Friday, August 29, 2008

Going green

At an orientation for new faculty the other day, the environmental officer handed me a flier on ways to contribute to my university's "sustainability efforts." Some of these are long-accomplished in our library, but others are new ideas:

* Policy to prefer recycled content paper or other products

* Shut off equipment overnight and on weekends (computer monitors, lights, projectors and copiers

* Reduce waste:
~~~~ Choose re-usable over disposable where feasible
~~~~ Go paperless with processes & communication
~~~~ Use scrap paper trays to re-use paper; double sided copies, print sparingly
~~~~ Use your mug for drinks at the caff rather than disposable cups

* Recycle
~~~~ Glass, metal, plastic, paper, cardboard, cartridges
~~~~ Donate usable office supplies, furniture & equipment

* Reduce your transit footprint
~~~~ Bike, public transit, zipcar, carpooling

* Share your ideas for sustainability

Now that I think of it, it's kind of ironic that it was a paper handout.

The image is a 2005 poster from NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration at where they evidently have been taking Earth Day seriously right along. Good for you guys!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Memo to self on exploring social media

A seamless web, not of the law, but of law librarians....

Image is a fractal, courtesy of A wonderful collection of beautiful images created through fractal math.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Slate takes on printers that lie about toner

As a certified cheap-skate librarian, I was tickled pink to run across the Slate article linked in the title of this post. Click on the title to read about how printers often lie about when their toner is running low. And even better, for links to hacks on the web that will help you (and your library users!) to run the toner cartridges dry before you have to replace those pricey cartridges. Covers a lot of differnt printer types.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Twitter and Online Community

This morning my friend Connie Crosby tripped and sprained her ankle. Connie, a former law librarian and now independent social media consultant, mentioned it on Twitter. Within minutes, half a dozen friends responded with sympathy ("owie! owie! sorry to hear this. hope you recover quickly") and advice ("perhaps selfmedication is in order! wine or beer before noon is allowed under these circumstances.") I first met Connie online, through her blog, and developed a friendship with her through her frequent guest appearances on the Check This Out! Podcast before we first met in person at a Podcasters Meetup in Toronto over three years ago.

A little later this morning, I exchanged a series of chat messages with another law librarian friend who has accepted a new job and wanted me to suggest some names of librarians to recommend as his replacement. This was yet another law librarian friend I first met online (first through his blog, then through Twitter) whom I might not otherwise have encountered, but who has become a good friend (and part of my Fantasy Law Library team.)

I've just come back from lunch with my partner Kristina Lively, who is also webmaster for University at Buffalo Law School. Kristina and I first met in Second Life, and after a few months of chatting for hours online--and falling in love--we met in real life at her then home in Washington DC. A few months later Kristina moved to Buffalo, where we share our life and work with our colleagues and friends. We spent part of our lazy Saturday afternoon together planning the next Buffalo Tweetup, an almost-monthly opportunity for folks in the Buffalo area who happen to use Twitter and other social media to get together for drinks and conversation.

Two weeks ago Kristina and I spent the weekend at the Niagara on the Lake Podcasting and Social Media Meetup with our old friends Connie Crosby, Keith Burtis, Mark Blevis, Wayne MacPhail, and new friends John Meadows, Bill Deys, Sean McGaughey, and others--all people we first met online.

In just over three weeks Kristina and I will be going to Podcamp Montreal, where (at last count) 267 social media users from all over Canada (and a handful of Americans), all of whom know each other through podcasts, blogs, and Twitter, will be getting together to share ideas and simply to have fun.

Can someone explain to me how all of this constitutes an "imagined community," and how it lacks "the subtleties of types of connection possible in the meat world"?

(Cross-posted at Buffalo Wings and Toasted Ravioli.)

Work-Life Balance in Firms

Click the title to this post to read a nice, brief article from Sunday's Boston Globe about what law firms are doing to help keep younger associates, especially women, in the firm. The article notes many of the large firms are offering 12 - 18 weeks of leave for primary caregivers (like maternity or paternity leave, but more flexible). Also notes that the culture of the firm must also back up the policy, so that folks who take the leave aren't stigmatized.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

More on Twitter

On the Media this week has a segment on Twitter. Since Twitter caused some stir on this blog, readers may enjoy listening to the episode, available at

The blog posts on Twitter intrigued me. I have been reading about privacy issues and I would have thought that a blog dedicated to legal research would have brought up some of those issues. Instead, the defenders of Twitter took up what I call the first users’ credo: it’s good to be connected. To which I reply, connected, but communicating what? How deep and intimate is the connection? What is the potential for surveillance, bullying, crime, and thoughtlessness? Can Twitter logs be hacked? Why pay for a service that you cannot tweak? How does following people change the sense of self in a period of government surveillance?

