Friday, September 29, 2006

Collection Development Issues and Knowledge Domain Acquisition

During an SCCLL meeting, I overheard a comment that SCCLL members do not participate in AALL committees outside of their SIG. A possible way to involve SCCLL librarians with academic law librarians would be for the two groups to jointly work on evaluations of materials.

Let me give some examples of incidents that prove the need to document the domain knowledge of librarians.

A law clerk came in asking for Patrick Wall’s Eye-Witness Identification in Criminal Cases (1965). I spent an afternoon trying to locate a copy in the NYC area. I was surprised at what a difficult time I was having trying to retrieve a book with a 151 citations in the Lexis combined federal/state case database. When I did locate a copy in a local university, the young librarian told me that she might have discarded the book because it was so old, but now that she knew how frequently it had been cited, she would mark it retain indefinitely. Older librarians that I spoke to about the title recognized it immediately.

Earlier this week, we were trying to decide whether or Corbin or Williston on Contracts was better for our library. My instinct and Svengalis’ Legal Information Buyer’s Guide was for Corbin, but New York state courts cited Williston more frequently. Why? And do I want to read those 1000 decisions? Not really. William Manz writes about citation practice in the New York Court of Appeals, but I don’t think he has gone into evaluations of titles.

Another time during a budget cut meeting, long-time reference librarians were able to point the value of sets for attorney practice. I learned a lot in that meeting. These insights were not documented anywhere, not in the catalog record or in the training manual. Such discussions are not lunch room chatter.

All those librarians upon whom I have relied are nearing retirement age; their replacements will be expected to do more with less. Without a program on reference orientation that is about more than being friendly while handling a busy desk, phones, and self-represented litigants, we fail to acknowledge that much of our job involves real knowledge. Svengalis’ book is wonderful, but I often feel the need for more in-depth treatment of materials, especially older books.

Has anyone thought about this? I don’t think that this issue can be handled by listserves

Bush Administration and Iraq War: A History of Lies and Deceit

The Bush Administration released the 2006 National Intelligence Estimate under pressure from leaks already trickling out. Check NY Times release of the declassified portions on Sept. 27, 2006. Check out this Christian Science Monitor article link for a nice survey of media response. The big point that is being taken out of the report is this:

The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by US intelligence agencies since the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, and it represents a consensus view of the 16 different spy services inside government. The estimate asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread around the globe.

An opening section of the report, "Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement," cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology. The report "says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse," one US intelligence official said.

(Tom Regan, Christian Science Monitor)

Even more apalling is this article in the Boston Globe, Sept. 29, 2006 on Bob Woodward's analysis of the Bush administration's systematic denial of the level of violence in Iraq.

The Bush administration is concealing the level of violence against U.S. troops in Iraq and the situation there is growing worse despite White House and Pentagon claims of progress, journalist Bob Woodward said in advance of a new book.

Insurgent attacks against U.S.-led forces in Iraq occurred, on average, every 15 minutes, Woodward said in a CBS "60 Minutes" interview taped for broadcast on Sunday.

"It's getting to the point now where there are eight, 900 attacks a week. That's more than a hundred a day. That is four an hour attacking our forces," Woodward said in excerpts of the interview released on Thursday before the release of his book on the administration, called "State of Denial."

"The assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse and, in public, you have the president and you have the Pentagon (saying) 'Oh, no, things are going to get better,"' Woodward added.

For earlier NIE editions, see the National Security Archives link at GWU for links and report about the 2004 National Intelligence Estimate.

See the Federation of American Scientists here for a PDF of the Estimate from 2002.

Congress Okays Military Tribunals

Congress is working hard to look tough on terrorism in time for November elections.

Senate approves The Military Commissions Act of 2006 link, a bill that matches a House version to allow the CIA to continue interrogating (torturing) detainees suspected of terror ties. The House passed a bill of the same name, HR 6166 (Thomas link. The most recent Senate bill, S 3930 (Thomas link)

The bills passed mostly on party lines.

Most Democrats opposed the detainee bill, contending that Republicans were pushing through a sloppy measure to sell voters, but not because it made sense. GOP policies on national security "may have been tough, but they certainly weren't smart," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

"I'm convinced that future generations will view passage of this bill as a grave error," added Reid, D-Nev.

Added Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., "We are being asked to consider legislation that will determine how our troops and personnel, foreign troops and personnel, as well as innocent bystanders will be treated when captured during conflict."

(from Anne Plummer Flaherty, Associated Press Writer, in the Globe article linked in the title to this post, September 29, 2006.

The bill sets standards for interrogating suspects, but through a complex set of rules that human rights groups said could allow harsh techniques that bordered on torture such as sleep deprivation and induced hypothermia.

It establishes military tribunals that would allow some use of evidence obtained by coercion, but would give defendants access to classified evidence being used to convict them.

The bill also expands the definition of "enemy combatants" mostly held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to include those who provide weapons, money and other support to terrorist groups.

The Supreme Court struck down Bush's first system of military commissions to try suspects, leaving the process in limbo with no successful prosecutions since the September 11 attacks. Bush then faced a rebellion over his revised plan that three leading Republican senators said would allow abusive interrogations and unfair trials.


After a high-stakes negotiation, Bush got much of what he wanted in the bill to continue the once-secret CIA program of detention and aggressive interrogations of suspects that critics said amounted to torture.

Democrats and some Republicans criticized the compromise for stripping detainees of rights to launch court challenges of their detentions.

Voting 51-48, Republicans beat an amendment that would have restored those rights and potentially derailed the bill. Four Republicans and one Democrat crossed party lines on the vote.

(from the Boston Globe, by Vicki Allen | September 29, 2006 (full story linked above in the text of this post). The Supreme Court decision referred to must be link for official slip opinion, dated June 26, 2006. Here is a nice summary of Hamdan from ScotusBlog, Marty Lederman, dated June 29, 2006.

The excellent political cartoon is by Rex Babin of the Sacramento Bee, available with other political cartoons at link, Daryl Cagle's Professional Cartoonists' Index.

Warrantless Wiretapping action in Congress

The House of Representatives just passed HR 5825 on a party line vote, short title, the Electronic Surveillance Modernization Act. Senate companion bill is still to be voted on, just being placed on the Calendar.

The House bill is H.R. 5825 (link);

The Senate bill is S. 3931 (link). (titled the Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006).

Under the [House] measure, the president would be authorized to conduct such wiretaps if he:

• Notifies the House and Senate intelligence committees and congressional leaders.

• Believes an attack is imminent and later explains the reason and names the individuals and groups involved.

• Renews his certification every 90 days.

The Senate also could vote on a similar bill before Congress recesses at the end of the week.

Nice summary by LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer Fri Sep 29, at Yahoo News.

Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, charged: "Hidden in the fine print are provisions which grant the administration authority to maintain permanent records on innocent U.S. citizens, granting the administration new authority to demand personal records without court review, and terminating any and all legal challenges to unlawful wiretapping."

Shortly after the September 11 attacks, Bush secretly ordered the National Security Agency to monitor the international telephone conversations and e-mails of U.S. citizens without court warrants while in pursuit of suspected terrorists.

The program was publicly disclosed last December, prompting critics to charge Bush violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which requires warrants for all electronic eavesdropping inside the United States.

Bush argues he has inherent powers to protect the country.

A federal judge last month declared the program unconstitutional. Bush appealed. The case is expected to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court. The new legislation, if it becomes law, would likely be challenged in court as well.

