Thursday, October 30, 2014

Evolving Role Of The Academic Library

Libraries must constantly evolve to meet the demands of a changing patron base. For most academic libraries, that means evolving from a repository of print material to a dynamic, technologically advanced institution.

An article posted on Coexist highlights the changes taking place in academic libraries. "Despite all the dire predictions for the future of academic libraries in the digital age, when people believed the digitalization of print and other emerging technologies would make them irrelevant, universities around the country are evolving their libraries and intellectual centers into catalysts for discovery, learning, collaboration, and scholarly breakthroughs."

The article goes on to highlight 4 ways that academic libraries are adapting for the future:

    • The library is a part of the overall institution and needs its strategic plan to coincide with the overall strategic plan and mission of the university. For example, if the mission of the law school is to have practice-ready grads, then the library might need to collect more practice guides and instruct on real-world resources. 
    • Research is so intertwined with technology that it only makes sense for the library to lead the way in technology innovation. Our patron base generally prefers using electronic resources, and we need to respond to this preference in our instruction and service. 
    • Libraries and librarians must be comfortable with change. The role of the library is constantly changing, and libraries and librarians must adapt quickly and constantly. 
    • As libraries have evolved from a quiet tomb for books, it is important that the library be seen as a dynamic place for academic discovery. In the legal field, this may mean that an academic law library offers space for a law school incubator or other program. 
Libraries are primed for the future of academic discover. Make sure to visit yours today!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Alternative Lending In College Libraries

College libraries are starting to circulate interesting technology as an alternative lending scheme. Alternative lending is not a new phenomena as libraries continue to transition from print to digital and have more space at their disposal. With alternative lending, libraries are also trying to reach a wider patron base.

I have blogged about alternative lending here, here, and here. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently posted about college libraries and alternative lending. Georgia Institute of Technology has a "program at the library that lets students and professors check out a growing catalog of computers, cameras, and other electronics—a selection more akin to a Best Buy store than a lending library."

CHE goes on to offer a few of the more unique tech items that "[c]olleges and universities across the country now lend ... in addition to books":

• Drones. Colgate University’s library is among several around the country that offer what are known as 'drone loan' programs. Students and professors can check out a remote-controlled 'quadcopter' equipped with a camera that can beam back video to a computer.

• Google Glass. A few college libraries have managed to get their hands on the gadgets and make them available for checkout. North Carolina State University is among them, though an announcement on its website notes that, at first, only 'selected faculty and graduate students with an urgent research need for the technology' may borrow the device.

• iPhone power cords (and other chargers). Drones and wearables are trendy, but a popular item for checkout at some college libraries is the mundane power cord. Georgia Tech offers a range of chargers for students who need to power up their smartphones.

These are just a few more items in a growing list of alternative lending trends. We have seen things such as therapy dogs, umbrellas, frisbees, and many more handy items available for check out. Libraries are in the business of meeting patron demand, and these alternative lending items are just another way for a library to offer impressive service to its patron base.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Law Firm Transitions To Digital Library

The NYTimes reported that when the law firm Kaye Scholer moved to Manhattan, it left a lot behind, including most of its library.

"Shelves full of uniformly bound legal volumes — beloved of any photographer, videographer or cinematographer who needs a background that instantly proclaims 'law office' — are headed to oblivion in the digital era. Kaye Scholer’s library just got there faster because of the exigencies of the move."

When Kaye Scholer moved, "[n]early 95 percent of a library that numbered tens of thousands of volumes was discarded. Outdated books were recycled. Updated books were donated. Some were kept, like 'New York Jurisprudence, 2d,' which costs $19,963 for a new hard-bound set."

The new library in the Manhattan office has 700 ft of linear shelving compared to 10,000 ft in the old library. As one partner said, "[w]e have an account with an online library. That’s all that’s used.”

