Friday, October 28, 2005

More on Job Tips

Bill Logan, in his comment to my original Interview Tips, raises a very thorny question for new librarians. Librarians always want to hire somebody with real library experience, and yet, you have just graduated from library school. This seems very unfair, I agree!

Here are some things you can do to address that problem, although they may not all be as easily accomplished in your situation:

1) Seek out opportunities for graduate assistanceships. While they pay only pittances, at least you are getting some experience under your belt and making some good contacts as well. It probably won't count as much as longer term, full time work experience in a potential employer's eyes, but it's certainly better than a big fat nothing!

2) If possible, try to get a job in a library. I have known many folks who worked part-time or even full-time in non-professional positions in libraries and went to library school. In my opinion, they got far more out of library school than did I, who really had not done more than volunteer or graduate assistanceship before getting half through the master's program. And look at the level of experience they brought to the table when it was time to interview! Many libraries are very supportive of their employees seeking the MLS, and will try to arrange their schedules to accommodate. Of course, this may depend on the position you hold at the library. Keep that in mind, if you take a job that opens or closes the library; they may not be able to give you the flexibility!

3) Even if you can't work in a library, try to volunteer at the kind of library you might be interested in (this is tough with some kinds of libraries, and you may end up at the public library or church or hospital library). Still, look for ways that you can get some experience with how libraries work in the real world. The reason librarians like to hire folks with real-world experience is that library school does not do that good a job getting you ready for how libraries really work. I hope that may be changing, but our experience has been that there is a real learning curve.

4) And get involved in library organizations. You can do this, even if you are geographically isolated, by using listserves. LawLib costs nothing to join, and is a terrific community of law librarians who talk (A LOT) about library issues. If you can get to meetings of library organizations, so much the better. Besides the big national group, AALL, there are many regional groups that belong as chapters to AALL, and a few city groups that are often independent, but still are law library groups. All these groups have discounted memberships and often scholarship programs for student members. Look on the website and see. You don't have to belong to AALL to see the part of the website that offers that kind of information:

Lastly, Bill asks about salary negotiation when told, this is the salary, take it or leave it. I think the person is telling you the truth, and you have to decide whether you can afford to take the salary and you want the job enough to take it. I know it's very unnerving to be job-hunting. You feel like nobody could possibly want to hire you. But statistically, the reality is that there are far more libraries looking for librarians to hire than there are people looking for jobs -- even very new, inexperienced librarians! I live in fear that somebody will leave and I will have to hire. We all feel the same way. And we won't be able to pick and choose about experienced or inexperienced much longer. Pluck up your courage.

One of the most helpful things I was told when I was looking for my first law library job was that I needed to figure out if I could afford to take a job. Wow! That was a new concept. I was the sole breadwinner for my family, and we had to relocate. You have to figure out how much it is going to cost to move (unless your new employer is going to help with that expense, as is sometimes happening!) I also hear that some employers are offering a signing bonus if they really want somebody to come (I don't have that flexibility, and I don't know how many libraries can do this).

But you do need to understand that it costs a deal of money in order to pay your first month's rent, pay to connect the telephone, pay to get your heat and water and electric hooked up, get a washing machine and drier (if they don't come with the apartment, as they don't in some parts of the country), and maybe a refrigerator, too. Then you may have to rent a moving van or maybe hire a mover, maybe buy the boxes, rent a hand-truck. You probably won't get your deposit back on your old apartment until long after you've moved out. You have to buy new groceries (probably peanut butter and bread!). So you have to look at the pay rate and figure if it will cover that moving cost, not just is it enough for your living expenses now. I want to thank right now Susan Kiefer from Hamline University who gave me that talk. I hope it's as useful to others as it was to me. I only regret that I couldn't afford to work for Susan. It probably means some folks can't afford to work for me, either. It's a sad world when people who have a Master's degree and a J.D. can't afford more than peanut butter on their bread!

Take that, Pod casters!

What is it with this pod casting thing? I mean peas are nice. I like them as much as anybody, but why would you want to shoot them around like that?

I looked on Google to see what I could find about Pods and here are some things about Pod people. The first cool thing I found is there was apparently a totally ridiculous movie made in the 1980's featuring this bear-like monster with a vacuum cleaner-like hose for a nose. Were any of you lucky enough to watch Mr. Snuffle-Upagus on Sesame Street? Kind of reminds me of him, but not quite so cute, is he? This is a cover of a book featured for sale at

Here is another cute Pod person. This is evidently an imagined world of Podlings, from There are less clear images of groups of Podlings in their little pods, but this is an adorable close-up showing the very mobile, dough-like features. These creatures evidently create spaces for themselves to live inside plants (I think I got that straight). You have to wonder about the people who create these complex webworlds. But geez, here I am making up this blog entry goofing about podcasting.

And here is a much more sinister, Halloween sort of Pod people image from These look as though they were humans taken and covered with webbing to be used as maybe targets for parasitical seeds to feed on and grow in. Yecch! There were some other images that made the bodies look like skeletons, so maybe they eventually use up the flesh. I don't think this website had much text. Or maybe I just didn't have the heart to read it. By now I am not sure I recall.

And last, the Pod People I thought I was going to find, the only ones I knew about, from a movie I saw once on TV. This is evidently Donald Sutherland portraying a Pod Person. I remember this scene. He points and makes a high, keening screech. The pods are like spores from space that make perfect copies of people (at least most of the time; once they got it messed up and they got a person head on a dog body). But the Pod People have no emotions, and that was how the movie heroes were supposed to be able to tell the terrible Pod People from the real people. All I could really tell was that the Pod People would point and screech at the real people. That seemed like a pretty good give-away to me. The other thing about this movie was a ship drifting into harbor in the night, with a bagpipe band on board playing Amazing Grace. Despite my name, and my maiden name, McDaniel, I am very willing to say that bagpipes are definitely an acquired taste. But this was a very beautiful and even haunting scene. Then, of course, all the bagpipers and everybody on this ship turn out to be Pod People. Arrgh!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Wired News: Writers Side With Google in Scrap

Wired News: Writers Side With Google in Scrap: "Google's plan to scan library book collections and make them searchable may be drawing ire from publishers and authors' advocates, but some obscure and first-time writers are lining up on the search engine's side of the dispute -- arguing that the benefits of inclusion in the online database outweigh the drawbacks."