From the Boston Globe article linked in the title of this post, written by Thomas Ferraro Sept. 28, 2006. For a OOTJ blog report on the Federal decision on wiretapping, see here, and here for a post on the related SAFE Act (Security and Freedom Ensured Act of 2005), S. 737 and H.R. 1526).

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The sound of one hand clapping: Zen Pen

Hey, hey, hey! I finally got my long-awaited Dalai Lama souvenir pen! I was so excited to see it at last. It is so cool. Shaped like a little Dalai Lama, with those saffron and burgundy robes and a bald head and glasses, the pen’s smiling face looks so peaceful. Just like his Holiness!

I want to thank Jim Milles for hosting the Dalai Lama at SUNY Buffalo law school library. I would never have gotten my awesome pen otherwise. And it is so much more than just a little monk-shaped pen. It’s a Zen-like meditation, a souvenir and a writing utensil all wrapped up in one.

When I first pressed the little Lama’s smiling head, a pen point popped out from his little sandaled feet. Aww, I thought, isn’t that cute!? But then, I went to write a note with the pen. Nothing came out. No ink, I thought. I shook the pen. I tapped the pen. Nothing happened: the little Lama went on smiling his enigmatic smile.

After I put it away in disgust, I couldn’t stop thinking about that pen. It finally came to me: “The sound of one hand clapping.” Right? Well this is a Buddhist paradox like that: the pen that writes in air. It’s my Zen Pen. Here is a meditation from the official web page of the Dalai Lama (link)

The Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life says that the Buddha reflected long and hard on what would be the best way to benefit sentient beings. He concluded that it was to develop the awakening mind of bodhichitta. He then strove to develop it and worked relentlessly for the welfare of sentient beings. Whether we follow the Pali or Sanskrit traditions of Buddhism our task is to develop the awakening mind. When we do so, we will find greater peace in our lives. Why is this? Because the stronger our sense of self-centredness the greater is our unease, whereas the more we are concerned about others, the more secure we feel. Self-centredness is the source of all downfalls; cherishing others is the source of all happiness and success.

Date : 17-August-2006 (Day 4)


I drew a picture of my Zen Pen to illustrate for you.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Teaching Legal Research: On Beyond BI

The Sept. 29, 2006 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, Careers section, has a thought-provoking column by James M. Lang, "Beyond Lecturing." (link) Prof. Lang, like many others, wants to promote other teaching styles in addition to the venerable lecture. He makes an interesting reference to the Journal of College Science Teaching, Sept., 2005, in which T. Michelle Jones-Wilson reports on adding small-group problem-solving techniques to brief lectures, teaching biochemistry at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania (Teaching Problem-Solving Skills without Sacrificing Course Content). The Lang column also cites McKeachie's Teaching Tips, by Wilbert McKeachie, a guide for college teaching:

...students recalled 70 percent of the material covered in the first 10 minutes, and only 20 percent of the material covered in the last 10 minutes.

The small group technique, added to a brief high-light intro lecture covering the main points of the reading for class, seems like an excellent way to teach legal research. You can only absorb, follow or understand so much about DOING legal research from listening to and watching a lecture. That is certainly the point behind the general librarian backlash against "biblographic instruction" or BI. Any skills course is going to be more interesting to the students, and better-understood when there is a portion of the class devoted to practicing the skill. One astounding piece of Lang's article reports that Jones-Wilson's students come to the classroom in large numbers even on days when she has cancelled class. They come to work on the assignments together in their groups.

Our reference librarians at Suffolk have used a mix like this in producing four workshops for the 1-L students in the LRW course on statutes, digests, Shepards and secondary sources. I have seen it used to very good effect by visiting reference librarians in my advanced legal research class as well. The teacher introduces the main points of the research tool or the special subject's resources. The lecture portion takes perhaps a half hour or less, usually. This picks up on the McKeachie statistic that students tune out a lecture after 20 minutes or so, and really fade in the last minutes of an hour (well, 50-minute) lecture. Yet, it recognizes that some students may not have read the material, and others may not have identified or understood the key points. It lets the teacher cover complex material in a direct and (we hope!) clear fashion. But it avoids the tune-out and reinforces the learning by letting the students practice with the material covered.

I'll know I have a winner in my course when I hear the students are meeting even on days when the class is cancelled!

This essay is illustrated with an image of Dr. Seuss' great book On Beyond Zebra, from The title inspired my title, and I admire Dr. Seuss' (Theodore Geisel's) creative flair and sly addresses of social issues in many of his books.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Releasing Books into the Wild!

Over the years, I have given away tons of books - to library book sales, friends, and our library's take-a-book/leave-a-book shelf. But to be able to hear back as the book travels the world; to be able to read from others what they thought of the book -- What a fascinating treat! is a free internet project sponsored by a software company. It's also a social experiment very much in the mood of the Web Ethos. Have you ever, like me, wished you could release a helium baloon or a bottle with a note -- and wait to hear from a stranger who found the note? This is like that, but better. You register yourself and a book on the website. Put a note in the book (they sell cool bookplates, as illustrated above, but you can just write in the book or on a sticker). And leave the book somewhere public. If you worry about weather, put the book in a ziplock bag.

Sometime, someday, you will get an e-mail, mediated by the Bookcrossing website so your e-mail remains secret. You'll be notified that somebody picked up that book and has registered it. They can leave a note on the website commenting on the book and what it meant to them. You can watch as the book is released again, perhaps traveling around the world.

Ah, this is awesome! Thank you, BookCrossing, from a librarian and booklover! Their motto: "Reinventing moveable type."

Monday, September 25, 2006

Getting the MLS -- Getting info on programs in library science

Susan Lewis-Sommers, at American University, gathered information on MLS programs that allow distance degrees, sometimes without residency requirements. She found, through some excellent collaborative reference efforts, that this can be searched on the American Library Association (ALA) website, at link. You can limit your searches there in different ways, which is very helpful. There is another wonderful site, which has a helpful chart of MLS programs comparing them in a variety of ways, including residency requirements link here. Note that most library employers will want to know that the Masters in Library Science comes from a program accredited by the ALA, just as employers want to know your law degree comes from a law school accredited by the ABA (usually, anyway!).

One last little point. It's expensive to get both degrees. There are scholarships available that might help with tuition. They are not huge, but every little bit helps. Scholarship info at

ALA link- there is a huge list and not all are scholarships. Use the control F function on your browser and look for scholarship on the page.

AALL (American Assn. of Law Libraries) link - scholarships for folks with the JD to get the MLS, and vice-versa.

Your school may have other scholarships or lists of scholarships and grants. If you are lucky, you may be able to get a full time position at the school you will attend, and take advantage of tuition remission. Many universities offer this benefit to full time employees and their families. You can attend a certain number of class hours, at no charge. Of course, you have to be an employee at a university that has an accredited program!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Electronic Modernization Surveillance Act, HR 5825

On Friday, Sept. 21, the House of Representatives passed this bill, which

would broaden the U.S. government’s ability to conduct electronic surveillance on U.S. residents by making it easier for federal law enforcement officials to get court-issued warrants.

The Electronic Modernization Surveillance Act, opposed by several privacy groups, would also allow federal law enforcement officials to spy on U.S. residents for up to 90 days without a court order in the period after a terrorist attack. The House Judiciary Committee approved the legislation Wednesday by a 20-16 vote, with all committee Democrats present voting against the bill.

from CIO Magazine,

See link for a Congressional Research Service report on the bill.

