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June 29, 2007

American Lotus in Bloom

Lisa Pfaff, our Acquisitions Assistant, snapped this lovely photo this morning of a blooming American lotus at the UW-Madison Botany Garden.

June 28, 2007

Audio from Selected Courts to be Available on PACER this Summer

"Continuing its efforts to enhance the transparency of courtroom proceedings, the federal Judiciary is about to launch a pilot project to make digital audio recordings publicly available online," reports The Third Branch.

Five pilot project courts will begin loading the audio files into their CM/ECF systems later this summer where they will be available via PACER. During the six-to-12-month pilot project, access to the audio files will cost 16 cents--eight cents for accessing the docket sheet and another eight cents for selecting the audio file.

The five pilot project courts are:

  • U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maine
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Alabama
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina

Source: Legal Dockets Online Blog

June 22, 2007

Collect, Manage & Cite your Sources with Zotero

I recently learned about Zotero, free, easy-to-use Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources, and I must say that I'm impressed. It is product of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.

Basically, you download a little extension for Firefox (sorry IE folks) and Zotero becomes embedded in your browser. Then whenever you come across a web page or citation you want to save, just click a small icon in Firefox's location bar (to the right of the URL) to save the citation and link in Zotero (see image). You can organize your sources into folders and subfolders. Add notes if you want.

Zotero works automatically with most online catalogs and a handful of databases, including a few law-related ones: HeinOnline, GPO's e-CFR, Supreme Court cases from Cornell's Legal Information Institute, and patents from the USPTO. And they are working on making it compatible with Westlaw and LexisNexis. For now, you can always manually add citations if no automatic translator is available.

Similar to EndNote or RefWorks, you can easily compile a bibliography with your citations in Zotero. Although it doesn't current support the Bluebook citation style, I've been told that they are working on it.

To learn more, check out the video tutorial.

June 21, 2007

Recent WI Attorney General Opinions

WI Attorney General Van Hollen has recently issued several new opinions - two formal and one informal. They are available on the Attorney General's web site.

I created a crude RSS feed using Ponyfish. It's not pretty, but it will send notification when there is a new opinion posted on the web site.

AudioCaseFiles Free This Summer

To encourage new users, AudioCaseFiles, a web site of downloadable MP3 files of court opinions, is available at no charge this summer.

This service, which is aimed at law students, provides recordings of most of the opinions that appear in many law school first year course casebooks. Looks like there are a couple hundred so far, but the company has plans to add lots more, including cases from 2L and 3L casebooks.

Downloading the cases to your iPod is very easy and the voice recording the case is pleasant - not a computer generated voice. I did a blog search for AudioCaseFiles to see what students thought about it. There wasn't too much talk about it, but all reactions were positive. Most liked to be able to exercise or do other things while listening.

UW Law School Legal Studies Research Paper Series

A new issue of the SSRN UW Law School Legal Studies Research Paper Series was released yesterday. Articles include:

  • "Renegotiations and Settlements: Dr. Pangloss' Notes on the Margins of David Campbell's Papers" by STEWART MACAULAY

  • "Constitution-Making, Democracy and the Civilizing of Unreconcilable Conflict: What Might We Learn from the South African Miracle?" by HEINZ KLUG

  • "New Governance & Legal Regulation: Complementarity, Rivalry, and Transformation" by DAVID M. TRUBEK and LOUISE G. TRUBEK

  • "The Transformation of Statutes into Constitutional Law: How Early Post Office Policy Shaped Modern First Amendment Doctrine" by ANUJ C. DESAI

  • "Hard Law & Soft Law in International Taxation" by ALLISON CHRISTIANS

  • "Freedom to Provide Health Care Services within the EU: An Opportunity for a Transformative Directive" by LOUISE G. TRUBEK and TAMARA K. HERVEY (University of Sheffield - Faculty of Law)

June 20, 2007

Google Can Translate Entire Web Pages

Here's another nifty new Google tool: Google Translate. It can translate selected text or an entire web page.

I could see this being really useful for viewing foreign laws on the Web when English translations aren't available. Of course you wouldn't rely 100% on the translation, but at least it would give you the gist. I tried the French Constitution (via the Constitution Finder) and it seemed to do a pretty fair job.