FCIL-SIS Blog: Print versus Electronic, or, Books are Dead?

Over on another corner of Blogspot, Marilyn Raisch has started a discussion on the Foreign Collection Development Blog (FCIL-SIS): Print versus Electronic, or, Books are Dead?. OOTJ readers with an interest in foreign and international law (that is, everybody) should check in over there.

Fun with Indictments!

Print out your own Fitzmas Bingo card!

How Much Clinical Education Is Enough?

We've had a few postings previously on this blog about the place of practical and clinical programs in legal education, and we've all heard the complaints from the practicing bar about law schools' failure to teach practical skills (including, perhaps, legal research). Personally, although I tend to be something of a contrarian on the topic of legal research instruction, I also tend to think legal education generally works pretty well. For evidence of this, I look to the legal market: law firms keep hiring law school graduates, and if the firms didn't find our graduates had the skills and knowledge they need, the market would produce alternatives. (At least, that's probably true for the mid-size to large law firm market. That leaves aside the question of how well contemporary legal education--as expensive as it is--contributes to meeting the legal needs of the middle class and the poor.)

Be that as it may. Here is a thoughtful comment by Gordon Smith on the relative roles of clinical education and other forms of practical experience:

One thing we have not seen law schools attempt, as far as I know, is imposing a work experience requirement on new admits. Business schools expect their students to gain some real-world experience before embarking on their graduate study. In my view as a teacher, law students benefit greatly from prior work experience. I am partial to experience outside of the legal industry, though working as a paralegal or legal assistant can be valuable, too. The main point is to have some engagement with the world of work so that the student can imagine the conflicts and potential conflicts that lie at the heart of the study of law.

Despite my enthusiasm for work experience before law school, I am less enthusiastic about the expansion of clinical experiences during law school. Clinics are an expensive means of delivering legal education, and their effectiveness is constrained by the academic calendar and by competing demands on student attention. Also, clinicians tend to be an evangelical lot, spreading the gospel of practical skills training. The implicit (and sometimes explicit) message of their evangelism is that intellectual engagement with the law distracts from the real purpose of law school. In my view, this is exactly backwards. Law school is the time to develop an intellectual framework for thinking about law. Some practical skills training is useful, but mainly to illuminate and enrich the intellectual experience, not to supplant it. Graduates of law schools will spend most of their careers developing practical skills, and as much as future employers might want us to teach such skills in law school, it is not our comparative advantage.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Jim has a podcast

I'm trying something new, and I hope you'll join me--and spread the word. I'm starting a weekly podcast, "Check This Out!", at If you have an iPod you should have the iTunes software, which now has podcasts built in. If you have another mp3 player, you can use download the free iPodder software. If all else fails, you can listen on your desktop computer.

Please give it a listen and send me your feedback. Tell your friends!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Who is that masked man?

I should note that the blogger identified as "Charleston School of Law Library" is, in fact, Gordon Russell, Associate Dean, Professor of Law, and Director of the Law Library. Welcome! Have a relaxing weekend, and we'll be eager to hear your comments on Monday.

Guest Blogger for the coming Week

Jim has asked me to be the guest blogger for the coming week. We are finishing up our ABA inspection today. After I decompress this weekend Maybe I can share some thoughts on building a new law library in the digital age. I have provided a link to my Blog. It has suffered from malnourishment this semester.

Friday Cat Blogging

Christopher, Bygul, and Trjegul

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Open Source for Law Schools?

A recent article from Inside Higher Ed ( discusses the purchase of WebCT by Blackboard, a move that potentially means that Blackboard will monopolize the course management industry. I was struck, however, by the discussion of the "open source challenge," as the author puts it. Apparently a number of schools, either individually or as part of consortia, are shifting away from commercial course management software and pursuing the open source route. One open source option, Sakai, was founded by Indiana University, MIT, Stanford, and the University of Michigan, and thus has substantial resources behind it. A foundation has been created "to give the project a permanent infrastructure," according to the article. Sakai is currently being used by 80 colleges and universities in the United States and abroad.

The article also talks about the dilemma of open source--do I pay now for commercial software, or pay later to have my systems administrator customize a "free" open source product? We have had this discussion many times in my own library, and we have usually opted to go with the open source option simply because of the flexibility it gives us; this might not work in every library, but it works in ours.

It will be interesting to see whether the movement toward open source course management takes hold in law schools. Many of our schools currently use TWEN, which is a very useful tool, but makes our students see the world through the Thomson/West prism. A number of students have told me that they assumed that the law school preferred Westlaw because we had chosen to use TWEN! These students then see no reason to learn or use Lexis. We always explain that use of TWEN is not an endorsement of Westlaw, but the point is lost on some. I would love to see an open source alternative to TWEN that had its functionality, but was not branded with the name of a CALR vendor. Does anyone know if such a product is in the works?

Job search tips for law librarians

What makes a candidate attractive? If I am hiring a public services librarian, I expect to hire a candidate with a J.D. and an M.L.S. Beyond that, excellent computer skills are a necessity, as are intangibles such as collegiality, being a team player, and so on. An ideal candidate would have some teaching experience because all public services librarians today function either formally or informally as teachers; experience with creating lesson plans would be a tremendous help when preparing to teach online legal research. Having worked as a tutor or a legal writing mentor is also valuable for a future law librarian. Other things I look for are law review experience and publications. Librarians who have worked on a law review tend to relate well to students who are going through that experience (they also tend to be on good terms with the Bluebook!) Librarians who have published tend to have more credibility with faculty, and therefore help to build the library's reputation.

Interview tips for law librarians

1) Be yourself -- a job interview is like speed dating in that you are trying to find long-term compatibility in a short visit (and no smooching unless this interview has gone disastrously wrong!).

2) Aim high -- I mean this several ways.
* Don't be afraid to interview for jobs at the limit of your ambitions. If you don't stretch for it, you'll never extend your reach! Maybe other interviewers would feel differently, like you wasted their time, but it seems to me like I would much rather meet an ambitious young librarian with a bit of chutzpah and know there are some comers than not have enough applicants for the job!

