Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Modern-day witches, also known as Wiccans, have a website, and it's full of info today! They call this day Samhain, after the ancient Celtic holy day. Here in Massachusetts, thinking of Halloween automatically makes you think of Salem, site of the infamous witch trials. Click on the Salem link to visit the website of the Salem Witch Museum. In Salem, Halloween is a BIG celebration! Of course, it's a favorite holiday now, all over!

At my alma mater, Transylvania University, in Lexington, Kentucky, you can imagine what a big event Halloween has become. When I was a student, we had a tradition that the school was cursed by a former professor, Constantine Samuel Rafinsque. He allegedly had an affair with the wife of the then university president. When the affair became common knowledge, Rafinesque was fired. He left, cursing the university. Supposedly, each decade, one person has to die on the campus because of the curse. Here is what Wikipedia reports:

In 1819 he became professor of botany at Transylvania University, Lexington (Kentucky), giving private lessons in French and Italian as well. He started at once describing all the new species of plants and animals he encountered in travels throughout the state. In 1817 his book Florula Ludoviciana, had drawn much criticism from fellow botanists, causing his writings to be ignored. He was considered as the most erratic student of higher plants. In the spring of 1826 he left the university, after quarreling with its president. A legend later developed that Rafinesque placed a curse on the university when departing. Shortly afterwards, the university's president, Horace Holley, died from yellow fever and the original main building of the university (in present-day Gratz Park) was destroyed by fire.
Besides being a famous curser, Rafinesque was quite a good scientist and his name is attached to many plants and a few animals of North America.

Lastly, I would like to share the trick or treating tradition in St. Louis, Missouri. When I moved there, people took care to clue me in. On Halloween there, children are expected to perform a trick to get the treat. You mostly get jokes (lots of repeats, too!), but a few kids come up with a song or a gymnastic move or even a dance. It's pretty darn cool, and the kids really work at it. The littlest ones, just coming up the steps to a porch is a big enough trick. But I remember helping my children pick out and practice their jokes for trick or treat. My son used the same joke each year for nearly 10 years:

Q: How do you keep your dog out of the street?

A: Put him in a barking lot.

It's cute, and at least it's not about skeletons, ghosts or pumpkins!

Well, Happy Halloween!

NY Times on changes in law school teaching

Click on the link to this post to read an article from the New York Times on preparing law students for real life law practice. It's refreshing in that it looks (at least briefly) at changes in lesser-known schools as well as at the Ivies.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Anger from unemployed law grads

If you want to get in touch with the bitterness that some law grads (and current, anxious students) feel, check out the comments following the Wall Street Journal Law Blog post of October 3, 2007 (link in title to this post). I was really taken aback (though I shouldn't have been). The post is actually about one alternate career for JD holders, regardless of bar passage, in this case, financial planning. There are lots of business placements for folks with JDs and of course, the fabulous career of law librarian!

But the amount of debt that students are carrying at graduation is staggering. I think potential law students need to take a reality check. Partial relief has come to people in school now with the new loan forgiveness package from Congress (link)

Previous posts at OOTJ about student debt on Managing debt here and here

Monday, October 29, 2007

The partnership between writer and reader

Since at least library school (1983-84 -- yikes!), I have been thinking about this issue. When I write - letters, e-mails, blog entries, poems or scholarly articles, I try to be as clear as possible. But I have absolutely no control over how (or whether) YOU, dear reader, receive and interpret the writing.

The issue first came up for me in the context of arguing over librarians' commitment to avoid censorship. The more I learned about reading studies, the less viable seemed the wonderful, idealistic approach that truth will win in the market place of ideas. Reading studies consistently find that readers will choose to read materials that they agree with. If they are given material to read that challenges their beliefs, most readers will misinterpret the material, or at least fail to absorb the challenging comments. These reading studies were looking at such extreme cases as neo-Nazis being given material that criticizes and debunks the Protocols of Zion, or other such extreme biases. So, librarians optimistically stocking up on material on both sides of issues can't really expect the readers who have strong opinions on one side or the other to either choose or absorb opposing views. (To be fair, you may reach debate students or people sitting on a fence when you offer materials on both sides of controversial issues.)

This is a rather extreme situation, and most of what I write certainly does not fall that far to either side of an ideological divide. But the point is certainly worth considering -- I send out my words into the void of space and time. You, at the other end, decode and read what I write. But you bring to the reading your own life experience. How well you understand or remember what I write is partly a function of how well and clearly I write it. But part of that is outside my control. It's a partnership, between reader and writer. I record these words, with no guarantee that anybody will read them. Until your eyes and brain begin to partner with me and my words, nothing happens. No knowledge or opinion is passed along. But the magic of writing is that my words persist -- long after my spoken words, and potentially much farther away. It is as if we were trying to touch and communicate through a glass barrier -- some gets through, but some is filtered out.

And librarians work with that magic every day. Wow!

(image of Texas prisoner Kenneth Foster, Jr., at the time awaiting execution & now paroled into the general prison population, visited by his new wife, Tasha Narez-Foster, about Aug. 30, 2007 from ABC I chose the image -- gut-wrenching backstory -- because it was the best illustration I could find of the unbreachable barrier between people)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

To promote awareness of domestic violence, the New York Court system has sponsored programs throughout the system, many of them available to the public.

In Brooklyn, I took advantage of the Family Court’s outreach program to learn about its daily efforts to protect victims and to hold offenders accountable. The New York City Family Court has an excellent faq.

Another excellent outreach effort is The Lawyer’s Manual on Domestic Violence: Representing the Victim, 5th ed., edited by Jill Laurie Goodman and Dorchen A. Leidholdt, published by the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department. A version of the manual can be downloaded at and A print version can be ordered from Law libraries with a New York domestic violence practice area should purchase this book. After comparing its coverage of family offenses to West and Matthew Bender publications, I was amazed to realize how infrequently the major publishers updated this area and how little guidance was provided. This manual pulls together the hard-won knowledge of advocates and practitioners.

Amy E. Schwartz and Sharon Stapel’s chapter “Public Assistance and Housing: Helping Survivors Navigate Difficult Systems” is a goldmine for librarians trying to understand public benefits complaints in New York. Non-profits have done impressive work in making available the directives and policy bulletins of government benefit agencies. Government document librarians will want to review these sites and consider issues of access and accountability.

Friday, October 26, 2007

City of the Living Dead!

Wow! It's very interesting being in Boston while the Red Sox are in the World Series. The pennant race and now two late games have left the citizens of Boston wandering hollow-eyed and exhausted. I'll bet the number of absences from work, errors at work and traffic accidents have all gone up. Watch those paper cutters out there!

The image is actually from the film, Night of the Living Dead, image credited to Columbia Pictures, found at Houston Chronicle site, here.

AALL hosting a blog with news on Southern Cal. fires

Click on the link to this post to visit the AALL blog that is tracking the effects of the Southern California wildfires on libraries and staffers. Good job, AALL! Southern Californians are in our thoughts and prayers as we watch the news.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

New NISO standard developing around shared e-resources

Click on the title to this post to visit the NISO standards page with a note on the new SERU (Shared Electronic Resources Understanding). NISO explains itself:

National Information Standards Organization, a non-profit association accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), identifies, develops, maintains, and publishes technical standards to manage information in our changing and ever-more digital environment. NISO standards apply both traditional and new technologies to the full range of information-related needs, including retrieval, re-purposing, storage, metadata, and preservation.
The text of the latest draft of the SERU is here at NISO's website. The new "understanding" seeks to replace the vendor/library bilaterally negotiated licenses with a standard arrangement. It's not really a standard or model license (for an example, see Yale's Model License), but it deals with the issues licenses have covered. AALL developed principles for licensing electronic resources, posted here. The SERU is different from either effort. Interesting development!

Perfect Delight

How long has it been since you had a moment of Perfect Delight, either at work or in your personal life? I started thinking about Perfect Delight and how important it is, when I looked at a photo of our new Dean at Suffolk in the student paper. They caught a picture of Dean Aman drumming (he is a jazz percussionist). He looks absolutely delighted – having so much fun and just grooving on what he’s doing and being in the moment.

