Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Can't post anything but tiny posts


Lawyering in Second Life

Legal Times
July 31, 2007
See the article linked in the title above for an interesting piece.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Uh-oh! Brain Spasms

Here we are floating in the luke warm end of summer. The bar exam is either under way or just past for most jurisdictions (check here at National Conference of Bar Examiners to see if -- Oops! You slept through the bar exam!).

Things are mostly pretty quiet. People are trying to finish up the projects that seemed to have plenty of time back in May. Getting repairs and renovations underway, too, in that short window of time where the library is not full of completely stressed-out humans.

This peaceful time of year grows shorter and shorter. Way, way back, there were really 3 months worth of quiet. There may be a few schools that still shut down over the summer. But more and more, schools run summer programs, host conferences and have planning meetings scheduled over the summer months. A few schools already have schedules that run right around the year - quarter systems that never allow a shut-down, or starting 1-Ls every semester, right through the year.

One of the things I always liked about academia was that sort of tidal rhythm, where the tide rolls out every spring and pauses that little bit, over the summer, before rolling back in with students in the fall. It's a pattern, a pacing thing, that I cherish. It harks back to a slower day, when there was time to contemplate and think philosophical thoughts instead of (or in addition to) multi-tasking trainings, meetings, classes and service. I hope we never completely lose that aspect of librarianship. We need time to think. Our faculty and our students need time to think, and space to do it, too.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Back to business: Psychology of Lawyers

Wow, now that I've gotten that off my chest, let's go back to OOTJ business. The ABA Journal has an interesting article interviewing a lawyer with a psychology degree about what the "attorney" personality profile is like, and how it helps or sometimes hinders, a practitioner.

What has been remarkable is how very stable the personality data have been over the past 25 years. I am still seeing basically the same profile that I saw back then. The only change appears to be that more people with a "Feeler" (as opposed to a "Thinker") preference on the MBTI seem to be entering the law and staying in the law. This change may be a reflection of what has often been written about Gen Y – that they are more interpersonal, more interested in collegiality, relationships, climate, etc.
Interesting read. Many years ago, I was involved in a project to administer the Myers Briggs Personality test to people across a library. The results were interesting, and were compared to the law faculty and attorneys over-all personality type. Librarians in general have a different profile that lawyers, and even law librarians who have worked as lawyers tend to have a different profile. Nearly all the people in the library test project came out with very nearly the same sort of profile. The differences were just in how extreme to one type or another people ranged. It felt spooky.

The other thing about the test is that I have taken the Myers Briggs several times. Each time, I had a distinct feeling that my responses had changed over time, and that if I had taken it in my 20s or younger, it would have changed even more. There seems to be some useful and valid data that the Myers Briggs brings out, but it did make me wonder if there was some part that adjusted for the passage of time. Or maybe I'm just weird. Here is one more snippet from the ABA article:
You have developed innovations to help leaders at law firms attract, retain, develop and motivate legal talent. What are the best practices for supporting talented lawyers?

The answer would take a book. I suppose I can summarize this by saying that there are a few evergreen principles that will help here:

Capitalize on strengths, rather than trying to fix deficiencies (unless you have a "fatal flaw" that must be addressed)
Seek out feedback. Self-awareness is key for anyone in a leadership position and for anyone who makes a living interacting with other people
Work on improving your emotional intelligence skills. Lawyers are weak in this area – which may represent a "fatal flaw" for many. Poor EI skills can hurt you, and good EI skills can make a huge positive difference in terms of talent retention, getting the right people to work for you, coping with change, and the other intangibles of the legal profession.

In your opinion, what are the characteristics that make a lawyer successful?

In addition to the obvious – high integrity and consummate mastery of the legal skills in your practice area – I return to emotional intelligence. Research increasingly demonstrates the importance of emotional intelligence skills in many industries. Research shows that the best lawyers generally have higher emotional intelligence scores when tested than their average counterparts. ”Emotional Intelligence” includes skills in self-awareness, empathy, regulating your own emotional reactions, and building and maintaining healthy relationships.
Please see the whole article for more info.

MSNBC Editorial on Bush and Iraq

I want to cheer, but I keep wondering how come it took so many years for the press to stand up!

He is here to help Grandma get to heaven

Oscar the cat, raised at an advanced care unit for dementia patients at a Rhode Island nursing and rehab center, makes a specialty of visiting the dying. Ordinarily not an out-going, cuddly cat, Oscar will curl up next to a patient who has mere hours left of life, and purr, purr, purr. Link in the title to the story in the Boston Globe, but you can also read a more in-depth story (not full of techy words either) from the NEJM, New England Journal of Medicine.

A nurse walks into the room to check on her patient. She pauses to note Oscar's presence. Concerned, she hurriedly leaves the room and returns to her desk. She grabs Mrs. K.'s chart off the medical-records rack and begins to make phone calls.

Within a half hour the family starts to arrive. Chairs are brought into the room, where the relatives begin their vigil. The priest is called to deliver last rites. And still, Oscar has not budged, instead purring and gently nuzzling Mrs. K. A young grandson asks his mother, "What is the cat doing here?" The mother, fighting back tears, tells him, "He is here to help Grandma get to heaven." Thirty minutes later, Mrs. K. takes her last earthly breath. With this, Oscar sits up, looks around, then departs the room so quietly that the grieving family barely notices.

On his way back to the charting area, Oscar passes a plaque mounted on the wall. On it is engraved a commendation from a local hospice agency: "For his compassionate hospice care, this plaque is awarded to Oscar the Cat." Oscar takes a quick drink of water and returns to his desk to curl up for a long rest. His day's work is done. There will be no more deaths today, not in Room 310 or in any other room for that matter. After all, no one dies on the third floor unless Oscar pays a visit and stays awhile.
from the NEJM article. The cat is more accurate by far than any of the doctors, nurses or other human staff at predicting when it's really time to call the family to come.
And as with any feline, a hefty portion of Oscar's days are given to zzzzs. He likes to sleep on stacks of patient reports. Or on the desk at the nurses' station. Or in the linen closet.

When awake, however, and strutting about, Oscar the cat projects something very much like the quality that ancient Romans called gravitas -- a solemn dedication to duty.

"He seems to take very, very seriously what he does, for whatever reason he does it," said Dosa.

Oscar makes regular "inspection" rounds of the unit, sauntering in and out of patient rooms -- as if checking on the condition of the occupants. But he never joins them for a snooze.


"He only shows great interest in individuals when they are about to die," said Dosa.
(from the Globe article)

Image is from the Globe article. You can see another photo of Oscar at the NEJM site.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Library Furniture Standards

Since I was thinking about space standards for carrels, I remembered my joy and surprise to find that there are separate standards for library furniture. ALA's Library Technical Report, vol. 31, no. 2, March/April, 1995 features library chairs. The report explains a test method and reports on 30 chairs, which report is pretty well out of date now. But know that there are separate, and much more rigorous standards and tests than the office furniture tests that many manufacturers cling to. Very important, because furniture that seems fine in an office environment or home, will not stand up in library use.