Link for a transcript of testimony on the bill from Heather Wilson, Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Technical and Tactical Intelligence Subcommittee

(both links above are courtesy of the Federation of American Scientists, which has a Government Secrecy Project Link with very helpful information on a variety of these bills and policies)

Thomas link to full text, summaries, Congressional Budget Office cost estimates, and all Congressional actions on the bill.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Power of Metaphor

A metaphor makes a concrete image in the mind, bringing life and emotion to what might be abstract. To some extent, similes function in the same way, by comparing unrelated things. In both cases, we draw upon a physical sense – vision, hearing, taste, smell or touch, and create an alternate image that describes vividly some aspect of a completely unrelated phenomenon. This image-making is very powerful stuff.

Language shapes the thoughts we think... Lawyers who carefully craft opening and closing statements understand this instinctively. They choose the terms in which to present their case carefully, knowing that it will structure the jury’s thinking about the matter.

So, why do we dismiss its power in our everyday use? We do so at our peril. We use metaphors and similes all the time:

The thunder rumbled like distant artillery;


The running back punched through the enemy line.

When we slip into using metaphors like this last, we translate sport into war and even more aggression than football might ordinarily express. When we use sport or war metaphors and similes to think about events at work or home, we subtly transform relationships.

War, and most sports, are zero-sum games. There is only one winning side. The other side is the LOSER.

When we use images from sports or war to describe our personnel difficulties, for instance, or efforts to gain budget or attention or status, we change the way we think about these things. We become aggressors, or the victims of aggression. We either win or we lose, and the other side either loses or wins.

This seems to me to be a very destructive way to imagine relationships either at work or home. Be aware when you use language. You may be setting up enemy-images where none need to exist. You may be creating a win-lose situation when it could be win-win. I firmly believe that there rarely HAS to be a zero-sum game. I always look for some way to enlarge the pie rather than fight over a finite pool of resources.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Faster chips

We keep seeing stories about faster and faster microchips. The latest story is here link
in the NY Times Technology Briefing for today. Announcing Lucent technology to speed wireless connectivity. It's not clear from the short story exactly how the chips work to speed things up,

To achieve the benefits, base stations that handle wireless traffic would have to be upgraded to take advantage of the chips' capacity to run data through multiple antennae at one time. Lucent and other equipment makers are negotiating standards for such technology, which could provide a relatively inexpensive way to sharply increase the capacity of existing wireless networks.

To see more about Lucent Technologies' Bell Labs work on microchips, visit here. It's designed for investors, not scientists, but it has interesting info and images. Cheaper and faster also needs to mean cooler, and laser-reading technology is affecting electronics as well. See NASA link here to read about laser-pulse electronics, developed in NASA's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) technology transfer program. More on microchips that use laser light to communicate at the speed of light rather than chugging electrical impulses over micro-thin wires hereat the NY Times, reporting on Intel laser-reading technology.

Currently fiber optic networks are used to transmit data to individual neighborhoods in cities where the data is then distributed by slower conventional wire-based communications gear. The laser chips will make it possible to send avalanches of data to and from individual homes at far less cost.

They could also give rise to a new class of supercomputers that could share data internally at speeds not possible today.

The breakthrough was achieved by bonding a layer of light-emitting indium phosphide onto the surface of a standard silicon chip etched with special channels that act as light-wave guides. The resulting sandwich has the potential to create on a computer chip hundreds and possibly thousands of tiny, bright lasers that can be switched on and off billions of times a second.

The Warner Brothers' Roadrunner, symbolizing blazing speed (and a little fun!) is courtesy of

Yin and Yang: Making lemonade

There is no experience so bad that I can’t learn something from it! At least, that’s what I tell myself on bad days. And, if I learn from the experience, it won’t be a total loss.

And, on the other hand, there is no job I have done so perfectly that I can’t learn to better it.

Lemons courtesy of UC Davis shrimp and rice salad recipe.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Bob Berring Podcasts!

Steve Melamut at Carolina Blawg reports Bob Berring is making his legal research lectures available as a podcast, courtesy of West Law School Publications. I haven't had a chance to listen yet, but if anyone can make audio lectures on legal research interesting and entertaining, it's Bob.

Copyright in Electronic Resources

Another useful resource is the paper from University of Texas General Counsel, Georgia Harper (link in title above). The UT system website generally has very helpful materials on copyright in the academic setting. One of the most helpful bits here is noting that CONFU participants have never arrived at a consensus on electronic copyright and fair use parameters for electronic sources. Excellent website.

Being Grown-up

The essence of being a grown up:

Knowing that you are finally old enough to choose to have ice cream for breakfast, but not doing it because you know it's not good for you.

Ain't life a bite?

The ice cream sundae image is courtesy of the Official Website of the Ice Cream Sundae. Who knew?! Cheer up a friend; send them a virtual sundae!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Electronic Reserves

Cornell University announced that it has created guidelines and a fair-use checklist for its professors to help them avoid violating copyright law when they place materials on electronic reserve. According to a story in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the "guidelines were jointly written with officials from the publishing group...after the group sent a letter to the university complaining that it suspected widespread copyright violations on the campus." The publishers' concerns grew out of the perception that some professors believe that copyright law does not apply to electronic materials in the same way it applies to print materials. Allan R. Adler, an official with the Association of American Publishers, stated that "professors making articles available to students over the Web must use the same rules that apply when putting the articles in printed course packs." Cornell has posted the guidelines and checklist on its website. Adler said that his group considers cavalier use of electronic materials to be a "widespread problem," and hopes to work with other schools to create guidelines.

Outrage and Rant: More lies!

! 2004 Presidential Election Fraud
American democracy, the American people and the world have been betrayed by those members of the Republic party that felt dirty tricks were all justified in their determination to seize control of the federal government. The following items are the beginning of a story that is breaking, and I think it will eventually bring down the current administration and set back the Republican party for a long time.

Robert F. Kennedy's in-depth article in Rolling Stone, Was the 2004 Election Stolen? link
mentioned at OOTJ earlier by Prof. Kennedy's proud librarian. Read the article and the sidebars, too.

! Ongoing issues with voting machines
"Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting Machine" Report from the Center for Information Technical Policy at Princeton University link
An independent study of the Diebold voting machines that discovered they could be unlocked with a hotel mini-bar key. Of course, they found lots of other ways to hack the vote on the machines which are in wide use in U.S. elections, concluding in their executive summary:

We analyzed the machine's hardware and software, performed experiments on it, and considered whether real election practices would leave it suitably secure. We found that the machine is vulnerable to a number of extremely serious attacks that undermine the accuracy and credibility of the vote counts it produces.

! Hacking Net Neutrality Polls
Ars Technica reports (link) the
nationwide survey of 800 registered voters is being touted by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation because it purports to show that Americans are not interested in net neutrality legislation. Calling proposed net neutrality "onerous," the Committee's press materials say that the poll makes it clear that Americans prefer "video choice" over such regulations.

Ars Technica criticizes the poll as being misleading to the point of pushing opinions onto the polled individuals. The Committee seems to be creating its cover story.

! Fake Science Opposing Global Warming
And the UK paper, The Guardian runs this report. They detail evidence the big tobacco companies as well as Exxon have been funding fake citizen's groups and bogus scientific bodies to fight against the concept of global warming. Exxon, I can understand, but Phillip Morris? Here is an explanation of why they got involved:

Had it not been for the settlement of a major class action against the tobacco companies in the US, we would never have been able to see what happened next. But in 1998 they were forced to publish their internal documents and post them on the internet.