* Don't be afraid to go for the job that makes you run fast instead of settling for a job that lets you take it easy. You'll grow professionally and I think you'll also have more fun. Better to wear out than rust out.

* Don't be afraid to ask for as high a salary as you think you are worth. This is a tough one for women and maybe for all of us. Just remember that all your income at this job forever after is going to amount to little percentages added onto that original amount! Do be careful not to raise pay too early in the interview and don't be rude about it, but be assertive. Do your homework. Use the AALL salary survey and keep in mind that it's at least two years out of date. Also use those salary converters on the web to see what the pay will buy in the city or region you are moving to. It might be worth more or less than you think!

3) Don't be afraid of disasters in the interview. Of course, you don't want to spill soup on the director or partner if you can help it! But don't worry too much! My experience is that the most disastrous interviews tend to be the ones where they offer you the job. I don't know why. Maybe that's the part where I find the compatible group! Smile. The job market is on your side!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Yale Law Journal's Online Companion

From Law Librarian Blog

The Pocket Part is the online companion to The Yale Law Journal. As members of the legal community know, legal publications often contain 'pocket part' supplements with up-to-date information and commentary. The Pocket Part plays an analogous role. It features op-ed length versions of Journal articles and responses from leading practitioners, policymakers, and scholars. The Pocket Part also serves as a forum for our readers and authors to discuss legal scholarship.

While full-length scholarly works remain at the center of legal debate, students, professors, and practicing lawyers are increasingly turning to the Internet to read about, and comment on, developments in the law. With The Pocket Part, the Journal hopes to combine the strengths of both print and online media, broadening the readership and influence of traditional legal scholarship while enriching the dialogue among the academy, bench, and bar.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Job search tips for Law Librarians

A perennial topic of discussion on the lawprofessor blogs has to do with advice for those on the academic job market. The latest round, inspired by model of SCOTUS nominee Harriet Miers' notes to her mentor, is a discussion at PrawfsBlawg on the pros and cons of thank-you notes. Other recent discussions include Dan Solove's advice on AALS interviews, Paul Horwitz's cautions about being too brilliant, Ethan Leib comments on why it's not a good idea to take credit for judicial opinions you wrote as a clerk, Matt Bodie's ten questions candidates should not ask at the interview, and Kaimi Wenger's description of the logistical difficulties of The Two Towers.

I'm sure some of our newer law librarians and JD/MLS students would benefit from hearing some practical advice about the job search for law librarians. What advice would you give? What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were first on the job market? How has the job market changed since you started? What should newer job candidates expect? Do entry-level positions typically require a presentation, and if so, what kind? What should you order at the interview dinner?

Fellow OOTJ team members, please post your blog entries. Everybody else, please add your comments below.


Inside Higher Ed :: Noise in the Stacks:

In June, Intellectual Affairs offered a modest proposal for the general improvement of academic culture. The idea was simple. It was that academic librarians ought to have a group blog — and that, furthermore, it would be a good thing if people other than librarians were to read it. After all, many of the problems they face, and the decisions they come to, affect anyone who does research in a library. Which is to say, most of us....
[I]t is a pleasure to note that the call was heard. The Association of College and Research Libraries — which has 12,000 members working in the various sectors of secondary education — has now launched a group site called ACRLog. Actually it has been running since mid-September, but only in warm-up mode. Its existence was officially announced yesterday, following what sounds like a rather thorough and protracted round of bureaucratic vetting.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Blooks and Splogs

The latest trend on the Internet: smooshing together two older trends:

"The Lulu Blooker Prize is the world's first literary prize devoted to "blooks": books based on blogs or websites. Blooks are the world's fastest-growing new kind of book and an exciting new stage in the life cycle of content, if not a whole new category of content."

The Lulu Blooker Prize is sponsored by Lulu, the world's fastest-growing provider of print-on-demand books, including an increasing number of blooks. However, the judges of the short-listed books are independent of Lulu and no favor will be shown to books published on Lulu.

"What's a "splog" you might ask? It's the newest kid on the block, the ugly offspring spawned when spam and blogs mate. As one blogger describes them:"

Splogging is a term coined by Mark Cuban to describe blogs with no added value, existing solely to trick people into visiting and exposing them to advertising. Splogs are often encountered in two ways: by searching for a key word on a search engine, or receiving it as a fradulent hit through your RSS aggregator. More often than not, they're automated, linking to countless blogs and other websites, using keywords selected solely to attract more eyeballs and click-throughs for their advertising. And automation means that splogs are being created at a dizzying pace, to the point that when you do a search for almost any term, you're bound to get a bunch of hits that are nothing but money-hungry splogs.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Hidden Cost of Documentaries - New York Times

Is copyright law going to mean the end of documentary filmmaking--and low budget, independent filmmakin in general?

