Monday, June 27, 2016

Charting History Through an Internet Archive

Librarians and archivists are currently in an ongoing conversation about preserving digital content.

What we're finding is that some of the most clever commentary on pop culture and politics is thriving deep in hashtags on Twitter. Social media is as essential to understanding the preoccupations and temperature of our time. 

But preserving materials from the internet is much harder than sealing them under glass. 

Building an [internet] archive has always required asking a couple of simple but thorny questions: What will we save and how? Whose stories are the most important and why? In theory, the internet already functions as a kind of archive: Any document, video or photo can in principle remain there indefinitely, available to be viewed by anyone with a connection. But in reality, things disappear constantly. Search engines like Google continually trawl for pages to organize and index for retrieval, but they can’t catch everything. And as the web evolves, it becomes harder to preserve. It is estimated that 75 percent of all websites are inactive, and domains are abandoned every day. Links can rot when sites disappear, images vanish when servers go offline and fluctuations in economic tides and social trends can wipe out entire ecosystems. (Look up a blog post from a decade ago and see how many of the images, media or links still work.) Tumblr and even Twitter may eventually end up ancient internet history because of their financial instability.

There have been efforts to preserve our digital history with the most promising being The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. But there’s still a low-grade urgency to save our social media for posterity — and it’s particularly urgent in cases in which social media itself had a profound influence on historic events.

The internet, and social media, in particular, might one day offer a dazzling, and even overwhelming, array of source material for historians. Such an abundance presents a logistical challenge (the total number of tweets ever written is nearing half a trillion) as well as an ethical one (will people get to opt out of having ephemeral thoughts entered into the historical record?). But this plethora of new media and materials may function as a totally new type of archive: a multidimensional ledger of events that academics, scholars, researchers and the general public can parse to generate a more prismatic recollection of history.

Because historians are constantly updating the record by looking for primary sources that were overlooked in earlier eras, often from marginalized figures, social media may be the very key to those primary sources into the future. This will allow us to provide an updated, more complete historical record than ever before.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Library Anxiety or Indifference?

The term "library anxiety" has existed in the professional lexicon since 1986 when "Library Anxiety: A Grounded Theory and Its Development” by Constance A. Mellon was published in the March issue of College & Research Libraries.

Librarians have been discussing the general phenomenon since at least the mid-to-late 1970s, says Ann Campion Riley, president of the Association of College & Research Libraries, but it was Mellon who first gave it a name three decades ago. Her original study was based on analysis of journal entries college students had been required by their instructors to keep during the research process. After reading the student diaries, Mellon concluded, “Seventy-five to 85 percent of students in each class described their initial response to the library in terms of fear or anxiety.”

Essentially, the term describes the feeling that one’s research skills are inadequate and that those shortcomings should be hidden. In some students it’s manifested as an outright fear of libraries and the librarians who work there. To many librarians it’s a phenomenon as real as it is perplexing.

In Mellon's study, three general themes emerged: Students found their own library skills inadequate; they found their perceived shortcomings shameful; they feared seeking out help would only reveal their inadequacy.

Library anxiety is still alive and well today. But these days, a new threat to academic research may be students’ lack of understanding about the value of libraries, rather than anxiety about librarians.

“[A] new qualitative project has yielded another surprise: Students in this study weren’t intimidated by librarians or reluctant to lose face by approaching them; they simply had no idea why the librarians were there and what they were for,” Gremmels writes. “Are we labeling as library anxiety phenomena that would more accurately be described as library ignorance or library indifference?”

In law schools, it is a mixture of library anxiety and indifference. Many law students are afraid to ask for help because of how they will be perceived by their peers. Additionally, they are not entirely sure what law librarians do - that is until they start to have research sessions with us.

The best thing I have found to combat both library anxiety and indifference is to be accessible in the classroom teaching the students skills that they need to know to be successful in practice.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Improving Society Through Librarianship: The New Librarianship Field Guide

As I finish drafting a book chapter on the philosophy of a Millennial leader's role for the forthcoming Millennial Leadership in Libraries (Hein 2017), I was lucky to run across a new book by R. David Lankes called The New Librarianship Field Guide.


My chapter centers around a discussion of Millennial attitudes toward careers, including working for a socially conscious company, and how those attitudes shape the Millennial library leader's role for leading well into the future.

