Friday, November 30, 2007

OOTJ Listed in ABA Journal Blawg Directory

I still hate the term "blawg," but it's cool that we're now listed in the ABA Journal's directory.

Legal Strategies for Protecting Human Rights in North Korea

From the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea:

A new report by the US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), entitled Legal Strategies for Protecting Human Rights in North Korea and co-authored by Skadden, Arps, Slade Meagher & Flom LLP, was released November 28 in Washington, DC.

The report will serve as a handbook for groups seeking to use the international legal system to advance human rights in North Korea. After making the case against the Pyongyang regime, the report outlines the strategies available, including the International Criminal Court, the UN Security Council and the Alien Tort Claims Act, as well as various international covenants and conventions.

More information on the report can be found at http://www.hrnk.org/press/pr112907.doc. The report can be accessed at http://www.hrnk.org/legalStrategies-1107.pdf

What if U.S. News Ranked Churches Like They Do Law Schools?

It might look like this:

In thanking those who took the time to write, I would remind all in the community of believers that our rankings are intended as a public service to aid spiritual consumers in making one of life’s highest-impact personal choices. We claim no infallibility in our rankings. We strive to provide accurate, user-friendly data to allow seekers of quality worship to do their homework and grasp truth with full confidence that they are comparing apples to apples. Yes, we visibly spread the word about the handiness of our shopper’s tool, but we can’t be held responsible if certain churches choose, for example, to display, as a recruiting come-on, their U.S. News ranking on a banner atop their steeple....

As proof of our good faith,(nice) we have always been willing to consider critiques of our research metrics and make warranted adjustments in our process for arriving at the rankings. That is why we have urged restraint upon those outspoken theologians who in recent months have been encouraging church ministers to boycott our informational surveys: A boycott will only make it more difficult for our researchers to compile a full portrait of America’s religious marketplace and present all good-faith competitors on a level laying field.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Where are we going? (And what will we do when we get there?)

Information- centric professions are moving through a time of huge change right now. I include both the legal and the library profession in that statement. So, law librarians like me are getting it from both sides of our professional pedigree. So, where are we going? When will we get there (as the kids in the back seat always want to know)? And what will we do when we get there?

Folks with plausible, authoritative-sounding answers to these questions get big bucks as consulting futurists and pundits. I don’t have either kind of answer. But I have thoughtful guesses, which might actually be more useful.

1. We are in a transition phase from one information storage and retrieval system to a host of others. Basically, we are moving from near total print domination to a combination of print and digital in lots of different storage systems.

1.1 Most librarians are working hard at balancing their collections. Every library needs a different mix depending on what the host institution does. Most firms are very far along on the switch to digital, driven by the calculations of cost per square foot to house a library, and the speed, multi-user licenses, and distance access offered by the excellent products available digitally. But even firms are probably keeping some print – the Thomson Town Meeting at AALL last summer (link) showed that librarians at big-city firms across the country were noting a need for continued access to print for certain types of materials. Law school libraries have two added pressures to maintain more materials in print or both. Law schools are teaching institutions, and many still teach students to use print – another point made at the Thomson Town meeting – students do better research when they understand print as well as digital. The other pressure applies to schools that have part of their mission to provide access to research materials for either the bench and bar or for the public. In both cases, it is difficult to arrange licenses that will cover all parties, and thus, some libraries maintain print for folks not covered by licenses.

1.2. There will be a mix of print and digital in most libraries for a long time to come. There are certain types of materials that are not being converted into digital or that are old and will probably not be converted for quite a while, if ever. Legal research often needs historical information. Unlike most medical or science research these days, legal researchers often need to see a case, a treatise, or a statute or article from decades or even centuries ago. Most older cases and increasing numbers of superseded statutes are online, but treatises and university press monographs are not being back-digitized in any numbers yet, or as they are published, even.

2. I think digital will not completely supersede the need for some materials in print.

2.1. Some things go better in print. Things that work really well digitally are relatively concise items that stand alone, not as part of an ordered series. So, people tend to prefer print or do better with print for codes, where the organization and context actually carry meaning beyond the actual text of a single statute you might find. Westlaw and Lexis are doing good things to restore some of that meaning, but I think people still do statutory research better in print. People also prefer the look and feel of print for some reading. Long documents are just hard to read online – though that may be a generational thing that will change. Or when we get digital paper so we read without backlighting or glare, it might change. But for now, I think most people prefer books, long articles, chapters, in print.

2.2. In the past, very few new technologies completely superseded an earlier technology. They mostly continue together, with the older technology losing dominance, but still being used. For instance, print did not completely supersede handwriting. Writing did not completely supersede orality and memorization. But an example of near total superseding is how books have nearly completely replaced scrolls. Scrolls were once the absolutely ubiquitous way to store written texts of any length. But when what we now call books appeared, within a fairly short time, scrolls came to be used only for ceremonial purposes. Books were just a much better, more convenient way to store and retrieve text. You no longer had to unroll and roll through lots of text to find the passage you wanted. You flipped pages or marked them with a bookmark, and could easily and quickly get to the relevant part, whether it was near the beginning, in the middle or at the end of the text. Easier to store on shelves as well, and probably sturdier (though I don’t really have any experience to compare). So, until some digital material proves that much superior to print, I don’t think we will see digital replace all print.
So, I have this colleague who keeps asking me when will I get rid of all the books in my library. I frankly don’t know if he thinks I am stupid, incompetent or a raging territorial bitch. I have thought of asking about that, but in the interests of harmony, haven’t, yet. I think I’ll point him to this blog next time he asks.

And next time I get some spare time, I will write some more about where I think we are going and what we’ll do when we get there.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Great resource for financial how-to

Click on the title to this post to read an in-depth article at Black Enterprise Magazine about preparing to buy a house. They offer excellent advice and links to helpful resources. This magazine and website has lots of articles on all kinds of financial advice and how-to. Try searching the site for info on paying for college, for example, or repairing credit. I ran across the magazine while waiting in a hospital waiting room. Their home page is http://www.blackenterprise.com/default.asp

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Open Document Format (ODF) news

Click on the title above to read an article from Computerworld about various nations adopting ODF or using plug-ins to save Microsoft documents in Open Document Format that can be read and manipulated in non-Microsoft software packages.

... South Africa becomes the first country in Africa to adopt ODF as a government standard for exchanging documents between government agencies and the general public,.... In Korea, the government's Agency for Technology and Standards approvedODF as a national standard several months ago. Marcich admitted that the Korean decision does not force agencies to use the ODF document format, but he said it "should carry weight" with officials deciding what format or formats to support. ... 13 nations have announced laws or rules that favor the useODF -- the native file format in the free, open-source OpenOffice productivity software -- over Microsoft's Office formats, such as Office Open XML.

Those nations include Russia, Malaysia, Japan, France, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Germany and Norway.

There has been no similar move in the US, though in a speech at Google last week Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama called for data to be stored in "universally accessible formats." ... France is making the strongest move to ODF and its native office suite, OpenOffice. Nearly half a million government employees are being switched to OpenOffice.

But few other governments are matching France's zeal for dumping Microsoft Office. In Belgium, for instance, the government is using plug-ins to enable Microsoft Office to read and save files in ODF ,....
This last is the same solution we are following in Massachusetts. In the meantime, Microsoft is waiting for a February decision by the ISO whether to certify Microsoft's version, Open XML as a standard equivalent to ODF. Such a decision might slow governments and companies from moving to ODF to ensure that they are not tied to Microsoft in all purchasing. Open Document format allows users to retrieve and work on documents regardless of the software used to create them. As Microsoft has more and more market share, governments and policy makers have shied away from being forced into allegiance to MS Word and other Microsoft products. The ISO (International Standards Organization) approvedODF as a standard in May, 2006. In May, 2005, the OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) approved ODF as a standard. And the European Union's IDA (Interchange of Data between Administrations) Management Committee encouraged the OASIS to pass Open Document Format to the ISO for approval.

Affiliated groups of interest are the Open Document Format Alliance, Open Document |XML Online Community. Readers also might want to see the ISO standard.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Parallel citations: Going, going, gone?

