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July 27, 2007

5 Tips to Increase RSS Subscribers

Do you or your organization offer any RSS feeds? If so, take a look at 5 Tips to Increase RSS Subscribers which I learned about today over at LibrarianInBlack.

The tips include:
1) Make it stand out
2) Offer a full feed
3) Subscriber count
4) Multiple buttons
5) Email Subscription

I agree with LiB that they are all good tips except for #3. I'm not big on subscriber counters either. If you have a high number of subscribers, it just seems like you're showing off. If your subscribers are few, it just looks sad.

But I can enthusiastically endorse the others, especially tip #5. Not every potential reader is into RSS so it makes tons of sense to offer an email subscription option also (it's really easy - check out FeedBlitz). More than half of those who subscribe to WisBlawg do so via email.

Free Information for the Taking

There is a very good article on CNet about all the wonderful resources and services you can get for free at or from public libraries. It includes databases, e-books, audio books, and "your own personal librarian" (i.e. reference assistance).

Source: Oregon Legal Research

July 23, 2007

How Would You Look as a Simpson?

Ever wondered how you'd look as a character on the Simpsons? Now you can find out at Simpsonizeme.com. Upload a head shot, check a few preferences, and poof - you're Simpsonized. That's me on the right.

This is really cool. It actually analyzes your photo and creates a pretty good representation (I thought mine was anyway). The photo has to be a close-up of your face with a minimum resolution of 640 x 480 pixels.

Source: Wisconsin State Journal (7/22/07)

Today in Legal History

A collaboration between FindLaw and Justice Talking brings us Today in Legal History. This blog shares a daily legal history factoid along with links to related resources.

Source: Law Dawg Blawg

July 20, 2007

Google Scholar Hacks

Wendt Library Blog has some good hacks for Google Scholar for UW-Madison users.

By simply changing your preferences, you can beef up your search results by adding full-text links from UW-Madison library databases. And now, you can export your search results to RefWorks.

Bypassing Disclaimer Screen in CCAP

Proof and Hearsay, the blog from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel staff on legal issues, offers another handy CCAP search tip: how to look at individual case records without having to click on the disclaimer screen for every new case that comes up.

Installing a Firefox script using Greasemonkey is required. That may sound scary, but step by step instructions are provided.

Comparing the State Budget Versions

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has prepared a memorandum comparing 2007-09 budget recommendations of the Governor, Joint Committee on Finance, Senate, and Assembly. Comparisons are shown in the following areas:

  • All funds appropriations
  • General fund appropriations
  • Tax and fee changes
  • Bonding authorizations
  • Structural deficits going into the 2009-11 biennium

Source: The Wheeler Report

July 19, 2007

Wisconsin Union Blend Blog Discusses Instructional Technology at UW-Madison

Wisconsin Union Blend is a new blog where "members of the UW-Madison teaching and instructional technology communities to come together and talk about the campus issues that impact our respective fields."

I learned about it this morning when my "ego feed" picked up a comment about WisBlawg. So far the posts have centered around Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, podcasting, RSS and wikis. Explanations and suggestions are offered on how to use these technologies for instruction.

July 18, 2007

WI Budget Conference Committee Explained

From the JS Online Capitol Podcast:

In the coming weeks, a conference committee of state legislators will sit down at the bargaining table -- peace-treaty style -- in an attempt to develop a compromise version of the next two-year state budget. What does a conference committee look like and how will it work? Listen to the Journal Sentinel's Madison bureau podcast for a primer on the next step in the budget process.

Wigs Off in Britain

From Reuters:

Britain's lawyers and judges are to break with centuries-old tradition and cease wearing white horse-hair wigs in non-criminal cases, the head of the country's judiciary announced on Thursday.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, said new dress rules would mean the wigs, which British legal professionals have worn since the 17th century, would not be needed in civil or family court cases.

New Outdoor Book Drop on UW-Madison Campus

Memorial Library on the UW-Madison campus has recently installed an outside book drop at the top of their loading dock area. Now patrons can temporarily park in the loading dock (on the corner of Langdon and Lake Street), walk up a small flight of stairs, and return their items without having to worry about finding a parking place or having change for the meter.

