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May 29, 2008

List of Law Libraries in Facebook

Jennifer L. Behrens of Duke Law Library has compiled a list of law library pages on Facebook. See UW Law Library's Facebook page which appears on the list.

For more about how law libraries are connecting with students in Facebook, see Jennifer's recent article in AALL Spectrum.

Her list appears on the Law Libraries and Librarians group page in Ning, a social networking site. If you're a law librarian, I highly recommend that you join this group. There has been a lot of interesting discussion taking place there.

Dr. Biddy Martin Picked as Next UW-Madison Chancellor

It was announced yesterday that Dr. Carolyn "Biddy" Martin has been recommended as the next UW-Madison chancellor by the Board of Regents.

There has been a lot of discussion and speculation about Dr. Martin on campus and in the press. Here are some highlights:

  • JS Online describes the candidate selection process, outlines some of Dr. Martin's priorities, and offers some background on her experience.
  • Wendt Library Blog has put together a collection of links to Dr. Martin's scholarship and news about her.
  • The Capital Times shares the reaction from state lawmakers and their thoughts on working with her to solve funding problems for the university.

WisBlawg Turns Four

I'm pleased to share that WisBlawg recently celebrated its fourth birthday.

Thanks to all of you loyal readers for sticking with me!

May 27, 2008

Milwaukee Public Library Considers Express Libraries for Supermarkets, Airport, Etc.

According to JS Online, Milwaukee Public Library is investigating the idea of creating three express libraries where patrons could access library materials and services at convenient places, such as supermarkets, coffee shops, or the airport.

At each express library, patrons could check out or return books or other items they had ordered over the Internet; use computers to order additional items; or pick up a telephone hotline direct to the Central Library's reference desk, [Library Director Paula] Kiely said.

Library officials haven't decided whether the express libraries would be stocked with their own collections of books, CDs and DVDs for checkout, Kiely said. But materials would be delivered from the Central Library and neighborhood libraries and held for patrons who had ordered them, she said.

The library is also investigating technology to let library patrons check out their own books and other materials. "That would free library staffers for other tasks, or allow for staff cuts" according to Keily.

Microsoft Closes the Book on Digitization

From Microsoft's Live Search blog:

Today we informed our partners that we are ending the Live Search Books and Live Search Academic projects and that both sites will be taken down next week. Books and scholarly publications will continue to be integrated into our Search results, but not through separate indexes.

This also means that we are winding down our digitization initiatives, including our library scanning and our in-copyright book programs. We recognize that this decision comes as disappointing news to our partners, the publishing and academic communities, and Live Search users.

Read more at Law Librarian Blog

May 23, 2008

LSAT, etc. Online Exam Prep Tool Free at Public Library

Know anyone that's taking the LSAT soon? How about the SAT, ACT or GRE? If so, direct them to LearningExpressLibrary, an interactive online learning platform of practice tests and tutorial course series. It has immediate scoring, complete answer explanations, and an individualized analysis of your results.

LearningExpressLibrary is available at no cost from both the South Central Library System (Madison area) and the Milwaukee County Federated Library System. The resource is available in library or remotely.

To access it remotely from Milwaukee, you must enter in your library card number and pin. Users in the South Central Library System area (seven counties surrounding Dane) may also be asked to enter your library card number and pin, although I was not.

For a list of the many exams available, see the LearningExpressLibrary web site.

May 22, 2008

WisBlawg Finally Listed on Technorati

After several years of trying to get WisBlawg listed on Technorati, I think that I can finally do so. For some reason it was inadvertently marked as spam. Technorati is a search engine for blogs and other user generated content. They also track statistics and trends throughout the blogosphere.

Here then is my claim to my Technorati Profile.

May 21, 2008

Review of Free Citators Available in AltLaw & PreCYdent

Both PreCYdent and AltLaw have come out with citators. Remember that these are both public-domain search engines offering cases and statutes for free on the Internet.

When viewing a case in AltLaw, you'll notice that cases cited by your case appear on the left and cases which cite it are on the right. Both lists are in reverse chronological order. Very straight forward and easy to use. Nothing extra to click.

Note that there is no indication, however, of the treatment of the citing cases (i.e. the red and yellow indicators you'll find in Shepards or KeyCite).


I knew that PreCYdent had introduced a citator because I'd seen the press release, but it took me quite a while to find it. I finally located it in the bar over on the right with a bunch other buttons - I've circled them in the screen shot above.

