Thursday, August 31, 2006

Microsoft opens up video game design to do-it-yourselfers

In a move that opens videogame development to the open source model, Microsoft began offering a free set of game-development tools called XNA Game Studio Express as of yesterday:

See a press note from Gamasutra that also notes a full-featured version will be out in Spring, 2007, aiming for professional game creators.

Also, note a report from warning readers that there are severe restrictions on the use that essentially mean the created games won't be share-able with others in XBox format. But you can deploy them on Windows platforms. .Link here. I wonder if I can use these tools? How much chops needed?

XNA Game Studio Express Opens Up Game Creation to the World

By providing an integrated, seamless development environment based on Visual Studio® Express and .NET that simplifies the integration and use of game content, XNA Game Studio Express makes game development easier to accomplish for smaller projects, strongly increasing the chance for great game ideas to make it out of the concept stage and into the hands of gamers everywhere.

The XNA Game Studio Express beta will be available Aug. 30, 2006, as a free download on Windows XP, for development on the Windows XP platform. XNA Game Studio Express will give anyone with a Windows XP-based PC access to a unified development tool that liberates the creation of great Xbox 360 and Windows XP-compatible games, providing a new alternative to the existing multithousand-dollar development kits that many console games require. The final version of XNA Game Studio Express will be available this holiday season.

(from the press announcement link in the title above). Link here for the download of the beta version now available. The terrific image of Rodin's The Thinker with a lightbulb and computer is appallingly enough, from, which is a website about Intelligent Design and Evolution.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Second Life at Harvard Law

Today's Chronicle of HIgher Education reports:

Harvard University plans to hold its first class in a "virtual world" this fall, using a video-game-like environment called Second Life.

Charles Nesson, a renowned professor at Harvard Law School, is teaming up with his daughter, Rebecca Nesson, an instructor at Harvard Extension School, to offer a course on argument in cyberspace that is open to the public through the extension school.

Second Life, a virtual world in which many people assume the identities of animated characters and roam around socializing, building virtual houses, and trading virtual goods, has become a popular teaching tool among professors because it allows students to experiment with architectural design, to study monetary policy, and to do sociology research -- to name just a few educational uses -- in an enclosed, relatively risk-free environment. And professors at colleges other than Harvard have held a portion of their classes in Second Life....

Mr. Nesson introduces viewers to his Second Life character -- Eon, dean of cyberspace -- and his daughter's character, both of which look similar to their real-world selves. Ms. Nesson's character then shows viewers a virtual replica of Harvard's Ames Courtroom, where, she explains, the class will be held. The virtual courtroom is situated in a community called Berkman Island, a nod to Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, which Mr. Nesson helped found. Students will watch videos of real lectures held at the law school, and will engage in online discussions, Ms. Nesson says....

Ms. Nesson, who is a computer scientist, plans to hold office hours in Second Life, while Mr. Nesson says he will hold office hours in his real office. A more law-oriented version of the class will be offered to Harvard Law School students, but in a face-to-face format....

The course, called "CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion," is scheduled to begin the week of September 10. Mr. Nesson writes that he hopes the class will "demonstrate how Harvard can contribute to the structure and content of a new public discourse space.

I've heard a lot about Second Life and its various uses; Betsy McKenzie mentioned it here last month. Web-famous musician Jonathan Coulton (known for such podcasting hits as Baby Got Back, Code Monkey, Chiron Beta Prime, and Re: Your Brains) is doing a Second Life concert on September 14. There is also a thriving library community on Info Island.

On the other hand, nobody I've talked to personally is using it, and I've asked a lot of people, students and geeks alike. I've tried to learn my way around, but the learning curve is steep. Is anybody in the law library community using Second Life? Maybe we need a guest blogger to help orient us?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

FDA "regulates" compounding pharmacies -- for WHOSE benefit?

Compounding pharmacists are important to people like me who have arthritis but cannot take NSAIDs or Cox-2 inhibitors, despite what the pharmaceutical giants like to say. A compounding pharmacist takes prescriptions from physicians and mixes the active medication without incidental materials that are added to the pharmaceutical company's version that may cause allergic reactions or other problems for some patients. Other patients than just people with allergies go to compounding pharmacists as well. But now the FDA is rumbling about whether the compounding pharmacists are creating new drugs that it has authority to approve. Oddly enough, their interest seems to stem from a "citizen's petition" filed by a pharmaceutical giant who seems to feel that the business the compounding pharmacies take eats both at their profits and maybe at their credibility. So, who's money are they using to hound compounding pharmacists? Mine! and yours!

Follow the link in the title for the Boston Globe article reporting that the FDA

issued warning letters to three compounding firms and threatened additional enforcement action. The FDA contends that custom-blended treatments are unapproved new drugs, giving it jurisdiction over pharmacies that sell such products.

Stephen Bernardi , co-owner of Johnson Drug, said he compounds up to 500 prescriptions each month. Nearly half are hormone replacement prescriptions for women who want to ease hot flashes but also want to avoid such products marketed by Wyeth that use ingredients derived from horse urine.

Through a citizens' petition, Wyeth is seeking tighter federal regulation of how pharmacists such as Bernardi inform the public about the safety of custom-blended hormone replacement therapies that compete with the company's drugs. If the FDA agrees, compounded therapies would no longer be marketed as safer alternatives to FDA-approved drugs.

Meanwhile, 10 pharmacists have argued in a Texas federal court that the FDA is wrong to treat products they mix as unapproved new drugs. US District Judge Robert Junell has not issued a written ruling , but he indicated in comments from the bench that he intends to side with the pharmacists.

Stephen Bernardi , co-owner of Johnson Drug, said he compounds up to 500 prescriptions each month. Nearly half are hormone replacement prescriptions for women who want to ease hot flashes but also want to avoid such products marketed by Wyeth that use ingredients derived from horse urine.

Through a citizens' petition, Wyeth is seeking tighter federal regulation of how pharmacists such as Bernardi inform the public about the safety of custom-blended hormone replacement therapies that compete with the company's drugs. If the FDA agrees, compounded therapies would no longer be marketed as safer alternatives to FDA-approved drugs.

Meanwhile, 10 pharmacists have argued in a Texas federal court that the FDA is wrong to treat products they mix as unapproved new drugs. US District Judge Robert Junell has not issued a written ruling , but he indicated in comments from the bench that he intends to side with the pharmacists.

Gee, I wish I thought I could file a citizen's petition and get that kind of action and attention from my federal government agencies! Here is a link to a pharmacy industry new site brief article that explains the Wyeth "petition" as a complaint against compounding pharmacies that mass-produce copies of their products:

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies have petitioned FDA to take action against the pharmacies that make copies of their products for patients. Wyeth (Madison, NJ, filed a 36-page citizen petition in October 2005, saying that there is no proof that bioidentical versions of its hormone therapies are safe and effective. The petition has drawn nearly 30,000 comments from physicians, patients, and pharmacists during the standard 180-day comment period.

And here is a link to the FDA's own press release about the matter. Ahem, I wish I felt better-protected. As a DES baby, I think I have some cause to worry.

