June 26, 2013

Article: Ineffective Assistance of Library: The Failings and the Future of Prison Law Libraries

There is a very interesting article in the June 2013 edition of the Georgetown Law Journal (101 Geo. L.J. 1171) about prison libraries. (available via Westlaw and LexisNexis)

From the abstract:

The prison law library has long been a potent symbol of the inmate's right to access the courts. But it has never been a practical tool for providing that access. This contradiction lies at the core of the law library doctrine. It takes little imagination to see the problem with requiring untrained inmates, many of them illiterate or non-English speakers, to navigate the world of postconviction relief and civil rights litigation with nothing more than the help of a few library books...

This Article uses original historical research to show how prison law libraries arose, not as a means of accessing the courts, but rather as a means of controlling inmates' behavior.

Curious about the meaning behind that last phrase, I took a closer look at the article. It seems that during the 1950's, the law library that served Illinois's prisons became so popular that in just a nine year period "inmates at the 4,400-man Stateville facility shot off 27,890 filings to the courts, not including those filed by their attorneys." This apparently didn't sit to well with some in the legislature and judiciary.

Author Jonathan Abel wondered, "with legislators and judges criticizing the law library, what could have motivated Stateville and Joliet Warden Joseph Ragen to let it grow so big? Not constitutional requirements. Not a sense for the future development of the law. No, it appears the warden had more practical reasons, at least according to the newspaper. Ragen said he was 'not too unhappy' with the situation because 'the job of preparing petitions keeps the prisoners occupied.'" (p 1183)

Here's more from the abstract

By placing the origin of the prison law library in the first decades of the twentieth century-half a century earlier than typical accounts-this Article shows how the law library evolved to take on a new purpose in the 1960s and 1970s, when the Supreme Court and other courts first began to fashion a law library doctrine.

The central argument of this Article is simple: The courts' attempts to graft an access-to-courts rationale onto a law library system that had developed for other purposes led to a law library doctrine riddled with contradictions and doomed to failure. This historical account helps explain a prison law library system that never really made sense in terms of providing access to the courts.

Hat tip to Legal Research Plus

March 21, 2013

Book Madness Tournament

From the UW Madison Libraries:
Love the NCAA basketball tourney, but wish it was just a little more ... bookish? You're in luck. The UW-Madison Libraries are hosting our first annual Book Madness Tournament.

A brutal selection process resulted in a collection of 64 books - 8 divisions with 8 books each - going head-to-head to determine our favorite book.

Vote for your favorites in each round. Total votes will determine which books move on.

The eight divisions are:
Contemporary Literature

March 13, 2013

Top Ten Things Law Librarians Wish Law Students Would Know or Do

In preparation for a session that I'm doing for some of our Legal Research and Writing students next week, I pulled together a list of Top Ten Things Law Librarians Wish Law Students Would Know or Do.

The list was first created by Betty Karweick for our Legal Research and Writing program years ago. I've updated the list for 2013 using suggestions from members of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin.

May 21, 2012

UW Madison Unveils New Library Catalog

Today, the UW Madison libraries are releasing a new Library Catalog. It has been available for beta testing for some time, but today marks it's official debut.

Here are some highlights:

  • intuitive interface for fast discovery
  • powerful limits and narrowing for all searches
  • seamless portal to all UW System libraries
  • easy access to your account information
  • mobile friendly


The new catalog really is a great improvement over its predecessor, MadCat. It is more visually sleek and much more intuitive. I especially like the faceting that allows you easily narrow down your search. The new catalog was designed in house.

For more information about the new catalog, see the development blog called Moving Forward.

MadCat, the prior catalog, will continue to be available for those who prefer to use it. There is a link to it on the top right of the new catalog.

April 3, 2012

The Impact of Law Librarian Retirements

My UW Law Library colleague, Jenny Zook, has recently published a very well written article in this month's AALL Spectrum. The article entitled, Retirements in the Age of Economic Uncertainty, offers an insightful look at how librarian retirements have and have not affected retirees and law libraries.

April 12, 2011

Celebrate National Library Week at the UW Law Library

Stop by the Law Library this week and help us celebrate National Library Week!
For our celebration this year, we have put together a number of activities including a book drive, Bluebooking workshop, and, of course, our faculty READ poster.

  • READ Poster
    View this year's poster featuring Meg Gaines
    - On display inside the library entrance on the 5th floor
    - View posters from previous years on our Facebook page

  • Give a Book
    Donate gently-used recreational books to help the Dane Co. Legal Resource Center purchase a subscription to Shepards for pro se patrons
    - All week on the 5th floor

  • Workshop - Bluebooking Tips for the Journal Write-On and Beyond
    Students will learn how to efficiently navigate the Bluebook to create and interpret legal citations
    - Wed., April 13th at 12:25 pm in Rm 5229
    - Fri., April 15th at 11:00 am in Rm 3253

February 7, 2011

Law Library Staff Member CJ Ullrich's Stort Story Published

Congratulations to CJ Ullrich, our Law Library Stack Manager, who has just had a short story published. The story is entitled "The Collector" and was co-authored by Paul McComas. The publisher is

CJ's work has earned high praised from acclaimed co-author McComas who writes:

C.J. has studied fiction writing with me for four weeks through Lawrence University's Bjorklunden adult-ed program in beautiful Door County, Wisconsin, and for one term (Summer 2010) through UW-Madison's Minicourse Program. It was in the latter venue that this talented young writer (whose gorgeous, elegiac story "The Call of the Mourning Dove" I'd included in my 2007 anthology Further Persons Imperfect) began developing the story you're about to read . . .

. . . That is, if you dare. Fair warning: "The Collector" is, appropriately, the single most disturbing piece in "the collection." It was a hard piece to co-author, simply because it took me to such a dark place--a place where I wasn't sure it was safe to be.

February 4, 2011

Instant Messaging Reference Services

The Milwaukee Public Library has recently introduced a new Instant Messaging (IM) service.

Hours for the IM service are Monday-Tuesday: 10 a.m. -8 p.m. and Wednesday-Saturday: 9 a.m.- 5:30 p.m.

And don't forgot that our reference librarians here at the UW Law Library also have an IM service. Just click on the Chat Now button on our homepage to chat with a librarian during normal reference hours.

Our hours are Monday - Thursday: 8:00 am- 9:00 pm, Friday: 8:00 am- 5:00 pm and Saturday & Sunday: 1:00 pm- 5:00 pm.

August 3, 2010

Law Library of Congress Launches Blog

From the Gov Docs list:

The Library of Congress added its fourth blog today entitled In Custodia Legis: Law Librarians of Congress ( In Custodia Legis is Latin for in the custody of the law.

One role of the Law Library of Congress is to be a custodian of law and legislation. As part of this, our team of bloggers covers current legal trends, collecting for the largest law library in the world, a British perspective, a perspective from New Zealand, developments and enhancements in THOMAS, and cultural intelligence and the law.

Hat tip to my colleague, Margaret Booth

July 16, 2010

Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin Educational Institute

On Friday, October 8th, 2010, the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin will host a day-long educational institute at the newly remodeled Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The theme for the conference is The Strength of Change and LLAW is very pleased to have Professor Robert C. Berring, Walter Perry Johnson Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley, as the keynote speaker.

Join us to discuss current issues affecting law librarianship and legal research and to discover how to prepare for what the future holds. This is an excellent opportunity to hear nationally based speakers close to home. Please see the LLAW website for further information.

June 10, 2010

Are All Librarians "Good Librarians"?

Dodge County Circuit Court Judge Steven Bauer contacted me this morning to let me know he'd linked to WisBlawg on his blog, To Speak the Truth. It's quite a nice post about his positive experiences with libraries and librarians as the following excerpt illustrates:

I love libraries and librarians. I was going to write "good librarians", but after using libraries my entire life, I can't remember a bad experience with a librarian. (I find that statement to be quite incredulous, even to myself, understanding the bell curve of human behavior and performance in any profession.) I am almost always impressed with their helpfulness and ability to navigate the labyrinths of a library and other sources of stored knowledge.

His statement made me think - are all librarians really "good librarians"? Of course, as Bauer notes, there are varying degrees of behavior and performance in every profession - so certainly some librarians are more skilled than others in digging up and organizing information.

But if you consider that what makes a "good librarian" is someone who is happy in her career - who enjoys helping others and the intellectual challenge of working with information - then he may be on to something. I know that this certainly fits the bill for me - and can honestly say that it's true of most librarians that I know. Yes, there are downsides - as there are with any profession - but as a whole the good outweighs the bad.

It stands to reason that someone who is happy with what she does (and has at least a minimum level of skill) is likely to do a better job than someone who doesn't care about or dislikes the work. Despite whatever difference in skills, the person who is happy in her career is just likely to have a better attitude and try harder.

So to all you librarians out there - keep up the "good" work!

May 25, 2010

Webinar on the Future of Law Libraries

On June 10, 11:30 a.m. EDT, American Association of Law Libraries is sponsoring a webinar with Stephen Abram entitled Interpreting the Tea Leaves: Thinking about the Future. LLAW's own Laura La Rose of Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren S.C. in Milwaukee is also one of the speakers.

Here's more about the webinar from AALL:

The world is constantly changing, and few years have brought as much change to law firms and their libraries as the past year. Join us as we interview Stephen Abram, named by Library Journal as one of the top 50 people influencing the future of libraries, and find out how this visionary thinker gathers information, formulates predictions, and identifies what it all means for libraries. Plan to leave the session energized, and armed with ways to see more clearly into the future.

April 12, 2010

National Library Week Celebration and Events

Stop by the UW Law Library this week and help us celebrate National Library Week!

For our celebration this year, we have put together a number of activities including drawings and giveaways, and, of course, our faculty READ poster.

This year's poster features Carin Clauss and will be on display later this week in the library.

Want to star in your very own READ poster? Then head over to the Merit Library this week with your favorite book. They'll take your photo and create a poster for you for only $3.

March 26, 2010

LLAW Plans Educational Institute for Librarians

On Friday, October 8th, 2010 the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin will host an all-day educational institute for librarians at the new Marquette University Law School building, Eckstein Hall, in Milwaukee, WI.

The theme for the conference is The Strength of Change. Registration will cost $100, and includes continental breakfast and lunch. The dual-track event will have sessions appropriate for all types of librarians.

More details to follow. Questions? Contact Emily Koss or Jamie Kroening.

March 10, 2010

Justice Walsh Bradley Gives Delightful Talk on Wisconsin Women's Legal History

Last evening I had the treat of hearing Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley speak at a meeting of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin. Her topic was Wisconsin women's legal history.

Not only was the subject on of particular interest to me but Justice Walsh Bradley is a wonderful story teller and really made the topic come alive. She took us through the history of women's legal rights and legal practice in our state using first hand accounts of the remarkable Wisconsin women that made it happen.

I was particularly moved by the story of Louise J. Smith, who attended the first women's suffrage convention in Seneca Falls at age 12 and was one of only two women in attendance who lived to see her dream of suffrage come true with the ratification of the 19th amendment at age 84. See the neat newspaper clipping about it from the Wisconsin State Historical Society.

January 4, 2010

WSLL Raises Document Delivery Fees

As of the new year, the Wisconsin State Law Library changed their document delivery fees. From WSLL @ Your Service:

For well over 10 years our minimum charge for delivery by fax, mail or email had been $3.00 for anything up to 4 pages. The new minimum charge of $15.00 covers delivery (by email, fax or mail) of up to 20 pages of material from print-based sources, or email delivery of any one document that's already in digital format, regardless of the number of pages. Print-based documents longer than 20 pages are billed at 75 cents per page. These fees are all subject to sales tax where applicable.

For a list of other libraries and organizations offering document delivery, including the UW Law Library, see our Guide to Wisconsin Legal Information Sources.

October 6, 2009

Judge Olly Neal Shares How a Stolen Book and a School Librarian Changed His Life

The other day on my drive in to work I listened to a really touching StoryCorps interview on NPR.

Judge Olly Neal shared the story of how a stolen book and a school librarian changed his life.

Olly Neal grew up in Arkansas during the 1950s. He didn't care much for high school. One day during his senior year, he cut class -- and wandered into the school library.

As he told his daughter, Karama, recently, he stumbled onto a book written by African-American author Frank Yerby. And the discovery changed the life of a teenage boy who was, in Neal's memory, "a rather troubled high school senior."...

There was just one problem: If Neal took the book to the checkout counter, he was sure that the girls who worked on the counter would tell his friends.

"Then my reputation would be down, because I was reading books," Neal said. "And I wanted them to know that all I could do was fight and cuss."

A week or two later, Neal had finished the book -- so he brought it back to the library, careful to replace it in the same spot he had found it.

"And when I put it back, there was another book by Frank Yerby," Neal said.

"So I thought, 'Maybe I'll read that, too.' So I took it under my jacket," Neal said.

"Later, I brought it back, and there was -- by God, there was another book by Frank Yerby. So I took it."

He read four of Yerby's books that semester -- checking out none of them.

But Neal's sneaky behavior turned out not to have been so sneaky after all.

Attending his 13-year high school reunion, Neal ran into the school's librarian, Mildred Grady....

"She told me that she saw me take that book when I first took it," Neal said.

"She said, 'My first thought was to go over there and tell him, boy, you don't have to steal a book, you can check them out -- they're free.'

"Then she realized what my situation was -- that I could not let anybody know I was reading."

Grady told Neal she decided that if he was showing an interest in books, "she and Mrs. Saunders would drive to Memphis and find another one for me to read -- and they would put it in the exact same place where the one I'd taken was."

So, every time Neal decided to take a book home, the pair would set off to the city to find another book for him.

"You've got to understand that this was not an easy matter then -- because this is 1957 and '58," Neal said. "And black authors were not especially available, No. 1. And No. 2, Frank Yerby was not such a widely known author. And No. 3, they had to drive all the way to Memphis to find it."

But the women's efforts paid off: Neal went on to attend law school and later became a judge, retiring as an appellate judge of the Arkansas Court of Appeals.

When Grady died, her son asked Neal to tell everyone gathered for her funeral the story of how the librarian nurtured his reading habit as a teenager.

"I credit Mrs. Grady for getting me in the habit of enjoying reading, so that I was able to go to law school and survive," Neal said.

July 7, 2009

Registration Open for Free AALL Unconference, Lawberry Camp

"The AALL 2009 Annual Meeting Theme is 'Innovate.' In that spirit, there will be an "unconference" for the first time ever this year prior to the Annual Meeting. Attendees will have the chance to explore ideas and discuss issues with fellow law librarians in an informal setting. We're calling it 'Lawberry Camp.' " [from website]

The unconference is the brain child of AALL Computing Services Special Interest Section members Sarah Glassmeyer and Jason Eiseman.

Here's more info about it from an email to AALL SIS members:

WHO: You. Yes, you. It doesn't matter if what type of librarian you are, how long you've been a librarian, if your management or not, or what type of library you work in (or if you're employed at all!). If you are coming to AALL, you are the right person to attend Lawberry Camp.

WHAT: Lawberry Camp, an unconference before AALL. What's an "unconference?" An unconference is a participant driven meeting. There are no planned presentations and the topics of discussion will be decided on by attendees on that day. Facilitators are present to keep the conversation flowing.