There are two citator buttons (both of which are quite cryptic looking). The first is labeled Citations and it "shows citing and cited opinions." This is pretty much the same as the citator in AltLaw, although I'm not sure in what order the cases are appearing.

The second button is labeled Citator and it "shows judicial actions done by and on the present case." In other words: treatment. There are two columns: In-Citator shows all the actions taken by other cases regarding the current case. For example, the In-Citator will show if the current case has been overruled, reversed, or otherwise acted up, by a higher court. The Out-Citator column shows any actions the current case has taken regarding another case, for example, it the current case overrules, reverses, or takes another recorded action regarding a lower court opinion.

My opinion:
When I say citator, most people think of Shepards or KeyCite. Be warned: the citators in AltLaw and PreCYdent aren't in the same league as the two giants. But, hey, they're free and free is good - in some cases anyway.

Although AltLaw is easy to use, it lacks the added features of the others. Lack of treatment analysis makes it much less useful in oft-cited opinions since one would have to follow through on all of the citations individually.

PreCYdent, on the other hand, offers the treatment analysis, but is confusing to use.

And neither of the free citators offer the added value features that are available with Shepards and KeyCite, such as other citing sources (articles, legislation, regs), depth of treatment indicators, visual history, etc.

But most importantly, I think, is that the free guys just aren't proven yet. What is the depth of coverage? Will it pick up all the important cases? One must feel a fair degree of trust in a citator. Are you ready to rely on a free one in preparing your brief?

My advice? If it's important, spend the money on the big boys - at least at this point. But keep your eye on the little guys because they are making amazing progress towards providing open access for the law.

RSS Feeds for US Code Updates

Cornell's Legal Information Institute has recently introduced RSS feeds for the US Code. Feeds are available by title only.

Source: Law Librarian Blog

May 19, 2008

CS-SIS Election & Web 2.0 Challenge

I'm honored to report that I've been elected Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect of the Computing Services Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Librarians. As our name implies, we're the techie group in AALL. Officially, "the purposes of CS SIS are to promote the communication of ideas, interests and activities concerning technological advances in law librarianship and the practice of law, and to meet the professional needs of all law librarians active in integrating computing technology to serve their users."

One of our big projects for this year will be the Web 2.0 Challenge, an online course to introduce law librarians to social software and how to use it in their libraries. The Web 2.0 Challenge will provide a free, comprehensive, and social online learning opportunity designed for law librarians by directing them in hands-on use of these technologies. The course is intended for those who have little experience with these technologies but are interested in learning more.

For more about the Web 2.0 Challenge, see my earlier announcement. If you're a law librarian and would be interested in participating in the program, we'd love to have you involved. If you'd like to enroll in the course, please complete this form and we'll contact you when registration opens.

If you're a law librarian who is already comfortable with Web 2.0 technologies, we could use your help! We'd love to have a few more facilitators to guide small groups of participants through the course with weekly chats. If you're willing to help, please fill out this form.

Twitter and the Legal Profession

There has been a lot of discussion lately about Twitter and its applications for the legal profession. Twitter is a free micro-blog service in which people answer the question "What are you doing?" in 140 characters or less.

Although many have questioned whether such a tool could have any practical application at all, for better or worse, some enterprising individuals have indeed applied it in legal settings. Here's a sample of some of the ways in which Twitter is being used:

  • Networking with clients & colleagues From Real Lawyers Have Blogs:
    You can benefit from Twitter in three ways, that I see today. First, a way to socially network with people, some of which networking may lead to work, speaking engagements, and the like. Two, a means to amplify your message, i.e., spreading what you what you may be blogging, writing, or speaking on. Three, if you blog, you are going to get news from other bloggers whose content you may want to reference in your blog or work.

    For more on using Twitter as a marketing & communications tool, check out Steve Matthews' Law Firm Web Strategy.

  • Live Coverage from the Courtroom - From journalists:
    From the ABA Journal:
    Reporter Ron Sylvester is covering the trial of defendant Theodore Burnett [accused in the contract killing of a pregnant 14-year-old girl] for the Wichita Eagle, but he's also submitting updates to Twitter, described as "a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?"

  • Live Coverage from the Courtroom - From Jurors:
    From Proof & Hearsay
    Matthew Wheeler, a blogger who got called for jury duty, was red-faced when his site got more hits than normal earlier this week.