Since the Twitter post only allows 140 characters ,and has even started a twitter haiku genre, not much can be communicated. I would have thought this would have been discussed by librarians. Why not write letters to individuals who share interests or edit a newsletter? As librarians, we are supposed to be involved in developing thought.

There was a post this year by a blogger writing how constant blogging changed his relationship to the world. He changed in ways that disturbed him. He became a constant observer seeking the quick retort. His writing was oriented toward readers. He described my unease with much blogging. The writing style on blogs often disturbs me and I found a good quote this morning that could apply. The author said too much fiction was being written to be read aloud to workshop attendees. Writers were losing their involvement to their work and anticipating the responses of classmates. I wonder if this shift applies to blogging and twittering.

What I want from technology is increased self-reliance, support for contemplation and the ability to “enlarge my ambition.” Twitter does not do that.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Librarians in Capes!

Wow! I wish my cape made me look this good!

Image courtesy of Plainfield Today blog

A library haiku

Books and dust on shelves,
Students bend over blue screens
To snare wild data.

This is actually a picture from the 7th floor into Suffolk's main reading room. And it's just about as empty this beautiful afternoon.

Suffolk Chowder and Marching Society

I don't know if this is really going to take off or not. I had a chat with one of my faves on the faculty and we thought about putting together a regular lunch date and inviting friends as available. If we don't do the marching part, though, I guess I'll be buying more clothes in the XXX sizes. sigh.

PS. OOTJ readers who were very kind when I announced the loss of my good dog, Beau last fall may be happy to know that we have adopted a new dog. Dover is a rescue shelty. To see a picture and read a bit more, visit here, at my Poyetry blog.

An iPhone for Every Student?

That is what is happening at a number of schools, which are giving out iPhones and Internet-capable iPods to new students, according to an article in yesterday's New York Times. These schools point to the potential usefulness of the devices in emergency situations and also as a way of keeping the campus community informed about more quotidian events. The article speculates that the "lone losers...could be professors," who are already confronting distracting laptops and cellphones in their classrooms. Some say that the presence of the electronic devices will force professors to enliven their classes, while others say that the role of technology in higher education is unclear. Ellen G. Millender of Reed College is "always worried that technology becomes an end in and of itself, and it replaces teaching or it replaces analysis." I was interested to read that Professor Robert S. Summers of Cornell Law School has banned laptops from his contracts class because he feels they work against the goal of an "'active intellectual experience, in which [students] develop the wide range of complex reasoning abilities required of the good lawyers.'" Several of my colleagues have issued a similar ban for similar reasons. They fear that laptops turn students into scribes, faithfully taking down every word uttered in the classroom, rather than true participants in the dialogue that should go on in the law school classroom. The ban is not popular with stuents, who feel that it smacks of paternalism. As Professor Millender said, there is always the danger that technology can turn into a gimmick and a distraction rather than an enhancement to the educational process. However, at some point the educational establishment needs to understand that technology is not going away, and bans are short-term responses to the fact that we haven't figured out how to use technology to enhance the educational experience of our students.

I am thinking about this issue right now as I prepare to use clickers in my Advanced Legal Research course this semester. Initially, I am going to use the clickers for a diagnostic quiz given very early in the semester that will test students' general knowledge about legal research. Each question will provide an opportunity for me to comment about the subject of the question; in the final analysis, the point of the quiz is not for the students to get the right answer, although that is always nice, but rather for us to discuss the themes that will emerge and be discussed in more detail during the semester. It might be interesting for the students to retake the quiz at the end of the semester and see what they learned. I also plan to use the clickers at the beginning of each class to assess how well the students retained what we covered in the last class; if their retention was poor, I can go back and review the content. When we had our clicker training earlier this week, I was a little surprised to learn that students today have an attention span of about seven minutes (I had guessed twelve in the multiple-choice question that was posed to the participants), which means that the clickers have the potential to refocus our students. Cell phones can also be used as student response devices, but tend to be more distracting than clickers. I'll let OOTJ readers know how the clicker experiment goes.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Georgian President is a Columbia Law Alumnus

The President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, is an alumnus of Columbia Law School. He received an LL.M. in 1994, and then went on to an internship at a Manhattan law firm, and eventually back to Georgia. There is an interesting article in today's New York Times about Saakashvili's student years. Of course, he has been much in the news lately because of his country's dispute with Russia. While at Columbia, Saakashvili impressed his professors with his linguistic ability and his regular class participation. His supervisor at the internship, Scott Horton, said that "Mr. Saakashvili always had a way with words ... 'he had a sharp tongue ... he never had muh compunction about saying what he thought.'"