WHERE: WCC-Room 144 C

WHEN: Saturday, July 25 3pm - 6pm

WHY: Because you have something to share. Because you want to hear what others have to say. Because you want to meet with other law librarians in an informal setting. Because you have nothing to do the Saturday afternoon before AALL starts.

HOW: More information and registration can be found at Attendance is limited to 50 people, so don't delay!

July 6, 2009

Patent Searching at Milwaukee Public Library

From Now @ MPL:

Milwaukee Public Library is an official Patent and Trademark Depository Library. A Patent and Trademark Depository Library (PTDL) is a library designated by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to receive and house copies of U.S. patents and patent and trademark materials, to make them freely available to the public, and to actively disseminate patent and trademark information.

Once a month, a librarian from the Business and Technology Department presents a free workshop on how to conduct a patent search. Please call 414-286-3051 if you have any questions.

For additional resources including the Patent and Trademark Department's searchable database, peruse the links in the Patents & Trademarks category on the Milwaukee Public Library home page under Recommended Links.

June 26, 2009

UW-W Awarded Grant to Help School Librarians Learn About New Technologies

A group of University of Wisconsin-Whitewater library science professors has been awarded a federal grant totaling almost $1 million to help school librarians become licensed and conversant with changing technology. Read more in the press release.

Source: The Wheeler Report

June 10, 2009

Law Libraries Using LibGuides

LibGuides is a "web 2.0 library knowledge sharing system" offered by the company Springshare. LibGuides is growing in popularity among all kinds of libraries, including law libraries as a platform for creating web-based research guides.

Elizabeth Farrell of Florida State University College of Law has recently added a list of law libraries currently using LibGuides to the AALL Computing Services Special Interest Section wiki.

Following the list is a selected list of resources that may be helpful for law libraries currently using LibGuides or considering its purchase.

June 4, 2009

Announcing the Web 2.0 Challenge 2009 - A Free, Online Course to Introduce Law Librarians to Web 2.0 Technologies

Last year the AALL Computing Services Special Interest Section sponsored the first Web 2.0 Challenge, an online course to introduce law librarians to social software and how to use it in their libraries. The course was so popular that CS-SIS is sponsoring it again in 2009.

The Web 2.0 Challenge will provide a free, comprehensive, and social online learning opportunity designed for law librarians that incorporates hands-on use of these technologies. The course is intended for law librarians who have little experience with these technologies but are interested in learning more.

The online course will take place between August 3 and September 6. The five week course will cover these areas:

  • Week 1: Blogs & RSS

  • Week 2: Flickr & Social Bookmarking Software

  • Week 3: Social Networking Software and Twitter

  • Week 4: Wikis and LibGuides

  • Week 5: Web 2.0 @ Your Library

Participants will be required to complete a series of weekly activities, including viewing an instructional screencast; completing hands-on exercises based on the lesson; weekly blogging about their experience; and participating in a weekly small group chat session. The course will culminate with each participant developing a proposal for implementing a specific social software tool in their library.

More information is available at the CS-SIS website.

May 15, 2009

Law Library Blogs List Gets a New Home

For several years now, I've maintained a list of Law Library Blogs on the UW Law Library web server. I'm pleased to share that this list of blogs written by law librarians or law library associations is now available on the new AALL Computing Services Special Interest Section wiki.

In the course of the migration, the list has been updated by Michael Robak of the University of Illinois College of Law. Michael located many new blogs and diligently checked all of the existing ones to ensure that they were current (and removed those that weren't). Thank you, Michael! There are currently 185 known law library blogs.

April 17, 2009

Law Libraries & the Economic Crisis

How is the current economic crisis affecting the law library profession? An e-newsletter from AALL President, James Duggan, shares the results from a recent survey of law library directors:


  • 23 percent of law libraries have experienced staff reductions, the overwhelming number ranging from one to five full-time employees laid off.
  • Nearly 20 percent of law libraries have eliminated vacant positions, and more than 63 percent have a hiring freeze in place at this time.
    • Hardest hit have been the private law libraries; 30 percent have had staff reductions, and nearly 72 percent have a hiring freeze in place.
    • Only about 10 percent of academic law libraries have reduced their staffs, but 45 percent have a hiring freeze in place.
    • A little more than 15 percent of state, court, and county law libraries have experienced layoffs, and 57 percent have a hiring freeze.


  • 60+ percent of all respondents have already experienced budget cuts.
    • Again, private law library budgets have seen the most cuts; nearly 73 percent have been cut, and about a quarter of respondents have seen cuts of 15 percent or more.
    • Nearly half of academic law library budgets are so far untouched.
    • About 40 percent of state, court, and county law library budgets also have remained steady, but many anticipate cuts in the next fiscal year.

Full results of the survey, as well as examples of what law libraries are doing to cope with the current economic situation are available on the AALL Tools for Success wiki.

April 13, 2009

National Library Week Celebration and Events at the UW Law Library

Happy National Library Week! Stop by the UW Law Library this week and help us celebrate. For our celebration this year, we've put together a number of activities including games, displays, and faculty/staff READ posters.

READ Posters
This year's posters feature, Louis Butler, Justice in Residence, and the Law School IT Team, Eric Giefer, Darryl Berney, Karen Koethe and Joel Santodomingo.

Want to star in your very own READ poster? Then head over to the MERIT Education Library (formerly the CIMC) this week with your favorite book. They'll take your photo and create a poster for you.

Reference Book of the Day
National Library Week is also an ideal time to discover some library resources of which you may not be aware. Look for the Reference Book of the Day on display at the reference desk. You might just find a few hidden gems in our collection.

Games, Snacks and Prizes (for UW Law School students, faculty and staff only)
Crossword Puzzle - Monday through Wednesday

Complete our National Library Week crossword puzzle with clues that relate to law and legal research. A gift donated by the UW Alumni Office will be awarded to the person with the most correct puzzle answers.

Pick-up a copy of the crossword puzzle at the Reference Desk and drop off your completed entry no later than 9:00 p.m. on Weds. April 15th . The winner will be notified by email on Thursday, April 16th. In the event of a tie, the winner will be drawn at random from all correct entries. This contest is open to all UW Law School students, faculty, and staff. Good luck everyone!!

Live Games and Snacks - Thursday, 1:00 to 2:00 in the Atrium

Join the library staff in the atrium for an afternoon of fun games and prizes in the atrium. Cookies will also be served courtesy of LexisNexis and Westlaw.

March 5, 2009

AALL Annual Meeting Planning & Tracking Tools

Law librarians are a pretty tech savvy bunch. As evidence, take a look at some of the exciting tools my colleagues have created relating to the 2009 American Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting. This year, the meeting will be held in Washington DC on July 25th - 28th.

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 13, 2009

Profiled on Blog

Yesterday Bill Gratsch, founder of, 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 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.

January 28, 2009

Library Elf, Library Account Notification Service, to Charge for Premium Service

I'm a heavy user of our local public library. I love that I can go online, put things on hold, and then pick them up at my leisure. Keeping track of when things come in and when they are due back again can be a hassle, however.

Enter Library Elf, a handy little service which tracks your account at the public library. Just enter your library card number and pin number, and Elf will send you an alert via email or RSS before your books are due. And if you place holds on library materials, Elf alert you when those are available, too. You can also sign up to receive alerts for other family members if they've given you their pin number. See my earlier blog post on Library Elf.

Due to rising costs, Library Elf has recently announced that they will start charging for some services. There will be two levels of service: a basic service which is free and a premium service which is subscription based. From their web site:

  • Basic Service

    The basic service provides email reminders similar to those found in existing library email reminders: single card with just pre-dues and over dues. This free service is mainly for users whose libraries do not have a pre-due or overdue email reminder service. If your library does provide such a service then you should use theirs instead of ours. [FYI - The Madison area libraries offer such a service]

  • Premium Service

    The premium service provides multiple ways of monitoring your library cards. This is mainly for users who frequent different libraries, have families with young children and users who frequent the library a lot.

A number of libraries have contracted with Library Elf to offer the premium service to their patrons at no charge. These libraries automatically show up when you add a card to your Elf account and will have the "subscribed" designation after their name.

January 26, 2009

Rex Libris Coming to the Big Screen?

Variety reports that Warner Bros. Pictures has hired Mark Burton to pen the bigscreen adaptation of James Turner's comicbook "Rex Libris," about an everyday guy who becomes part of a secret sect of librarians who battle forces of darkness in chasing down overdue or stolen books.

Source: PLI Library Relations

December 5, 2008

Download Audio Books from Your Public Library - Now to Your iPod

Courtesy of the Wisconsin Public Library Consortium, library patrons can download digital audio books to their mp3 players or burn the files to an audio CD. And just recently announced, the books are now available for iPods and iPhones. Previously, the system only worked with Microsoft-based mp3 players.

This example shows the variety of formats now available:
The audio books are available via the Overdrive Media Console. To download to your iPod or iPhone, you must have OverDrive Media Console v3.0 (or newer) for Windows or OverDrive Media Console v1.0 (or newer) for Mac installed on your computer.

A library card and PIN number are needed to "check-out" audio books. Some music and video recordings are also available.

For instructions on how to download and play materials, see:

Source: Check It Out from the Madison Public Library

November 11, 2008

WI State Law Library After Hours Service

From the November WSLL @ Your Service newsletter:

2009 After Hours Subscriptions - Now's the Time!

Wisconsin Attorneys: Would you like the convenience of using the State Law Library later in the evening or on weekends? Now's the time to subscribe to our After Hours Service. A calendar-year subscription includes access to the library from 5pm to 10pm Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, and a convenient key fob for easy access into the building. As an After Hours subscriber, you'll have access to the general library collection and all the electronic resources available on our public access PCs. You can also make photocopies and check out circulating library materials as needed. Details and application forms are available on our After Hours Service webpage.

Links to Online Books Added to MadCat Library Catalog

Earlier this week the UW Madison campus libraries added links from the MadCat library catalog to online versions of volumes in Google Books Search or the CIC shared digital repository,HathiTrust.

If an item we have in MadCat has been digitized by Google and is present in the Google Books or HathiTrust database, the MadCat record will have a link labeled "View Available Text Online". That link will take patrons to a list of digitized copies and give them information about copyright status, etc. Also, if the ISBN of a book is in Google Books, a cover image will be shown in the MadCat record.

Example MadCat record

November 4, 2008

Sign up to Receive Notice Before Library Books are Due

Starting November 3, 2008, Madison area public library users will be able to receive an e-mail notice two days before checked out items are due. This service will be available on an "opt-in" basis, so if you would like to participate, please contact your local library.

Or, you can use Library Elf like I do. Elf is a free service that works at lots of libraries, including a whole bunch in Wisconsin.

Elf will send you:

  • Email and/or RSS alerts before items are due
  • Email and/or RSS alerts on overdues and holds
  • Consolidated list of yours or your family's library loans and holds
  • Cellphone text message alerts for holds (US and Canada)
  • Real-time checking by browser

I'd be lost without this service. My family uses our local library quite heavily. Trying to keep track of items would be a nightmare without these notices.

October 22, 2008

Libraries Get Busier As Budgets Get Tighter

"Tough economic times means more people are checking out their local libraries, hoping to cut down on the amount they spend on books, magazines and movies," reports Channel3000.

From the article:

In Madison, libraries are getting busier as household budgets get tighter. "We're seeing increases most frequently or more often in our more economically diverse neighborhoods," said Tana Elias, Web resources coordinator for the central branch of the Madison Public Library....

"Nationally, library use had been up even before the economy down-turned. But now with the economic situation, we're seeing even more growth and use of libraries," said Lisa Strand, executive director of the Wisconsin Library Association.

The Wisconsin Library Association said the bad economy means that while library usage is up, funding will be tighter than ever.

But officials said libraries make excellent use of taxpayer dollars. "For every dollar of taxpayer investment, there's a $4.06 return," said Strand.

"It's a taxpayer service, and you might as well get your money's worth by coming down to your local library," Elias added.

October 6, 2008

Why Learning Emerging Technologies is Every Librarians' Business

Kathryn Greenhill of Librarians Matter has put together an excellent presentation on finding the time and reasons to learn about emerging technologies.

The presenation title comes from the two phrases I hear most when people find out what I do. If they are lukewarm about new technologies, they tell me that they don't have time to learn about new technologies in their jobs. If they are enthusiastic, they often tell me that "THEY" (their workmates, their organisation) just don't understand why they should spend time finding out about new web tools.

The presentation covers:
1. What are emerging technologies ?
2. Five reasons to learn about them
3. Compass points to work out where to put your energy
4. Preparation
5. Tools
6. Useful sites
7. Convincing THEM (Taking it back to your organisation)

EPA Reopens Regional and Headquarters Libraries

Faced with a firestorm of opposition from scientific and library organizations, as well as a congressional mandate, the EPA is reopening its libraries in Region 5 in Chicago, Region 6 in Dallas, Region 7 in Kansas City, and the EPA Headquarters and Chemical Libraries in Washington, D.C. In fact, they're not just reopening them, they're enhancing them by expanding staffing, operating hours, and services.

Per a notice in the Federal Register: "All libraries will be staffed by a professional librarian to provide services to the public and EPA staff via phone, e-mail, or in person. The libraries will provide access for a minimum of 24 hours over four days per week on a walk-in basis or by appointment. All libraries will provide core information services of reference/research assistance and interlibrary loan/document delivery."

Source: Information Today

October 2, 2008

Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin Calendar

The Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin has embarked on a new marketing initiative this year - a LLAW calendar. The calendar features pictures taken by LLAW members, as well as, interesting dates in legal, library and pop culture history.

Calendars are available at a cost of $15 plus postage. If you are interested in purchasing a calendar and promoting law librarians, please contact Bev Butula by Oct. 10th.

September 22, 2008

Univ. of Michigan Installs Espresso Book Printing Machine

The University of Michigan Shapiro Library is the first university library to install the Espresso Book Machine. The book print machine produces paperback books on demand. From the press release:

The book machine, located in the Shapiro Library lobby on U-M's Central Campus, prints out-of-copyright books from the University's digitized collections. At a cost of about $10 per book, the service is available to researchers, students and the public.

The printing process begins with a reader selecting a digitized book from U-M's pre-1923 collection or from another online source, such as the Open Content Alliance. Most books printed prior to the early 1920s can be reprinted without seeking the permission from whomever holds the copyright. Then the file is downloaded to the Espresso Book Machine, where it is formatted, printed and perfect bound with a four-color cover.

A finished printed book takes 5-7 minutes, depending on the number of pages.

A short video about the Espresso project accompanies the U-M press release. See also my earlier post about the Espresso machine.

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

September 18, 2008

AALL Spectrum Blog

Editor Mark Estes has launched the AALL Spectrum Blog, "a tool to continue the conversation about law librarianship and the opportunities we face."

AALL Spectrum is the monthly magazine of the American Association of Law Libraries.

August 28, 2008

UW Madison Libraries Develops Mobile-Friendly Site

The UW Madison Libraries have developed a mobile friendly site so that users of devices such as iPhones, PDAs, etc. may more easily navigate through the library web site.

This beta mobile site is accessible at either:

August 27, 2008

New UW Law Library Web Site - URL Changes for WI Briefs & Drafting Records

I'm very pleased to share the newly redesigned Law Library Web site. The new site features lots more quick links to our most popular resources. We've also revamped our list of databases so that users may browse by title, subject, or do a keyword search.