    Wheeler was breaking the monotony of jury service by Twitter posting with interesting observations such as: "Public wi-fi in the courthouse kinda blows. Actually, it really blows."

    Well, he was selected for the pool of potential jurors who will hear the first lead paint injury case to go to trial. It's the mother of all trials, at least in terms of its six weeks estimated length.

    "Still sitting for jury duty crap. Hating it immensely. Plz don't pick me. Plz don't pick me," Wheeler wrote just before 4 p.m. on Monday.

    If you're interested in the uses of Twitter in the courtroom, I highly recommend Anne Reed's Deliberations.

May 16, 2008

Sunil Rao's Review of Professional Convict's Tale in the International Journal of Legal Information

I'm pleased to share that my colleague, Sunil Rao, has written a review of the Professional Convict's Tale: The Survival of John O'Neill In and Out of Prison which appears in the latest International Journal of Legal Information (v. 35, no. 3, winter 2007, pp. 576-579.)

Sunil is UW Law Library's Foreign Law Librarian. Both the book and the article are available at the UW Law Library.

Harvard Law Faculty Votes for 'Open Access' to Scholarly Articles

Earlier this month, the Harvard Law School faculty unanimously voted to make each faculty member's scholarly articles available online for free, making HLS the first law school to commit to a mandatory open access policy.

From the press release:

Under the new policy, HLS will make articles authored by faculty members available in an online repository, whose contents would be searchable and available to other services such as Google Scholar. Authors can also legally distribute the articles on their own websites, and educators here and elsewhere can freely provide the articles to students, so long as the materials are not used for profit.

Thanks to my UW Madison colleague, Dorothea Salo (of Caveat Lector fame) for the tip.

The Gargoyle Winter/Spring 2008 Edition Online

The Winter/Spring 2008 edition of The Gargoyle is now available online. The Gargoyle is the alumni magazine of the University of Wisconsin Law School. Here is a list of featured articles:

  • Studying the Police
    The Law School's pioneering program of researching and teaching about the police is beginning a new chapter in the age of the Internet.

  • How I Got Here
    Professor Herman Goldstein, known internationally for his groundbreaking approach to studying the police, looks back on the decisions and twists of fate that brought him to Wisconsin.

  • Everything You Need to Know About Impaired Driving
    Nina Emerson '92, director of the Law School's unique Resource Center on Impaired Driving, "knows OWI law better than anyone else."

  • Helping Today's Patients, Training Tomorrow's Professionals
    The Center for Patient Partnerships is thriving as Director Meg Gaines '83 and her multidisciplinary staff and students join to advocate for clients facing serious illnesses.

  • On Behalf of Children
    Five years after the three founders of the Children's Justice Project first discussed their passion for helping children in the legal system, the student group is flourishing.

SearchMe, A New Visual Search Engine

Thanks to my colleague, Cindy May, for alerting me to a neat new visual search engine called SearchMe.com. It is currently in beta.

As you enter your search, categories appear across the top which you can click to just view results in that category. Or, you can search all and see all results.

Results are displayed visually - i.e. pictures of web pages that match your results. You can flip through the images to browse the content, or click on one to open the page.

May 15, 2008

State Bar Convention Session Generates Discussion on Blogs as Legal Scholarship

Last week I had the honor of presenting at the State Bar of Wisconsin Annual Convention here in Madison. I spoke at a Litigation Section program entitled "This Blog's for You" along with Mark Herrmann of Drug & Device Law and Anne Reed of Deliberations.

In my part of the presentation, I discussed blogs generally - what are blogs, how are they being used by legal professionals, how do you find legal blogs, and how do you read them. I developed this quick handout which is available at Scribd.

Anne Reed offered some insights on why litigators, especially, should be aware of blogs. She stressed that because juries are blogging, it's important for lawyers to understand blogs. Mark Herrmann spoke on the whys and hows of writing a blog as a legal professional.

One thing that was mentioned by all three of us was the relationship between blogs and law reviews. Jack Zemlicka has expanded on that in a recent Wisconsin Law Journal article. Here are some highlights from the article:

Attorney Anne W. Reed suggests that attorneys today are interested in obtaining relevant information in minutes, rather than weeks, and reputable legal bloggers provide that service...

It can take months to get an article published in a law review, but mere minutes for a blog post to go up on a Web site.