Interesting entry on the Volokh blog questioning the value of parallel citations in an electronic world. A number of the comments are especially provocative.
It certainly seems that such traditional Bluebook conventions are a thing of the past. I hope every court soon modifies its rules to do away with this practice.

http://volokh.com/posts/1195082641.shtml

Academic Law Librarians Organization

The invitation sent to the library directors' listserv from the Texas academic law library directors (posted to this blog last week) is less an indictment of AALL than a recognition that we have no group to speak on behalf of academic law librarians at a time when our future is in doubt and our relevance is being questioned. AALL membership, by definition and (more recently) by choice, includes representatives from all types of legal collections and others who are merely interested in law libraries. Consequently, that organization is in no position to address the many issues that face academic law librarians. Their financial relationship with legal vendors is merely one example of the various factors that make AALL a less-than-ideal group to speak on behalf of academics.
At the same time, the AALS group formed by legal research and writing instructors has demonstrated how effective that type of an organization can be in representing the interests of its constituents and lobbying on their behalf. Even more recently, the law school deans have formed an effective, informal group to push their agenda, including questioning the long-term future of tenure.
A similar group that represents our concerns could address such issues as law librarian status in the academy (not limited to directors), the need for new comparative data in an electronic environment, and library vendor consolidation and pricing. These are all issues on which we need to speak out forcefully and effectively, if we are really serious about defending academic law librarianship from recent attacks.
If we are successful in forming such a group, this will be a positive step for our profession, and one that is essential if we are to remain a relevant force in legal education. I hope that our colleagues agree and join the Texas law library directors in this exciting proposal!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Proust and the Squid - Maryanne Wolf

Well I finally finished reading Proust and the Squid, by Maryanne Wolf. Dr. Wolf is a professor of child development at Tufts University and the director of the Center for Reading and Language Research. The book is about the magic (and in the case of dyslexia, tragic) process of learning to read, and what this tells us about the changes happening as the so called digital natives develop new skills for a new medium.

Dr. Wolf spends a lot of time describing what happens in the brain as we learn to read. She notes that while our brains are genetically programmed to learn language, it is not hard-wired for reading of any kind. She traces the long history of the development of writing (and thus, reading). It took about 2,000 years to develop from little scratch marks for accounting into complete writing systems. In the course of that time, our ancestors slowly reassigned portions of their brains to be dedicated for reading purposes. And all of that development is repeated each time a child learns to read and write, learning the basics of that 2,000 year achievement in about 2,000 days.

Using MRIs to create images of the brain’s activity reading researchers have pinpointed the portions of the brain used when a beginner learns to recognize letters, then to know the associated sounds, to string them together and finally to become a fluent and an expert reader. Interestingly, the parts of the brain used can vary depending on whether the language is an alphabet-based, phonetic writing system like English, Spanish or Hebrew, or a character-based writing system like Chinese or Japanese kanji. This leads to a situation where a bilingual man, fluent in both Chinese and English, could suffer a stroke, and lose the ability to read Chinese, but still be able to read in English!

Dr. Wolf talks about the issues of dyslexia, and notes that different problems or combinations of problems arise in different language speakers’ reading difficulties. She writes with a real sympathy and compassion of the very real trauma that occurs when a child does not learn to read on schedule. She has very important things to say about how to tailor teaching and societal expectations to catch dyslexic students before they learn to believe that they are stupid. If you are looking for a retirement project or have a loved one with reading problems, I highly recommend reading her chapters on dyslexia. For instance, the vocabulary of a child consistently read to from toddler age on, is vastly larger and more sophisticated than that of a five-year old who has not been read to. The read-to child is much more reading-ready than the other, and that head start shows at every step of learning to read, marking those children not read to for very nearly certain disaster.

But the reason I picked up the book is her discussion of how our understanding of what happens in a reading brain should inform our considerations of how to teach digital natives to make the most of new technology while not losing the benefits of thousands of years of reading.

Socrates' objections to writing


Dr. Wolf goes back to look at Socrates’ objections to writing. He worried that reliance on writing would erode memory (it has!), but also, and maybe more importantly, that reading would mislead students to think that they had knowledge, when they only had data. In the dialog titled Phaedrus, Socrates tells the story of the ancient Egyptian god Theuth, inventor of letters, and what the god and king Ammon (Thamus in Greek) said to Theuth about his invention:

...this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.
...

...writing is unfortunately like painting; for the creations of the painter have the attitude of life, and yet if you ask them a question they preserve a solemn silence. And the same may be said of speeches. You would imagine that they had intelligence, but if you want to know anything and put a question to one of them the speakers always gives one unvarying answer. And when they have been once written down they are tumbled about anywhere among those who may or may not understand them, and know not to whom they should reply, to whom not: and if they are maltreated or abused they have no parent to protect them; and they cannot protect or defend themselves.



Socrates leads his friend Phaedrus to see the “...living word of knowledge which has a soul and of which the written word is properly no more than an image...” Socrates asks, if a farmer would not sow his good seeds in the summer heat and expect to reap in eight days, but knows he must sow in proper time and good soil, and wait eight months to reap, then would not a teacher of truth know as much about proper planting and care of the words he teaches by?

Then he will not seriously incline to”write” his thoughts “in water” with pen and ink, sowing words which can neither speak for themselves not teach the truth adequately to others? ... No, that is not likely–in the garden of letters he will sow and plant, but only for the sake of recreation and amusement; he will write them down as memorials to be treasured against the forgetfulness of old age, by himself, aor by any other old man who is treading the same path.


Dialogues of Plato, Phaedrus, pp. 275-277 (trans. Benjamin Jowett, Oxford University Press).

Pulling Wolf and Socrates together

Maryanne Wolf, in Proust and the Squid, acknowledges Socrates’ concerns about how writing may lead a reader to think they understand something complex when they have missed the “living word of know knowledge which has a soul and of which the written word is properly no more than an image...” She feels, though, that the development of reading beyond the difficult stage where one moves the lips, into true fluency and expert reading, gives the reader a special gift of “hidden time” in which to reflect on what they read, to query the author, and decide for themselves the truth of assertions. She shows how the study of actual brain function discovered a difference in the part of the brain used for reading in early steps from the parts of brain functioning in an expert reader. The links between synapses have become automatic, and the linkages between the “repurposed” parts of the brain used for reading become much different as the reader moves beyond sounding out the words read. With drawings and data, the book shows how expert readers have faster links and use less of the brain’s real estate. The expert reader thus has microseconds more in which to dialog with the text, question it, and decide for herself how characters feel, and
whether they agree with an author.

When all is said and done, of course, Socrates’ worries were not so much about literacy as about what might happen to knowledge if the young had unguided, uncritical access to information. For Socrates, the search for real knowledge did not revolve around information. Rather, it was about finding the essence and purpose of life. Such a search required a lifelong commitment to developing the deepest critical and analytical skills, and to internalizing personal knowledge through the prodigious use of memory, and long effort. Only these conditions assured Socrates that a student was capable of moving from exploring knowledge in dialogue with a teacher to a path of principles that lead to action, virtue and ultimately to a “friendship with his god.” ...

Socrates’ concerns might have been partly addressed through a more nuanced understanding of how inextricably related knowledge and literacy are, and how important they are to the development of the young. Ironically, today’s hypertext and online text provide a dimension of virtual dialogue to reading in computer-based presentations. ... Such reading requires new cognitive skills that neither Socrates nor modern educators totally understand. We are only at the beginning of analyzing the cognitive implications of using, for instance, the browser “back” button, URL syntax, “cookies,” and “pedagogical tabs” for enhancing comprehension and memory.

... From the Garden of Eden to the universal access provided by the internet, questions of who should know what, when, and how remain unresolved. At a time when over a billion people have access to the most extensive expansion of information ever compiled, we need to turn our analytical skills to questions about a society’s responsibility for the transmission of knowledge. Ultimately, the questions Socrates raised for Athenian youth apply equally to our own. Will unguided information lead to an illusion of knowledge, and thus curtail the more difficult, time-consuming, critical thought processes that lead to knowledge itself? Will the split-second immediacy of information gained from a search engine and sheer volume of what is available derail the slower, more deliberative processes that deepen our understanding of complex concepts, of another’s inner thought processes, and of our own consciousness?

... This book’s questions are not quixotic efforts to prevent the spread of technology– whose indisputable worth transforms all our lives. ... the technological analogue both of Socrates’ concerns and of the issues discussed below about what the reading brain contributes to the intellectual formation of the species and the child. The question that emerges, therefore, is this: what would be lost to us if we replaced the skills honed by the reading brain with those now being formed in our new generation of “digital natives,” who sit and read transfixed before a screen? The evolution of writing provided the cognitive platform for the emergence of tremendously important skills that make up the first chapters of our intellectual history: documentation, codification, classification, organization,interiorization of language, consciousness of self and others, and consciousness of consciousness itself. It is not that reading directly caused all these skills to flourish, but the secret gift of time to think that lies at the core of the reading brain’s design was an unprecedented impetus for their growth. Examining the development of these skills through the “natural history of reading” shows in slow motion how far our species has come in the 6,000 years since literacy emerged, as well as what it stands to lose.