That’s Perfect Delight. So, how long since you had a moment of Perfect Delight? If it’s been too long, let’s look for opportunities!

(the wonderful image of a delighted child is actually from the Florida Poison Information Center Network at Maybe bubbles is the answer!

Fun way to find new library blogs!

Click on the title to this post to link to the librarian blog, Information Wants to Be Free, which hosted an informal poll on favorite librarian blogs. We are listed (way down, but somebody linked from the post to OOTJ, or I never would have known about it). There are more librarian blogs than I knew about -- general, special and pissed-off. Check out her list! Thanks for compiling it, IWTBF! I feel just like a celebrity! (thanks, Wegman!)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Multi-State Bar Exam on Research Skills?

The National Conference of Bar Examiners is still considering how to create a test of legal research skills that can be administered, scored and validated. If that test is ever added to state bar examination requirements, it will not be long before advanced legal research becomes a required subject at many schools. At this point, there are only a handful of schools (actually only one that I know of) that has a required advanced research class. That school is University of Maryland, who reported at the NE2007 regional meeting on their experience.

When the 3 credit class became mandatory before graduation, there was a sudden strain on the law library staff. They tried a distance class approach over the summers, in hope it would relieve the time pressures they felt. The upshot, as reported by Susan Herrick, was not any actual help with the time pressures of teaching a mandatory class to the full student body. They used Blackboard to post distance-lectures, which were composed of PowerPoint slides shows with voice-over. They were also able to post handouts, camtasia videos, and research problems. The students used Blackboard to upload their answers to the problem sets and to upload their scores from CALI problems assigned.

The librarians liked the ability to work far ahead of the class and post presentations and problems early, controlling release times as needed. The students very much liked taking the required class as a distance program. Student enthusiasm was not necessarily tied to how well they did on the class. Students liked being able to take the class asynchronously, using summer time to fill a requirement while they worked or even traveled. But librarians had to exert some control and nix students taking the course when there was not a viable library nearby for them to use. They also had problems with techical issues, and students away from the campus had difficulty with technical support. But the bottom line for the librarians was that the distance course was not a time saver, even after offering it twice. So many things change in research, that the librarians could not simply re-use old problems and handouts. They still had to do all the grading, and other administrative tasks. The number of librarians available to teach was not increased as the number of students required to take the class skyrocketed. There is a lesson here for libraries.

At the NELLCO board meeting a week or two earlier, we heard about Fordham Law School's success with librarians teaching compressed classes in special topics of legal research. They offered the classes on Fridays and Saturdays, compressed into 7 week classes. The librarians at Fordham were paid as adjunct professors, though they were not given release time from their reference duties. The classes were over-enrolled, with wait lists for all the offered topics. They offered such topics as international, foreign and comparative research. In addition, the librarians separated out the basic legal research from the traditionals LRW class. They coordinate their research teaching with that of the writing teachers. If a student does not pass the research component, they cannot pass the LRW class. Fordham director Bob Nissenbaum said he still received lots of requests for librarians to make guest appearances in regular law classes. He did say his reference staff was very tired and over-extended during the period of the 7-week classes.

I have to say I was excited to hear about the bar exam adding research as a topic. But having faced the issue of teaching research to an entire school of students, vicariously, I have some real reservations about how it can work. I suspect the schools will have to add more bodies to help teach the research.

Cloud Computing

Nature online reports, in a story linked through this post's title, that Amazon, IBM and Google are offering scientists at major research institutions low-cost access to linked networks of computers. The idea is to offer a middle level of computing power between desktop models and the rare supercomputers. The "cloud computers" can also handle data mining better than the supercomputers, which are better adapted to complex modeling, like modeling climate change or jet engine air flow problems.

There have been informal networks creating supercomputer-powered power like this by linking relatively modest-sized computers. SETI (the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) project recruits spare processing power from home PCs. See this story from PC World magazine online about the SERENDIP group at University of California, Berkeley which coordinates the linking (article dated August 14, 1997. And NASA reported on the Distributed Supercomputer project, that developed javascript called JGravity to link smaller computers into a network that could solve problems previously reserved for supercomputers. (last updated December, 2000). Cloud computing seems to be another step in this direction, but commentators at the Nature posting thought perhaps the large companies offering very low cost access to their unused capacity might be testing the waters for a more profitable project in the future.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Public Library Closed for Lack of Funds; Reopens Outsourced to For-Profit

Click on the title to this post to read an article from the newspaper, The Oregonian by Matthew Preusch. Here is a snippet:

Libraries in Jackson County, shuttered in the spring by a budget crisis, will start reopening later this month -- run by a Maryland corporation rather than local government.

Residents in Medford, Ashland and surrounding communities have been without libraries since April, when all 15 branches were mothballed indefinitely.

County leaders closed the libraries when faced with a budget shortfall brought on by the end of a federal payment program for timber-dependent counties.

After voters rejected a library levy to make up the lost funds, the county opted for outsourcing to cut costs, and last week it approved a contract with Library Systems & Services, the country's largest private operator of public libraries.

Initially, libraries will be open for about half the total hours they were before the closure, with five branches open 24 hours a week, another five open for 16 hours, and the remainder for eight. (snip)

[The ALA] studied the company's work with libraries in Riverside, Calif., and found that patrons thought service had improved and employees were happier than when the city had operated the libraries.

Jackson County estimates it will save about $25 million over the next five years by working through LSSI. Under the contract, the county keeps ownership of all the library's assets and sets library policy.

"In Jackson County's case, they've got a police manual that's probably 2 inches thick, and we operate those libraries in accordance with those policies," said Robert Windrow, LSSI vice president.
Library Systems and Services(LSSI) is the company which has reopened the Oregon library, and about 65 other public libraries which have been closed for lack of public funding. About 100 people were laid off when the Jackson County library closed, and about 50-60 folks are being rehired by LSSI.

I have very mixed feelings about this. I think public libraries are a crucial public good. They offer a leveling of the playing field to immigrants, to poor folks, to anybody who wants to learn about the world, their government, or just to read more than they can afford to buy. I am so sad when a county or town closes its public library because they won’t or can’t support it financially. The nearby town of Randolph, Massachusetts closed its public library recently. Wow! I think it is a very bad sign when a community can’t support what I consider a vital public resource. And it usually happens in the areas that most need that sort of leveling of playing fields – where more folks have less money.

I suppose it’s better to have a shorter access, provided by a private company that runs the library, than to have no access at all. I suppose the library staff who have been hired back are glad to have work again (at comparable wages!) in what must be a depressed area – though missing the public employment benefits. But I am concerned about the trend of moving a publicly funded and managed service into privately managed hands. The story is not clear about how LSSI makes its profits. It does not say that library services will be offered at a price to patrons, but it also does not say that the county is paying LSSI the full cost of running the library. How would the county save money by outsourcing if some of the cost did not fall on the library users?

An Associated Press article that ran in the Boston Globe about the closings October 7 (Link) said
For years, state and local governments have been privatizing certain functions, such as trash collection, payroll processing, and road maintenance.

But contracting with an outside company to run a library is a relatively new phenomenon, one that has been gaining in popularity as communities from Tennessee to California look for ways to save money.

The practice has generated a backlash from those who argue that municipalities are employing a backdoor method of union-busting, and those who say that such profit-making ventures go against the notion that libraries are one of the noblest functions of government in a democracy.

Most of the 15 or so US municipalities that have outsourced their libraries has signed on with LSSI, which is the biggest player in the field but is privately held and does not disclose earnings. (Snip)

The county will retain control over certain policies, such as late fees, the cost of a library card, or how long library patrons can keep a bestseller. But LSSI will be in charge of buying books and says it will use its muscle to obtain deep discounts from suppliers. It will also be responsible for hiring, and says that while its salaries will be comparable to what the employees were making previously, the benefits will be less generous.
Note that the folks at LSSI choose books and make hiring decisions. I worry when profit dictates selection and what protections librarians have for making controversial choices. Of course, politicians hve not been very good about those things, either!