In Chair Wars, 5 AALL Spectrum 31-32 (April, 2001), I told the adventures I went through with public use chairs at my then-new library. What I discovered, after much calling around, is that one of the biggest stress points for chairs is a lateral scoot. Our armless, wooden chair legs were splitting vertically. I had imagined people leaning the chair back and then letting it bang to the floor while they sat. But Carl Eckelman, who wrote the Library Technology Report above for the ALA, explained that it was much more likely that the chairs broke when a person sat down, and then scooted the chair sideways, to center it, while sitting in the chair.

Arms gave a good deal more strength to the chairs, and so we weren't seeing armed chairs break, just ones with no arms. Our architects had decided on handsome wood chairs, but the university skimped a bit on cost and got them without stretchers. These are the bars that stretch between chair legs. It turns out they are pretty important little additions. The stretchers strengthen the chair legs against the stresses of these little sitting scoots. We finally had to retrofit the armless chairs with stretchers, as well as adding good glides to reduce the friction of scoots in any direction. Since then, our chair mortality rate has been much lower, thank heavens! Don't let them skimp on stretchers!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bar Exam time in Boston

It’s that time of summer again, and I’m reliably informed that the hotels in Boston (site of the only bar exam in Massachusetts) are refusing to rent rooms unless you take them for 3 days. Wow! Skin them law puppies!

Let us have a moment of silence for all those poor souls who are facing the bar, and being socked in the wallet at the same sad time.

How much space do law students need at desks or carrels?

Earlier this summer, I thought I might try to write something about how much space law students need at study tables or carrels now that laptops are so common. I went first to Leighton and Weber's Planning Academic and Research Library Buildings, my 2nd edition from ALA. This venerable book (tome, actually -it's BIG) is the 1986 update of the even more venerable original by Keyes Metcalf. It's a classic. I see on the ALA website that there is a 3rd edition, here from 1999.

I was just stunned at the foresight of these authors! In 1986, they were already looking into the future to a time when computers would become portable. They imagined students not only wanting space to spread out several books, but also to have notes and a laptop computer in front of them! They discuss accommodations for handicapped users, including specifications that a certain percentage of tables be set high enough for wheelchairs, and separate rooms for readers.

If you need advice or citations to support your requests for certain size tables or carrels, see this book! Look in the index under carrels or tables, and look to "size" as a subheading. The authors differentiate between undergraduate use and graduate student use, granting the graduate students a larger size. They give specific dimensions, and recommended layouts, with in-depth discussion about the pros and cons of each option. This book seems to be everything a librarian -- or architect -- could need for space planning and renovations. The discussions on seating repeat all the wisest things I have heard at meetings or online discussions of the issues as well. I heartily recommend the book - to write anything new would just be to repeat what they have already said!

Quick answer: they give 40 sq. feet as the recommended size allotment for a "research carrel" and 25 sq. feet for "open tables" (from Table B.1, formula C of size allotments at page 565). I really recommend reading the book itself, though, for lots of commentary and illustrations of solutions to problems posed by building design: columns, bays in stacks, etc. For instance, the size allotment for open tables is considerably smaller, because students do not like to sit side-by-side at tables, and will use 2 out of 4 seats at a table, sitting catty-corner when they have a choice and must share a table. So, as we see every day in our libraries, they spread out beyond the actual allotment for that seat.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Reflections on AALL in New Orleans

Dear OOTJ Readers,

I wondered how it would be to attend a conference in New Orleans after Katrina. I recall earlier conferences there with both AALL and with ALA, with very warm memories. So I wondered a bit what I would find on my return.

The trip from the airport showed some demolition and reconstruction, a bit of condemned buildings, but mostly it looked like a trip from the airport in any city that is constantly rebuilding and renovating. The people I met in the hotel staffs, restaurants, taxis and elsewhere were on a range, like anywhere. There were people who were just amazing, going way above and beyond, and some of them thanking us for coming back to their city. Most folks were in the middle. But a few people were angry and bitter and it flowed into their interactions with visitors.

This was a very small minority, but it was jarring. In most cities, people who act like that don't stay in service industry jobs for long. But New Orleans has jobs in service industries or construction/demolition, and not a lot more choices unless you have special training. People told me there were not enough people at the entry-level, and so I am guessing that management is reluctant to fire rude doormen or waitresses. I tried to keep in mind that many or all those who were unpleasant were living in awful conditions when not working. But that thought made it all the mroe miraculous how many excellent people I met. Those people who are working hard to bring New Orleans back from the brink, smiling and doing their best and better than that, even when they are living in trailers, or missing loved ones, WOW! They deserve halos.

The other thing that was striking about this meeting was the high number of really informative programs that I went to. After attending AALL nearly every year since 1985, I don't see so many programs that knock my socks off. There were a lot of those this year! It's always wonderful at the conferences to catch up with friends, and see people from all over. And most years, nowadays, that's the highlight of the conference for me. This year, I was so excited by several programs that I just had to blog about them immediately. That's never happened to me since laptops were available! Wow! Great job, AALL program committee and members who put these programs together! I am sure there were other programs equally excellent that I didn't see, as well.

I am so glad I went to New Orleans!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Librarians Without Borders

Thanks to Connie Crosby, who left a comment at the Apostle of Cataloging post, introducing us to Librarians Without Borders (link in the title to this post). This is an organization founded in 2005 by MLS students at University of Western Ontario. The students were inspired by the efforts of a fellow student to establish a library for his home country of Angola. They have some incredibly inspiring aspirations and ideals. Here are some quotes from their website:

LWB holds a core set of values that form the basis of our existence and steer our activities:

1. Libraries have a fundamental role as defenders of intellectual freedom and providers of equal access to information.

2. Access to information is vital in supporting learning and literacy, reducing poverty, empowering citizens, and building healthy, strong communities.

3. We do not draw cultural or linguistic boundaries – diversity is embraced; we will work with our partners in their own cultural context and in their own languages.

4. Our efforts are enhanced by working collaboratively, internally as well as externally with the domestic and international community, to further our mutual goals.
Perhaps more moving still is an excerpt from a speech by Jorge Chimbinda, the Angolan national who inspired LWB in the first place, at the launch party:
: “Everyone who starves for knowledge can be fed by a book, and its content is not diminished… A book teaches in silence, however, its effect is eloquent. A book liberates, a book plants the roots of development. Books are irreplaceable tools for improving the quality of education in Angola and elsewhere.”
That is beautiful! Thank you, Connie, for introducing us to LWB. She says members of this group have been invited to speak at the 4th Northeastern Regional Conference this fall, in Toronto, which is titled Libraries Without Borders itself! I am looking forward to it! Note that the cut-off for early bird registration savings is coming up on Aug. 1! Register now!

