Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Remember The Search Tips For Any Database

This morning I instructed on free or low cost legal-research databases. Databases like Casemaker, Fastcase, Google Scholar, Loislaw, and VersusLaw to name a few. When doing this type of instruction, I always try to reiterate to the students that each of the databases have nuanced search functionality, and the students should always look at the search tips from the respective database to maximize searching.

Most of the databases allow for boolean searching, but it may not be the same type of boolean searching that you can do on WEXBERG. The search tips will generally tell you which proximity connectors to use in the particular database.

Also, most databases provide a comprehensive user guide:
In addition to user guides, most of the databases also provide blogs or websites offering search tips:
Because many state bars provide Casemaker to their members, there are quite a few research guides from the various state bars providing tips on using Casemaker. One must simply Google "Casemaker research tips" to find more information.

Monday, March 30, 2015

RIPS Blog Post - The Importance of Legal Research Skills for Practice

Check out my latest post on the RIPS Law Librarian Blog discussing the importance of legal research skills for practice.

Powerful Teaching

Law librarians generally spend a lot of time in front of classes instructing on legal research. To that end, we have to be jacks of all trades paying attention to our teaching styles.


1. Personality:  Great teachers tend to be good-natured and approachable, as opposed to sour or foreboding; professional without being aloof; funny (even if they’re not stand-up comedians), perhaps because they don’t take themselves or their subject matter too seriously; demanding without being unkind; comfortable in their own skin (without being in love with the sound of their own voices); natural (they make teaching look easy even though we all know it isn’t); and tremendously creative, and always willing to entertain new ideas or try new things, sometimes even on the fly.

2. Presence:  The best teachers, as Lang concluded, are always "present" — fully in the moment, connecting with both their subject matter and their students.

3. Preparation: To be a powerful teacher you must go into every single class meeting as prepared as you can be, given the time you have. That means more than just reviewing your notes or PowerPoint slides. It involves constantly reassessing what you do in the classroom, abandoning those strategies that haven’t proved effective, or are just outdated, and trying new ones. It means being so familiar with your subject matter that you can talk about it off the cuff.

4. Passion: Passion, or love, manifests itself in the classroom in two ways: love for students and love for your subject matter.

As noted in the article, these four properties are always a work in progress. It may be hard to work on your personality (it can be done!), but presence and preparation are undoubted areas where you can continue to build your skill set. Passion may ebb and flow over the course of a career, but it's important to try and keep it up and express it to your students. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

LLSDC Federal Admin Law Overview

The Legislative Research Special Interest Section of the Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, D.C., Inc. (llsdc.org) is pleased to announce the availability of a new website entitled “Federal Administrative Law: A Brief Overview.” The site, which had been available only in PDF, has been substantially revised and its subheadings, each with numerous links, include the following:

1) A Brief Explanation of Federal Administrative Law,
2) Current Major Federal Government Regulatory Agencies,
3) General Federal Agency Directories,
4) Major Federal Administrative and Rulemaking Laws,
5) Some Other Federal Administrative Laws,
6) Types of Agency Rules and Notices Published in the Federal Register,
7) Federal Rules, Non-Rules and Other Terminology
8) Researching Federal Agency Orders, Decisions, Interpretations, and Letters
9) Selected Administrative Law Treatises
10) Selected Supreme Court Opinions on Federal Administrative Law
11) Selected Web Sites on Federal Administrative Law

The new website is part of LLSDC’s Legislative Source Book website.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Watch Out For These Improper Phrases

Inc.com recently listed 10 improper (but common) phrases that can make you look bad. Of the list, I think that 5 are particularly common:

Must of, should of, would of, and could of
All those "of"s should be "have." As one reader points out, the proper versions were corrupted by contractions such as "must've."

Worse comes to worse
Another reader points out this should be "when worse comes to worst," which indicates something has degraded from one negative plane to the lowest possible.

Unthaw
Think about this one for a minute. How exactly is it possible to un-thaw something? Putting the item in the freezer would work, but probably won't produce the results you intended, which is to "thaw" it.