"Because blogs are so freely available, information can flow around the blogosphere very quickly, allowing lots of people to add to the conversation," Shucha said in an interview.

"Law reviews, on the other hand, are print-based and expensive -- two detriments to the easy flow of information."...

"The idea that I can put something about a recent case in a law review and have people read it 8 to 10 months from now? Those days are gone," said Herrmann during the panel discussion.

The article also offers the perspective from Eric J. Weiss, editor-in-chief of Wisconsin Law Review, who believes that law reviews still have plenty to offer.

During an interview, he conceded that blogs can instantly offer brief insights into current legal issues, but readers still seek out law reviews for fleshed-out perspectives, and that will never change.

"Blogs are short and quick," said Weiss. "They can present analysis during oral argument, but they are not thoroughly researched like law review submissions."...

He also picked up on something I said in defense of law reviews:

One potential pitfall of legal blogs is the credibility of the writer, something which is generally not an issue with law reviews.

"Unlike a law review article where the reader can be fairly certain that the author is knowledgeable and the information is accurate, blogs have no such assumption of authority," said Shucha.

The article concludes with some wise words by Weiss:

Regardless of an attorney's motivation for reading a blog rather than a law review, Weiss said the two information outlets can be more collaborative than competitive.

"Even though they may be serving different purposes, at the end of day, both expose more readers to more legal info," said Weiss, who added that the law review may integrate components of a blog in the future.

May 14, 2008

Google to Blur Faces in Street Views Maps

In response to privacy concerns, Google will be blurring out any human face appearing in Google Maps street views.

Street views are available in Google Maps for both Milwaukee and Madison. Simply do a Google search for an address in either city and click on the "Street Views" link in the resulting map. You'll see a panoramic view from the street in which you can pan, rotate and zoom, as well as, move forward or backward down the street.

Thanks to Bev Butula for passing on the Search Engine Journal article about the blurring addition.

May 7, 2008

In Memory of Roy M. Mersky

We were saddened to learn of the death of Law Library titan, Roy M. Mersky. Law Librarian Blog reports:

Professor Roy M. Mersky died yesterday from complications of a recent fall. A member of the University of Texas-Austin School of Law faculty and the director of its law library since 1965, Mersky held the Harry M. Reasoner Regents Chair in Law. He was also a professor in the University's graduate School of Information.

Professor Mersky received his B.S. in 1948, J.D. in 1952, and Master's degree in Library Science in 1953 from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He was a member of the Bars of New York, Texas and Wisconsin. He served in the US Army during World War II and was awarded a Bronze Star.

Mersky's first law library position was at the University of Wisconsin Law Library, working as U.S. Government Documents Cataloger from May 1951 to June 1952. He served as Director of the Washington State Law Library, 1959-1963, and Professor of Law and Law Librarian at University of Colorado, 1963-1965, before his Texas appointment....

2008 marks the 50th anniversary of his first professional publication: Bibliographic Organization in Law Libraries: A Panel, 51 Law Library Journal 338 (1958). Of course, everyone knows his Fundamentals of Legal Research, first published in 1975 (with J. Myron Jacobstein), Spirit of Librarianship (with Richard Leiter), and his many works on Supreme Court history. He was working on Unknown Justices with William Bader at the time of his death.

For more on Professor Mersky's many accomplishments, along with his Wisconsin connections, see his 40+ page CV.

May 6, 2008

Library Book Vending Machines

From SF List (via Tame the Web):

Starting sometime in April, library books will be available at Contra Costa County BART stations via "ATM style lending machines." A new program called Library-a-Go-Go, along with the Contra Costa County Library, will allow BART riders to simply swipe a card, select a book, wait for said book choice to drop, and then return the book after the rider is finished reading their literary gem. The machines will "hold around 400 popular and best-selling titles, both fiction and nonfiction, and will be accessible during Bart hours."

Sweden, Norway, and Finland already use these nifty little gadgets. The Pittsburg/Bay Point station is first up to receive the literary lenders, which "cost a little under $100,000 each."

It would seem that book vending machines aren't new overseas. A company called Novel Idea has created a Mini-Bookshop vending machine which vends 20-24 new and bestselling titles and can hold up to 290 books. The machine has an LCD screen on the front which enables any customer to read a synopsis of any of the books available in the machine. All books are pre-packed in a gift box specifically designed to protect both the machine and book from being damaged during the vending process. The box comes with a pull-out carry handle and currently includes a press out bookmark.

