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February 25, 2009

Zotero Releases Syncable Web App, Fixes HeinOnline Translator & Impoves Bluebook Format

Lots of good news from Zotero today! If you're not familiar with it, Zotero is a free, easy-to-use Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources. See my earlier post for further explanation.

  • Zotero has announced the release of both Zotero 1.5 and the first release of Zotero's web application. The big improvement is that Zotero now supports automatic synchronization of collections across multiple computers. Or, with the web app, you can browse your collection on line from anywhere. Check out the screencast demo for more.

  • Zotero's HeinOnline translator is now fixed. So, now when you're in a document from HeinOnline, you can simply click on the paper icon in the Firefox address bar and Zotero will capture the full citation information -and the PDF of the article itself.

  • Finally, Trevor Owens at Zotero tells me that " there has also been quite a bit of movement on the Bluebook format, which should now be better than ever. There are a few web developers in our forums that are really fired up to improve the usability of Zotero for law."

This is all wonderful news. If I was a big fan of Zotero before (and I was), I'm an even bigger fan now. I think it is one of the most useful tools for research and writing that I've seen in a long time. And, best of all, it's free.

February 24, 2009

Wisconsin to Tax Internet Downloads

Beginning on October 1st, Wisconsin will begin collecting a 5% sales taxes on Internet downloads of music, games, books, ring tones and other video entertainment. The District of Columbia and 15 states have similar laws.
From JS Online:

[Governor] Doyle has been fighting for the change for years. He and other state officials say it is a matter of fairness: Internet vendors shouldn't have a tax-exempt advantage over Wisconsin's brick-and-mortar retail stores....

Some digital downloaders don't see it that way, however.

Read the full article for more.

February 19, 2009

AALL Members Receive Free Access to CALI Lessons

From the American Association of Law Libraries E-Newsletter:

I'm pleased to announce that AALL is now providing members free access to the full set of online lessons hosted by the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI). Written by expert law professors and law librarians, CALI lessons have long been a valuable supplementary learning aid for law students seeking to master course material. With more than 600 lessons covering 32 legal subject areas, these online learning opportunities feature a variety of interactive formats that make for an engaging, effective user experience. All lessons are regularly reviewed and revised to ensure quality and currency.

Although the CALI suite was designed with the educational needs of law students in mind, law librarians in both academic and non-academic settings may find that many lessons are particularly useful as refreshers, or as an entertaining introduction to a new, unfamiliar legal subject. New librarians with no prior legal background will find CALI lessons particularly helpful: the suite includes various lessons that provide the novice legal researcher with a thorough introduction to important materials.

I encourage all AALL members to utilize this valuable resource, particularly those new members with little or no exposure to legal research. You can access the CALI lessons through the Members Only Section of AALLNET.

AALL Joins Twitter

The American Association of Law Libraries has set up two Twitter feeds: One for general information and a second for updates on the 2009 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Recent Tweets:

  • Wifi will be available in the meeting rooms, the general concourse, and the registration area in the convention center.

  • $50 AALL Member Appreciation Discount for 2009 Annual Meeting and Conference

Source: AALL E-Newsletter

February 18, 2009

Track "Shovel-Ready" Projects at Stimulus Watch

Stimulus Watch has compiled a list of Wisconsin's municipal "shovel-ready" projects for which mayors have requested federal stimulus funding. Click on a project to read (and add to) its description and vote on whether you believe it is critical or not. stimulus.jpg

Thanks to my colleague, Vicky Coulter, for the tip

Fastcase Webinars for WisBar Members

Wisconsin State Bar members are invited to attend free webinars from Fastcase explaining this new member benefit. Fastcase offers free, unlimited access to a comprehensive 50-state and federal case-law database including coverage of federal appellate and bankruptcy courts; the U.S. Supreme Court, and access to Wisconsin statutes, the Administrative Code, Supreme Court rules, the Constitution, attorney general opinions since 1982, and acts since 1989.

