Thursday, February 28, 2008

New Peer-Reviewed Online Journal

Indiana University has announced the launch of the Museum Anthropology Review, a free, online, peer-reviewed anthropology journal made possible through collaboration with the University libraries. The editor is Professor Jason Baird Jackson, who called the librarians "among the most engaged supporters of the project." For more information about the project, see this article from Inside Higher Ed.

Inside Higher Ed points out that this new journal "may represent a larger challenge in the end to the traditional model of scholarly publishing." Since the experimental launch of the journal one year ago, it has already attracted over 20,000 visitors, more readers than the traditional subscription-based journal, Museum Anthropology, which is also edited by Professor Jackson. Professor Jackson notes that "he is hearing interest in the model especially from libraries, which find themselves struggling to pay for journal subscriptions and yet realizing that they have the technology infrastructure to support journal publishing and to in effect become the publishers (except for the part of the old role about charging to read)." He also looks forward to a day when every university library plays this support role for journals edited locally. If this happened, "Our scholarly literature would be accessible to humanity in a way that it's not now."

I was particularly interested in the reaction from Patricia Steele, the dean of libraries at IU, who views the "publication of Museum Anthropology Review as a 'natural extension' of the library's role, and one she would like to replicate with other journals."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The "Deadwood Report"

The Green Bag, self-described as "an entertaining journal of law," has announced plans to join the arena of law-school rankings, reports today's edition of Inside Higher Ed. The announcement came in an editorial which will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Green Bag. This spring the journal will begin work on the "'Deadwood Report,' which it envisions being an annual assessment of 'whether faculty members do the work that the law schools say they do.'" In attempting to assess what faculty do, the Deadwood Report will take dead aim at the phenomenon known as "law porn," the orgy of puffery that law schools engage in every fall as part of their efforts to raise their profiles. Much of the puffery revolves around faculty achievements, an area not covered by the U.S. News & World Report rankings, and the Green Bag will look carefully at such indications of faculty activity as recent scholarship in traditional scholarly journals. In other words, editorials in the New York Times will not "count"; nor will publication in the law reviews of your own school. The Green Bag will be looking carefully at law schools' websites and other marketing tools as part of its evaluation process, so schools will want to make sure that their websites accurately reflect what their faculty are doing. I know I can't wait to see if I quality as "deadwood"!

Details of SMU-Bush Library Agreement

Southern Methodist University has released the master plan for the Bush presidential library and institute. This is a follow up to yesterday's post on the Bush library.

Monday, February 25, 2008

National Grammar Day

As the Boston Globe points out, "March, though a long month, is sadly short on holidays." It is a month that seems to drag on endlessly, even though April and the promise of better weather are just around the corner. To enliven this dreary month comes a new holiday all teachers of writing can celebrate--National Grammar Day, to be celebrated on March 4. Click here to read an article about the holiday. National Grammar Day was declared by The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (SPOGG), founded in 2004 by Martha Brockenbrough. SPOGG "seeks members appalled by wanton displays of Bad English' and threatens 'mayhem, misery, madness' all around if we ignore the rules. On the other hand, says its manifesto, 'we also encourage having a sense of humor about language.'"

I agree that a sense of humor is important, but I also think it is a shame that so few students today seem to receive formal instruction in English grammar. How many students learn how to diagram a sentence? Although I hated it at the time, I now realize that sentence diagrams made me understand how to apply the rules of grammar. My students know I am a stickler for good grammar; I often have occasion to discuss lapses in correct usage when meeting with students to go over drafts of the research guides they do for my course. Besides not having been taught grammar, students often do not read good writing, which is probably the best, least painful way to learn grammar. So while we are celebrating National Grammar Day, let's also celebrate reading.

Bush Library Redux

Southern Methodist University agreed on Friday to a unique arrangement that would make it the home of the George W. Bush presidential library and also of an independent institute that would promote President Bush's views and not be controlled by SMU. Inside Higher Ed has the story, and here is the press release from SMU. Some "experts--at SMU and beyond--think the university has agreed to terms that undercut the ideal of presidential library centers as places to promote scholarship."