Within two months of its publication, Philip Morris, the world's biggest tobacco firm, had devised a strategy for dealing with the passive-smoking report. In February 1993 Ellen Merlo, its senior vice-president of corporate affairs, sent a letter to William I Campbell, Philip Morris's chief executive officer and president, explaining her intentions: "Our overriding objective is to discredit the EPA report ... Concurrently, it is our objective to prevent states and cities, as well as businesses, from passive-smoking bans."

To this end, she had hired a public relations company called APCO. She had attached the advice it had given her. APCO warned that: "No matter how strong the arguments, industry spokespeople are, in and of themselves, not always credible or appropriate messengers."

So the fight against a ban on passive smoking had to be associated with other people and other issues. Philip Morris, APCO said, needed to create the impression of a "grassroots" movement - one that had been formed spontaneously by concerned citizens to fight "overregulation". It should portray the danger of tobacco smoke as just one "unfounded fear" among others, such as concerns about pesticides and cellphones. APCO proposed to set up "a national coalition intended to educate the media, public officials and the public about the dangers of 'junk science'. Coalition will address credibility of government's scientific studies, risk-assessment techniques and misuse of tax dollars ... Upon formation of Coalition, key leaders will begin media outreach, eg editorial board tours, opinion articles, and brief elected officials in selected states."

APCO would found the coalition, write its mission statements, and "prepare and place opinion articles in key markets". For this it required $150,000 for its own fees and $75,000 for the coalition's costs. ...

There are clear similarities between the language used and the approaches adopted by Philip Morris and by the organisations funded by Exxon. The two lobbies use the same terms, which appear to have been invented by Philip Morris's consultants. "Junk science" meant peer-reviewed studies showing that smoking was linked to cancer and other diseases. "Sound science" meant studies sponsored by the tobacco industry suggesting that the link was inconclusive. Both lobbies recognised that their best chance of avoiding regulation was to challenge the scientific consensus. As a memo from the tobacco company Brown and Williamson noted, "Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy." Both industries also sought to distance themselves from their own campaigns, creating the impression that they were spontaneous movements of professionals or ordinary citizens: the "grassroots".

But the connection goes further than that. TASSC, the "coalition" created by Philip Morris, was the first and most important of the corporate-funded organisations denying that climate change is taking place. It has done more damage to the campaign to halt it than any other body.

TASSC did as its founders at APCO suggested, and sought funding from other sources. Between 2000 and 2002 it received $30,000 from Exxon. The website it has financed - - has been the main entrepot for almost every kind of climate-change denial that has found its way into the mainstream press.

And of course, the image decorating this rant, (courtesy of Greenpeace at is just one more lie we've been given.


I have been trying to not get mired in the news -- it's too depressing and my outrage seems not to do any good. But I visited Baghdad Burning, the blog by a young Iraqi woman and the latest entries just are too much. We need to bring the troops home now!
See Baghdad Burning at

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Make your own error messages!

The link above takes you to a website offering custom-made error messages that are possibly more helpful but certainly more entertaining than those Windows sends me. The link takes you to a little gallery of sample messages. If you click on the purple link near the top of the page to "Make your own error messages," you get to use a menu to create a similar error message. Cute.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Welcome, Jacqueline Cantwell!

Please join me in welcoming the newest member of the OOTJ team, Jacqueline Cantwell. Jacqueline is a senior law librarian in the Brooklyn Supreme Court Law Library. She has worked in a variety of law library settings since 1989 and is an active member of the SCCLL SIS of AALL.

A library should be more than a study hall and a computer lab!

The link in the title above (and the wonderful semi-quote) come from an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Sept. 1, 2006, by Scott Carlson. Titled "Library Renovatin Leads to Soul Searching at Cal Poly: Professors and librarians complain about a shift from print to online materials," the article examines the front lines of the battle between print and digital materials.

At Cal State Polytechnic University at Pomona, a shaved budget for library renovation led to reduced space for books. When the original weeding program still left too many books for the reduced floor space, the dean of libraries, Harold B. Schleifer asked his librarians to discard books that "hadn't been checked out in a decade, and if copies were available at nearby libraries, or if it was damaged,...."

The disturbed librarians staged a revolt by alerting faculty to the lists of materials, declaring the plan "penny-wise by pount foolish" and "antithetical to our professional values." According to the article,

When Ms. Bricker, the architectural historian, heard that JSTOR journals were sent to the trash and that books were going to storage, she was dismayed. "I began to read about other, even more serious research institutions than ours that are succumbing to this — digitizing books and not seeing the value of the physical object," she says. "I thought, This is a trend, and our librarian probably just feels that he is keeping up."

Zuoyue Wang, an associate professor of history at Cal Poly, makes looking through journal articles an important part of his courses, which cover the history of science. While so many materials have been put into deep storage during the library renovation, getting books through neighboring college libraries has worked well, he says, and "JSTOR has been a lifesaver."

But he did not know that the library had completely discarded the old paper versions of journals archived on JSTOR. "As a historian, I'm concerned," he says. "When you discard journals, students lose the ability to browse. That's something I would regret. I can see why the library would take that step, but I wish they would have let us know."

"We're spending all of this money on the physical space," he says. "We're getting a better library, but not a better collection."

Joseph Branin, director of libraries at Ohio State University, which is also undergoing a renovation, says Cal Poly's experience is not all that unusual.

"Every big academic library that is going through a space redesign is faced with this issue," he says. "There is certainly more and more talk among librarians about what print material to keep, what to store, and what to discard." Ohio State's library once held 2.2 million items on its shelves, but Mr. Branin says materials have gradually migrated to an off-site storage facility. After the renovation, Ohio State's library will have room for 1.5 million volumes. Some at Ohio State think the library should hold more, he says, and some think it should hold less.

When a library purges materials to prepare for a renovation, the process has to be done carefully, with consideration for the library's position in its region, Mr. Branin says. "You have to do a lot of consulting, and a lot of explaining, and try as best you can to get your constituents to understand and cooperate with you," he says. "If you do it too fast, if you do it without careful planning, and if you do it in opposition to a lot of constituents, you're going to get in trouble."

Behind the Glamor!

From reading OOTJ, you may think the life of a law librarian blogger is all glamor and excitement. Just imagine:

* The instant power and prestige,
* The ritzy digs and glitzy, high-fashion togs,
* The high finance and breath-taking exploits.

Well, it’s not all roses all the time. While Jim may be zipping off to the Toronto film festival for red carpet treatment, and rubbing elbows with the Dalai Lama (check out his thrilling schedule at Buffalo Wings and Toasted Ravioli and Check This Out), moi is here in Boston, MA, toiling away.

Yes, I get the huge satisfaction of knowing that you, dear reader, are enjoying a daily (or nearly daily!) shot of OOTJ wisdom, news and advice. And just knowing that I’m a household name all around the world is a thrill.

Yet, the weight of the power a blogger holds is also a burden. We here at OOTJ feel a responsibility to our readers. In order to bring you a daily blog entry of the highest quality, there are legions of quiet contributors*, toiling away in the background. We have to fact-check all the news we post. And the double-checking to be certain we are linking you to the absolute best and most trustworthy sources available on the Web! All this takes time and meticulous attention to detail. The search for cute pictures alone can take well over five minutes on an unlucky day!

So, while the smooth execution and top-notch research and analysis may look effortless, while the glamor and fun might appear easy and seductive, think for a while about the sparks flying off the keyboards, and zomby-eyed bloggers, and BE IMPRESSED as hell. or not.

* Well, count them, duh! There are at eight bloggers on this group blog. We are all working each day at top speed and intense concentration to make OOTJ come alive for YOU, dear reader!