Because the site architecture is also much changed (for the better, we hope!), the URLs for some of our resources have changed. So, if you've linked to the following resources, you'll want to change them to the new URLs.

August 14, 2008

Star in Your Own Mini READ Poster

Now you (or your dog) can star in your own mini READ poster thanks to ALA (American Library Association).

Just upload your photo, add some text if desired, choose a poster style, and you're done! How fun!

July 22, 2008

Milwaukee Area Libraries Using RFID to Improve Efficiency

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports on the use of RFID in Milwaukee area libraries.

West Allis is among a handful of local libraries in Milwaukee County -- including Greenfield, Wauwatosa and Franklin -- that are moving from a bar code system of tracking materials to radio frequency identification, or RFID.

Using scanners to detect tiny microchips embedded in each item -- installing those is a herculean feat on the front end -- staff can do everything from checking books in and out to locating misshelved items, even determining which items haven't been borrowed for years...

"Prior to this, every item checked out had to be physically opened up, the bar code located inside a fly page or inside the CD, and then it had to be read under a light," Wauwatosa Library Director Mary Murphy said.

"Now, nobody opens anything. You slide it over a panel, and it's out," said Murphy, who eliminated two part-time positions with the conversion. "Multiply that times 700,000, and repeat for the return cycle, and that's how much labor's being saved."

Source: WLA Blog

July 7, 2008

Web 2.0 Challenge Course Now Available

Are you interested in learning about applications like blogs, wikis, and Second Life, but don't have a lot of time? Take the AALL Computing Service Special Interest Section's Web 2.0 Challenge!

The Web 2.0 Challenge -- a free, comprehensive, and interactive online course -- will use hands-on exercises to introduce many kinds of social technologies in just five weeks. The course is intended for those who have little experience with these technologies but are interested in learning more.

The course is designed for law librarians, but most of the content is appropriate for any library or legal professional.

Although enrollment in the course is now full, anyone may follow along with the course as a guest. Most of the course content will be available to you. To access the course, go to and select "Login as guest"

The course is scheduled for the five weeks after the AALL Annual Meeting (July 21-Aug. 24, 2008). You may follow along with this schedule, or at your own pace if you prefer.

If you're planning to attend the AALL Annual Meeting, I invite you to attend session H1, Cool Tools: Energizing Law Librarianship with Web 2.0 on Tuesday from 9:00 to 10:30. I'll be leading one of the showcases in which I'll discuss the Web 2.0 Challenge and preview the course content.

If you have any questions about the Web 2.0 Challenge, please contact me as I'm one of the course organizers. This also explains why I haven't posted much to WisBlawg lately - sorry!

June 24, 2008

Law Librarianship as an Alternative Career for Attorneys

In a new career alternatives feature, Above the Law examines law librarianship. A bit snarky, but pretty much on the money. Worth a look if you're thinking about a career change.

Selections from the AALL Salary Survey are reprinted to answer "the $64,000 question: what's the pay like?"

June 5, 2008

Article: Madison Public Libraries Embrace Technology to Attract Users

77 Square, off shoot of The Capital Times, has a great article on how the public libraries in Madison have embraced technology to attract users and stay relevant in the digital age.

Libraries were once feared to be headed for obsolescence as the digital age made massive amounts of information accessible from a home computer. But now, in addition to helping patrons find the latest Michael Chabon novel, libraries have adapted -- and prospered -- by offering perks like free wireless access, gaming, computer skills classes and assistance in navigating the flood of resources on the Internet....

"The trend is increasing library use," said Loriene Roy, president of the American Library Association. "Looking for a book to read is still the top reason why people use libraries. But it's also the new services that are providing a lot of the excitement that we're seeing."...

For many, it's all about the Internet, which has turned out to be a boon for libraries. While most people surf online at home, others don't have Internet access or have clunky dial-up access. Serving that population is part of a library's critical public mission, library officials said. Even those with broadband at home visit libraries for access to databases that individuals either can't get, or would have to pay for to access from home.

June 4, 2008

Law Librarians LinkedIn Group

Abbie Mulvihill (AbsTracked) has set up a Law Librarians group at LinkedIn.

If you are a law librarian with a LinkedIn profile, all you have to do is click on this link to join. You'll also get this nifty logo on your profile. It's just another chance to network with your peers.

LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking site mainly used for professional networking. Like Facebook or MySpace, individuals set up profiles (see my profile for example) through which they connect to others.

June 3, 2008

Keep Track of Library Books with Library Elf

I was reminded again yesterday of how much I love Library Elf, a handy little service which tracks your account at the public library. Just enter your library card number and pin number, and Elf will send you an alert via email or RSS* before your books are due. And if you place holds on library materials, Elf alert you when those are available, too.

My kids love going to our local public library. While I encourage reading, a part of me used to cringe every time they'd take a stack of books up to the circulation desk. How on earth am I going to keep track of all these books?, I wondered.

But now it's easy with Library Elf. You can monitor more than one library card, including family members' if you know their library card number (and pin if required) - presuming you have their permission, of course.

Several Wisconsin public libraries participate in the Library Elf service, including Madison and Milwaukee public libraries.

*Due to some privacy concerns, the Library Elf RSS feed may not work with Bloglines.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

May 2, 2008

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

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

April 22, 2008

Recommended Amendments to the Copyright Act for Libraries

Last Friday, Marquette Law Library hosted a very interesting presentation on "Amending the Copyright Act for Libraries" by Laura Gasaway (UNC Chapel Hill School of Law).

Ms. Gasaway shared her experiences as co-chair of The Section 108 Study Group,* the independent committee (comprised of both librarians and publishers) charged with updating the Copyright Act for the digital era. It's no surprise that balancing the rights of creators and copyright owners and the needs of libraries and archives proved to be particularly challenging.

Ultimately, the group recommended a series of legislative changes in the following areas:

  • Eligibility
    • Museum Eligibility Under Section 108
    • Additional Eligibility Requirements
    • Outsourcing of Section 108 Activities

  • Preservation and Replacement Exceptions
    • Replacement Copying
    • Preservation of Unpublished Works
    • Preservation of Publicly Disseminated Works
    • Preservation of Publicly Available Online Content
    • Television News Exception
  • Miscellaneous Issues
    • Unsupervised Reproducing Equipment
    • Reorganization of the Section 108 Exceptions

For more information on these recommendations, see the Executive Summary and full report of the Section 108 Study Group.

For a summary of the Study Group's recommendations, see Library Journal and Information Week.

* Section 108 refers to the section of the Copyright Act of 1976 which provides libraries and archives with specific exceptions to the exclusive rights of copyright owners. The act was enacted in the pre-digital era when works were created and distributed primarily in analog format.

April 14, 2008

Happy National Library Week 2008!

Stop by the UW Law Library this week and help us celebrate National Library Week!

For our celebration this year, we have put together a number of activities including, of course, our faculty READ posters. This year's posters feature, Anuj Desai and Keith Findley & John Pray.


Want to star in your very own READ poster? Then head over to the CIMC this week with your favorite book. They'll take your photo and create a poster for you.

March 18, 2008

Announcing the Web 2.0 Challenge: A Free, Online Course to Introduce Law Librarians to Web 2.0 Technologies

For the past few months, I've been involved with a project that I'm pleased to finally be able to officially announce: the Web 2.0 Challenge, an online course to introduce law librarians to social software and how to use it in their libraries. The course is sponsored by the AALL Computing Services Special Interest Section of which I serve on the board.

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 law librarians who have little experience with these technologies but are interested in learning more.

The online course will take place between July 21 and August 18, immediately following the AALL Annual Meeting. The five week course will cover these areas:

Week 1: Blogs & RSS
Week 2: Wikis
Week 3: Social Networking Software and Second Life
Week 4: Flickr & Social Bookmarking Software
Week 5: Selling Social Software @ Your Library

Participants will be required to complete a series of weekly activities, including viewing an instructional screencast; completing hands-on exercises based on the lesson; weekly blogging about their experience; and participating in a weekly small group chat session. The course will culminate with each participant developing a proposal for implementing a specific social software tool in their library.

Full enrollment will be limited to approximately ninety participants. However, course content will be freely viewable to anyone who wishes to follow along. Enrolled participants who complete all weekly activities are eligible for weekly and grand prize drawings (prizes provided by CS-SIS). Certificates will also be awarded to all participants who complete the course.

We anticipate opening enrollment at the end of June. There is no charge for this course and enrollment will be offered first come, first served. A limited number of spots will also be reserved for on site registration at the AALL Annual Meeting CS-SIS program, H-1: Cool Tools: Energizing Law Librarianship with Web 2.0 on Tuesday, July 15th.

If you would like to be notified when enrollment opens, please send us your contact information. If you have any questions or comments, you may also enter them on the form above, or you may contact me directly at

March 10, 2008

Self Playing Digital Audio Books - No CD or MP3 Player Needed

Milwaukee Public Library has announced that they've recently acquired a collection of "Playaway" audio books.

Playaways are the digital content of an entire book pre-loaded into a pocket-size player. There is no need to load CD's or cassette tapes; you just press "play" and begin listening. Very simple to operate and light to carry, the library is excited to be able to offer this type of media to its patrons.

Many Madison area public libraries also carry Playaway titles.

To browse a list of available titles, do an author search for "Playaway" in the South Central Library System (Madison-area) catalog or the Milwaukee County library catalog.

Update 3/11/08: It seems that College Library also has some Playaway titles. Thanks to my colleague, Gabby Bate, for the tip.

Bo Ryan & Crew READ Poster Available

I mentioned earlier that Bo Ryan & crew are featured on this year's UW Madison Libraries READ poster. The photo for the poster was shot at College Library and includes, from left to right, players Joe Krabbenhoft, Jon Leuer, Marcus Landry, Brian Butch and Trevon Hughes. The project was paid for with private support.

Copies are now available - If you would like one, contact for copies.

February 21, 2008

AALL Annual Meeting Web Site & Blog

It seems to be the day for AALL blogs. In addition to the afore mentioned Washington Affairs blog, the AALL Annual Meeting blog also makes its debut today. Actually, it's more than just a blog - it's a whole Web site.

Here are some of creator Jason Eiseman's favorite features:

  • It's a single website: in previous years blogs & websites were separate, with different styles, url's, etc. This is often due to hosting issues, we were really lucky to have Lewis & Clark's option for WordPress.
  • Fewer navigation links. We really wanted to cut down on how many links people had to deal with, so we simplified the home page and added more links on the inside pages. I think this worked out pretty well.
  • Registration for the blog is easy. People can register themselves. Instead of people emailing me, which you're welcome to do, people can simply sign up on their own and start posting to the blog. We might have to do some monitoring and quality control, but I think it's worth it.
  • Check out the collaborative Google map on the Explore page. I wish I could take credit for it, but I have to thank Diane Murley at ALL-SIS.
  • Videos... I have added a video to the blog and I hope to add more in the future, introducing you to Portland sites, and Portland's awesome law librarians. The next video should be coming very soon.

New Blog from AALL Washington Affairs Office

Washington Blawg is the new blog from the AALL Washington Affairs Office.

Here at the Washington Affairs Office (WAO) of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), we're always trying to find new ways to update our members and others about the latest policy news, resources, and activities in D.C. and around the country. After considering the different ways we currently communicate with our members (primarily through our Advocacy Listserv, our monthly E-Bulletin, and AALL's From the Desk of... E-Newsletter), we determined we needed a new, fast, and comprehensive way to update our members and friends about our work. Thus the Washington Blawg was born!

The Washington Blawg will keep you up-to-date about the policy issues that matter to AALL. We will cover legislative, judicial and regulatory activities on the state, national, and international levels and address important topics such as access to government information, digital authentication, copyright, and open government issues.

February 14, 2008

UW Law Library Facebook Page

I'm pleased to announce that I've recently created a Facebook page for the UW Law Library. Stop by and check it out.

February 8, 2008

Revolving Books Stacks as 19th Century's "Library of the Future"?

Here's another intriguing image from the Wisconsin Historical Society Image archive. This sketch of a revolving book stack circa 1900 is absolutely mind boggling. The caption reads: "Sketch of two huge round revolving book stacks with an elevator. This was apparently a 'library of the future' idea and was probably never actually built." Check out the full image on the WHS site for more detail.

The first thing that struck me was its sheer size. Good lord, this thing is a monster. How many books could this thing supposedly hold? Just look at the size of the guy in the elevator.

And what of the visionary sketch-artist? Just who was W.D. Lewis? Neither I nor the kind folks at the Wisconsin Historical Society could find anything about him/her.

Then I wondered, was this a common-place notion of the library of the future? A giant book storage facility where volumes would be pulled upon request? A quick search in Google Books turned up an 1888 Encyclopaedia Britannica entry for the subject "Libraries" which reads:

A speedy supply of books is ensured by the use of the automatic book delivery contrived for the Harvard book store... At the delivery-desk a keyboard shows the digits which combine the various shelf marks; and the number of the book wanted being struck upon it, is repeated at the floor on which the work is located where it is sought for by an attendant and place in a box attached to an endless belt, which carefully deposits it on a cushioned receptacle close by the delivery truck.

But it seems that this vision was not looked well upon by all. From a 1881 article Library Journal article:

If the library of the future is to be a Harvard "book-stack," six or eight stories high, with the book cases two feet four inches apart, not warmed in winter, and from whose prison-cells readers are to be excluded, the question arises whether such a minute classification of the books upon the shelves, as we have been making, is necessary... My preference , however, at present, is not running in the direction of "book-stacks." I still hold to a minute classification of the books upon the shelves, and to giving to scholarly persons, when it is necessary, the opportunity of access to the shelves under conditions of ordinary comfort.

January 28, 2008

Bo Ryan & Crew Featured on New READ Poster

From Libraries@UW Madison newsletter:

UW basketball Head Coach Bo Ryan and several of the Wisconsin Badgers men's basketball players are the subjects in the latest READ poster by the UW-Madison Libraries, which will arrive in early February.


January 18, 2008

OPAC of the Future Featured at UW Reference Retreat

Last week the UW Madison Libraries sponsored a Reference Retreat for our campus reference librarians. There were some really great sessions that I thought might have a broader appeal and which some WisBlawg readers might enjoy viewing. By way of full disclosure, I was co-chair of the committee that organized the retreat.

One session though, pretty much stole the show: Making Your Catalog Data Work Harder: A Library R&D Project by Steve Meyer, Library Application Developer at UW Madison. This presentation is toward the end of part 1 in the Webcast.

In his presentation, Steve gave us a glimpse of the OPAC the future and, boy was it cool. Living up to his own mantra, "embrace the beta," Steve introduced us to, SaneCat, the "OPAC-like toy" that he developed last winter, during our campus intersession.

According to Steve, SaneCat was built to solve the following problems:

  • To create an OPAC-like prototype that doesn't suck
  • To showcase library collections not just provide the call number for an individual title
  • To approximate the experience of browsing the stacks in 2-D

And solve them it did, as you can begin to see in the screen shot below. Note the Amazon-ish feel with the "more like this" links (of which there were much more than this screen shot shows) and the "browse virtual stacks" link.


Obviously, this was a very small project using a very small sample of our catalog data, so we won't be moving into production anytime soon here at the UW Madison Libraries... but it does give our imaginations something a bit more concrete to build upon. As Steve points out:

  • we have proof that our data can do what we want
  • we know that Amazon does not have a monopoly on 'more like this'
  • we have a mockup that can stand as leverage with vendors
  • we can lend our tech to vendors so our systems are better

Libraries have so much awesome data with which we could do so much more. It's so cool to see a system like SaneCat that can leverage that data into something much more powerful than our current OPAC. Let's do this thing.