Source: Law Librarian Blog

WisconsinEye Set to Start Cable Broadcast Next Week

wieye.jpg According to today's Wisconsin State Journal, WisconsinEye could start broadcasting gavel-to-gavel coverage from the state Capitol to cable-television viewers as early as next Tuesday. WisconsinEye began broadcasting from its web site about a month ago.

From the article:

[Chris] Long, president and chief executive officer of WisconsinEye, sees the network becoming a state-based C-SPAN by providing an unfiltered look at state government, and by producing original programming about Wisconsin life, culture and community.

"One of the primary contributions we can make is to be a statewide platform for the circulation of ideas," Long said. "It's a very old-school idea."

Lawmakers say they welcome the coverage because they expect it to spur more participation in government by state residents.

And after several years of strained relations between Democrats and Republicans -- evidenced by occasional shouting matches, name calling and even the yanking of a microphone to end debate -- they hope it's a catalyst to improve lawmakers' manners.

Free Webinars for Librarians on Writing and RSS

SirsiDynix is offering a series of free Webinars for information professionals. There are two particularly interesting ones coming up:

June 19, 2007

2006 Wisconsin Distinguished Document Award

Each year, the Wisconsin Library Association Government Information Round Table presents the Wisconsin Distinguished Document Award. It is presented each spring to a Wisconsin state or local government document published during the preceding year that, among other criteria, contributes significantly to the expansion of knowledge; provides inspiration and pleasure to an identifiable readership; contributes to public understanding of government agencies; and is distinguished by the clarity of its presentation, its typography and design, and its overall appeal.

This year it was a tie:

Honorable mentions:

  • The Forest Where We Live: Growing a Legacy. Produced by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; written by Natasha Kassulke. [Madison, Wis.?]: Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine, Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources, 2006. 24 p.
    WiDocs number: FOR.6/2:U 72/2/2006
    Also in the August/September 2006 issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources, WiDocs number NAT.4:1977-

  • Building Safer Communities. Madison, Wis.: Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance, [2006]. 20 p.
    WiDocs number: CRI 2.6/2:C 66/2006

  • Wisconsin Ethics Board website. [Madison, Wis.: Wisconsin Ethics Board.]

Cap Times Article on Social Networking at UW Law Library, Etc.

While I was away on vacation last week, the Capital Times ran an article on social networking in libraries. The UW Law Library was one of the libraries featured, along with Wendt Library and the South Central Library System.

From the article:

Libraries have long struggled with a stuffy reputation, but on the UW-Madison campus and in some public branches, librarians are taking a decidedly fresh approach to attracting patrons by using social networking sites...

To see libraries plugged in to this trendy social circle is a little surprising, but librarians say it's just the newest way to reach out to their patrons and promote library services...

"It's definitely a different image for a library," Shucha said. "You don't have to be the stodgy librarian with the bun in the hair. If (patrons) are not going to come to you, you have to come to them."

In addition to WisBlawg, another of our social networking initiatives which wasn't mentioned in the article is our IM and chat reference service for students, faculty, and staff.

LRB to Put 2005 Drafting Records on Web

More news from the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau: According to Allan Marty, the LRB and LTSB (Legislative Technology Services Bureau) are in the process of putting the 2005 Legislative Drafting Records on the LRB website. Allan also noted that "if everything goes as planned we would probably put all sessions that we have in electronic format up also and then continue to add new sessions as they become available. We might even be able to add the current acts as they are completed."

In the meantime, if you need a record, you can call the LRB Reference Section at (608)266-0341 and one of the Research Analysts will help you get the record by email or CD.

Drafting Records from the 1999/2000 through 2003/2004 legislative sessions are currently available on the UW Law Library web site.

June 18, 2007

Change in Terms for RSB Move

I spoke with LRB Chief Steve Miller this afternoon and he informed me that there has been some changes regarding the Revisor of Statutes move. As I posted earlier, in an amendment to the proposed 2007 state budget (Senate Bill 40), the Wisconsin Revisor of Statutes Bureau is slated to be eliminated as an agency.

As reported last week by the Wisconsin Law Journal, if passed, the workload would be split amongst the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) and the Joint Legislative Council (JLC) - with no additional personnel to handle the increased workload.