Saturday, August 16, 2008

What's the Point of Twitter?

Okay, I get it. In order to interact with our "born digital" students, we librarians have to engage in social networking. Because I believe this is true, I have set up a Facebook profile for myself, much to my daughter's horror. I think she had nightmares about me "friending" all of her friends and finding out what really goes at college. As if I didn't already know, having been a college student once myself. One of these days, I will also get around to creating a profile on LinkedIn, but it's low on my list of priorities. I plan to set up a Facebook account for the Pace Law Library because I think that might prove to be useful as a way of communicating with students; I notice that a number of other law libraries have already done this and wonder what their experience has been. However, I have to wonder what is the point of Twitter. The answer comes in a trenchant column from today's Boston Globe. The author concludes that Twitter is essentially a way to "send ... pointless little messages, gobbling up Internet bandwidth for no reason." I couldn't agree more. One of our staff members put the law library on Twitter, but frankly I don't see the point.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Open Source Victory

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Court handed down an important decision for the open source movement on August 13. In Jacobsen v. Katzer, the court held that creators of open source software can sue for copyright infringement if someone else uses that software commercially without attribution and without full disclosure of any modifications that might have been made. The lower court, the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, denied a motion for preliminary injunction in 2007 on the grounds that the plaintiff had a cause of action for breach of contract, not copyright infringement. "The distinction is important", because it is easier to recover monetary damages for copyright infringement than for breach of contract, as Jordan Robertson writes in the article reproduced below.

Open Source Software Movement Wins Crucial Victory

New York Lawyer
August 15, 2008
By Jordan Robertson

SAN FRANCISCO - In a crucial win for the free software movement, a federal appeals court has ruled that even software developers who give away the programming code for their works can sue for copyright infringement if someone misappropriates that material.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., helps clarify a murky area of the law concerning how much control programmers can exert over their intellectual property once it's been released for free into the so-called "open source" software community.

People are free to use that material in their own products, but they must credit the original authors of the programming code and release their modifications into the wild as well, a cycle that's critical for free software to continue improving.

Because the code was given away for free, thorny questions emerge when a violation has been discovered and someone is found to have shoved the code into their own for-profit products without giving anything back, in the form of attribution and disclosure of the alterations they made.

In the latest case, which involved a computer application that model-train enthusiasts use to program the chips that control their trains, the U.S. District Court in San Francisco ruled that the plaintiff could sue for breach of contract but not copyright infringement.

The distinction is important because it's easier to recover monetary damages in a copyright-infringement case.

Robert Jacobsen, who manages an open source software group that created an application he claims was infringed, sought an injunction against KAM Industries, which makes a competing product. The lower court denied Jacobsen's motion. The appeals court vacated that ruling Wednesday and returned the case to the district court.

"Traditionally, copyright owners sold their copyrighted material in exchange for money," the court said. "The lack of money changing hands in open source licensing should not be presumed to mean that there is no economic consideration, however."

Blog Action Day 2008

Click on the title to this post to visit Blog Action Day's home page. The theme this year is poverty.


OOTJ will spend a post or two looking at the bigger world beyond law libraries and legal information, because it’s time for Blog Action Day 2008. The theme this year is poverty.

Poverty in the U.S. is a terrible thing. I worked in the early ‘80's as a poverty lawyer, at Central Kentucky Legal Services. I saw clients who were locked in a cycle of poverty. The disparity in wealth was shocking, especially as the 80's and Reagonomics failed to trickle down much wealth from those top layers of society. The gap between the richest few and the increasing number of lower income Americans is growing, even now (see Boston Globe article, 8/15/2008)

But poverty around the world can make poor people in the U.S. look positively well-off. The disparity between even the poorest folks in the U.S. and the poorest people in the world is shocking. Basic human needs, like clean drinking water, sanitation, minimal nutrition, education, health care and personal safety are lacking for so many people around the world. Here are some statistics:

* Half the world — nearly three billion people — live on less than two dollars a day.