January 17, 2008

Of Overdue Books and Library Cops

OnMilwaukee had a funny post today in which the author is reminded of some long overdue books from the Milwaukee Public Library.

"So, in the end," he writes, "I unwittingly gave myself up, ending my life on the lam." Too bad he didn't have the cash with him to make good on the hefty fine.

Oddly reminiscent, the author notes, of the classic Seinfeld episode, "The Library" in which Jerry gets a visit from Mr. Bookman, the Sergeant-Joe-Fridayesque library cop from NYPL, over the matter of an unreturned book from 1971. Check it out on YouTube.

BOOKMAN: You took this book out in 1971.

JERRY: Yes, and I returned it in 1971.

BOOKMAN: Yeah, '71. That was my first year on the job. Bad year for libraries. Bad year for America. Hippies burning library cards, Abby Hoffman telling everybody to steal books. I don't judge a man by the length of his hair or the kind of music he listens to. Rock was never my bag. But you put on a pair of shoes when you walk into the New York Public Library, fella.

And then there is Kramer: "The Dewey Decimal System, what a scam that was. Boy that Dewey guy really cleaned up on that deal."

January 11, 2008

Searchable Bibliography of UW Law Faculty Publications Is Now Online

From UW Law School News:

A searchable bibliography for locating articles and books written by University of Wisconsin Law School faculty is now up on the Law School Web site. The search form is at

The directory is searchable by author, subject, title, and keywords. "We hope it showcases the varied scholarship of our faculty," says UW Law Library Faculty Services Librarian Cheryl O'Connor, a member of the committee that produced the new service.

The bibliography is still a work in progress, O'Connor says. "Our goal is to make it retrospective for each faculty member and to add more citations from emeritus professors as well as those faculty no longer affiliated with the UW."

O'Connor adds a thank-you to the many contributors to the project. "In addition to the fine work done by our IT staff," she says, "Virginia Meier, Steven Weber and Nate Dau-Schmidt of the Law Library staff did much of the data verification and entry. Associate Dean for Research Kathryn Hendley should be applauded for her efforts to keep this project on task as well as her vision for the format, and Sue Sawatske for her invaluable assistance."

State Law Library Introduces New Catalog

Earlier this month, the Wisconsin State Law Library introduced a new interface for their library catalog. It offers several new customized features, including the ability to save a re-run searches, renew your materials online, as well as customized email and RSS alerts for new materials.

The the latest WSLL @ Your Service for information on how to use these new features.

January 2, 2008

Libraries As Relevant As Ever, Esp. to Young Adults

From a recent survey on library use conducted by Pew Internet & American Life:

The survey results challenge the assumption that libraries are losing relevance in the internet age. Libraries drew visits by more than half of Americans (53%) in the past year for all kinds of purposes.... And it was the young adults in tech-loving Generation Y (age 18-30) who led the pack. Compared to their elders, Gen Y members were the most likely to use libraries for problem-solving information and in general patronage for any purpose.

December 21, 2007

Do Law Librarians Relish Anonymity?

A big manila envelope from the New York Times was in my mailbox today. Hmm, I didn't request anything from them lately. It was from none other than Robert Pear, NYT Washington Bureau reporter, whom I "met" a while back via his response to something I posted on WisBlawg. He was thoughtful enough to send me an article entitled "Law Librarians" which appeared recently in The Green Bag. What a good guy.

The article offers a historical perspective on the role of the law librarian, particularly in academia. It was written by University of Virginia School of Law Professor G. Edward White. Here is the citation:
G. Edward White. Law Librarians. 11 Green Bag 81 (Autumn 2007)

The article is quite thought-provoking, although I don't know if it was in the way that the author intended. In the last few pages, White offers an assessment of today's academic law librarians.

As the scholarly dimensions of occupying a law faculty position have proliferated, as law students themselves engage in more ambitious scholarship, and as digital research has dramatically expanded, the need for a cadre of sophisticated persons providing research services to members of a law school community has increased. Increasingly such persons enter the market as staff members of law libraries. It may not be much of an overstatement to suggest that such persons as the ganglia in a law school's scholarly networks.

But is was the next paragraph that struck me the most:

Interestingly, the law librarians who provide that help tend to labor under, and perhaps even relish, a posture of anonymity.... The position of research librarian seems to attract people who enjoy its anonymity. Marian the Librarian's selflessness has not wholly been lost in an area of relentless self-promotion.

Is that true? And if so, is it necessarily a good thing? It would seem that in the context of this article, it was a complement. It certainly helps to foster the sentiment that libraries, and by extension librarians, are one of the few "unambiguously good" institutions in society, as mentioned by the author.

But what of this selflessness? Sure it's good for our image - and for our hearts - but is it good for our survival? I don't know. While it's clear that Professor White values and appreciates the law library staff, can we safely assume that others will do the same? Can we afford to labor in relative anonymity waiting to be discovered like Lana Turner in a drug store? What about when library funding is on the line?

What do you think? I'd love to hear your comments.
Update: 1/3/08

Julie Jones over at Law Librarian Blog has posted her thoughts on the Green Bag article. She was also taken aback by the anonymity bit. She writes:

While White is clearly supportive of the work and value of law librarians, I wasn't aware that we relished anonymity. In fact, I thought the profession has been trying for many years to raise our visibility and perceived value.

December 20, 2007

New Library Surveillance Law Put to Use Already

From the Appleton Post-Crescent:

A new law that gives police quick access to public library surveillance video showing suspected criminal activity was put to use two days after the legislation took effect.

See the full article for details. See my earlier post for information about the new legislation.

December 17, 2007

More on MPL's Decision to Discontinue Holds

Following up on my post last week about Milwaukee Public Library's decision to discontinue holds on media items, see the JS Online article about the decision.

From the article:

Milwaukee Public Library Director Paula Kiely said the change will save about $100,000 in staffing under the 2008 budget...

[But] critics say the policy will disproportionately hurt the poor, disabled and elderly...

"A lot of folks in Milwaukee don't have the transportation to jump from library to library," Whitefish Bay Library Director Cathy Peterson said. "And there are branch libraries, but they have nothing compared to the big library downtown."

The situation is more complex than I had realized. Because the suburban Milwaukee libraries have no such hold limitations in place, patrons can still place holds on their materials. Critics say that this could cost suburban libraries more as Milwaukee residents turn to them for items they can't get delivered from their neighborhood branches.

And, according to JS Online, because libraries cannot distinguish between patron types, city vs suburban, this causes a "conundrum for suburban librarians, who say they could block holds for Milwaukee residents, but not without limiting access to their own residents. And, so far, none is ready to do that."

So if money is the issue, why can't MPL just impose fees for making holds requests?
Because according to the FAQ prepared by MPL, "imposing fees for this service would violate Wisconsin state statutes which maintain that public libraries cannot charge for this service." Presumably, this refers to Wisconsin Statute 43.52. More illustrative, however, is Wisconsin Attorney General Opinion 26-84 (73 Wis. Op. Atty. Gen. 87).

Coincidentally, see LibrarianInBlack for a treatise on the problem of charging for holds.

According to the FAQ, MPL welcomes all comments and suggestions to determine how best to serve customers given today's limited resources. Please complete a comment form online and/or in person at any MPL location. Customers may contact Library Director Paula Kiely at 414.286.3000.

December 14, 2007

Barnes & Noble Sales to Benefit Madison Public Library Sequoya Branch

From Check It Out @ Madison Public Library:

If you read books, you probably buy them as gifts for the holidays, too. Shoppers who frequent the west side Barnes & Noble (7433 Mineral Point Road) this season between December 19 and December 22 can also benefit the library.

On these days, any purchase made with the presentation of a special voucher results in a gift to the Sequoya Capital Campaign. You can even have your purchases wrapped by Foundation members and supporters on December 19 or December 22!

December 12, 2007

Milwaukee Public Library Reduces Hold Options

Due to budget shortfalls, the Milwaukee Public Library has reluctantly changed their policy regarding holds:

Effective January 2, 2008, most media items can no longer be reserved and held for pick-up.

This includes feature films and TV programs as well as music CDs. Educational and children's CDs, however, can still be placed on hold. Other items such as books, audio books, and CD-ROMs will continue to be holdable as well.

In addition, the maximum number of all items that may be requested at any one time is now 20 per library card holder, down from 40.

See the FAQ on Policy Change Affecting Media Holds Requests for more information.

Source: Now at MPL

December 5, 2007

Lots of Cool 2.0 Apps for Libraries

Lots of cool Library 2.0 applications have come my way recently.

  • LibX is a browser plugin for Firefox and Internet Explorer by which libraries can create a customized toolbar to directly access their library's resources. It also installs a direct catalog search link into search results from Amazon, Google, and more.

  • The University of Ohio Libraries are using Skype for reference. See Library Success for other library online reference projects.

  • The Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library has added a Meebo widget to unsuccessful keyword searches in our library catalog. Blogger David Lee King writes:
    This way, when a customer searches our catalog and doesn't find anything, they can contact us via IM and ask for help (we also display our phone number if they want to call).

  • Jason the Content Librarian reports that the University of Oregon Libraries have a new feature that allows you to send a text message from a library catalog record.
    This is great. Instead of students walking around with scraps of papers with call numbers written on them, they can simply text themselves and use that texted information to locate items in the library.

Thanks to All-Purpose BiblioBlawg, my UW Madison Libraries colleague, Nancy McClements, and Librarian in Black for the tips.

November 23, 2007

My Holiday Gift Guide for Librarians

It's Black Friday and I seem to have gift buying on the brain. Thanks to Bev Butula for sharing with me the Holiday Gift Guide for Lawyers. Lots of fun stuff -- I agree with Bev that the Personalized Lawyer Figurines are particularly cool.

But why should lawyers get all the cool gifts? So - I present to you my Holiday Gift Guide for Librarians!

  • Action Figures
    What librarian wouldn't love a librarian action figure? Modeled after real-life librarian, Nancy Pearl, the librarian action figure is complete with shushing action. I recommend getting the deluxe model which comes computer and book cart.

    And did you know that Batgirl was a librarian? Of course, she has her own action figure, too. "Barbara Gordon transforms from librarian to crime-fighter Batgirl with a flip of her cowl!" Check out the book under her arm. ALA also has a Batgirl poster.

  • Books (books for a librarian - how novel!)
    There are a bunch of fun books that feature librarians - too many to list. Here are a couple of fun ones: The Librarian from the Black Lagoon, Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians, & How I Fell in Love with a Librarian and Lived to Tell About It. sells hollowed-out, recycled books in which to hide your treasures. I've always thought these were so cool. There is even a selection of law books featuring various state codes and treatises.

    For other book related gifts, Levenger sells a section of "Tools for Serious Readers"

  • Kitschy Stuff

    Looks like the library enthusiasts have been busy over at, a site which allows anyone to create and sell custom products. They have a ton of kitschy librarian stuff.

    Wouldn't the librarian-in-your-life look great with a tattoo? Well, maybe these temporary librarian tattoos anyway.

  • Classy Stuff, a site featuring gifts for lawyers, has a beautiful framed Librarian Stamp Collection. All stamps are guaranteed authentic and date from 1940 to the present.

Anyone else have any fun librarian gifts to recommend? If so, please share in the comments.

November 20, 2007

New WI Law Clarifies to Whom Library Records May be Released

Wisconsin Senate Bill 214, which clarifies to whom library records may be released, was signed into law by the Governor last week as Wisconsin Act 34.

The law states that library records "indicating the identity of any individual who borrows or uses the library's documents or other materials, resources, or services may not be disclosed except by court order or to persons acting within the scope of their duties in the administration of the library or library system, to persons authorized by the individual to inspect such records, to custodial parents or guardians of children under the age of 16..."

However, the law also states that the library may release surveillance recordings to law enforcement officials. This can be done at the request of law enforcement or voluntarily by the library seeking assistance from law enforcement. The law does not indicate that a court order is necessary.

See my earlier post for background on the bill. The complete bill history is also available.

November 15, 2007

WI Court System's Public Librarian Training Program Profiled in Library Journal

The Wisconsin Court System's workshop for public librarians received some recognition in the Library Journal last month. The workshops acquaint public librarians with the latest law resources available for pro se litigants.

From the article:

Local and state court officials, lawyers, and the state law librarian made presentations on the range of resources now available, including how to research statutes and laws, find information in court offices and at the state law library web site, or download and fill out forms, many of which were developed specifically for self-representing litigants.

November 14, 2007

Those Evil Librarians

"Alcatraz Smedry doesn't seem destined for anything but disaster. On his 13th birthday he receives a bag of sand, which is quickly stolen by the cult of evil Librarians plotting to take over the world. The sand will give the Librarians the edge they need to achieve world domination. Alcatraz must stop infiltrating the local library, armed with nothing but eyeglasses and a talent for klutziness." (

That's the plot of a new book called Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians, which was reviewed by Nancy Pearl on NPR this week. Her review and an abstract of the book are available at NPR.

Hmm - an orphan boy hero taking on evil forces--and he's got dark, messy hair and circular glasses. Sounds vaguely familiar. And you can bet it will be on reading list. Some of my favorite books lately have been YA novels (young adult) - the Twilight series, The Goose Girl, and of course Harry Potter.

November 1, 2007

Interesting Findings from the AALL Salary Survey

The 2007 American Association of Law Libraries 2007 Salary Survey is now available online to AALL members.

In addition to statistical tables summarizing salary data by position for each type of library (academic, private firm/corporate, and state, court and county), the report also provides other information, such as member demographics, library budgets and staffing.

Here are some of the more interesting results:

This table shows the average information budget by type of library in 2007. Information budget means the amount spent on library materials (as opposed to staffing and other costs)
Notice the difference in expenditures on print v electronic information by type of library. Also, notice the percentage increases of total budget for 2007. It's likely that this increase is not because new materials are being purchased, but because libraries are paying more to keep what they've got.

Another interesting table shows the various responsibilities of firm librarians, increasingly outside of the library.

October 31, 2007

WI Bill Allowing Police to Access Library Surveillance Tapes Passes

Senate Bill 214, which allows law enforcement officials to have access to library surveillance video tapes without having to first obtain a court order, passed both houses of the Legislature yesterday with no opposition. The bill was supported by the Wisconsin Library Association.

According to a press release by State Senator Michael Ellis:

The legislation follows an incident earlier this year at the Neenah Public Library when a patron was observed committing a lewd act. Although the library has a video surveillance system, police were unable to review the tapes before getting a court order because of a legal opinion that the tapes are library records and are covered under privacy laws that pertain to libraries.

"This legislation removes an unnecessary impediment to law enforcement while still preserving privacy interests of library patrons," [Representative Dean] Kaufert said. "The bill was narrowly drafted to limit unrestricted access only to the tapes that directly pertain to the suspected criminal activity."

For the complete bill text, amendments, and history, see the Wisconsin Legislature web site.

Source: The Wheeler Report

October 23, 2007

Outsourcing Public Libraries

There is a very troubling post over at Out of the Jungle about public libraries which were forced to close due to budget cuts and are now being reopened under the management of an outsourced, for-profit company at reduced hours.