From the very beginning, the proposed library has been controversial. Faculty concerns focused not on the library, but on the institute which will have an explicitly partisan agenda not usually associated with presidential libraries. As today's article points out, the institute will be "independent of academic governance of the university [and] 'celebrate' the president and his tenure in office." Frankly, it's hard to imagine what there will be to celebrate at the end of this presidency except the departure from Washington of Bush, Cheney, and their cronies.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Commercial Law on the Internet – Is Integrity Sustainable in Cyberspace?

With the recent SocGen scandal and the problems in the economy, the Internet and globalism have been topics. A Reuters’ article said that the SocGen scandal was possible because traders didn’t interact over lunches and the trading floor anymore. Another article said that banks were in crisis because globalism had removed not just borders, but also obligations and reciprocity. Fear was no longer immediate—the “animal factor” was gone.

This is a different world we are in. It is so uncertain. Now uncertainty has been a part of human life forever, but this is an uncertainty resulting from technology being used as gadgets to enforce solitude.

When I say uncertainty, I mean situations like Marco Polo on the Silk Road, Cortez burning his boats, and the experience of the Brits in the regions of empire. Think of Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad. Jim broke the code of decent behavior – “He was one of us.” That expectation of behavior showed up in strange ways. My father left London for Australia after World War II for about ten years. Last week he told me a story of strangers helping each other out in the Australian outback. Dad closed with, “That wouldn’t happen today, Jack. It was only possible because he was white with an English name.” Dad y meant that Marlowe’s code still held up the late 1940s.

Cyberspace isn’t an empire. People go into Second Life expecting to make money in a free environment and then are horrified when the open system allows crime.

It may be that open systems without mutual obligations cannot support commercial law. MIT Tech Review has a series of articles on this. They are worth reading

Blogs -- Questions about them

In my readings, I have run across contradictory comments on social software. Some writers and participants think it promotes increased communication. Others think the pressure of 24/7 commentary hinders publication of questionable and difficult facts. One commentary was that blogs failed to develop critical communities unless the participants failed to reinforce connection through meat-world contact. I know that I have been surprised by how my requests for comments have failed to start discussion. The Future of the Book Blog gets lots of commentary.

It would be interested to survey library-land blogs and see which have the most in-depth commentaries, the interests of the participants, how the blogs get started and changed over time.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Seeking 2008-2009 Graduate Assistant, Law Library

University at Buffalo Law Library
JD/MLS Program in Law Librarianship
2008-2009 Graduate Assistant, Law Library

The University at Buffalo Law Library seeks exceptional candidates for a graduate assistant position in Reference and Faculty Services.


A twelve-month, renewable appointment, requiring 20 hours per week of service, distributed as follows:

Reference (13 hours):

Provide reference service as needed by library patrons, including five hours on Sundays (noon-5:00pm) and eight hours Mondays through Fridays, possibly including one evening (5:00-9:00pm) per week.

Update legal bibliographies, assist in identifying and updating links for the Law Library’s homepage, preparing new web-based research materials, and preparing teaching materials for first year research and writing classes and other Law School classes.

The graduate assistant will complete a research project, such as an annotated bibliography, in-depth webpage, or article, which could be submitted for publication or included on the Law Library’s webpage. The topic will be determined in consultation with the Head of Information Services and the Director of the Law Library. Research for the project may be performed either when the Library has an abbreviated reference schedule or during quiet times at the Reference Desk.

Mercury Faculty Document Delivery Service (7 hours):

Assist with monitoring and filling faculty requests for library materials. Maintain statistics on the use of the service.

These are the hours expected while classes are in session during the fall and spring semesters. Adjustments will be made during intersession and summer.


Applicants must be enrolled in the joint JD/MLS program, or hold either the JD or MLS degree while completing the complementary program. Applicants should have completed the first year Research and Writing course or one or more Legal Bibliography courses in the MLS program. Also required: knowledge of legal research and the Internet; demonstrated ability to interact well with individuals. Applicants must be available the week prior to the beginning of the fall semester for training.

Educational Benefits:

Graduate assistants will gain a full range of professional experience in law library reference services, including in-depth knowledge of the legal research process and both print and electronic research sources, experience in serving multiple and diverse patron populations, and expertise in using bibliographic databases and the Internet to respond to reference questions and to fill Mercury requests. Graduate assistants will observe varying styles in responding to reference queries, and will have the opportunity to prepare their own research for publication.