Check out the Maine State Library’s Library Value Calculator for one way to calculate the value of a public library to citizens. It allows a dollar value to be attached to the numbers of circulated magazines, books, movies, programs and room use. But the value of public libraries goes beyond any dollar value. To me it seems central to the American value placed on opportunity. By making the knowledge and information of the world available on a more equal basis to everyone, public libraries create opportunity:

* Opportunity for students to use better databases and books.
* Opportunity for immigrants to learn English and become citizens
* Opportunity for small businesses to gather information to compete and grow
* Opportunity to learn and improve oneself, no matter who you are
* And Opportunity to participate in our democracy.

Public libraries are key to making America the land of opportunity and equality. I am proud that Boston was the first to legislate free public access to libraries.

(Image is Boston Public Library, from their website at

Monday, October 22, 2007

Site Hits

How to count the number of people who visit a website is a perennial problem--ask any webmaster. Pace Law Library runs a database on the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, and frequently must tell potential donors and others how many "hits" the site gets. I always says it depends on how you define a "hit," and wish I had software that would give me a precise count. It turns out that such software may not exist, according to an article in today's New York Times. At best, if it does exist, it is far from precise.

The number of visitors to a site translates directly into advertising revenue--the more visited a site is, the more online advertising it can attract. This is why the inability to get precise numbers of visitors is frustrating to "big media companies" whose "counts of Web visitors keep coming in vastly higher than those of the tracking companies." The numbers generated by tracking companies such as ComScore and Nielsen/NetRatings are used to figure advertising rates, which means that "growth of online advertising is being stunted...nobody can get the basic visitor counts straight." The discrepancies are striking. According to the article, officials at calculated that the site had received 11.6 million visitors from the United States last month, while Nielsen/NetRatings calculated 7.5 million visitors, and ComScore calculated only 5.8 million visitors. The speculation is that these discrepancies result from the difficulty of measuring use of the Internet by people at work; "corporate software makes the wanderings invisible to the tracking system." I find online advertising to be extremely irritating, but realize that someone needs to pay so I can continue to get my content for free.

Knights' Tale

Reuters reports that the Vatican is releasing trial documents that have been "closely guarded for 700 years." The documents in question are minutes of trials held between 1307 and 1312 against the Knights Templar , a "medieval Christian military order accused of heresy and sexual misconduct." I seem to recall that the Knights Templar figure in Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. Ivanhoe was a childhood favorite; my sister and I used to act it out. Hard to imagine nowadays when the book seems to have dropped off the cultural radar. The Knights themselves, however, remain a favorite subject of fiction, most recently playing a role in The Da Vinci Code.

In any event, the Vatican is publishing the trial documents in a deluxe edition--the documents are being released in a "soft leather case that includes a large-format book including scholarly commentary, reproductions of original parchments in Latin, and--to tantalize Templar buffs--replicas of the wax seals used by 14th-century inquisitors." Only 799 numbered copies will be released at a jaw-dropping cost of 5,900 euros ($8,333).

Thank you, Toronto! NE2007 was great!

Well, you could tell when it got too busy at Libraries without Borders meeting to blog! It was a great meeting, with wonderful programming, and lots of great social events. If you didn't make it this year, be sure you make it to the next one. These super-regional meetings (I went to the last NE regional and also to a midwest regional in Chicago back in 1989/90) are terrific. They are a nice size -- you can easily meet up with folks you know from your own region and take the opportunity to meet with new friends from nearby regions. It's not so big as the AALL, which can be overwhelming. And my experience is that the programming is just superb. There are enough programs to run 3 or so programs simultaneously, and they have good selections for nearly all types of libraries and librarianship, at nearly all the slots. I'll put up some notes from a few other excellent programs. The great thing is that the handouts and Powerpoints will be posted at the NE 2007 site. Visit soon!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Distance Ed from NE2007

I want to report in-depth about one program I attended today, A-1 - Education Without Borders: Distance Education for Librarians and for Law (speakers: Edwin Greenlee, Penn & Drexel Info Science school; Susan Herrick, U. Maryland; Juanita Richardson, for SLA). All powerpoints for each speaker available at NE2007. Remember you will be able to buy tapes.

Edwin Greenlee spoke about his experiences teaching legal bib to MLS students at Drexel’s distance MLS program. They cap the online classes at 30 and he usually draws 25-30 students in a semester. The online courses only last 10 weeks, so it’s a constricted semester. He gets library students from all types of library settings, and only a few most semesters with the JD or legal research experience. Some of his students plan to work in law libraries, but others just want the background for a public or business library setting.

Edwin uses Blackboard to teach the class. He uses only a small amount of video, mostly lectures, readings, online discussions and Powerpoint. They have weekly exercises, a mid-term exam, a final exam and a pathfinder paper. So you can see he is really packing things into this class. He has learned to consider that not all students will have fast connections and great bandwidth, so he uses video very sparingly. He chooses a 1-L research text, finding that his library students really like the Mersky & Dunn text, Legal Research Illustrated.
Edwin gives his students a lot of direction in using online tools like Westlaw's Keycite. He gives lots of directions, exercise and feedback on using Keycite and analyzing statutes, for instance. For CALR, he uses Powerpoint. He answers questions every day (7 days a week, I think), and stressed how important it was to respond quickly to queries. He tries to look at law in context, discussing law in popular culture, and help students see how pervasive law is in our lives. He delivers his lectures with a Word document with hyperlinks. Students select their own pathfinder topics, and choose an audience, which then defines the levels of sophistication and explanation in the paper. He offers sample pathfinders in the Blackboard Course Info tab, along with the syllabus. His assignments are in a different tab.

It did not work with library school students who have no law school experience to try in-depth discussions of court cases or hypotheticals. The students lacked the context and experience. The students then have an option to continue with 2 other online law librarianship classes. So they have Legal Bibliography, Advanced Topics in Legal Bibliography, and Law Library Management. Students may also take an internship for credit. The online MLS classes are very popular with students. Edwin noted that even students who are local and can take classroom options are choosing the online courses.

Susan Herrick, in comparison, discussed the experience at Maryland’s law school library with offering a distance ed course in advanced legal research to law students. At Maryland, the advanced research course has been made mandatory before graduation, and part of the motivation for the distance course was to fill the huge, sudden demand that was overwhelming the librarians. A key learning was that this was NOT a time saver for the librarians. Susan referenced Judith Anspach, who is offering advanced legal research online at Indiana U., Indianapolis, where the course is not required. Their experience is that the law students really LOVED the distance course, for its flexibility and interactive learning. It fit their lifestyles. They did complain that it was too much work for the 1 credit hour given.

ABA Standard 306 and interpretations affect distance education in law school. Of note is the rule that of less than 2/3 of the classroom instruction is NOT distance, the course is not covered by the distance ed limitations. But this standard limits distance ed in law schools to a maximum of 4 credits per semes4er and a total of 12 credit hours toward the JD. The rule for approval is that the school must show “ample interaction with instructors and other students and ample opportunity for mentoring.”

Maryland began with a 5 person team teaching effort. After one semester, they moved to two librarians co-teaching and limiting the class to 26 students (rather than the original 65!). The teachers liked being able to do the work ahead and post the materials. They discovered it was better not to release all modules at the beginning of the semester. Some student would wait until the end of the semester and try to do everything last minute. Each class so far has been offered in the summer, and they have to require that the students have access to some kind of library, IT support. They are considering requiring a minimum grade point average, because students in the top half of the class do very well but students at the bottom of the class really struggle and do not do well with the distance class.

Susan agreed with Edwin that responses to student questions must be very fast. The students require lots of feedback. So, teaching load remained a factor. They plan to continue offering the class, but possibly offer a hybrid class that combines in-class and distance. They question whether Blackboard (which they also use) and distance ed is the right format for teaching advanced legal research. One thing they discovered is that the distance format reinforced student perceptions that there is not much they need to learn (!),

One interesting thing that Maryland does is that they use Adobe's Captivate (TM) to create lectures for the course. The librarians prepared Powerpoint slide shows and used Captivate to create voice-overs to create distance lectures. Susan recommends the Law Library Lights review of Captivate, Camtasia and more.