The New Librarianship Field Guide "reminds librarians of their mission: to improve society by facilitating knowledge creation in their communities." To this end, the book provides the "tools, arguments, resources, and ideas for fulfilling this mission."

As noted, "this guide is a part of a larger conversation about librarianship, one that gives rise to new tools, new resources, and new ways of convening all the time."

To be part of this conversation and find videos, articles, blog posts, and other resources to better prepare  you for improving society through librarianship, go to http://www.NewLibrarianship.org.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

No Matter Format, Law Librarians Skills Needed

In yet another article expounding on the virtues of law librarians, Australia's Lawyers Weekly notes that [While] digitisation ... changes the format of information, the underpinning need remains for the skill set and value add which law librarians bring to law firms as well as our courts and law schools.

In the law firm setting, not only do law librarians perform expert, efficient research, they are often also responsible for maintaining knowledge repositories of high-quality legal documents produced by their lawyers. Law librarians are often also responsible for their organisation’s intranet and to integrate the information systems and tools required in a modern knowledge organisation.

Not only are law librarians still relevant, so are print books. This is especially the case for many mid-tier firms, to which Australian legal publishers are yet to offer viable models enabling such firms to purchase lendable e-books.

While we utilise our online services extensively and make use of numerous databases and even of well-evaluated information available on the internet, often a published book remains the only authoritative source of in-depth information on specialised legal topics.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Thomas.gov Officially Retires on July 5

The Law Librarians of Congress blog In Custodia Legis recently announced that Thomas.gov will officially retire as of July 5, 2016.
Thomas.gov was launched on January 5, 1995, after Congressional leadership directed the Library of Congress to make federal legislative information freely available to the public. On September 19, 2012 Congress.gov was introduced to eventually replace Thomas.gov with a more robust, updated system.
Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 10.04.00 PM
Congress.gov's beta label was removed in September 2014, and it is set to officially replace Thomas.gov as the official website for U.S. federal legislative information.
Congress.gov provides access to accurate, timely, and complete legislative information for Members of Congress, legislative agencies, and the public. It is presented by the Library of Congress (LOC) using data from the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Office of the Secretary of the Senate, the Government Publishing Office, Congressional Budget Office, and the LOC's Congressional Research Service.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The "Internet" is Over

The NYTimes announced that it will join the Associated Press this week to change their style rule to lowercase the word "internet."

As noted, "while most publications capitalized the word when it first came into widespread use, the lowercase form has become steadily more common in recent years."

Changes like these provide insight into how style and usage can change over time:
More broadly, modern usage tends to favor less capitalization — along with fewer hyphens and less punctuation in general. Capitalizing words when it isn’t strictly necessary can seem archaic to contemporary readers. The Times used to capitalize “Federal” in phrases like “a Federal judge,” and even “Government” when referring to the national government. Now both of those uses would be lowercase under our rules.

Click the link to purchase the full NYTimes style & usage manual.


Friday, May 27, 2016

Oyez Finds A New Home at Cornell's LII

The National Law Journal (sub req'd) is reporting that Oyez has found a new home at Cornell's Legal Information Institute.

Oyez will move to the LII as its new home, with infrastructure and technical support from Justia, which had already been quietly supporting the Oyez site for several years.

Launched in 1993, Oyez.org boasts nearly 9 million visits annually, ranging from students doing term papers to Supreme Court practitioners rehearsing upcoming arguments.

The project is now housed at Chicago-Kent College of Law in Chicago under an agreement that expires soon. By the time the new term of the Supreme Court begins in October its home will be Cornell’s Legal Information Institute, though Chicago-Kent may stay involved.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What Librarians Do - In Pictures

I ran across a recent BuzzFeed called "18 Cats Who Think They're Librarians." While it's amusing (especially for the cat-owning, sweater-wearing librarians), it also gives a good idea of what a librarian does on a day-to-day basis.


I also ran across a blog from Mr. Library Dude that discusses a librarian "career day" presentation. This presentation engages the students by discussion librarian stereotypes (cat-owning, sweater-wearing, anyone?). Mr. Library Dude uses the presentation to debunk some of the more popular stereotypes (he does not shush, his student workers are the ones who check books in and out, and he definitely does not read on the job).