Salary: $10.00/hour, plus 9 hours graduate student tuition per semester. Graduate assistants in the JD program may also qualify for scholarship awards.

Applications, including a cover letter, resume, and the names and contact information for three references, must be submitted by April 4, 2008, to:

James Milles
Vice Dean for Legal Information Services
Director of the Law Library
Professor of Law
University at Buffalo Law School
208 O’Brian Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Free Online Catalog?

The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting in its February 22, 2008 issue on Aaron Swartz's initiative to build a competitor to WorldCat--a "free online book catalog that anyone can update." You will need a Chronicle account in order to read the story online. Mr. Swartz is only twenty-one, but has already helped to write the code for RSS. His project is called Open Library, and it is expected to go live in March. At that point, Open Catalog should have records on about 20 million books. Its goal is expansive--"to create a comprehensive Web page about any book ever published. Each page will include not just author, title, and publisher but also links that direct users to the nearest library with a copy and to related. Other links will allow users to buy a book online or write a review of it. The pages will be created or updated by anyone, in the style of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Some Web pages will also connect to the full text when its copyright has expired. Or users will be able to pay about 10 cents a page to have an unscanned out-of-copyright book at a college library digitized." There are similarities to WorldCat, but while WorldCat includes only records from OCLC libraries, Open Library will include records from anywhere. WorldCat is a fee-based service, while Open Library is free. Finally, WorldCat records are presumably created by librarians using established standards, while Open Library records will be created by the public. Mr. Swartz has other ideas about integrating Open Library with Wikipedia and LibraryThing, a site that enables the public to catalog their books. Should his project succeed, it could well change the way libraries maintain catalog records. At the moment, however, many librarians are cautious about Open Library, and few libraries have contributed their records. I am left with the question I often have when I read about innovative ideas for facilitating access to information--why are they coming from outside the library profession?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Drexel Law School Wins Accreditation

Congratulations to the folks at Drexel! Here is the story:

New JD Factory Gets Provisional ABA Accreditation

New York Lawyer
February 20, 2008

By Gina Passarella
The Legal Intelligencer

While some law schools may not have been thrilled about decisions that came out of the American Bar Association's midyear meeting a week and a half ago in Los Angeles, Drexel University School of Law came home with some good news.

The school was given its provisional accreditation more than four months ahead of schedule.

Although Roger Dennis, the law school's dean, didn't expect there to be any problems with the process, the provisional accreditation does allow the campus to utter a collective sigh of relief.

The first class, set to graduate in 2009, will now be able to sit for any state's bar exam. Having the provisional accreditation will also allow the school to receive funds from Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts for clinical programs - something Dennis said Drexel is very committed to but from which the school has not been able to receive the extra funding other area schools have seen.

Drexel law students will now be eligible for various fellowships that only go to students at accredited schools and certain employers may be less hesitant to invest in Drexel 1Ls and 2Ls for summer associate programs knowing that they will be able to sit for the bar, Dennis said. The school will also be able to better recruit on a national scale, he said.

Prior to joining Drexel, Dennis was with Rutgers University and had sat for six years on the council of the ABA's section of legal education and admissions to the bar - the section that handles the accreditation process. While he knew what to expect of the process and was pretty confident that Drexel was more than prepared, he said a bit of doubt began to creep in at the ABA's meeting on Feb. 9.

Dennis and a few other Drexel representatives went before the council of the ABA's section of legal education and admissions to the bar a little before 9 a.m. that Saturday. It was a relatively short, uneventful meeting before the council to go over a few last- minute things before the provisional accreditation could be granted, he said.

The council then went into private deliberations to vote on Drexel's accreditation. Dennis said those occasional doubts began as the hours passed by and he hadn't received a phone call. At about 1:15 p.m., he finally heard what he had been waiting for. Drexel easily achieved its provisional accreditation.

As it turns out, Dennis' suspicions for the cause of the delay were accurate. The council took only a few minutes to vote on Drexel's status and moved on to discuss the ABA's more controversial issue at hand - proposed interpretation 301-6.

The interpretation was passed and requires law schools - in order to meet the accreditation requirement - to reach a 75 percent bar passage rate of the school's graduates sitting for the bar over the past five years. In addition, at least 75 percent of the graduates sitting for the bar each year must pass in three of those five years.

