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May 31, 2006

Metadata: What You Can't See Can Hurt You

One of most useful features of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin (LLAW) Newsletter is Cindy May's Recommended Readings. I can always find a few gems I've missed in her annotated list.

One article of interest is Metadata: What You Can't See Can Hurt You by Sharon Nelson and John Simek. Law Practice 32(2):28-29 (March 2006)

The authors discuss metadata in programs such as Word, WordPerfect, Excel, PowerPoint, and email, and implications for discovery and client relations. They suggest a couple of ways that people can purge unwanted metadata from their documents.

Create a Graph

From InterAlia:

Here's another extension of the Web 2.0-type Office products we've seen a lot of lately -- Create a Graph is a product of the National Center for Education Statistics -- so it's for kids and students, but that doesn't mean we can't use it, too. You can create 2-D, 3-D, or drop-shadow graphs, and you can export them to PDF, JPG, or other image formats. Just fill in the blanks with your data, and you're off.

Law School Podcasting - What Do Faculty Think?

This past semester, CALI (Center for Computer Assisted Legal Instruction) has conducted the Legal Education Podcasting Project where over 30 law faculty used podcasting in their courses.

They've followed up with a series of interviews with faculty about their experiences and their thoughts on how podcasting affected their students and their own teaching. To listen, go to CALIopolis, the CALI blog.

May 30, 2006

Staff Changes at the UW Law Library

In the wake of Sue Center's retirement as Assistant Director for Public Services, the UW Law Library staff is undergoing some major structural changes. In essence, we are moving from three departments (Technical Services, Public Services & Information Services) down to two (Technical Services & Public Services).

Many of our staff, including me, will be taking on new roles and responsibilities. Some of these include:
- Bill Ebbott has become Assistant Director of Public Services
- Bonnie Shucha (that's me) has moved into the Head of Reference position
- Cheryl O'Connor has shifted into a new Faculty Services Librarian position
- Jenny Zook has taken on a new specialty to become Reference & Instructional Services Librarian

It's a bitter-sweet transition. We know that the library won't be the same without Sue, but we believe that our new structure will better enable us to continue her legacy of service.

Assistant Director Sue Center Retires Leaving a Legacy of Service

Last Thursday was a very special day for the Law Library. We held a celebration in honor of Sue Center, Assistant Director of Public Services, as she retires from the library after 35 years of service. Yep - you read right - 35 years of service.

After an open reception here in the library, the library staff enjoyed a nice dinner at Porta Bella. There were inspirational words aplenty including those from Law Library Director Steve Barkan, Librarians Cheryl O'Connor & Mary Jo Koranda, Dean Ken Davis, as well as from Sue and her husband Chuck (pictured).

In all the remarks, one theme arose over and over: Sue's dedication to the library, the law school, and our students, faculty and staff. She has truly left a legacy of service.

May 25, 2006

BooksOnPoint Indexes Web Sites of Legal Publishers

The folks at IndexMaster have beta released a new service called BooksOnPoint which indexes the content of legal publishers' web sites. Unlike IndexMaster, which provides the full index and/or table of contents of legal texts, BooksOnPoint only retrieves content freely available on a publisher web page, such as description, publication details or summary table of contents. But BooksOnPoint is free, although registration is required.

So what is BooksOnPoint good for? Finding print-based books on a given topic. "Print - how quaint," you say. Just keep in mind that many secondary law books still only exist in print format.

You probably still want to start your search for books in a library catalog. Be aware, however, that the catalog might not contain all of the same information as the publishers Web site, such as a chapter table of contents. Consider that while there may not be a whole book about a given topic, but there may be a chapter about it. BooksOnPoint could help you find it.

BooksOnPoint currently indexes about 30 publishers and over 10,000 titles. Although the name suggests books, it will contain many "titles" including journals, articles, newsletters and more.

From developer Mike Mingo:

I am determined to provide a universal search tool to supplement the on-line services and assist legal researchers by quickly delivering relevant on-point secondary materials. I am equally determined to provide the publishers with a useful marketing tool to assist them in getting their information in the hands of researchers who have a specific need that they can provide, at any given time.