Renovating a Library

This story in the Chronicle of Higher Education, September 1, 2006 issue, really resonated with me. I am faced with the task of renovating not a "dull 1960s box," but rather a drab, monolithic 1970s poured concrete structure that was not built with an eye to modularity. We have been faced with the same hard choices as the librarians at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, California. We too are desperately in need of more study space and of more group study space in particular. At the same time, our collection long ago outgrew the stack space available to house it. We have moved aggressively to convert parts of our collection to microformat (which caused its own storage issues) and have also begun to rely more on electronic access to some materials, such as Shepard's. This was necessary because our renovation, like Cal Poly's, will not create more stack space. We have created a website devoted to our renovation project, which is our way of keeping our community informed about the changes to their library.

What you do as a teen colors everything after...

I really do believe that what you do in your teen and college years colors everything after. When I was a teen, my passion was riding horses. My recent article in Law Library Journal about my horse, Sultan, tells a lot about how that experience has informed my later work life. But it doesn’t mention that the image I have of running a really large library or a big project or committee, is that of riding a big horse, only somewhat under control.

I worked with Richard Amelung, a superior cataloger, and now Associate Director at St. Louis University Law Library (he was acting director at their University Library for a while, too). I noticed one day that Richard finished off keying in a catalog record with the sort of flourish that concert pianists use when the complete a piece. You could just hear the closing chord! I asked and found that Richard had played piano and organ as a teen and still plays organ sometimes.

I don’t know how many of us can see such direct correlations between our jobs, hobbies, passions as teens and young adults, and our current selves. So, what's YOUR story? What is YOUR image or habit that shows where YOU come from?

ABA Accreditation Changes Coming?

The following post is on the Volokh web site today. If the ABA is serious about making major changes in the accreditation process and standards, this could have major implications for law libraries. With luck, they will do away with their emphasis on print collections and meaningless statistics:

Interesting News from the ABA re Accreditation: Via Taxprof, I learn that William Rakes, the new chairperson of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar, has charged an 11-person task force to recommend changes to the ABA accreditation process. Rakes letter to the members of the task force, bolded in appropriate places, follows:

You are asked to consider the relevant concepts and broad issues of accreditation. Your focus should be on what is a sound program of legal education and measure against that. I think the goal of accreditation should be to provide for a system based on standards which provide for the least possible amount of intrusion on the schools, recognize that one size does not fit all, and provide for maximum flexibility on the part of the schools. I would not want the Task Force to get bogged down in the details of the Standards or in drafting. Policy analysis and recommendations are what is desired.

I ask that you a) review the standards for accreditation used by other accrediting groups, b) determine what the Department of Education requires of accrediting bodies [I pointed out recently that the ABA has implicitly admitted that it has been violating DOE standards, see link below], and c) formulate an agenda which will address those issues that raise concerns as to whether it is appropriate and necessary for our accreditation standards to prescribe conduct on the part of law schools which tend to limit innovation and impose requirements which are not basic to the goals of accreditation. It has been suggested that the standards should focus more on measurement and assessment of outputs and less on inputs.

In other words, you are asked to take a fresh look at accreditation from a policy perspective. Please provide status reports of your progress as you see fit and submit your report in time for the Council to consider it at its June 2007 meeting.

I hope this is a serious effort by the ABA to fixed its incredibly flawed accreditation process, which has been captured by various activist groups in the legal academy who have sought to use the accreditation process to require law schools to adopt their agenda (tenuring clinical and legal writing faculty, admitting more minority students and hiring more minority faculty, keeping teaching loads low, etc.), regardless of the costs and benefits to the law school consumer. The other possibility is that this is a token effort aimed at persuading the Department of Education to recertify the ABA as an accrediting body in December, after which nothing will change.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Librarian -- THE IMAGE!

Tip of the hat to Professor Emeritus Alfred Maleson for sending along this terrific link from Ruth Kneale for the Special Library Association. This is a terrific and entertaining website about a survey Ms. Kneale did on library (mostly) patrons:

What's your image of a librarian?

Male or female?
Her survey of patrons showed that 92.7% of respondents could imagine a male librarian, compared to 97.2% who could also envision a female librarian.

Do librarians have to be old?
The survey showed that 93.1% of respondents can imagine young as well as older librarians.

What kind of clothes do librarians wear?
Only 89.3% expect to see their librarians in suits, while 93.9% expect to see librarians in casual attire.

Of course, that doesn't touch the Lipstick librarian's desire for actual couture in the library.... But it gets us past the dowdy librarian concerns of the past. She goes on, though to present naked librarian calendars (Wow! I don't know how good a fundraiser that might be, but that's apparently a hot seller in England, see Camden Girls Calendar) and this DVD from Tori Amos, Tales of a Librarian. The difference is that the naked ones are real librarians, while Tori Amos is just a wanna-be. It's definitely worth a scroll down the very long page! See the amazing librarian action figure! (I don't know of a law prof or lawyer action figure, so there!) You don't want to miss the video clip download of Conan the Librarian, either (the image above is from this website -- deal with that past-due patron, or the folks who rip pages or spill coffee!).

Follow up with a look at Ms. Kneale's 2002 web page, You Don't Look Like a Librarian. She covers her first survey, of librarians, dealing with the stereotypical image. Here are some awesome quotes given by librarians in her survey, examples of patrons' and strangers' reactions to the revelation that they are speaking to a librarian:

* You sure fit the stereotype.
* I never would have guessed you're a librarian.
* Libraries are really changing, huh?
* No, really, what do you do?
* You have a Master's Degree?!?
* I like to read, I should be a librarian too!
* You dance really well for a librarian!
* Since you have a bun and glasses it's a good thing you don't dress like a librarian!
* What are you doing in this field?
* I've never met a black librarian before.
* I didn't know librarians could be so young!
* If librarians looked like you while I was in school, I would have spent a lot more time in the Library!
* Isn't that a woman's job?
* You're not a typical librarian, are you.
* I never met a librarian who rode a motorcycle before.
* Where's your bun?
* I didn't know you had to go to school to be a librarian!
* You're too to be a librarian.
* You don't dress like a librarian.
* You dress too hip to be a librarian.

Be sure to cheer yourself back up by downloading that Conan video or visiting the ever-sassy Lipstick Librarian here! Or there's the Laughing Librarian on Cool Librarians. Visit the Butt-kicking Librarian here, with a blackbelt in karate and kobudo.

Further research, including links to librarian cartoons and movie librarians: There is this terrific article on the impact of images for librarians Here. The Internet Public Library has This webography on Librarian Images, sorted by type.


Is it a mid-life crisis? Would it cure this restlessness if I bought a little red sportscar? I window-shop jobs and places to live, all the while I am quite aware that I am very happy living and working where I do. Maybe it's just the restlessness that comes with uncertainty. Our school is involved in a year-long dean search. One year from now, I have no idea who will be the dean I work for.

On the other hand, I am haunted by library directors I have seen linger too long. Those who really should have moved on to new challenges, when they had really done all they could at their school. Or worse, those who should have retired gracefully, and instead, had to be hauled out kicking and screaming.

