Friday, August 29, 2014

Summer Associate Interview Tips

It's that time of year - on campus interviews for summer associate positions. As a green law student, I didn't understand the importance of landing a summer associate position and how these positions can set you on the right trajectory for an early successful career.

For those lucky enough to land an interview, the Findlaw blog offers tips for a successful interview:

1. Your Resume - Always bring a few copies of resume to your interview.
2. Ask Questions - Bring a list of questions with you to the interview; during the course of the interview jot questions down as they come to mind.
3. Make Them Feel Special - Just as you would tailor each cover letter to the particular firm you are applying to, be ready to talk about why you want to work at that particular firm.
4. Oldies but Goodies - Be ready to answer interview standby questions like: What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?
5. Keep It Positive - Everything you say in the interview should be positive.

As the Findlaw blog notes, "[a]ccording to Forbes, most interviews are decided in the first 10 seconds, so first impressions are immensely important."

Good luck during these interviews. And if you didn't land an on-campus interview, these tips still work well for any and all interview scenarios.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Talk To Librarians For Optimal Student Success

The Chronicle of Higher Education's Vitae blog offered advice to faculty about who they should talk to on campus for optimal student success.

The author notes how graduate students are expected to jump into the classroom autonomously once they are hired as faculty. But this autonomy does not mean that faculty should not confer with other professionals on campus to provide a comprehensive educational experience.

The first set of professional listed are the librarians:

"If you haven't spent a good few hours going over your syllabi with a librarian trained in your subject area, you're shortchanging your course and your students (and yourself). Librarians keep up with the technology in your field. They know the campus holdings and can order better texts for you if they know what you're teaching.

Librarians can offer even more help if you give them a heads-up about what your assignments are going to be. They can pull relevant texts from the stacks and hold them on reserve for your course. They can come to your classroom and talk about which sources are available and how to judge their quality. They can suggest assignments and let you know about resources you may not have seen yet. And they can be a great help if you have to miss a class--they can work with your students in the library that day or in your classroom to keep them on track with whatever assignment you've given while you’re away at that conference.

Librarians live to help. And they'll be able to help your class do much better work if you've taken the time to share your syllabus, your assignments, and your ideas with them."

The author goes on to list academic advisors, student affairs staff, registrar, financial aid, and veterans' affairs professionals as others for faculty to confer with. As noted, "get out there and talk to people across your campus, in all kinds of jobs. Who knows? You might make a friend. And you’ll definitely make yourself a more effective faculty member."

image: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/76/Arcimboldo_Librarian_Stokholm.jpg

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Shrinking First-Sale Doctrine

The digital age is affecting libraries in profound ways. Libraries must negotiate with publishers and distributors to license electronic content and libraries must also find ways to manage that content. Electronic content is also shrinking the pool of material that libraries can lend.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on the effect that streaming media has on the first-sale doctrine and the ability for libraries to lend. The article provides the following case-in-point:

"In March 2011, the University of Washington’s library tried to get a copy of a new recording of the Los Angeles Philharmonic playing a piece by Gustavo Dudamel, a popular composer, that the library could lend to students. But the recording was available only as a digital download, and Amazon and iTunes forbid renting out digital files.

So the librarians contacted the Philharmonic to see if there was some way they could get a copy of the Dudamel album that they could loan out like a compact disc. The orchestra referred them to a distributor, which referred them to the publisher, Universal Music Publishing Group. At first the corporation said it couldn’t license the Dudamel recording to the university, according to the librarians. Later it offered to license 25 percent of the album for two years in exchange for a licensing fee plus a $250 processing fee."

This is a new issue with online-only, streaming content. "In previous decades, the university librarians might have bought a CD of the Dudamel album for $25 and kept it in circulation it for as long as the disc remained viable. Here they were asked to pay the publisher 10 times that amount (plus a licensing fee that would probably exceed the processing fee) for access to a quarter of the album for two years. 

Old-fashioned media—books, tapes, CDs, etc.—are governed by the first-sale doctrine, a legal provision that allows a buyer to do whatever she wants with a copy. The licensing of digital media, however, gives publishers far more power. Instead of selling an album outright, they can sell permission to access its contents for a fixed amount of time."

