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August 31, 2007

The View from Mars

Last night as we were snuggling up in our favorite rocking chair, my three-year-old daughter invited me along on her rocket ship. "Where are we going?" I asked. "To the moon?" "No," she said, "to Mars. It's a planet." Surprised that she knew this, I continued, "And what will be see when we get there?" expecting some fanciful response. Instead, she replied simply, "The Earth... and the moon."

Woah, when did she get so big? I find myself asking that a lot these days.

August 30, 2007

Technology and the Generation Gap

My colleague, Jenny Zook, has written a funny and thought-provoking article for this month's LLRX entitled, Technology and the Generation Gap.

Abstract: Genevieve Zook's forthright, insightful and timely commentary addresses the challenges of balancing the push for gadgets and applications with the concepts of direct customer contact and value added services.

Whether you're an "oldster," a "young whippersnapper," or somewhere in between, I think we can all recognize a little bit of ourselves in her article.

IM a Librarian: Establishing a Virtual Reference Service with Little Cost or Technical Skill

I'm pleased that my article, IM a Librarian: Establishing a Virtual Reference Service with Little Cost or Technical Skill appears in the August edition of LLRX.

The article is basically a how to on using IM and chat in a library. It's based on my own experience with both at the UW Law Library. We started our IM service last fall and added chat (Plugoo) in January and have been very pleased with both. Granted, the vast majority of our reference traffic is still in person, but with IM and chat we're able to reach out to more people. And it was so easy to set up and use.

August 24, 2007

If I Were President, My New Rules Would Be

This morning I was looking through my six-year-old son's backpack and found his journal from summer school. I was struck by one of the entries.

The topic posed by his teacher was: If I were president, my new rules would be. This was his response:

1. No sadnis (sadness)
2. No pets
3. No polushun (pollution)

Ok - I'm right there with him on #1 and #3, but what's up with #2, no pets? I asked him and he said that it was so dogs wouldn't bark and wake you up. I just smiled and shook my head at that one. Yeah - our dog, Jake, can bark with the best of 'em. But I don't think my son really meant that one - six-year-olds tend to be a bit short sighted. We all still love Jakie dearly.

In fact, my son's favorite book these days is Smartypants (Pete In School) about a dog who eats everything in the school - including an encyclopedia, rendering him superintelligent and able to speak. Silly dogs are something we know a lot about.

August 23, 2007

ALR to be Available Only on Westlaw

Information Today reports that as of January 2008, American Law Reports (ALR) will be available exclusively on Westlaw.

From the article:

It isn't the first time that users have had products pulled out from under them. Lexis took away Shepard's Citators--and in fact, Westlaw's novel and award-winning KeyCite was a response to that. Factiva has been an exclusive at one time or another on each system. Various newspapers and journals have also been moved back and forth, lock, stock, and barrel...

Competition now demands (and Lexis has already announced) new products to fill the gap left by ALR... According to Michael Saint-Onge, my LexisNexis consultant, we "really have a two-pronged answer. Cases in Brief, which gives the in-depth analysis of specific cases (and the larger legal issues underlying the case)" is one... The "second part of the answer hasn't been released yet: It's the remake of Search Advisor, which is being revamped and should release in late September or early October."

Source: AbsTracked

Best Time to Buy Everything

From LibrarianInBlack:

SmartMoney offers advice on the Best Time to Buy Everything, from clothing to gas to groceries. There are some good ideas there, and some interesting take-away tips.

August 22, 2007

Twitter Updates from the House Floor

Here's one from Law Librarian Blog:

Check out twitter.com/HouseFloor which distributes live updates from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, updated every five minutes with any new information from The Office of the Clerk of the House. [What's Twitter?]

Public.Resource.Org Aims to Offer All Federal & State Cases & Codes Free Online

The New York Times reports on the project of "Internet gadfly" Carl Malamud, founder of Public.Resource.Org, to make more than 10 million pages of case law available free online.

According to the ReadMe file on Public.Resource.Org,

The short-term goal of the project is the creation of an unencumbered full-text repository of the Federal Reporter, the Federal Supplement, and the Federal Appendix. The medium-term goal is the creation of an unencumbered full-text repository of all state and federal cases and codes.

The entire Federal Reporter, Supplement and Appendix is a short-term goal? All federal and state cases and codes are medium-term? My goodness, what would be considered long-term?

In the ReadMe file dated Friday, August 17th, Malamud reports that he hopes to have the Federal Reporter, first series (300 volumes) scanned within the next few months. So far, he's got 1000 pages of court decisions from the 1880s (scanned from a West ultrafiche).