From the NYTimes article, it sounds like Kaye Scholer no longer needs the resources, but that is not the case. As the President of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) notes, "[g]iven the author’s rhetorical strategy, one might conclude that Kaye Scholer’s library was 'left behind' in the firm’s move. To the contrary, the law library was transformed into a comprehensive, firm-wide digital repository of legal information and resources."

The AALL President goes on to say in a Letter to the Editor that "[l]aw libraries, like newspapers, are going through major transitions as they adapt to changes in technology and culture. Our members are helping to lead the way—reconceiving the library as a service, a virtual clearinghouse of legal knowledge, not just a physical space.

Kaye Scholer, the first New York-based firm to implement a fully digital legal library, is an important example. Under the leadership of Shabeer Khan, Director of Information Services, the library staff worked to replicate the firm’s physical collection in digital format, successfully leveraging technology to support this new law library paradigm.

While not easy, these transformations are necessary. Librarians are meeting the future head on, serving as managers, facilitators, and, most importantly, curators of knowledge."

It is important to note that the library did not get left behind. It merely transitioned to a digital library with the same or similar electronic resources. It's no surprise that bound volumes will become less important as libraries continue to rely on electronic sources and as licensing and ownership gets sorted out. But this doesn't mean that libraries and librarians are any less important. Librarians will continue to be curators of knowledge and navigators of information, whether print or electronic, well into the future.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Copyright Case Update: Cambridge v. Patton (Georgia State)

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals recently released its opinion in Cambridge v. Patton, the Georgia State course reserves case.

As InsideHigherEd noted, "proponents of fair use said the opinion in Cambridge v. Patton recognizes that colleges and universities can legally create digital reserves of books in their collections," but the appeals court reversed the lower court's decision creating a bright-line rule for fair use.

"[T]he appeals court instead issued a stern warning against quick-fix, one-size-fits-all solutions to legal disputes -- specifically, the idea that copying less than a chapter or 10 percent of a book automatically protects an institution from a lawsuit."

Cambridge v. Patton "concerns an initiative created by Georgia State University, which in 2004 began letting faculty members scan book and journal excerpts and host them in the university’s e-reserves. Instead of waiting in turn for their classmates to finish an assigned reading on hold in the library, students could read the digitized version online. Three publishers, Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press and Sage Publications, said Georgia State’s actions, similar to those used at many other colleges, constituted copyright violations. Judge Orinda D. Evans in May 2012 endorsed the university's practices, ruling in its favor on 94 of 99 instances of alleged copyright violation. As long as the university didn’t make too much of the copyrighted books or articles available -- up to 10 percent or one chapter, whichever is less -- the digitized copies were considered fair use of the works, she ruled."

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals "dismissed the 'blanket 10-percent-or-one-chapter benchmark.' Instead, the opinion reads, each excerpt should be considered on its own."

While it's great that libraries can create digital reserves of books, the 11th Circuit recognized past precedent that fair use is not a simple determination. Fair use requires a case-by-case analysis that will inevitably result in continued litigation.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Law Office Or Law Offices?

To name your PLLC "Law Office of ______" or "Law Offices of _______," that is the question.

When I was in law school, I noticed that many attorneys named their law office, "The Law Offices of ______ _ _____" even though they only had one office. So when it was time for me to create and name my own professional limited liability company (PLLC), it seemed prudent to name it "The Law Offices of Jamie J. Baker." It seemed like a common market use, and I didn't think twice about it.

Then I came across a blog post from Findlaw that discussed the pitfalls of this issue. "The baseline rule, per the ABA's Model Rule 7.1, is that a lawyer 'shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer's services.' So, dropping the plural 'offices' when you only have one location might fall under that broad rule." Although there doesn't seem to be an ethcis opinion on point, other "[e]thics opinions ... warn against using 'and Associates' when you have no associates."

After reading this post, I decided to edit the name of my PLLC to "The Law Office of Jamie J. Baker" because I only have one designated office. While it may have been unlikely that the the plural use of offices would have resulted in any negative ramifications, it's an attorneys job to be prudent and comply with professional rules. 