Wolf, Proust and the Squid pp. 220 - 221

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

New Developments about Vendor Relations

Posted on behalf of Gail Daly, from her e-mail to the LawLibDir listserve:

Discussions on this listserv over the past few weeks have revealed a significant degree of concern and frustration over the absence of any organized group -- along the lines of the vocal and visible Legal Writing and Clinical faculty groups within AALS -- to represent our viewpoints and lobby for our interests. The nine Texas academic law library directors met on Thursday, November 15th, 2007, and after serious debate and discussion unanimously agreed that the creation of such a group is critical to the future of our profession. Consequently, we have established the Texas Chapter of the American Academic Law Librarians Society (AALLS) to offer a forum for the discussion of common interests and to address our concerns within the academy. We invite all interested colleagues to join us in founding this association and to attend our formative meeting at the Fordham Law School's Leo T. Kissam Memorial Library during the AALS Annual Meeting in January (date, time, and room to be announced shortly).

There are a number of precedents for this type of association and some models for its organization, some more formal than others. The Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) is an example of one model. SALT is, as you know, an independent organization that takes positions (often controversial) on behalf of its members. A more informal model would be the group of "runaway" law school deans that issued certain position papers with respect to tenure of clinical faculty and librarians. Our objective is to create an organization that has some clout and recognition, and we welcome your input. Affiliation with AALS would obviously bring certain advantages; whether or not it is in our group's best interests to do so may depend upon the rules and restrictions that AALS imposes. We are currently investigating AALS by-laws and other policies to determine our options.

We hope that all of you will join us in this exciting opportunity to create a vibrant and effective organization to speak to the challenges that face academic law libraries, and we look forward to seeing you in New York.



David G. Cowan, South Texas College of Law The Fred Parks Law Library
Gail M. Daly, Southern Methodist University Underwood Law Library
Robert H. Hu, St. Mary's University Sarita Kenedy East Law Library
Roy M. Mersky, University of Texas Jamail Center for Legal Research
Susan T. Phillips, Texas Wesleyan University Dee J. Kelly Law Library
Brandon D. Quarles, Baylor Law Library
Spencer L. Simons, University of Houston O'Quinn Law Library
DeCarlous Spearman, Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law Library
Arturo Torres, Texas Tech University School of Law Library

Besides this new organization that may be formed at AALS in January, members of AALL received today a post from Ann Fessenden, AALL president about the results of the recent Board meeting. I very much appreciate her and the board's response to recent questions and comments, and reproduce a portion of her e-mailed announcement here (I presume that most OOTJ readers are also AALL members, and thus have seen or will see Ann's comments in full. The response of AALL board to members' questions is very open and makes me feel much better about the organization. What started this whole conversation was actually comments about AALL apparently censoring member notes to CRIV and presentations. Ann's response (snippets below) are very heartening.

will still be attending the meeting at AALS, though. Partly, because I think that AALL may, in fact, be too broad in its representation, and that the academics have some issues that might be best raised in a smaller forum. I will try to keep OOTJ readers informed as things develop. I am very proud of Gail for taking what seems to be a historic step with the other directors from Texas. Good for you all! Here is a snippet of Ann Fessenden's e-mail to AALL members:
At our meeting this month, the members of your Executive Board held a wide-ranging discussion about vendor relations. We agreed on the importance of communicating more directly with you about issues relating to vendors and also decided that a small group of board members would be tasked with developing some concrete new approaches within a short time period. This letter is the first step in our new communications effort. We have also developed a new Vendor Relations page on AALLNET, where vendor relations news and resources will be posted.

It is true that AALL receives many financial contributions from our vendors, not just sponsorship of some Annual Meeting events, but also support for professional development opportunities such as scholarships, grants, continuing education programs, and publications. Many vendors’ library relations staff members are active, involved members of AALL, who serve on and chair committees, present programs, and otherwise contribute their professional abilities to the AALL community. AALL leaders and staff value these contributions, but we do NOT make decisions on the basis of concern for loss of revenue provided by vendors or out of fear of any other adverse reactions from them. (snip)

The dollar levels of vendor sponsorship are announced each year at the Annual Meeting and are also available on our AALLNET Sponsor Recognition page. Also, each year potential donors are sent a brochure that outlines sponsorship opportunities for the Annual Meeting and describes how AALL acknowledges the vendors’ contributions. The 2007 brochure is currently available on AALLNET, and a similar one is under development for the 2008 meeting in Portland. In addition, information about all of our income and expenses is provided each year in the "From the Treasurer" column in the May issue of AALL Spectrum, and in the treasurer’s report that is distributed at the Annual Business Meeting.

However, in order to make sure vendor sponsorship information is clear and readily available, we have developed a new table showing vendor contributions for the last year to both the Annual Meeting and to other Association programs, such as scholarships, grants, awards, and publications. This information is now available in the Funding from Vendors section of our AALLNET Vendor Relations page.

How AALL Currently Assists Members in Dealing with Vendors
Did you know that the Committee on Relations with Information Vendors (CRIV) can help you resolve disputes and learn negotiation skills? A wide range of tools are available on its Web site. Also, at this month’s meeting, the Executive Board approved new guidelines to strengthen and reinvigorate CRIV’s vendor site visits program. And if you’re not familiar with the AALL Guide to Fair Business Practices for Legal Publishers, or Principles for Licensing Electronic Resources, be sure to take a look. These are tools that we can all use in our dealings with vendors and encourage the vendors to use as well.

Next Steps
As I mentioned, a board working group is reviewing a wide range of issues relating to vendor relations and will recommend additional specific steps. Among the topics they will consider are possible changes in our Strategic Directions to address vendor relations, the gathering of information for the Price Index, possible strengthening of the Guide to Fair Business Practices, clarification of our sponsorship policies, the necessity of limiting programs or publications due to antitrust concerns, strategies to encourage and promote greater competition and enhanced customer service in the legal information industry, and ways to improve communications with vendors and with the membership. I have asked this group to report back to the board with concrete suggestions by the end of the year.

We Need Your Input
As these efforts move forward, we need to hear from you! If you would like to comment on AALL’s vendor relations policies, or have questions that are not answered by the FAQs, please send your comments to the full board, or feel free to directly contact me, Executive Director Kate Hagan, or any member of the Executive Board to express your views.

I thank you for your interest in and commitment to AALL, and I look forward to joining with you in dialogue and action to strengthen and support AALL and its members.

Sincerely,
[Ann Fessenden signature block]

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ever wonder who mans those 24/7 IT desks?

The Chronicle of Higher Education, in its November 9, 2007 issue reports on "Late -Night Stress on the IT Help Desk," with Dan Carnevale. In Somerset, Kentucky (in the eastern, rural part of the state)

Presidium Learning, Inc., a company in this rural Kentucky town that handles technology help desks for about 450 institutions. (snip)

Presidium's contracts with clients range from less than $15,000 per year to just over $1-million, depending on the size of the institution or university system and the services sold, such as what hours call takers will be available and what software the call takers will support.

In the Somerset call center, rows of cubicles are lined up in a large room, each with a computer and telephone headset.

At the beginning of the semester, when things are busiest, Presidium will receive between 3,500 and 4,000 calls per day, with the majority coming in between 7 a.m. and midnight. Things run more slowly at night during most months. Just a handful of people are on duty, down from just over 100 during the day. However, the students and instructors who call are generally relieved that anyone is there at all.

"There is this sort of awe when people call at four in the morning," says Russ Manes, the quality-assurance manager. "They think, wow, I got a live voice."

The company tries to keep the process as seamless as possible. Call takers will admit they are contractors if a student asks, but they are also trained to say "we" and "our server" when talking about the college's technology system. The help-desk phone is automatically forwarded to Kentucky, so callers usually do not even realize that they are talking to someone far from the campus. The company also handles help-desk requests by e-mail and instant messages.
As a former Kentuckian, I am happy that this business has been set up in a depressed part of the United States. It's the kind of thing that might otherwise be sent to India, perhaps. The article is interesting, with the kind of anecdotes librarians are used to -- hysteria over crashed computers, as well as lost souls seeking a sympathetic ear.

The article goes on to report how some smaller universities and colleges are using trained students to staff IT help desks that are open for fewer hours. There was a short while at my university when a centralized help desk was offered to "triage" questions that otherwise go to help centers in each school. That's been dropped as far as I know. There was a great deal of resistance in my school to being sent off to what was seen as an anonymous desk before being allowed to reach their known and trusted IT department. I imagine it makes a difference if the local IT assistance has a good relationship and reputation with their clientelle.