Seminars are scheduled for:

* Monday, Feb. 23, 12 - 1 p.m. (CST)
* Monday, March 23, 12 - 1 p.m. (CDT)
* Thursday, April 23, 12 - 1 p.m. (CDT)
* Thursday, May 14, 12 - 1 p.m. (CDT)

For more information, see WisBar Inside Track

February 17, 2009

Lady Liberty Rises Again from Lake Mendota

"In a repeat performance of one of the most popular college pranks ever, this week Lady Liberty once again appeared to rise from Lake Mendota with torch aloft, thanks to the Wisconsin Hoofers, UW-Madison's outdoor recreation club."
From: Ideas & Discoveries (UW-Madison)

Statement Opposing Taxation of Legal Services

State Bar of Wisconsin President, Diane S. Diel, has issued a statement opposing the potential taxation of legal services.

Source: The Wheeler Report

February 16, 2009

Harper's Index Available Online

In celebration of its 25th year, the Harper's Index-12,058 lines spanning 300 issues-is now open to all for searching and browsing, with more than one thousand linked categories. Slaw explains that "Harper's Index is a collection of information set out in single lines as if it were statistical data and in a way that is meant to surprise and interest you."
Harper's Index is a product of Harper's Magazine, which is also available online from 1850.

February 13, 2009

UW Board of Regents Minutes Digitized

Anyone needing to do research on the University of Wisconsin might be interested in a new collection from the UW Digital Collections Center, the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents Collection.

This collection consists of the digitized minutes of the meetings of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents from 1921-1991. The 70-year scope of this collection captures the expansion of the University of Wisconsin from one four-year campus in Madison with 7,344 students to a statewide system of 26 campuses annually serving more than 173,000 students and over one million Wisconsin residents through statewide Extension.

The minutes of the Board's monthly meetings provide a well-rounded sense of life in the University. Through the years, the Regents dealt with a wide variety of campus issues, including budget development, construction of new buildings and infrastructure, approval of new departments and classes, acquisition of new property, oversight of inter-collegiate athletics, and regulation of student conduct and behavior.

See also the University of Wisconsin Collection

Malamud Takes on PACER

The New York Times has an interesting article about Carl Malamud's attempt to gather district court records from PACER and make they freely available on the Web.

Those courts, with the help of the Government Printing Office, had opened a free trial of Pacer at 17 libraries around the country. Mr. Malamud urged fellow activists to go to those libraries, download as many court documents as they could, and send them to him for republication on the Web, where Google could get to them.

Aaron Swartz, a 22-year-old Stanford dropout and entrepreneur who read Mr. Malamud's appeal, managed to download an estimated 20 percent of the entire database: 19,856,160 pages of text.

Then on Sept. 29, all of the free servers stopped serving. The government, it turns out, was not pleased.

A notice went out from the Government Printing Office that the free Pacer pilot program was suspended, "pending an evaluation." A couple of weeks later, a Government Printing Office official, Richard G. Davis, told librarians that "the security of the Pacer service was compromised. The F.B.I. is conducting an investigation."

It's not mentioned in the full article, but I assume that the documents were gathered through Public.Resource.org's PACER recycling center.

Thanks to my colleague, Howard Nash, for passing this article on.

Profiled on Blawg.com Blog

Yesterday Bill Gratsch, founder of Blawg.com, posted some highlights of an interview with me.

Bonnie Shucha, the Head of Reference at the UW Law Library, recently answered a few of my questions about what law librarians in particular can do to run their libraries in the 21st century and what it is like to host a blawg dedicated the art of being a librarian.

I was interviewed in conjunction with being one of Blawg's Featured Blawggers for the month.