Dennis said the school, being unaccredited at the time, didn't take a position on the proposed interpretation prior to the vote.

He said he is "a bit of a hawk when it comes to bar passage rates" and said law schools should be accountable for their individual passage rates.

Students spend a lot of money and give up three to four years of their lives for law schools. Not passing the bar by the second try is bad for their careers, he said.

The new interpretation will only affect a handful of schools, Dennis said, and is probably not going to create as much of a change as the "brouhaha" over the vote might have indicated.

While he wouldn't hazard a guess in terms of where Drexel's first class would be in terms of passage rates, Dennis said he would be disappointed if the students weren't very similar to those of Villanova, Temple and Rutgers on their first try.

As would any law school, he said, Drexel looks to achieve high bar passage rates by bringing in quality students, designing a curriculum that will prepare them and hiring experienced educators.

Dennis said the school has also hired a faculty member to work one-on-one or in teams with students who aren't doing as well on exams.

Aside from working with its students on their bar passage rate, Drexel Law has been diligently working on its biggest test to date.

The accreditation process really began in October 2007 when a team of lawyers, judges and academics visited the school. The team wrote a lengthy report that was submitted to the ABA. Dennis said the suggested improvements in the report are confidential but said the suggestions for Drexel were more reminders about what the school had to do in the future to attain full accreditation.

The school went before the council in December 2007 to answer any questions the members had in terms of the school's vision, how it would be implemented and what its financial prospects looked like. Dennis said it was like a hearing on the record.

Given Dennis' experience on the committee, he knew what questions might be asked and tried to already have them answered in reports the school had to submit to the ABA.

"Ours was as, in a nice way, routine as possible," Dennis said of the overall process.

He said the school was "super prepared" and had created its own self-study to go along with the previous report written by the team that visited in October.

That was one reason, he said, the school was able to get a decision well before June, when the provisional accreditation was originally expected.

Coming out of a national research university also carried some weight, he said.

"Drexel University is not going to let its law school fail," Dennis said.

The law school has spent a lot of time bringing on strong faculty and has focused on Drexel's long-standing model of experiential learning, he said.

Dennis said the Philadelphia bar has been very supportive and the school hasn't been shy about asking. Drexel Law has more than 100 students in co-ops in this region.

"It's pretty clear we're trying to be an ambitious, cutting-edge law school," he said.

Dennis said Philadelphia is as tough of a law school market as one can find.

"If we're not good from almost the day we open the doors, we're not where we want to be," he said.

The next step for Drexel is to become a fully accredited school - which looks to mean more of the same for the next few years. Dennis said the school would have a provisional accreditation for two years. ABA representatives will visit the school next year to check in, and full accreditation would most likely come the year after that.

The information from the Drexel website is here.

Ta-Ta for now from Betsy

I am saying 'bye for a while to our OOTJ readers. I will be having surgery tomorrow to remove damaged disks and fuse 3 vertebrae in my neck. I will be absent from blogging for some time, and wanted to let you know why the blogosphere will shine a bit dimmer for a while. :-} I expect a good outcome and expect to be back within a few weeks, though I am not sure quite how long. Wish me luck and I'll be back soon! TTFN

Tigger figurine is courtesy of Alexand Ross Gallery

Article on Second Life from Corporate Counsel Viewpoint

Click on the title to this posting to read an interesting article from the journal The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel. Written by Diane Duhaime of Jorden Burt LLP, the article details some of the burgeoning litigation and abuse of trademarks and other IP issues on Second Life. She urges corporate counsel to check out their corporate marks in virtual reality.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Under-used Semicolon

Here is a love letter to the semicolon, that misunderstod and underutilized punctuation mark, from the New York Times. Most students today are not taught how to use it correctly. Even Bryan Garner's Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage, my favorite guide for all things to do with legal writing, gives short shrift to the semicolon--eight terse lines, with only one example. A friend of mine who teaches English at a private high school in Virginia tells her students the semicolon is a "hinge" between two related thoughts. She says that this analogy helps them understand when they should use a semicolon rather than a period or some other punctuation mark.

Open Source Solutions?