* The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the 41 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (567 million people) is less than the wealth of the world’s 7 richest people combined.

* More than 800 million go hungry each day.

* Over 100 million primary school-age children cannot go to school.

* With more than 1 billion people – about one in six people in this world – lacking access to clean and safe drinking water, the effects of unclean water often lead to a cycle of poverty, conflict, disease and death.
There are a zillion websites that pop up affiliated with global poverty issues. In grand librarian tradition, here are links to some sites I found useful in looking for information on global poverty:

* Global Issues by Anup Shah - Shah writes most of the information on this site himself and works to keep it updated. The link connects you to his page listing issues. He has a section on Causes of Global Poverty, one on Hunger and Poverty and a section on how Food Aid Causes Poverty. Shah was born and educated in Great Britain and now works in the U.S. as a computer science worker. His interest in global issues developed after moving here, and being dissatisfied with U.S. mainstream media coverage. I like his care in citing and updating his articles.

* NetAid, In 1999, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Cisco Systems joined forces to launch NetAid. Founded as a public-private partnership, NetAid set out to use the power of technology—specifically the Internet—to channel the time, resources, and voices of individuals and corporations in the fight against global poverty. (This was kicked off with high profile rock concerts.)

In 2001, NetAid became an independent not-for-profit organization, no longer operated by UNDP and Cisco Systems, but still working in close cooperation with these and other partners. (From ) They have a new website and name: This website has excellent links to many other organizations that focus on poverty issues.

* Care, An organization tied to the United Nations. News, reports, videos, photo montages, virtual field trips and lots of ways to donate or become involved.

* Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Providing grants and alliances to improve world health, access to financial services and information. Working in the United States to improve education, libraries and opportunity.

* U.S. News & World Report article with Jeffrey Sachs (Columbia University economist) on how to overcome global poverty, at

* World Bank document on Implications of Higher Global Food Prices for Poverty in Low-Income Countries at

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Great issue of LLJ! Congrats to Janet Sinder & authors!

The new issue of Law Library Journal has a bunch of really good, really interesting and really useful articles. (apologies to Thomas the Tank Engine fans) Among the host, I particularly enjoyed Jean Holcomb's column, "Managing by the Book." She reviews a book I would have missed: Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath. You can follow the link in the book's title to visit the website of the same name. There, you can purchase the book (or go to's site for the book), read reviews, excerpts, news, and a blog. Thanks, Jean, for the great referral!

The image of the Law Library Journal is from AALL's publications web page, the link for LLJ above.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Summer's End

This is that time of year when melancholy for the endless days' ending mixes with the heady beginnings of the new school year. We don't use chalk any longer here at Suffolk -- it's all whiteboards and markers now. But the smell of chalk is the aroma that means school to me still, and that's what I think of when I think of starting a new school year. Rinse out the chlorine and salt water, and get ready for chalk, markers, and new faces!

I searched for a poem about the end of summer. I could not find one that covered everything I am feeling right now. Law school, especially here at Suffolk, begins so far before summer really is ending that poems about the end of summer, like Emily Dickinson's "Indian Summer" (from's Women's History section), aren't really appropriate. She writes, in part,

These are the days when birds come back,
A very few, a bird or two,
To take a backward look.

These are the days when skies put on
The old, old sophistries of June, -
A blue and gold mistake.
But we are still watching the birds enjoy their post-fledging jubilee, even here in New England. That time, when the birds are done feeding their nestlings, defending territories, and just hang out in rowdy crowds, waiting for the berries to be gone, gorging and twittering in bunches. Only law school professors, librarians and administrators are shoving their flip-flops in the back of the closet and strapping on their school day uniforms. I wish I could turn back the clock -- I wish I could rush the year a tad forward. Today, we are teetering between the seasons, waiting to kick off another schoolyear's orientation.

The photo of the nearly deserted beach, is courtesy of

Monday, August 04, 2008

Magic and Science

Click on the title to this post to read a fascinating article from the Boston Globe's Ideas section Sunday, August 3, 2008. Title: "How magicians control your mind: Magic isn't just a bag of tricks - it's a finely-tuned technology for shaping what we see. Now researchers are extracting its lessons," by Drake Bennett. Cognitive neuroscientists are teaming up with professional magicians to look at what magicians' age-old tricks of the trade can teach us about human perception. I found it both exciting -- there are wonderful possibilities for improving public safety -- and unnerving. I can see immediate applications for these ideas in both the military/spying field and in advertising. I'm not sure I want them to control my mind!