Malamud has written a letter to Thomson West stating his intent to create "an unencumbered public repository of all federal and state case law and codes. This goal is not meant to compete with commercial vendors such as yourself, who perform a worthy service for the large law firms and other well-funded institutions who practice the business of law." In the letter, Malamud asks Thomson to clarify their copyright claims on the reports; Thomson has yet to reply.

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

August 21, 2007

Wisconsin Screenings of The Hollywood Librarian

If you missed The Hollywood Librarian at ALA, there's good news. It is being screened in libraries this fall during Banned Books Week. A map of screening locations is available.

Looks like it is showing in a handful of libraries throughout Wisconsin (times updated 9/27/07):

  • UW-Madison SLIS - Sep 30 at 4 pm, Oct 4 at 7pm, Oct 5 at 7 pm
  • UW-Milwaukee Libraries - Sept. 29 at 3 pm, Oct. 3 at 3 pm and 7 pm
  • Racine Public Library - Oct 6 at 6:30 pm

Source: The Hollywood Librarian group on Facebook

August 15, 2007

Ebsco Embraces RSS

The Shifted Librarian reports that EBSCO has finally embraced RSS. To test it out, do a search in an EBSCO database, such as Academic Search Elite which is freely available to all Wisconsinites via Badgerlink.

On your search results page, notice the orange RSS button which appears at the top. Click on this will give you a customized RSS feed based on your search terms. It also gives you the option to receive an email alert.

I'm very pleased with this. EBSCO has made it easy and intuitive to generate a custom feed. Lets hope that more vendors follow suit.

August 14, 2007

Legal Conference Watch

Kudos to Mary Whisner and crew for the new blog, Legal Conference Watch.

The reference department of the Gallagher Law Library of the University of Washington School of Law developed this blog in response to a faculty request for help learning about upcoming conferences. Attending and, if possible, presenting papers at conferences is a great way to develop ideas and make connections, so offering this service is a good complement to the other ways our library supports faculty scholarship...

Listings will be limited to programs that are at least a day long. Many afternoon lectures or lunchtime meetings are undoubtedly very interesting, but not worth traveling far to attend.

See also the Legal Scholarship Blog, by faculty and staff at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

August 13, 2007

Wisconsin Historical Images RSS Feed

The Wisconsin History Society has a lot of interesting RSS feeds, including one highlighting old photographs from it's archives.

This photo came around last week. A group of young men is sitting in a darkened, smoky-looking theater. On the screen is a quote from Jay Gould: "I can hire one-half of the working class to kill the other half" That's just creepy.

August 10, 2007

Two Librarian Satisfaction Surveys Offer Conflicting Results

Two recent surveys on librarian job satisfaction offer conflicting views.

According to Law.com,

LawFirmInc.'s sixth annual survey of law firm librarians at Am Law 200 firms reveals that they are continuing to move beyond "traditional" library work, like legal research, and into marketing and competitive intelligence, computer training and even knowledge management projects... Yet the burgeoning responsibilities... aren't causing librarians to lose sleep. To the contrary, satisfaction rates remain extraordinarily high, with 87 percent of respondents happy in their jobs and just 1 percent saying that they prefer traditional librarian's work.

BBC News, however, reports that in a survey of 300 people drawn from five occupations (firefighters, police officers, train operators, teachers and librarians), "librarians are the most unhappy with their workplace, often finding their job repetitive and unchallenging."

Librarians complained about their physical environment, saying they were sick of being stuck between book shelves all day, as well as claiming their skills were not used and how little control they felt they had over their career.

Stuck between book shelves all day? Not once in my career as a professional librarian have I ever felt that way. I spend so little time in the book stacks that this notion is simply ridiculous. Like the Am Law 200 librarians surveyed, much of what I do is beyond "traditional" library work and most of it is conducted via my laptop. And I can truthfully say that I love my job.

One can only assume that the difference in attitudes comes from the difference in the in the population surveyed. The Law.com group were law firm librarians from the US. Although it doesn't say what kind of libraries the librarians in the BBC group were from, we at least know that they are British. Is there that big of a difference between libraries in the US and Britain?

Or does it stem from the type of library? Or the specific position? Before I went to library school, I worked as a page in a public library where my only duty was to shelve books all day. My satisfaction - or lack thereof - with that job much more closely matched those of the librarians in the BBC study. Definitely repetitive and unchallenging - I literally was stuck between book shelves all day. As a professional librarian my duties are much more varied and challenging. Makes me wonder if the "librarians" in the British study were actually professional librarians at all.