To me, this looks a lot like the issue faced by libraries when a central university library wants to centralize certain services, such as acquisitions and cataloging. If it's been working well, the library ought to be able to call on their customer base for support to resist out-sourcing services. Money folks often get a glazed, hypnotized look when somebody sells them an idea with the magic words, "cost savings through economies of scale." That sounds really good until you run up against the inevitable erosion of service quality. When it's centralized, it's nobody's service group, it's nobody's library. And it's nobody's special patron, either.

Monday, November 19, 2007

National Endowment for the Arts issues alarming report on reading

Click on the title to this post to go to the New York Times for an article about the release today of a new study from the NEA that shows that across all age groups and economic levels, reading for pleasure is dropping off dramatically. The article correlates this pleasure reading with general levels of skill in reading, and other skills such as in math and science.

Among the findings is that although reading scores among elementary school students have been improving, scores are flat among middle school students and slightly declining among high school seniors. These trends are concurrent with a falloff in daily pleasure reading among young people as they progress from elementary to high school, a drop that appears to continue once they enter college. The data also showed that students who read for fun nearly every day performed better on reading tests than those who reported reading never or hardly at all.

The study also examined results from reading tests administered to adults and found a similar trend: The percentage of adults who are proficient in reading prose has fallen at the same time that the proportion of people who read regularly for pleasure has declined.


In 2004, the NEA released a report,
Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America reports drops in all groups studied, with the steepest rate of decline - 28 percent - occurring in the youngest age groups.

The study also documents an overall decline of 10 percentage points in literary readers from 1982 to 2002, representing a loss of 20 million potential readers. The rate of decline is increasing and, according to the survey, has nearly tripled in the last decade. (snip)
(from the NEA press release accompanying the 2004 report) At the NEA web page you will be able to download a PDF of this older report. or you can purchase it. This report was based on a census question that asked about reading in several categories: fiction, poetry and drama. The report was cricized by some as being too narrow. The new report combines about two dozen other studies, including federal reports and private foundations' work. See the NEA page here that announces the new report and has some links and information about it. You can either download a PDF of the report or an executive summary of it, or buy them here, http://www.arts.gov/pub/pubLit.php.

These are our future students we are reading about, which certainly alarms me. Reading skills underlie a great deal that we take for granted with law students. Being able to keep up with the daily assignments for class, and being able to think about what they read are key to the way we teach law school. If our upcoming students can no longer be assumed to come with strong reading skills, we will certainly have to rethink the way we teach.

The Times article does note that already scholars are taking issue with the alarming new report:
Stephen Krashen, a professor emeritus of education at the University of Southern California, said that based on his analysis of other data, reading was not on the decline. He added that the endowment appeared to be exaggerating the decline in reading scores and said that according to federal education statistics, the bulk of decreases in 12th-grade reading scores had occurred in the early 1990s, and that compared with 1994 average reading scores in 2005 were only one point lower.

Timothy Shanahan, past president of the International Reading Association and a professor of urban education and reading at the University of Illinois at Chicago, suggested that the endowment’s report was not nuanced enough. “I don’t disagree with the N.E.A.’s notion that reading is important, but I’m not as quick to discount the reading that I think young people are really doing,” he said, referring to reading on the Internet. He added, “I don’t think the solutions are as simple as a report like this might be encouraging folks to think they might be.”

Anita Hill looks back at her testimony

Click on the link to this post to read an essay by Anita Hill that appeared in today's Boston Globe. She considers her testimony in the Senate confirmation hearing for Justice Clarence Thomas, and the many letters, notes and e-mail she has received as a result. She looks back and thinks about the effects her testimony have had on sexualharassment policies, and the attitudes of women and men about this issue. A thought-provoking, and as she says, bitter-sweet, essay.

Martin Luther King archives will be available digitally

Click on the title to this post for some great news, for a change. The link will take you to Boston University's press release about a grant they are receiving.

...the Martin Luther King, Jr., collection at Boston University’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center — more than 83,000 letters, manuscripts, speeches, and photographs belonging to the late civil rights leader ...

The Gotlieb Center has entered into a partnership with the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center Consortium and the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute at Stanford University to create a joint online catalogue of their respective King holdings. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is funding the effort, the first-ever comprehensive inventory of multiple archives for one public figure, and has given the Gotlieb Center more than $600,000 for the project.

The King collection dates from 1955 to 1961 and consists of letters, clippings, itineraries, and meeting minutes. There is extensive material on the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Montgomery Improvement Association and letters from prominent figures of the time, among them Bayard Rustin, Malcolm X, Adam Clayton Powell, Medgar Evers, Roy Wilkins, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, William Sloane Coffin, Allan Knight Chalmers, Sidney Poitier, Jackie Robinson, A. Philip Randolph, Harry Belafonte, Ralph Abernathy, and Coretta Scott King.

The archive also features material used in King’s doctoral dissertation, including his class notes and research material, and a piece titled “Autobiography of My Religious Development.” Draft manuscripts of King’s books Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story and Why We Can’t Wait, which includes his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail, are part of the collection as well.
In order to catalog the material, the center is closing to the public as of last November 1 for two years. But the digital archive will be keyword searchable, tagged with the same controlled vocabulary at all locations, making searching much easier for King scholars and the public alike.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

You gotta watch 'em every minute!

Visit the Boston Globe article about Mass. Governor Deval Patrick quietly inserting a provision in his bill to allow casinos in our Commonwealth, that will make internet gambling illegal. Sheesh. Way to force ‘em into the casinos, Gov!

Shazaam! Have you heard about N-CEL?

Click on the title to this post to go to the National Clean Elections Lawsuit website (N-CEL). A group of citizens from every state is suing election officials in each state in the federal district court for the Northern District of New York. The website includes a link to a PDF of the complaint, and a link to an article explaining the suit. They are basically suing to force every state to provide paper-based voting and publicly viewed vote counting in upcoming elections. Some states have already had bills introduced to do just that. But ... Take a look at the complaint and accompanying article. The effort appears to be coordinated by the We The People foundation (http://www.wethepeoplefoundation.org/) . These folks have been busy! It will be interesting to watch.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Take a break and get some perspective!


Click on the title to this post to visit the NASA.gov image gallery. Besides an image of the day, they offer an archive, and interesting links to other image galleries on related themes, and even other branches of NASA. They even offer a library of the favorite and most famous images, that's searchable in a number of ways. A pretty sophisticated search function at GRIN (Great Images In NASA) -- doncha love government acronyms!?

Or you can use your X-ray vision by stopping that the Chandra site, http://chandra.harvard.edu/. I finally chose a beautiful image from Chandra, combining x-ray and other images to clarify mysterious extra "arms" on the spiral galaxy NGC 4258 (M106), which seem to be sheets of gas being superheated by shockwaves as twin jets spray out from near the disk of the galaxy. There are two spiralling arms that can be seen in visible light, but these two extra arms appear in x-ray ranges.

When we look at this image, we are looking both far away and long ago, about 25 million light years away, the young stars in the visible arms must be very different. When the light and x-rays that made these images left the constellation Canes Venatici (the two dogs that hunt Ursa Major, the Great Bear), what was happening on our little planet? According to the Wikipedia Timeline of Evolution, blue-green algae had been making oxygen for about 300 million years, making the air toxic to the anerobic microbes that had been happily burbling about until then. The anerobes retreated deep beneath the ocean and into rocks beneath the ground where the poisonous oxygen could not reach them. The oxygen, poisonous to the majority of life on earth then, actually created an opportunity for new microbes to evolve that could use the large amounts of oxygen now available. Hooray! Eukaryotes began the long, slow evolution into all manner of animals, plants, fungi and protists.

When you take the long view, almost any catastrophe starts to look a little better.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Blog Readability

cash advance

So is Slaw. Shakesville, though? Junior high. Meh.

More on Pakistani Lawyers & Judges in Revolt

The Boston Globe article which supplied the image of protesting lawyers (in Islamabad, not Karachi -- sorry 'bout that!), also carries a good deal of worthwhile commentary and background. Here is a snip, read the full article by clicking on the title to this post.

Political scientist Rasul Bakhsh Rais said the judiciary and lawyers, two main pillars of Pakistan's fragile civil society and historically at the forefront of political movements, sense that a line has been crossed that could end any hope for constitutional rule in the future.