Thanks to Betsy McKenzie

A profound thanks to Betsy McKenzie for her insightful and thorough reporting on the AALL convention here at Out of the Jungle. I did not attend the conference this year, but Betsy's posts make me feel as if I did. I especially appreciate her comments about the importance of print research skills as I prepare to teach my Advanced Legal Research class this fall.

An Appropriate Response at Roger Williams

Inside Higher Education reports that the Ralph R. Papitto School of Law at Roger Williams University will no longer be known by that name. As of this morning, however, the website had not been changed, and Mr. Papitto's name is still prominently displayed.

Mr. Papitto used the word "nigger" at a Roger Williams University board meeting in May, Inside Higher Education revealed, and when this became public knowledge, Mr. Papitto apologized and left the board, but the name of the law school was unchanged. A number of people at the University were outraged that the law school still bore Mr. Papitto's name, and by yesterday "student and faculty groups were organizing petition drives or resolutions to demand a change in the law school's name, and Rhode Island talk radio stations were devoting hours to discussion of the controversy." Yesterday afternoon, Mr. Papitto repeated his apology and announced that he had asked Roger Williams to remove his name from the law school. Roger Williams President Roy J. Nirschel announced last night that the board would go along with Mr. Papitto's request and that the name change "would take place in a 'timely and orderly fashion.'" I think that's the right decision, but why not change the name as soon as possible? If I were an administrator at Roger Williams University, I would want to be free of any association with this odious individual today.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Another great AALL program! -- Law School Rankings

I really recommend buying the tape for G-2, The Ratings Game - US News and World Report, with Billie Jo Kauffman, Rebecca Trammel, Dean Theodore Seto of Loyola, Marymount, and Jack Crittenden, publisher of National Jurist. Prof. Seto’s excellent talk was the core of the program. He has written an in-depth analysis of the U.S. News rankings system. A tax professor, he brings an understanding of statistical systems and the effects of weighting that really inform a better understanding of what are the “pressure points” in the rankings.

See his article, Understanding the U.S. News Law School Rankings, which will appear soon at 60 SMU L. Rev. __ (2007) or at http://ssrn.com/abstract=937017 Among other interesting findings, we heard that the rankings are very sensitive to tiny changes in certain variables – this is completely counter to what appears to be an immoveable rank when we try to advance. Prof. Seto played with inserting small changes in the raw scores. He showed how a change in the bottom ranked school’s score reshuffles all the schools above, sometimes by as much as 5 ranks, without those schools changing anything in their score. This is because the ranking system uses a very rigid scaling process. After the school are all scored on the variables, the top school is arbitrarily given an adjusted score of 100, and the bottom-ranked school, an adjusted rank of 0. Then all the schools in between are given an adjusted score, which is rounded to the nearest whole number.

The most sensitive and easily affected (or even gamed) variable is the 9-month employment number. A 1% change in the bottom school’s score there can jump middle-level schools’ ranks by 5 slots, without any change at all in those schools’ scores. This leads to criticism of the validity of the rankings (from yet another angle). Read the article in full, and buy the tape because there is a lot of interesting commentary. The final recommendation is to cultivate many other ways to rank law schools. Speakers told us that there are 6 different ranking systems for MBA programs, with the result that none of them distort the schools’ practices the way law school policies are impacted by the US News rankings.

Rebecca Trammel prepared a useful bibliography which is available at both Stetson’s website and at American University ‘s site. I recommend visiting and picking up the bibliography, which I don’t think was in the handouts, in order for it to be as up-to-date as possible.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Authentication of Electronic Law

AALL National Summit on Authentic Legal Information in the Digital Age

Tim Coggins reported at the ALL-SIS Directors Breakfast on this important meeting. He, Bob Oakley, Keith Ann Stiverson, (and my notes fail here), represented AALL at a meeting that included a number of judges, legislative personnel, reporters of decisions, a woman from the Uniform Law Commissioners NCCUSL.org and people from the Council of State Governments http://www.csg.org/.

At a ground-breaking joint meeting, they learned from one another about the current state practices of either adding “official” versions of electronic decisions, statutes and regulations on the web, or even using such collections instead of print versions. They discussed how to create and certify authentic versions online, with content verified by government as complete and unaltered, compared to the original version approved and/or published by the content originator (judges, legislators or agency). There may be a uniform law developed, and certainly they are closer to developing best practices.

There is a report at aallnet, but the URL in the handout does not work. There is some report from the AALL Washington Office to last spring's SEALL meeting on the web, with appendices about this topic at here. Be warned that it is a long download, even with a fast connection. You can purchase the report in print at aallnet.org,though I don't see it on the page yet. Bob Berring has produced two articles on the topic, one in a California law review and the other in the Green Bag, titled “Losing the Law.” People interested in this important issue may also want to know that there is a GPO White Paper defining authentic electronic text, from 2005, at link. The members are continuing to work on the problem

I am very proud of AALL and my colleagues, and offer congratulations to them and to Claire Germaine who, while president of AALL raised the issue and charged the committee. Important contributions!

The Apostle of Cataloging

I met the apostle of cataloging yesterday at AALL. Until I have permission to use this person’s name, I will simply use that title rather than a name or pronoun. But the story is amazing and inspiring enough that I want to tell about the concept, whether I may use the name ever. The apostle of cataloging spends vacations going to Latin America to teach cataloging to librarians there. With a partner librarian from Mexico, the apostle makes contact with library groups, schools and national libraries throughout the region, and offers to teach the MARC format for cataloging. Most of these countries do not have OCLC membership, and so they can’t contribute to the OCLC database. But they gratefully learn cataloging skills, how to use the fields in a record, and the art of selecting the correct classification. Groups are contacting the apostle and partner now to request workshops in more countries, as the word spreads.

I have admired the work of Habitat for Humanity, and volunteered for a while locally. They do local building that is important, but the most inspiring stories are from the trips groups make to build with local people around the world. I could not do that, physically, since they don’t need committee work from non-citizens, but hammer-pounders. The work of the apostle of cataloging made me wonder if there are library skills that others, perhaps (even me!) could offer to the world community. What an intriguing idea. Perhaps this ties into the China-US Conference plan, a bit, since part of that meeting is to lend Chinese law librarians more prestige and help them overcome their isolation, even within their country, to build an organization that will offer continuing education, standards, collegiality and a voice in policy as AALL does here. But I’ll bet there are other regions and skill sets as well. Anybody for Librarians for Humanity? Or maybe Librarians Without Borders?

Monday, July 16, 2007

A little bit of law library gossip from AALL

I hear that several new law schools are being planned. Gordon Russell mentioned that he hears that University of California, Irvine, link is planning a new law school. He also says Wilmington College, in Delaware link is planning to add a law school.