Librarians see this is an "existential crisis" as traditional media is phased out. In the coming years, it will be of utmost importance for libraries to negotiate broad lending terms for electronic content or libraries may be faced with locked collections and the limited ability to lend

Friday, August 22, 2014

Teaching Technology To Law Students

In today's world, lawyers must be tech savvy. Lawyers need to know how technology intersects with the law for things like eDiscovery and eHearsay purposes. And lawyers also need to know how technology can make their jobs more efficient and cost effective.

The NYTimes reported on law schools that are taking an innovative approach to teaching technology. "'Legal education has been stronger on tradition than innovation,' said Joan W. Howarth, dean of the Michigan State law school. 'What we’re trying to do is educate lawyers for the future, not the past.'"

"Michigan State professors don’t just teach torts, contracts and the intricacies of constitutional law. They also delve into software and services that sift through thousands of cases to help predict whether a client’s case might be successful or what arguments could be most effective. They introduce their students to programs that search through mountains of depositions and filings, automating tasks like the dreary 'document review' that was once the baptism of fire and boredom for young associates."

Further, "Bill Mooz, a visiting professor at the University of Colorado law school, has started a four-week summer boot camp called Tech Lawyer Accelerator to provide, as he put it, 'all of the things they don’t teach you in law school and they don’t teach in law firms but which you need to be effective in today’s world.' Students are brought up to speed on tech tools designed to make legal services more efficient."

Law librarians are also getting in on the act by teaching technology sessions to law students. One class, in particular, called Cloud Computing, Mobile Tech & Legal Apps teaches "how 'The Cloud' has fundamentally changed our technological environment. Next, [the course] examine how 'The Cloud' led to the rise of mobility, how mobility led to the production of apps, and how apps have impacted the practice of law. [The course] examines mobile apps by first focusing on the approach the following big vendors are taking with their deployments: Westlaw, Lexis, CCH & Wolters Kluwer, fastcase, Bloomberg Law, Bloomberg BNA, and Hein Online. After that, [the course] examines a bevy of independently-produced apps that fit into the following categories: current awareness, organization & presentation, jury selection, docket research, eReading, news aggregation, and more. Lastly, [the course] covers general-interest apps and information sources that provide reviews and updates on late-breaking legal research apps."

It's ultimately important for future lawyers to understand new technology because it may be malpractice not to. The Findlaw Technologist Blog noted that the ABA takes technology seriously, and "[i]n 2012, the ABA modified Comment 8 to Rule 1.1 (that 'a lawyer shall provide competent representation to the client') to require lawyers to 'keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.'"

It's great to see that law schools are innovating in this way.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Courtroom Sociology

When I step into a courtroom, I can't help but scan my surroundings to understand the courtroom demographics. As I scan the room, I think about the subconscious events that are occurring based on extensive reading of various studies on courtroom interactions.

Here are a few examples of recent articles:

NYTimes article mentioned that judges with a daughter are more likely to rule in favor of women's rights. "'Having one daughter as opposed to one son,' the study found, 'is linked to an even higher 16 percent increase in the proportion of gender-related cases decided in a feminist direction.'"

Another article at HuffPost noted the pressure to plead guilty because of judicial vacancies. "Federal judicial vacancies are causing unsustainable courtroom delays, resulting in evidence going stale, witnesses dying before they can testify and, in some instances, people being pressured to plead guilty just to get out of jail faster, according to study released by the Brennan Center for Justice."

And PscyhologyToday ran an article about 'beautiful' people faring better in court. "According to a Cornell University study by Justin J. Gunnell and Stephen J. Ceci, more attractive defendants in court are less likely to be found guilty than less attractive ones. In addition, if there are money damages, then more attractive people tend to receive higher rewards. The study states: 'Information processing can proceed through two pathways, a rational one and an experiential one. The former is characterized by an emphasis on analysis, fact and logical argument, whereas the latter is characterized by emotional and personal experience.' The authors hypothesized that some jurors were more experiential than others, and that those jurors would reward attractiveness to a higher degree."