"They feel if Musharraf has his own way and is able to restructure the system according to his whims, that is the end of Pakistan as a progressive and moderate country and the state will never be able to rehabilitate itself," said Rais, a professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

Police have squashed the lawyers' protests, often brutally, and the legal system has been brought to a virtual standstill. Only 50 of Pakistan's 95 senior judges have agreed to take the oath under Musharraf's "provisional" constitution.

In the capital, criminal and civil courts were empty Thursday. Hundreds of lawyers have refused to appear before judges who have been sworn in since the emergency. Advocates' chambers remain empty, letter writers idle at their desks and court clerks just chat and drink tea.
The author, Matthew Pennington, writing for the AP, goes on to note that Pakistan's judiciary and lawyers actually have often bowed before military juntas before, and actually have something of a reputation for dysfunctionality. So this is actually a watershed moment, apparently spearheaded by Justice Chaudhry:
Chaudhry's resolve in standing up to the military-led establishment has marked a sea change in public notions of how the judiciary could act as a check on the executive and defend citizens' rights.
more stories like this

"The past year has seen a revolution in Pakistan as the judiciary fought successfully for its independence and held the government to account," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

In one notable example, Chaudhry started pushing the government to disclose the whereabouts of 485 Pakistanis secretly detained by intelligence agencies on suspicion of involvement in terrorism or ethnic nationalist movements and held for months or years without charge.

So far, some 105 have been released -- often mysteriously dropped on highways or suddenly reappearing in police custody two or three years after disappearing. Musharraf accuses the court of freeing more than 60 terrorists.

"The chief justice was our hope and still is our hope," said Amina Masood Janjua, 42, who is still trying to trace her husband, businessman Masood Janjua, 47, who disappeared in December 2005. She believes he is in the custody of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence but has no idea what for.

"The chief justice was the one working for the public and the poor, and who for the first time in Pakistan was summoning people from the agencies to appear in court," she said.
The political parties in Pakistan, including opposition leaders such as Benazir Bhutto apparently have reputations for mismanagement and corruption, with little wide-spread trust. This makes this recent work from the judiciary and lawyers more momentous, even. I wish our government would speak more strongly in support of these courageous lawyers and judges. They are working for some of the key values that underlie democracy and transparent government! (of course, these are some of the values that our current administration seems most likely to flout themselves, so perhaps I should not hold out much hope)

National Lawyers Guild Demonstrates in Solidarity with Pakistani Lawyers


Click on the title to this post to read a brief story in the Boston Business Journal about a demonstration earlier this week in Boston, In part it reads:

In a protest against the firing of the Chief Justice of Pakistan and the beating and jailing of lawyers opposed to martial law in Pakistan, the Boston Bar Association, the Massachusetts Bar Association and other bars groups rallied on the steps of the Massachusetts State House Tuesday.

The rally was organized by the National Lawyers Guild.

"The purpose of a constitution is to establish citizens' basic rights and liberties, and by suspending his nation's constitution President Musharraf has usurped the rule of law," said MBA President David W. White Jr., in a statement.

Boston Bar Association president Tony Doniger also urged BBA members to attend a national rally at noon on Wednesday at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., which is being organized by the American Bar Association.
The gorgeous thing about the Boston rally was that it included "legal workers," not just lawyers. I saw a photo of the rally in the Globe, but cannot seem to locate a copy of the image online. What I added here is an image from the Boston Globe, Nov. 8, of Pakistani lawyers protesting in Karachi. Note that some of the protesters are women -- lawyers?

There were also two rallies in New York: one through the bar associations and law school deans, and another through the National Lawyers Guild in front of the Pakistani Consulate. The larger, more mainstream rally:
About 700 lawyers rallied Tuesday afternoon in front of New York Supreme Court in Manhattan to show support for lawyers and judges in Pakistan battling for the restoration of the rule of law.

Addressing the throng that poured down the courthouse steps and spilled onto the sidewalk, Barry Kamins, president of the New York City Bar Association, said the rally was called "to embolden" the Pakistani lawyers and judges who have been "physically manning barricades and trying to face down an entire army."

Kathryn Madigan, president of the New York State Bar Association, also called for lawyers to speak "with one voice in defense of the rule of law" in Pakistan. And Catherine Christian, president of the New York County Lawyers' Association, said Pakistani lawyers "are showing the world what it means to be a lawyer -- fighting for liberty and an independent legal system." (snip)

The crisis was precipitated on Nov. 3, when Musharraf suspended the constitution and replaced seven of the 11 justices on Pakistan's Supreme Court, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who refused to promise to abide by a "provisional constitution."

In declaring "emergency rule" shortly before the Pakistani Supreme Court was expected to rule on the legality of his re-election, Musharraf also banned protests and closed down independent TV stations.

According to press reports, thousands of lawyers protesting the imposition of emergency rule have been arrested and hundreds beaten.

In addition to being sponsored by the city and state bars and the county lawyers, Tuesday's rally was backed by the New York Women's Bar Association, the Muslim Bar Association of New York, the New York Council of Defense Lawyers and the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

The deans of three area law schools -- CUNY's Michelle J. Anderson, Mary Daly of St. John's and Fordham's William Treanor -- attended the rally as did Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes.
Read here for the full text on law.com

The ABA-sponsored rally in Washington, DC, is mentioned in the ABA Journal here. In typical OOTJ fashion, this seems to have all happened before I put it in the blog. Apparently, lawyers in Texas were urged to wear black suits in a show of support for the Pakistani attorneys (well, how would you know it was a different day?!?). And there seems to have been another rally in Akron, Ohio.

I have been cheering for the courageous lawyers in Pakistan, who are struggling to maintain the principle of a rule of law that applies equally to all.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Great New Issue of AALL Spectrum!

I looked in the November, 2007 issue of AALL Spectrum and was just blown away by the number of excellent, interesting and relevant articles. Congratulations to Mark Estes, new Editor, and to the various authors who created a very exciting issue. Special shout out to these folks who have been involved one way or another with OOTJ:

Jacqueline Cantwell (co-blogger, and author of a great article on the various technologies that librarians need to understand when working with victims of stalking or domestic violnce)

Meg Kribble (visitor & commentor and now author of a wonderful article on Second Life, mentioning OOTJ co-blogger Jim Milles and visiting blogger Connie Crosby)

Don't overlook the other wonderful articles including a fascinating one by Joyce Manna Janto on solving an old mystery and understanding how law students treat legal research. And the always important CRIV Sheet! Awesome issue, guys!

Improving Web Browsing for Legal Research

Alert law librarians may have noticed that Westlaw has introduced a beta version of a proprietary web browser, WebPlus. You can see (and hear) a free demo and tutorial without logging onto Westlaw here. Released to public use in mid-July, the product is free to users right now. I understand that Westlaw is trying to work out a model where they can integrate the results of a WebPlus search with a standard Westlaw search, similar to how they produce Results Plus materials in a side-bar now. In the alternative, they want to include Results Plus materials in a side-bar to a WebPlus search. Their problem right now is to work out how to charge for searches on the Westlaw databases and not charge for web browsing results, while still integrating the two search results. If they can figure this out, I think WebPlus will be a useful adjunct to Westlaw searches.

WebPlus seems to be designed to neutralize "search engine optimizers" (SEOs; see this article on Wikipedia, with links). Many librarians are aware of the arms' race between web designers and search engines. The reason Google keeps much of its ranking algorithm secret, for instance, is to reduce the gaming web designers can do to promote clients' webpages in the Google ranking. But then, they sort of undercut those efforts by offering "sponsored links" to Google searches. If you search the term "search engine optimizer," you will find loads of designers and consultants to claim to improve your web pages' ranking, and therefore bring more eyeballs to your site. WebPlus is trying to reduce the ranking of purely commercial websites that have no useful content, partly by ignoring the "sponsored links" results. Likewise, law firm web pages that are just offering services are ranked lower by WebPlus, promoting the pages that carry real information.

WebPlus is not so much a search engine as a ranking system, designed to make results more focused and relevant for legal-oriented searchers. The ranking system is the key improvement. I understand that they are searching as widely on the Web as Google, say, but the results returned to the user promote the results of the web pages most likely to be of interest to legal users. Westlaw editors, each assigned a subject area are now tagging web pages and blogs with KeySearch keywords. They are selecting websites that are key and information-rich in their subject specialty. So, there is a major aspect of this new service that is organizing and indexing the Web. They are also crawling the web with Microsoft Live, and then ranking the results in real time.