Michael Vaccaro, a fourth grader, had just left P.S. 112 in Brooklyn and was headed home with his mother. Two filmmakers were in front of him, their camera capturing his every movement on video, when his mother's cellphone rang.
"It was such an indicator of today's culture," said Amy Sewell, a producer of "Mad Hot Ballroom," the documentary that follows New York City children as they learn ballroom dancing and prepare for a citywide contest. "Michael's mom had just asked him how school was, her cellphone rings, she answers it, and the look on his face says, 'I don't get to tell my mom about my day.'"...
Perfect, but a problem. Had the ringtone been a common telephone ring, the scene could have dropped into the final edit without a hitch, the moment providing a quick bit of emotional texture to the film. But EMI Music Publishing, which owns the rights to "Gonna Fly Now," was asking the first-time producer for $10,000 to use those six seconds.
Ms. Sewell considered relying on fair use, the aspect of copyright law that allows the unlicensed use of material when the public benefit significantly outweighs the costs or losses to the copyright owner. But her lawyer advised against it. "I'm a real Norma Rae-type personality," Ms. Sewell said, "but the lawyer said, 'Honestly, for your first film, you don't have enough money to fight the music industry.' " After four months of negotiating - "I begged and begged," Ms. Sewell said - she ended up paying EMI $2,500. (Total music clearance costs for "Mad Hot Ballroom," which featured songs of Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee, came to $170,000; total costs over all were about $500,000.)...
In another change, said Peter Jaszi, a law professor at American University, "rights holders are slicing their bundle of rights in finer and finer ways and selling them off in smaller and smaller pieces." He asked: "Would music copyright owners 10 years ago have predicted they'd be making a substantial part of their money over ringtones on cellphones?" (It's now a reported $3 billion industry.) As a result, he said, there's been "a tremendous upsurge in intellectual property consciousness and anxiety on the part of all kinds of users."
Mr. Jaszi is an author, with Patricia Aufderheide, the director of American University's Center for Social Media, of a report titled "Untold Stories: Creative Consequences of the Rights Clearance Culture for Documentary Filmmakers," for which 45 filmmakers were interviewed. Among the more striking examples he cites is "Eyes on the Prize," the series on the civil rights movement. Henry Louis Gates Jr., chairman of the department of African and African-American studies at Harvard, has called "Eyes" "the most sophisticated and most poignant documentary of African-American history ever made." But it was last broadcast in 1993, and while schools or libraries may have a copy, it is not legally available for sale or rent on DVD or video.
"There's a whole generation out there who have not seen the program," said Sandy Forman, an entertainment lawyer heading a project to reclear the rights so that "Eyes" can be rebroadcast and distributed to the educational market. "When the rights were originally cleared, they were acquired for different terms. Some were in perpetuity, some were for 3 years, some for 7, some for 10." Once just one group of rights expired - and there are 272 still photographs and 492 minutes of scenes from more than 80 archives, plus the music - "we had to pull the film from distribution." ...
"It's not clear that anyone could even make 'Eyes on the Prize' today because of rights clearances," Mr. Jaszi said. "What's really important here is that documentary commitment to telling the truth is being compromised by the need to accommodate perceived intellectual and copyright constraints." [Emphasis added.]

Blogs & News

Gordon Smith at Conglomerate Blog notes a new development from Yahoo! News:

Yahoo recently added blog results in a sidebar on its News Search, and when you click on 'all blog results,' Flickr photos appears in the sidebar of the new page. Generally speaking, the response has been underwhelming, but this looks to me like another important step in the validation of blogs as legitimate sources of information and commentary. [Emphasis added.]

I know, we all feel overwhelmed by sources of information, and the thought of a new medium to start reading evokes dread, but it's time to say it: all law librarians need to start reading blogs, especially the law blogs, or "blawgs." Some of the law blogs, many written by law professors and practicing lawyers, are without a doubt the best sources for knowledgeable commentary and analysis about important legal issues like the Harriet Miers nomination, the Judith Miller/Karl Rove/Valerie Plame investigation, and more.

Here are some of the essential blawgs, covering a wide range of political and ideological viewpoints: Althouse,, Balkinization, Conglomerate, How Appealing, JURIST Paper Chase, Lawyers, Guns and Money, Leiter Reports, Majikthise, PrawfsBlawg, Underneath Their Robes, and The Volokh Conspiracy.

Coming soon: essential podcasts.

Friday, October 14, 2005

I've got moss between my toes!

It has been raining pretty much non-stop up here in Boston for more than a week. It rains and rains and then it drizzles. Today it really pours in between just being cloudy. It's a good thing I like rain, huh? The picture is really lichens, which we have in abundance in New England, and this picture is from, which has lots of fungus and lichen pictures in case you need any.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

In Praise of Stubbornness

It is a very good thing to be stubborn. We should not too easily buy into the glib assurances of modernity that everything, everywhere is getting better and better. Vendors are really listening to law librarians and truly improving Westlaw, Lexis and other online services to our specifications. So I don't want to grump about them -- they are honestly working on making things better and trying hard to work with us to meet our complaints and expectations with real improvements, and to go beyond, surprising us with things we never even thought of. But I am getting more and more stubborn about this moving into an electronic library of the future thing. Mulish, even.

When people want to push stubborn mules along into the future, they often take to beating them up. I haven't found anybody beating me up (yet, not that I've heard anyway). But it is not out of the realm of possibility that the thought police are on my trail.

For many years, I really believed that online searching would be our future and that electronic would banish print eventually and that would be better in the long run. No more dusty books, no running to the library, no space issues, no shelving problems or looseleafing disasters! Wow, we could store whole libraries on little magnetic sticks or some other electronically readable medium. Cool. This is really a huge advantage for the visually impaired, to have so much material in full text, electronically readable, and very convenient for all of us.

But the longer I watched how this all played out, the more skeptical I have become. Watching my law students, listening to lawyers and judges and firm librarians, made me really question how well the students were really doing with their electronic searches. And then Barbara Bintliff's article, From Creativity to Computerese: Thinking like a Lawyer in the Computer Age, 88 Law Libr.J. 338, really crystallized my thinking. She points out that most searches online involve creating a query based on the facts of the matter. Most searches of a digest require the researcher to do some preliminary legal analysis and at least guess at a cause of action to go to the Index for the Digest. Our students (and computer-trained lawyers?)too often are finding the precedent based on facts and then relying on the legal analysis in that case to do the legal analysis in the case at hand.

I am not the only Jeremiah crying in the electronic wilderness: See Scott P. Stolley, The Corruption of Legal Research, 46 For the Defense 39 (2004) and Mark Hermann, This is What I'm Thinking: A Dialogue Between Partner and Associate...From the Partner, 25 Litigation 8 (1998). These are both written by practitioners. Stolley shares two examples of a new associate failing to complete a research assignment because she could not find the materials he requested online. In each case, he went to the books and found the cases himself in less than a half hour. The associate thought he was a wizard. Stolley now requires new associates to go to print resources first and finish with the computer. Hermann tells asociates to begin with print, but that their research is not finished until they check the computer. These long-time practitioners agree that using print resources help a lawyer develop a "feel" for the "shape" of the law. This is a very amorphous argument, but one I agree with. I have practiced law, and the best practitioners still "read the law." They browse the advance sheets when they come out, and keep up with developments in the field they practice in. I have known lawyers in the present day who maintain their own file card system to keep notes of cases in their field, a sort of personalized digest system of their own devising. When you do this for a while, you do have a feel for what the shape of the law is likely to be, doggone it, and where to look for it, too.