Don't let me go like that! Don't let me hang onto a comfy position after I have stopped doing good for my school! Hard to know when that is... I clearly had big jobs to do in each of the first 8 or 9 years I was at Suffolk. Now, I've got the building finished, the move done, the punchlist finished and 2 inspections under my belt. I've got procedures and excellent people in place, working along smoothly. Just when I ought to be feeling that I am relaxing and enjoying the fruits of my labor, I can't help but worry: Am I done here? Is it time for somebody else to come in and see the library with new eyes?

Maybe I ought to buy that little red sportscar. (image courtesy of )

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Get the Lead Out! Lead Paint Poisoning

In June, 2003, Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly led negotiations between 49 state AGs and a national paint manufacturers' association. The agreement was to shield the paint manufacturers from law suits against them on behalf of consumers injured by lead paint chips or powder. The agreement also let the manufacturers avoid regulation by state governments on the matter.

An article in the Boston Globe today, linked above, describes the agreement as toothless.

A pact between the paint industry and state prosecutors aimed at fighting lead poisoning is often ignored at the retail level, according to spot checks by the Globe of a dozen Boston-area paint stores.

Spearheaded by Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly , the voluntary agreement signed in 2003 is widely trumpeted by paint makers and state regulators across the country as a major step in reducing the number of children poisoned after inhaling lead dust or ingesting lead paint chips. At the time, Reilly heralded it as giving ``real protection to families and consumers from the risks associated with home renovation projects," and his office and his gubernatorial campaign offer it as proof that he aggressively promotes lead cleanup and lead poisoning prevention.

But advocates working to prevent childhood lead poisoning say that the agreement lacks teeth and that it has done little to promote safe lead paint removal. ``The paint companies have not complied with this voluntary agreement," said Sandra J. Roseberry, vice president of the Maine-based American Lead Poisoning Help Association. ``The agreement was really a public relations attempt to ward off any litigation against them by the states, and it's really smoke and mirrors."

The contract between the National Paint and Coatings Association, a trade group, and 49 state attorneys general says that paint makers will put lead paint warning labels on paint cans, provide free nationwide training in safely removing lead paint, and offer discounts on paint cleanup equipment, such as respirators and vacuum filters. A spokesman for the group can point to numbers showing that all three initiatives are underway.

However, checks of local paint retailers found that another key provision of the agreement -- that educational brochures be available at stores -- is often breached, and that training in safe lead paint removal offered to maintenance workers, painting contractors, and homeowners, and others often doesn't reach the retail counter.

(from the Globe article by Sacha Pfeiffer)

Researchers looking for the full text of the agreement will be hard pressed to find a copy on the Internet. Finally, found it under the website of the National Paint and Coatings Association link. Their other web pages link, include texts of the warning in English and Spanish, and news releases on lead-related matters.

You can write to NY AG Elliott Spitzer's office for 4 reports on lead for consumers to be mailed . All filed under "Health." You can read Reilly's own press release about the agreement, here, which lacks any copy of the agreement. How annoying! The Connecticut AG's website has the most information here, with fairly extensive quotes from the agreement.

NSC LeadLink
Excellent non-profit link site.

Lead Paint Poisoning Law Firm Link
Philadelphia firm Monheit, Silverman & Fodera has a good list of symptoms and advice for those who think they may have a child with lead poisoning.

National Association of Remodelers LeadSafe
Includes some helpful full text links to federal statutes and regulations on lead paint safety.

National Association of Certified Home Inspectors link
A helpful list of symptoms and advice, with lists of home inspectors, naturally.

Lead Paint Poisoning info Online Lawyer Source
Includes some helpful info, but disappointingly light on citations or lists of suits.

Center for Disease Control (CDC LinkP
A very helpful government website with loads of consumer information, and links to legislation and policy documents.

EPA Link
Excellent government link site with information, FAQs, citations to regulations and links to other sites.

HUD Link
Another very good government website representing the Housing and Urban Development's Lead Hazard Control division. Both English and Spanish.

National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Link
Features 2 handy databases of lead (and other hazardous materials) legislation and contacts by state. Also helpful PDF and HTML publications.

Massachusetts Pathfinder for researching legislation on lead in the Bay State here. Excellent list of statutes and regulations from the Mass Trial Courts Libraries. Includes federal, selected cases and journal articles. Current to July, 2006. Great work, people!

And the Rhode Island Attorney General's office, evidently the state that opted out of the Reilly agreement, has sued lead paint manufacturers on behalf of RI consumers AG link. See an article about the suit here, from Findlaw, which may not load, and here, from RI Future blog.

And more recently, a scandal as the newer AG, Patrick Lynch, agreed to a settlement with Dupont dropping them out of the suit in exchange for a payment, which seems to have mostly gone to a charity with links to Dupont itself. TV news, Insurance Journal article, and Boston Globe.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Time to Get Real; First Day of Law School

Hey, 1-Ls and those who love them:

Want some advice on starting at law school? Here are some helpful websites (see the Read More for links)

And there are many, many books out there you can buy that purport to help you succeed in law school. The best advice, though, is to

* Attend your classes
* Prepare for class (rule of thumb, put in at least an hour prep for every hour in class)
* Do your own outlining – it's the process, not the product that helps you prepare for exams
* Don't panic! The first weeks or months as a 1-L student, you are learning a new language as well as a whole new way of reasoning and learning. Hang in there,and you will get it. Law School admissions work pretty well to select folks who can succeed.
A very cool online self-study course by Profs Eileen Kavanagh and Mara Kent at Thomas Cooley Law School about success in law school. Lesson 2.2 is the one really focused on Success in Law School, but the other lessons are worthwhile as well. If you click on the "Introduction," you'll see a very nice little animation with music "Justice Unveiled." Very practical advice from a law student at Ohio State in his blog.
A very interesting blog from CALI (Computer Assisted Legal Instruction, a consortium of law schools. Some of the entries are by law students, but I really direct your attention to their links to blog advice from various law profs, on Aug. 16. Advice, books and websites from Northern Kentucky University. I really like the web links – good choices.
A collection of essays by a variety of different people, so the quality varies. My recommendation is Prof. Barbara Glesner Fine (UMKC), "Materials for Success." Two of the more helpful ones are from Carol Nygren's book Starting Off Right in Torts (1998): "Studying for Torts" and "Basic Information Needed for Law School Survival.".
Findlaw's list of law school prep courses. I suspect that these companies will gladly take your money and give you a reasonable product in return. But keep in mind that YOUR law professor doesn't care what the Bar-Bri or Kaplan prof says about the subject. They want to hear what you learned from THEM!

This cool t-shirt is from, a very cool website and well worth visiting for the cartoons.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

OOTJ, the Limerick

Limerick of Semiregretted Good Times

There once was a library blogger,
A semi-retired pettifogger,
Who loved all the days
Of summery haze,
A vacation-day-offity hogger.

Through a slip of her scheduing pen
She managed not to be in
For greeting 1-Ls;
She's off somewhere else
And not where she so should have been.

This limerick is inspired by my major goof-up last week. Our school had new student reception and "Orientation Day" last Tuesday evening and Wednesday. Those were the days I had arranged to rent a car and take off with my family to Old Sturbridge Village here in Massachusetts. I had a great time! Almost good enough to offset the massive guilt trip I suffered when I returned and saw what I had done. Can you say, "Freudian Slip?"