The WebPlus system is also a learning machine which follows which results a user selects in order to improve its future searches' relevancy. It is set to weed out (rank lower) purely commercial websites, and to focus on information-rich sites instead. A good way to test WebPlus results is to compare the first page of results with the first page of Google results. For instance, you can try out a search one day and try it again a few days later, and see different results -- partly from the selections of other WebPlus users. Relying on a cadre of like-minded users over time, their choices should be improving the relevancy of the ranking system. Try a search of "aliens" or "RICO" on both WebPlus and Google, for instance, and see if you get fewer spaceship sightings or other false drops in WebPlus.

WebPlus allows a user to set "context settings" to focus on legal (the default setting), people, companies, government, news or the general Web. Westlaw told me that they were trying to respond to high use of the Web by associates, often using very short, unsophisticated queries that retrieved bazoodles of results with very low precision. They also hope that this additional link to the Web will help fill the "law and X" gap that is looming since the Dialog databases left Westlaw. Eventually, I think, Thomson plans to introduce a version of WebPlus for science, business and health as well.

Of course, there are also excellent guides on improving Google searches such as this excellent article by Tracy Rich at National Law Journal's law.com

How risk-averse lawyers stifle innovation

Kevin O'Keefe at Real Lawyers Have Blogs asks, "Do lawyers try to kill good uses of technology?" The unsurprising answer: yes.

Snead uses IM as an example of where unfounded fear causes lawyers to advise clients to significantly rein in technology.

...[T]hat IM may lead to accidental disclosure of confidential information. I’ve heard many attorneys spout this rationale for advising their clients to wall off IM. But how true is it? I’ve used IM for over 7 years to communicate with my clients, often with several different conversations going at once, and maybe one or two with friends chirping away as well. Not once have I told client X what client Y was doing, or one of my friends that the other hated his guts.

Why the lawyer fear of technology? Per Snead:

First, we’re trained (and like it or not, paid) to spot all the possible problems that issues may present our clients. In the case of new technology, that may result in one of two outcomes: the number of problem issues spotted by the attorney becomes so overwhelming, that the client simply abandons the technology fearing that any potential upside will be overtaken by liability issues; second, the lawyer fails to identify ways that the client may mitigate any liability, or work around it. This second reason seems to stall or kill many projects.
The money quote:

Any idiot can spot issues and advise stopping. It's the good lawyers who craft solutions that allow innovation to move forward. Imagine in-house counsel at Google running around saying 'we can't do this, we can't do that' trying to put a stop to innovation. They'd be thrown out on their ass.

Each day lawyers tell me they want to get started with blogs in their firm, but that those in control (executive committees, administrative partners, chief marketing officers) believe the legal liabilities and ethical issues are too great. Rather than craft a law firm blog policy (an hours worth of work to follow what other firms have done), unfounded fear stops everyone in their tracks.

Like cell phones, which we lawyers were told not to use because of confidential info being tapped into, blogs will be used by the vast majority of lawyers in a few years. Just disappointing today to see talented lawyers try to kill the use of blogs rather than crafting solutions allowing effective technology to move forward.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Jim's program "Myth of the Upcoming Recruitment Crisis"

It's worth listening to Jim Milles' podcast on the myth of the upcoming recruitment crisis. But I would like to make a point that it makes a big difference whether or not you are trying to place librarians who are living in a depressed location or rural/small town setting and cannot relocate. If librarians are able and willing to relocate, I think there is no problem placing them, and in fact, there is an employees' market. The biggest problem comes when, for family or other reasons, library school graduates are not willing or able to relocate.

That said, I am quite aware there is a big disconnect between what library schools are teaching and what libraries expect to find in a new graduate. So many job postings require some library experience. This poses a real problem for library school graduates. I very highly recommend trying to get some kind of library employment before or during library school. Something beyond a volunteer position, if possible. The fact is that there is a lot of behind the scenes stuff in library work that is not explicitly taught in library school. When you get your first library job, you end up learning a lot of sometimes inchoate, but important things. Like details of inserting tickler reminders about serials, tracking serials, and claiming them. Or the importance of verifying what is received is what was ordered. Or little etiquettes of ILL work, or calling other librarians for other assistance.

I would be interested in hearing from recent library school graduates about your experiences with placement. Are you seeing what I see when I go toAALL's placement room? I see lots of job openings and not so many applicants. But I also see how hard it is to relocate somebody to an expensive city like Boston, NYC or Washington, DC where there are lots of jobs. We don't pay enough for somebody out of town to move here unless they have family here to help or have a significant other who has a job here, too. What do new Library/Information School grads across the country see?

Waiting for word

The law library community is waiting with 'bated breath to hear what is (has) happening/ed at the AALL board meeting. We hope to hear some decision to share with members the rationales of the counsel who recommended censoring member presentations and articles in the name of avoiding any taint of antitrust activity. We also hope to hear about seeking a second opinion on that recommendation. When AALL actually prevents members from protecting the interests of consumers of legal information, where can we turn?

The experience of reading

There is a paragraph in Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand about how reading changes the experience of the world. I don’t have the book anymore, chucked during one of my moves, so I can’t quote the paragraph, even though I can see the type against the rough-textured paper of a cheap sci-fi paperback, but I do remember that the main character enters a city and his experience of seeing it is made more “resonant” because he had read descriptions of the city’s skyline.

I remembered that paragraph while reading a description of Saipan, in Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy. John Bowe, the author, writes about the self-pitying, delusional citizens of Saipan and I thought: Almayer’s Folly! Joseph Conrad! --the same mentality of self-deceptive losers feeling superior because colonialism gives them a little bit of power. I don’t know if John Bowe has read Joseph Conrad, but I do know that my appreciation for Conrad’s understanding of power enlarged Bowe’s straight reportage of an island and its social structure created by capitalism.

Of course, our library catalogs cannot support those kind of linkages, but the incident pointed out to me the importance of our library work. Lorcan Dempsey’s blog has musings on this topic and others. I recommend following his entries at http://orweblog.oclc.org/

Monday, November 12, 2007

Something New on Westlaw

Has everyone looked at this month's West Librarian Relations Update? This is the lead story:

"Key Numbers…Now Easily Accessible on Westlaw!

Do you love searching for cases using West Key Numbers? Well, starting on November 10 life is about to get easier for you--introducing the new Key Numbers link on Westlaw!

Using the new link, you can search for Key Numbers with your terms in your selected jurisdictions (up to three at one time, or a combined multibase). Westlaw will return the top five most relevant Key Numbers, sorted by jurisdiction for easy browsing. Click on the Key Number of your choice, and you retrieve a Custom Digest result. Best of all, there is no charge for searching the Key Numbers!"

The new link is on the top of the Westlaw screen. I was really happy to see this. For years, I have thought it made no sense that one couldn't search in all the topics at once. This feature will make it harder to justify subscribing to the print digests.

Ending Homelessness among Veterans

The National Alliance to End Homelessness reports that veterans make up between 23-40% of the homeless population, but only 11% of the population in general. Click on the title to this post to reach the Alliance's home page. They have a section titled veterans that is here. While the largest part of these vets are from Vietnam conflict, there is a trend where Iraq/Afghanistan vets are starting to show up in shelters.

Homeless veterans can be found in every state across the country and live in rural, suburban, and urban communities. In 2006, approximately 195,827 veterans were homeless on a given night—an increase of 0.8 percent from 194,254 in 2005. More veterans experience homeless over the course of the year. We estimate that 336,627 were homeless in 2006.
They have several detailed reports.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veteran's Day, 2007


Click on the title to this post to connect to a suite of articles from the Boston Globe about veterans and their struggles upon return. It is worth distinguishing between opposition to national policies and wars and support for our fellow citizens who are in the military. I opposed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and am appalled at hints that the current administration might invade Iran. But I feel deeply that the members of the armed forces are acting honorably, and should be honored and supported both in active duty and after returning. Check out this War poetry site, http://www.angelfire.com/wa/warpoetry/index.html.

The image of a candle in the window is a mixed message. Traditionally, a candle in the window is to wait for a missing loved one, and guide them home. This candle is also a candle for peace, from a website that seems to have been set up around the time the US invaded Iraq, and not updated (www.candle-for-peace.org). They invite the visitor to use the image as a banner on their website as a protest against a senseless war. I like both meanings of the image. Come home, brothers and sisters, and fight for peace. See an article from boston.com about anti-war veterans arrested for disrupting an American Legion Veterans' Day event.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Friday Fun: Watch for Comet Holmes this weekend!


Click on the title to this post to read an entry from Sky and Telescope online about locating (and viewing) this weekend, the newly bright Comet Holmes that is especially well-viewed this weekend. In October, this comet which had been dark and nearly forgotten suddenly erupted gas and particles that caught the sunlight, becoming bright enough to see with the unaided eye.