(Someone) and I
You probably know to use the other person's name first when it comes at the beginning of a sentence, such as "Brandon and I put the presentation together." But many people don't understand that when you're talking about yourself and someone else toward the end of the sentence you should use "me" instead. For example, it would be "The CEO awarded bonuses to Brandon and me." An easy way to remember this: If you remove the other person's name it would sound weird to use "I," right?

Irregardless
Spell check should catch this one, but it won't help you with verbal communication. Just know "irregardless" is not a word. It's simply "regardless," as in "Regardless of what you think about grammar, you'll look silly if you use it incorrectly."

This also goes to the point that if a phrase is common enough, it merely becomes part of the language. So although unthaw is technically not correct, it's general usage has likely made it part of the lexicon. I use the trick to remember "(someone) and I" all of the time. If the sentence sounds weird when you leave out the other person's name and just use I, then I should not be used. As for irregardless, I was in law school before I understood that irregardless is not a word. I used it in a sentence with my mentor, and he instantly corrected me. That's what mentors are for, right?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Skip The Bar Exam?

After the kerfuffle created last summer when the scores of the July test-takers showed a dramatic decrease nationwide, "[s]ome states, including Arizona, Iowa and New Hampshire, are exploring or have adopted other options, questioning the wisdom of relying on a single written test as the gateway to legal practice."

The NYTimes notes that last November, about 80 law school deans "jointly asked, for the first time anyone remembers, for details on how test questions were chosen and scored. The situation was already touchy after remarks made the previous month by a top bar exam official, who defended the [July] results as indisputably correct, and then, in what the deans viewed as verbal dynamite, labeled the test takers as 'less able' than their predecessors."

This is just the latest criticism of the bar exam, as "critics have long questioned not only the expense and time devoted to taking the exam but also whether clients benefit from an admissions standard that is largely based on rote memorization."

Currently, "[a]ll states but one, Wisconsin, require passing the bar exam to become a licensed lawyer, but bar associations in states including Arizona and Iowa have been exploring alternatives. The Iowa State Bar Association proposed an in-state 'diploma privilege,' similar to neighboring Wisconsin’s, that would allow graduates of local law schools to skip the bar exam and begin practicing immediately."

Another big concern is the time and expense it takes law schools to prepare students to take the test. "Eliminating or curtailing the current bar exam would give law schools more leeway to create programs and conduct testing that determines who becomes a lawyer. The schools say the exam’s outsize importance forces them to devote more resources, including bar-specific courses, to prepare graduates for the crucial test rather than focusing on legal principles or hands-on law practice."

New Hampshire's new alternative licensing model seems like a better predictor of lawyering skills. "Its University of New Hampshire School of Law allows second- and third-year students to participate in a kind of apprenticeship where they learn basics like taking depositions. Those accepted to the Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program create portfolios of their written work and record their oral performances, which are reviewed by state bar examiners after each semester. Those who pass the review can skip the bar exam and go directly into practice."

It may be time to take a good, hard look at the bar exam. But as noted in the article, New Hampshire's alternative model took 17 years to be fully adopted. The great thing is that we now have other models to work from. If New Hampshire's model is successful, then it may take other states less time to adopt a similar model.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Globalex For Foreign, Comparative & International Law Research

When it comes to foreign, comparative, and international law (FCIL) research, you can't beat Globalex.

From Globalex's website:
GlobaLex is committed to the dissemination of high-level international, foreign, and comparative law research tools in order to accommodate the needs of an increasingly global educational and practicing legal world. The information and articles published by GlobaLex represent both research and teaching resources used by legal academics, practitioners and other specialists around the world who are active either in foreign, international, and comparative law research or those focusing on their own domestic law. The guides and articles published are written by scholars well known in their respective fields and are recommended as a legal resource by universities, library schools, and legal training courses. The tools available in GlobaLex will continue to expand to cover international law topics, countries and legal systems thus providing a coherent and encompassing research tool for all constituencies.

When I have to do research on another country's laws, Globalex is always my first stop. The information is very comprehensive and covers many of the legal systems throughout the world.