This Weekend is Bratfest!

My family and I are gearing up for an annual Madison tradition - Bratfest!

Once again, this year's fest will be held on Willow Island at the Alliant Energy Center. You just can't beat $1 for Brat (meat or veggie) or Hot Dog.

AALL Launches a Speakers Directory

Need a speaker for your next meeting? Why not try a law librarian.

The American Association of Law Librarians has launched a Speakers Directory. So far there aren't too many speakers listed, but I suspect that numbers will quickly increase. Any AALL member can suggest a speaker.

The main page has an alphabetical list, but if you click Search at the top, you can do a search by name or area of expertise. I'd also like to see a location search. A FAQ about the directory is also available.

Justice Bradley's Reflections on the Sir Richard May Seminar on International Law and International Courts

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley of the Wisconsin Supreme Court has written a piece for the International Judicial Monitor describing her experience at the first Sir Richard May Seminar on International Law and International Courts at The Hague, Netherlands last September.

"It was simply the best judicial education opportunity that I have ever experienced," she writes. Read the article to learn why.

Thanks to my colleague, Bill Ebbott, for the tip.

May 23, 2006

"I Do This Every Day, I Should Do It Better Than Other People"

Reuters has a nice story on the value librarians - this time it's the information professionals at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center who provide searches for cancer patients. 95% of patients surveyed indicated that the librarian had provided them with some new information.

From the article:

"This demonstrates," said [Librarian Ruti] Volk, "that even though the information is supposedly so accessible and everything is on the web, people still need the help of a professional to find information that is relevant to them that is current and accurate and authoritative."

Librarians have access to resources sometimes unavailable to the public such as subscription-based databases. But the biggest advantage, Volk said, is expertise in searching. "I do this every day, I should do it better than other people," she said.

May 22, 2006

Happy 2nd, WisBlawg!

On Saturday, WisBlawg celebrated its second birthday.

No one brought in a birthday cake, but - hey - there was some coffee cake in the staff lounge this morning. I'll take it.

Google Blog Search Adds Date Restrictors

Google has revved up it's blog search engine with the addition of date restrictors. Go to the Advanced Blog Search page to search posts written within a specific date range.

While Google blog search is still my most often used blog search tool, I agree with ResearchBuzz that it could benefit from some of the advances features available in regular Google. I'd like to be able to search blogs within (or excluding) a particular domain or subdomain.

Source: ResearchBuzz

A Blog as a Source for Legislative History?

If you've ever compiled a state legislative history, you know that determining legislative intent can be difficult. It looks like researchers may have another source from which to draw, a blog - at least in Utah.

From Robert Ambrogi's LawSites:

With the launch of this "semi-official" blog, The Senate Site, Utah's state Senate became the first legislative body to make blogging a tool for lawmaking, Stateline.org reports.

"Joining the nation's growing proliferation of political Web logs, or blogs, the Utah site was the first of its kind to strike up a digital dialogue that included entries not just from state Senate Republicans but also from minority Democrats and lawmakers in the opposite chamber. Unfolding comment by comment, the unofficial daily log often paralleled official debate taking place under the dome -- with the added bonus of anonymity."

May 18, 2006

Lawbby - MySpace for Lawyers

"If MySpace is where teens and college students meet and mingle, Lawbby says it is "where lawyers mingle," whether for business or pleasure. Like MySpace, users can create their own profiles and groups, post photos and create blogs." - Robert Ambrogi's Lawsites

It looked interesting, so I gave it a whirl. If you decide to create a profile, let me know!

May 17, 2006

"Cookie Therapy Works Again"

From The Third Branch: Dodge County Judge Andy Bissonnette reports on the remarkable effect of a plate of treats in small claims court.

Check out the P.S. - too funny.

Hmong Legal Glossary

From the Wisconsin Court System's The Third Branch:

The Director of State Courts Office in April published the first Hmong-English legal glossary in the United States. It defines more than 800 common court terms and suggests equivalent Hmong phrases for many of them. . .