Amateur astronomers the world over have been stunned and amazed by the weirdest new object to appear in the sky in memory. And it's one of the brightest, too — it's easy to spot with your eyes alone if you know where to look.

Observers worldwide had no trouble spotting Comet Holmes through the full moonlight on the evening of October 25, 2007. On October 24th, periodic Comet Holmes (17P) brightened dramatically — by nearly a million times — virtually overnight. For no apparent reason, the comet erupted from a very dim magnitude 17 to about magnitude 2½. Within a day its starlike nucleus had expanded into a perfectly round, bright little disk visible in binoculars and telescopes. It looked like no comet ever seen.

Its startling outburst, however, has a precedent. The comet was also in a major eruption 115 years ago, in November 1892, when English amateur Edwin Holmes was the first to spot it. It reached 4th or 5th magnitude, faded in the following weeks, and then underwent a second eruption 2½ months after the first.
Click here for the full story from Sky & Telescope which is being kept updated. They have nice images but the links they provide don't go anywhere. You can see some copyrighted images here from a number of observatories and amateur skywatchers, along with a detailed history of its appearances. The comet does not look like I expected, since you really can't see much of a tail. The text comments that you can see faint blue gas streamers in some images, creating a tail, but to me, it looks like an extraordinary star. The Los Angeles Times explains
Scientists speculate the comet has exploded because there are sinkholes in its nucleus, giving it a honeycomb-like structure. The collapse exposed comet ice to the sun, which transformed the ice into gas.

"What comets do when they are near the sun is very unpredictable," Lewis said. "We expect to see a coma cloud and a tail, but this is more like an explosion, and we are seeing the bubble of gas and dust as it expands away from the center of the blast."
Cool.

Image is Comet Holmes shot from Coyote Canyon in Anza Borrego Desert State Park by Don Barletti for the Los Angeles Times article here.

More on banning laptops in classrooms

Click on the title to this post to read a short article in the ABA Journal online about the banning of laptops in various classrooms. There is a nice quote from Dick Danner at Duke, noting that enough profs there have banned laptops that the school that they have dropped the laptop requirement. And, I am proud that my Suffolk colleague, Kate Nace Day, is featured discussing

...the problems laptops pose in the classroom, particularly for women, so she decided to take a stand. Day says students complained they were dis­tracted and in some cases upset when other stu­dents viewed obscene videos or sent harassing text messages.

The tiered seating arrangement of most law school lecture rooms allows students to easily see what others are doing. “Laptops are pedagogical nuisances,” she says.
It doesn't take long for some folks to turn a new technology into a new way to harrass others, I guess.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Tufts to Offer LL.M.

See the article below from New York Lawyer. This is an interesting development, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Non-Law School to Offer LL.M.
New York Lawyer
November 7, 2007

By Sheri Qualters
The National Law Journal
Tufts University's graduate school of international affairs, the Fletcher School, is planning a new Master of Laws in International Law program for next fall.
Tufts said its Fletcher School will be the only U.S. non-law school to offer an LL.M., or Master of Laws, program. The eight-course program offers students the chance to choose one of three optional tracks: public international law; international business law; and international economic law.
The program illustrates the Fletcher School's commitment to addressing the crucial role of law in international affairs," said Fletcher School dean Stephen Bosworth.
"Since its inception, the Fletcher School has taught its students to examine the broader geopolitical forces that shape international law, and the LL.M. program will now provide legal professionals with the skills to practice law with an international mindset," Bosworth said.

AALL and Vendor Relations

Ann Fessenden, the current President of AALL states that at the upcoming board meeting, AALL leadership will be discussing with legal counsel the question of antitrust analysis and looking at other aspects of vendor relations. I hope they will share more fully with the membership the bases for any decisions they reach. I am grateful that Ann has responded very open-mindedly to recent discussions on LawLibDir-L about AALL's vendor relations. I hope the ongoing discussions will improve member satisfaction and trust levels, and make AALL a better organization for all of us!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Saving AALL - Looking to the Future

In the post below (Nov. 2, Can AALL be saved?), I actually conflate two separate events. The CRIV report on BNA was actually written by Tracy Thompson several years ago, before she was a member of CRIV. Tracy had a telephone conversation with the then president of AALL Carol Avery Nicholson about what she characterizes as inconsequential changes to her report, and eventually, her report ran pretty well intact. Tracy recalled the event really in the context of a much more recent attempt at editing a report for the CRIV sheet, and I misunderstood her explanation. I really want to give credit here to members who challenge the initial efforts to silence CRIV reports that criticize vendors and credit as well to AALL officers who respond and allow these reports to run. Carol was supportive of the piece that Tracy wrote but expressed her concern with Tracy’s report on the visit to BNA as her “desire to maintain the best environment for positive relations and negotiations with BNA (and other vendors) both for AALL and our members.”

The second event was a report written by CRIV member Stephanie Marshall, who was also assistant editor of the CRIV sheet, and the editor of the CRIV sheet, Amy Eaton. Stephanie was requested to write an article reporting on Ken Svengalis’ program at AALL annual meeting in New Orleans, July, 2007, “Legal Information: Globalization, Conglomerates and Competition– Monopoly or Free Market.” Stephanie Marshall listened to a CD of the recorded program, and wrote her report, and sent it to the CRIV sheet editor, Amy Eaton. Amy approved the article and submitted it to AALL Spectrum for inclusion in the CRIV Sheet portion. When the article was sent back with edits marked, the article was substantially changed, removing both remarks critical of vendors and remarks critical of AALL itself.

Again, the claim was that the article was too long (it fit easily under the word number limit for CRIV sheet reports). Tracy Thompson, as CRIV chair, received an e-mail from AALL president Ann Fessenden, who told her they would be editing the article as to length and to content. Tracy asked to see the revised version. Tracy never received the revisions from AALL, but she had phoned CRIV Sheet editor Amy Eaton to warn of the intended edits. When the revisions went to Amy Eaton, she shared them with the author and the CRIV chair. Author Stephanie Marshall and CRIV editor Amy Eaton questioned the edits that changed the content of the report. Through a conference call between Amy and AALL President Ann Fesssenden, with CRIV chair Tracy Thompson, an agreement was worked out that preserved most of the original report’s content. The collaboration of these members and our President ensured that the CRIV sheet will run with the article substantially as written.

In both these cases, and in recent e-mails to members of LawLibDir-L listserve, AALL officers have stated that their reluctance to allow criticism of vendors is not based on their fear of losing support, as I had supposed, but, as Ann Fessenden wrote to LawLibDir-L, the decisions were based entirely on advice from AALL’s legal counsel. She advised that the association needs to avoid antitrust violations such as price-fixing, including “...any concerted effort or action that has an effect on prices, terms or conditions of trade, or on competition.” Thus, under the legal counsel’s advice, AALL decisions were to avoid programming, publications or other communications that could allow inferences that members were agreeing to “... take anyaction relating to prices, services, production, allocation of markets, boycotts, refusals to deal, or any other matter having a market effect.

The AALL attorney has also advised that our programs and publications are not public forums for purposes of free speech, and that AALL is responsible for statements made by speakers at our programs and in articles in our publications.”

Ann cited this particular concern as being the reason behind canceling the one program that Ken Svengalis was giving, under the auspices of the SCCLL-SIS, at New Orleans meeting, because the program description included the word “boycott.” Ann also cited this concern as the basis for the editing of the report Stephanie Marshall prepared of Ken’s other program that went forward, “Globalization.” One can imagine the same concerns were the reason that Ken was pressured to minimize his criticisms of Thomson-West.

Filippa Anzalone has called on AALL officers and Headquarters to increase the transparency of its decision-making, and share with members the name of AALL’s legal counsel and any opinion letter rendered to the association. She requests that the legal authority relied on for these opinioins be shared, and questions if the AALL legal counsel is not interpreting too narrowly. Tracy Thompson has said many of the same things in conversations with Ann Fessenden and Sally Holterhoff, with whom she shared dinner at the Northeast Regional meeting this fall. Transparency might salvage the situation, restoring member faith in our national organization.

At this point, AALL’s narrow and cautious interpretation of antitrust law is strangling its ability to represent members’ and our patron’s interests in a time of huge change in legal publishing. It should give us all pause that Thomson West is the sole publisher and provider of authenticated statutes and judicial decisions for a number of U.S. jurisdictions. If we have no ability to criticize the vendor and publishers’ policies, there is no voice at all, no consumer-oriented voice in the developing market of digital/print legal information.

I repeat my plea of Nov. 2, to the leadership of AALL: Please move to save our wonderful organization and keep it from being marginalized!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Can AALL be saved?