This little stubborn mule is courtesy of

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Super Mario Librarians

The secret side of librarianship, that I never heard mentioned in library school, is that somehow, you turn out to be in charge of the HVAC and plumbing, by virtue of being in charge of the library. Go figure. I actually like that aspect. You should never, never wear white when you work as a librarian. You will end up having to crawl around on the floor to fix a copier, or look at where the computer and printer are connected, or climb up to change a lightbulb or bang a pipe.

Every day is certainly different! You get to go on field trips to see the dusty books in dead Uncle Dan's attic (or basement, groan! Hope they aren't moldy!). You probably have to pack them up, too. Sometimes, they turn out to be really good, but probably they are just outdated reporters, so you smile politely, because Aunt Sadie will tell you that she remembers when she and Dan scrimped and saved each month to pay the subscription on the set so he could start his law office up. You take the books and write the thank you letter with a detailed list of all the books received and the condition (and a separate letter stating why the IRS does not allow you to give an estimate of the value).

Well, this is a cool job. You get to buy books, show people how to use them, and find homes for the books people can't use any more. And they pay you enough to live on while you do it. And I don't have to practice law to do it. How cool is that? I used this image of Mario to illustrate this post because Mario, you might know, is a plumber, like some of us, and pretty super, like all of us! This image is courtesy of

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Coming back to The Windhover

The Windhover stays in my mind, not just because of the beautiful imagery. I love the image of the little falcon daring against the big wind. But the poem has a much bigger and more challenging meaning. You must remember that the author was both a Jesuit priest and a person who was in bad health most of his adult life. Gerard Manley Hopkins dedicated the poem to Christ, Our Lord, and ends it with these lines:

...My heart in hiding stirred for a bird -- the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valor and act, oh, air, pride plume, here Buckle!
AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion times lovelier, more dangerous, o my Chevalier!
No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah, my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

I think Gerard Manley Hopkins is speaking of the way that Christians believe that Jesus, by dying, broken on the cross, became more alive and more powerful and wonderful in the resurrection. He is saying that we have to break, too, or at least rub ourselves smooth in day-to-day grind, to reveal the fire within. This is not necesarily happy news. It's easier to stay as that fierce little falcon, master of his airy domain, than to accept that air, pride and plume must buckle to move to the next level. We have to be ready to be phoenixes. This illustration of a phoenix is copyrighted by Sarah Wheeler at

Friday, October 07, 2005

Survivor, Part II - Paper vs. Electronic

This has been a running sniper war in this blog. The title of the blog, in fact, comes from Jim's article in AALL's Spectrum of the same title, which was assuring us that librarians, like the Japanese soldier left in the jungle for 40 years, not knowing his country had surrendered, must come in out of the jungle and surrender their paper to the electronic materials.

I have to tell you, I'm with that little kamikaze guy in the jungle! I absolutely see all kinds of benefits to electronic searching. Shepards and KeyCite are wonderful in electronic format -- I would not want to Shepardize in paper if I did not need those speciialized materials that still only appear in print. I agree that cases work well to search in electronic databases, because they are arranged pretty much randomly in the reporters; as Bob Berring calls it, the Jack Horner principle -- you stick in your thumb and pull out the plum.

BUT, but, but! I am coming to the conclusion that it makes a difference, at least sometimes, whether you search electronically or in print!

I am not a luddite. I do a huge amount of my research electronically. There are things you cannot do without Lexis or Westlaw, or some other electronic search program. But there are also clearly some materials, like treatises and CLEs, where you want to be able to page through chapters, and browse. I know that Westlaw has added the browse and page features. But I also know that I cannot read very long online. I can scan and then decide what to print. I cannot browse, muse, page and go back and read again deeply with any expectation that my eyes won't be doing the video boogie.

I have said earlier in this blog that I think that you think differently and more deeply when you are working in paper. This is maybe what the difference comes down to. Maybe it's just that you can go more slowly, go back, muse and browse better in print.

Also, I can't get over my problem with the new licenses. What's up with that? I pay the same amount and suddenly I don't own it. That can't be good.

Thanks for the Memories!

Well, it has been a lot of work putting these posts together and attempting to make it all entertaining to boot. But I have really had a blast! Thanks to Jim Milles and the rest of the Out of the Jungle gang for inviting me along. Perhaps they will invite me back again sometime. But not too soon, since I need to catch up on some sleep now....

Have a great weekend! And for any fellow Canadians reading along, have a happy Thanksgiving!


What's a Governor General?

Well, my plea for "questions for Canada" yesterday resulted in only one question, but it is a doozy! Jim Milles has asked me to explain what a "Governor General" is. Well, do you want the short answer or the long answer? Here goes:

Back in 1776 the U.S. (as you may or may not recall, depending upon how old you are) signed the Declaration of Independence, making it independent from England. Well, Canada never really did that. Lots of things have happened since 1776, but we have always remained part of the Commonwealth, the former British Empire. For better or worse, the Queen of England is still our Queen.

The Governor General is the Queen's representative in Canada. It is the oldest and highest public office in Canada, even above the Prime Minister. Within the provinces, there is a Lieutenant Governor representing the Queen (in Canada we pronounce it "lef-tenant" rather than "loo-tenant". I have no idea why). When our legislation refers to the "Governor in Council" it is referring to one of these two offices. It is largely considered a figure-head position, but specific roles are set out. From the G.G.'s website:

What is the Governor General's position in Government?
Canada is a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy. This means Canadians recognize The Queen as our Head of State. Canada's Governor General carries out Her Majesty's duties in Canada on a daily basis and is Canada's de facto Head of State. Like many other democracies, Canada has clearly defined the difference between the Head of State and Head of Government.

The Governor General
represents The Queen who is the Head of State is appointed by The Queen on the advice of Canada’s Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister
is the Head of Government
is the leader of the party with the most support in Parliament

What does the Governor General do?
The Governor General's role is built on four major themes:

Representing the Crown in Canada
Representing Canadians and Promoting our Sovereignty
Celebrating Excellence
Bringing Canadians together

When our Bills have been through the whole legislative process, the final step towards their becoming law is to have them receive "Royal Assent" which means they are assented to by the Governor in Council on behalf of the Queen. Again, this is pretty much a rubber stamp. Only once in my career have I seen any legislation tied up at this point, and that was mostly because of timing issues than an unwillingness to pass the law.