The glossary defines general court terms and specific terms for criminal, juvenile, family, eviction, small claims, probate, and deportation cases. The equivalent Hmong phrases will help court interpreters develop common usages and attain the speed necessary for simultaneous interpretation. It also will be used by court interpreter programs in Wisconsin and Minnesota for training Hmong interpreters and helping them prepare for the oral certification exam. . .

The 75-page glossary can be downloaded from the court's Web site.

LexisNexis U.S. & Canadian RSS Feeds

It seems that LexisNexis has unveiled some Canadian RSS feeds, including new Butterworths Titles, The Lawyers Weekly (headlines from the weekly legal newspaper), Supreme Court of Canada Service (case digests) and more.

U.S. feeds are available from LexisNexis Mealeys, including general news, legal trends, and numerous Mealey's litigation reports.

Now if only Lexis (and Westlaw) would hurry up and offer RSS as a delivery option from their clipping services.

Source: Library Boy

PC to Phone Calls Free on Skype Until Year's End

I've been a Skype user for a while. Skype (rhymes with "type") is a proprietary peer-to-peer Internet telephony (VoIP) network. Basically, it allows you to call people for free using your computer to connect to theirs. See my earlier post.

Now Skype has announced that you can also use your computer to call any landline or cell phone within the US and Canada free until the end of the year. Very nice.

Source: Law.com's Legal Blog Watch

Law Reviews & Journals on the Web

Thanks to Wendy Nobunaga from the USC Law Library for compiling a list of law reviews and journals on the Web. Codes indicate what is available at each site:
F = Full-text A = Abstracts T = Table of Contents S = Subscription Information

The list is divided into:

  • general law reviews
  • subject specific law reviews
  • commercial law journals
  • foreign law journals
  • ABA journals and newsletters
  • general interest and computing periodicals
  • e-journal locating services

Thanks to UW Law Library Director, Steve Barkan for the tip

May 16, 2006

Turn Web page into a PDF Document

HTML2PDF is a nifty little tool that converts any HTML webpage into a PDF document. See today's WisBlawg in PDF for example.

I can imagine a few of uses for this tool: 1) To digitally archive a web page as it exists today; or 2) to capture a web page for an off-line presentation; 3) to get a clean print for those pages that don't print correctly from your browser. Any other ideas?

Source: LibrarianInBlack

Article: Looking for Info on Wisconsin Legislation

Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin member, Carol Schmitt has written an excellent article on Looking for Info on Wisconsin Legislation. It appears in the May 2006 issue of the Wisconsin Lawyer.

The piece looks at some of the major changes and updates to the Wisconsin Legislature Web site and introduces researchers to additional sites such as the UW Law Library's link for legislative drafting records, the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, and the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

May 15, 2006

Freed With the Help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, Chris Ochoa Earns His Law Degree

UPDATE: ABC News selects Chris Ochoa as "Person of the Week"

JS Online has a nice story about University of Wisconsin law student, Chris Ochoa, who this weekend earned his law degree, becoming only the second man in America to be freed from prison by DNA evidence to do so. He was freed from prison in 2001 with the help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project at the UW Law School.

The UW Madison News also had a nice piece which reads:

Keith Findley and John Pray, co-directors of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, says Ochoa's journey through the legal system has been remarkable. Pray was Ochoa's lead lawyer.

"Spending years in prison for a crime you didn't commit is a very damaging experience. That Chris was able to get out of prison, complete his undergraduate degree and then make it through law school speaks volumes about his character," Findley says. "We are so lucky to have had Chris as a client, a student - and soon, a colleague in the profession. He has taught us a lot about the criminal justice system, about what it means to be a lawyer, and about how to handle overwhelming adversity with strength, grace and compassion."

Blogs as Evidence

Ken Strutin, Director of Legal Information Services for the New York State Defenders Association, has compiled a nice summary of how blogs have been considered by the courts.

The article, "Blogs Raise New Questions About the Line Between Public and Private," appears in the Technology Today section (page 5) of the May 9, 2006 New York Law Journal. It is also available by subscription atlaw.com and Westlaw.

Source: New York Supreme Court Criminal Term Library Blog

Wall Street Journal & Other Factiva Content Finally Available to Law Schools via LexisNexis

Good news for law students, faculty, and staff: the Wall Street Journal and other Factiva content is finally available via LexisNexis to law schools.