The wonderful weimeraner that just reeks sophistication and glamor is a William Wegman photograph, found at

Thursday, September 14, 2006

SB 2453: Warrantless Electronic Surveillance?

The link in the title is to the Wired blog posting of a Discussion Draft of SB 2453, which they report just passed the Senate. While Wired seems to be declaring that the bill authorizes warrantless searches, it looks to me to require warrants to be issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Those who want another version of the bill, and links to the Congressional Record debates, should visit Thomas, the Library of Congress' legislative website. Type the bill number, S 2453 into the search box, and select Bill Number just below the box.

Meanwhile, what is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court? It is a special court that is staffed on a rotating basis by federal judges, sitting in Washington, D.C., to handle requests from the FBI (and possibly other agencies as well) for warrants to search regarding national security issues.

Link here for a brief history of the FISC from the Federal Judicial Center.

Click here for the Federation of American Scientists' very helpful link page with hyperlinks to full text of LOTS of info on and by the FISC, from annual reports to Congress, to all the statutes that involve it, letters and statements from various government officials about the Court.

Here is a link to the Rules of the FISC, as posted by the ACLU

Link for the Electronic Frontier Foundation's FAQs on the Court.

Click here for EPIC news bulletins about the FISA.

And, lest you believe that the FISC judges just roll over when the administration asks for a warrant, here is a Seattle Post Intelligencer article from Dec., 2005 about the FISC modifying adminstration requests, and here is an article from the Washington Post, Dec., 2005, about the court questioning the administration's demands for warrantless searches.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

OCLC survey: Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources

OCLC has produced a report, dated 2005, based on a survey of various nationalities' public perceptions of libraries and other information resources. The link in the title of this post takes you to the OCLC website to download the statistical analysis or purchase a print copy.

The Perceptions report provides the findings and responses from the online survey in an effort to learn more about:

* Library use
* Awareness and use of library electronic resources
* The Internet search engine, the library and the librarian
* Free vs. for-fee information
* The "Library" brand

The findings indicate that information consumers view libraries as places to borrow print books, but they are unaware of the rich electronic content they can access through libraries. Even though information consumers make limited use of these resources, they continue to trust libraries as reliable sources of information.

Building on the study, Drew Racine, at U.T., Austin, writes Bifurcate to Survive in American Libraries, Sept., 2006 issue, pages 34-35. In it he makes some radical suggestions, from his point of view as head of facilities planning and operations (I wonder if Roy Mersky has read this?). Some of these, some law librarians are already pursuing or at least discussing. Others may make you see red:

1. "Centralize books and spaces for users into one or two large, formidable-looking buildings" ... compact shelving at the core and wireless connectivity, electric outlets and comfy seating near the windowed periphery.

2. "Campus Rsearch Service Centers:" Trade in branch library spaces for small spaces distributed around bookstores, dorms, student union areas staffed with roving librarians with laptops and Ipods.

3. Stop spending to build research collections, and supply "books on demand" outside of special collections of record agreed-upon in consortial agreements.

4. Drop ILL borrowing and buy from Amazon.

5. Drop print journal collections and buy e-subscriptions or articles on demand.

6. Stop cataloging, and do a Google/Amazon style biblio-entry.

7. Rethink library websites; model them on Google with a simple search screen and no announcements or graphics. "Form should follow function. That single search box should search only those items that the library owns, has paid for access to, or that are available on the web..." Incorporate federated searching.

8. Hire staff ready to operate in a distributed, un-supervised setting, with high service orientation. They don't have to be library school graduates: "These staff might be graduates of schools of information, library and information science, business, sociology, communications, or other disciplines."

Finallly, improve individual accountability for carrying out responsibilities in order to achieve a just and effective organization. Too many libraries ... fail to follow through to correct the course when the evidence shows that individuals and units are not pursuing organizational goals effectively. We construct extra administrative and bureaucratic procedures and structures to deal with "problems" that could be avoided--or more likely would not even exist--if everyone (administrators, managers, all levels of staff) were held accountable to clear expectations.


Deceit & Deception: Chomsky and Trivers at Seed Salon

Follow the link in the title above to a fascinating discussion by Professors Robert Trivers and Noam Chomsky at the online magazine, Seed. They discuss from their separate disciplines and backgrounds research in animals and its application to understanding government and national actions like the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They talk of the U.S. policy-makers cherry-picking the data to justify their invasion of Iraq, and discuss how conscious or unconscious it may have been. Group-think dynamics where an entire organization builds up a false image in order to justify a pre-determined action, to individual actions like a person moving from considering marrying a person to dating the person. At the dating stage, they point out, the individual does not want to hear, cannot hear, negative things about the beloved. At the earlier stage, before the decision was made, the individual is still operating rationally and weighing the pros and cons. But once the decsion is made, everything negative is blocked out by an internal, psychological "firewall." Interesting to think about national actions, and how we perceive ourselves versus other groups, but also interesting to apply to personal considerations.

One thing they talk about is individual suppression of fear signs in order to look more self-confident. They also discuss what happens if the deceiver is found out!

The gorilla beating his chest is courtesy of

More on Open Access: Alliance for Taxpayer Access

The earlier posts here on various bills and moves for open access science 9/6/06,
7/28/06, and 5/8/06, made me excited to read in American Libraries issue of Sept. 2006, pp. 30 - 32 about taxpayer groups pushing for open access to federally funded research of all types. The link in the title above takes you to Alliance for Taxpayer Access' website. This is a terrific resource, and appears to be a good organization. The website includes updates and full text PDF versions of the various bills, letters, debates and statements on the topic. There are links to all kinds of developments. The organization is rightly peeved about research paid for with taxpayers' dollars being published ONLY in high-priced journals and databases which limits access to those involved with large universities and research institutions. Library organizations are involved in advocating for open access. The American Library Association coordinates the efforts at their Online Advocacy office and website.

The article also mentions the wonderful PubMed free archive of life sciences journals from the National Library of Medicine, NIH. The PubMed folks even include a tutorial here. The law library community is doing some work itself on archiving scholarship in public access databases. There are LEDA, the Legal Electronic Document Archive consortium effort, and LSR, the Legal Scholarship Repository from the NELLCO consortium. But these only cover law review articles, white papers, and other such scholarly publications. The best free resources for primary law (statutes, case law, constitutions) online are LII, the Legal Information Institute at Cornell, Library of Congress' list of Government Web Resources link, FirstGov portal to the federal government, which includes this handy link for state and territorial government web pages
Cheers for all the folks working to make our government information more easily available, from GovDocs librarians, to Government Printing Office webpages, to the people at advocacy groups and legislative advocacy offices!

Ironically enough, the beautiful flag image illustrating this posting is from FedWorld, the portal site of the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) branch of the Commerce Department. Under President Reagan, NTIS began a wide-spread process of "privatizing" federal government information.

Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11, Five Years Later

There are a quadzillion websites memorializing the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Out of all that, I would recommend visiting the Library of Congress pages first. They have so many, the simplest way to maneuver is to do an Advanced Search on Google (or another search engine that allows you to specify the domain):

september 11

Is the search I entered. They have a wonderful collection, as you might expect. Very touching. They do have a link page and search engine, which can be accessed at link.

The thing I learned on Sept. 11 is that life is very fragile; don't ever leave your friends or loved ones without telling them you love them.

What a difference a night makes! Sleep deprivation

I have been getting exhausted, and no amount of sleep seemed to help. I changed some medicines last week, and finally caught up on my "sleep debt." Whew! When I don't get enough good sleep, it's hard to focus, think clearly, and maintain some emotional balance. I looked on the Web this morning for information about sleep disorders. ... If you're interested, here are some sites.