You may have heard of the Governor General being in the news the last couple of years. Our most recent G.G., Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, a former journalist and television personality, garnered criticism for high levels of spending and expensive state visits abroad. She did manage to revitalize an old, outdated office, bringing it to the foreground and helping to promote Canada, however. Her husband, John Ralston Saul, is a well-known author in his own right. He was considered the Viceregal Consort while Clarkson was G.G.

This past week she was replaced by our 27th Governor General, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean. Her selection has been controversial in that she was perceived as being somewhat of a Quebec separatist supporter which is diametrically opposed to the Crown. There was some outcry in the media, which you may have seen.

Both Clarkson and Jean are interesting choices for this role as they were born outside of Canada, are women of colour, and were prominent journalists. It is hoped that Jean will bring a youthful vitality to the role, and give Quebec citizens a closer tie to the rest of Canada (always a challenge).

Within Canada we see people both strongly supporting or strongly objecting to the role of the Monarchy in Canada. For the most part, however, people are indifferent. Except, perhaps, when the Governor General is seen as overstepping her spending limits. If nothing else, it is certainly one way that Canadian government is distinguished from the American.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Survivor: Law Library

This week on Survivor: Law Library, our two teams "Paperbound" and "Electronica" battle it out for space in the Law Library budget. Who will win, and who will be sent packing?

Just like everyone else, Canadian law libraries are struggling with the balance of formats. Do we keep both paper and electronic? Do we favour one over the other or, moreover, get rid of one altogether?

The biggest struggle right now is, not surprisingly, with case law reporters. From a librarian's viewpoint, case law is the perfect type of text to store in electronic format: they are voluminous, published in a somewhat random order, and need to be accessed frequently and quickly for research and books of authority for court. "Electronica" will surely win this challenge hands-down!

However, while some law firms, especially small firms or firms with a corporate focus, have been able to give up paper case law, others are still very much wed to paper. Many litigation lawyers still distrust printouts from online subscription services such as Quicklaw, Lexis or WestlaweCarswell (Thomson's version of Westlaw in Canada). They indicate a preference for the edited text in published reporters, a need to cite to specific page numbers, and especially a fear of what judges will think when presented with something from an electronic source. I've even heard it to be considered "lazy" if electronic case law is presented with research (although no one has used that term to my face).

There has been an immunity challenge. All publishers, whether producing electronic or paper case law, now use paragraph numbering so that citation in one source is equivalent to that in another source. See the Canadian Guide to the Uniform Preparation of Judgment from the Canadian Citation Committee, adopted in September 2002. As well, courts took the important step of adopting a "neutral" citation policy, giving the same citation to cases no matter the format. See A Neutral Citation Standard for Case Law adopted in 1999. Still, these efforts have not seemed to get anyone closer to winning the challenge. Where's Jeff Probst when you need him to call a winner?

The problem has been that a neutral citation does not tell one where something is located, and as a result few people are using it. Private practitioners are outright puzzled when they come across a neutral citation. Except for research lawyers and librarians "in the know", few people recognize a neutral citation when it hits them over the head. So, chalk another one up for the "Paperbound" team.

How do we find our way out of the jungle, other than just kicking everyone out of the game? Personally, I see one of two scenarios effecting a change: a matter going before the courts and the parties involved being reprimanded for using copies from paper sources where electronic would do; or publishers ceasing publication of case law in paper.

Considering the economics involved, I think we are more likely to see the latter. Canada is a small demographic for legal publishing, and who knows how long they will be able to sustain publication in duplicate formats. Prices rise tremendously each year and at some point they won't have enough customers to sustain the paper format.

In the meantime, we wait to see which publication will have its torch extinguished next. Stay tuned...

Questions for Canada?

I don't have a specific topic planned for Friday yet, so if you have questions about legal research, law libraries, or law firms in Canada, I encourage you to pass them along to me. I will do my best to answer them here tomorrow. You can either post them as comments to this message, or e-mail them to me at . Please be gentle!


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Ye Royal Kingdom of Bay Street

Last week Jim Milles asked me what the perception within the law firms is regarding students who have just come out of Canadian law schools. Do I see a prevalence of the attitude that "they don't make 'em like they used to"?

I had to chuckle at the question. The attitude towards summer and articling students is somewhat complicated, but it is definitely not one of concern or disdain. If anything, it is quite the opposite.

There is tremendous competition in Canadian firms for the best students. It varies by jurisdiction, but the process of firms and articling students matching up is a formalized one orchestrated by the law societies. See, for example, the detailed procedures established by the Law Society of Upper Canada (Ontario's law society). Almost a year and a half in advance of article placements, second year law students and firms interview one another in a dance rivaling that of mating penguins in its complexity.

To make things even more challenging, the Canadian firms have also been in competition with U.S. firms for the best and the brightest. As recently as five years ago there was a path worn between Toronto and New York City as students were attracted by shiny things: bigger city lights and a little more pocket change.

The large Canadian firms, therefore, felt they had to compete strenuously for these students. Many started hiring them earlier in their careers: many law students are now hired for the summer after second year law school with the idea that they will continue on to article at those same firms after third year law, and then stay as associates once called to the Bar. Some firms even guaranteed students would be hired back as associates after articling. This now means that the large firms are scoping out prospective associates when they are only a few months into law school, before they have even had a proper set of grades. No cold-calling for these kids!

Each law school holds recruiting days in which potential employers try their best to grab the attention of the students. Firms are becoming increasingly creative in achieving this. See one student's list of the swag he accumulated in his blog post, "Career Day's Loot". Later on at the interviews in the firms, students are welcomed with open arms. The crystal is polished and the silverware laid out. As my mother would say, they are "wined and dined" like royalty.

At the same time, students are in great competition with one another to get into the largest "tier one" firms, some of which are known here in Toronto on Bay Street as the "Seven Sisters". They come from law school with stunning resumes of high grades, impressive life experiences such as travel and work opportunities, and long lists of professional activities. At close to twice their age, I am envious. Partners viewing some of the resumes have been known to comment that they would not have made it today with the credentials they had back when they started. And yet, very worthy candidates may not make it into their first choice firms.