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tarlton Law Library Seeks Fellow

For JDs interested in a career in law librarianship, you may want to consider applying for the Tarlton Fellowship.

"The Tarlton Fellowship was created to encourage law graduates to pursue careers in law librarianship and, especially, to focus on the academic and scholarly side of law librarianship. Fellows are employed in the public services department of the Tarlton Law Library while they attend the University of Texas’ School of Information."

The Fellowship is generally a two-year appointment, and "Tarlton Fellows, as members of the library's public services staff, engage in a wide variety of activities. Much of their time is spent providing reference services to the University of Texas Law School faculty and students and the general public. As part of their duties, they work closely with faculty members on in-depth research projects, assist student journals in a variety of activities, and offer bibliographic assistance, instructional programs, and current awareness alerts. Fellows participate in these activities under the supervision of, and with the support of, the library’s lawyer-librarians, gaining important insights into a range of scholarly and academic programs."

Applicants must have earned a J.D. degree from an ABA-approved law school and must have been admitted to the University of Texas School of Information’s Master of Science in Information Studies program.

This is a great opportunity to learn first hand what it means to be an academic law librarian under the supervision of a team of exceptional lawyer-librarians. For more information about the application process, visit the Tarlton Fellowship informational site.

Monday, October 20, 2014

FREE Webinar For Public Librarians: Connecting Patrons With Legal Information

Webinar: Connecting Patrons with Legal Information
Date: Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Time: 2:00–3:00 p.m. EDT

Every day, public library staff are asked to answer legal questions. Since these questions are often complicated and confusing, and because there are frequent warnings about not offering legal advice, reference staff may be uncomfortable addressing legal reference questions. To help reference staff build confidence in responding to legal inquiries, the American Library Association (ALA) and iPAC will host the free webinar “ Connecting Patrons with Legal Information” on Wednesday, November 12, 2014, from 2:00–3:00 p.m. EDT.

The session will offer information on laws, legal resources and legal reference practices. Participants will learn how to handle a law reference interview, including where to draw the line between information and advice, key legal vocabulary and citation formats. During the webinar, leaders will offer tips on how to assess and choose legal resources for patrons. Register now as space is limited.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Coherently Reporting Research In Emails

Garner's On Words series in the ABA Journal is very useful. Each month, he offers great tips for better legal writing.

Garner's September post is about coherently reporting research in emails. As noted, "[i]n the rushed exigency of modern law practice, with the expectation of nearly immediate responses to all manner of queries, emails are overtaking formal memos as the standard method for communicating research to senior colleagues and to clients."

As Garner mentions, email is often seen as a more informal means of communication, which means that many emails are rushed and may lead to more questions than answers.

He advises that "[b]efore hitting 'send,' step back and ask yourself exactly how clear you’re being. Avoid answering in a way that is sure to beget further queries. You might be well-advised to make your summary at least as clear as it should be in a formal memo."

To paraphrase Garner, this means instead of replying to a research question directly, you may want to lay it out fully in an email with a question presented and brief answer. After all, research queries are often put aside until needed, so it may be awhile before the email is read for comprehension. This could lead to frustration of having to sift through a long email exchange to fully understand the final answer.

While this advice is generally useful for associates and attorneys reporting research to senior counsel or clients, it resonated with me (a law librarian) because I often get research queries from law students in emails. I usually restate the question as I understand it (sometimes law students have a difficult time articulating exactly what they need), and I lead the student through my research process, as well as the final answer. The research process is important for law students because any research query from a student should be seen as a teaching moment so that they can effectively perform their own research. Although I make sure to include all of this information in a response to a student-research query, I could do a better job of organizing the information according to Garner's advice.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chemerinsky's Preview Of New SCOTUS Term

Erwin Chemerinsky recently reported to the ABA Journal his preview of the new SCOTUS term. SCOTUS will review many familiar issues this term like executive power, bankruptcy, religious freedom, voting rights, employment discrimination, and the Fourth Amendment. There is one novel issue on the docket this term: "true threats" and the First Amendment.