In March, there were many updates to Globalex documents, including:
Research Guide to International Weapons Law by Gudrun Monika Zagel
Gudrun Zagel is Professor of International Law and Human Rights at the University of the Federal Army Munich. She received her legal education from the University of Salzburg Law School as well as from the University of Texas School of Law at Austin, where she was a Fulbright Scholar. Previous work places include the Department of International Law at the University of Salzburg, where she held the position of an Assistant Professor, and consultant at the Office of the Legal Advisor of the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Gudrun is the author of a treatise and numerous articles on international economic law and co-editor of Smit & Herzog on The Law of the European Union (Matthew Bender).

UPDATE: Canon Law Research Guide by Don Ford
Don Ford is Foreign, Comparative & International Law Librarian at the University of Iowa College of Law. He holds a JD from the University of Virginia School of Law (1985), an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences (2002), a BA (International Relations) from the American University (1980), and a BA (German Area Studies) from the American University (1980).

UPDATE: A Guide to Legal Research in Costa Rica by Roger A. Petersen
Roger A. Petersen  is an Attorney at Law, member of both the Costa Rican Bar and Florida Bar Association.  He is the author of The Legal Guide to Costa Rica and a partner with Petersen & Philps of San Jose, Costa Rica.

UPDATE: Japanese Law Research Guide - Update by Keiko Okuhara
Keiko Okuhara is a librarian at the University of Hawaii at Manoa William S. Richardson School of Law Library.

UPDATE: Guide to Legal Research in Nicaragua  - Update by Andrea M. Vidaurre Lovo
Andrea M. Vidaurre is a Nicaraguan lawyer who holds a law degree from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She obtained an L.L.M in Corporate Law from New York University School of Law in 2012  She currently works as a corporate and litigation attorney in the firm of Munguía, Vidaurre, Zúniga in Managua, Nicaragua.

UPDATE: Philippine Legal Research by Milagros Santos-Ong 
Milagros Santos-Ong   is the Director of the Library Services of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. She is the author of  Legal Research and Citations  (Rexl Book Store) a seminal book published in numerous editions and a part-time professor on Legal Research in some law schools in the Metro-Manila.

Monday, March 23, 2015

SCOTUS Internships & Library of Congress Positions

The Supreme Court of the United States has openings for 3 summer interns in the Library:
Technical Services and Special Collections Department
Technology and Collections Management Department
Research Department

The Library is willing to consider course credit eligibility for these internships.
Any questions may be addressed to our Personnel Office (contact info listed at the bottom of the announcements).

The Library of Congress also has quite a few open positions. Check out the LOC Job Openings website for more information. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Proximity For Partner

The NYTimes reported on a new study that shows that law school proximity matters for big-law partner prospects. And it may matter more than the rank of the law school. "The study is called Does Law School Still Make Economic Sense? An Empirical Analysis of ‘Big Law’ Firm Partnership Prospects and the Relationship to Law School Attended [and] will be published in the May issue of the Buffalo Law Review."

The study looked at "33,000 lawyers at the largest 115 law firms in the country [and] found that the dozen highest ranked law schools, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Northwestern, had a high correlation between their status and the number of alumni who made partner." No surprise there.

"But some of the other 100 schools examined showed greater differences between their ranking and their alumni partner numbers.... For example, Suffolk University Law School in Boston is not ranked nationally but it has 167 graduates who are partners in top law firms.... Over all, it trails Harvard, Yale and two other New England law schools in partner numbers, but its strong performance ... shows that geographical proximity to a major legal market may be a good predictor of 'big law' career success."

As further indicia that proximity matters for partner prospects, "[a]lumni who are law firm partners in New York were from, in descending order, law schools at Columbia, Harvard, Fordham, Georgetown, Brooklyn, Yale and University of Pennsylvania. In Washington, the greatest number of partners found in the study came from Georgetown, Harvard, George Washington, University of Virginia and Catholic University. Similarly, in Chicago, the partners graduated from Northwestern, University of Chicago and University of Illinois."

And "Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law, for example, is ranked nationally as No. 108 among the 200 accredited law schools, but is listed in the study as No. 32 for the number of alumni who become partners at the largest law firms."

Ultimately, the study found that "[t]aking everything into account, students double their chances of law firm partnership by attending Harvard or the University of Chicago rather than any school with annual tuition of less than $50,000." 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Using A Memo Proposal To Organize Scholarly Writing

After an enlightening conversation yesterday with a colleague concerning the creation of a scholarly writing course, I thought I would share her method for organizing a scholarly article: The Memo Proposal.