I got to work with a blacksmith to make an iron hook. Talk about empowering! I feel like taking a hammer to the world now.

The image here shows Old Sturbridge Village re-enactors in constume preparing food. The picture is from Yankee Magazine website at link.

You can find out more about Old Sturbridge Village itself at, their great website click here.

Friday, August 18, 2006

DES risks - helpful websites

DES (diethylstilbesterol)was a form of sythetic estrogen prescribed for pregnant women who were at risk for miscarriage, from about 1938 - 1971. There have been a rash of recent stories in various press outlets about new research showing that daughters exposed to DES before they were born are much more likely to develop breast cancer. There is much older research showing the same group is much more likely to develop CCA, a clear cell adenocarcinoma, a very rare cancer in non-DES exposed women, of the vagina and cervix. There are evidently other studies looking at increased incidence of auto-immune disease in DES daughters, problems for DES sons and even possible higher risks for the so-called "3rd generation," grandchildren of the women who took the DES.

Here are some helpful sites if you are concerned, or have reference questions on the matter:

DES Action Link
a non-profit support, education and advocacy group

Centers for Disease Control link
an excellent site from the federal government, full of information and links

Breast Cancer Action link
A newsletter dated 2003, but still reporting on increased risks for DES-exposed women.

(Take this next site with a grain of salt, but it does have helpful links to resources, and analysis. However, it does not have the even-handed treatment of the first two sites:)
Our Stolen Future link This is the source of the image I used to decorate this blog entry. It is an actual advertisement for DES.

And finally, websites about a law suit growing out of the research:

Parker & Waichman link
Helpful information about the research, but again, this website is looking to sign you up as a client, so take it with a grain of salt.

Aaron Levine link
More helpful summaries of research, from a firm that claims they specialize in DES -related litigation.

Law Profs Losing Skillz?

From Nate Oman at Concurring Opinions:

I have heard a number of profs lament the fact that the professoriate no longer seems to have the influence that once it did. Generally speaking, this is explained in ideological terms. Congress is a lot more conservative than it was thirty years ago and accordingly treats the academy with far greater suspicion. I wonder, however, if other forces are not at work. A generation ago, there was considerable academic prestige to be won by virtuoso legal craftsmanship. Llewellyn and Gilmore were lionized within the academy (and without -- Gilmore made the cover of Time) on the basis of -- among other things -- statutory drafting ability. Such is no longer the case. I suspect that with the rise of theoretical sophistication within the academy many law professors simply aren't as good as their counterparts a generation or more ago were at legal craftsmanship. They certainly spend less time reading primary legal materials. The decline in influence may be a result of the fact that law professors on average simply lack some of the skills that gave them access to the corridors of power in years past.

To paraphrase Napolean Dynamite, maybe Congress only loves law profs if they have skillz. Numbchuck skillz, drafting skillz...

Reclassification Project at the New York Public Library

The New York Public Library is reclassifying the thousands of books in its public reading room. Frankly, it makes me tired just to think about this project. Read more here.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

At the Top of the Rollercoaster Ride

This is the time of the year when academics ask each other, "Are you ready for the new academic year to start?" That's the same sort of sado-masochistic question as asking a Christian parent if they are ready for Christmas. Sheesh! Nobody is ever ready for the start of the academic year. I always feel as if I am in a rollercoaster car, just cranking the last few feet to the top of that first hill. The ride is going to take off, whether I am ready or not. It's too late to climb out of the car. All I can do is throw up my arms and scream, with mixed feelings of elation and terror. Get ready for a wiiiiild ride, folks! Ready or not, here we go!

The decoration for this blog entry is from, which has a wonderful site with sound effects to explain the physics of roller coasters. Thank you Howard Winn!

NSA Warrantless Wiretapping Ruled Unconstitutional

From Balkinization:

The first federal court to pass on the legality of the NSA domestic surveillance program, Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of the Eastern District of Michigan, enjoined it today in ACLU v. NSA. The opinion is here and the order is here. The court rejected the state secrets privilege with respect to most of the plaintiffs' claims because it held that the information necessary to pass on the legality of the NSA program was already made public by the government and the government had made its justifications for the program public. The court also stated that it had reviewed secret material provided by the government in camera and concluded that none of it was necessary to pass on the legality of the claim. The governments suggestions to the contrary, it contended, were "disingenuous."

More commentary from Glenn Greenwald and Anonymous Liberal.

UPDATE: More commentary from Lawyers, Guns and Money and SCOTUSblog.

UPDATE UPDATE: More from Derek Bambauer at Info/Law.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


A colleague just told me about this article on new migraine research. Lots of librarians I know have migraines (including me, as it turns out). I wonder if it's something about the job? Maybe we preselect... Or maybe it's that more women have migraines than men (see the article which gives percentages, but I don't know where they got them from.

Warning About Digital Publishing

Scott W. Palmer, an associate professor at Western Illinois University, writes today in Inside Higher Education about a number of developments in digital publishing, but questions whether the "emergence of e-books and 'networked books' [will] bring about a revolution in the way that scholars research, write, and communicate their ideas." Palmer fears that technology's ability to transform culture and society is being "oversold" in this case. He feels that the "instantaneous delivery of 'new media' writing is at adds with the solitude, meditation, and patience that are the hallmarks of traditional scholarship." This is particularly so in history, philosophy, and political science, but he says it would be less of a concern in media studies. Palmer doesn't mention science, but it seems logical to assume that scientists would favor the rapid dissemination of information, and that born-digital materials would further this end more effectively than traditional forms of publishing. At the very least, Palmer urges "digital disciples" to "consider the many ways in which a move to all digital content delivery will adversely affect the academy and academic researchers."

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Law Review Writing Time

Are you sweating away the end of your summer trying to write a fabulous law review article? Don't ruin your summer, bunky! Here are Professor McKenzie's Research Tools for Writing an Excellent Article in Less Time. It won't completely do away with the drudgery, but it will cut down on those false starts and worries about picking the best topic. There are lots of hot issues, you just have to pick a good one and then think originally about it or provide really helpful research and links. Snap-city, right?

Be smart and write with an idea where you aim to place the article. Keep in mind the new limits on length Law Review Link. You can do it! Then of course, there is Expresso to submit the darned thing, unless you are aiming at your home journal. (check the link just above for a link to Expresso.

The decoration is from

Research Tools for Writing an Excellent Article
In Less Time

I. How to Select a Topic – Try to think of a problem that needs solving. Look for unresolved issues, circuit splits, unexpected consequences, upcoming hot topics. Read critically; look for logical fallacies, contradictions, questions left unanswered, omissions and mistakes. Make up hypotheticals and apply the current holding to see if it works. If not, you may have a topic even if it has been written about.

A. SUNN: Make a Sound, Useful, Novel, Non-obvious Argument
Ask Around: Practitioners, faculty, friends may have ideas about issues. You may have written a memo at a job or clinical placement that could be developed into an article..

B. Casebooks, Class Discussions; often the questions at the end of a chapter may give you an idea. Did something jump out at you as an unanswered question?