Once in the firms, the students do work very hard. But as you might imagine, they are the princes and princesses to whom the crown of the legal profession will one day pass. In this type of atmosphere, if they have any problems with legal research, on whose shoulders does the responsibility rest? Well, on those of the law schools and the librarians who taught them, of course! Because they of course are the best and the brightest and would catch on if taught properly. So if they don't quite get it the first time, then we have not done our jobs and we must take a different tack.

Now, let me back-pedal somewhat. I am dealing a tad too much in generalities and cynicism here, just for your amusement. I have met many law students who were/are brilliant. The groups of students from the last couple of years have been a particular joy to work with: personable, hard working, organized, enthusiastic, and very engaged in their profession. And it hasn't just been the ones I have worked with; my colleagues at other firms have confirmed they are seeing the same thing. So perhaps they have been worth all the extraordinary effort.

It's just that, to me as a non-lawyer, I find the whole process "gob-smacking". And quite frankly, I am jealous that we don't have a similar process for librarians. So, Jim, to answer your question as to what Canadian law firms think of the students coming out of law school: in Ye Royal Kingdom of Bay Street, they are thought of highly.

Yale Information Society Project Fellowships

Application Information

The fellowship is designed for recent law graduates (or Ph.D's) who are interested in careers in teaching and public service in any of the following areas: Internet and telecommunications law, first amendment law, media studies, intellectual property law, access to knowledge, cultural evolution, bioethics and biotechnology, and law and technology generally. This year we have a particular interest in hiring fellows interested in computer security and privacy issues as well as development and the information society.

Fellows receive a salary of approximately $37,000 plus Yale benefits. Fellows are expected to work on an independent scholarly project as well as help with administrative and scholarly work for the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. More information on the ISP is available at:

The formal application materials including the following:

(1) A brief (one to five page) statement of the applicant's proposed scholarly research;
(2) A copy of the applicant's resume;
(3) A law school (or graduate school) transcript;
(4) At least one sample of recent scholarly writing;
(5) Two letters of recommendation.

Applications can be sent all year round as fellows are accepted on a rolling basis. Applications for the 2006-7 ISP fellowship must postmarked no later than Feb. 1, 2006.

The application materials should be sent (in hard copy) to:
Information Society Project Fellowship Program
c/o Deborah Sestito, Room 333
Yale Law School
127 Wall Street
P.O. Box 208215
New Haven CT 06520-8215

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Making Legal Research Sticky

Betsy's idea isn't so far fetched. In fact, it is the best solution I have heard of so far!

In law firms across Canada, librarians are struggling with ways to improve upon training for incoming law students (in Canada we call them "summer students" and "articling students" rather than "summer associates" and "first year associates"). We compare notes, we hold programs on it, and we talk to one another behind the closed doors of our firms.

At this year's CALL conference, CALL/ACBD 2005, in St. John's Newfoundland, our Edmonton colleagues talked about their solution: the local law librarian association holds a two-day event for articling students to get them up to speed with legal research. At a nominal cost per student for the law firms, a group of librarians teach and feed the students. I think this concept of sending the kids off to "boot camp" originated from a presentation by Bob Berring about 15 years ago, but don't quote me on that. The food seems to be a significant factor in the Edmontonian plot.

Are we bribing our students and lawyers with food? If you haven't read Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, or re-read it recently, you might have forgotten about the importance of making messages "sticky". I'm not talking about serving up your seminars with pancakes and maple syrup, although that is one thought (there's the Canadian content you were hoping for!). I am talking about putting messages together in a way that will not only "stick" with students, but also have them returning to the message continually. Like a meme, such as the Make Poverty History / The ONE group are trying to do with their message. Or like Sesame Street with its fast-paced vignettes that the kids grew up on. Heck, that I grew up on!

That's one of the reasons why Betsy's evil plot is so perfect. If done right, we'll be able to send the law students off to their rooms to play video games as their homework.

Just one thing, though. We are going to need a few more action figures to populate the video games. Nancy Pearl just isn't going to be enough, even in the Deluxe Librarian Action Figure model!

Teaching Research - Get Real!

Connie, I really enjoyed reading your Showdown piece below. The firm librarians and academics have always been at odds every where I have gone, too. And the problems are about the same. In law school, we cannot possibly re-create the experience of real legal research outside, perhaps of a clinic setting. Anything I make up for my class, the students expect to have a "right" answer, that they have to aim for. And of course, in real life, there is no such thing.

And you also point out the problem of students forgetting, or perhaps, "overlaying" whatever we teach them. The other problem, especially with teaching the main course in legal research in 1-L, is that most of the students have absolutely no context to understand what we are teaching them. They have never been to court, they have not been through the civil procedure class, they don't understand enough to know what we are trying to teach them to look up or use. Plus, we all know, they are overwhelmed by their substantive law courses. Law school is like an immersion course in a foreign language and culture, along with all these really difficult concepts being thrown at you in Socratic classes. WOW!

So, I wish I had better suggestions for how to teach than just to offer an optional class to a self-selected few, in a bass-ackwards manner. I have toyed with this really exciting idea. It would take real programming chops, though. I would love to see an interactive video game to teach legal research. It could be played over and over. The student plays him- or herself, vying as a summer associate against Snidely Snoot, from Betteren U. Law School for the one position the Wonderful firm will offer next year when these two graduate from their respective law schools. The position will be offered to the summer associate who proves the best and most efficient in their work (which is research).

Players can use books in a real library, and log their time manually. Or they can go online with Westlaw or Lexis, but the game will charge them for database and printing charges just as the real firm would have charges, though it might cut their time down considerably. They can ask advice, and pull up a librarian an associate, or a mentoring partner. The players can consult a firm file in the computer and possibly find memoranda that will help them along. The score will add together factors including the precision of the answer they come up with (this is part of the trickiness of the programming!), and the time, and the cost factors. There would be a nice range of problems to solve and race against Snidely, and re-running a problem would still be a challenge.

I love this idea, but I cannot imagine who could put together such a game. Even without a lot of animation, it would be a huge amount of work. Ah well, a man's reach should exceed his grasp, else what's a heaven for? (some heaven).