I have adapted the memo for academic legal writing purposes.


To: Professor X
From: John Smith
Subject: Proposal for a Study of _________________
Date:


Background:
Provide a brief overview of the history of the law leading up to the problem.

Statement of the Problem:
Describe the problem.

Thesis/Proposed Solution:
Describe the workable standard, new legislation or court interpretation that will help alleviate the problem.

Scope:
State the focus of your article. What are the primary elements that you will concentrate on to substantiate your arguments?

Methods:
Describe where/how you will gather your information.

Schedule:
Note due dates for topic selection, preemption checks, outlines, drafts, and final paper.

Cost: 
Will there be costs associated with your research?

Specifications:
What are the parameters of the paper? What is the length and citation format?

My Qualifications:
Describe what makes you qualified to write this article.

Conclusion:
Why is this research necessary?


This is an exercise to make sure that students are on track and understand the task at hand. If the students can succinctly articulate the memo, it means that they understand the main parts of the writing process and practicalities associated with working under a deadline.

I plan to incorporate this exercise into my class as the narration to the detailed outline.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Law Library Times They Are A Changin

Last fall, Robert Ambrogi posted on his blog, Law Sites, about the challenges and opportunities facing information professionals.

He noted the current time of unprecedented innovation "when two guys in law school who think they have a better idea for a legal research site can run with it and create the company Ravel Law by the time they graduate."

So what does this mean for information professionals?

According to Ambrogi, "[f]or too long, librarians were defined in the public consciousness by the place in which you work. Many now believe that that place is irrelevant, unnecessary and too expensive to keep around. At both law firms and law schools, there are some who argue for doing away with the physical library altogether."

While this can cause worry and panic, "it also provides an opportunity to examine what it is [information professionals] provide. As soon as you begin to look at it that way, you see immediately that what you provide is something that cannot be done away with. You, more than anyone else in your firm or institution, holds the key to information. Your skill set is not about shelving, but about knowing how to find and manage information."

In terms of managing information, "[t]here is way too much information, making it hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. It is more difficult to assess the quality and reliability of information.
It is still difficult to find many forms of very specific information – the very kinds of information lawyers often need. The nature of information is changing. In particular, data has become information, and in this era of Big Data, many are struggling with how to manage and make sense of it."

The changes to information access also create opportunities for librarians. Ambrogi notes many opportunities - a few of which I will highlight here:
  • Librarians as publishers: Help your firm or institution use blogs and social media to help push it knowledge and resources to its constituents. 
  • Librarians as facilitators of access to justice: Librarians have a critical role to play in helping to expand access to and understanding of legal information.
  • Librarians as trainers: Training lawyers and associates on how to use research services is as important now as it ever was – maybe more so.
  • Librarians as drivers of change: You can help drive efforts to increase open-source publishing and open access to legal information.
  • Librarians as experimenters: Out of those experiments will come the future course of your profession. And that means the future is in your hands.
Ambrogi's commentary is right on. As libraries transition beyond the physical space, librarians have many new opportunities to redefine our role. We should see it as the best of challenges and continue to market our value and resources to create a perception that libraries and librarians are invaluable

Friday, March 13, 2015

Libraries Are Not Like Football

Library Babel Fish (aka Barbara Fister) alerted me to a recent NYTimes article discussing college for a new age.

Joe Nocera of the NYTimes recently profiled Kevin Carey and Carey's new book, "The End of College." “'The story of higher education’s future is a tale of ancient institutions in their last days of decadence, creating the seeds of a new world to come,' he writes. If he is right, higher education will be transformed into a different kind of learning experience that is cheaper, better, more personalized and more useful."

A telling quote from the book: "You don’t need libraries and research infrastructure and football teams and this insane race for status,” he says. “If you only have to pay for the things that you actually need, education doesn’t cost $60,000 a year.”

It's not a new criticism that universities have gone beyond the necessary to the lavish, which ups the cost for all. But libraries? Really? Libraries are more in line with the necessary for educational purposes than the lavish.