Inside Higher Education is reporting today on efforts being undertaken by libraries to move away from dependence on third-party commercial vendors and create "their own open-source solutions that are fully customizable, free for others to use and compatible with existing systems." I assumed before reading the article that most of the solutions would address database needs, but these projects in fact run the gamut, including the online catalog, search engines, database systems, citation software, and course management software. Anyone who has ever negotiated with Innovative Interfaces , for instance, has felt frustrated at the occasional inability to make the system, good as it is, do exactly what you need for it to do. And then there's the whole issue of the high initial cost and ongoing maintenance charges, the reason for which I have never fully understood.

Of course, using open-source solutions is not free, something I know from my own experience with them. A library needs its own servers, which may or may not be politically feasible in a particular institution, and it needs in-house technology people who are capable of working with software that is typically not well supported. The article points out, however, that it might "make more long-term financial sense to hire more developers than to continue paying for products over which they have limited control." There is a good summary of some of the projects that are underway at libraries around the country (be sure to look at the Comments, where several more projects are described). Some of them sound very promising.

Do Not Call Registry becoming permanent - Check Govtrack.US!

Click on the title to this post to view an article from Network World on a bill that just sailed through the Senate to make the Do Not Call registry permanent. The bill, which originated in the House, is H.R. 3541: Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007. The similar Senate bill is S. 2096: Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007.

This post also gives me an opportunity to introduce on OOTJ the very handy federal government website,, set up to follow legislation passing through the 110th (current) Congress. I hope it will continue, as it's a very handy, clear listing of the status of federal bills. The links above for each bill takes you to the web page at that follows that bill. Besides telling you the stages through which each bill has passed, it also provides links to a summary, floor debates and the full text of the bill on the Library of Congress' admirable website, Thomas. Excellent site!

New net neutrality bill introduced by Rep. Markey

Rep. Markey, long a backer of net neutality, has introduced The Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008 (link to full text in PDF)

Follow the struggles at Sve the Internet blog, here
A pro-neutrality website that has helpful explanations and good links.

Run, Larry, Run!

Click on this link to visit Jonathan Zitrain's blog entry urging Lawrence Lessig to run for the Congressional seat that came vacant, representing the Silicon Valley area of California. Interesting developments coming up.

Monday, February 18, 2008

History Repeats Itself

The short history of the Internet (see ISOC list of Internet history documents here) and the Web is a recapitulation of all of human history. I find it a fascinating encapsulation of the best and worst of human nature played out electronically. Being electronic and virtual, it seems to cover vast swathes of time in much shorter time.

For instance, the Internet’s predecessor, ARPANET was a military-subsidized network. Even the Internet began with an academic and military research elite accessing it for development of instant communication. (See Hobbes’ Internet Timeline here) From the 1940's theory to 1970's ARPANET and other related networks, until Tim Berners Lee wrote the code underlaying the Internet in 1980, only researchers and consultants at elite research institutions used the networks to share information. Then, in 1990, Berners-Lee developed a graphical user interface that accessed the networks that became known as the World Wide Web in 1991 (see A Little History of the Web here)

As with the earliest users of the, Web users were the intellectual elite, using a new web of communication to support government and military developments. In the same way, the earliest cuneiform tablets appear to have been bookkeeping for kings, developing slowly to other palace administrative uses. (See (Richeast High School in Forest Park, IL) on uses of cuneiform here) Cuneiform lasted as a writing system for government and religious administration from about 3,000 BC to about 75 BC, the date of the last-known cuneiform writing (see Wikipedia article here) Following cuneiform, hieroglyphics in Egypt, writing systems in India, China and the Fertile Crescent all began as support for kings, military and religion. Only with the passage of thousands of years did the general population become literate and writing become used for other purposes. With the development of the printing press, access to books of all kinds became much easier, and literacy became much more widespread.

But it only took a couple of decades for the Internet to become more accessible, and develop uses beyond support of research for government and military uses.. During the 1980's, librarians and researchers at less elite universities and colleges began to use the Internet. And then, with the development of graphical user interfaces and easy-to-use search engines and menus, the World Wide Web made the already vast resources of the Internet accessible to the general public. Of course, now, the Web is dominated by commerce, gossip and news for the general public.