Sleep Deprivation link
This is a for-profit organization, but they are careful about labeling links to their pharmaceutical corporate partners. It's a very clear, informational site that appears to be carefully vetted and up-to-date. It turns out there are a lot of things that can cause sleep deprivation, from disorders to medicine to simple things like taking caffeine or alcohol too late in the day.

The Sleep Well Link
This is a central link to an award-winning suite of web pages from Stanford. Some of the pages are old, but the information appears to be very good. They also link out to a for-profit partner site that appears to be a spin-off of Dr. Dement (wonderful name!), a Stanford professor who has a regular class for undergraduates on sleep.

Stanford Sleep Disorders Center link
This actually connects to the Sleep Well, above, but is much more current. I still think going to the Sleep Well is worthwhile because it has a lot of explanatory material. This site is more keyed to marketing the various departments in the Sleep Center at Stanford.

Franklin Institute Sleep & the Human Brain link
A nice, accessible and more current website discussing sleep and its effects on the brain. Plus, it has the adorable sleeping kitty with which I illustrated this essay.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Meta-scholarship: Law Profs Studying Legal Scholarship

I had not realized what a buzzing area of scholarship there is right now on empirical studies of legal scholarship. Besides loving the inherent navel-gazing quality of the field, I am intrigued by the thinking and results these guys are coming up with.

I have been thinking about what effects digital publishing is having, but have really looked at the full-text access to primary law, law reviews and treatises. I have thought about whether judges and professor will game the search systems by trying to include more searchable terms and titles. After all, how can you have much influence if your decision or article can't be located by searchers? Already, articles in journals not available electronically are nearly lost.

I also have thought about the effect of these full-text databases with superior, sophisticated search options on the researchers. That is, do students, paralegals and young associates search or even think about legal questions differently than before CALR was so ubiquitous? Of course they do! We all do. Barbara Bintliff pointed out in From Creativeity to Computerese: Thinking Like a Lawyer in the Computer Age, 88 Law Lib J 338 (Summer, 1996), that a researcher using online sources to find a case usually creates a query out of the material facts of the case at hand. In searching the index to the Digest to find a case, on the other hand, a researcher has to do some preliminary legal analysis to at least decide the general topics to search. I think the changes go much deeper, resulting in seriously changed and weakened legal analysis. More and more, researchers seem to be relying on the cases they find online for the analysis rather than doing independent thinking.

The image above is a recursive photo, courtesy of Nick Gall's radioblog at A recursive photo, of a photo of a photo, like repeating mirrors, is a pretty good illustration of meta-scholarship.

To see what the profs are thinking about, read on...

Here are some interesting sites:

Yale Pocket Part
The Future of Legal Scholarship link

Online Legal Scholarship: The Medium and the Message by Jack M. Balkin link
Balking begins his essay with an account of how his blog, Balkinization, educated the media on a spurious "compromise" bill purporting to settle the disagreement between the Bush Whitehouse, National Security Agency and Senator Arlen Spector over intrusive domestic surveillance. The blog entries analyzed the bill in more depth than the reporters could do themselves, and revealed serious weakness in the bill. The media picked up on the bloggers' analysis and changed the tone of reports from praising the bill to damning it.

This story encapsulates many of the most important effects online media will have on legal scholarship. It shows how digital technologies affect the style, subject matter, tempo, intermediaries, and audience for legal scholarship, and how online media will shape the diffusion of legal expertise and the incentives for producing legal knowledge.

In my “official” (i.e., non-blogging) legal scholarship, I’ve argued that Internet speech has two key characteristics. It routes around traditional media gatekeepers and it gloms onto existing cultural sources, appropriating them for its own purposes rather than displacing them. A similar analysis applies to the production and diffusion of legal expertise.

Both online media like the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) and blogging route around the traditional gatekeepers of legal scholarship: law journals.

Balkin notes these features of digital publishing and how they will affect legal scholarship:
1. Speed of publication increases. (Notes 8 and 9, below flow from this)
2. Author retains more or total control over style, editing.
3. Reach a broader audience.
4. Use a broader range of resources. The same electronic publishing that creates the other features also make scholarship from other fields instantly, freely available to legal scholars.
5. Interactive publication, like blogs which allow comments. This creates both a sense of loyalty in the consumer and a feeling of responsibility in the producer.
6. Shorter, more informal pieces.
7. Fewer citations, but those used are hyper-links so the reader can "see for yourself."
8. Quicker response to new issues and court decisions.
9. Bloggers are rewarded for fast reaction, and pressured for speed, which can reduce the quality of analysis and writing.
10. Quick response means the easy conclusions are reached first and fast, and comments following may move the thinking along faster than it might go in a law journal call and response. You have a community working on the analysis. This might be good for some issues and deleterious to analysis of others.
11. The rewards and pressure for speed make legal scholarship on blogs more like journalism, also the changed relationship between reader and public is more like journalism than traditional legal scholarship.
12. The relationships between author and reading public changes. It is a more intimate connection, and can feed back and forth. For instance, journalists read certain blogs for expert legal commentary, but they are also influenced by the bloggers. Some blogs become excellent platforms for commentary because of their relationship with the media.
13. Blogging and other digital publishing also affects the subject matter:

Routing around [traditional legal publishing outlets] shapes the subject matter and the message of legal scholarship in multiple ways. Online media—and particularly blogging—drive legal writing toward issues that are timely and particularly important to practitioners, policy analysts, journalists, and politicians. Blogging allows law professors to comment on successive drafts of pending legislation both in Congress and in state governments—something that traditional legal scholarship can almost never do. It allows focused commentaries on recent state and lower federal court decisions that most law professors would not want to spend an entire law review article addressing, and that most student-edited law reviews—which tend to focus on constitutional and other “hot” topics—would not be interested in publishing.

Blogging’s quick response time could discourage commentary that is not timely, that takes the longer view of a problem, or concerns an issue or a field of law unrelated to current controversies. Legal bloggers who write about topics with no connection to current events won’t get large audiences; they will have to content themselves with niche audiences of specialists. Fortunately, online media are perfect for niche publications. They reduce the cost of publication and data storage, and they lower the costs of speakers and audiences finding each other. Hence online media have two interesting and opposing effects: they drive legal commentary toward timely issues for bloggers who seek a mass audience, and they create a friendly venue for specialized legal commentary aimed at smaller audiences who can now easily form communities of interest. Both SSRN and niche blogs are partial antidotes to the skewed focus of student-edited journals, which provide too little coverage of business law and statutory questions that would be most useful to lawyers and judges. In fact, there are now niche legal blogs on almost every conceivable subject, from corporate law to disability law.
Blogging pushes law professors to analyze contemporary legal issues instead of high theory; equally important, it drives them toward doctrinal analysis that lawyers and judges can use. I have felt these effects myself. Before 2003, when I started my blog, most of my “official” scholarship was nonprescriptive and interdisciplinary. But most of my blogging has been normative, offering lawyerly arguments about the merits of legislation, executive actions, and judicial decisions. That result may be overdetermined, as my scholarly interests have changed in the past decade. But if online media have helped turn a deconstructionist into a doctrinalist, imagine what they will do to everyone else.

But what about quality? Won’t online media generate a veritable Tower of Babel of half-baked legal arguments that nobody wants to listen to? Online media don’t just route around traditional gatekeepers. They also glom onto them—they depend on them rather than displace them. This is the second of the two effects of online media I mentioned earlier. The old gatekeepers don’t go away entirely, and new ones arise that partially supplement and partially compete with them.