Carey makes a case that universities focus too much on the research and scholarship of faculty rather than focusing on teaching, which is what the consumer is paying for. And it seems that because, in Carey's mind, the faculty should not focus on research, it means that libraries can go.

Libraries go beyond research for research's sake. They provide professional development for the faculty to stay on top of their given field - ultimately making the faculty better teachers. And can a student truly get through a tough academic curriculum without ever using the library?

Librarians are open to the idea that the need for the physical space of the library may be changing, but the resources and support are still very much a part of the true academic experience.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

SEO To Maximize Discoverability

The ABA Journal recently posted an article on search engine optimization (SEO) geared toward attorneys with websites (nearly everyone this day and age).

We know that the Internet is generally the first place people go to find an attorney, and maximizing your website's SEO is a great way to make yourself even more discoverable. If you maximize your SEO for Google, say, the Google algorithm will favor your content and your website will move higher on the results list.

As ABA notes, "[s]taying current about what Google Search is favoring—and adjusting the design and content of your website—can be critical for getting your name at the top of search engine returns. (Not an easy task, since the search goliath often changes its algorithm to combat those who try to game its system.) These days, that means ensuring your website offers text and longer articles that reflect quality writing about a specific topic, according to experts in search engine optimization."

Here are a few suggestions for SEO optimization:
1. Go with a frequently updated blog offering truly useful content: Generally, search engines only re-index your website every two weeks. So if you only have time to update your blog every two weeks, you'll still enjoy higher search engine returns as a result,

2. Use keywords judiciously, but use them. Plug a keyword or phrase into your headline, subhead and opening sentence of your text, and in the captions for your multimedia

3. Go with deep content. Aim for pieces that are 1,000 words minimum. And ensure your text is not blatantly generic or easily found on any number of other law firm sites.

4. Practice good website address/tag hygiene. Choose page title tags carefully. The title tag—the word or phrase that describes your page to the search engine—is one of the most important choices you can make to attract Web traffic. Be equally choosy with page header tags. Header tags are also major guides Google and other search engines use. Don't forget image tags. When naming your image, use your tags to finely describe what your image is about—and reap the reward of an overall higher ranking in the search engines.

These are really good suggestions. And evidence of the Google algorithm show these to be some of the most essential SEO tools for discoverability.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Lawyers Say Legal Research Skills Are Important

BAR/BRI has released the first of what it intends to be an annual survey on the “State of the Legal Field.” The objective is to “evaluate industry perceptions about the state of the legal field,” establishing benchmarks related to student practice readiness, employment expectations, employment trends, and law degree return on investment. Faculty, law students, and practitioners were surveyed.

As one law library director noted, "[m]ost telling for [law librarians], I think, is “key finding #2." The report noted that:

"Faculty placed very little importance on research, with just 4 percent citing it as the most important skill for recent law school graduates. In contrast, 18 percent of attorneys named research the most important skill a new lawyer should possess.

Look at the difference in the relative weight accorded legal research by law faculty compared to practicing attorneys that took part in the survey.

This survey conveys similar information as a survey from 2013 that said that:
  • Newer attorneys spend more than 30% of their time doing legal research
  • Approximately 50% of associates think legal research should be a larger part of the law school curriculum
Academic law librarians must use this type of feedback from practitioners to instill a strong legal-research focus in the curriculum. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Researchers Conclude That Value Of Law Degree Stays Consistent In Bad Economy

The ABA Journal posted an interesting article about the value of a law degree. "[T]wo researchers who previously concluded that the present value of a law degree is about $1 million more, on average, than the value of a college degree" are now concluding that a bad economy has a relatively small impact on lifetime earnings.

The researchers conclude that "[g]raduating from law school in a bad economy has a relatively small impact on lifetime earnings relative to graduating with a bachelor’s degree, according to a preliminary draft research paper by the researchers, Rutgers University economics and business professor Frank McIntyre and Seton Hall University law professor Michael Simkovic, a visiting research scholar at Fordham University’s law school."

They find that "[t]hough unemployment levels at graduation affect pay for the first four years, particularly in boom times, the impact fades as law graduates gain experience, according to the new paper (available here) by McIntyre and Simkovic."

How small is this relative impact on lifetime earnings? "Overall, the value of a law degree, compared to an undergraduate degree, declines by about $30,000 for those who graduate when unemployment is high rather than low."