C. Treatises, ALRs, U.S. Law Week. Look for a topic of interest and see if you can use one of these to locate a split in circuits or an unresolved problem in your interest area. But beware of circuit splits! Check to be sure the Supreme Court is not going to preempt you with a decision reconciling the circuits.

D. Case notes and Comments. Read existing student articles to help select a topic or to refine one. Note your reactions as you read. Question the article and the case.

E. Legal writing competitions, moot court and professional conferences’ topics often make good articles. The networking at conferences can offer a chance to ask practitioners about good topics. Remember that attendance at the Suffolk Advanced Legal Studies programs is free to you as a Suffolk student!

F. West Topic/Keynumber on Splits in Jurisdictions (106 K 90, 91, 95, 96). Also look for petitions for certiorari which often are based on unresolved splits among jurisdictions. Uniform Laws Annotated, can be another source listing varying rules among different jurisdictions (in print in our library or online at Westlaw).

G. Westlaw Bulletin, Westlaw Topical Highlights, and topical listserves are good sources for new issues. Scan legal newspapers and news databases.

H. Other good angles: Historical issues, legal philosophy, and applying new scientific or sociological research to current law for analysis. Try new facts against old legal rules; situations where society or technology has changed.

II. Checking for Originality, Preemption

A. Searching for journal articles online:

1. Use both the full text journal databases and the online indexes (Index to Legal Periodicals and Current Law Index – also known as Legal Resource Index) on Westlaw and Lexis. There is also an important database on Westlaw (LRAC), Law Review Abstracts Clearinghouse that lists articles being shopped. This is an vital last search! LegalTrac (available through the Suffolk Law Library website) is another good place to search for articles.

2. Use both a Natural Language and a Terms/Connectors search on Westlaw and Lexis.

B. Check footnotes carefully in the articles you find. When you aren’t finding new articles listed anymore, you probably have completed your preemption check. These footnotes can also be goldmine for starting off your own research!

C. But don’t give up if you have a topic you like that has been covered. You can create originality even in an area much-written about

1. Think about exceptions, new or special factors, problems with the settled rule. Try comparing jurisdictions or historical eras. Consider defining or redefining the issue to make a “done” topic new again.

2. Take a different point of view. Does the current law look different if you analyze it from a minority or special point of view? Perhaps an analysis using historical data, or from a “law and economics” direction would make a “taken” topic new, useful and fresh. Or think about the effect of a rule of law – a sociological study of the effect.

3. Focus on issues not resolved by the current conversation on the topic.

4. Try a different jurisdiction – for instance, if the federal Constitution question is settled, can you say something different about the application of state constitutional law? If the statute has been analyzed, perhaps the regulations look different. Try municipal law.

III. Test your thesis – make up hypotheticals to test your argument (thesis). If you find a wrong result, don’t give up, refine and modify your proposal. But don’t waste your time making a ridiculous argument. You want your article to be useful! Talk to a faculty member, a mentor and/or a friend to see if your thesis makes sense to them.

IV. Research

A. Find one or two cases that illustrate the issue, then ...

1. Use Shepards, KeyCite and the cases cited in your original cases to find more opinions on point. Don’t forget the Table of Authorities feature to list the authorities relied on in the first cases.

2. If you have a statute, don’t forget to use annotated statutes and Shepard’s and KeyCite to locate cases that discuss your statute.

3. Use the West headnotes to find more cases with the same topic and keynumber. You can do this on Westlaw with the Custom Digest feature.

4. Select key terms and use the West Synopis and Digest fields (SY, DI) to create searches on Westlaw to find more cases on point.

B. Look for administrative agency decisions, attorney general opinions on your topic. Westlaw and Lexis both have databases for these. There are some looseleaf services in the library that also have agency decisions not available online.

C. Look for proposed legislation to address the issues you have raised. Don’t forget about regulations! Federal agencies propose regulations in the Federal Register, and then take comments from the public. They come back and announce the final regulation and explain what comments were made that influenced their decision.

D. Look for news articles about your problem – there may have been incidents that never generated a published opinion but illustrate the problem you raise.

E. Check Looseleaf services, treatises and books on your topic. Don’t forget to check the law library catalog to see if we have a treatise or book that might be helpful! There may be useful non-law materials as well.

F. Web research can be useful, but be an educated consumer! Verify the reliability of web-based information. Read the search tips for the search engine, directory or metasearch engine you choose.

G. Make an appointment with a reference librarian. They can save you time and help you be more thorough.

H. Read everything critically, and make notes of the questions and comments that occur to you while you read.

V. Citing: Correct Format and Avoiding Plagiarism

A. Make sure you have the full citation with your notes, so you don’t have to go back and look things up to complete your cite!

B. Use the correct citation manual.

C. Plagiarism can be overt, taking material word-for-word wtithout attribution. But it can also be covert.

D. Cite to what you actually read, even if it is referring to another author. Best practice is to go to the original source and read that.

E. Attribute in your first draft, or else you are likely to forget where you got the ideas by the time you complete the paper.

F. When you borrow 7 consecutive words or more; attribute for fewer words if the language is distinctive.

VI. Resources

A. Academic Legal Writing: Law Review Articles, Student Notes and Seminar Papers, by Eugene Volokh. (Foundation Press, 2003). On reserve, Suffolk.

B. Scholarly Writing for Law Students: Seminar Papers, Law Review Notes and Law Review Competition Papers, by Elizabeth Fajans and Mary R. Falk. ( West Group: 2000). Second Edition. On reserve, Suffolk.

C. Heather Meeker, Stalking the Golden Topic: A Guide to Locating and Selecting Topics for Legal Research Papers, 1996 Utah L. Rev. 917. This is a jewel of an article!

D. Eugene Volokh, Writing a Student Article, 48 J. Leg. Ed. 247 (1998)

E. Online Help for Law Students: Jurist
F. Online article on good student writing: Link

G. More from Volokh: Writing

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Operating from a position of strength

Self esteem was such a mantra in the 1980's that now it seems like a really trite, over-done concept. But self esteem is still important, key, even in our lives. You have to feel enough self esteem to believe you are entitled to ask for what you need or deserve. Why is it that women have so much more trouble demanding a better salary? (she says, making a sweeping generalization)

Generalization and stereotype it may be, but there is truth there. I think it goes beyond being raised to be non-confrontational. I don't know if it is so based in biology that we can say it's gender-determined, but I am tempted. A friend is a trans-person, going through a sex change. She has commented on the very different ways she feels about confrontation as she progresses through hormonal treatment. Not many of us have the experience of being a total male and then being a total female (or the other way around). Talk about walking a mile in the other person's shoes!

I have great difficulty in asking for a better salary for myself, but if I am asking for somebody else, I can make the argument and make it strongly. Perhaps it would be one way to handle my preference to avoid confrontation if I tell myself that the salary I ask is not just for myself. The standards I set with my demands are set for my successors and for others in libraries since our human resources folks keep careful tabs on what other universities pay their librarians.

This is a great job, but the downside is low salaries. If you consider that many librarians have more educational credentials than some law faculty members (JD/MLS versus their plain JD), we have outrageously low salaries. If you also recall that we work 11 months to earn what we are comparing to their 9 month salary, we should be totally outraged.