And of course, there are a lot of directors slots open, and a number of schools are searching for deans. Both Hamline and William Mitchell are looking for direcrtors, and U.C. Davis will be posting in the fall. Cumberland School of Law, Brooklyn Law School are also looking for directors right now. See http://www.aallnet.org/hotline/ for the AALL job placement hotline listing many levels and types of libraries as well. Other ways to watch for job announcements at all levels and types of library are to subscribe to the lawlib listserve (Law Librarians (LAW-LIB) listerv: (send the following message to listproc@ucdavis.edu; subscribe law-lib fistname lastname ) and also monitor the listserves of various chapters in regions you are interested in. (See aallnet list ).

Planning Committee on US-China Law Library Conference

Did you know there are more than 400 law schools in mainland China? I just learned this amazing fact. This morning, the steering board and advisors for a planned conference between U.S. and Chinese law libraries met for the first time. After about an hour, the meeting was open to the general membership of AALL, and an impressive number of people, some with amazing experience and credentials were added to the original illustrious group. There were several Chinese law librarians, a Tibetan law librarian, and an Australian who is the director of the law library at the Chinese University in Hong Kong. The conference is planned for the end of May, 2009, but there are lots of details to work out before any formal announcement is made. I was very excited by this meeting, though, and can begin to visualize what an exciting conference it will be. Watch for more news about this interesting development! Frank Liu at Duquesne and Janis Johnston at Illinois are co-chairing.

Buy this tape!

There was an informative meeting on the changes to the ABA questionnaire as it applies to academic law libraries to day, session F-7, What to Count: The Revised ABA Questionnaire. The single biggest change discussed was the title count changing from reliable access to ownership. This will change which titles can be counted among electronic materials, depending on the contract or license. Rita Reusch has a recent article about the planning and the changes, so look for that, but buy this tape if you missed the session. There were helpful tips on how to arrange cataloging records to make the reporting easier from Joe Hinger at St. Johns’s. But there were fireworks before the end, so I suppose the tape has a certain entertainment value as well.

Click on the title to reach AALL handout and tape purchase website.

Rage! Pentagon balked at pleas from officers in Iraq for safer vehicles

USA Today amazed me again, with an indepth article exposing how the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Pentagon hierarchy have rebuffed requests from American troops in Iraq for safer vehicles that have long been available, and would have prevented many deaths from roadside bombs and mines. Read it at the link in the title, and be outraged.

Globalization and its Discontents

Another wonderful program at AALL, “Legal Information – Globalization, Conglomerates, and Competition: Monopoly or Free Market! Ken Svengalis, compiler and publisher of the Legal Information Buyer’s Guide and Reference Manual, spoke about the mergers of legal publishing. He showed in-depth, historical figures about the number of publishing houses bought up, including dates, and how the concentration of publishing into 4 large companies that comprise 85% of the market has distorted the legal publishing market. This is an “oligopoly” - control of the market by a group, not a single company. The single largest publisher, Thomson-West, also publishes nearly every reporter, digest and most codes and rules, the core primary materials of U.S. law. Thomson West alone controls 41% of the legal publishing market in the U.S., according to Svengalis. According to some economists, that market share by itself constitutes a monopoly.

In the 1980's Matthew Bender began a period of increasing prices on their treatise collection, double digits every year. This was the problem that first got Svengalis interested in pricing and distortions in publishing. Even many employees in the Bender organization recognized that their company was in a death spiral. They raised the prices, and libraries cancelled... Then they raised the price again to show continued or even increased profits. The cycle was unsupportable.

Matthew Bender pulled out of this dangerous cycle, firing that president and instituting more reasonable price increases. Their business model went bad very quickly because they publish secondary sources, which are easier for libraries to cancel when their budget is used up. The pricing problem became critical in 1996 when Thomson Publishing bought West and Westlaw. There were antitrust concerns voiced at the time, but many in the law library community, including the AALL leadership at the time, were concerned that West could be bought up by a corporate raider like Carl Icahn, and broken into tiny bits for profit, destroying American primary law publishing. So the Justice Department was advised by AALL, and concluded that antitrust concerns were overblown.

Now, Thomson West, and to a lesser extent, the other member of the “oligopoly” of legal publishing, are following that same “Matthew Bender” self-destructive practice. (See this “Legal Publishing in 2006 - goose that laid the golden egg”) And the death spiral is more destructive because Thomson-West publishes nearly every title in the core legal materials – nearly all reporters, digests and most statutes and rules come from them. Svengalis showed how the initial purchase price of legal materials has gone up fairly modestly, and the supplementation is where publishers are making their big profits with huge, and unsustainable price increases. He showed the price increases attributable to the various members of the oligopoly. He also discussed his analysis of the LMA contracts offered by West to libraries.

The program also featured Louisiana attorney David Anthony Szwak, (link ) who specializes in consumer protection. He has spoken at an earlier AALL meeting on identity theft. He spoke about the problems of legal materials pricing for lawyers and judges, as well as pro se. While we in law school libraries have been handed the LMA agreements to staunch the price increases (at least ostensibly), these other consumers of legal information are completely at the mercy of the predatory price increases.

All these slides will be available - initially on the AALL website for handouts, and soon on Ken Svengalis’ Rhode Island Law Press website (link) . You can buy a tape of the program from AALL link, (program A-3) and I highly recommend it. My notes here may seem lengthy, but they barely scratch the surface of this excellent program.

Some readers may be puzzled to read in my posts yesterday about Thomson West's research on user behavior and commitment to print after reading this post. I think the organization has a lot of different people, some of whom really know legal publishing and care about the users, while some top level managers at Thomson, perhaps, treat that branch as just another profit center, and demand high performance to pay back the purchase price. The damage to their market is the same regardless of where the decisions are made -- the question is whether the message will reach top decision-makers at each of the oligopoly members (besides Thomson-West, Svengalis lists Wolters-Kluwer, Reed-Elsevier and -- my notes fail here...). I am proud of AALL for sponsoring such an important program, one of such vital interest to our patrons of all types! Way to go!

NELLCO Meet and Greet in New Orleans

At the Ambassador Hotel, about 4 blocks from the Convention Center or the Hilton Riverside Hotel, NELLCO members gathered for the now annual Meet and Greet. Tracy Thompson saw Chef Emile Stieffel winner of the Throwdown with Bobby Flay Jambalaya Jam as featured on Food Network. Tracy saw this event, and had the good sense and gumption to find Chef Stieffel’s website link ) and call him up. She says they spoke for an hour! Chef Emile is quite a character, as well as a great cook. He and his staff cooked up a wonderful taste of New Orleans: the award-winning Jambalaya (of course!), alligator sausage, 3 kinds of shrimp, fruit and veggies, and for the vegetarians (who have been starving in New Orleans), a pasta primavera. In handsome New Orleans style, he threw in some langniappe, or a little something extra: Crawfish Etouffe, and bread pudding. We also had a choice of sodas, or locally brewed Abita beer, or Hurricanes (a fruit and rum drink). Some great party, Tracy!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Future of Print

West representatives told the librarians that they saw continued strong interest in print from their customers. They did find that when and how it was used was changing. For instance, there was strong interest in topical, practice-specific guides that could be kept on a lawyer’s desk for quick consultation. And people preferred print for reading long articles, and for materials with a strong structure, like codes and rules. On the other hand, material where the placement of an item in the overall collection does not matter, like individual decisions in a reporter, work better online.