They also used virtual office hours in Blackboard. This was a very successful feature. They used the Gradebook funcoction on Blackboard as well. Students uploaded completed assignments to the Gradebook tab, as well as loading CALI exercise scores (this was sometimes a technical difficulty). They tried to require discussion s through the Blackboard Discussion boards but were disappointed in the outcome, where most of the students would just chime in after one student comment, “I agree.” Not useful. They assigned readings, assignments, CALI exercises and a pathfinder final project.

The final presentation was Juanita Richards to explain the development of CLICK U Project.

CLICK grew out of the SLA executive director, Janice LaChance, asking members what they needed. The answer was professional development that is barrier free (barriers of cost, travel and time). This is distance ed for continuing education. The suite of offerings was developed by contracting with, who provided not just the technical underpinnings but a suite of programs already developed. They also have partnered with two info science/library schools, Drexel and Syracuse, who provide distance MLS programs. The CLICK programs have been certified by the International Association of Continuing Education.

CLICK programs come in different formats.
1) Virtual Seminars (called CLICK U Live)
2) Continuing Education sessions, taping proceedings of SLA conferences and webinars.
3) Course Libraries for self-paced learning. They offer a course of the month for free, varying the free offering . Other courses are kept very low cost (about $15).
4) Adjunct Faculty – a variety of professionals offer courses and programs using CLICK U as a portal;
5) CLICK Certificate Suites - Users can choose to complete a series of classes and become certified (in Competitive Intelligence, for example), or choose single classes from the group.
6) Online Library of e-books, in conjunction with E-brary;
7) In partnership with the 2 library schools, participants can register for library school distance education programs and receive a professional SLA discount.

Hot picks fromk NE2007

I’ve been to several terrific programs today. They are recording them just as AALL programs are recorded. And you will be able to purchase the tapes. So first, let me recommend a couple that I won’t report on in-depth, but that I found to be very interesting.
C-1 - Recruiting Librarians & Lawyers to Law Librarianship (Jim Milles, speaker) was a disturbing discussion of the ethics of possibly overselling our profession. Jim questions the common perception that librarianship in general and law librarianship in particular are facing a recruitment crisis. He asserts that the issue assumes that librarians will be retiring at age 65, and that we must replace them with equal-credentialled professionals. Lively discussion, and a topic of interest to all of us.

D-3 - Enterprise Current Awareness: Managing News & Knowledge (Sabrina Pacifici, speaker) was full of great ideas and loads of URLs for feeding selected blogs, news feeds, and more into libraries’ current awareness blogs & intranets. You can see the Powerpoint full of terrific suggestions at Sabrina says choose a handful – no more than 5 reliable, current and focused resources to bring in to your patrons. Base the selection on their own nominations for the most important resources for their subject specialty, but use your own professional judgement in selecting the best and maintaining them – keep checking links, currency and validity of the sources. Focused at firms, but also great for faculty interest areas and also library blogs for current awareness at law schools, courts and special libraries. See Sabrina's blog, BeSpacific

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hello from Toronto

I am here in Toronto for the Northeast Regional Law Library Conference, Libraries Without Borders. I am so glad to be here, not just because Toronto is an awesome city that I love to visit. Because I almost didn’t get here.

I went to the airport this morning, as noted in my calendar. I ran into a bunch of other librarians at the check in for our flight. Very nice. But then the air carrier people could not find my reservation. I must admit, I sort of blamed the woman at the counter. She had an accent and did not seem like the sharpest knife in the drawer. It’s hard not to blame the person who gives you bad news.

Eventually, I dug my laptop out of my bag and used the wireless connection to get out my e-mail confirmation. I showed it to the lady at the counter and lo and behold! I was supposed to have flown up the day before!

I have never done anything like this before. Yes, I stole a car, yes, I have missed a meeting now and then. But I have never shown up a day late for a flight. And I was so organized! I changed my voice mail message. I gave out the hotel contact info. I was awesomely organized.

Except for this one little detail...

American Eagle was just terrific. They let me fly stand by today, without a change fee. The airplane was not crowded, so I guess it was easy to arrange. But they could have really been mean about it and they weren’t. They were very nice.

And so was the hotel. (At least I think so; I haven’t got the bill yet). I was supposed to be at the hotel yesterday , too. I can’t imagine why I would have made my reservations for a day early, but I must have done. Maybe I was already counting on daylight savings time to be over. Goodness knows!

So, it’s very, very nice to be in Toronto today. I am looking forward to a great meeting.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Surprise! Yesterday was Blog Action Day!

Whoopsie! OOTJ nearly missed Blog Action Day (link through the title to this post). A day for blogs all over the world to focus on the environment(October 15 -- we hope they will accept late submissions!). But I didn't see it in the syllabus. My dog died. I lost the assignment.... Fill in your favorite excuse for late hand-ins here: __________

I don't know how much information about environmental issues a librarians' blog needs to have. I include links to major US environmental orgs at the end. I hope you will link through and visit their sites and consider making a donation.

The environment has finally achieved mainstream status as an issue of concern to the public. The modern environmental movement really has its roots with Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold in 1949 and Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, in 1962. So, it's been a long time coming. I actually remember the very first Earth Day -- I was in high school (don't do the math!), and we had a fair to promote environmental awareness. I had the privilege of working during college at a volunteer recycling center -- way before you could make any money doing that sort of thing. I remember the amazement I felt when a co-worker predicted that some day cans would be worth recycling and people would pick them out of trash and from along the road. The other thing I learned is that people are really not very good about washing out bottles and cans before recycling them.

Then, during law school, I clerked for Appalachian Research and Defense fund (APPALRED), a legal services group that covered all of eastern Kentucky, from Richmond, east. While my office was a specialty office near the University of Kentucky which did research for all the other branches, we also got to send in comments and attend hearings held by the EPA when they considered new or changing regulations about surface mining (coal). It was quite an education.

The first job I had as a librarian, I was working for the Kentucky Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection. Both the order of the name (Natural Resources were a MUCH higher priority than environmental protection), and the location of our offices -- right down in the flood plain -- explained every thing I needed to know about the state's commitment at that time to the environment. Still it was a totally cool bunch of people working there -- biologists, chemists, engineers and policy wonks. I really enjoyed working there.

I have been involved with several environmental orgs since then, and these are two that I highly recommend:

National Wildlife Federation (NWF) - I love their educational advocacy, teaching and outreach. This is the organization that created and maintains the Backyard Habitat and Schoolyard Habitat programs. I love these programs that teach you to do simple things to support wildlife in your backyard (or apartment windowsill, even!). It's a wonderful thing to do with children. My kids and I have really enjoyed learning about what is in our backyard in 3 different states.

Nature Conservancy
-- I like their very practical and effective approach to protecting nature in a sustainable way.

The Nature Conservancy's mission is to preserve the plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive.
Our Approach

We have developed a strategic, science-based planning process, called Conservation by Design, which helps us identify the highest-priority places—landscapes and seascapes that, if conserved, promise to ensure biodiversity over the long term.

In other words, Conservation by Design allows us to achieve meaningful, lasting conservation results.

Worldwide, there will be thousands of these precious places. Taken together, they form something extraordinary: a vision of conservation success and a roadmap for getting there—the Conservation Blueprint. Simply put, by protecting and managing these Last Great Places over the long term, we can secure the future of the natural world.

The Conservation Fund - A very creative way to make conservation economically viable.
we knew that setting aside America’s special places was not enough. To ensure their future protection, we would need to find sustainable paths for economic development and community growth, and we would need to prepare the next generation to be good stewards of these irreplaceable resources.

Consequently, we invested heavily in sustainable development, and the results are exciting. Our Freshwater Institute is a world leader in researching and demonstrating sustainable aquaculture. Our Natural Capital Investment Fund is expanding into new markets that encourage job creation through the sustainable use of natural resources. Our carbon sequestration program invests private dollars in restoring native forests in previously cleared areas, thereby addressing both the critical need for wildlife habitat and tangible solutions to climate change.