The UW-Madison campus libraries have an Open Return policy. That means that books on regular loan from the Law Library can be returned to any campus library with an Open Return sticker on its book return. All other items must be returned to the library they were borrowed from, including:
  • Reserve materials
  • Materials on Short-Term Loans (7 days or less)
  • Journals/Periodicals
  • Fragile Items

July 13, 2007

Proof & Hearsay, New JS Blog, Offers CCAP Search Tips

Proof and Hearsay is a new blog from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "devoted to law-and-order issues in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin, with occasional ventures farther afield for legal matters relevant to the way justice is carried out around here."

Check out yesterday's post, CCAP hints and tricks #1: Mass searches made easy. Two tips are offered: how to figure out a courtroom's schedule on CCAP and looking at all the new prosecutions filed each day.

If you're looking for search capabilities beyond what is offered on CCAP, check out the fee-based CourtTracker service.

Lawmakers Using Video to Communicate via the Web

"Many political pundits have said the 2008 presidential race will be the election of YouTube," says JS Online. "Local lawmakers are picking up on that trend..."

The article explores how Wisconsin's legislators are using video to communicate directly with the public via the web. Note the use of WisconsinEye.

According to the article:

State lawmakers are making a push for greater visibility on the Web by bringing their messages right to constituents' computers... Lawmakers find that the technology gives them an unfiltered connection to their constituents.

A recent e-mail newsletter from Rep. Mark Gundrum (R-New Berlin) featured a link to WisconsinEye video of a meeting his Committee on Judiciary and Ethics had with members of the state Supreme Court. "There's no way the public would really know about something like that or hear about issues of importance to the court otherwise," Gundrum said. "If there's something that I think is of interest, it's a great thing to make that stuff as accessible as possible."

July 10, 2007

Nominate Legal Support Staff for Unsung Heroes Award

It's time to nominate your favorite legal support staffer for the 2nd Annual Unsung Heroes Award. The Wisconsin Law Journal sponsors the award to honor the "'Unsung Heroes' whose efforts are essential to helping law firms and courts run efficiently."

Nomination forms, which are due August 10, 2007, are available on the Wisconsin Law Journal web site. Categories include:

  • Secretary
  • Paralegal
  • Law Library Staff
  • Administrator
  • Human Resources
  • IT Specialists
  • Marketers
  • Court staff

WisconsinEye Hits Airwaves Today

Live WisconsinEye cable television coverage of the State Legislature begins at noon today.

From the press release posted on WisPolitics.com:

The WisconsinEye 24/7 cable channel will be available beginning tomorrow to Time Warner Cable Wisconsin digital subscribers on Channel 163 and to Charter digital customers in southern Wisconsin, including Madison, Janesville and Beloit, on Channel 200. Charter plans to expand the distribution of the service into additional Charter markets within the next few months. Together, Charter and Time Warner Cable serve about 75 percent of Wisconsin cable customers. Approximately half of each company's customers are digital subscribers.

July 9, 2007

Blogging and Beyond: New Communication Streams for Technical Services Librarians

I'll be heading to New Orleans later this week for the American Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting. One of the things on my calendar is presenting at a TS-SIS program entitled, Blogging and Beyond: New Communication Streams for Technical Services Librarians.

I'll be talking about blogs and RSS - specifically how they can be used for technical services applications, such as cataloging, acquisitions, and collection development. I'll also be demonstrating how to use a RSS reader like Bloglines, as well as, how to subscribe to RSS feeds through email programs like Outlook. I posted my PowerPoint slides over at Scribd.

As a reference librarian, I found that it was very interesting to look at this technology from a different perspective. Of course blogs and RSS are great for research, but librarians can also use them to stay current with new cataloging standards, find out about new books and track prices, monitor journal publication schedules, and much more. Some tech services librarians are also discovering how to output feeds from their library catalogs.

Books Program on WisconsinEye

In addition to its coverage of the Wisconsin Legislature, WisconsinEye has also produced a series of programs about Wisconsin-themed books. Some are author interviews and others are appearances by authors at local bookstores. Archived audio and video is available.

Some of the featured books so far include the Café Wisconsin Cookbook; Living a Country Year: Wit and Wisdom from the Good Old Days; Aztalan: Mysteries of an Ancient Indian Town; From Door County to Lake Superior; Coming Home to China. Libraries@UW-Madison reports that they've also been filming at Memorial Library's Special Collections Department for a program on Making Maps, Mapping History which is set to air in a few weeks.