And the researchers note that it is not wise try to time law school to attend during a boom time by delaying entry over $30,000. “The opportunity cost of a two-year delay in law school completion—that is, lower earnings early in one’s career working with a bachelor’s degree rather than a law degree—would typically outweigh gains from even a successful law school timing strategy,” McIntyre and Simkovic write.

Although it may be true that a law-degree holder will net, on average, $1 million more in lifetime earnings over an undergraduate-degree holder, this must be offset with the cost of attendance and student loans. It is not unusual for law students to graduate with over $100,000 in debt (+ added interest), and the debt should be factored into the lifetime earnings calculation. Even still, I'll be generous and estimate that with debt and in a bad economy, the lifetime earnings of a law-degree holder only go down $200,000, it is still a worthwhile investment according to these researchers calculations.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Structure In Scholarly Writing

After years of teaching scholarly writing - specifically for law reviews - I have come to the conclusion that structure is often the biggest hurdle for students (and authors, in general) when it comes to writing lengthy articles.

In class, we discuss outlining and organizing early so that the students can lay a good foundation to write their articles. But the thing about writing is that an organization that you thought logical in the beginning may run amok once the article starts to take shape.

A post on Chronicle Vitae discusses helpful hints to overcome this issue:
  1. Reverse outlining: Print out the entire draft of your text and break out your red pen. In the margins, jot down each paragraph’s main idea. If it has more than one, flag it. If it doesn’t seem to have a concrete purpose, flag that, too. 
  2. The Humpty Dumpty Method: Requires a full printout of your text. It also requires a large, flat space—either a conference room table or a floor will do. Step one: Take a pair of scissors and cut your text up into individual paragraphs. I’m serious. Step two: Throw them around. Mess them up. Step three: Now try to put them back together again. If you can’t do this easily, either your original argument isn’t strong enough or the original structure really isn’t working.
  3. The Ryan Sloan Strategy: Use big, colored sticky notes and colored markers as you research. Keep track of your evidence as you go: analysis, source, and concepts or categories. Before or after you write (depending on if you’re writing or revising), pull out all the notes and get yourself to a smooth wall or whiteboard. Arrange and rearrange the material in clusters. The whiteboard allows you to draw relationships and note reflections or questions. Sloan recommends that you “take a picture with your phone to save a record, erase, and start again.” This approach allows you to “see” the best structure for your argument emerge right in front of you. 
The overarching guideline is to not get too rigid with your original structure. You should be open to the process of reorganization once the article starts to take shape. These methods are just a few that may put you back on the right track. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

On Plagiarism: Part II

In my past post on plagiarism, I discussed some of the pitfalls of not discussing plagiarism in a seminar class. Often, the students are not aware that what they are doing (or not doing) can be considered plagiarism.

In anticipation of a plagiarism instruction session that I am giving to a colleague's seminar class, I thought I would post this "nifty plagiarism infographic" that asks questions to determine the severity of plagiarism.

In scholarly writing, it is expected that an author use a considerable number of footnotes to substantiate assertions and arguments given in the text. There is absolutely no reason not to give credit where credit is due. And this infographic gives an idea of when credit is due.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Wrangling The Wild Web Through Deliberate Searching

The Washington Post shared a recent article about a historian who tried to use the wild-web (aka Internet archive) to do historical research and mostly failed.

As the researcher described, "[historians] use anything we can to get a view of how humans behaved in the past. In the 21st century, the web gives us a unique window onto society. Never before has humanity produced so much data about public and private lives – and never before have we been able to get at it in one place."

The British Library and Institute of Historical Research created a research project to mine this data. The researchers were "among the first in the world to use the web archive for academic research." And the researchers thought that searching the web archive would be as simple as a Google search.    "[S]ince we could navigate Google reasonably easily, we thought we could use the archive in the same way. Do a search. Get a group of webpages on a particular subject. Read them. Draw some conclusions. How hard could it be?" As the researchers soon learned. "Very."