From the press release: Beginning May 12, your students, faculty and library staff will have access to the following Factiva sources:

Publication Name:
- Asian Wall Street Journal
- Barron's
- Dow Jones Business News
- Dow Jones Capital Markets Report
- Dow Jones Corporate Filings Alert
- Dow Jones Emerging Markets Report
- Dow Jones International News
- Dow Jones News Service
- Reuters EU Highlights
- Reuters Health E-Line
- Reuters Washington Daybook Report
- The Wall Street Journal Europe
- The Wall Street Journal Sunday
- The Wall Street Journal
- Reuters News

May 11, 2006

Blogs v. Intranets for Internal Staff Communication

As a follow-up to my presentation on blogs at their annual meeting last week, the Association of Legal Administrators invited me to participate in a forum on blogs. I'd like to share one of the questions I received:

Question: If a blog is as good as an intranet for communicaions with staff, why not stick to an intranet? The intranet seems to have more potential for storing information for staff like policy manuals. [In the presentation, I mentioned that blogs could be used for internal staff communication.]

My response: An Intranet is a tool for internal communication - a blog can be also. They are not mutually exclusive.

If your Intranet is serving your needs, then stick with it. But there is no reason that you couldn't incorporate a blog into your Intranet if desired. Not every firm has an Intranet. Because blogs are very easy to create/maintain, and very inexpensive, they might offer a smaller firm a nice way to create an internal communications tool.

Blogs are hot right now in the legal community. Some folks want to jump on the bandwagon while others want nothing to do with what they see as a flash-in-the-pan fad. A blog is simply one of many communication tools at your disposal.

As I mentioned in my presentation: Don't rush out to create a blog just so you can say you have a blog. BUT - conversely - don't avoid this potentially useful technology just because it's a blog.

Take a step back from the hype before evaluating whether this tool is right for you.

May 8, 2006

Trading in Your Old Cell Phone for Cool Stuff

So you just got a cool new cell phone, but what do you do with the old one? Trade it in for something you want with these services:

- RIPMobile From their site:

You tell us what old (and not-so-old) mobile phones you have sitting in a drawer or on a shelf around the house. We calculate the value of those phones (some PDAs have value too), and tell you what they are worth (we pay you in RIPMobile points" - a "point" is worth a dollar). You then send those phones and their accessories in to us so we can inspect and test them. We can only pay you for working phones and PDAs, but we can recycle ALL mobile devices you send us, so don't throw any away just because they aren't valuable - they ALL have toxic materials in them.

Looks like they've got Circuit City & Starbucks gift cards or PayPal deposit.

- ReCellular From their site:

ReCellular Inc. is the largest recycler and reseller of used wireless phones and accessories in the wireless industry. Now you can Trade-in your old cell phone worry free! We walk you through the steps on how to trade in your old cell phone for Best Buy digital dollars. We also provide free shipping labels for your convenience.

I haven't tried either of these services, so I can't attest to quality. My old cell phone is a dinosaur and I doubt I'd get much if anything for it. But I may take advantage of the recycling services anyway.


Here's another one:

- Shelter Alliance: Recycle your cell phone and help local domestic violence and sexual assault shelters at the same time.

Thanks to Judge Daniel Anderson for the tip

Podcasting Legal Guide

From Law Dawg Blawg:

Colette Vogele and Mia Garlick are the authors of Podcasting Legal Guide: Rules for the Revolution (2006) (38 p., PDF), published under a Creative Commons license. According to the Introduction, "[t]he purpose of this Guide is to provide [readers] with a general roadmap of some of the legal issues specific to podcasting." It is divided into four sections:

* Legal Issues In Creating Your Own Podcast
* Legal Issues Surrounding How You Distribute Your Podcast
* Basic Background to Podcasting
* Background & Further Resources

May 4, 2006

Storage and Transfer of Large Files

In WSLL's monthly Tech Tip in Brief, Librarian Heidi Yelk offers recommendations on the Storage and Transfer of Large Files.