Technology Changing the Image and Roles of Librarians

There were two interesting articles about librarians in my in-box today. Both are about how technology has changed the profession. One focuses on how technology has attracted a new generation of hip librarians and other other about how it has changed library staffing models.

  • A Hipper Crowd of Shushers (New York Times, July 8, 2007)
    With so much of the job involving technology and with a focus now on finding and sharing information beyond just what is available in books, a new type of librarian is emerging -- the kind that, according to the Web site Librarian Avengers, is "looking to put the 'hep cat' in cataloguing."...

    And though many librarians say that they, like nurses or priests, are called to the profession, they also say the job is stable, intellectually stimulating and can have reasonable hours -- perfect for creative types who want to pursue their passions outside of work and don't want to finance their pursuits by waiting tables.

  • Embracing Intangible Law Libraries (Law Technology News, July 6, 2007, By Alvin Podboy)
    Through technology, while our physical libraries are shrinking, the world of information and the virtual library is growing, and in fact, is almost limitless. How does this contraction/expansion affect our most important asset -- the human capital that makes up the heart and soul of our libraries? What does this mean for librarians and our staff? Our physical facilities, resources and capital budgets have often been discussed -- but how is technology affecting our library staffing? We are all under daily pressure to downsize staff yet increase our productivity.

New Librarian Comic (Shelf Check) & Movie (Rex Libris)

I recently learned about a new librarian cartoon called Shelf Check. And, of course, there is always Unshelved.

And it looks like Rex Libris, the graphic novel featuring a librarian-superhero, has been picked up by Warner Bros. and is headed to the big screen.

UW Law School Redesigns Web Site

You may have noticed that WisBlawg was unavailable late last week. It was because the Law School's server was down to make the switch to the newly redesigned UW Law School Web site. Check it out!

July 3, 2007

Bill Drafts Can Stay Secret

JS Online reports that:

A Dane County judge ruled Wednesday that drafts of what may become formal bills in the Legislature do not have to be made public under the open records law, even if legislators have shared them with individuals or special-interest groups outside the Capitol. . . .

In his ruling, [Circuit Judge David] Flanagan said collecting information about what may become bills, before they are formally introduced, has long been an "essential, core" part of the legislative process and does not violate the Open Records Law.

"It is not readily apparent that there is abuse or unfair exclusion necessarily inherent in a process whereby each legislator is free to seek whatever advice he or she believes may be useful," Flanagan ruled.

"The preliminary and tentative character of the draft document remains the same regardless of whether the persons selected by the legislator for advice are within or outside of the Legislature," the judge added.

Update 7/3/07: State Representative, Jim Soletski of the 88th Assembly District has written a letter to AG Van Hollen asking him to appeal the ruling. From the Wheeler Report. Thanks to Bill Ebbott for the tip.

Odd Wisconsin: The Book

If you're an Odd Wisconsin fan like me, you'll be interested to know that the Wisconsin Historical Society has recently published a book entitled, Odd Wisconsin: Amusing, Perplexing, and Unlikely Stories from Wisconsin's Past.

From the Web site:

This unique book unearths the stories that got lost to history even though they may have made local headlines at the time. No mythical hodags or eight-legged horses here! Odd Wisconsin features strange but true stories from Wisconsin's past, every one of which was documented (albeit by the standards of the day). These brief glimpses into Wisconsin's past will surprise, perplex, astonish, and otherwise connect readers with the state's fascinating history. From "the voyageur with a hole in his side" to "pigs beneath the legislature," Odd Wisconsin gathers 300 years of curiosities, all under the radar of traditional stories.

The 200 page book sells for $16.95. Author Erika Janik will be discussing her new book at the Barnes & Noble West in Madison on Thursday, August 9th at 7:00 p.m.

July 2, 2007

RSS Feeds for New Books in Amazon

Did you know you could generate RSS feeds for new products from Amazon? The feeds are based on tags which users can assign to items.

See, for example, the "law" tag. Notice that there is a link to a RSS feed for that tag at the bottom right. There are lots of other, more specific, law-related tags, too. This could be a great acquisitions tool for librarians.


It's great for personal interests also. There is a tag search box at the top left on the RSS Feed page explanation. Try entering in a favorite subject, author or artist to see if a tag has been created.