'll only be able to view two pages forward and two pages back from your keyword page. However, there is a link to bookstores which sell the whole book. The cover, table of contents and index are also available.

With the advanced search, you can also limit by title, author, publisher, publication date and ISBN.

November 3, 2005

eBay and Amazon.com for Research? You Bet

Genie Tyburski has written a useful article which appears in the November issue of e-LOC. In Answers in Unusual Places, she offers tips on using non-traditional sources such as eBay and Amazon.com as research tools.

Product descriptions in eBay, she advises, may contain information about manufacturers, citations for articles appearing in old magazines, text from the front or back cover of a book or from inside a dust jacket, old advertising slogans or other useful information. She offers advanced search tips to help you find these gems.

Amazon.com's "Search Inside the Book" lets you dig inside selected portions of some books. She recommends Amazon.com'’s A9 search engine which indexes Web results as well as books.

November 2, 2005

Evaluating Blogs

Turns out that the advice that librarians have been spouting for years about evaluating Web sites goes for blogs as well--
When it comes to blogs, no one can screen them for you so keep this advice in mind -— if you cannot ascertain the identity of the blogger, don't trust what you read without corroboration from a trusted source. Common sense goes a long way whether you're reading a blog, newsletter, newspaper, prospectus, etc. --- Wise words from Neil Squillante over at TechnoLawyer Blog
Another aspect of blog evaluation may lie in determining the influence of a blog - who is citing it. That's where a little tool called BlogPulse comes in handy. I've mentioned it before, but it's worth repeating. Its blog profiles will show you how active the blog is and how it ranks compared to other blogs. Nifty.

Supreme Court Rules Pro Se Prisoner Not Entitled to Law Library Access

In Kane v. Espitia, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a California inmate was not entitled to a new trial due to lack of access to a jail law library despite his repeated requests and court orders to the contrary.

The court did note that "Of course, he had declined, as was his right, to be represented by a lawyer with unlimited access to legal materials."

See the article in Bloomberg.com for more.

Source: Cincinnati Law Library Blog and Burning Ears Blawg

November 1, 2005

Upcoming Presentations

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. I've been up to my neck getting ready for presentations. I hope to see some of you at the following:

- November 2, 2005, All about Blogs: Using Blogs for Current Awareness and Communication, Workshop at Wisconsin State Law Library, Madison, WI - http://wsll.state.wi.us/aboutlib/tours.html

- November 8, 2005, Skyrocket Your Practice on a Shoestring: Blogs and Podcasting and 60 News Legal PC Tips, Gadgets & Websites in 60 Minutes, Wisconsin Law and Technology Conference, Milwaukee, WI - http://www.wilawandtechconference.org/

- November 11-12, 2005, Introduction to RSS and News Aggregators, BlawgThink 2005, Chicago, IL - http://www.lexthink.com/

BlogShares, a Fantasy Stock Market for Blogs

Anyone playing BlogShares, the fantasy stock market for blogs? I haven't dived in yet, but it looks like fun. Players get to invest a fictional $500, and blogs are valued by incoming links.

I've been following WisBlawg's BlogShares profile for the last few months. It's now supposedly worth $18,062.72. Ah, if only it were real!

Besides just being fun, BlogShares could be a useful tool for evaluating blog content. And its industry listings are also a useful index of legal blogs. Some industries of note include:

  • Law Practice - Blogs in this category discuss any of the numerous fields in the legal profession, or may discuss legal practice in general.
  • Law Libraries - Blogs in this category are maintained by law libraries or offer content focused on law libraries.
  • Legal Study/Research - Blogs in this category discuss legal studies, whether general or specialized, and may be independent studies, in connection to cases or practices, or may be due to attending law school.