So, West is planning to continue introducing new print products in certain areas where lawyers told them they prefer print:

* Quick reference (hornbooks, deskbooks and nutshells)
* Browsing, idea generation for online research (like hornbooks and treatises)
* Self education on new areas of law (again, hornbooks and treatises)

Two surprising outcomes from the discussions with lawyers and law students:

* They feel they retain better information they read in print
* They feel more confidence in print

So, West states they are strongly committed to print, and will continue to develop selected new print products. For instance, in 2008, they plan to release “Key Rules Pamphlets” which will select most-needed court rules, and combine them with relevant statutes, forms, and practice notes. They are also introducing “Expert Witness Pamphlets” which will aid attorneys in using and confronting expert witnesses.

West is developing new print formats to make them easier to use and to make them easier to integrate with their online sources. We saw boxes and shading to highlight key portions and margin notes that explain how to quickly access more information online. They are using numbers and outline forms as well, to make it easier for readers to pinpoint the key information. So, they seem to be addressing the short attention spans and time pressures that make our students loth to use books.

Print Research Skills

The presenters at the Town Hall meeting found that print research skills remain important, but that newer lawyers’ print skills were dramatically lower than their online skills. They also found that improving the research skills in print improved the online skills. They found that reducing the frustrations of young lawyers in research could also reduce the high turn-over level at firms, as well as improve the efficiency and value of the associates to the firm. Cost-effective research skills require facility with both print and online sources and a good sense of which to use. And they found that, while good research skills do not help an associate make partner, bad research skills derail the career.

Firm librarians agreed that the most important skills a new associate can bring their firm is knowledge of the key resources in their practice area. So, awareness and understanding of specialty sets like the BNA Labor Reporter or the CCH Standard Federal Tax Reports remain key for lawyers in those specialty areas. And that knowledge requires understanding of the print originals in order to make best use of the available online versions.

The new lawyers and students

* lack skills in print research
* do not understand indexes or tables of contents
* do not know how to judge the quality or merit of resources
* have no context for online sources (they don’t know the print version, and it impedes their efficient use of the online resource)
* are over-reliant on online sources
* do not understand the difference between primary and secondary law
* are unaware of online pricing, and
* fail to plan research ahead of time

West, happily, is working to assist librarians to improve the students and young associates’ print skills. They will replace the generic image of a “book” on the Westlaw site with the image of the print version for each online title. The are expanding the use of keynumber system online. They are going to make cues to hierarchy in a source more visible (the volume number of a reporter, the title or chapter and sections in codes, for example). They are considering using a visual cues for primary and secondary sources (perhaps, primary in blue and secondary in red). And they are creating a new “integrated training” program for lawyers and for librarians who teach lawyers and students.

Much of this is not news to the librarian community. But it was fascinating to see how widespread the problems are, and that firm librarians see the same problems (perhaps magnified by the online charges!).

From AALL in New Orleans

The most interesting program I’ve been to so far will be available to the world in a taped version online at www.west.thomson.com/librarian , the West Education Center. The videotape will also be available to AALL chapters if they want to show it: The Town Hall meeting with Thomson-West on the Research Skills most needed by Lawyers and Law Students.

West pulled together roundtables of all types of librarians in a number of cities around the country. They discussed the research skills needed, and lacking, in the lawyers and law students they work with. They also performed some tests of research to identify the “pain points” of legal research. For instance they located a brief out of a large law firm dealing with a single legal issue. They gave the issue to one of their best research attorneys, telling her there was a brief, but not to consult it. Then they created a table showing the databases consulted, and what was found at each step. The table showed what librarians recognize as the multi-step, reiterative nature of legal research. You look in a lot of places, and at each step, find many of the citations you already located, but also add a few new ones (if you’re lucky and not at the end!). The West researcher found 24 of the key 25 citations used in the brief, missing one administrative source.

Out of these research projects, West pulled out the main “pain points” of legal research:

Time Consuming


Lack of Confidence

The biggest problem seemed to be that lawyers, students and librarians did not often feel confident that they had found all relevant items. Young lawyers and students had the biggest problem also in doing the legal analysis to identify relevant issues. West also followed lawyers through a full day at work, noting how much time they spent on various tasks. Not surprisingly, the newer the lawyer, the more time was spent on research, both because they were given more research tasks, but also because they were less efficient at doing the research.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

New Orleans legal gossip

Follow the link in the title for a story from the Times Picayune, New Orleans’ daily paper, about Mayor Nagi asking the state Attorney General Foti to investigate the criminal cases tried by the New Orleans district attorney office. Besides the fact that I just love the name of the paper, it seems like it might be a nice orientation for law librarians visiting. Temps today are 82 degrees, which seems kind of moderate to me... I’m bringing cool clothes, though! The five-day forecast calls for high temps in the 90's and thunderstorms. I remember one thunderstorm I saw in New Orleans years ago -- it was a positively biblical deluge!

Executive Privilege

It was very reassuring to read Professor Cass Sunstein's editorial in the Boston Globe on the thorny issue of executive privilege. I was delighted to realize that if I couldn't untangle the current controversy about the Bush Administration's assertion of executive privilege in the U.S. attorney firings scandal, I was at least in distinguished company. Professor Sunstein lays out the legal arguments that both sides might present in trying to make their cases in court. As one would expect from Professor Sunstein, this editorial is not a partisan diatribe, but rather a well-reasoned analysis. He concludes his piece by declaring that "If the issue gets to court, anything can happen."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Mini Rant

I was surprised to see an editorial essay in today's U.S.A. Today condemning news outlets for allowing the 4 F's (food, fashion, fitness and finance) to push real news to the sidelines. Wow! I had thought of USA Today as the harbinger of News Lite. If their writers are upset, it's getting bad.

How bad is it? It's bread and circuses to entertain Joe and Jane Public while lobbyists buy their government, and the Executive Branch works to remake the Constitution. Who wants to read about the war in Iraq (or Afghanistan -- remember Afghanistan??), when they can follow the tragic saga of Paris Hilton?!