From the post:

But I am concerned about the trend of moving a publicly funded and managed service into privately managed hands. The story is not clear about how LSSI makes its profits. It does not say that library services will be offered at a price to patrons, but it also does not say that the county is paying LSSI the full cost of running the library. How would the county save money by outsourcing if some of the cost did not fall on the library users?

Like OTJ, I have mixed feeling about this. For a community to close its public library, one of its most vital public services, is nothing short of tragic. So, I suppose that it's good that these libraries are being reopened, but what will be the cost and who will have to pay it?

October 18, 2007

14% of Legal Malpractice Claims Arise from Failure to Know or Properly Apply Law

In doing some research for my upcoming presentation at the WI Solo and Small Firm Conference, I came across and interesting set of statistics. According to the Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company, fourteen percent of their legal malpractice claims arose from failure to know or properly apply law.

Statistics like these underscore the importance of legal research skills to the practice of law and illustrate just how valuable law librarians, as experts in legal research, truly are.

Here's the full breakdown of WILMIC claims:

  • Calendaring - 23%
  • Failure to know or properly apply law - 14%
  • Planning error in choice of procedures - 13%
  • Inadequate discovery & investigation - 12%
  • Failure to obtain consent/inform client - 6%

Read Two Books and Call Me in the Morning

There is a wonderful story in today's Capital Times about UW Hospital resident, Dipesh Navsaria, who measures his young patients' development by putting a book in their hands and watching their reaction.

From the article:

Navsaria... says the child's response speaks volumes. If the patient shows interest and curiosity, he can tell if books are a natural part of their life. At a certain age, if the child holds the book right-side up, opens it and turns the pages, the doctor gets a quick read on motor skills.

And if children begin talking about what they see in the book, Navsaria can see if they are building social skills...

Navsaria isn't just talking as a doctor, but as a librarian. He took a break during his medical studies to earn a master's degree in library and information science, with a focus on children's literature...

Navsaria is working with Reach Out and Read, a national nonprofit organization founded by pediatricians and educators in Boston that promotes the importance of early literacy, with a focus on reaching low-income populations.

He has started a Reach Out and Read (ROR) program at UW's student-run free clinic, MEDiC. A ROR program at the Access Community Health Center on South Park Street will open in the next two months, if not sooner, Navsaria said. He is also looking for funding to expand the program to two of the outpatient UW Health pediatric clinics.

Thanks to my colleague, Cheryl O'Connor for the tip.

October 11, 2007

The Hollywood Librarian Both Fun and Moving

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of seeing the new documentary, The Hollywood Librarian. I truly enjoyed it and highly recommend it to both librarians and non librarians alike.

Although, as the title implies, it did focus much on the image of librarians in film and popular culture, but it also delved into the role of librarians and their importance to society. The film explores "real-life fights against censorship, implications of the USA Patriot Act, and the painful budget cuts that libraries are experiencing around the country," explains the Wisconsin State Journal.

The Douglas County Libraries blog summarizes well one of the most moving parts of the film:

But there was one story that brought tears to my eyes. It began with the Salinas Public Library in California, the home town of John Steinbeck. After several failed attempts to win voter approval, the library ran out of money, and closed.

But that wasn't what got to me. It was the efforts of inmates in nearby San Quentin prison to raise money to get it open again.

One young man, involved in a transformative literacy program in jail, put it like this "How can you bolster spending in prisons and take away a library? It was a shameful act, heightened by the fact that an inmate saw it, and those in free society didn't."

In speaking with the Wisconsin State Journal, filmmaker Ann Seidl shared that

I grew more and more determined that the American public didn't understand what it is librarians do. What I found in my research is that people see libraries as sort of as a natural resource -- like the Grand Canyon, a kind of natural phenomenon that will always be there.

What they don 't understand is that libraries are created by librarians.

September 28, 2007

1966 Pilot Introduces Batgirl, The Librarian

This never aired Batman and Robin 1966 Batgirl pilot episode introduces Batgirl, the librarian. It takes place in Gotham Public Library. What a hoot!

Thanks to Law Librarian Blog for the laugh.

September 27, 2007

Ann Seidel, Maker of The Hollywood Librarian, Interviewed on WI Public Radio

Today on Wisconsin Public Radio, host Kathleen Dunn talks with Ann Seidl, maker of the new documentary, "The Hollywood Librarian." You can catch it on The Ideas Network at 10:00 pm tonight, or listen online. The program is one hour long.

The Hollywood Librarian is showing next week (Banned Books Week) at three Wisconsin locations.

Thanks to my UW-Madison Libraries colleague, Steve Frye, for the tip.

September 24, 2007

Public Library Initiative to Help Serve Needs of Self-Represented Litigants

From the Wisconsin Court System:

On September 27 in Neillsville, the Wisconsin Court System and the Wisconsin Valley Library Service will co-sponsor a special training session for librarians who provide assistance to people who represent themselves in court.

The project's goal is to foster communication between local courts and public libraries in an effort to better meet the legal service needs of self-represented litigants.

Leading the initiative is the Ninth Judicial District, which consists of 12 north central Wisconsin counties, and the Wisconsin State Law Library, located in Madison.

September 19, 2007

Plugoo Now Supports Multiple Chats

Since January, we've had a chat box on our home page. Law School and other UW-Madison students, faculty & staff can use it to ask legal research questions of our reference librarians.

The chat box is courtesy of a service called Plugoo. The questions asked through the chat box are routed to our regular IM accounts which we monitor through Trillian. [To learn how to establish a virtual reference service with IM and chat, see my article IM a Librarian: Establishing a Virtual Reference Service with Little Cost or Technical Skill.]

For some reason, today our chat call volume has gone through the roof. Several times we had multiple simultaneous Plugoo chats. Wait a minute--Plugoo can handle multiple simultaneous chats??? That's awesome!

I checked out the Plugoo FAQ and it still indicates that "At the moment, Plugoo offers you to chat with one single visitor." But, thankfully, blogger Terrance Chang gives the run-down on how Plugoo multichat works - complete with screen shots.

September 11, 2007

Article: Prisons Purging Books on Faith From Libraries

From the New York Times article, Prisons Purging Books on Faith From Libraries:

Behind the walls of federal prisons nationwide, chaplains have been quietly carrying out a systematic purge of religious books and materials that were once available to prisoners in chapel libraries....

Traci Billingsley, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons, said the agency was acting in response to a 2004 report by the Office of the Inspector General in the Justice Department. The report recommended steps that prisons should take, in light of the Sept. 11 attacks, to avoid becoming recruiting grounds for militant Islamic and other religious groups. The bureau, an agency of the Justice Department, defended its effort, which it calls the Standardized Chapel Library Project, as a way of barring access to materials that could, in its words, "discriminate, disparage, advocate violence or radicalize."

September 5, 2007

Librarians Rock in "Addy Will Know"

Indie Pop Band SNMNMNM pays homage to librarians in it's new song, "Addy Will Know." It's about a real librarian who helps a patron find four books for which he is looking. The names of the books are never mentioned, but as a kind of puzzle, the song itself includes call numbers that correspond to the books hinted at in the verses. The first ten librarians to correctly identify them will win a copy of the CD.

And since the song is about real librarians, the band wants to feature them in the video. Librarians should send in a video of yourself singing the song.

This is really cool. The song is great, as is the message.

Source: Tame the Web

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 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 10, 2007

Two Librarian Satisfaction Surveys Offer Conflicting Results

Two recent surveys on librarian job satisfaction offer conflicting views.

According to,

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 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: Newswire and Law Librarian Blog

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.

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

July 27, 2007

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 18, 2007

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 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.

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.

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.

June 20, 2007

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

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.

May 29, 2007

Mr. Bean Visits the Library

Thanks to my colleague, Cindy May, for passing on this YouTube video of Mr Bean's visit to the library, posted on Law Librarian Blog. Hilarious.

May 21, 2007

Looking for Certain Book or Movie? Try the Madison Public Library's Hold System

There is a good article in the Capital Times extolling the virtues of the Madison Public Library's (the South Central Library System's actually) hold system.

Maybe it's not as fast or convenient as Netflix, but the Madison Public Library allows its users to go online and put holds on movies, but also TV series, books, CDs and audio books. And those who take advantage of the system say you can't beat the price: It's free.

I've mentioned it before, but I use this all the time. I'm currently working my way through season two of Battlestar Galatica. It's great that you can have items from the whole library system delivered to your local library. And you can request it all online. When it comes in you just pick it up at the circulation desk - you're in and out in less than five minutes.

May 18, 2007

Back to the Future of Legal Research Symposium - Librarian and Practitioner Legal Research Survey Results

At the mid-morning session at the Back to the Future Symposium, we learned about the results from various practitioner and librarian surveys regarding legal research practices. Speakers were Sanford Greenberg and Tom Gaylord of Chicago-Kent College of Law and Patrick Meyer of Thomas Jefferson School of Law.

There was a lot of interesting data presented, including recommendations by Chicago law firm librarians on what skills they would like to see from new associates:

  • Electronic Searching Knowledge - 28.57%
  • Print Materials Knowledge - 37.14%
  • Subject Area Knowledge - 20%
  • Online Cost Efficiency - 14.29%
  • General Research Strategies - 22.86%
  • Google/Web - 2.86%

Also interesting were the recommendations by law firm librarians on which types of information are better accessed online and which are better in print. The majority of librarians surveyed felt that cases and digests were better used online while legislative and administrative codes were better used in print. And it's no surprise that the vast majority felt that Shepards/KeyCite was better online. Over three quarters of survey respondents felt that secondary sources were better used in print.

May 16, 2007

LLJ Articles from the Berring Symposium on Legal Information & the Development of American Law

The latest edition of Law Library Journal is out and it contains articles from the symposium on Legal Information and the Development of American Law: Further Thinking about the Thoughts of Robert C. Berring. Included is Should Legal Research Be Included on the Bar Exam? An Exploration of the Question by the UW Law Library's own director, Steve Barkan.

May 14, 2007

Hollywood Librarian to Premier Next Month - Trailer on YouTube

The Hollywood Librarian: A Look at Librarians through Film, the first full-length documentary film to focus on the work and lives of librarians, is scheduled to premier at American Library Association (ALA) 2007 Annual Conference June 21-27 in Washington, D.C.

From the web site:

The Hollywood Librarian is a unique and charming blend of film clips, humor and critical analysis of the popular image of librarians. It will create a new-found empathy for the profession by revealing the diversity of individual librarians and the importance of what they do. This documentary will increase the public's awareness of the complex and democratic nature of librarianship in the age of technology, and be a step toward librarians redefining themselves as not only more than a stereotype, but also as a cultural imperative.

A trailer for the film is available on YouTube and there is also a Hollywood Librarian group on Facebook. I'm sorry that I won't be going to ALA this year to see it - I hope that the film will be widely available thereafter.

Univ of Washington Launches WorldCat Local

From OCLC:

The University of Washington Libraries is the first to pilot WorldCat Local, a new service that builds on to allow Web access to the world's richest database for discovery of materials held in libraries. The goal of the pilot is to provide users with a single search and request service that covers the University of Washington Libraries, Summit libraries (most academic libraries in Washington and Oregon), WorldCat and a selection of article citations--all through one catalog.

May 12, 2007

Law Library Podcasts - Experiences and Insights

ipod.jpg There is an interesting article entitled "Are You Podcasting: Current Uses of Podcasts in Law Libraries" in the May issue of AALL Spectrum. Although they haven't caught on as quickly as blogs have (there are currently 116 law library blogs), some law librarians are experiment with podcasting.

The article highlights the podcasting projects from numerous libraries, such as audio tours, recording courses, providing supplementation to regular coursework, special event recording, FAQ and research guides. Insights from the podcasters is also offered.

May 2, 2007

WI State Law Library Offering Remote Access to Hein Online

The Wisconsin State Law Library has recently begun offering remote access to Hein Online. This service is only available to firms or state agencies with less than 25 attorneys, however. If that's you and you have a WSLL library card, you can access the full text law reviews and journals in Hein Online from anywhere. Sweet.

Add this to WSLL's remote access to LegalTrac and you're pretty well set up for law journal searching. See their full list of electronic resources.

See this month's WSLL @ Your Service for instructions on how to access full text law journal articles via Hein Online by searching the library catalog.

May 1, 2007

Library services for UW Alumni &WI Residents

Amanda Werhane over at Wendt Library Blog has compiled a useful list of library services available to UW alumni and Wisconsin residents. Check it out.

April 27, 2007

"State of the Law Library Blogosphere" Named ALL-SIS Outstanding Article

I recently been notified that my article on the State of the Law Library Blogosphere was chosen as the winner of the ALL-SIS Outstanding Article Award. I'm very honored to receive the award.

Here's the abstract:

Although the legal and library literature is filled with information about the theoretical pros and cons of blog publishing, little has been written about actual blogging experiences. Who is blogging? What are they blogging about? Who reads blogs? What technologies are being used? Have blogs been successful? What lessons can be shared? These are the questions explored in this article. Through this study, potential bloggers will better evaluate whether this technology is right for them and veterans will gain insight into their own blogging experience in comparison to their peers.

April 24, 2007

Library of Congress Blog

Looks like the Library of Congress has started blogging. Blogger and new LC Director of Communications, Matt Raymond explains:

Because the vast majority of visitors to the Library of Congress do so only virtually (via this Web site), I wanted to give readers the opportunity to see more of the institution, to give them the online version of a docent who can highlight many of the wonderful things that happen here.

There is a RSS feed for the blog, of course. LC also has a number of other feeds.

April 17, 2007

Facebook Group for AALL Members

Ellen Callinan (a.k.a. Callinan the Librarian) has created a Facebook group for American Association of Law Libraries members. If you're a AALL member and are on Facebook, join the club. I did.

April 16, 2007

Our Entries in the Day in the Life of the Law Library Community Photo Contest

dayinthelife07small.jpg The AALL Day in the Life of the Law Library Community photo contest is in the final stage of judging. From nearly 200 entries, two UW Law Library entries have made it into the finals. Ours are in the Librarians as Trailblazers in New Technology and Most Humorous categories.
This week, April 16-23, AALL members will choose the best photo in each category and one best overall photo. If you're a member, simply login with your AALLNET members-only e-mail and password. dayinthelifewithnancy07small.jpg

American Reference Books Annual Online Free this Week

Libraries Unlimited is providing free access to ARBAonline during National Library Week April 15-22, 2007.

Derived from the trusted reference standard American Reference Books Annual, ARBAonline features about 17,000+ reviews of reference works published since 1997. Written by librarians for librarians, ARBAonline's reviews cover reference sources from more than 400 publishers in over 500 subject areas.

Happy National Library Week!

In celebration of National Library Week, the UW Law Library is proud to unveil our second annual series of READ posters featuring UW Law School faculty members. This year's posters feature Ken Davis, Allison Christians, and Jim Jones.

We'll also have contests and giveaways all week for our students, faculty, and staff. Looks like the Wisconsin State Law Library also has festivities planned.

April 11, 2007

Librarian is One of the 7 Great Careers for 2007

Kiplinger has named "librarian" as one of the 7 Great Careers for 2007.

Forget about the image of librarian as mousy bookworm. Today's librarian is a high-tech information sleuth, a master of mining cool databases (well beyond Google) to unearth the desired nuggets. Plus you'll probably have regular hours and good job security.