You can visit the Blog Action Day website to see more organizations that they list, including Sierra Club and Greenpeace. I'll bet lots of the readers of OOTJ have their own background and experiences with caring for the environment. I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Slate on How Laws Die

Tim Wu writes an entertaining history of porn prosecution in the US. In the early 70's under Richard Nixon, Congress established a Commission to recommend what to do about the sudden proliferation of porn. The commission horrified the politicos by stating that the problem was not the porn producers but society. Thirty some years later, what is actually in practice from prosecutors is what the Commission recommended -- overlook porn and encourage frank discussion of sex. This is just one illustration of how the wisdom of crowds (link and here) can work. Click on the title of this post to read the whole article. Here is a snip:

But who, exactly, reached all of these conclusions and made them our de facto law? Not Congress, the courts, or any individual president. Instead it was a combined product, over decades, of the decisions of hundreds of prosecutors, FCC officials, FBI agents, and police officers—all of whom decided they had better things to do than chase around pornographers the way they chase murderers. Their consensus—that normal pornography just isn't harmful in the sense that, say, drugs are—has driven the current law more so than any official enactment.

There are, by the way, strange consequences to the tolerated illegality of obscenity. Porn, considered as a regular product, is strong stuff. Yet it is free of most consumer safety regulation—the warnings, age limits, or worker safety rules that the American legal system insists upon for even fairly innocuous products. The United States is a country where fishing lures can warn, "Caution: Harmful if swallowed." Yet porn, banned but nonetheless tolerated, has ironically managed to avoid virtually all regulation.

The birth of a new law is something the media, lawyers, and academics pay great attention to. But the decay and death of old laws can be just as important, even when they're unobserved. The story of our obscenity laws highlights where, exactly, American laws go to die.
The Wu article goes on to examine other informal changes to law in the U.S., such as the numbers of prescription drugs that are legal alternatives to illegal drugs. It amounts to a sweeping, unoffical decriminalization of the statutes underlying the War On Drugs. Read the whole article for interesting thoughts on how our laws change in unofficial but very real ways through the actions of non-legislative bodies.

After enough time, society changes and laws that once seemed vital can look pretty dumb. There are plenty of entertaining sites about stupid (or outdated) laws. See for a nicely organized example.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Just when you thought it was safe...

If you thought we had problems with web browsing safety now... New Scientist Tech reported on October 9 on the probability of political dirty tricks invading the Internet and e-mail to dirty up opponents as the fall election season hots up. Jessica Marshall writes:

...established security threats like spam emails and botnets – collections of "zombie" computers remotely controlled by hackers – all open new avenues for fraudulent campaigning. So said experts at an e-crime summit at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania last week.

Dirty tricks are not new. On US election day in 2002, the lines of a "get-out-the-voters" phone campaign sponsored by the New Hampshire Democratic Party were clogged by prank calls. In the 2006 election, 14000 Latino voters in Orange County, California, received letters telling them it was illegal for immigrants to vote.

But in those cases the Republican Party members and supporters were traced and either charged or named in the press. Online dirty tricks will be much less easy to detect, security researchers say.
Misinformation campaigns

Spam email could be used against voters, experts say, by giving the wrong location for a polling station, or, as in the Orange County fraud, incorrect details about who has the right to vote. Although a low proportion of people fall for spam emails, a larger audience can be reached than with posted letters, and in close races every voter counts.

Telephone attacks like the New Hampshire prank calls would be harder to trace if made using internet telephony instead of landlines, says Rachna Dhamija of the Harvard Center for Research on Computation and Society.

Calls could even be made using a botnet. This would make tracing the perpetrator even harder, because calls wouldn't come from a central location. What's more, the number of calls that can be made is practically limitless.

Internet calls might also be made to voters to sow misinformation, says Christopher Soghoian at Indiana University in Bloomington. "Anonymous voter suppression is going to become a reality."

The internet allows more direct attacks on other candidates possible too, as John McCain, Republican presidential candidate hopeful, discovered. His MySpace page used an image hosted on another person's site. When that person switched the image to one stating McCain had reversed his position on gay marriage, the change was reflected on McCain's page and he was left red-faced.
'Typo domains'

Although people who saw this probably realised it was a prank, it illustrates the ease with which campaign material can be altered with little chance of being caught. Making this kind of attack on hard-copy media, like newspapers or campaign leaflets, is near-impossible without leaving evidence that could lead to prosecution.

Manipulation can also happen in more subtle ways. In 2006, supporters of California's Proposition 87, for a tax that would fund alternative energy, registered negative-sounding domains including and and then automatically routed visitors to a site touting the proposition's benefits.

Similarly, people have registered and Although merely unflattering to US presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney, such "typo domains" could be used to spread malicious software or take fraudulent donations, says Oliver Friedrichs of Symantec in Mountain View, California.
Vulnerable groups

Phishing – fraudulently obtaining personal information online – has already affected politics. In 2004, a fake website purporting to be for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry stole campaign contributions, as well as users' debit-card numbers.

Campaigns are vulnerable to phishing because domain names tend not to have a predictable form – compare with – making it difficult to pick the official site. Such attacks could deter people from donating online, a move that would disproportionately affect Democrats and young people, who are more likely than other groups to donate via the web.

The low probability of getting caught online, combined with the fact that anti-spam laws and "no-call" lists exempt political messages, makes the threat real. "The fact is that all of the technology for all of these things to happen is already in place," Soghoian says. "I'm not sure this will happen in 2008, but it will happen."
So, make the best use of the Internet aids to democracy -- like the Congresspedia and related websites reported here earlier this month, but beware of the dark side of democracy in the age of the Web!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday thoughts in the Fall

Today in Boston is a day of clouds and sun, with sudden, brief bursts of rain. We alternate bright sun and crystal air with sudden darkening, and the rains pour down like a faucet was turned on. Much of the rain here, like on the northern West Coast, is mist. You walk along and feel no rain, but just soft air. Only if you drive do you find so much condensation on your windshield that you have to turn on the wipers.

When I was a freshly minted law student, I was sent to a central training in Washington, DC, for Reggie attorneys (a discontinued affirmative action honors program for Legal Services). I met folks from all over the country. A group of us went to visit the Supreme Court building (closed for the summer, but still pretty awe-inspiring to new lawyers). We were caught in an afternoon rainstorm, very typical of summer across the south. The guys from the Pacific Northwest were really astounded. One friend shouted, “Hey this rain is wet!” I guess they had never had anything but the misty kind of rain. I had never seen anything but the wet rain, so it seemed pretty funny to me. I sometimes wonder where they are, how they are doing. I’ve lost touch long since with the Reggie lawyers. Now I only know law librarians and profs, and administrators. Not a bad trade-off on balance!

So now, we are moving in New England into leaf peeping season. I have to admit that when I lived in St. Louis and Kentucky, I really suspected that all the reports of brighter fall foliage up north was just a bunch of hype. Well, it's all true. I love driving around my little town this time of year, and keeping tabs on the best trees from years past. For those of you who might drive out for leaf peeping, there turns out to be a Foliage Network to forecast where the fall colors are best by week and region. They cover Northeast, Southeast and Midwest, and invite interested folks to contribute leaf spotting info. Another Web-2 application -- surprise!

This page features a photo of fall colors in New York state by Hayko at

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Another political resource; Sunlight Foundation & Open Congress

Click the link in the title (to the previous entry as well -- I forgot to say!), to connect to Sunlight Foundation. They are part of the people behind Congresspedia, and describe themselves thus:

The Sunlight Foundation was founded in January 2006 with the goal of using the revolutionary power of the Internet and new information technology to enable citizens to learn more about what Congress and their elected representatives are doing, and thus help reduce corruption, ensure greater transparency and accountability by government, and foster public trust in the vital institutions of democracy.
They make grants (I can't tell where the money comes from yet) to folks who want to create internet-based resources to open the political world to the general public. One of their in-house creations, Open Congress, is another possible great resource for law librarians and our patrons. It provides links to full text of Congressional bills. You can get there either by knowing the bill number or using the site's keyword search engine. The bills are the links to lots more -- the reader can track vote history in the bill, and look at the history of the bill. It does not appear to carry other Congressional publishing, such as hearings or reports, or access to the Congressional Record. It does, however, tell who sponsored the bill, news and blog coverage of the bills' topics.