Lastly, the NYTimes offered a questionnaire for prospective jurors with questions designed by a jury consultant. The questions ask about a jury pool's employment status, age, income, volunteer activities, and teamwork preferences to name a few. Based on your answers to these questions, the questionnaire determines whether you would be selected for a particular jury in a hypothetical case. Based on my own answers, I received the following response: "You're off the hook. The defense lawyer loves you, and is very excited to have – wait, the plaintiff lawyer just struck you. Please take your belongings and report to the main jury room, so you can wait to go through this all over again on another case."

I can't help but remember these types of articles when scanning a courtroom. Does the judge have a daughter? Are there substantial courtroom delays due to vacancies? Is the defendant traditionally attractive? What is the make up of the jury pool?

While statistics may not mean much in one particular case, these types of subtexts are interesting and can offer insight into the various courtroom interactions that take place.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Non-Competes Everywhere!

The Findlaw blog noted that "[a]ccording to the NYTimes, noncompete agreements are on the rise even in industries which have been traditionally light on paperwork. Case in point: a Massachusetts man whose job involves spraying pesticide on laws had to sign a two-year noncompete agreement."

From the NYTimes, "[t]he United States has a patchwork of rules on noncompetes. Only California and North Dakota ban them, while states like Texas and Florida place few limits on them. When these cases wind up in court, judges often cut back the time restraints if they’re viewed as unreasonable, such as lasting five years or longer. In most states there has to be a legitimate business interest, and it has to be narrowly tailored and reasonable in scope and duration."

Ethics rules generally preclude noncompetes for attorneys, but some states are allowing them within reason.

Although noncompetes are popping up everywhere, not all businesses actually need one. To determine if your business actually needs a noncompete, Findlaw recommends looking at the following:

  • Protecting Trade Secrets - can you use a nondisclosure agreement instead?
  • Is There a Legitimate Business Interest? -  such as protecting trade secrets or confidential information or protecting long-standing customer or client relationships.
  • Be Reasonable - noncompete agreement should allow ex-employees to continue their careers while still protecting your business.
If you are a potential employee that is asked to sign a noncompete agreement, Lifehacker offers some basic questions you should ask before signing the agreement. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Research Libraries Are Big Business

The Chronicle of Higher Education has released its Almanac of Higher Education 2014.

"The Chronicle's 27th annual collection of data on colleges answers perennial questions like how much faculty make and which colleges are growing the fastest. This year's Almanac also gives you new ways to compare institutions. Which colleges have the most students enrolled in online courses? Which have the highest percentages of nonresident aliens?"

A data set that I find particularly interesting is the spending by university research libraries 2012-13. "Six universities on the Association of Research Libraries' Library Investment Index had more than 500 professional and support staff members in 2012-13, and 19 spent more than $10-million on salaries and wages for their professional staff. Eleven had total library expenditures exceeding $50-million."

Those are impressive numbers for library involvement at a major research university.

Some examples of data are:
Institution        Library Expenditures     Salaries of Staff         Materials              Staff
Harvard U.             $117,316,662           $39,049,607            $42,824,113               815
U. of Michigan      $67,289,114              $14,296,308           $24,708,760               535
Michigan State U.  $30,898,942             $6,078,705              $15,851,193              199
Wayne State U.      $19,647,678             $6,418,127              $9,410,721                  41

It's great to see that the institutions listed in the Index value their libraries and that the libraries are still so relevant to the output of important research.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Researching Across The Curriculum

InsideHigherEd ran a piece this spring that discussed the need for faculty to teach writing across the curriculum (WAC). "Most agree that Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC), in which the task of teaching writing is one assigned to all professors, not just those who teach English or composition, is an important academic concept. If we had a WAC playbook, it would sound something like this: students need to write clear, organized, persuasive prose, not only in the liberal arts, but in the sciences and professional disciplines as well."

The same ideal rings true for researching across the curriculum in law school. Law schools generally require one or two research & writing courses before graduation. Some students will actively seek electives that provide additional training with a research & writing component, but many students shy away from these courses.

Like writing, students need as much practice with research as possible before graduation to really understand the concepts and develop a research strategy. After all, nearly 30% of a new attorney's time is spent doing legal research.

It's important for law faculty to understand how integral legal research is to the success of graduates and faculty should "buy in" to legal research instruction across the curriculum.