Sources: Law.com Newswire and Law Librarian Blog

August 9, 2007

LOUIS, New Mega Search Gov Docs Database Offers RSS

LOUIS is a new mega search engine of U.S. executive and legislative documents. A project of the Sunlight Foundation, LOUIS offers a combined search of Congressional Reports, Congressional Record, Congressional Hearings, Federal Register, Presidential Documents, Federal Register, GAO Reports, and Congressional Bills & Resolutions. The files themselves come from GPO Access.

Besides the ability to combine sources, another cool thing about LOUIS is the availability of RSS feeds. You can either get an RSS feed of all of the documents from each source, or you can get a customized feed based on your search.

Let's say, for example, you're interested in following the congressional hearings regarding the U.S. Attorneys' controversy. You might go to the Congressional Hearings tab and do a search for the keywords department, justice, attorneys and firing for the last year. In addition to viewing the current results of your search, you can be notified of any future related hearings by clicking on the RSS button at the top and and subscribing to it.

There are some things to be aware of when using LOUIS. According to the LLRX article, The Government Domain: 'Insanely Useful' Legislative Sites by Peggy Garvin,

If you are going to use LOUIS as single mass of searchable text, you should understand the coverage of each database first. The helpful explanations available on GPO Access (such as, "most Congressional hearings are published two months to two years after they are held") are missing from LOUIS. Familiarity with the GPO source files also helps. For example, it is good to know that the hearings database is a database of printed hearings.

In addition, remember that LOUIS is searching and displaying the ASCII text of documents, which often do not have the full contents of the printed documents. In the case of congressional hearings, this can include numerous documents submitted for the record, such as letters and GAO reports. This content is not searchable, but it can be displayed in the PDF version at GPO Access.

There is a five minute video tutorial for LOUIS which I recommend if you are planning to use the site.

August 8, 2007

Shepards Coverage to be Expanded in LexisNexis Academic

I noticed a while back that Shepard's coverage was expanded in the new beta version of LexisNexis Academic. In the current version, only U.S. Supreme Court cases can be Shepardized.

There was some discussion today on the AALL Academic Law Libraries SIS about coverage. Apparently it includes all case law, but no statutory coverage.

Giant Lego Man Found in Dutch Sea

OK - this has nothing to do with libraries, or law, or technology, but it was too bizarre not to share. From Reuters Oddly Enough (photo from the Herald Sun):

A giant, smiling Lego man was fished out of the sea in the Dutch resort of Zandvoort on Tuesday. Workers at a drinks stall rescued the 2.5-metre (8-foot) tall model with a yellow head and blue torso.
"We saw something bobbing about in the sea and we decided to take it out of the water," said a stall worker. "It was a life-sized Lego toy."

Now who would have created such a thing and how did it end up in the sea? And what's up with the quote on it's chest "No Real Than You Are"?

ABA Journal Has New Look and New Features

The ABA Journal has recently redesigned their web site. According to a post in the ABA TechShow blog, there are three main features:

Law News Now: "The latest legal news stories, hand selected by our lawyer-journalists. It's updated continuously every business day."

The Blawg Directory: "More than 1,000 blogs written by lawyers who are experts in their practice areas, with more being added daily...You can sort the directory by subject, who writes the blog (partners, associates, judges, law professors, etc.), or by the state or court they blog about."

The Magazine: ABA Journal issues "back through 2005; issues from previous years will be posted soon."

Very nicely done. I took a closer look at the Blawg Directory and found a number of blogs that I hadn't seen before - including seven new law library blogs which I added to my list.

August 7, 2007

ABA & Wisconsin Legislature Considering Sealing Some Criminal Records

JS Online reports that the ABA is considering a resolution urging local, state and federal governments to seal the records of criminal cases in which convictions were not obtained. "It also calls for sealing the records of misdemeanor and felony convictions after a specified period of 'law-abiding conduct.' Only police and prosecutors would have access to the sealed files." Currently, such are records are available in Wisconsin via CCAP.

Wisconsin ABA delegate, Attorney Richard Podell, "said the measure 'has a good chance' of passing and that if it does, ABA members would appeal to legislators in every state to pass matching laws."

JS Online also reports that "Wisconsin legislators, citing the same concerns, introduced Assembly Bill 418 in late June. It would restrict access to online court records to court officials, law enforcement personnel, attorneys and accredited journalists."

TimesSelect Content Free?

Looks like The New York Times may stop charging readers for online access to its TimesSelect service which features Op-Ed columnists and other content, says the New York Post.