Being plugged into TVs with the likes of Fox News "Fair and Balanced" reporting, has completely replaced thinking for oneself. Our education system has been training dutiful corporate drones and consumers for at least a generation or two, and we seem to be ripe for exploitation, and now, outsourcing.

Excuse me while I take one of those pills that will make my life happier and let me romp through a meadow with a puppy.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dean Search, University at Buffalo Law School

University at Buffalo Law School

The University at Buffalo (UB), the State University of New York (SUNY), invites applications and nominations for the position of Dean of the Law School. The University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU) and is SUNY’s most comprehensive and research-intensive university. UB currently enrolls over 27,000 students, and offers over 350 degree programs at the baccalaureate, master’s, doctoral, and professional levels.

The University at Buffalo Law School is the State University's only law school. UB Law School has a student body of about 750 students and a full-time faculty of 56, including 42 tenured and tenure-track, 7 clinical, and 7 research and writing faculty members. UB Law’s long tradition of leadership and excellence; and its special emphasis on interdisciplinary studies, public service, international engagement, and innovative scholarship, teaching, and clinical education make it unique among the nation's premier public law schools. UB Law offers a comprehensive curriculum that features eleven subject matter concentrations, innovative January "bridge term" courses, and path-breaking clinical programs featuring not only litigation but also transactional practice and policymaking. Its international reputation for excellence in the interdisciplinary study of law is anchored by the Law School’s Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy, with an endowment of nearly $11,000,000.

The ideal candidate will be a legal scholar with a national or international reputation for sustained achievement and the ability to inspire and lead an accomplished faculty toward further excellence. The candidate should have strong management skills, including the ability to develop the Law School’s resources through fundraising and other initiatives, and to allocate those resources strategically. The candidate should have the ability to communicate persuasively the mission and goals of the Law School within the university, the broader legal academy, the legal profession, the community, and the state. The candidate should be well-prepared to contribute to the strategic planning process within the university, known as UB 2020 (www.buffalo.edu/ub2020), and to collaborate effectively with other leaders in achieving the university’s goals. The candidate should have the ability to enhance the Law School's relationships with outside constituencies, including alumni, public and private sector leaders, and local community members. The next dean should have the ability and commitment to recruit a diverse faculty, staff, and student body and to foster their development and participation in the life of the institution. She or he should be prepared to oversee the preparation of students for outstanding professional practice of the highest ethical caliber; and to engage leaders of the legal profession and public officials as a respected colleague. A record of excellence, achievement, and innovation in one’s academic and professional career is the best evidence of the enterprise, imagination, and determination expected of the Law School’s next leader.

Interested parties are encouraged to visit http://www.buffalo.edu/law-dean/ or call 805-699-3020 (PST) for a more detailed position description, including information about the University at Buffalo and application/nomination instructions.

The appointment date is open. To ensure full consideration, materials should be received as soon as possible. Review of nominations and applications for the position will commence immediately and continue until the position is filled. All candidate information will be held in strict confidence until the final stage of the search, at which time the express permission of finalists will be obtained before making their candidacy public.

Qualified applicants should forward an electronic version of their curriculum vitae
(Microsoft Word preferred) and an optional letter of interest to:

Dr. Ilene H. Nagel
Leader, Higher Education Practice
Russell Reynolds Associates, Inc.

Applications from and nominations of women and underrepresented minorities are actively encouraged.
The University at Buffalo is an Equal Opportunity Employer/Recruiter.

Art Event

The Center for Books Arts http://www.centerforbookarts.org/ will host an artist's talk this Thursday, July 12. The Center's events and exhibits are always worthwhile and the attendees interesting people. We law librarians rarely get to see beautiful books or book art. If you are in NYC, try to go.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Summer Movie Review

I think of this blog more as a way of talking to people I have met and whose comments I have enjoyed, so remember that when you read what I post below.

I have spent the evening looking at blogs and thinking of the recent article on Wikipedia in the New York Times. I don’t get the appeal. Those brief paragraphs and excited utterances exhaust me. After a day sitting in front of a computer, I need to move around and do something that requires attention.

These thoughts, I will explain how, led to musing on the movies “Die Hard,” “District 13” and writing by Robert Stone, Kem Nunn, and Melville.

What I find strange in all of this on-line stuff is that suddenly we are getting comments and news updates from people who don’t leave their houses. And we are thrilled to comment in the little box provided. Talk about Pavlov’s dog.

Who are these bloggers and wikipedia writers? Where do they get the time to write such long and detailed postings? Are they working? What do they live on if they don’t work? Is our economy being distorted by the gift economy? What kinds of perspective and attitudes are formed by such interactions? What kind of world is being created that relies on quips and rapid updates by anonymous individuals who don’t worry about a paycheck? They don't have a feedback loop, like the market. They don’t seem to worry about consequences. Reading them, I thought of Paul Kramer’s “On Depression,” “It seems worrisome that the depth of modernity should reside in some highly delimited subspecies, say, depression in young, educated, pessimistic, middle-class neurotics.”

Believe it or not, the summer’s best action movie treats this theme. “Live Free, Die Hard’s” story (really a device to connect great action shots) is that clueless computer nerds get manipulated by an evil computer nerd who only became evil when the hidebound US government bureaucracy ignored his superior analysis of the US security situation. So he picks up his toy (his laptop) and zaps the nation with the aid of his girlfriend, Maggie Q who combines beauty, brains, and martial skills. Evil computer nerd looks good in black and hires serious guns—one of them the French actor who acted/performed parkour http://parkour.net/index.php in “District 13,” 2004’s best action movie and in terms of action better than "Live Free, Die Hard."

The computer nerds in “Live Free, Die Hard” are a sad and pasty lot. They live in squalid conditions. They call themselves by ridiculous handles. They collect toys. They lack interior lives and do not engage the world – so unlike the American male of novels. In “Moby Dick,” Quequeeg gets hired because he is so skillful with the harpoon. Nunn’s burnt out men squandered their promise as surfers. Stone’s men are good on the water and have vivid interior lives.

Computer nerds have a worse image problem than librarians (and the NYT is solving that for us; we are cool now.) The French should be disturbed about their image, also. The guns in "Live Free, Die Hard" are French, techy, and good in the dark. They don't play with toys.

Robert Stone and Nunn do not have blogs. I like that I have to wait for their books. When I read them, I can feel the effort required to frame a thought. I like that they bring a knowledge of how things work to their writing—that Nunn will describe light on water and how to stand on a surfboard, and Stone will describe what a flock of migrating penguins looks like from a Navy ship.

I am disturbed when a quote from a study of depression describes my feelings about bloggers. Something strange is happening here.