We need to operate from a position of strength when we negotiate salaries at hiring time. If we cannot feel it within ourselves that we are entitled to a living wage, we must look at the fact that our negotiation affects others at our place of employment as well as those who follow in our position.

Friday, August 11, 2006

What Defines the Canon?

An interesting essay in The Chronicle of HIgher Education, Aug. 4, 2005, "Writers Who Price Themselves Out of the Canon" by Kevin J.H. Dettmar, deals with literature anthologies link. Dettmer talks about authors and their estates charging such high rates for reprinting various pieces, that editors of anthologies drop the piece out of the selection. Greed or other factors cause the copyright holder to price the piece out of the canon. That got me thinking, though, about other factors that move literature out of the public eye.

Nowadays, so much legal literature is available in full-text online. My students, like most, expect to be able to access articles, treatises, and primary legal materials online in full text. If it does not exist in an easy-to-reach database, it may as well not exist at all for this generation. That means that articles that are not included on Westlaw or Lexis, are falling out of the canon that we rely on in Law. I have an article in that catagory:

Comparing KeyCite with Shepard’s Online, 17 Legal Reference Services Quarterly 85-99 (1999).

LRSQ is not included on Westlaw or Lexis. You may find the article if you use a journal index, but not otherwise. And if you need to see it in full text, you have to visit a library to copy it. How quaint! Several times, my article has been overlooked in lists of scholarship comparing KeyCite and Shepard's. Another librarian contacted me looking for a copy by e-mail for work he was doing on a related topic.

For all intents and purposes, that article does not exist for the modern scholar. I suspect the same is happening for judicial decisions and perhaps even statutes that use un-expected language or are not available online in full text for whatever reason. There is a vast no-man's-land of legal literature that is only known to those of us who still refer to print, use digests or old indexes. Will it matter in the future? I don't know.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Disaster Preparedness: Contrast and Compare

The Federation of American Scientists critiques the Department of Homeland Security citizen preparedness website, (link in the title link above. They go beyond recommending improvements to the official website with very helpful site of their own, ReallyReady link. Send folks there to get better information and advice.

Thanks to Nick Anthis of The Scientific Activist link for alerting me to the improved option.

Eggcorns: Folk Etymology Creating New Meanings Every Day

"Like a Bowl in a China Shop," Eggcorns crashed into my life. That is the title of a thought-provoking First Person column by Mark Peters in The Chronicle of Higher Education issue of August 11, 2006 link. Eggcorn is a new coinage invented by linguists at the Language Log blog Link. Eggcorn is a mis-spelling of "acorn." But it also makes sense; as a Pre-Plant, an acorn is like an egg, sort of. It is different from a Mondegreen (link to an entry here at OOTJ), which are mis-heard songs, usually. Eggcorns are

a type of slip of the ear in which people mishear a word and mispronounce it, then insist that the malapropism is correct. Examples are "cut to the cheese" for "cut to the chase," or "preying mantis" for "praying mantis."

(NY Times article link on the Language Log) The key to an eggcorn is that it is a mis-hearing by a native speaker that has its own internal logic. "Also defined as "Mistakes ... far from being evidence of sloppy student writing, are often logical and ... made a kind of intuitive sense." (Mark Peters in the Chronicle).

For more examples and a network of people discussing eggcorns, see The Eggcorn Database Link. If you have ever caught yourself or students "pouring over" information, or "honing in" on an idea (instead of poring over, or Homing in), this is a great site to look at! Some more examples:

Ten-year track positions (instead of tenure track)

Manner from heaven (instead of manna from heaven)

Mute point, or mood point (instead of moot point)

A posable thumb (instead of opposable thumb)

One linguist notes that the essence of an eggcorn is that it takes a stale metaphor or trite cliche and breathes fresh life into it. There is a poetic and logical power to these re-purposing of phrases that makes them interesting and worth discussing.

One related language phenomenon is "snow-clones," also from Language Log link. A snow-clone takes a phrase form and inserts new words. So, they give these examples:

In space, no one can hear you X.

X is the new Y.

The "phrases for lazy writers kit" was dubbed "snowclones" by Glenn Whitman at Agoraphilia link.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

What do you say when a friend tells you she wants to die?

Let me clarify: this is an elderly woman, unmarried, with no children, who has metastasized cancer. This is not somebody lost in clinical depression, but somebody facing hard choices about quality of life and a bad prognosis.

My etiquette book has nothing helpful to say. When my mother-in-law used to tell me she was wishing she could die, I said the natural thing: Oh, not yet! Oh, not you! You'll feel better tomorrow. I think now that was maybe not the best thing to answer. It's hard to know what is right, though. Our culture does not deal well with death.

Very few of us have ever really attended somebody who was dying. Hardly anybody in the U.S. now dies at home or with family. We are carted off to hospitals where the whole focus is to stave off death at any cost. We have trouble making the choice to stop treatments and go for dignity and pain-free peace at the end. I don't know what to say to my friend. How hard.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Little Steps of Hope in a Time of Darkness

In a thrilling move, the Afghan government has declared its intention to rebuild at least one giant Buddha statue destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban government. This is one more little step of hope, shining a ray of light into a dark time in the Middle East and the world.

Like the beautiful gesture of rebuilding the Frauenkirche of Dresden (friends link), this is a statement by the government of hope for the future. Afghanistan is a poor nation, locked in a long-running battle. But the decision to rebuild these statues, relics from the days of the Silk Road, 1,500 years ago, is a bold step for cultural integrity, and local work. Hooray for them, and good luck! They need help fundraising. We'll see what happens. If the Frauenkirche can be rebuilt 60 years after being firebombed, we can hope that the stone Buddhas will stand again in Afghanistan.

You can read more history and details on the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan at Wikipedia, ad details on the construction of the statues with good images here. The photo that decorates this entry is from the last website,, and they give credit there to other sites for the images.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Pink Conversation: Can Men Be Pink?

Our culture has reserved pink as the color of feminity. "All other colors shall be available to men, but women only shall have pink." It says so in the Bible, doesn't it? Somewhere in Genesis, I'm pretty sure, where God tells Adam and Eve about the fruits in the garden.

It's sort of a sneaky discrimination marker kind of thing. Little boys are on to this and will absolutely refuse pink at all costs. They would rather have NO CLOTHES than pink clothes. (well, maybe that's a bad example; I know lots of little kids who prefer no clothes no matter what colors are available.) But it's like the Nazis telling the Jews, "OK, you guys are the only lucky ones that get to wear these adorable yellow stars on armbands."

So I really did not wear pink from the time I was old enough to twig to this situation until I was in law school. I finally felt empowered enough then, I guess, to risk wearing the color of the "fairer but weaker sex." Since then, I have gradually gotten more comfortable with femininity, finding all the advantages that weren't immediately apparent at first. For instance, I got to carry and give birth to two children, which was a pretty amazing experience. And women tend to be so supportive of each other (well, some women).

Librarianship is where I really found that supportive network of women who really want others to succeed. Who understand that the success of others only enhances their own success, never diminishes it.