As Chemerinsky noted, "[t]he U.S. Supreme Court’s summer recess is over and the justices will return to the bench for oral arguments. The court traditionally sets half the docket for the coming year before it adjourns in early July, and grants the remaining cases between late September and mid-January."

The cases on the docket this term include:

  • Executive power: Zivotofsky v. Kerry is back before the court for a second time. Earlier the court ruled the case did not pose a political question and now the court will consider whether Congress impermissibly intruded upon executive powers by enacting a law that directs the U.S. secretary of state, on request, to record the birthplace of an American citizen born in Jerusalem as having “Israel” as a birthplace.
  • Bankruptcy: In Wellness Intern. Network Ltd. v. Sharif the court will again face an issue of enormous importance to the federal courts that it ducked last year: May a bankruptcy court issue a final judgment as to a state law claim with consent of the parties? In Stern v. Marshall the court held that bankruptcy courts cannot issue final judgments over state law claims unless they stem from the bankruptcy itself. The circuits have split, though, as to whether consent can cure this.
  • Religious freedom: Having ended last term with a major issue about religious freedom, the court will return to it in Holt v. Hobbs. The court granted review to decide whether the Arkansas Department of Corrections grooming policy violates the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act in prohibiting a prisoner from growing a half-inch beard in accordance with his religious beliefs.
  • Voting rights: Once more, the court will have a voting rights case on its docket. In Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama the court will return to the issue of when the government may use race in drawing election districts. The challengers argued that Alabama “packed” minority voters into districts where they already were in political control, thus reducing their chance of having influence elsewhere in the state. The question is whether this denied minority voters equal protection.
  • Employment discrimination: Although last term there were no employment discrimination cases, in Young v. United Parcel Service the court will consider whether it violates the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act when an employer provides accommodations to non-pregnant employees with work limitations, but refuses to accord the same accommodations to pregnant employees. 
  • Fourth Amendment: And, of course, as always, there is a major Fourth Amendment case. In Heien v. North Carolina the court will consider whether a police officer’s mistake of law can provide the individualized suspicion that the Fourth Amendment requires for a traffic stop. 
  • First Amendment: The Supreme Court long has held that “true threats” are not protected by the First Amendment. But the court never has developed a standard for determining what is a true threat. It is an issue that has come up with ever greater frequency because of the Internet and social media. In Elonis v. United States the court will consider whether a conviction for threatening another person requires proof of the defendant’s subjective intent to threaten, or whether it is enough to show that the reasonable person would regard the statement as threatening.

Thanks to Dean Chemerinsky for this comprehensive preview of the issues facing SCOTUS this term.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

SCOTUS Updates Website

Last Monday, SCOTUS unveiled an updated website. Findlaw reported on the new website noting  that "[a] new carousel of images greets visitors to the Court's main page, along with a more conspicuous calendar, a list of recent decisions, and a table of recent arguments with accompanying transcripts and audio recordings."

Here are some highlights of the Court's new website (and compare with this version of the website as it was archived on August 29):

  • It's responsive. Page elements automatically change size when the window is resized. This also means that the site is finally mobile device-friendly.
  • The menus have been simplified. Instead of over a dozen menus and submenus, there are only six on the new website, and they fit into fairly logical categories: "Opinions," "Oral Arguments," "Case Documents," "Rules & Guidance," "News Media," and "About the Court."
  • The image carousel on the main page shows many pictures of the Court, including the Courtroom and the Main Reading Room of the Library. And when you reload the main page, you get a different set of images in the carousel.
  • Irrelevant ancillary buttons are gone. For example, the button to view a "printer-friendly version" of the main pages.

Although the updated website is an improvement, there are still no briefs. "[I]f you want to learn anything substantive about a Supreme Court case, you must go to SCOTUSblog, which isn't officially affiliated with the Court and yet keeps a repository of information -- including comprehensive docket sheets showing every document filed, with links to the important ones (petitions and responses, amicus briefs, and merits briefs)."