The way that researchers must search the web archive is very different from, "say, the Library of Congress. There (and elsewhere), professional archivists have sorted and cataloged the material. "[I]f the archivist has chosen to keep [the documents], they’re probably of interest to [the researcher]. With the internet, we have everything. Nobody has – or can – read through it. And so what is 'relevant' is completely in the eye of the beholder." In other words, there is no librarian doing the behind-the-scenes heavy lifting.

If researchers want to truly search the wild-web instead of merely using Google as the gatekeeper, then the researchers must take new approaches to the data. They have to know how to use deliberate search techniques to understand what they are searching and the results that search will generate. For example, "[s]maller samples of Web sites, specifically chosen for their historical importance" may be used. Similarly, much more focused searches on smaller time periods, more marginal topics, or specific cultural groups can produce a more manageable 'corpus' for reading and manipulating in the same way we would on our trips to traditional archives."

This is where the new role of the librarian comes in. Librarians must instruct on the deliberate search techniques that make this type of in-depth research possible. We need to convey to our students the reasons that they are retrieving certain results and give them an understanding about how to effectively use various search techniques to make research manageable.

As the researcher in the Washington Post article explained, "[t]his mass of data we have, far from rendering the [Internet] archive unintelligible, may give us richer and more fruitful answers. We just need to work out the right questions to ask."

Monday, March 2, 2015

9 Studies Outlining Why Print Is Still Superior

In the ongoing discussion of "why do I need a book when everything is online?," we look to nine studies that HuffPost Books brings to our attention discussing why print still has a promising future.

1. Younger people are more likely to believe that there's useful information that's only available offline. 
While 62 percent of citizens under 30 subscribe to this belief, only 53 percent of those 30 and older agree. These findings are from a promising study released last year by Pew Research, which also found that millennials are more likely to visit their local library.

2. Students are more likely to buy physical textbooks.
A study conducted by Student Monitor and featured in The Washington Post shows that 87 percent of textbook spending for the fall 2014 semester was on print books. Of course, this could be due to professors assigning less ebooks. Which is why it's fascinating that...

3. Students opt for physical copies of humanities books, even when digital versions are available for free.
While students prefer reading digital texts for science and math classes, they like to study the humanities in print. A study conducted by the University of Washington in 2013, and quoted in The Washington Post, shows that 25 percent of humanities students bought physical versions of free ebooks.

4. This isn't just true of textbooks. Teens prefer print books for personal use, too.
Nielson BookScan numbers from 2014 revealed the main reasons why teens buy books: "I've enjoyed author's previous books" ranked No. 1, followed by "browsing in libraries" and "browsing in bookstores," which both ranked above "online bookseller websites." "In-store displays" also ranked above hearing about a book through a social network.

5. Students don't connect emotionally with on-screen texts.
A 2012 study featured in the Guardian gave half its participants a story on paper, and the other half the same story on screen. The result? iPad readers didn't feel that the story was as immersive, and therefore weren't able to connect with it on an emotional level. Further, those who read on paper were much more capable of placing the story's events in chronological order.

6. ... And they comprehend less of the information presented in digital books.
USA Today shared a 2013 study showing that students retain less when reading on a screen. The study's creator blamed this on the "flash gimmicks" embedded in many ebooks. She also suspects being able to collectively turn to the same page enhances group discussion.

7. It's not just students opting for print. Parents and kids prefer to read physical books together, too.
According to Digital Book World and literacy nonprofit Sesame Workshop, less than ten percent of kids and parents alike choose ebooks over print books. Parents say fancy features such as videos and interactive games are more of a distraction than a valued tool.

8. Which makes sense, because ebooks can negatively impact your sleep.
A few months ago, the Guardian reported on a Harvard study linking e-reading and sleep deprivation. If the ebook was "light emitting" it took participants an average of ten minutes longer to fall asleep than those who read physical books instead.

9. ... And it's hard to avoid multitasking while reading digital books.
In a blog for The Huffington Post, Naomi S. Baron wrote about the findings published in her new book, Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World. "Studies I have done with university students in several countries confirm what I bet you'll find yourself observing," she writes. "When reading either for (school) work or pleasure, the preponderance of students found it easiest to concentrate when reading in print. They also reported multitasking almost three times as much when reading onscreen as when reading in hard copy."

Thanks HuffPost Books for bringing these studies together to make a compelling case for the future of the print book!