You can also search the site by Senator or Representative, by Congressional committee and by industries. It allows the user to navigate by the list of topics devised by the Congressional Research Service to index bills. The tools are interesting widgets, not useful for research, but of interest to politically aware citizens to use in their blogs. You can track bills with these widgets and have the tracking posted on your blog. Hmm. Here is how Sunlight Foundation describes their Open Congress:
When Congress created Thomas, its leaders asserted that finally the public would be able to follow what their elected representatives were up to, using the Web. But while Thomas has a wealth of information ranging from drafts of bills and amendments, votes, and the complete text of the Congressional Record, finding specific information is a daunting task for the average user. OpenCongress aims to be Thomas as if it were designed for ordinary people. The site - which will be launched in beta form in November - will inform and connect citizens with what is happening in Congress by bringing together Thomas's official congressional data on bills, votes, floor statements and conference reports with press and blog coverage, non-profit analyses, and social wisdom generated by its users. OpenCongress will allow anyone to easily track a bill, an issue, a vote, a member, a campaign contribution, or a phrase used in the Congressional Record, and to follow developments in any of those areas by subscribing to its RSS feed. The first phase of the site will concentrate on making it easier for users to find out basic information, but our goal in 2007 is to also facilitate collaborative analysis of bills by experimenting with wikis and message boards for sharing information and context. The goal of Open Congress is to narrow the gap between what Congressional insiders and average citizens know.

Congresspedia and Wiki the Vote

Take a look at this new wiki resource. I don't know how helpful or informative it may turn out to be for the kinds of research law librarians want to do. It's kind of interesting and cool, though. Congresspedia is described on the site,

citizen-driven project on Congresspedia to build profiles on the hundreds of challengers for congressional seats, which will compliment the existing profiles on every member of Congress. The project is non-partisan and, in true open-source fashion, is free for anyone to participate - even the candidates themselves.

Even for official party nominees, information on challengers is usually woefully inadequate and information on primary challengers is often nearly non-existent. The explosion of citizen blogging in the last few years has created a wealth of individual opinions and perspectives, but what has been lacking is a central repository of collaboratively produced, in-depth and accurate information. The Wiki the Vote project, due to its easily editable wiki format, will be just that.

It is our hope that by having citizens work together to collaboratively build fully documented profiles, a central profile of each candidate can be created that will serve not only to educate citizens but also to give bloggers and diarists useful information to enrich their writing. We are also providing support from professional researchers (who also do some fact-checking) to assist the citizen editors.

We've started with nearly 300 basic profiles of candidates (snip)

# Unlike Wikipedia, Congresspedia has no rule to "avoid writing or editing an article about yourself." We feel that contributions are best judged by the character of their content, not the identity of the person who contributed it. As long as these folks identify themselves on their user pages and their contributions are fully sourced and "fair and accurate," candidates are free to contribute information about themselves (or their opponents) and, in fact, is a good way to reach more citizens.
# Congresspedia is designed to cover politics - Wikipedia's profiles of members of Congress and candidates are generally considered biographies of those individuals, with an emphasis on their life story. We could care less where a member of Congress grew up or who they married (unless that spouse was a lobbyist). We have also set up custom feeds from databases of congressional information (with more to come in the weeks ahead!) to combine data with narrative contributions and employ professional editors both to assist citizen editors and to provide a fact-checking function.

Congresspedia is not without its own political agenda, though, so be aware. It's actually hosted by Sourcewatch, which in its turn is sponsored by the nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy. Center for Media and Democracy claims its mission is
strengthens participatory democracy by investigating and exposing public relations spin and propaganda, and by promoting media literacy and citizen journalism, media "of, by and for the people."
and they describe themselves:
a non-profit, non-partisan, public interest organization that strengthens participatory democracy by investigating and exposing public relations spin and propaganda, and by promoting media literacy and citizen journalism. (snip)

The Center serves journalists, researchers, policymakers and citizens at large in the following ways:

* Countering propaganda by investigating and reporting on behind-the-scenes public relations campaigns by corporations, industries, governments and other powerful institutions.
* Informing and assisting grassroots citizen activism that promotes public health, economic justice, ecological sustainability and human rights.
* Promoting media literacy to help the public recognize the forces shaping the information they receive about issues that affect their lives.
* Sponsoring "open content" media that enable citizens from all walks of life to "be the media" and to participate in creating media content.
The Center's website has a nice long list of topics to use as a navigation tool. You can browse for media audio by artist, title and year. And they have a search tool by keyword that does not seem to work yet, or else has nothing to search yet. Clicking on a few of their topics likewise brings up the message that there are no posts on this topic yet. The main page seems to be a blog combined with an aggregator. The post du jour is about the Center denouncing local television stations airing "fake news" reports. Clicking the hyperlink for "fake news" takes the reader to a wikipedia-like entry on the Center's reports on the phenomenon. There are other links that take the reader to further wikipedia style entries. They include resources at the end of the entry, including links to news stories about the subject.

Might be a useful resource for law librarians.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Modifying Conduct to Counter Stereotypes

Click on the title to this post to connect to a lengthy article by Vanessa E. Jones, in today’s Boston Globe about the experiences of black men in corporate workplaces. Coming shortly after my post about women being heard differently, I thought this was a poignant story.

Like many other black men, [Michael] James says unspoken rules limit how they interact in predominantly white workplaces. In some cases, they must dress more formally than their co-workers, speak softly, or generally comport themselves in unaggressive ways to counteract stereotypes that paint black men as unintelligent, violent, and dangerous. These biases are based on long-held beliefs about black masculinity and sexuality that grew out of this country's history of slavery and segregation. (Snip)

[Tessil}Collins runs his own webcasting and creative services business, Spectrum Broadcasting Co. Being an entrepreneur with a second job gives Collins the luxury to speak bluntly.

"Black people with options are always going to give people cause for pause," Collins says. "They're not intimidated by whiteness. They can say things and not feel like it's going to cost them monetarily."

Those who are dependent on corporations for job security learn to deal with this issue by approaching it with a different mindset.

"You can't simply see it as somehow an erosion of who you are," says Mark Anthony Neal, a professor at Duke University and author of last year's nonfiction work about black masculinity and sexuality, "New Black Man," "that you're inauthentic because you're 'acting white.' It's simply a strategy that needs to be employed in order for you to be successful in your career and in your life." (Snip)

James makes accommodations because of his 6-foot-2 height, which, he says, has made people view him as "threatening and menacing even though I'm the most peaceful person out there." He shies away from making declarative statements at work, to prevent himself from appearing too aggressive. "I say, 'What are your thoughts about it?' rather than demanding they do certain things," James says. "I put it out there in a fashion that they feel they have a choice."

The adjustments black men make in how they handle themselves often depends on the sex and class of the people with whom they work. When Bishop later held a management job at Gillette's factory in Andover with a predominantly white group of male blue-collar workers, he says he felt a lot more comfortable.

But it's in casual situations, when guards are let down, that misunderstandings can take place. (Snip) "This is how it happens," says Collins, before posing the question in his regular voice. "You go, 'Hi . . I was looking for my package. Can you help me find it?' She sees, 'Where's my [expletive] package!?!' . . . It doesn't matter if you're speaking in the softest of tones. They see this angry black man looking for his package, and it's scary." (Snip)

James made a conscious effort to adapt to the corporate world after a series of bad experiences. Finding mentors to guide him through the process helped, he says. His boss at Boston Architectural College is Theodore Landsmark, a prominent figure in the 1970s, when tensions arose over busing in Boston, who shares the wisdom he's gathered over the years with James. James also gets advice from Benaree Wiley, the former president and CEO of The Partnership Inc., which develops leaders of color, and the Rev. William E. Dickerson II, James's pastor at the Greater Love Tabernacle Church in Dorchester.
I added links to Prof. Neal's blog and book.