For example, many law schools are starting to assess students throughout the term instead of relying on one comprehensive final exam at the end of the term. These assessments, which take place in each law school class, can easily require a legal research component to offer more research practice for the students. The students will continue to hone their legal research skills by contextualizing and evaluating information based on the class's subject area.

Law faculty - see your nearest law librarian for more information!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Legal Scholarship Blog Facilitates Dissemination

If you are about to embark on a legal scholarship endeavor but are having a hard time choosing a topic, you may want to refer to a call for papers to narrow your focus. There are a few great resources for this, and one that I particularly like is The Legal Scholarship Blog.

The Legal Scholarship Blog features law-related Calls for Papers, Conferences, and Workshops as well as general legal scholarship resources.

From the website:
"The Legal Scholarship Blog seeks to facilitate the legal academy’s development and dissemination of scholarship, and so does not feature events such as Continuing Legal Education programs or regional bar association meetings.

Created in 2007, the Legal Scholarship Blog is a free, non-profit service managed by faculty and staff at:"

  • The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law
  • University of Pittsburgh School of Law
  • University of Washington School of Law
You can use the site to:
  • Read about new conferences, workshops, and calls for papers as they are posted
  • Look for conferences, workshops, and calls for papers in your field
  • Use the calendar for upcoming events
  • Publicize your conferences, workshops, and symposia
The "Research Deans" tab on the website is a wealth of information on legal scholarship with topics covering:
  • Law Review Submissions
  • Articles: Law Review Studies
  • Articles: Legal Scholarship
  • Articles: Research Deans (promoting scholarship)
  • Miscellaneous (how to write abstracts)
The Legal Scholarship Blog also offers a list of the various law review online companions. This is a great resource for those in the legal academe, as well for law journals seeking submissions. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Library Assistant's Manual - A Retrospective

Sometimes it's a good idea to look back and see where we have been to know how we have gotten to this point and find additional insight into where we are going.

The Paris Review recently ran a post about a Library Assistant's Manual issued on the occasion of the 61st annual meeting of the Michigan State Teachers’ Association, Ann Arbor, October 30–November 1, 1913.

The Manual includes a portion on the qualities necessary to be a library assistant. "Qualities that unfit one for library work in general are physical weakness, deformity, poor memory, a discontented disposition, egotism, a lack of system in one’s method of work, and inability or unwillingness to take responsibilities, a tendency to theorize, criticize, or gossip, inability to mind one’s own business, fussiness, and long-windedness."

As I see it, many of these qualities unfit for library work still ring true. The Manual goes on to list questions to ask an aspiring library assistant:

Has she tact?
Has she enthusiasm?
Has she method and system?
Is she punctual?
Is she neat?
Is she kind?
Is she a good disciplinarian?
Is she sympathetic?
Is she quick?
Is she willing to wear rubber heels?
Is she a good worker?
Is she accurate?
Has she a pleasing personality?
Has she a sense of responsibility?
Is she patient?
Is she courteous?
Has she self control?
Is she cheerful?
Has she a knowledge of books?
Are her vibrations pleasant?
Has she executive ability?
Can she speak French, German, Spanish, Italian, Yiddish?
Has she social qualifications?
Can she keep a petty cash account?
What are her faults?

Notice the sexist language. Librarians are still seen as pink collar so not much has changed to that end since 1913. A lot of these qualities are still good qualities to have in the library-service profession. Although, I'm not sure what they mean by "vibrations." In my view, the necessity of speaking French and German has diminished, while the ability to speak Spanish has increased to facilitate the library use of a larger Spanish-speaking population.

While the field of librarianship has changed dramatically since 1913, the characteristics necessary to work in a library remain largely the same when taken in context.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Selecting A Case To Cite

A question that comes up pretty often from law students in legal writing classes is, "how do I know which case to cite?"

This is a good question and one that really depends on what cases are found during the research process. I ran across a succinct article a few years back that does a pretty good job of discussing how to select cases to cite.

From the article:
"Most legal writers seem to have developed an instinct for which cases to pick and which to discard. Moreover, the considerations that the writer consciously or subconsciously brings to bear on which cases to include in legal citation are more complicated than merely citing to the most recent case from the highest court. These considerations probably begin with an informal categorization of all the cases found in the process of researching a given issue."