Great links to online activities (from a sidebar in print that didn't come up linked to the article online:

* Magician Apollo Robbins' talk & demo at Mind Science TV website. The website puts the most recent video up on this page, so if you are visiting more than a few days from 8/3, you may need to click on the link for a listing of videos. This is titled "Science of Magic."

* Video of disappearing cigarette and lighter and video of a vanishing ball illusion at Durham University in England, Prof. Gustav Kuhn's Science of Magic

* Inattention blindness video by Prof. Daniel Simons at University of Illinois here.

Image of the magician's hat and rabbit from the Boston Globe article.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Obama as Professor

I thought The New York Times article about Barack Obama's stint as a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School was interesting. Not only did it provide insights about how Obama "refined his public speaking style, his debating abilities, his beliefs," but also it described how he always stayed somewhat aloof from other faculty members and remained untouched by their views. The Head of Circulation here at Pace, Vicky Gannon, pointed out how this picture of Obama diverges dramatically from the picture painted by conservative commentator Pat Buchanan, who has strongly implied that Obama spent too much time in the faculty lounge, making him out of touch with ordinary Americans. It sounds to me as if Obama avoided the faculty lounge, focusing instead on his interaction with students (he was an extremely popular instructor, so much so that "enrollment in his classes swelled. Most scores on his teaching evaluations were positive to superlative."), and on his political career, which was not particularly successful in its early stages. Vicky also pointed out that the Times links in a sidebar to exams that Obama gave while at Chicago, and also provides his sample answers. I wish more of our faculty would supply answers so that students could compare their work against a "model" answer. Obama did not publish while at Chicago; in fact, he has never published any legal commentary. He did, however, help with developing a casebook on voting rights that was published by Professor Richard Pildes. The article concludes that Obama "was unwilling to put his name to anything that could haunt him politically." Given the nasty turn that the presidential campaign has taken in the last few weeks, Obama was probably wise to "lay low."

Repeal of Massachusetts law barring marriages illegal in other states

The title to this post takes you to an article in today's Boston Globe about Governor Deval Patrick signing a bill that repeals 1913 Massachusetts statute, MGL 207, section 11, Non-residents; marriages contrary to laws of domiciled state. You can also read here, the home page for GLAD (Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders).

The gay and lesbian community and friends welcome this change to Massachusetts law. But it's also a wonderful thing to contemplate the governor who is signing the repeal of this old statute. In 1913, when it was passed, the law was not about gay marriage, which was not legal in any state. It was all about preventing different race couples from out of state flocking to Massachusetts to get married. In those days, miscegenation laws in southern and many other states prevented marriage between heterosexual couples of different races. The first black governor of Massachusetts is a pretty cool person to have signing this law out of existence! He also has a daughter who recently came out of the closet, both to her parents and to the public. So, what a meaningful act, Governor Patrick! You go!

The image of swans is courtesy of I started using swans as a image when I blog about gay marriage some years ago. I was inspired not only by the fact that swans mate for life, but that in the Boston Public Gardens, the much-loved swan couple, known as Romeo and Juliet, turned out to be Juliet and Juliet.

Anonymous online attackers unmasked

Follow the link in the title to this post to read a news item in Wired online about the 2 Yale Law women who sued AutoAdmit over misogynistic and slanderous comments posted about them on that site. The lawyers have managed to unmask a number of the posters.

lawyers for two female Yale Law School students have ascertained AK-47's real identity, along with the identities of other AutoAdmit posters, who all now face the likely publication of their names in court records -- potentially marking a death sentence for the comment trolls' budding legal careers even before the case has gone to trial.

The unmasking of the posters marks a milestone in a rare legal challenge to the norms of online commenting, where arguments live on for years in search-engine results and where reputations can be sullied nearly irreparably by anyone with a grudge, a laptop and a WiFi connection. Yet a year after the lawsuit was filed, little else has been resolved -- and legal controversies have multiplied. The women themselves have gone silent, and their lawyers -- two of whom are now themselves being sued -- are not talking to the press.
This case is important both in its possibility to chill anonymous attacks online, cyberbullying, and in its complex issues raised. Whether real world lawyers and judges will be able to make sense of virtual reality any time soon is a tough question. Law has managed to accommodate itself to big changes in technology before, but it is usually a slow business.