The Long Tail of Legal Scholarship by Paul L. Caron link
The title refers to the article and blog expansion on the idea of The Long Tail in markets, by Wired editor Chris Anderson. The basic idea is that pre-digital age, publishers and other producers of information, books, movies, etc., looked for the big hit. They figured 80% of their sales came from 20% of their produced books, etc., and were always focused on trying to identify a potential hit. The development of cheaper production available so easily to a broader consuming public changed all that by recognizing that larger profits could actually be realized by producing many niche products than by producing one or two big hits. Caron applies the long tail to legal scholarship, examining Tom Smith's project The Web of the Law, noted at Right Coast blog, below. Caron would look instead at hits for an article rather than the citation use of articles in Smith's study. He includes an interesting graph based on data from SSRN, ranking law schools and professors by the number of hits and downloads. Caron concludes

Consistent with the long tail thesis, 97% of authors have had at least one download in the past year and 100% have had at least one download at some time. (This long tail is not present in citations data; 40% of articles have never been cited.) The shift in legal scholarship toward the tail is clear from a comparison of new downloads to total downloads

Caron hopes the group empirical study of legal scholarship by Arewa, Morriss, Henderson and Dau-Schmidt will improve understandings of the consumption of legal scholarship and in turn, influence the development of legal scholarship.

Empirical Legal Studies
Applying Empirical Methods to Legal Scholarship, a report on a group project by Andrew Morriss, Funmi Arewa, Bill Henderson, and Ken Dau-Schmidt link. Arewa also reports briefly on the project at Conglomeratehere

(note Arewa's post at Conglomerate noted just above)

Navel Gazing (Part XXVII) by Dave Hoffman link
Hoffman reacts to the citation study by Tom Smith noted at Right Coast. He wonders if the citation study wouldn't have different results in a more comprehensive database of law reviews, and wishes Smith would use his citation study to produce a more sophisticated measure of law review rankings.

The Right Coast
A voice, crying in the wilderness, and then just crying by Tom Smith here
This is a fascinating study where Smith analyzes how many of the law review articles in Lexis' Shepards' database (?) are cited and how often:

... the top .5% of law review articles gets 18% of all citations (snip); the top 5.2% gets about 50% of all citations; and the top 17% of articles gets 79% of all citations. And about 40% of articles never get cited at all.

TCS Daily (Tech Central Station aka Technology Commerce Society)
Little Things by Glenn Harlan Reynolds
Reynolds is thinking that electronic access and searching of law reviews is going to flatten the hierarchy of law reviews and of individual professors' reputation based on which school they work at:

Nowadays, very few people do research this way [searching the Index to Legal Periodicals]. Instead, the first stop is the computerized Lexis and Westlaw databases, where articles are searched by keyword, and where results appear ranked (depending on which you use) either in reverse-chronological order or in alphabetical order by journal. And since you can view the section of the article where the search terms appear just by clicking your mouse, there's less incentive to look only at the most prestigious venues.

I believe that this has led me to cite more articles in comparatively obscure and un-prestigious journals than I used to, and colleagues I've spoken with say the same thing. So although articles in the Harvard Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, and the Columbia Law Review still command more prestige than articles in, say, the Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Review, they are no longer more likely to be noticed.

That's true even for casual browsing. Until about ten years ago, most law libraries kept faculty members aware of new scholarship by photocopying the contents pages of new law reviews as they arrived in the mail, then distributing them weekly in a thick wad. In skimming through them, many faculty members would tend to look only at the contents pages for the most prestigious law reviews, because there were often fifty or a hundred pages in a bundle. Now, to save on copying costs, they're distributed by email and indexed by subject - meaning that I'm just as likely to be aware of an article in my field that appears in the most obscure as of one in the most eminent journal.

New Publishing Experiment: Jack Balkin's "Long Tail"

The Chronicle of Higher Education, in the Hot Type column for Sept. 8, 2006, linked above, reports on a new venture in academic publishing. Jack Balkin's book Cultural Software: A Theory of Ideology (Yale University Press, 1998), had intriguing things to say about the almost Darwinian struggle to spread among memes. Balkin has just persuaded his publisher, Yale University Press, to re-issue the book in a free web-version link. Readers can access or even download the full text of the book under Creative Commons copyright. The Web version is not searchable. The front webpage also offers hyperlinks to order a print copy of the book from Yale University Press, Amazon and Barnes & Noble online stores. In the Chronicle article, Balkin calls this an experiment that may offer a new way for university presses to make money from their backlists, taking advantage of the "long tail" of scholarship that sparks new thinking and interest long after initial publication. So far, Balkin's book is just scanned (the article says photographs) pages, but the author would like to see it available in searchable HTML. Cool!

The Hot Type column goes on to note another Yale University Press experiment with The Wealth of Networks: How Social Prduction Transorms Markets and Freedom by Yochai Benkler, also at Yale Law. This new publication came out in print simultaneously with a free digital version. The online has wiki pages allowing readers to criticize and annotate the book. Press director John Donatich says the experiment did not eat into the print market, and may have pushed it into its third printing since May.

Hot Type also reports on The Caravan Project, by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation: simultaneous publication in multiple formats. Digital, paperback, hardcover on-demand (not clear from the article if it's just hardcover that is print-on-demand), along with audio formats. Should begin coming out from the six participating presses in 2007.

The image is Lord Stanhope's printing press, courtesy of

Shlep and Law Librarians - a natural synergy

I was very excited to read Jim's post here the other day about SHLEP, the movement by David Giacalone boosting self-help for pro se. Jim and I have had discussions in the past about how helpful assistance in research can really be for pro se people. He is right that there are people who want to represent themselves in court whose problems are way, way beyond the help of a law library (or a lawyer, for that matter!). But in my experience, there are also people who are intelligent, sane, literate and want to represent themselves (or have to, because they can't afford a lawyer). Some of my patrons in this category went on to win their cases, and resolve their legal difficulties. It's very wrong to dismiss the entire self-help movement and all attempts to make legal information more broadly available, locatable and intelligible on the basis of the (sadly many) patrons who believe Mars is broadcasting directly into their brain.

I think law librarians have a role to play in this movement. AALL's special interest sections, LISP (Legal Information Services to the Public) (link) and Social Responsibilities (link) both are filled with librarians who are dedicated to making the legal process work for every day people. Their websites include helpful projects and resources on self-help. LISP for instance, has the Public Library Toolkit, designed to help public libraries in every state make informed decisions about what resources they need on law topics and how to help patrons use them. There also is a great powerpoint presentation at the LISP site on “Pioneers in Self-Help: A 21st Century Vision for Libraries, Self-help Centers, Legal Aid Websites and Pro Bono Partners” presented at AALL 2006.

A second powerpoint at the LISP site, also from 2006, looks at partnerships around the country supporting self-representers. One page discusses unbundling legal services as a trend that some practicing lawyers are embracing. That phrase is used to describe lawyers offering an array of support services to clients who don't need or want the whole attorney-client bundle. So they might contract to just give advice, or help with research or assist with drafting pleadings or transactional papers. There seem to be organized support systems in California, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC. The courts in Arizona were pioneers with kiosks and forms designed to help pro se folks file certain types of actions. There are actually a number of projects underway in various places, some partnerships of court systems and local libraries and bar associations.