Spoof from Onion

Check out this spoof article from The Onion (all the way back in January), if you need a chuckle. A nice turn on DOMA and right to marriage, in the context of supposed gay rights struggle for the right to a library card:

"No one's preventing gays from using libraries—they're fully welcome to walk into them, browse all they want, and sit down and flip through any book they choose, even in the reference section," said Sen. Jim Bunning (R–KY), one of several conservative legislators who has vowed to draft a constitutional amendment that would define library book-lending as a contract between a library and a heterosexual reader. "But to issue them the same library cards as a regular American citizen would demean what our nation's library cards stand for."

"Is that the message we want to send our young readers?" Bunning added.

Others, such as Mansfield, OH mother of four Janet Hargrove, say that because library books are public property and libraries are funded by taxes, taxpayer money should not be used to promote one group's reading agenda.

"I don't want my tax dollars going to something I can't in good conscience support," Hargrove, 32, said. "Who knows what kind of books these people could check out? They could read about anything—even our children."

Some moderates who believe the country is not yet ready for full homosexual library-card access are proposing to state and local lawmakers a compromise solution in the form of a limited-access "Short-Term Government Literacy Loan" card. While the card would grant some borrowing privileges, it would have higher late-return penalties, shorter borrowing times, and may not be recognized as valid by all libraries within the municipality in which it was issued.

Cindy Sheehan walking for peace

I am not sure about the pugnacious tone of the site, but I support sending a message to Congress that the people want out of Iraq and that we think the Bush administration has done criminal things in our name. follow the link below to read more about Cindy Sheehan's walk from Crawford, TX to Atlanta, GA to Washington, DC and then on to NYC. If you are interested in either joining the walk, supporting the walkers or just seeing them pass, the itinerary is below the link.

Camp Casey Peace Institute

Walk Route

Date Leave Arrive

July 10 Crawford Tx Houston Tx
July 11 Houston Tx. New Orleans La.
July 12 New Orleans La. Montgomery Al.
July 13 Montgomery Al. Ft. Benning Ga,
July 14 Ft. Benning Ga Atlanta Ga.
July 15 Atlanta Ga. Gainsville Ga.
July 16 Ganisville Ga. Clemson SC
July 17 Clemson SC Charlotte NC
July 18 Charlotte NC Greensboro NC
July 19 Greensboro NC Lynchburg NC
July 20 Lynchburg NC Charlottesville Va
July 21 Charlottesville Va. Richmond Va.
July 22 Richmond Va. Arlington Va
July 23 Arlington Cem White House/ Capital
July 23 Washington DC Philadelphia PA.
July 24 Philadelphia PA Allentown PA
July 25 Allentown PA New York City NY
July 26 United Nations Action
July 27 Begin to Gather at Central Park
July 28 TBA
July 29 Gathering of Hearts Fest Central Park

Student debt affecting alumni giving

This is sort of "duh!" territory, but folks may want to read the Boston Globe article linked in the title to this post, about how student debt is starting to affect alumni giving. When they still owe tens of thousands on their tuition, our graduates don't feel they are able to make donations to their schools. Unless we can reduce the debt burden, all their money is going to the private lenders, not their own welfare or the school's giving coffers.

Uh-oh, the word is out!

Check out the article from the NY Times Sunday article on librarians. Although they speak of younger librarians being less typical of the stereotype, we hope OOTJ readers will also agree that librarians have NEVER been like the stereotype. There are some interesting links in the article and references to social groups, comix and mags by, about and for librarians. They also drop the awful term "guybrarian" -- sheesh! Still, it's nice for the librarian image to be tagged as Hip by the NY Times style section (I think, maybe -- let me think about that).

Friday, July 06, 2007

Friday late post

Give me distance, to be wise. Give me distance, to ease the pain.

Sun Tzu on the Art of War

... in your deliberations, when seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison, in this wise:--

(1) Which of the two sovereigns is imbued
with the Moral law?
(2) Which of the two generals has most ability?
(3) With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven
and Earth?
(4) On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?
(5) Which army is stronger?
(6) On which side are officers and men more highly trained?
(7) In which army is there the greater constancy
both in reward and punishment?

By means of these seven considerations I can
forecast victory or defeat.
Sun Tzu earlier explains that "The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger." I contemplate the current U.S. adventures in war and I fear for my country.

Mass Bar applicant sues over question on gay marriage

Law.com (the National Law Journal online) also reported recently that

A Massachusetts bar examination applicant who claims he failed the test because he didn't answer a question about homosexual marriage and parenting is suing the test administration agency, the state Supreme Judicial Court and four individual justices for constitutional violations.

In his pro se complaint, plaintiff Stephen Dunne seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions barring the defendants from considering the question in regard to his application to practice law and from enforcing the question in the current or future bar examinations. Dunne is also seeking a jury trial and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. Stephen Dunne v. The Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners, No. 07-11166 (D. Mass.)

Dunne claims his score of 268.866 on the November 2006 bar exam just missed the passing score of 270 points because he didn't follow the proscribed format for an unlawful question about gay marriage. Dunne said the question required applicants to "affirmatively accept, support and promote homosexual marriage and homosexual parenting."
No, I think it just required the applicants to state the current law in Massachusetts.

New Bar Passage Standards

Link to the article at law.com in the title above to read a story about the ABA tightening bar passage standards under pressure from the Dept. of Education. Many law deans oppose to the new standards. Schools being accredited must...

meet one of two criteria. Under the first, they would need to show that in at least three of the most recent five years, first-time test takers passed at no more than 10 points below the first-time bar passage rates for graduates of other accredited law schools taking the bar in the same jurisdiction.

Also under the first criterion, schools in which more than 20% of their graduates take the bar exam for the first time in other jurisdictions would need to demonstrate that at least 70% of their first-time test takers passed during the two most recent bar-exam periods.

As an alternative to the first criterion, schools would need to demonstrate that 80% of their graduates who took the exam anywhere in the country passed within three attempts, within three years of graduation. ...

The ABA's attempt to revise the standard is part of its bid to the Department of Education to remain as the accrediting body for law schools. Last month, the Department of Education extended the ABA's power to continue accrediting for only 18 months, instead of a five-year term that it received in the past.

The two organizations have butted heads, in part, because of the disagreement over the ABA's diversity rule — Standard 212 — which the ABA revised at its annual conference last summer. The standard requires law schools to demonstrate by "concrete action" that they are admitting minority students. Opponents assert that the requirement is unlawful.
The ABA House of Delegates will vote on the new standards at the ABA annual meeting this August.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

More on Wikipedia

It has taken me awhile, but I finally read last Sunday's New York Times Magazine section yesterday. One interesting article concerned Wikipedia, the open-access encyclopedia. According to the article, Wikipedia is rapidly becoming a "leading source of daily journalism." It has even "all but strangled one of its sister projects, the three-year-old Wikinews." One of the examples author Jonathan Dee used was the article about the Fort Dix Terror Plot. After the plot was disclosed on May 8, a stub of an article was created on Wikipedia at about 7:00 A.M. Over the next few hours, a Wikipedia contributor "expanded and corrected this stub 59 times, ultimately shaping it into a respectable, balanced and even footnoted 50-line account of that day's major development in the war on terror." This contributor is only sixteen years old!