After much internal debate, Times executives - including publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. - made the decision to end the subscription-only TimesSelect service but have yet to make an official announcement, according to a source briefed on the matter...

Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis would only say in an e-mailed statement, "We continue to evaluate the best approach for NYTimes.com."

Source: Boing Boing

August 6, 2007

"The Book Thief: The True Crimes of Daniel Spiegelman" Is a Great Read

I stayed up late last night reading The Book Thief: The True Crimes of Daniel Spiegelman which was written by fellow law librarian, Travis McDade.

Here's a good description that I found on Amazon:

The Book Thief tells the real life story of Daniel Spiegelman, who took a turn stealing rare books and manuscripts from Columbia University. McDade's book demonstrates an incredible amount of research into the crime itself, the capture of Spiegelman, nuances of the legal system that affected his sentence, and the court proceedings leading up to Spiegelman's incarceration. Despite the academic nature of the book, it's a great read that can be polished off in a few sittings.

As a law librarian, I found this book absolutely fascinating. In the beginning, we learn how Spiegelman broke into the Columbia's Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML) by climbing up a tiny book lift (dumbwaiter). We learn of Spiegelman's attempts to sell the documents overseas, followed by his eventual arrest in the Netherlands and eventual extradition back to the U.S. The bulk of the book comprises the tospy-turvey courtroom drama that followed.

My favorite chapter was called, "The Wrath of Columbia," which could have been aptly subtitled "The Librarian Kicks Butt." We learn of the amazing efforts of Columbia's RBML Director, Jean Ashton, to convince Judge Lewis Kaplan of the immense scholarly importance of the rare materials Spiegelman had stolen.

And as one reads from Kaplan's opinion, its obvious that her work paid off: "You, Mr. Spiegelman, deprived generations of scholars and students of the irreplaceable raw materials by which they seek to discern the lessons of the past and help us to avoid repeating it. That's what differentiates your offense from a simple theft of money or other easily replaceable property."

Rather than sticking to the sentencing guidelines (or downwardly departing, as was done with most previous thefts of library materials), Kaplan elects to upwardly depart and sentences Spiegelman to 60 months in prison, 3 years of supervised release, and 300 hours of community service.

I highly recommend this book, especially to librarians and legal scholars. It's a fascinating story which has been thoroughly researched and well written.

NewsGator Webinar - "Enterprise RSS for the Legal Profession"

NewsGator, a company specializing in information delivery via RSS, is offering a free Webinar titled "Enterprise RSS for the Legal Profession" on August 21st, 2:00 ET.

I expect they will be demoing NewsGator Enterprise Server which according to their Web site "helps organizations take news and updates from the Web, the blogosphere, premium content providers and internal applications and systems and automatically deliver it to places where their employees can easily find and use it ? portals, mobile devices, their desktops or preset folders in Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Notes."

Lawyering in Second Life

Law.com has an intriguing article on lawyering in Second Life, an online simulated universe with more than 8 million users.

And while Second Life might initially seem like make-believe or child's play, the firm [Greenberg & Lieberman] is filing real trademark applications, landing real clients and making real money through the virtual world. By Lieberman's reckoning, the firm has pulled in nearly $20,000 in revenue from its Second Life office in the past year. Not exactly enough to make the D.C. 20, but impressive, given that overhead is almost nil.

The office is staffed by attorneys, sort of. Every living, breathing person who enters Second Life acquires an alter ego, a digital character called an avatar that can look like pretty much anything....

People in Second Life act pretty much like people do everywhere. They just might do it in the form of a fuzzy, tangerine-colored fox. And, of course, even fuzzy, tangerine foxes have legal problems.

Landlord-tenant issues, contract disputes, intellectual property problems. Second Life is a lawyer's dream world in more than just the figurative sense.

"There's real money changing hands, and there are real disputes that people have in-world over real creations," says Benjamin Duranske, whose avatar, "Benjamin Noble," created the Second Life Bar Association. "It just happens to be represented digitally."

August 3, 2007

Espresso Book Machine Prints Books On Demand in Less than 15 Minutes

There is an interesting article in the New York Times about the Espresso Book Machine which can, on demand, print and bind a book in less than fifteen minutes. The machine will be at the Science, Industry and Business Library in New York until early September, producing free books from a small list. The two other machines in existence are located in Washington, at the bookstore of the World Bank, and in Alexandria, Egypt, at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

The book machine is a demonstration project of On Demand Books, which is pitching it principally toward the nation's 16,000 public libraries and 25,000 bookstores. The machine, which may eventually sell for $20,000 or more, can produce a 300-page book for a costs of about $3. A bookstore or library could then sell it to customers or library members at cost or at a markup.