February 9, 2009

WI Journal of Law, Gender & Society Announces Symposium on Gender & Criminal Justice

The Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender & Society is hosting a symposium entitled Gender and Criminal Justice: The Impact of Gender in Criminal Law from Legislation through Incarceration. The event will be held on Saturday, March 7th, 2009 from 10am-4pm at the University of Wisconsin Law School (Lubar Commons- Room 7200, 975 Bascom Mall, Madison, WI)

The symposium is sponsored by the:
Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender & Society, University of Wisconsin Law School, Criminal Law Section of the State Bar of Wisconsin, Association for Women Lawyers of the State Bar of Wisconsin, Criminal Justice Certificate Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison

This event is free and open to the public. RSVP information is available on the journal's website.

February 6, 2009

New SSRN E-Journal, Legal Information & Technology, Encourages Law Librarian Scholarship

SSRN has recently unveiled a new e-journal titled Legal Information & Technology. It includes working papers, forthcoming articles, and recently published articles in all areas of legal information and law librarianship. Interested readers can subscribe to receive the ejournal.

According to an article in the Academic Law Library Special Interest Section newsletter, co-editors Randy Diamond and Lee Peoples "hope that it will encourage the profession to write more, increase opportunities for obtaining feedback on works and progress, and connect law librarian scholarship to a wider audience both in the legal academy and other academic disciplines."

The archive already includes over 150 papers and is growing daily. The co-editors invite LLJ, LRSQ, IJLI, and Perspectives authors to post their works back to 2005 and welcome all other publications from that time frame fitting within the journal's subject matter. If you already have an SSRN account please upload your paper and classify it under the Legal Scholarship Network > LSN Subject Matter eJournals > Legal Information & Technology eJournal.

February 5, 2009

Law Review Print Subscriptions Declining - What Does It Mean?

A recent study by Ross E. Davies, editor in chief of The Green Bag and a professor of law at George Mason University reveals that print subscriptions to law reviews are declining dramatically.

Davies compared the subscription numbers for the flagship law reviews of 15 top tier law schools and found that all of them "have seen significant drops - most in the range of half to two-thirds - in their print circulations."

The author wonders whether this drop "might be connected to a drop in influence or status" or if it is simply because more journals are now available online. I suspect both. It's true that libraries, at least, are canceling print subscriptions to journals that are available to them electronically. But there have also been some indications that the influence of law reviews may also be declining.

For example, a 2005 study on the judicial citation of student notes revealed that:

the average note published in 1980 has been cited 3.5 more times than the average note published in 2000. This decline appears to correlate to a similar decline in the judicial citation of professional legal scholarship. Of course, if the number of opinions declined at the same rate, we would expect a decline in citations, but it is almost certain that the number of opinions has, in fact, increased over the period studied.

See also When Rendering Decisions, Judges Are Finding Law Reviews Irrelevant (New York Times) which suggests that availability of blogs in which "law professors analyze legal developments with skill and flair almost immediately after they happen" may be contributing to the shift in influence.

Source: Slaw

February 4, 2009

New State Bar E-Newsletter, WisBar InsideTrack - Will Contribute Legal Research Tips

This morning the State Bar of Wisconsin distributed its first issue of a new electronic newsletter called WisBar InsideTrack. The newsletter, which will be published twice a month on the first and third Wednesdays, is available to State Bar members.

Content will include everything from "practice management tips to timely insight into legislative, court, and other legal developments, as well as the latest State Bar products and services designed to help you improve your practice. Through an alliance with West, each issue of InsideTrack also delivers select jury verdicts, bench decisions, settlements, and arbitration awards."

I'm pleased to share that I've been asked to be a regular contributor to InsideTrack for the Legal Research category. I'll be writing a short article for every other issue. My first article, entitled The Many Faces of Google, describes a few of the search engine's more specialized tools and how attorneys can use them. They include:

  • Google Alerts
  • Google News
  • Google Blog Search
  • Google Scholar
  • Google Books
  • Google U.S. Government Search

February 2, 2009

Receive Schedule & Program Highlights with WisEye Alert

WisconsinEye has recently released WisEye Alert! Subscribe to WisEye Alert and receive a daily email with schedule and programming highlights for the WisconsinEye channel and website. A RSS feed is also available.