The aspect of the Times article that I found most interesting was how Wikipedia is changing our idea of what an encyclopedia is. Traditionally, an "encyclopedia was synonymous with a fixed, archival idea about the retrievability of information from the past. But Wikipedia's notion of the past has enlarged to include things that haven't even stopped happening yet. Increasingly, it has become a go-to source not just for reference material but for real-time breaking news--to the point where, following the mass murder at Virginia Tech, one newspaper in Virginia praised Wikipedia as a crucial source of detailed information." It was also interesting to read mini-profiles of some of the individuals who dedicate hours of their own time to creating and editing articles on Wikipedia. One is going to be starting law school at American University in the fall.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Still working through the pile of reading material

The moon is so big/Won't you come watch it with me -- John Doe, Big Moon

Law Librarians should read two free articles available from SSRN.

New Skills, New Learning: Legal Education and the promise of Technology. Gene Koo http:/papers.ssrn.com/abstract=976646

The Two Hemispheres of Legal Education. Randolph Janokit

The articles could provide justification for libraries to offer CLE tech programs. Librarians also need to become more familiar with the free legal resources, like public filings and briefs available over the internet. Janokit’s article gives an acerbic perspective to Koo’s premises.

From the stack of magazines beside my desk

There is a hole in the city since you’ve been gone – John Doe

I have been reading some interesting stuff.

The June/July 2007 issue of Scientific American Mind has some articles that could apply to librarians:

“The Science of Team Success” by Steve W. Jo Kozlowski and Daniel R. Ilgen sums up recent research on work teams. Reading it, I wanted to work in a library organized according to its insights. I have never felt comfortable with the idea that people should be hired because they fit in—fit in to what I always thought. I did have a problem with the idea of strong ties among co-workers. I am nervous about my co-workers being included in my private life (I need a lot of privacy), but that may say more that I have been in many work situations not supportive of my interests and goals. Or maybe I am not a team player.

Something for us to be aware as we librarians promote cyber-services is Kyle Lewis’s discovery: [he] “found that the development of a team’s ability to access distributed knowledge required face-to-face interaction. In groups that communicated exclusively by phone or e-mail, this skill did not emerge—an observation of increasing importance, given the rise of teams that operate remotely and coordinate sometimes only through computer interactions. …”

“Getting Good Advice” by Yvonne Raley is about how to evaluate experts. Since we librarians are supposed to evaluate resources without subject expertise and a lot of legal reasoning requires evaluating, this article is intriguing. It didn’t offer much that was new, but it was fun to see our concerns in a major publication.

Evaluating experts leads into questions of authority. Narration relies on expectations. With all the law reviews of constructing legal narratives, we librarians should be ready to challenge those assertions. “Dog Bites Dog Story” in Steve Mirsky’s Anti Gravity column in the July Scientific American should be read by those of us who like to quote Sergeant Friday, “Just the facts.” Mirsky describes two types of sciences: experimental (chemistry) and then the historical and observational sciences like journalism and crime scene investigation. I thought of legal research because the attorney like “ a reporter gathers facts and then constructs one or more possible narratives to explain those facts. Alternative narratives then fight it out, and the most parsimonious wins. Sometimes.”

Those evidence chains need to be questioned.

Another great article is “Insights: Data Protection: A little Privacy, Please.” Latanya Sweeney is a computer scientist we need to follow. She runs the Data Privacy Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon. Privacy, the sense of a self with rights, is important to our legal system. Because of it, we don’t sacrifice women in cenotes, and we hold wrong-doers accountable.

In my experience with Filipino and Latino in-laws, privacy does not exist in a clan based culture. In such cultures, grievances are mediated, which usually means that the weakest person has to publicly accept the apology of the stronger. There is no real restitution or change, just a public performance that fulfills protocol. This was brought out again in a recent incident reported in the New York Times(Pakistani Papers Are Snatched, And Their Publishers Warned, June 10, 2007.)

The article closed with the publisher Mr. Faroogi saying, “'I am from a tribal society and I don't want to live in a tribal society here, too,'' he said. ''I don't want to hug each other and resolve the problem like that. I want to go to court.”

Mr. Faroogi is a brave man and he points out a strength of the US, its legal system. The Law Library Journal “Legal Information as Social Capital” applies here. It is a wonderful article. Its theme needs to be brought into our daily practice.

The August issue of “Seed” has an article by Jonah Lehree on “The Living City.” Cities run under their own scientific laws! “They are free from the constraints of ordinary living things and are instead subject to an entirely new set of requirements.” “As life grows, it develops enormous economics of scale.” Cities are the reason behind innovation: face time (like the finding that teams don’t work well electronically) the exchange of ideas creates more ideas.

Libraries can be a part of that.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Glorious Fourth! How it happens.

Follow the link in the title above for an excellent and entertaining explanation of how fireworks operate and are made. I have been fortunate enough to see some wonderful fireworks displays, and have long wondered how such marvels are constructed. There's a real art to designing a specialty firework, and to composing displays.

See this link for a history of fireworks. They state that the Liu Yang region of Hunan Province is the world's leading producer of fireworks. While many know that most fireworks are created in China, many assume that they remain the leading source because of cheap labor. This site disputes this, and argues that China's position as leaders in fireworks production stems from its long history with pyrotechnics. The site also notes that originally, all fireworks imported to the U.S. from China came through Hong Kong. After Nixon opened trade between China and the U.S., and then after Deng Xiaoping began supporting entrepreneurialism, the imports began arriving directly from mainland China. Many products were incorrectly labeled and such laxness proved dangerous. At that point, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Council and

..., American Pyrotechnics Association, and Hong Brokers Association spent 10 days in Southern China meeting with representatives from each export corporation and factory managers, on a province by province basis.

The meetings involved shooting each item produced in China and determining what the appropriate and correct warning descriptions and print size should be from the point of view of providing safe warning labels for the American consumers. The Americans involved took on the infamous moniker of "The Shekou Six" by most of the shell shocked Chinese industry people, and from that meeting and a few that followed was born the American Fireworks Standards Laboratory (AFSL) which monitors firework production within China to this day.
Now, fireworks are produced in China without government subsidies. This website appears to be sponsored by the Phantom Fireworks chain, which offers not only this history, but also safety information and info on the chemistry behind fireworks.

Finally, for those who, like me, have trouble staying up for, and traveling to the terrific displays tomorrow night, check this link for fireworks screensaves from "Mathematically Beautiful Screensavers."

The image is from http://offtheplanet.typepad.com/photos/73rd_tsuchiura_all_japan_/tsuchiura_fireworks_04_21.html
which offers many photos of a fireworks competition in Japan.