Monday, October 08, 2007

A Trend in Billing?

Today's Boston Globe has an interesting piece about a Boston law firm that has kissed the infamous billable hour good-by, and is now charging clients flat rates for its services. The Shepherd Law Group is a five-lawyer firm whose home page states its philosophy about billing:

"Hourly billing rewards inefficiency and leads to surprises. That's why we don't do it. With Shepherd, you'll know the price beforehand."

Sounds very reasonable, but don't expect the billable hour to go away any time soon. Despite the fact that most lawyers hate it and that the ABA has urged law firms to develop alternatives, most firms continue to bill their time in billable hours because "the current system is entrenched in law firm culture. Many lawyers benefit handsomely from h ourly billing...And some clients are wary of trying a new system..." Jay Shepherd, the founder of the Shepherd Law Group, thinks that "other firms will be dragged along kicking and screaming" into the fixed-fee world. It will be interesting to see if law firms will change their practices if they see that they can charge fixed fees and still make money.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Science of Influence

Click on the title to this post to read a lengthy and fascinating article from the Ideas Section of today’s Boston Globe, “I was lobbied by the Israel lobby,” by Elaine McArdle. The article focuses on the author’s experience on an all-expenses paid trip to Israel sponsored for journalists by AIPAC, the main lobby for Israel in the U.S.

I focus on just one part of this article, which is worth reading for itself. Near the end of the article, McArdle talks to various professors who study the effects of nonconscious influence. This should be a big wake-up call to all professionals, including law librarians, who routinely receive gifts, parties, trips or even donations and scholarships from vendors. Here are some important facts:

I called John A. Bargh, a Yale psychology professor who studies nonconscious influences on behavior, and walked him through the details of my junket. Did he think I was swayed by the experience? "Of course you are," he said. "You'd almost have to be. And you can't know it."

A key tool in the subtle art of persuasion, he said, is reciprocity: offer someone a pleasant experience or gift and they feel an almost irresistible obligation to return the favor. The norm of reciprocity cuts across every culture, and the value of the gift is irrelevant: a cup of coffee is as effective as an extravagant trip. Another tool is to provide friendship and human connection - it's inevitable that a bond will develop when you spend substantial time with someone, especially in a foreign place, where you depend on them.

In the case of the AIPAC junket, it was a one-two punch: an unforgettable and emotionally charged week with warm, likable people - generous hosts and tour guides whom I worried about after returning to the safety of life in Massachusetts.

Emily Pronin, an assistant professor of psychology at Princeton who studies how bias works in the human mind, told me that she and others have found that although we are quick to spot bias in others, bias in ourselves operates almost entirely on a subconscious level. She calls it the "bias blind spot." Scalia's cozy weekend was innocent in his own eyes. Doctors who worry about the sway of pharmaceutical companies over their colleagues insist that their own medical judgment would never be affected. Journalists think they're too savvy to be hustled by lobbyists. We're all operating under a fundamental misperception about the soft sell: that we'll see it happening and avoid it.

"It's a perception of bias as conscious, evil, corrupt behavior," she told me. "As long as we think that's how it goes, we'll continue to say it doesn't affect us."

Since we're all deeply invested in our own sense of integrity - and being accused of bias is an affront - we are primed to deny it. Because bias is subconscious, Bargh said, when our opinion does change we'll convince ourselves that it's because objective reality has changed, or that we didn't have enough facts before.
McArdle finishes the article mulling over the effects her free trip to Israel may have had on her attitudes toward Israel. Not a seismic shift, she says, but certainly effects that she can see and measure. But the key learning is that the effects are unconscious. The person is totally unaware of any bias that is created. It’s important to understand that nobody feels compromised or biased, but everybody is. What does that say about our easy acceptance of mugs, candies, bags, and even trips and scholarships from large publishers and vendors? Not one of us believes that our decisions have been affected or that our professional judgement has been compromised. But the vendors clearly believe that the money they spend on these gifts are worthwhile. And, more impressive to me, the professors who study these things are completely in agreement.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Just bitchin'

Even in libraries, which I celebrate as being pink, the male voice is heard more clearly than the womens’ voices. How often have I sat in a group of library directors and watched as a woman makes a point. It passes without comment. And just a minute or two later, a man says the EXACT SAME THING, and lots of agreement is voiced. What is this? A translation service?!?

There seems to be this continuing disparity where the voices, either real time voices, or written, e-mailed, whatever, of women are just not being heard. It’s an amazing thing to watch. And I’ll bet readers of OOTJ, male and female, have seen this happen.

I don’t think it’s a conscious thing. But I’m getting really tired of it, dammit. If a woman says something bold or critical, even now, in 2007, it comes off as butch or bitchy. A man saying the same thing sounds bold and critical. What is this? Are we still living under a double standard?

I guess we are.


Friday, October 05, 2007

User burden -- starting a discussion?

Earlier this week, I gave a lecture to students in a judicial clerking seminar, emphasizing how to do a New York state legislative history. At the close of the seminar, Judge Weston-Patterson asked the students to comment on the lecture, asking if they used books in their research. None of them were familiar with the notes and decisions in the annotated codes, except for one student who had interned with a labor law firm. She said that working with the books left her less anxious than searching on-line. Indexes and outlines helped her think through a topic. This was an insightful comment. Another student said he found books intimidating and actually wanted more guidance into using the books.

I left the lecture very hopeful on the role of books in law. I was surprised that a law student would find books intimidating.

The experience also brought up the whole idea of user burden. If you are going to use on-line services, you need to buy auxiliary tools (computer, cables, plugs, electricity), purchase an on-line serive, and then learn alternative formats (folio, pdf, ascii, browsers, e-mail). Then you have to learn search languages. Electronic publishing requires the user to purchase the interface. A book is a more self-sufficient technology.

Now that is just for the computer. What would also bear discussion is how much law is hidden. At my reference desk, I get questions from people being evicted from public housing. Administrative law and law judges opinions are not well published. User burden: finding that stuff out. Blogging law--how many disgrunted employees who blogged and then got fired knew about duty of loyalty to employer? It is in the Restatements.

I wonder how much user burden is tied into de-regulation of government. This fleeting thought has potential.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

What is a library?

Libraries these days have a lot of different dimensions – they function in different ways for different patrons, and at different times for the same users. I love the idea of libraries dimensions. Terry Pratchett, one of my all time favorite writers, features libraries and librarians in a number of his books, positing L space, a special folding of time and space wherever too many books are in close proximity. My idea of library dimensions is not quite as magical or entertaining as Pratchett’s, but it is the same general idea.

Libraries today function, as they always have, as a repository of books and other materials. Librarians select titles, whether for print books and journals or for online databases. Once selected, the library must acquire the resource, either buying it or licensing it. And once acquired, the library is also responsible for keeping the material and (usually) making it available on an fair basis to users. We make up circulation rules and track who has what for how long. We have to make sure the physical space is dry, clean, pest-free to keep print materials safe. We also have to make sure the database is working, surge-protectors are in place and users understand how to use these resources. So, in one major dimension, libraries select, acquire and preserve information

As always, there are various specialized tools to locate what you want in that mass of stuff. In the earliest libraries, in ancient Greece and Rome, the materials were scrolls and the finding tools were librarian memory, occasionally lists on the end of “shelves” and tags on the scrolls. Today, we have online catalogs that are searchable in a number of ways. You can search by keyword, by Library of Congress subject heading, by call number, by title or author. Having found a title, you can virtually browse up or down from it in the online catalog, check whether it (should) be on the shelf or is checked out, and place a hold on the item or request it (if you’re a faculty member). There are other finding tools as well – indexes, digests, databases that can be searched. In this dimension, libraries help people find the information that has been gathered and preserved. This ranges from cataloging and labeling to reference work.