Source: The Shifted Librarian

April 6, 2007

Prior Wisconsin Film Fest Titles Available at Madison Public Library

Get geared up for next week's Wisconsin Film Festival by watching your favorites from years' past. Check out the Madison Public Library's collection of film fest titles. Thanks to What's New from the Madison Public Library for the tip. filmfest.png

Did you know that if you have a South Central Library System card you can go online and request items from any library in the system (including Madison Public Library)? Just go to the LinkCat library catalog and request the item. They'll deliver and place it on hold for you at your local branch library. Who needs Blockbuster when I can get movies for free at the library?

April 4, 2007

NYT Rethinks Free Access to Colleges Based on Librarian Complaints

The Chronicle of Higher Ed reports that the New York Times has altered its offer to make Times Select, which includes columnists and archives going back to the 1800s, available to college students for free.

After librarians complained that they already pay tens of thousands of dollars for access to premium New York Times content through database companies like ProQuest and Lexis-Nexis, TimesSelect will now be available only to students of colleges that subscribe to database companies that carry Times content. Currently non of the pre-1980s archives is available to students for free while is working on a patch that will recognize colleges that are subscribers to databases.

Boy, this is a tough one. I can certainly identify with the librarians who are upset that they shelled out big bucks for a resource that was later offered for free. BUT, for the Times to restrict access because of it is just a Lose-Lose situation. It's all so painfully ironic since librarians are all about the free sharing of information.

The comment of Barbara Fister, one of the librarians quoted in the article, is illustrative:

This is not the outcome I'd hoped for, and I certainly was not lobbying against information being free. I simply felt taken for a ride when the publisher who had made a deal with a third party to sell content at a large price tag to libraries turned around and marketed the same content to our students as "complementary". (It wasn't free to everyone, just students and faculty with .edu e-mail addresses. The people we spend many thousands to provide it to.) I'm sorry they turned off the access and I'd be much happier if they made it available to everyone.

Frankly, I raised the question because it seemed underhanded of the Times to do business this way.

Librarians are in favor of open access. We've fought hard for it. Don't let the Times's response to a question asked in good faith make you think librarians are against information being widely and freely available. It's what we do, after all. I just don' t like getting soaked.

Lecture on The Carnegie Library Designs of Claude & Starck

Tis' the season for lectures, it seems. On Thursday, April 5th the Wright Lecture Series presents "The Shared Ideal: The Carnegie Library Designs of Claude & Starck." The lecture will be held at 7pm in the Monona Terrace Lecture Hall and is free and open to the public. columbuspl.jpg

From the Madison Public Library What's New blog:

Louis Claude and Edward Starck designed many of Madison's most popular early 20th century buildings. Their practice, however, was highlighted by the nearly forty Carnegie libraries in five states they designed between 1902 and 1915. Learn, through the imagery of vintage postcards, how these talented, yet low key architects, were influenced by more famous members of the Chicago School.

To view a sampling of Claude and Starck's designs like the one of the Columbus Public Library above, see Library Postcards: Civic Pride in a Lost America.

March 30, 2007

A New Law Librarian Blog: All-Purpose BiblioBlawg

Meg Kribble, a new law librarian at Nova Southeastern University Law Library in south Florida, has recently started blogging at All-Purpose BiblioBlawg.

In addition to law, librarianship, and legal research, Meg also blogs about such things as Second Life, Macs, cool YouTube content, and sci fi TV shows. Yay - someone else to talk Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica with. What is it with law librarians and sci fi?

March 22, 2007

Temporary Tattoos for Librarians


Just in time for National Library Week, Archie McPhee has a wicked selection of temporary tattoos for librarians. For a better view, check out

Source: Out of the Jungle

March 1, 2007

Law Librarian Hottie Nominations Are In

So I send my husband the Law Librarian Hotties contest post because I think it's fun, and he goes and nominates me. And, I'm floored to find that he wasn't the only one. I don't know whether to be flattered or embarrassed - both, I guess. Good thing I have a sense of humor because I don't think I'll ever live this one down.

Above the Law has posted the thirteen female candidates (males will follow later, apparently). Note that there's another Wisconsin law librarian in the list - Amy Thornton. Not only are we both from Wisconsin, but we are actually both from the same small town - her folks live next door to me.

February 26, 2007

Wisconsin's Charles McCarthy & the Evolution of the Legislative Reference Movement

Here's another good article from the latest edition of Law Library Journal (Winter 2007).

In Go and Tell the World: Charles R. McCarthy and the Evolution of the Legislative Reference Movement, 1901-1917, Paul D. Healey writes of Wisconsin's other McCarthy.

Professor Healey describes the work of Charles R. McCarthy who, in the early twentieth century, almost single‑handedly created the legislative reference library concept. In doing so, he developed radical new forms of reference librarianship, tirelessly promoted the concept of special librarianship, and spread legislative reference services around the country.

Are Public Law Librarians Immune From Liability?

There's lots of good stuff in the latest edition of Law Library Journal (Winter 2007).

Are Public Law Librarians Immune from Suit? Muddying the Already Murky Waters of Law Librarian Liability by John Cannan look particularly interesting.

Public law librarians--academic law librarians at public universities and court and other government librarians--may enjoy public official immunities protecting them from lawsuits, but Mr. Cannan explains why librarian immunity is still of some concern. He analyzes several types of public official immunities available to law librarians.

February 13, 2007

Above the Law Looking for Law Librarian Hotties

Above the Law has launched its latest hotties contest - this time their are looking for hot law librarians. I love it.

And UW Law School folks: take a look at the familiar face on the Law School Dean hotties.

Source: Depraved Librarian

February 7, 2007

Law Library Buzz Aggregates Law Library Blogs

A while back, I was contacted by Chick Markley, VP/Engineering of The Personal Bee, Inc. about a new site called Law Library Buzz, an aggregator for law library blogs. I agreed to sign on as the "Bee Keeper."

There are a couple of pretty neat features of Law Library Buzz. First, there is a single RSS feed for all the law library blogs included in the Buzz. This is nice if you want to follow what's happening in the law library community and don't want to subscribe to all the blogs individually.

A list of all of the blogs in the Buzz appears on the left in the "In This Beehive" section. Only the first few in alpha order appear, but you can hover over "show all" to see the full list. If you click on one, you can see just the posts from that blog. [As Bee Keeper, I'm in charge of adding blogs to this list. As you'll see, there are 84 of them. You may wonder why not all 112 of them - as compiled in my Law Library Blogs list - appear on Law Library Buzz. It's because I have excluded those which seem to have mostly announcements about the library or parent organization. If you have suggestion about other blogs to include in the Buzz, please contact me.]

Another cool feature is the "Top Buzz" section on the left. This is a tag cloud of the most frequently blogged about subjects by law library blogs. It gives you a quick take on what's making news. If you click on "Jump to the Full Buzz," you'll see a big tag cloud.

As for the entries themselves in the main part of the page, notice that there is a "vote" icon to the left of each entry. You can vote for what you consider the best posts and they will rise to the top of the list. Note that posts only go back one month in Law Library Buzz.

February 2, 2007

LISZEN, a Search Engine for Library Blogs

LISZEN is a new search engine devoted just to library blogs. It's brought to you by the good folks at Library Zen.

Although I don't envision myself using it too often, it will be useful when I want to know what librarians think of something - like a database, a vendor, a way of approaching a problem, use of a new technology, etc.

February 1, 2007

All About Wisconsin Briefs

This month's WSLL @ Your Service newsletter from the Wisconsin State Law Library centers around Wisconsin briefs. It contains tips on accessing briefs (including the UW Law Library's Wisconsin Briefs database) and some interesting information on the history of briefs.

January 2, 2007

News is Not Good for Libraries

It seems that libraries are big news today - and none of it is good:

  • Today's New York Times has a story entitled, Lock the Library! Rowdy Students Are Taking Over. This one is truly sad. It seems that a NJ public library has seen no alternative but to close its doors during afterschool hours due to unruly middle school students "taking over the library." I sincerely hope that this is only a temporary measure until library, school and community leaders can come up with some more creative after school programming.

  • The Wall Street Journal also has a piece on the changing roles and low salaries of librarians. The author notes that today's public libraries offer a more robust suite of services than in years past. Alongside the traditional reference desk and story hour are databases, workshops, and community events. Unfortunately, many libraries are struggling to finance equipment and hire qualified staff. Low wages in the public library sector are encouraging more new librarians to pursue opportunities in academia, business or government. (Article available in Wisconsin via BadgerLink -ProQuest)

  • Finally, the Washington Post has a horrible story lamenting that local librarians had taken literary classics "off the shelves and dumped them." This one really pushed my buttons. Apparently the author didn't seem to understand that shelf space in a library is relatively constant, not to mention expensive. In order for new materials to make their way to the public, it's a hard truth that some older, lesser used items must be weeded.

    Does that mean every locally available copy of Hemingway gets tossed to make way for the new Grisham? Of course not. While it may not be available at every local branch, it is very likely available at a larger central library. Or, if not, it's quickly available via interlibrary loan.

    For libraries to remain vital to the communities they serve, it is imperative that they collect new and interesting materials to match the interests of their patrons. And to do that, something has to give.

December 8, 2006

"A Corpse Has a Sense of Humor Compared to a Librarian!"

Following my post about Microsoft Live Books yesterday, I spent a little time digging around the database. I came across a 1919 book of fiction entitled, The Swing of the Pendulum. In it, we meet a young woman interviewing for a job at the library.

The Chief Librarian stood before her. He was tall, thin and gray with long bony hands that looked as if they would always be cold. He was like a new chisel, straight and narrow and sharp-edged... Then he sat, staring beyond her, as if his progress through the silent realms of spirit had been rudely halted by the collision with a corporeal body.

A few pages later, we meet the library assistant.
Without waiting for Jean to answer, she began moving noiselessly away on her broad, rubber-soled shoes. She was very slight and gave an effect of deep brownness... She had brown eyes that looked muddy through the thick, myopic glasses, and a braid of dank, brown hair framed her narrow face.

Exit library assistant, upon which our young heroine exclaims, "A corpse has a sense of humor compared to a librarian!"

I can't say anything about the rest of the book, but this selection struck me as both funny and sad. What an uptight, dismal lot were these librarians. Unfortunately, this stereotype has been a tough one to shake. Maybe we need a few more librarians like these.

December 6, 2006

Your Life Work: The Librarian

A colleague passed along this little YouTube gem entitled, "Your Life Work: The Librarian," a vocational guidance film from 1956. Prerequisites for a career in librarianship: love for books and love for people. It's not bad, actually. Not a shusher in the bunch.

WSLL After Hours Service

The Wisconsin State Law Library reminds users that it's After Hours Service renewal/application time. Any Wisconsin-licensed attorney may subscribe to this service, which allows use of the library from 5 to 10 p.m. Monday - Friday and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday - Sunday.

December 1, 2006

Noah Wyle Returns as "The Librarian" this Sunday

Noah Wyle returns this Sunday night as The Librarian in the the TNT movie, Return to King Solomon's Mines. I've got my TiVo all set.

From the TNT site:

This globe-trotting action-thriller from the producer of Independence Day and the director of Star Trek: First Contact sends Flynn on a journey to uncover the fabled mines of King Solomon and a secret about his own family's past. He's joined by Gabrielle Anwar as a woman whose academic skills surpass even his own. Back after 2004's enormously successful The Librarian: Quest for the Spear are Bob Newhart, Jane Curtin and Olympia Dukakis.

And check out the graphic novel adaption from Atlantis Studios. Cool. Thanks to my colleague, Margaret Booth, for the tip.

Database of Articles by Law Librarians Now Offers Alerts

Several months ago, the AALL Publishing Initiatives Caucus (which I co-chair) created a database of articles written by law librarians for legal publications. Writing articles is one many ways that law librarians can demonstrate their value to the legal community.

An alert feature has recently been added to the database - both RSS and email subscription options are available. Each time a new citation is added to the database, subscribers will receive an alert. It is our hope that these articles will be read and shared among the legal community.

November 27, 2006

What Do You Do All Day? A Law Librarian's Answer

From a law librarian's get-well card:

On the outside: "We wish you a speedy recovery so you can get back to the office and do your job..." and on the inside, "...of course, we can't figure out just what it is that you do!"

I think that most law librarian's can identify with that sentiment shared by Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin President Diane Duffey in the recent LLAW Newsletter. In her book, Practicing Reference: Thoughts for Librarians and Legal Researchers, Mary Whisner shares her own anecdotes in the chapter entitled "What Do You Do All Day." Highly recommended.

If you're a librarian, do you have an answer to that question? Diane proposes the following exercise:

Imagine what your organization would do if you disappeared for, say, just a couple of weeks. Write down what you come up with. It will probably make you smile, when you think of the people you work for trying to "do just what it is that you do." Come up with some amusing anecdotes. Consider using some of this material tactfully at your next review.

Over the past couple of years, I've given a lot of presentations to legal professionals. Almost every time someone comes up to me and says how great they think that librarians are. While I'm always pleased to hear this, I'm struck by the irony of it since many of them truly have no idea what we do. They just know that we do it well.

October 26, 2006

Ms. Dewey, Animated Librarian Search Engine

There's a new librarian in town... Ms. Dewey, who happens to be a fully animated search engine. As a source of amusement, it's worth a visit - especially if you don't mind being mocked. But if you are interested in quality search results, look elsewhere. Or you could ask a real librarian - and we won't even insult you.

For more on Ms. Dewey, see
- Forbes
- More from Forbes
- Phil Bradley's weblog

I particularly liked this comment from a Forbes reader: "An attractive brunette is no salve for a dysfunctional search engine."

October 12, 2006

Bucky READ Poster Now Available

BuckyREAD.jpg As previously posted, Bucky Badger is the latest READ poster celebrity. The poster, cosponsored by the UW-Madison Libraries and the Wisconsin Center for the Book, features Bucky standing against a bookcase reading about great moments in the history of Camp Randall Stadium, the home of the Wisconsin Badgers football team.

According to a UW-Madison Libraries press release, the libraries are teaming up with the UW-Madison Athletic Department to use the poster to encourage reading in Madison schools. Bucky READ posters and bookmarks will be provided to students through Bookin' It With Bucky, a program in which Bucky and members of the university's athletic teams visit classrooms and read to fourth-grade students.

For a copy of the poster, contact

UW-Madison Joins Google Book Search Project

On Wednesday, UW-Madison announced that it has entered into an agreement with Google to provide access to hundreds of thousands of public and historical books and documents from the holdings of the UW-Madison Libraries and the Wisconsin Historical Society Library.

The eighth library to participate the Google Book Search project, UW-Madison will share the operating costs of the project with Google. The university will select and ship the volumes and Google will do the scanning.

According to Ed Van Gemert, interim director of the UW-Madison General Library System, the university has decided to share only those volumes and materials that are in the public domain, unlike some of the other libraries participating in the project. Specifically, this would include books published before 1923, state and federal documents, as well as, works whose authors have consented to the process.

The university has not yet decided whether it will provide access to the 1.3 million pages it has already digitized.