And then he provides context for what a librarian actually does like:
  • Teaching and research assistance
  • Collection development
  • Helping with technology
  • Running events
This is a good way to get students interested in a library career while refuting deeply ingrained librarian stereotypes. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Friendly Reminder Re: Email Etiquette


According to Inc., the average US employee spends about a quarter of the work week combing through the hundreds of emails we all send and receive every day.

That sounds about right.

As we send and receive these hundreds of emails, we might get into bad habits that could cost us professionally. For a reminder on email etiquette, see the following list of 15 email etiquette best practices.

1. Include a clear, direct subject line.
2. Use a professional email address.
3. Think twice before hitting 'reply all.'
4. Include a signature block.
5. Use professional salutations.
6. Use exclamation points sparingly.
7. Be cautious with humor.
8. Know that people from different cultures speak and write differently.
9. Reply to your emails--even if the email wasn't intended for you.
10. Proofread every message.
11. Add the email address last.
12. Double-check that you've selected the correct recipient.
13. Keep your fonts classic.
14. Keep tabs on your tone.
15. Nothing is confidential--so write accordingly.

On any give day, I could use a direct reminder of these best practices. I ran into an issue recently where my tone and humor were lost on someone who had never met me in person. I was trying to diffuse a situation but probably ended up making it worse.

And it always surprises me when law students don't have a professional email address, yet it happens often enough. It should be something that everyone acquires during 1L year.

Attorneys (and prospective attorneys) would do well to adhere to these tips, along with Bryan Garner's advice for coherent email memos.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Publishers Propose Costly Injunction in Year 8 of Georgia State Copyright Case

The Chronicle of Higher Education posted commentary about the ongoing Georgia State Case.

A short overview of the long history of the lawsuit is as follows:
The lawsuit, now in its eighth year, challenged GSU’s policy that allowed faculty members to upload excerpts (mainly chapters) of in-copyright books for students to read and download from online course repositories. Four years ago, a trial court held that 70 of the 75 challenged uses were fair uses. Two years ago, an appellate court sent the case back for a reassessment under a revised fair-use standard. The trial court has just recently ruled that of the 48 claims remaining in the case, only four uses, each involving multiple chapters, infringed.

In the recent trial court ruling, Sage was the only publisher that prevailed at all, and it lost more infringement claims than it won. Cambridge and Oxford came away empty-handed. 

Given that Georgia State is considered to be the prevailing party in the suit, it's just a tad surprising that all three publishers have asked the court for a permanent injunction that would impose many new duties on GSU and require close monitoring of all faculty uploads to online course repositories.

Under the proposed injunction, colleges and individual faculty would have to:

  • Determine whether digital licenses were available for excerpts they wanted to use. 
  • If so, faculty would have to decide whether to license that material or determine that uploading parts of in-copyright books would be fair use. 
  • Faculty members would have to assess whether their uses of the relevant materials were narrowly tailored to serve their pedagogical purposes, were not excessive in quantity, and were not the "heart" of the book. 
  • And faculty members would have to consider how much harm their use would cause to the publisher if other faculty members teaching similar courses made the same uses of the book chapter.
  • The proposed injunction would also require university personnel to confirm that every excerpt uploaded to course websites met the fair-use criteria and to keep track of information about the book, which parts were used, the number of total pages, the sources that were consulted to determine whether digital permissions were available, the date of the investigation, the number of students enrolled in the course, and the name of the professor. 
  • The university would have to maintain those records for three years.
  • The publishers want the court to require GSU to provide them with access to the university’s online course system and to relevant records so the publishers could confirm that the university had complied with the record-keeping and monitoring obligations.

This would apply not just to Sage publications, but to every use of in-copyright books on online course websites. If the injunction is granted, it would also set precedent for all other universities to follow.

As noted, the proposed injunction contrasts with the trial court’s 2012 injunction, which directed GSU to change its copyright policy to conform with the court’s order about what uses were fair and unfair, and to tell the faculty about the changed policy. The court wisely declined to impose burdensome and expensive record-keeping obligations on the university when first asked to do so. The requirements would be too onerous and costly for colleges, given that such a small percentage of uses were found to infringe on copyright.

While a narrow injunction is expected, it is a near certainty that the publishers will appeal, and the case will inch closer to year 10.