There are dozens of free services on the web that allow users to upload files and make them available for later pick up. Maximum size limits vary. While some services allow free transfers up to 2 gigabytes, the average maximum is around 50 megabytes. Generally, these sites require no registration.

Here's how it works: A user goes to the service's website; enters the email address of the person they want to send the file to; and uploads the file from their computer to the service's website via the browse feature. The service then either produces a URL for the file which can be shared with others, and/or sends an email to the recipient containing a web-enabled (i.e. clickable) URL and directions on how to access the file on the Internet. Depending on the service, the file may be saved on the remote server for up to 30 days - the average is seven days.

Heidi recommends YouSendIt. Others are listed on the Creative Guy blog.

Spanish Language Circuit Court Forms

"The Director of State Courts Office recently introduced sixteen Spanish language circuit court forms on the court system's website. The forms were selected by a subcommittee composed of members of the court system's Interpreter Committee and Records Management Committee, to help meet the growing need for Spanish language court forms."

Read more at WSLL @ Your Service.

Learn Like a Child

"Learn all the time without even thinking about it. We are born to learn, but somewhere along the way many of us pick up the idea that we must be taught in order to learn. We think that if someone doesn't stand up in front of us and talk to us with either a chalkboard or PowerPoint slides, we cannot learn. We must regain our sense of wonder and our desire to learn."

-- Roy Tennant, "Strategies for Keeping Current"

I think that we can all take a lesson from our children on this one. I'm constantly amazed at how quickly and easily my kids pick up on things.

Thanks to Jenkins Law Library Webblits for the link.

May 3, 2006

Wikocracy - Rewrite the Law Your Way

If you could change the text of the Patriot Act, how would you do so? Well, now is your chance. "Wikocracy is an experiment to see how the law would develop if anybody could change it."

Upload the text of any law (or go with one that someone else uploaded) and start making changes. One person's changes can be revised or reversed by the next. The following have been already been "wikocracy-ized"

- The Constitution of the United States of America
- Roe v. Wade
- The Digital Millennium Copyright Act

Source: Law Librarian Blog

Blogging Presentation at Association of Legal Administrators' Annual Meeting

I'm just back from Montreal where I had the pleasure to speak at the Association of Legal Administrators Annual Meeting on Monday afternoon. As promised, here are the PowerPoint slides from my session. "Blogs: The Hot New Technology for Communication and Information."

I thought that the session was very well attended and was pleased to learn that it was the session of the day. There were some great questions from the audience members, which included none other than Nathan W. Burke from lawfirmblogging.com Larry Bodine of Larry Bodine's Professional Services Marketing Blog.

In a post on his blog, Larry picked up on something that I said in the session: "Blogger is being overrun with spam blogs and readers avoid it." That sounds a bit more controversial than I meant it to be. While it is true that "splogs" (machine generated spam blogs) account for 9% of all new blogs created, and that most of these take advantage of Blogger because it is free, I didn't mean to imply that Blogger was "bad."

Before I explain, I'd like to make the distinction between blogs that both use the Blogger "software" AND are hosted by Blogger (look for "blogspot" in the URL) versus those that only use the Blogger "software" while being hosted elsewhere. As Bob Ambrogi points out in a comment to Larry's post, the latter is not problematic. My concerns about Blogger apply to those hosted by Blogger using the blogspot domain. I apologize that I didn't make that clear.

I simply meant that blogs hosted by Blogger have a harder time establishing credibility than those that don't. The fact is that some readers are put off by the blogspot url either because they have been scared off by too many Blogger "splogs" or, more likely, they believe that "if this blogger was serious, they would have shelled out a few bucks on their blog." Valid or not - there it is.

Are they some very popular, professional blogs that are hosted by Blogger? Yes. But, I still contend that if you created one today, you'd have a more difficult time being taken seriously than if you hosted it elsewhere. Why take that chance when there are other relatively inexpensive (or free in the case of WordPress), more respected alternatives?

How's that for a long-winded explanation?

ALA members who are interested in learning more, I invite you to participate in the post-conference forum about blogs and their place in the firm. You ask questions and I'll (try) to answer them.