Sources: UW Madison Press Release & Wisconsin State Journal article

October 6, 2006

WSLL Newsletter

The October issue of the Wisconsin State Law Library newsletter, WSLL @ Your Service, is now available. Articles include:

*What's New: New staff, MLRC News, Google Search Class update
*This Just In: Selected recent library acquisitions
*Tech Tip in Brief: Google Toolbar updates; Inserting symbols in Word documents
*Learn @ the Law Library: Federal law news and updates

October 3, 2006

Show Your Librarian Some Love

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting article on why faculty should Show Your Librarian Some Love. The author describes how a collaborative relationship between faculty and librarians can be beneficial, especially for students.

From the article:

Just as children raised in a loving environment tend to fare better in life than those from broken homes, so students trained by professors and librarians who cooperate and affirm each other's role fare better than those forced to bear the brunt of troubled relations. . .

So if you are a teaching faculty member, why not respond to that librarian who e-mails you every fall with an offer to meet you and your students for research-education (or "information literacy") sessions at the library and take him or her up on it?

Your librarian will feel regarded as a partner. Your students will get a leg up, learn how to approach an information problem, and write better-informed essays -- in all likelihood not just for you but for all of their instructors. Through research education, students are learning to help themselves learn, and that can't help but pay off in our information age.

October 2, 2006

A Big Day at the Law School

Friday was a big day at the Law School. First, we were treated to a viewing of the hit film, "Buckystein." Ok, maybe not "hit", but it was.. umm.. interesting - and fun. And it featured the Law School's own Bethany Pluymers, Associate Dean for Administration.

Friday evening we celebrated the dedication of the Library's Habush Habush & Rottier Reading Room, otherwise known as the grand reading room. After a welcome by Law School Dean Ken Davis, we heard remarks from Robert Habush and Daniel Rottier, as well as, Governor Jim Doyle. With its towering glass exterior, the HHR Reading Room truly is one of the most impressive structures on campus. hhr.jpg

September 25, 2006

"Old and Worn Out Question" from 1883 Is Still All Too Familiar

David Null, our UW-Madison University Archivist shared this familiar sounding passage from the University Press dated Jan. 27, 1883:

Why don't students make more use of the libraries? This is an old and worn-out question, but for all that is of practical interest to us. ...Comparatively few of the students know the opportunities afforded them by our University library; they don't even know what periodicals and papers are at their disposal.

If this was an "old and worn-out question" 123 years ago, what does that make it today?

September 18, 2006

Database of Articles by Law Librarians

PIC, the AALL Publishing Initiatives Caucus, is pleased to introduce a new and improved database of articles published by law librarians. These articles appeared in legal publications that are read by practicing attorneys, legal administrators, law professors, judges, and others in organizations that employ AALL members.

Note that you can resort this list by author, article title, publication, etc. by clicking the field name at the top. You can also do a search by author, title, publication, etc. (see link at top).

If you are a law librarian and have written any articles that you would like to share, send me an email. As PIC Co-Chair, I'll see about having them added to the database.

September 8, 2006

Early Bookmobiles & Traveling Libraries

Today's Odd Wisconsin pays homage to Wisconsin's earliest bookmobiles and traveling libraries. This 1910 International Auto Wagon loaded with books is undoubtedly one of the earliest bookmobiles.

There were also the mobile libraries of the state's Free Library Commission during the Progressive Era. There are som interesting old photos of these large wooden crates packed with books that opened up to stand erect as book shelves. Also mentioned is the town of Adams' 1930s-era library housed in a refurbished rail car.

September 6, 2006

Bucky Badger READ Poster

Inspired by the Law Library's successful READ poster campaign last year, the UW-Madison campus libraries have teamed up with the UW Athletic Department to create a READ poster and bookmarks featuring Bucky Badger.

They will be made available starting this fall in campus libraries, Madison schools and Madison Public Library. One thousand posters, co-sponsored by the Wisconsin Center for the Book, will be distributed in Washington D.C. at Library of Congress' National Book Festival in September.

Source: Minutes from GLS Library Management Group Meeting

August 8, 2006

Looking for Something? Find the Closest Library that Has It with WorldCat

Looking for a specific book or journal but don't know which library might have it? Now you can find out using WorldCat.

Just do a search for an item, for example " LLCs and LLPs: A Wisconsin handbook," and you see a list of libraries around the world that have this item. Enter your zip code, and learn which library is the closest to you. (See image below)

Although WorldCat has been available by subscription in libraries for a long time, this is the first time it has been freely available to the public. This is very cool.


No Cookies in the Library

From YouTube: No Cookies in the Library
Much to the chagrin of a temperamental librarian, Cookie Monster can't seem to comprehend that libraries don't have cookies.

This made me smile.

Source: Library Link of the Day

August 1, 2006

I Need to Get a Librarian Action Figure

I think it's about time that I order a Librarian Action Figure from Archie McPhee. I think I'll go for the deluxe figure complete with library diorama including a reference desk, computer, book cart, multiple book stacks and some loose books. And, of course, it features the infamous "amazing shushing action!"

For the story behind the action figure and its model, Nancy Pearl, see the Seattle Times article.


July 25, 2006

Law Librarians Featured in Google's Tips of the Trade Campaign

The latest edition of the Google Librarian Newsletter is now available.

Featured is the "Tips of the Trade" campaign in which Google invited librarians to send them tips, ideas, and stories about innovative ways they've used Google tools to help patrons find information. Google produced a short movie which was featured at the ALA (American Library Assoc.) annual meeting.

One of the librarians in the movie is Joy Hanson of Duke University School of Law Library. She shares how she earned a "You rock!" from a cite checker for finding a document in five minutes using Google after the student had searched for hours to no avail. I love it when that happens!

LLAW's own Mary Koshollek (Godfrey & Kahn, Milw.) is also featured on the Tips of the Trade web site. Mary describes how Google Alerts can be a great tool for current awareness and competitive intelligence.

July 19, 2006

The Changing Nature of Law Librarianship & What It Means for a Law Firm's Bottom Line

If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend that you take a look at Beyond the Books which appeared in the July issue of The American Lawyer.

Author Alan Cohen discusses the changing nature of law librarianship and what it can mean for a law firm's bottom line. Here are some of the highlights from the article:

  • "Historically, 90 percent of the information we dealt with was legal-related, now it's about 50 percent," says [Thomas] Fleming [director of information resources management at Jeffer, Mangels, Butler & Marmaro, Fleming]. "We're doing a lot more work in client development and marketing."
  • "Most of the attorneys are realizing that with the resources we can tap into, we can get company information and background information faster and less expensively than they can," says [Yvonne] Boyer [firmwide library manager for Cooley Godward].
  • [I]t's not only the work that's changing, but the business model as well. Once a cost center for law firms, libraries are billing more hours than ever to clients: a median of 393 hours per library staff member in 2005, compared to 292 in 2004.

July 17, 2006

LawLibWik, A Wiki for Law Librarians

Debbie Ginsberg, Electronic Resources Librarian at Chicago-Kent College of Law has created a wiki for law librarians interested in researching with wikis and creating wikis for their own libraries. LawLibWik offers a nice collection of links to library wikis, legal wikis, and more. And, of course, since it's a wiki, law librarians are invited to contribute.

Not sure what a wiki is? Want to learn more about how you might use one for your organization? See Debbie's recent AALL Spectrum article, A Wiki Wiki (Quick) Introduction to the Wide World of Wikis.

July 14, 2006

Highlights from the AALL Annual Meeting

Once again, I've come back from the American Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting energized and full of ideas. As always, I'm amazed at the dedication and creativity of my colleagues. I also had a great time exploring St. Louis between sessions and meetings.

Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • Attending the informal bloggers reception and finally putting some faces to many law library blogs I've enjoyed reading. And I also learned about a couple great news blogs which I'll be adding soon to "The Shucha List" (which Connie Crosby informs me that it's called - a.k.a. the law library blogs list)
  • Visiting the Gateway Arch which is just as impressive as it was at age 11. It is just me, but does the elevator pod remind you of something from Mork & Mindy?
  • Being inspired by my colleagues at some excellent sessions, including Podcasting (with Jim Milles and John Mayer) and the One Box Access to Electronic Resources (by the Franklin Pierce Law Center)
  • Dancing with my kids at the West Party. And who knew Mark Twain could do the Electric Slide?

  • Receiving an AALL Presidential Certificate of Merit as part of the Publishing Initiatives Caucus. And as next year's PIC Co-chair, I even got to keep the plaque - temporarily at least. It certainly will look nice on my wall.
  • pic.jpg

July 5, 2006

Delicious Monster Offers Painless Cataloging for Your Personal Library

Looking for an easy way to catalog your personal library of books, movies, music, comic books, etc.? If you are a Mac user, check out Delicious Monster. Strange name, I know, but this looks like a really neat tool. Makes me wish I had a Mac - and a personal library worth cataloging!

From The Life of Books

The beauty of this product, though, is that you can use your iSight camera to read bar codes! And it works. You simply hold up your CD's or book's barcode in front of the iSight camera and, in about 2 seconds, it's searched Amazon and added the title to your collection - complete with cover art.

You can set up borrowers for your library, search it with Spotlight - you've essentially got a personal library automation tool with a barcode scanner - for $30!

June 27, 2006

Batgirl Was a Librarian

Who knew? - Batgirl was a librarian! A colleague noticed the reference to Wonder Woman in my bio and clued me into Batgirl's career. Here's the scoop from Batgirl was a Librarian:

Barbara Gordon, the niece and adopted daughter of Police Commissioner Jim Gordon, graduated summa cum laude from Gotham State University with a degree in Library and Information Science. After graduating, she became the head reference librarian at Gotham Public Library.
The librarian transformation into Batgirl happened one night on her way to the policemen's masquerade ball. Dressed in a homemade "Batgirl," costume, she accidentally encountered the villain Killer Moth and foiled his attempt to kidnap wealthy Bruce Wayne. Barbara enjoyed the thrill and risk of crime fighting, and after modifying her motorcycle to create the Batcycle, Batgirl was born.

June 13, 2006

Blog on Balancing Life & Librarianship

I recently learned of a new blog called Callinan the Librarian. The blog deals with the the challenges of balancing life and librarianship and shares the successes of all librarians pursing and achieving good.

The blog is an off-shoot of a law librarian consulting practice developed by Ellen Callinan, a 20 year law librarian veteran. Her goal is to create "a virtual workforce of librarians we'd otherwise be losing to life transitions who are available to assist with special projects and training." Sounds like a great idea.

May 30, 2006

Staff Changes at the UW Law Library

In the wake of Sue Center's retirement as Assistant Director for Public Services, the UW Law Library staff is undergoing some major structural changes. In essence, we are moving from three departments (Technical Services, Public Services & Information Services) down to two (Technical Services & Public Services).

Many of our staff, including me, will be taking on new roles and responsibilities. Some of these include:
- Bill Ebbott has become Assistant Director of Public Services
- Bonnie Shucha (that's me) has moved into the Head of Reference position
- Cheryl O'Connor has shifted into a new Faculty Services Librarian position
- Jenny Zook has taken on a new specialty to become Reference & Instructional Services Librarian

It's a bitter-sweet transition. We know that the library won't be the same without Sue, but we believe that our new structure will better enable us to continue her legacy of service.

Assistant Director Sue Center Retires Leaving a Legacy of Service

Last Thursday was a very special day for the Law Library. We held a celebration in honor of Sue Center, Assistant Director of Public Services, as she retires from the library after 35 years of service. Yep - you read right - 35 years of service.

After an open reception here in the library, the library staff enjoyed a nice dinner at Porta Bella. There were inspirational words aplenty including those from Law Library Director Steve Barkan, Librarians Cheryl O'Connor & Mary Jo Koranda, Dean Ken Davis, as well as from Sue and her husband Chuck (pictured).

In all the remarks, one theme arose over and over: Sue's dedication to the library, the law school, and our students, faculty and staff. She has truly left a legacy of service.

May 25, 2006

AALL Launches a Speakers Directory

Need a speaker for your next meeting? Why not try a law librarian.

The American Association of Law Librarians has launched a Speakers Directory. So far there aren't too many speakers listed, but I suspect that numbers will quickly increase. Any AALL member can suggest a speaker.

The main page has an alphabetical list, but if you click Search at the top, you can do a search by name or area of expertise. I'd also like to see a location search. A FAQ about the directory is also available.

May 23, 2006

"I Do This Every Day, I Should Do It Better Than Other People"

Reuters has a nice story on the value librarians - this time it's the information professionals at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center who provide searches for cancer patients. 95% of patients surveyed indicated that the librarian had provided them with some new information.

From the article:

"This demonstrates," said [Librarian Ruti] Volk, "that even though the information is supposedly so accessible and everything is on the web, people still need the help of a professional to find information that is relevant to them that is current and accurate and authoritative."

Librarians have access to resources sometimes unavailable to the public such as subscription-based databases. But the biggest advantage, Volk said, is expertise in searching. "I do this every day, I should do it better than other people," she said.

April 26, 2006

WI Law Review Names Librarian Eric Taylor as Most Valuable Faculty/Staff Member

Evening and Weekend Reference Librarian, Eric Taylor, was honored last week by members of the Wisconsin Law Review. In recognition of his enthusiasm and willingness to help and his extensive and invaluable knowledge of the discipline of legal research, Eric was awarded the first annual Most Valuable Faculty/Staff Member award.

Eric really does a phenomenal job of connecting with our law students. The library staff is very proud that he was so recognized.

April 24, 2006

Exploring Law Librarianship

Last week, the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin sponsored two events for library school students interested in learning about a career law librarianship. Thursday's session was held in Madison and Friday's was in Milwaukee.

In addition to tours of a firm, court, and academic law library, students met with librarians over lunch to discuss the ins and outs of law librarianship. I must say that I was encouraged to meet such bright, promising young librarians-to-be and hope that I can call them colleagues soon.

Today is AskAway Day - Virtual Reference Service

Governor Doyle has proclaimed today, Monday, April 24 as AskAway Day in Wisconsin.

AskAway is a new statewide virtual reference service. Live chat with a librarian using a very simple Web service. There is no need to download any chat software.

AskAway is a member of the 24/7 Reference Consortium, a group of hundreds of libraries around the country who work together to provide this service, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Madison Public Library has participated in the consortium since 2003, but the software and web interface to use the AskAway service changed in January of 2006. If you've never tried the service, or used the service in the past, what are you waiting for? AskAway today!

April 17, 2006

DCLRC Featured in WI State Journal

Today's WI State Journal contains a nice article on the Dane County Legal Resource Center.
About 80 percent of the people who use the resource center are going to court without an attorney, [Director Paula] Seeger said.

Even though much information is available on the Internet, people still need personal assistance, she said. Court officials don't have the time to walk people through how to find legal resources, she said. "We're just really trying to make us indispensable to the court."

There are some good photos which appear in the print edition (Local section) that aren't online.

April 6, 2006

Monitoring Student Blogs for Potential Reference Interactions

Georgia Institute of Technology's Brian Matthews has published a thought provoking study on librarians monitoring student blogs for potential reference interactions.

[L]ibraries are missing out on the potential of using blogs for providing valuable educational opportunities. Instead of forcing patrons to interact with us, we can enter their domain and seek new ways of providing assistance. By monitoring blogs, librarians can step beyond their traditional role and serve as teachers, mentors, and counselors.

In the study, whenever a student blogger posed a research question or expressed a frustration about an assignment, Brian responded. "By submersing myself in this environment, I was able to detect and respond intuitively, before the patron considered contacting the library." Talk about going the extra mile.