Monday, October 03, 2005

Showdown at Québec City: Canadian law school versus law firm librarians

Thank you, Jim! I am delighted to join the crew here at Out of the Jungle. I have been reading along since your inception and adding my two cents every now and then in the comments, so I am flattered to have been invited on board this week.

As Jim has mentioned, my bailiwick is law firm libraries, as opposed to academic libraries. I will do my best to give a Canadian perspective but please remember I do have this particular bias.

Let me start by recounting a recent meeting that was, for me, a watershed moment in my understanding of the way law students and lawyers learn legal research. At the 2004 Canadian Association of Law Libraries conference, CALL/ACBD 2004 in Québec City, academic and private firm law librarians wedged themselves en masse into a small meeting room for a program put together by CALL's Academic Law Libraries Special Interest Group. This was the hottest ticket of the day in more ways than one...

For years Canadian law firm librarians had been alleging that the academic schools were not adequately teaching law students how to conduct legal research. Meanwhile, the academic law librarians were countering that indeed they had been making concerted efforts to ensure students graduated with solid research skills. This day was to be the big "showdown", and we were all gathering to see who would be left standing at the end of the discussion.

The session was held on Monday, May 17, 2004 and entitled Great Expectations: Are we delivering what they need?

The Panel Speakers:
John Eaton, University of Manitoba, Law Librarian & Associate Professor, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Laurel Murdoch, Librarian, Heenan Blaikie LLP, Toronto, Ontario
Robin Dewe, Vice President, Customer Service, LexisNexis Canada
Laurie Amiruddin, Manager for Customer Learning, Thomson Carswell
Martin Boodman, Partner, Director of Research, McCarthy Tétrault, Montréal, Québec
Gail Hogan, Law Librarian, Law Society of Newfoudland, St. John’s, Newfoundland

This was the session's description:

Law Firm and Law School Librarians are concerned that law students are not acquiring the database searching skills needed to be efficient (=cost effective) researchers. How can Law Librarians and Database Training Providers work together to make online research training exciting to law students. How can we to create a better articling researcher. Our panel will include a law school legal research instructor, a law firm and Great Library librarian, a law firm director of research, and representative voices from the legal online publishing world.

As an outcome, we would like to get some concrete ideas as to how better to prepare our students for life in the law firm. We would like, as Academic Law Libraries, to have a better understanding of how the law firms view our “product” once it reaches them. We would also like to share with the firms our own concerns about how our students view the importance of legal research skills. Why do they not feel the need to take Legal Research classes or attend special training sessions? All sides have a need to live up to Great Expectations.

John Eaton did a fine job representing the academic librarians. They are working hard to balance many different interests. They were working to improve methods of teaching research skills to students, and were seeking to find ways to make it them even better. Several representatives from law school libraries from across Canada stood up from the audience and discussed the particulars of their programs. Many of the schools offer advanced legal research courses in second and third year to supplement what is taught at the beginning. The problem seems to be that few law students are interested in attending these courses.

The problem, though, may run even deeper. Could a law school possibly recreate the type of research work (or other work, for that matter) that a student would be doing in the workplace? It is difficult to recreate the varied types of client matters as well as cost and time pressures that exist in a law firm. No matter how hard a law school tries, can they possibly prepare the student for research in these conditions?

The other speaker who stood out for me was Laurel Murdoch, representing the law firm librarians. She talked about the extensive orientation and research training sessions held by firms across the country. Law librarian associations were even finding it necessary to organize "boot camps" for those arriving at the law firms to meet the demand. Why was this necessary if law schools were adequately teaching the students? And even if work places vary, why could the schools not show students how to locate and update (Shepardize) case law, and locate and update legislation? These are basics common to all forms of legal research.

The real epiphany for me at this session was that, even though law students were being trained as they went along, they were not retaining what was being taught. Why was this? If they were not immediately using what they learned, they immediately lost that particular research skill. Could it be that generally law students (and, later on, lawyers) have a specific type of learning style, in that they only retain a research skill for long as it is necessary, and then that skill is "overwritten" in their brain as the next necessary type of skill comes in?

Perhaps the way we have been teaching students has been all wrong. How could they possibly remember what they learned in first year, three years later when that information is necessary in the law firm? Moreover, how could the two hours (or four hours, or four days, depending on the firm) that we spend with them when they arrive in law firms be expected to be adequate for giving them the basics of
research for the rest of their legal careers?

I came away from the session feeling that, while there was no clear-cut winner in the debate, we all had a better appreciation for the challenges faced by our colleagues in the other organizations. Perhaps, rather than pointing fingers, we needed to work more closely to find solutions to the problems faced.

While I haven't fully answered the questions raised for myself, I have been exploring them and will try to develop these ideas later in the week.


Welcome Connie Crosby

I am happy to introduce this week's guest blogger, Connie Crosby. Connie is Library Manager at WeirFoulds LLP in Toronto, and author of an excellent blog, conveniently also named Connie Crosby, as well as one of the group bloggers at We have invited Connie t0 share a Canadian perspective on legal research in law firms, and in particular how the experience in Canadian firms corresponds to or differs from the criticisms we often hear of law students' research skills. Welcome, Connie!

Out of the Closet - I'm a Bass Ackwards Teacher

Jim already knows this -- we taught together at SLU. The way I teach my Advanced Legal Research class is to give the students worksheets ahead of the topic, designed to encourage them to explore and familiarize themselves with the various research tools of the week The entire class most weeks is not a lecture or demonstration, but a discussion of what the students liked or didn't like, found or didn't find working through the worksheet. I warn the class on the first day that I know the worksheets are very time-consuming (despite paring them down drastically over the years!), and that the three papers I assign during the semester are even more time-consuming.

I have put little bombshells into various worksheets, not to be mean, but, I hope, to give the students an AHA moment when they will realize that there is more than one way to use a tool or do a type of research. I figure by the time these students are graduated, many of the tools I might "teach" them will be gone or changed. What I hope they learn is how to teach themselves and how to evaluate a tool for themselves, including comparing costs. I keep fiddling with the course, adding a bit or changing a bit. When there was all the terrible fight about bibliographic instruction I certainly did not have the courage to put my little hand up and say anything about a different way of teaching. Maybe it's not all that different at all. It's just bass-ackwards.