The article then goes on to discuss categorizing cases. "The cases supporting a given proposition of law might roughly be categorized as follows:

Seminal Case--This is generally the first case from the highest court to have decided the issue and stated the proposition of law in question. If the proposition was itself a reversal or revision of earlier authority, the seminal case is the reversing or revising case. As the first case to have stated the proposition in question, the seminal case has generally gone into some depth in analyzing the issue and the court's rationale in a manner that might not be repeated in later cases.

Parroting Cases--With a common proposition of law, numerous cases will have simply parroted the language of the seminal case, adding little or nothing to the analysis.

Bolstering Cases--In addition to parroting seminal authority, the bolstering case adds new reasoning and analysis to support the underlying proposition of law.

Reformulation Cases--These cases take the proposition of the seminal case and either restate it in different terms or refine the analysis in some way that may be more or less helpful to the reader. When, for example, the seminal case was written in the legalistic jargon of the past, the reformulation case may delete the jargon and restate the proposition in plain English.

Pseudo-Seminal Case--When the seminal case has been forgotten or lost in the chain of citation, a more recent case will often emerge as the one most courts presently cite as the oldest or most reliable case to support the given proposition. This case effectively takes the place of the lost seminal case.

Companion Cases--As I use the term here, companion cases (not to be confused with the more technical use of this term) are parroting cases that have over time been so consistently cited together with the seminal (or pseudo-seminal) authority that they achieve a certain perceived legitimacy and it would now seem awkward to break the habit of citing the companion case together with the seminal authority.

Parallel Cases--Occasionally, separate lines of authority for the same proposition develop without any common source; or, perhaps more likely, the original source or seminal case is buried so far back in the chain of citation that it has been all but forgotten. This then leads to two or more lines of cases standing for the same proposition, with different courts typically preferring one or the other of the parallel lines of authority.

Storehouse Cases--It sometimes happens that, when there are multiple parallel cases with no clear seminal or pseudo-seminal case to which they all refer, somewhere down the road a particular case will attempt to collect or "storehouse" all of the parallel lines. If this storehouse case is reliable, it is a prime candidate to be cited from then on as pseudo-seminal authority.

Application Cases--Some cases that have only marginal value as support for an abstract proposition of law, have great value in their application of the proposition to facts similar or analogous to the facts of your own case."

After categorizing cases, it is time to select the cases to cite. The article offers guidelines for selection:
  • Provide Both Seminal and Recent Authority
  • Generally Omit Parrots
  • Use Vertical Strings To Show Continuity Within a Court
  • Use Horizontal Strings To Show Continuity among Courts
  • Reconcile Parallel Lines of Authority
  • Use Bolstering and Reformulation Cases to Strengthen and Better Explain
  • Use Application Cases For Similarity and Analogy
As the author notes, improper case selection may cause the reader to reject the underlying legal proposition, which could be the death knell for a case. This advice is sound, and it's the best explanation of selecting a case to cite that I've seen. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Become A Lawyer Without Going To Law School

The NYTimes recently reported on the lawyer's apprentice and the ability to become a lawyer without going to law school.

This isn't a new phenomena, and the most famous lawyer's apprentice was probably Abraham Lincoln. "Before the prevalence of law schools in the 1870s, apprenticeships were the primary way to become a lawyer." And there is still "[a]n obscure California rule that allows people to 'read law' much as Lincoln did, studying at the elbow of a seasoned lawyer."

California is not the only state that still allows people to read the law. "California is one of a handful of states that allow apprenticeships in lieu of a law degree as a prerequisite to taking the bar and practicing as a licensed lawyer. In Virginia, Vermont, Washington and California, aspiring lawyers can study for the bar without ever setting foot into or paying a law school. New York, Maine and Wyoming require a combination of law school and apprenticeship."

The more popular route, today, is to attend law school as state bars generally require a J.D. from an ABA accredited institution as a prerequisite to taking the bar. "The [apprenticeship] programs remain underpopulated. Of the 83,986 people who took state or multistate bar exams last year, according to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, only 60 were law office readers (so-called for the practice of reading legal texts as preparation)."