And I have to say that I have male colleagues in the library and academic communities who have that same excellent attitude to collaboration. I am so pleased to have good friends, no matter what genderly persuasion, who have that terrific supportive nature.

So, if I define PINK as the aspect of helpful supportiveness, a collaborative attitude, yeah, I guess guys can be pink too. After all, if even cowgirls can get the blues, it's only fair that cowboys can be pink sometimes, too.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

What is a Librarian? Defining a profession

What is a librarian? I have clear notions of what librarianship is about:
* service,
* empowering patrons,
* locating, securing and managing information ...
* assisting users to find it easily when they need it,
* managing staff, budgets and space to effectively and efficiently achieve these,
* reporting clearly to our institutions on our work on their behalf, including...
* marketing and public relations.

I feel that the culture of librarianship is distinctly different from other information professions such as computer scientists and IT folks. Our helping culture generally is something I treasure about the profession, though I also recognize that we can easily tip over into what current psych-lingo characterizes as co-dependent behavior. Basically, that means, we over-help patrons, making their problems our problems. But overall, I am very proud to belong to such a service-oriented profession. We are collaborators and helpers, and that is good.

Apparently, many library educators feel that the profession is in crisis. (See, for instance, Satellite national teleconference, “Confronting the Crisis in Library Education; A National Teleconference,” hosted by ALA President Michael Gorman (6/9/2006), Link. Available for purchase on video or DVD). And I just finished reading two unnerving articles in a journal:

“The Crux of Our Crisis,” by John Philip Mulvaney and Dan O’Connor, American Libraries, vol. 37, No. 6, June/July, 2006, pp. 38-40.

“Why Survival is Not Enough,” by Richard J. Cox, American Libraries, vol. 37, No. 6, June/July, 2006, pp. 42-44.

The authors lament the lack of consensus on a core curriculum and central values for library schools. I followed up their comments by looking at the ALA, ALISE and AALL websites for statements of core competencies and values. While there is no core curriculum in the ALA accreditation standards for library and information science schools, I did find several statements of core competencies.

I think the vagueness is largely due to the incredible speed with which information technology is developing and changing now. My colleague at Suffolk who directs the university library is an adjunct at Simmons School of Library and Information Science, and recently commented that he thought the MLS as a requirement for librarianship was dying. So, what do our professional organizations say it takes to be a librarian?

Well, ALA and AALL do require a master's degree in library science. Oddly enough, though, it seems that teaching in a library and information science school does not require a library science degree. Neither ALA nor ALISE (Association of Library and Information Science Education) require a library or information science degree in order to teach in such a program. The articles cited above specifically mention a trend in library schools to employ professors with non-LIS degrees.

For another thing, the ALA curriculum standards don't even mention books or libraries in their general statement:

The curriculum is concerned with recordable information and knowledge, and the services and technologies to facilitate their management and use. The curriculum of library and information studies encompasses information and knowledge creation, communication, identification, selection, acquisition, organization and description, storage and retrieval, preservation, analysis, interpretation, evaluation, synthesis, dissemination, and management.

ALA Link

AALL has a separate statement to help potential law librarians evaluate the sort of education they will need and which schools might better provide it. This statement of general and subject specific competencies is more to the point:

Although these general competencies are required by librarians employed in all types of libraries, library instruction must also include and emphasize the components of these areas that are specific to law librarianship.

Areas of general competency include: 1) Reference and Research Services; 2) Library Management; 3) Collection Management; 4) Organization and Classification. ...

An understanding of the origins, development and present state of Anglo/American law and legal literature is crucial to the work of the law librarian. Graduate library education for law librarianship must, at a minimum, provide basic competencies in: 1) the Legal System; 2) the Legal Profession and Its Terminology; 3) Literature of the Law; 4) Law and Ethics. ....

Approved by the AALL Executive Board, November 5, 1988

AALL link

I was fascinated to locate a page by the Bureau of Labor Statistices explaining librarianship, and noting the upcoming wave of retirements which make this a hot profession. They state:

* A master’s degree in library science usually is required; special librarians may need an additional graduate or professional degree.
* A large number of retirements in the next decade is expected to result in many job openings for librarians to replace those who leave.
* Librarians increasingly use information technology to perform research, classify materials, and help students and library patrons seek information.

Nature of the Work

The traditional concept of a library is being redefined from a place to access paper records or books to one that also houses the most advanced media, including CD-ROM, the Internet, virtual libraries, and remote access to a wide range of resources. Consequently, librarians, or information professionals, increasingly are combining traditional duties with tasks involving quickly changing technology. Librarians assist people in finding information and using it effectively for personal and professional purposes. Librarians must have knowledge of a wide variety of scholarly and public information sources and must follow trends related to publishing, computers, and the media in order to oversee the selection and organization of library materials. Librarians manage staff and develop and direct information programs and systems for the public, to ensure that information is organized in a manner that meets users’ needs.

Most librarian positions incorporate three aspects of library work: User services, technical services, and administrative services. Still, even librarians specializing in one of these areas have other responsibilities. Librarians in user services, such as reference and children’s librarians, work with patrons to help them find the information they need. The job involves analyzing users’ needs to determine what information is appropriate, as well as searching for, acquiring, and providing the information. The job also includes an instructional role, such as showing users how to access information. For example, librarians commonly help users navigate the Internet so they can search for relevant information efficiently. Librarians in technical services, such as acquisitions and cataloguing, acquire and prepare materials for use and often do not deal directly with the public. Librarians in administrative services oversee the management and planning of libraries: negotiate contracts for services, materials, and equipment; supervise library employees; perform public-relations and fundraising duties; prepare budgets; and direct activities to ensure that everything functions properly.

Occupational Outlook Handbook

The Lipstick Librarian (yay!) link explains that librarians in the 19th century were envisioned as "handmaidens of the library." LL states that lipstick librarians decided they would rather be "mistresses of the library" and fashionable ones at that!

Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld fantasy series, has the Librarian at the Unseen University for wizards as an orangutan. Pratchett posits "L Space" in the library, allowing infinite shelving into multiple dimensions (how handy to solve space problems!). The Librarian was turned into an orangutan by the influence of so many magical books, but since he's the only one who knows where all the books are, and can so easily reach the high-up shelves, he retains his position.

And of course, Nancy Pearl, of the Seattle Public Library and Book Lust, both the book versions and the National Public Radio show, is the model for the "Librarian Action Figure" from Archie McPhee and Co. Librarians are a sometimes a bit irritated at the shushing, dowdy stereotype that some saw embodied in the figure. But Nancy Pearl is librarianship's rock star figure these days. Here is a link to another, "Warrior" librarian action figure. Evidently based on a character, Giles, from the Buffy the Vampire television series. And there are also Marion the Librarian from The Music Man, Conan the Librarian and countless librarian images, stereotypical or not. I think our profession is generally given credit for being selfless, public-spririted and well-educated. Overall, that's not bad -- though better-paid would be nice to add.

Do you have an opinion on how to define our profession? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Google Library Project Expands

Interesting news on Volokh's blog about the future of the Google Project:

In a move with major significance for the worlds of academic research and publishing, the University of California is in talks to join Google's controversial project to digitize great libraries and offer books online.