So whats the point of such a machine?

According to Dane Neller of On Demand Books, the machine "is for the 'far end of the back list,' those books that are out of print or for which there is so little demand that it would be too costly to print a few hundred copies, let alone one... With the machine, anything available in a portable document format, or PDF, including Grandfather's memoirs and Ph.D. dissertations, can be printed in minutes as long as a computer can read it. Books that are copyrighted and require royalties would need a negotiated fee before they could be published."

This is a very cool idea, but I wonder if it will take off. I don't see too many libraries as being able to afford it. Large bookstores would seem like the more realistic option.

There is a press conference video from the World Bank bookstore which shows the machine in action (see the last five minutes or so).

RSS Feed for New Digital Collections from the UW

Over the last few years, I've featured a number of online collections produced by the UW Digital Collections Center, such as Wisconsin Blue Books, the State of Wisconsin Collection and the University of Wisconsin Collection. Now you can find out about new collections directly with the UWDCC's new RSS feed.

About the UWDCC: In the spirit of the "Wisconsin Idea," the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections Center (UWDCC) creates and provides access to digital resources from a variety of original formats including books, photographs, archival materials, audio, and video. These resources are freely available to the general public via the World Wide Web.

August 2, 2007

Online Madison City Directories, 1850-1911

The Madison Public Library reports that it has expanded its online collection of Madison City Directories. Coverage now spans from 1850-1911. The collection also contains historical county plat maps from South Central Wisconsin.

In addition to their usefulness for historians and genealogists, these plat maps and city directories are also an important resource for legal researchers seeking historical land use and ownership information.

City directories provide an alphabetical list of citizens with their addresses and occupations, a classified business directory, lists of city and county officials, churches, schools, societies, streets and wards. See, for example, the following entries from the 1911 for Robert M. La Follette's home, law firm and magazine.

August 1, 2007

Are Your Books Possessed? Well These Are!

From Things You Never Knew Existed: Possessed Books

Antique looking books seem perfectly harmless until someone walks by, then the middle book slides out toward the victim as if it will fall from the shelf. Books also emit spooky sounds for a totally haunted effect. 8" x 8" x 6.5".

And they can be yours for a mere $24.98. This would be a cool library Halloween prank - said the geeky librarian.

Source: BoingBoing

BlawgWorld 2007 - I Finally Get It

This Monday marked the release of BlawgWorld 2007, an eBook featuring the best posts from "77 of the most influential blawgs." I'm very honored that WisBlawg was selected for inclusion again this year.

I have to admit, though, that I until today, I didn't really see the point of BlawgWorld - of gathering tiny snapshots of blawgs into an eBook. That's why I read with interest Robert Ambrogi's "BlawgWorld 2007: I Still Don't Get It" post over at Law.com. Ambrogi echoed my thoughts:

But the premise of this book is that is serves as the best way for lawyers to discover legal blogs and choose the ones they might regularly read. I still don't see how it does that. Myself, I am able to evaluate a blog only by reading several postings over a period of time.

But then I read Ross Kodner's comment to Ambrogi's post and I finally understood the value of BlawgWorld:

What I find is that the majority of lawyers still barely know what a blog is, no less subscribe to multiple blogs and actually learn from all the valuable content that's out there. So the point I think you didn't bring up is that the 77 essays - cherry-picked by their authors to represent self-perceived "best of" content - present a tremendous amount of useful information that thousands of lawyers and their staff will read and benefit from.

I still have the sense that some bloggers are still so caught up in the mechanism of blogging and being part of the blawging world that it's easy to forget what I personally think is the only thing that matters: education.

Education - Bingo! So BlawgWorld is all about educating non-blogging legal professionals about blogs. What are they?; What do they have to offer?; Which ones match my interests? Hopefully, then, some of these readers will be intrigued enough to venture out into the blogosphere. As a someone who has devoted a lot of effort to educating legal professionals about blogs, I feel almost embarrassed that I didn't get it before now.

So, if you haven't already looked at BlawgWorld 2007, I highly recommend it. If you're new to blogs, it will introduce them in an easy to use eBook format. And, if you're a blog expert, you may still find a few new ones that you'd like to read.

BlawgWorld is completely free to download - no registration hassles. I warn you that it is quite large and will take a while to download. You can also watch the press conference video which consists of three parts: (1) a behind the scenes look at what makes this eBook noteworthy, (2) a guided tour of the eBook and its features, and (3) a Q&A session with those who attended the press conference.