As noted, "there are obstacles. None of the states help prospective law readers locate a supervising lawyer, and finding one willing to take on the responsibility of educating a new lawyer can be difficult (supervising lawyers are expected to instruct their students in all areas of law covered by their state’s bar exam, and administer and grade tests). Bar passage rates for law office students are also dismal. Last year only 17 passed — or 28 percent, compared with 73 percent for students who attended schools approved by the American Bar Association."

But as the cost of law school continues to rise, this might be an alternative for someone really looking to serve the community without the staggering debt that often accompanies a law degree. As one lawyer's apprentice in California noted, "[t]here is very little that would entice me to go $100,000 or more into debt for a credential."

Monday, August 11, 2014

Electronic Resource Management

As a reference librarian, my focus is on instruction, reference, collection development, and faculty research. I have honed my skills in these areas, and I am excited to start learning about other aspects of law librarianship. As a law librarian, it is important to be well-rounded and understand how the various facets work together to provide the best end-user experience.

One of those facets is the management of electronic resources. It's safe to say that most law-library patrons prefer electronic access to resources. And most libraries are transitioning from print to digital. With the continued push toward digital, it is a challenge to keep track of access rights, licensing information, statistics, renewal date, proxy information, and the vendor contact information for the multitude of databases.

Electronic resource management (ERM) is complex because "unlike their print counterparts, e-resources may be accessed via a diverse array of data formats, delivery systems and interfaces. They may be acquired individually or as part of packages, and can be sourced direct from providers or indirectly through aggregator services. Pricing models and licensing terms for e-resources are legally intricate and largely non-standard. E-resources also entail administrative activities not applicable to print resources, including the management of user authentications, trial subscriptions, contractual restrictions, archival and preservation issues, and technical troubleshooting." 

This information is all pertinent for a library to run seamlessly and provide an efficient end-user experience. My library uses an in-house Excel spreadsheet to manage electronic resources. And I consult this spreadsheet often to evaluate sources for collection development and to enforce licensing agreements when I am working with students, faculty, and public patrons.

Smaller libraries may be able to use an in-house solution, but third-party providers have created software to help manage electronic resources. One particular module is Innovative Interfaces, Inc.'s ERM module. This module provides a template to enter all of the pertinent e-resource information. It works with the integrated library system to provide a seamless end-user experience and allows a library to easily track its e-resources.

Understanding ERM ensures that a law librarian is better able to provide instruction and reference services. It is very important that when working with particular e-resources, a reference librarian understands the access and licensing restrictions - for example, can this resource be used for document delivery or interlibrary loan?

ERM also makes it easier to perform proactive collection development. ERM allows a librarian to run usage stats and cost per search information for the various e-resources. The collection development librarian can then evaluate the e-resource and determine if it is valuable to the library's collection. If the librarian determines that the e-resource is valuable for curriculum purposes but the e-resource is not seeing a lot of use, the librarian can work to promote the e-resource to the patrons. 

This is an exciting new area to learn, and it is making me a better librarian. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Friday Funday - Fun Uses For Old Card Catalogs

Mental Floss recently blogged about fun uses for old card catalogs. "The library catalog has gone digital, but that doesn’t mean all the old oaken card catalog cabinets have been flung on the ash heap of history." There are many ways to renew the card catalog.

A few creative ways to reuse card catalogs include:

1. SEWING SUPPLIES SMARTLY SORTED
2. WINE WAREHOUSE WHERE WE WOULD NEVER SUSPECT
3. POSTCARDS PERCHED AT PECULIAR ANGLES
4. SECRET STASH OF SPARE SHOES
5.  DRAGONS [FLOWERS] DREAMING IN A DRAWER
6. ADD CASTERS TO CARRY A COFFEE TABLE
7. A SORTING SYSTEM FOR SALTY SNACKS
8. CAMERAS CAREFULLY CATALOGUED

I particularly like the sewing supplies, wine warehouse, and coffee table ideas.

                                         https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8370/8487861580_dfe38c7669_z.jpg

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Browsing Wikipedia Akin To Browsing Print Stacks

A big criticism of getting rid of print-library collections is that digital collections don't allow for those happenstance finds that spur creativity like browsing print stacks. Now there's an argument being made that the new Wikipedia app might be the answer to our problems.