Google is keen to have access to UC's 34 million volumes from 100 libraries on 10 campuses, which is described as collectively the largest academic research library in the world. UC wants to delve more deeply into the Internet revolution with a deep-pockets partner like Google paying the costs of scanning books....

Last year, a group of U.S. publishers and the Authors Guild filed suits in federal court in New York against Google, contending that scanning copyrighted books without permission is copyright infringement, even if the books are not posted online or only tiny excerpts are shown....

Under agreements with libraries, Google makes two copies of books, keeps one and gives one to the campuses. To avoid trouble, some of the libraries now allow scanning of only public domain books. But the University of Michigan and Google have said they do not need permission to allow a few sentences from copyrighted works online; such "fair use" quotation, they said, can help authors by boosting sales.

UC probably would follow the Michigan model in scanning works both in and out of copyright, Greenstein said....

UC would not receive any payments under the proposed contract. It potentially could save millions of dollars a year if libraries could buy fewer copies of books and journals and instead direct students and scholars to the digital versions. Plus, it could avoid scanning costs, which some estimate can be as much as $35 a book....

If it survives the copyright challenges, I think Google's project will change forever the delivery of information -- and all of our jobs.

Thomson West Committed to Shoring Up Print Sales, Duplication of Formats

Anne Ellis, Senior Director of Librarian Relations at Thomson West, has published a very odd article at's journal Legal Technology:

Web-Surfing Lawyers Won't Sink Paper and Ink
In this electronic age, it's natural to sometimes assume that all answers are now at our fingertips via a keyboard. To many new attorneys and researchers, a walk down the hall to the law library to research secondary sources can seem inefficient and even quaint.
At no point in this article does Ellis acknowledge that secondary sources are available online on Westlaw; for Ellis, secondary sources are available only in print, and Westlaw contains only primary sources. What's going on here?
A 2005 Thomson West survey of law librarians found that many new researchers lack knowledge and experience in using print resources and understanding how to integrate them with online research. Studies also show a decrease in the diversity of sources being cited by law review articles and attorney-written briefs.
I am unfamiliar with any such study. Those studies with which I am familiar, such as Fred Schauer and Virginia Wise's Nonlegal Information and the Delegalization of Law,
have found precisely the opposite--an increase in the variety of cited sources in law review articles and court decisions.
By not fully using print research, researchers are missing out on a wealth of valuable resources. Print research in particular allows researchers to conduct in-depth research via secondary sources. Though online research is excellent for yielding specific facts or cases, print volumes can provide broad overviews and a more thorough and deeper understanding of an area of law. Footnotes, annotations and indexes in treatises and legal encyclopedias are easily tracked while a researcher reads print volumes, revealing research threads and nuances of law that may not be readily apparent at first glance.
Again, all these things are true of secondary sources, but most of those sources are readily available online. Ellis does not argue that print secondary resources are easier to use than their online equivalents; she seemingly denies their existence.
Teaching attorneys how to become power print researchers can often simply be a matter of sitting down with them to teach them the advantages, breadth, subtleties and best uses of print-based research.
As she does throughout this article, Ellis refers to "print-based research" when what she is really talking about is secondary sources. Read it yourself, replacing the word "print" with "secondary." Why the refusal to identify secondary sources by their function, and the insistence on distinguishing them based on format?
Online research services are constantly adding new information and functionality that produce more thorough and accurate results. But print research remains a fundamental cornerstone of effective research. It provides a breadth of fundamental legal knowledge and perspective that is unique.
Well, no, it's not unique. Again, Ellis might choose to say that print resources have some features that make them more useful in some circumstances, but that's not what she says.

This is hearsay, but for what it's worth, I was told by a colleague last spring that West purchased some multi-million dollar German presses a couple of years ago, and is now stuck having to amortize the cost. Could that have anything to do with Ellis's argument? Nah, that can't be...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Bar exam on legal research?

From the Legal Writing Prof Blog:

research skills on the bar exam?

According to the May 2006 issue of The Bar Examiner, the National Conference of Bar Examiners is looking at the need for and feasibility of testing legal research skills and "is at the first stage in allowing the idea of such an evaluation to germinate . . . our inquiry is expected to last through the next year."

The article indicates that the NCBE folks are working with academic law librarians to investigate the possibilities.

Somebody must know something about this. Can anybody share?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Debt in America

Most Americans right now are living in debt. Whether it's simply a mortgage or student loans or a car loan, or heavy debt built up on credit cards, we all are living on borrowed cash. How did this happen? My grandparents lived in a time when you had to earn all the money beforehand to purchase a house or a car. It meant that very few people owned their homes and cars were a luxury, not a necessity. The innovation of credit as a real industry completely changed the life of Americans, mostly for the better. Far more Americans live in homes they own (or are working on owning, paying off the mortgate). Most Americans own a car (or are paying off the loan in order to own it). And we all live much better lives because the entire economy is turbo-charged by the huge amount of cash cycling through, much due to credit and buying on credit.

But there is a dark side to consumer credit. Over the past 20 years or so, credit companies have lobbied successfully to change the lending landscape, in their favor. Credit cards used to have strict limits based on the consumer's income level and credit rating. Now those caps are mostly inapplicable, and children receive "pre-approved" credit card offers. My son actually did receive a number of credit card offers before he was 18 years old. He had a magazine subscription in his name and that was enough. Pets have received these offers.

Along with the enormous rise in the amount of money being lent, through consumer loans and especially credit cards, the credit industry has lobbied to change collection and bankruptcy laws to make it easier for them to retrieve the money they lend, plus interest. The link to the title of this entry is a series of excellent investigative articles from The Boston Globe on the abusive practices used right now by collection agencies that buy the loans and collect, sometimes by seizing property that was not in the loan agreeemnt, and usually by intimidation.

There are still some protections in place for consumer debt. Here are a few sites that might be helpful:

Nolo Press specializes in self-help publications for non-lawyers who need legal information. This is a brief statement about consumer protection, with links to state consumer protection agencies, and other helpful reports. You can also buy books from Nolo Press here.

FTC Credit Website
The Federal Trade Commission site with links about Fair Debt Collection, credit reports, debt counseling, bankruptcy, and filing complaints on abusive practices.

Federal Reserve Board
Includes information on how to file a complaint against a bank, but also links to FAQs about various credit related federal laws, all linking to the FTC, coincidentally.

FCIC Consumer Information
A website on Consumer Protection, but not really focused on debt issues. It does have helpful links to state consumer protection agencies (in case you didn't find what you need at Nolo, above). Has other issues, such as identity theft, phishing, spam, telemarketers.

Consumer Reports
A non-profit group that you may have heard of for their automobile ratings, they also provide this list of consumer protection help sites as a public service. Good for them!

A very helpful link site. For debt-specific info, follow the link for "Personal Finance." DMOZ is part of the Open Directory project, a human-organized list of huge varieties of things, structured like Wikipedia and open source movement, around volunteers making their expertise available.

National Assn. of Credit Advocates. Good folks to have on your side.

Credit Wrench
I think this is a spoof part of the website. Follow the logo in the top left corner to get to which claims it will teach you how to get rid of creditors and collectors. I got the image for this decoration from the creditwrench site above.