May 5, 2008

Gather All Google Apps, RSS Feeds, Gadgets Etc. with iGoogle

Do you iGoogle?
iGoogle is a personalized Google start page (similar to My Yahoo!) where you can aggregate all the Google resources you use on your online desktop - search, gMail, Google Calendar, etc. It also allows you to add RSS feeds and Google Gadgets (similar to those available on Google Desktop).

I found this simple little tutorial over at YouTube.

On the advice and instruction of MakeUseOf.com, I created a iGoogle Gadget for WisBlawg. Simply click on this link, or the iGoogle icon in the right toolbar, and you'll be prompted to add WisBlawg to your iGoogle page.

Chief Justice Abrahamson READ Poster & Bookmarks

As part of their National Library Week celebration, the Wisconsin State Law Library unveiled a new READ poster and READ bookmarks featuring Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

The poster, along with bookmarks also featuring the Chief Justice, is on display at the State Law Library.

Source: WSLL @ Your Service

Oregon Revised Statutes Copyright Claim

Boing Boing reports that the situation regarding the contested copyright claim for Oregon Revised Statutes has reached an impasse. Oregon says they are copyright-able; Justia and Public.Resource.Org, who plan to post them online, say they aren't.

From the attorney representing Justia and Public.Resource.Org:

My clients respectfully cannot agree to the Public License. First, and most fundamentally, it would require them to acknowledge that portions of the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) are protected by copyright, and they respectfully but vigorously disagree that portions of the ORS are protected by copyright.

Both organizations plan to go ahead with the release of the full text of the 2005 and 2007 statutes as of June 2nd.

May 2, 2008

UW Madison Introduces Emergency Text Message Service

Members of the campus community can now sign up to receive text messages in the event of an emergency. UW-Madison students, faculty and staff, along with employees of campus affiliates can sign up for WiscAlerts through the My UW Portal.

The new service will be used to send critical safety information from UW-Madison Police. It will be reserved for the highest level of emergency.

Tune in Today to BlogTalkRadio for Interview with Ken Svengalis

Tune in to BlogTalkRadio at 3:00 PM (central) today for a live Internet radio call-in program featuring Ken Svengalis of Legal Information Buyer's Guide. Ken will be interviewed by Brian Striman and Richard Leiter.

From Richard Leiter:

We hope to discuss pricing practices of legal publishers and their effects on law libraries and legal researchers. Ken will also discuss the new edition of the Buyer's Guide and we'll speculate on implications of the Thomson-Reuters merger. We hope to hear from private, public and academic libraries - and publishers. We also expect to have time to take calls and comments on any topics of interest to listeners.

Listeners can call-in at 347-945-7183 or use the chat feature to ask questions.

Leiter reports that this is the first attempt at such a program. "At this point, we have no plans to carry it on beyond tomorrow, but, if it is a success, we may offer the show once a month, on the first Friday." Find out if there is more to come by subscribing to the RSS feed for the Law Librarian program.

Source: Lawlibdir listserv

Libraries in a Digital Age

Susan Allen, associate director and chief librarian of the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, has some insightful comments on Libraries in a Digital Age. Ms. Allen gave the 2008 Douglas Schewe Annual Lecture April 16 for the Friends of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries.

Her talk is available online through WisconsinEye.

Source: Libraries@UW-Madison

Two Law Library Staff Members Receive Library Service Awards

The Law Library is very pleased to report that two of our staff members have received UW Madison Library Service Awards.

Michael Morgalla, our Faculty Liaison, received the award for classified staff. Mike works with our Law School faculty on current awareness, obtaining resources across the campus, verifying citations, charging out material from special collections, and addressing basic reference questions.

Steven Weber received a student award. Steve has worked in numerous departments including reference, collections, administrative office and circulation as lead desk worker. Steve is also currently attending library school here at UW Madison.

Both Mike and Steve are tremendous assets to the Law Library and we were so pleased to see them honored with these awards.

For more information about other Library Service Award winners, see Libraries@UW-Madison.

Public Libraries Good for the Economy

Wisconsin public libraries return $4.06 for every dollar taxpayers invest in them, according to an economic impact research report produced by NorthStar Economics Inc. of Madison.

Read more from The Capital Times. The complete NorthStar report is available from the Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries.

Source: Nicole's Auxiliary Storage