"For years, critics have feared that the Internet will kill interestingness, offering us only what we’re looking for with none of the happy accidents that can spur creative thought. Might a solution to this problem come from the kind of browsing we do on Wikipedia?"

Wikipedia allows for these happy accidents by "warp[ing] time and space to send you down a rabbit hole [that] has been a central part of its long-term success." The new Wikipedia app will make this even easier by adding "a new sidebar that allows users to jump easily to different sections of a single article. Vibha Bamba, an interaction designer at Wikipedia, says: 'We understand that readers love reading on Wikipedia, but they don’t often get past the first section. They read two sentences, and then they hit a link.' She adds: 'We want you to jump around the article to find different entry points. We wanted to support curiosity in a design sort of way.'"

The "emphasis on Wikipedia’s ability to promote lostness is interesting, since getting lost — and happening upon things we didn’t think we’d find — is an experience critics fear the Internet has stolen from us." The early argument was that “[e]verything we need to know comes filtered and vetted. We are discovering what everyone else is learning, and usually from people we have selected because they share our tastes. It won’t deliver that magic moment of discovery that we imagine occurred when Elvis Presley first heard the blues, or when Michael Jackson followed Fred Astaire’s white spats across the dance floor.”

This is an optimistic view of how users will interact with the new Wikipedia app and one that we should all consider and embrace. Librarians, in particular, should have the same active interest in user interaction with information as the app developers in this case.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

DOJ's Compiled Legislative Histories

Legislative history research can be a painstaking process. Finding the various bills, committee reports, hearings, and debates can make any researcher's head spin - especially for more antiquated laws that were passed before most of this information was uploaded on Congress.gov (Thomas.gov's successor). For older laws, it may even mean getting into microfiche

The good news is that there are sources of compiled legislative history that bring this information together for you in one place. As we teach our students, if you are lucky enough to find a source of compiled legislative history, there is no need to recreate the wheel. 

The United States Department of Justice has a website devoted to legislative histories compiled by DOJ staff.

From the website: 
"The following are legislative histories that were compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Library Staff throughout the years. These legislative histories were originally researched, collected and bound as paper volumes by DOJ librarians and made available only to DOJ employees through the Department's Main Library collection. Today, they have been digitized and are now available for general use. The legislative histories are composed of the most important components for the law documented in each legislative history which may include some, or all, of the following: the U.S. Public Law; House and Senate Documents; House, Senate, and Conference Reports; House and Senate Committee Hearings; Congressional Debates (Congressional Record); related Bills; and Presidential Signing Statements."

This DOJ resource is a great collection of about 30 compiled legislative histories for laws ranging from the Administrative Procedure Act to the War Crimes Act of 1996. 

 
Image: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/26/US-DeptOfJustice-Seal.svg

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Library As Place

Lately, I've blogged about how users interact with library resources and how librarians are in the best position to promote resources to enhance student comprehension.

Part of puzzle is the library as space. There is a new article in Legal Reference Services Quarterly that discusses placemaking in the academic law library.

From the abstract:
"In recent years a number of factors have coalesced to shape the future of print collections held by academic law libraries. These factors include: declining acquisitions budgets, rapidly rising print subscription costs, duplication of print materials in online databases, student and faculty preferences for electronic resources, collaborative print retention projects, changes to the American Bar Association's Annual Questionnaire and Standards, calls to produce practice-ready graduates, and the repurposing of library space for other law school functions."

Many law libraries are now storing large portions of their print collections off-site, in compact shelving, or simply discarding them. Removing redundant print materials from library collections creates opportunities for innovative uses of library space. This article will explore the benefits of applying placemaking concepts in the academic law library. Placemaking has been described as the art and science of crafting spaces in ways that transcend their physical attributes and contribute to the well-being of the occupants. This article will examine how placemaking concepts can be used to integrate print and non-print resources, to showcase subject specific collections, to encourage serendipity and collaborative learning, to build community and connect students to a law school’s values and traditions, and achieve other goals."

As the author, Lee F. Peoples, notes, placemaking encourages serendipity and collaborative learning. The understanding of how users interact with the space and the various resources within that space will help shape the librarian's role as curator and navigator into the future.