I've since learned from Steve that per a recent Joint Finance Committee motion, all RSB duties are now to be transferred to the LRB. Additionally, three RSB staff members will transfer to the LRB (of seven employees total, three more will retire and the other will take a position elsewhere).

Steve sounded very positive about the transfer of duties and staff. When I asked him about the RSB's project to digitize the back issues of the Wisconsin Administrative Code, he felt optimistic that it would continue. He was committed to furthering projects that would benefit users. And given LRB's progressive nature on other technology projects, such as podcasting, I'm inclined to feel optimistic, too.

Wisconsin Blue Books Digitized Back to 1853

WIBlueBks.jpg The University of Wisconsin Digital Collections has recently digitized the full text of the Wisconsin Blue Books, going back to 1853. Read more about it in the Wisconsin State Journal.

June 6, 2007

CALI Survey of Law Student Use of Faculty Podcasts

The results of the 2007 CALI Legal Education Podcast survey are now available. (Well, ok - they've been available for a while now and I'm just getting around to posting about them.)

Between March and May of 2007 CALI surveyed law students who took courses in which faculty had podcast lectures as part of the Legal Education Podcasting Project. Some of the more interesting findings included:

  • Although 1.7% of students surveyed did indicate that they attended class less often, the vast majority, 82.5%, attended class the same amount and 5% even indicated that they attended class more often than they would have without the podcast. I've heard that some faculty fear that if podcasted lectures are available, students would skip class knowing that they could listen later. It would seem that this fear is unfounded.
  • More students used portable MP3 players to listen to podcasts than in last year's survey (24% vs. 17%), but the PC was the primary listening device.
  • 75% of students rated podcasts value as EXCELLENT or ABOVE AVERAGE. This is consistent with last year's findings.

June 4, 2007

More on the Proposed Elimination of the Revisor of Statutes Bureau

There is an article in the May 28th edition of the Wisconsin Law Journal on the proposed elimination of the Revisor of Statutes Bureau. If passed, the workload would be split amongst the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) and the Joint Legislative Council (JLC) - with no additional personnel to handle the increased workload.

According to LRB Chief, Stephen R. Miller, his department would assume the bulk of the revisor's responsibilities. He also expected the transition to be relatively smooth given the LRB's current obligations, which include the drafting of bills, amendments and resolutions.

"It's seems a logical fit which makes a lot of sense," said Miller, who noted that many states have combined drafting and revision departments. "This isn't something to be taken lightly, but I'm confident we can keep the level of service just as high, and maybe even improve on it."...

While both Miller and [JLC staff director Terry C.] Anderson appear receptive to the merger, [Deputy Revisor Bruce] Hoesly and [Revisor of Statutes Bruce] Munson have reservations, which extend beyond the potential elimination of their jobs.

"I haven't seen a mass movement in opposition of the proposal, but there are questions as to how seamlessly the transition will be made, especially with no revisor personnel expected to transfer into either department," said Hoesly.

I'm concerned about this transition as are many other law librarians. While I expect that publication of the statutes, administrative code and register will be managed elsewhere, it's the extra stuff about which I'm concerned. I'm talking about the expert research assistance that the RSB staff offers.

Take superseded admin code sections. Short of doing a legislative history, researching superseded WI admin code sections is one of the most difficult types of legal research imaginable. And, yes, we do get these questions with some regularity. When the admin code gets updated, old pages are pulled from the binders. Most libraries toss them, but a few, like ours, do keep them. We put them into folders based on the date they were removed. To reconstruct an old code section, then, you have to know the exact date that the language in question was changed. Trying to figure this out can be mind-boggling - BUT - luckily, the friendly staff at the RSB are usually willing to lend a hand.

In fact, to the delight of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin, the RSB has been digitizing the back issues of the admin code which will make the process much easier for the researcher. Or should I say, would have made the process much easier - who knows where this project will end up - if anywhere. Who will be available to answer our questions now?

Update: The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has posted a memo to the Joint Committee on Finance summarizing the financial implications of eliminating the RSB. The last line of the summary reads:

Adoption of provision LRBb004/2, modified as indicated above, would result in a reduction to SB 40 of $925,400 GPR in 2008-09 and 10.0 GPR positions annually.

[Is that provision # a typo? Is it referring to LRB b 0074/2?]