If I were a law student, I would probably be blown away by that. Mostly, I'd think it was really cool and be grateful for the help. But I'd probably also be a little unsettled to know that a librarian was reading my blog. Kinda like finding out that your mom reads your blog. But, hey, making your blog public means anyone can read it, your mom, a librarian, or even a potential employer.

Source: ACRLog

Library Week Contest Questions and Answers

Yesterday's National Library Week Trivia Answer
Question: In 1990, the opinion written by Judge Alex Kozinski in United States v. Syufy Enterprises (903 F.2d 659) grabbed headlines for its style as well as its legal substance. Why?

Answer: Some suspected that the Ninth Circuit judge worked more than 200 movie titles into the text of the opinion. To see them, read The Syufy Rosetta Stone, 1992 BYU L. Rev. 457 (Spring 1992).

Stump the Library Staff Results
Thanks to everyone who submitted questions to the Stump the Library Staff contest. We are happy to report that no one "stumped" us again this year. There were a few questions for which were was no clear answer, but as every seasoned researcher knows, sometimes the answer is that there is no answer. Since there was no clear winner, we decided to give a prize to everyone that entered.

Questions included penalties for the sale of lawn darts, the first court decision in North America, the Indonesian constitution in both Indonesian and English, a law review note by a student's father which was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court, and small claims and zoning issues.

Today's National Library Week contest - Law Library Scavenger Hunt

1. What online database listed on the Law Library's web site would you use to find the complete legislative history of a federal statute?

2. Where on the Law Library's web site will you find a bibliography of Law Library materials on bankruptcy/creditor-debtor proceedings?

3. On what floor of the law library will you find transcripts of United States Congressional Hearings?

4. Where in the library will you find a book by Norma Thompson with the words "Unreasonable Doubt" in the title?

April 5, 2006

Who Reads What?

JS Online reports on this year's Who Reads What?, a list of celebrities' favorite books compiled by Maine librarian, Glenna Nowell.

Their responses ranged from the nice - Rosalynn Carter's favorite is the Bible - to the naughty: dirty joke books favored by writer Piers Anthony. . .

Many of the titles deal with more mainstream material. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed her joy in reading a biography of a giant of the high court's past, "John Marshall: Definer of a Nation," by Jean Edward Smith.

But she also recommends retired justice Sandra Day O'Connor and H. Alan Day's "Lazy B," the story of a girl who grew up to become a Supreme Court justice.

What's Special About this Opinion?

Yesterday, it was the students' turn to Stump the Library Staff (which we are still researching). For today's National Library Week contest, we are back to asking the questions.

In 1990, the opinion written by Judge Alex Kozinski in United States v. Syufy Enterprises (903 F.2d 659) grabbed headlines for its style as well as its legal substance. Why?

UW Law students, faculty and staff can submit answers to or put them in the box by the reference desk. Anyone else who wants to try it can answer in a comment. You aren't eligible for a prize, but then satisfaction is it's own reward, isn't it?

April 4, 2006

Guess the Grad Trivia Answers & Stump the Librarian

Monday's Guess the Grad Contest is history and we had quite a few folks participate. And a fair number who pointed out that question #1 didn't quite hit the mark.

Here are the answers as written by reference librarian, Jenny Zook:

1. Who is the UW graduate who sang, "I might get rich, you know I might get busted, but my heart keeps calling me backwards, as I get on the 707?"

A. Steve Miller. Okay, for all those picky folks, yes, technically, Steve didn't write this. Paul Pena did. Also, Steve Miller, didn't graduate from the UW, he was a few credits short.

I especially liked the response of one person who wrote, "one correct answer is myself. . . as I sang those exact lyrics at a house party back in '92 and am a UW graduate, BSEE '97." Touche

2. Who is the UW graduate who often does cameos in her brother's movies?

A. Joan Cusack. I was thinking of Joan, but a few people wrote in Susan Breslau, the Zucker brothers' sister. I counted those few who did guess Susan Beslau just because it seemed only fair, she did graduate from UW and she does cameos in her brothers' films and I certainly could have added another hint to separate the two women.

3. Who earned a master's degree in just a year at the UW, became an award winning novelist, and is a Professor of Humanities at Princeton University?

A. Joyce Carol Oates

Today's contest is Stump the Law Library Staff for UW Law School students, faculty, and staff. Bring it on.

READ Posters Featuring UW Law Faculty

In what we hope is the first of an annual tradition, we've added a new component to our National Library Week celebration: READ posters featuring UW Law School faculty members. Join us in the Law Library to view the posters featuring Asifa Quraishi, Gordon Smith, and Cheryl Weston.

The posters turned out so well, in fact, that - with the subjects' permission - we'd like to have them framed and displayed in the library year-round.

All three faculty members were very good sports and had fun with the project, I think. Gordon even blogged about it.

A huge thanks to the Law School's own, Professor Arthur McEvoy, for taking the photos. He did an outstanding job. Incidentally, he's the one who took that photo of me on this blog.

And another big thanks to Library Evening/Weekend Supervisor, Erin Schlicht, who designed and printed the posters.

April 3, 2006

I Heart Libraries - Happy National Libraries Week!

In celebration of National Library Week, the following events will be taking place at the UW Law Library:

Each day there will be a law or library-related contest open to Law School students, faculty, and staff. Daily winners will each receive a prize and at the end of the week, students with the most correct entries will be placed in a grand prize drawing for 1000 WestlawRewards points!

For today's contest question, read on.

- READ with the Faculty
- Meet the Library Staff
- Legal Humor

Drop-In Workshops:
Library staff will also be holding a series of free drop-in workshops for UW Law School students, faculty, and staff.

- Create Your Own Blog using Blogger
Tuesday, April 4th at 1:30 p.m. in the Computer Lab
Students: Start your own blog on-the-spot! Come prepared with a name for your new blog.

- Sources of Business Information
Wednesday, April 5th at 2:00 p.m. in rm 3380A (Third floor library)
A must for corporate attorneys!

- Legal Research Worldwide
Friday, April 7th at 2:00 p.m. in rm 3380A (Third floor library)
Online sources for international students and students studying abroad

Everyone that attends a workshop will receive their choice of a free gift courtesy of LexisNexis & Westlaw.

Now for Today's Contest Question: Trivia. . . Guess the Grad
UW Law School students, faculty & staff - submit your answers to or put them in the box by the reference desk.

1. Who is the UW graduate who sang the lyrics, "I might get rich, you know I might get busted, but my heart keeps calling me backwards, as I get on the 707"?

2. Who is the UW graduate who often does cameos in her brother's movies?

3. Who earned a master's degree in just a year at the UW, became an award winning novelist, and is a Professor of Humanities at Princeton University?

March 21, 2006

Am I Annoying the Librarian?

In response to my post lamenting that more legal researchers don't seek out the help of a law librarian, Jeremy Richey asks a good question on the Advanced Electronic Legal Research Blog:

What sort of questions would be appropriate to ask? For example, would it be appropriate to call them in an attempt to find information outside my Wexis plan? What if I need to research an unfamiliar area of law and want suggestions as to good overview resources? Should I only call them if I am absolutely stumped in trying to find something? Basically, what I am trying to get at here is when will I be making good use of the librarians and when will I be annoying them?

Thank you, Jeremy, for the thoughtful question. In answer to your question - it depends. It depends on the policies of the library and the resources that they have available (both in staff and materials).

If you are at a firm/corporation that employs a law librarian, count your blessings. Firm librarians are amazing at tracking down the resources you need - sometimes even before you know that you need them! They are often very tuned into the firm's interests and can set up alerts to monitor information affecting the firm and its clients.

If there isn't a librarian on staff, (why isn't there a librarian on staff?), check out a local public law library. This may be a state, court, or university law library. While the librarians there can't offer you the level of support that a firm librarian can, you'll probably be pleasantly surprised by the help that they can offer.

Here's a sampling of what we CAN do:
- Help you track down known, but hard-to-find information or documents. Most libraries will deliver documents to you for a fee.
- Get you started in a new area of law by suggesting good overview sources
- Suggest search strategies for cost effective database searching
- Help you locate on-point journal articles, books, cases, etc. that may answer your research needs

Here's some of what public law librarians WON'T do:
- Your research for you. Don't ask for "everything you've got on ..." Don't ask us to do a complex state legislative history. Public law librarians will help you get started and maybe even teach you how, but we aren't going to do your work for you.

What we CAN'T do:
- Interpret the law for you. You're the attorney - that's why you get the big bucks. And it's not our law license on the line. But what exactly does "interpreting the law" mean - that can be a bit murky. It's often a "I'll know it when I see it" type rule.

Hopefully this clears things up a bit. If you still aren't sure, give us a call. If we can't help, we will tell you. But, chances are, we can. Don't wait until you are completely stumped. Your time is expensive - we may be able to help you save some. And, no, you aren't annoying us.

March 20, 2006

Canadian Association of Law Libraries Conference Blog

The Canadian Association of Law Libraries has launched its first conference blog. Look for posts by SLAW's Michael Lines, Vancouver Law Librarian Blog's Steve Matthews, and Connie Crosby.

The CALL conference will be held May 7-10, 2006 in Edmonton, Alberta. Although I won't be attending the conference, reading the blog is the next best thing.

Source: Steve Matthews

March 8, 2006

Law Librarians Adding Value to the Practice of Law

Yesterday, I had a visit from fellow blogger,'s Nerino Petro. Nerino is now the Practice Management Advisor for the Law Office Management Assistance program of the State Bar of Wisconsin. You might recognize him from the cover of the Feb. 2006 Wisconsin Lawyer.

We talked about ways that law librarians can add value to the practice of law. We brainstormed how Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin members can advise legal practitioners about research, technology, and other useful things that live in our brains. In return, law librarians will be awarded with a higher profile among the legal community. We can use all the help that we can get.

Marketing our selves and our services has always been a challenge for librarians. When asked, most people say that librarians are great. But, how many actually seek out our assistance when confronted with a difficult research or technology problem?

Nerino gets it. "Librarians are unrecognized and often over looked resources for lawyers and the community as a whole, " he writes in his blog. I wonder if that has anything to do with his wife being a librarian?

March 7, 2006

Publication Opportunities for Law Librarians

Law librarians have a lot to say and a lot to teach about legal research...

By writing articles for... law-related publications, librarians can reach out beyond our own organizations and offer research guidance to a much wider audience...

Just as importantly, writing articles for legal journals and publications helps law librarians build a higher profile among the legal community, both as individual authors and as a profession.

That is a selection from an article I co-wrote with LLAW member, Carol Bannen. (Write and Reach Out: AALL Chapters Tout the Value of Law Librarians through Journal Submissions, AALL Spectrum, March 2004)

Carol and I are both active in the AALL Publishing Initiatives Caucus, whose charge is to inspire and motivate law librarians to write articles for legal publications. To that end, Carol has just created a very useful guide to Publication Resources for Law Librarians.

The guide compiles information about legal publications, such as target audience, editorial contact information, and sample articles written by law librarians (when applicable). I suspect that there are a number of law librarians who could write some really killer articles, but, unfortunately, they don't know where to submit them. This guide should help.

A word of advice for those new to writing: start locally. There are probably a handful of small, local associations or publications who are looking for content. Once you have successfully published an article there, writing for a national publication may not seem so daunting.

March 2, 2006

AALL Annual Meeting Blog

The blog for this summer's American Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting in St. Louis is already up. The AALL Gateway will feature news, announcements and informational pieces about the upcoming meeting (and birthday celebration), as well as stories, tips and other items of interest for conference attendees.

AALL is recruiting "Gateway Bloggers" to report on the meeting or post an occasional article or picture. Contact James Duggan or Diane Murley for more information.

Source: Law-lib

March 1, 2006

E-Resources & Events at the WI State Law Library

The March 2006 edition of WSLL @ Your Service is out and it's a good one.

Heidi Yelk explores some of the electronic resources available at the Wisconsin State Law Library and Connie Von Der Heide shares the schedule of upcoming library events. It appears as though they have a very nice slate of workshops and National Library Week activities planned.

Dane County Legal Resource Center Grand Opening

On Monday April 3 at 2:00 p.m., the Dane County Legal Resource Center is celebrating its move into a larger space in the new courthouse with a grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony and reception.

DCLRC's grand opening corresponds with National Library Week, April 2-8, and features week long events, classes, and door prizes. For more information on the grand opening, see the press release on the DCLRC Blawg.

February 22, 2006

Winter 2006 LLAW Newsletter

The Winter 2006 edition of the LLAW Newsletter is now available. The newsletter is a quarterly publication of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin.

Madison Alder Gets Libraries

Madison District 15 Alder, Larry Palm writes in his blog about plans for several Madison Public Libraries. He rounds out his post with the following:

When I walked doors in late 2004 through my central eastside neighborhoods, I did hear from a high percentage of households that taxes were too high. However, when I suggested that the library levy is roughly $40 per household (or about eleven cents a day), residents were amazed! For a year's worth of services this seems like an incredible bargain. And it is.

What to Do When the Network Goes Down

There were a lot of lost souls wandering around the UW Law Library in the last 24 hours. Horror of horrors - the Law School's computer network was completely down thanks to an accidentally severed fiber optic cable.

It's truly amazing how reliant we are on technology. Students were forced to use print resources without the Lexis and Westlaw. Reference librarians could only rely on their memories of where things were shelved without access to our online catalog. Many a library staff member cleaned out her desk and caught up on his professional reading.

So if you wondered why you couldn't access WisBlawg or the UW Law Library or Law School Web sites yesterday, now you know. The workers are out on Bascom Hill right now with their little white van finishing up their repairs, bless their hearts.

February 15, 2006

Bookmobile Delivery by Camel

When I worked at the Eau Claire Public Library, I was the backup driver for their Bookmobile service to area nursing homes and senior centers. We had a van. But in Kenya, "ships of the desert are the best way to travel."

From the BBC News comes a photo journal of the Camel Mobile Library.

"A static library would be of no use to nomads and so instead we follow them, wherever they go. . . . We travel within a radius of 11km on a given day. As the camels arrive, the children are actually waiting for us. The day we come is fixed and they are expecting us."

Thanks to my colleague, Lisa Pfaff for the tip.

February 14, 2006

People Like "Renting" CDs, DVDs from the Library

There is a forum I monitor from on freebies ('cause who doesn't like free stuff?). Mostly posts are about free deals at restaurants and other promotional giveaways, but today there was a post from someone recommending Free Rental DVDS from library.

Following the initial post were three pages of comments from people who overwhelmingly loved "renting" movies, music CDs, books on CD, etc. for free (or a minimal charge) from their public libraries. As a librarian, I found this encouraging. And since libraries are always seeking feedback on what patrons thinks about our services, I thought that other librarians might find these comments useful also.

February 9, 2006

Library Patron "Borrows" Way into Prison

From the Baltimore Sun (free registration required):

If you're two weeks late in returning a book to the Baltimore County library, you're likely to get a phone call. If your book is four weeks overdue, you'll receive a notice in the mail.

And if you're Philip Akbar Shabazz, you're sent a letter that begins: "You currently have 402 items overdue from the Baltimore County Public Library. Fees and charges for these items amount to over $8,400."

Library officials say they suspect that the books were sold. Yesterday, Shabazz, a Randallstown resident, went to court to face a felony theft charge. He was convicted and sentenced to three years behind bars.

Thanks to librarians Nancy and Sara Paul for the tip.