As a 21 year member of AALL, I call on the current Executive Board members and the new Executive Director, Kate Hagan, to take this opportunity to save our organization. And I really mean SAVE AALL. Our board members and officers devote huge amounts of time and effort to working on our behalf at AALL, and I certainly don't want to minimize their efforts, or to accuse them of wrongdoing in an intentional way. But our Association has twice at least made efforts to censor reports going into the CRIV Sheet portion of AALL Spectrum and interfere with a planned program at the annual meeting. They have failed to press Thomson West to contribute pricing information to the Price Index and gone so far as to pressure the editors of the Price Index to drop their own efforts to gather information on West pricing.

It is one thing to fail to confront vendors about their unfair business practices; it is something else entirely when our Association attempts to silence members who are not even expressing personal opinions, but are reporting on either a vendor visit or a program at the annuual meeting. I say the Association must either reform itself or die and be replaced!


* Can our reps respond to growing member concern about failing to represent consumer interests and actually serving vendor interests in conflict with consumer interests;

* Will they explain what has actually been done by our association to represent consumer interests (have letters been written to vendors requesting they participate fully in the Price Index? are there guidelines for accepting gifts and support from vendors? how much money or other support has been received from each vendor and how has it been used?)

* Will they lay out for members what they plan to do (will they write letters to vendors? will they stop censoring members' fair reports on vendor actions and begin asking vendors to abide by the Fair Business Practices guidelines and the Licensing Practices guidelines? Will they hire a consultant and accountant to look into the Association's ties to vendors?)

A member of CRIV (AALL's Committee for Relations with Information Vendors) wrote a report on BNA. All articles for the CRIV Sheets portion of AALL Spectrum go past the Chair of CRIV as a matter of course. The chair thought the article was fair, balanced and complete. She sent the article on to AALL headquarters, and received a call from the AALL President, with concerns about the article. Initially, it was stated the article was too long -- but it clearly fit within the alloted space guidelines. Then it was said they wanted to edit the content. CRIV chair Tracy Thompson questioned the decision to edit the report for content and requested to see the revised version before it was printed to see the changes. She was concerned enough to talk to the author about her concerns. Tracy never was shown the edited version, despite her clear request to see it. When she saw the edited version, it had been censored to cut out criticism of the publisher that Tracy thought were fair.

AALL has stopped representing the interests of consumers. They cancelled a program at this summer's annual meeting in which Ken Svengalis had planned to explore Thomson-West's pricing practices. Ken managed to present the same information at his Globalization program (see OOTJ report here and Ken's excellent and informative PowerPoint from that program, by scrolling to the bottom of Rhode Island Law Press homepage). But he was pressured before the Globalization program to censor his evaluation.

In fact, since that time, AALL board members have tried to undercut Svengalis' analysis by portraying him as having a conflict of interest because he is also a legal publisher. This is a truly specious argument because Ken has been putting out the Legal Information Buyers Guide and Reference Manual since before retiring from the Rhode Island State Court, and it is his only item he publishes. He is in no competition with West or any other legal publisher as the only producer of a buyer's guide; he does not compete against them for buyers, for market share, and he makes the same amount of money regardless of how large any other publisher's market share becomes.

I have been told that West put pressure on AALL to remove their pricing information from the Price Index. The West argument is that they charge different prices to different purchases, and so no price properly characterizes the cost of West products. Wait just a darned minute! Did ANYBODY read the AALL Guide to Fair Business Practices for Legal Publishers? On page 6 of the 2nd edition, Principle 2.1 (Disclosure) states:

All information about products, services, prices and transactions provided by publishers to customers should be clear, accurate and easy to find. 2.1 PRACTICE TO FOLLOW 2: A publisher makes a description of standard discounts and variable pricing options for all products and services readily available.
And Principle 2.3(h) states
If offered in multiple formats, a full descroption of each available format, including any differences in scope, price breakdown, updating, and license restrictions. ... 2.3(i) Information on supplementation, iii. whether cost of supplementation is included in the flat rate subscription of separately charged by shipment or some other arrangement;

iv. Where possible, historic data on the cost of supplementation for the product.
I was willing to moan in private when it just looked as though AALL was failing to safeguard consumer interests. But as more stories come out about them actively moving to cut off members who attempt to safeguard consumer interests, I am deeply disturbed.

A lovely bit of nonsense -- courtesy of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear


As Roald Dahl's immortal Willy Wonka says in Charlie and the Cholocate Factory, "A little footling about keeps one from going up the spout!" I don't know why the Brits are so inspired at nonsense, but it's English writers I turn to when I need a bit of nonsense in my life. From Edward Lear's nonsense poems to poems and Alice books by the mathematician Lewis Carrol (a.k.a. Charles Dodgson), they are absolutely transcendant, resplendant and utterly nonsensical! The beauty of nonsense is that it can illuminate reality in a way that straight attacks cannot. In the poem "Haddock's Eyes" in Through the Looking Glass, the White Knight recites a poem that parodies the then popular poem "Resolution and Independence" by William Wordsworth. But it also says a great deal about inattention and forgetfulness, and even inability to absorb what another says:

I'll tell thee everything I can:
There's little to relate.
I saw an aged aged man,
A-sitting on a gate.
"Who are you, aged man?" I said,
"And how is it you live?"
And his answer trickled through my head,
Like water through a sieve.
The narrator is busy inventing an idea for dying whiskers green, and cannot recall anything said:
So, having no reply to give
To what the old man said,
I cried "Come, tell me how you live!"
And thumped him on the head.
Again, the narrator and questioner is busy thinking his own thoughts -- how to feed oneself on batter. Each time, the question is repeated, the old man gets roughed up a bit more:
I shook him well from side to side,
Until his face was blue:
"Come, tell me how you live," I cried,
"And what it is you do!"
The narrator finally hears the old man's answer when the old man wishes to drink his health. (Now, how did the narrator repeat all the earlier nonsense if he didn't hear it? -- that's nonsense for you!) So, we have an entertaining meditation on our inability to listen, to focus outside ourselves. Another lovely nonsense poem is "The Jumblies" by Edward Lear. What an adventure! What a think-outside-the-box group! Maybe it helps that their heads are green and their hands are blue:
The Jumblies

They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they went to sea:
In spite of all their friends could say,
On a winter's morn, on a stormy day,
In a Sieve they went to sea!
And when the Sieve turned round and round,
And every one cried, `You'll all be drowned!'
They called aloud, `Our Sieve ain't big,
But we don't care a button! we don't care a fig!
In a Sieve we'll go to sea!'
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

(snip; link to nonsenselit.org for the complete epic of the Jumblies!)

They sailed to the Western Sea, they did,
To a land all covered with trees,
And they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart,
And a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart,
And a hive of silvery Bees.
And they bought a Pig, and some green Jack-daws,
And a lovely Monkey with lollipop paws,
And forty bottles of Ring-Bo-Ree,
And no end of Stilton Cheese.
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

And in twenty years they all came back,
In twenty years or more,
And every one said, `How tall they've grown!
For they've been to the Lakes, and the Torrible Zone,
And the hills of the Chankly Bore!'
And they drank their health, and gave them a feast
Of dumplings made of beautiful yeast;
And every one said, `If we only live,
We too will go to sea in a Sieve,---
To the hills of the Chankly Bore!'
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

By Edward Lear. The illustration of the Jumblies voyage is by Vera Stone Norman, at Ongoing-Tales.com, which seems to be part of Antelope E-Books.com, offering a variety of old children's poems in a new format. My memory of children's stories and poems are strongly attached to the illustrations in the books I was shown. I think this is an interesting new way to present children's lit.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Meetings, meetings, meetings!

Meetings can be the bane of our existence! I try not to have meetings unless they are needed -- the one exception being a weekly meeting recently instituted among the top administrators in my library. That's helpful as I have seen in other meeting venues, just to make sure everybody has heard about what is happening.

When meetings are inevitable, I used to know a lot about running them -- from having a stated time limit, to using an agenda, to managing speakers. I have to say that I have gotten sloppy about meetings, but I certainly have fewer than I used to, so maybe it balances out some. Mea culpa.

And when meetings are inevitable, but I am not the chair, I try to adopt the Zen Meeting-Goer persona. This attitude carries me through some long meetings, and some irritating or upsetting discussions. I try to focus on process and not the outcome. I try to just go with the flow.

And most important, I try to have pen and paper and draw all my emotions and thoughts about the meeting! My meeting notes are a lot less useful (actually, I still note major decisions) after a few months, but much more helpful in surviving the meeting!