A third dimension for academic libraries is as a teaching resource. We select books, indexes, and databases with a special eye toward their use in teaching students. We cooperate with faculty and especially legal research and writing teachers to make sure the material they will be teaching is in proper order, current and available at the time of the class and/or exercise. We also host tours and instruction sessions in the library itself. So, we give tours to all 1-L students and often either bring books/materials to class or bring classes into the library to show students how research is done. We will make handouts, reading lists and web-ographies for faculty and either come into their class or bring the students to the library for instruction on research to support the coursework. At Suffolk, we actually have a specialized classroom in the library. When the building was constructed, we added a seminar-size room surrounded by erstwhile study rooms. When classes are held, professors can have students use the study rooms for break-out sessions as they either brainstorm in small groups or practice skills such as client counseling or ADR.

A fourth dimension in academic libraries is their use as study space. In this function, libraries need to ensure quiet (well we try!) space without distractions. We reserve study rooms for groups. We referee arguments between students over the use of study rooms and study space. We also stock study aids.

A fifth dimension of all libraries is their use as a social center. Students meet in the library for shared tasks. They also meet friends and potential mates in the library. There seems to be, in fact, a mysteriously aphrodisiac effect to law books. I don’t know if other types of libraries have this issue, but something about sitting quietly reading law seems to lead many library users to sexual activities. We retro-fitted our study rooms with glass windows in the doors. Partly, this was a safety issue, but partly, it was because at closing time, our student workers interrupted more than one couple in flagrante delicto.

A sixth dimension is as a retreat. Students who feel pressured by faculty often feel they can relax with the librarians. We make a point of being friendly and welcoming. We don’t assign grades (at least most of us don’t), and we say, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question,” as if it were a mantra. I hung out in my law school library, and I am sure there are a lot of others who felt the same way. This is also why libraries keep sofas. Law students who don’t feel sexually aroused at reading case books may feel sleepy instead.

And the last dimension I can think of, is as a showcase. Libraries usually are made (at least partially) on a grand scale, with views, and/or large, impressive reading rooms. The library is used on tours for potential students and for recruiting faculty and deans as well. It is the incarnation of cultural and intellectual aspirations. The beautiful library is a symbol of the scholarly aspects of the organization.

So much of what we do every day fits into one or another of these dimensions. These are all different ways that the library as a place or resource serves the law school (or court, or government or firm). Whether we are dealing with leaks, buying books, negotiating licenses, answering reference questions, teaching students, cataloging or shelving, we are negotiating the library in its many dimensions. When we plan or work out shared use of space, we need to think of the library in all its varied dimensions – sure you can save space by using all compact shelving, or by ditching all the print, but what does shrinking the library to a database do to the other services the library provides? So librarians try to communicate to decision-makers the different levels or dimensions of library service – it’s not just about buying a book and putting it on the shelf. I don’t think it ever was.

Oyez! Play S.Ct. Baseball

I have long loved the Oyez website (link in the title), which offers such amazing features as audio files of Supreme Court oral arguments. I just ran across a totally fun little piece of Oyez that let's the user choose which baseball figure is most like each justice. From the Oyez home page, choose "browse justices" and select a justice. Besides a lengthy and entertaining bio of the justice, at the bottom, you'll be able to play Supreme Court baseball! Yay!

Slate essay on First Monday Post Thomas' Revelations

Follow the link in the title to this post to read the Slate essay by Dahlia Lithwick on her take this week on First Monday after a slew of news articles and blog postings about various justices. And of course, there is Justice Clarence Thomas' vivid autobiography which was published on October 1.

My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir, reviewed in the New York Times as "exceptionally vivid," characterizing his confirmation hearings (involving allegations of sexual harassment by Anita Hill) as a "high tech lynching." Anita Hill responded in the New York Times opinion page.

I guess the Court seems more colorful this year.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


For many populations, the bookmobile is a lifeline--people who don't live near a library, people with physical handicaps that make it difficult for them to visit their local library, the elderly, people who can't afford to buy books or computers. Unfortunately, in many parts of the country, this lifeline is disappearing. Today's article in the Boston Globe describes the ancient bookmobile in Beverly, Massachusetts that is "now a ragged shadow of itself." There are only four bookmobiles still operating in Massachusetts, and across the country, "bookmobiles are increasingly seen as irrelevant, and have been retired one by one." There are only about 900 bookmobiles still operating in the United States. It really seems a shame!

CALI offers courthouses help with Pro Se Litigants

Click on the title to this post for a link to a Chicago Tribute story about how the folks at CALI have created a program based on the law student lessons we are all familiar with, that leads a self-represented litigant through questions that create a form for court, or a letter to a collection agency, or even a health care power of attorney. Cool! Way to go, CALI! If you go to their website, they call this program A2J, which stands for Access to Justice. The questions are a "guided interview." So far, courts in Illinois, California and Idaho are signed on. The Legal Services Corporation (the same folks who provide Legal Aid to indigents) helped underwrite this and another self-help program, Hot Docs, apparently in cooperation with Lexis/Nexis.

NYC toxics from 9/11 covered up, denied by authorities

Discover Magazine has an in-depth article about the toxics released by the 9/11 attacks. There are various court cases moving forward and shockingly little being done even now about either recognizing or treating the effects of exposure on folks across the NYC area. Click on the title to the post to read an article that makes me want to stop breathing and I'm in Boston! Yikes! The article includes excellent links to helpful resources.

New Yorker on Jena Six

The New Yorker reports on the Jena Six and the protests that finally effected the dropping of charges in all but one of the cases. Recall that after a student asked the high school principal for permission to sit beneath the "white" tree in the school yard, nooses appeared on the tree.

Jena’s recent noosemakers, identified as a trio of white students, were recommended for expulsion by the principal, who was evidently conscious of this history, but a white school superintendent imposed suspensions only, on the ground that the tree display was a prank. In the days leading up to that decision, fights had erupted between black and white students, and the local district attorney, Reed Walters, reportedly gave a speech in which he warned students, “With a stroke of my pen, I can make your lives disappear.”

Last December, at the school, a black student coldcocked a white student, Justin Barker, knocking him briefly unconscious; other black students allegedly kicked the victim while he lay on the ground. Barker was treated for cuts and bruises at a hospital and released a few hours later. The police arrested six black students, aged fourteen to eighteen, and Walters charged them with attempted second-degree murder and a conspiracy count; if convicted, they faced up to seventy-five years in prison.

Jena prosecutors started reducing the charges to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy. Still, last June an all-white jury convicted one of the defendants, Mychal Bell, who was sixteen years old at the time of the assault, of crimes that threatened him with up to twenty-two years in an adult state prison. Michael Baisden, a black syndicated radio talk-show host who normally specializes in romance and its perils, undertook an on-air protest, along with others, which spread across black radio and then to the Internet. In late September, thousands of demonstrators descended on Jena. Last Thursday, Bell, whose convictions had been thrown out, was released on bail, after ten months in jail; Reed Walters has agreed to retry him as a juvenile.
The author, Steve Coll, in an opinion piece, goes on to comment that black observers see the Jena miscarriage of justice as a microcosm of the larger miscarriage of justice in these United States where
The number of blacks in prison has quadrupled since 1980. There are many overlapping causes, among them severe automated federal sentencing rules; a passionate but badly managed “war on drugs” prosecuted most heavily in African-American neighborhoods; and deepening inequalities in personal income and access to education, whose effects fall hardest on urban teen-agers. One study estimates that, if recent trends continue, a third of the black males born in 2001 can expect to do time.
I am glad the mainstream media finally picked up the story (try searching the New York Times online for Jena Louisiana).

Monday, October 01, 2007

Government CrackDowns in the Internet Age

Click on the title to this post to read a brief discussion of how various websites and social networks are covering the government crackdown in Burma (Myanmar). There is the Democratic Voice of Burma, a website based in Norway. and a Facebook group supporting the Buddhist monks who are leading the protests in Burma. is another website linking interested viewers to footage of the government crackdown and giving handy links to the UN Secretary General to register outrage and demand action. Human Rights Watch offers more links and info. And the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) has released satellite images that document the military junta's abuses.

It's harder to be a military dictatorship in the age of the Internet, as the Chinese government has found (for example, read this report from Human Rights Watch on the Internet in China).