While there are some of us whose jobs do not allow us to work with pro se patrons, or limit the parameters of the help we can offer, there are others working in public law school, state, court and county law libraries which have that as a core value of their organzation. AALL's State, Court & County Special Interest Section webpage link includes helpful links to free legal research sources which they recommend. There are regular programs at law library conferences on assisting the pro se or pro per patron. The ticklish balance between providing the in-depth help needed by non-lawyers to do the research and treading into the forbidden "practicing" zone is a frequent topic.

There are already many blog entries, web pages and pdf files on library pages that explain in plain language how to do certain kinds of research. Some include helpful links to free web resources, others list the print resources that will be needed, and explain that the sources are at public libraries as well as law libraries open to the public. The NOLO Press books are great resources for self-help folks as well link here. I am not sure what Giacalone has in mind for his co-editors to do. But I think his project should be an interesting one for librarians, and court administrators as well. While the bar associations tend to be wary of programs that encourage self-representation, the courts, and many librarians are seeing so many folks out there are self-representing whether they are encouraged or not. It definitely makes the court run more smoothly if the pro se folks get a level of support from the system.

We the librarians support We the People!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

And speaking of paranoia: The Dept of Education is Datamining student records for the FBI

Following hard on the heels of other government intrusions into citizen privacy in the name of anti-terrorism: link
to a New York Times article reporting that

Project Strikeback, the Education Department received names from the F.B.I. and checked them against its student aid database, forwarding information. Each year, the Education Department collects information from 14 million applications for federal student aid.

Neither agency would say whether any investigations resulted. The agencies said the program had been closed. The effort was reported yesterday by a graduate student, Laura McGann, at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, as part of a reporting project that focused on national security and civil liberties.

In a statement, Mary Mitchelson, counsel to the inspector general of the Education Department, said, “Using names provided by the bureau, we examined the Department of Education’s student financial aid databases to determine if the individuals received or applied for federal student financial assistance.”

Information collected on federal financial aid applications includes names, addresses, Social Security numbers, incomes and, for some students, information on parents’ incomes and educational backgrounds.

Generally, only United States citizens and permanent residents are eligible to apply for federal student financial aid.


The information sharing was disclosed as the Education Department examines a proposal by the Commission on the Future of Higher Education, established last year by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, to create a national student database that would follow individual students’ progress as a way of holding colleges accountable for students’ success

Thanks to Laura McGann's use of the Freedom of Information Act!

Here is a link to the proposal form the DOEd.

Speaking of Paranoid: Google is blocking privacy proxies

Boing Boing, ttrentham, reports that Google appears to be blocking searches from users of the various proxies that guard identity. Proxies like Privoxy, FoxyProxy, Tor and Vidalia can be used by anybody, but most notably by web browsers in oppressive countries to disguise their identity and location. If you try to enter a search to Google now, using one of these proxy servers, you get a 403 error message complaining that "...your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application. To protect our users, we can't process your request right now."

I hope it's just a temporary glitch, but it's very worrisome to see such a response to searches run with privacy proxies from a company that has already changed its rules to accommodate the oppressive government of Communist China.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

shlep under the radar

shlep - the Self-Help Law Express - is a project of David Giacalone, blogger at f/k/a (formerly ethicalEsq.)

For more than two centuries, American consumers have been shlepping toward justice — they’ve been manacled to an expensive lawyer in order to solve a legal problem, or to protect, assert or defend their rights. Our courts have become costly, complicated, lawyer-centered bureaucracies, rather than the accessible, client-centered dispute resolution centers they should be. As a result, studies show that 80% or more of the legal needs of the poor and working poor currently are unmet in the United States, while even solid members of the middle class often cannot afford to hire a lawyer when a legal need arises....

The Self-Help Law revolution is a multifaceted movement that strives to give legal consumers the tools and assistance necessary to solve most of their legal problems themselves -- if they so choose -- including “representing” yourself in court as a pro se litigant. The movement and process has been led by courts that are being overwhelmed with unrepresented parties, and by consumer advocates who believe that fair and effective access to justice is a universal right that should finally be made a reality in 21st Century America.
shlep is currently in pre-launch mode; David is posting a series of background postings prior to officially going public. One of these postings discusses the pro se "prosumer":
It’s been a quarter century since futurist Alvin Toffler coined the term “prosumer” to describe the merging of the roles of consumer and producer. (The Third Wave, 1980) A decade ago, Don Tapscott expanded on the concept of “prosumption” in The Digital Economy: Promise and Peril In The Age of Networked Intelligence (1996) — explaining that digitalization, “internetworking,” disintermediation (removing the middleman) and other forces are blurring the roles of producer and consumer, and creating a digital frontier where the “players, dynamics, rules and requirements for survival and success are all changing.”...

For many of their routine legal needs, self-help law already allows average
Americans to play a more extensive role as prosumer than that envisioned for health care consumers by Tapscott in Digital Economy or by Brett Triuko in Healthcare 2020: Technology in the New Millennium (AllBusiness, Dec. 1999). Thus, in nonlitigation matters, consumers have a wide selection of comprehensive “do-it-yourself” kits available, on topics such as will-making, landlord/tenant and tax preparation. In addition, through courthouse kiosks and other self-help centers and programs (in at least 25 states), prosumers can take charge of their own legal problems, with assistance that allows them to remove the middleman and proceed with relative confidence in many family court matters (i.e., divorce, custody, child support), simple estate
proceedings, name changes, traffic court and more, as well as traditional small claims disputes....

shlep hopes, therefore, that the many legal weblogs that focus on technology
and the practice of law will take a close look at prosumption and legal
We also hope that law librarians such as Tom Boone at Library Laws, Cindy Chick at LawLibTech, Jim Milles and his colleagues at Out of the Jungle, the Law Dawg pack, Ron & Joe at the Law Library Blog, and Stephen Francoeur at Digital Reference will add to the discussion and analysis.
I've always been of two minds about law library service to pro se patrons. Certainly there are relatively simple legal matters that can be handled less expensively by a patient and disciplined pro se litigant. On the other hand, many matters which seem simple can have larger problems lurking within, and the pro se litigant can be at a serious disadvantage if his or her opponent has legal counsel. On the third hand, having worked for many years at law school libraries just down the street from various public service agencies and charities, I have seen my share of individuals whose legal disputes were the least of their problems. The motorcycle rider who is convinced that the CIA has implanted a chip in his head and is controlling his movements needs more help than a law library can give.

More fundamentally, though, I worry about the unbundling of legal services and the idea that public access to law libraries and legal information is an adequate substitute for legal assistance. I worry that, in holding ourselves out as providers of legal information to the public, we are in fact creating an illusion of legal service and equal access to justice.

I gather that the self-help law movement presented in shlep aims to go beyond simply providing public access to legal information. Access to unmediated legal information can only go so far in helping those individuals most in need of help. Law libraries have a role to play, along with legal aid agencies, pro bono practitioners, and more.

Do you want to play a part? shlep needs your help:
shlep is seeking co-editors to contribute regularly to its content and help guide its construction and evolution. [See the About page for a discussion of the current goals for this weblog.] Pro se practitioners; law librarians; and lawyers, law professors or students committed to achieving access to justice for all Americans (especially
through the use of assisted self-help programs and information technology) are likely prospects. Good writing, good manners and good sense are prerequisites -- along with enthusiasm.

Anyone interested in making a significant contribution to shlep is urged to contact David Giacalone at “shlep AT localnet dot com” [no spaces in the address]. Let me know your background, areas of interest, any relevant expertise (including weblogging), and how often/much you would be able to contribute to shlep. Information on how you might like to structure the weblog and share in posting duties would also be appreciated.