And as the general populace moved into the Web, so did all the best and worst of human nature. In November, 1988, the first worm ate its way through the Net, affecting about one tenth of the existing nodes (Hobbes). By 1993, worms had been adapted to the new Web environment and began proliferating (Hobbes). By 1994, shopping malls arrived on the Web. Advertising now drives the economy of the Web, as Google’s ad-based revenue generation becomes the new model to support websites. We have spyware, adware and malware proliferating. E-mail has become nearly useless as spam, worms and viruses spread. Identity theft has become a huge new crime. And people have begun to joke about Nigerian e-mails as scams become so commonplace as to humor material.

And, one of the more endearing developments, as all this weirdness grew up, the users of the Web developed a system to classify the strangenesses. See Trolls ( ) which tries to define and differentiate between trolls, flamers, kooks and just garden variety @ssholes. There is also this thoughtful essay by Paul Graham at his blog here ( musing about trolls and what causes such behavior. A troll is a person who visits a social site of some kind and posts inflammatory messages, intended to provoke a reaction from the readers.

So, while writing and reading took millennia to develop and be used by the general population, the Internet recapitulated that development in a matter of decades. Now, like literature, a huge amount of the action on the internet is around commerce, thievery, sexploitation, and twitting or scandalizing one’s neighbors. And, like librarians classifying the world of written knowledge, some faithful souls are carefully cataloging the world of the Web. I can’t decide whether to weep or cheer.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Oh, don’t you wish you could attend ROFLCon? What is ROFLCon? My, my, my.

Roll On the Floor Laughing = ROFL
And we know what a Con is, right? Convention dedicated to fans of [insert your passion here]
So, April 25-26, Harvard is hosting ROFLCon. See this posting on the Boston Globe Ideas blog, Brainiac.

Is all about Internet Kultr, like great sites:

Tron guy, the banner of which is decorating this posting

LOLCat Bible Translation Project, but probably already know LOLCat (aka I can has Cheezburger)

Snakes on a blog

Dr. McNinja, a user generated news site

Friday, February 15, 2008

MS Word Rant!

One of the great things about having a blog is that it's a wonderful outlet for frustration and rage. The downside, of course, is that it's public and probably pretty permanent. But right this minute, I am too angry to care, so here is my

Rant against MS Word

Only Microsoft could create a bloatware beast that would arbitrarily decide that every footnote above 16 should be renumbered beginning

No! Not at 1!

At 6!

And nothing you can do can make it change!

If you delete the nasty little 6


If you try to cut and paste the footnote text,

It thwarts you!

It wants to reformat the indented quote

either to reach across the page or else,

The evil software insists that the entire paper must be indented 2 inches!

and then, you still haven't controlled for the single spaced lines.


And here are some other people who hate it:

Why I Hate Microsoft Word includes a good deal of profanity and some very clever screenshots with inserted text. If you, too, hate the damned paperclip, you will love this site.

MS Word: Living with the Beast John G. Faughnan decides to try to light a candle rather than curse the darkness, and offers a number of work-arounds, none of which helped me, but hey, maybe you live in a different MS Hell.

Paul Sloane who calls it fascist software. Right on, Paul!

Lovely rant about MS Word from Brit, Ian Hocking, a novelist at his blog, This Writing Life After his list of things he hates about Word, Ian lists:

Here's what I like about it:

1. Nothing! Haven't you been listening? Grrr!

And a kiss-and-tell by Chris Pratley, former MS programmer, on what it's like to Drink the MS Kool-Aid.

T Campbell rants and attracts an enthusiastic bunch of commenters who hate Word just as much.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Follow-up to Post on Harvard and Open Access

The Harvard faculty passed the open-access measure yesterday. Read the article here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Open Access at Harvard

Today's New York Times is reporting that Harvard University's faculty will vote today on a measure that "would permit Harvard to distribute their scholarship online, instead of signing exclusive agreements with scholarly journals that often have tiny readerships and high subscription costs." Because of the prestige attached to Harvard, a positive vote would be a significant step forward for the open access movement. The plan calls for Harvard to "deposit finished papers"--not working drafts--into an "open-access repository run by the library." Authors would have to opt out of the program; in other words, all articles from the Arts and Sciences faculty would be included unless the authors specifically chose not to include them. Because authors would retain copyright, they could still publish their articles in journals if they chose to. The issue is, of course, if journals would be interested in articles that were already available for free from the repository. Here is a link to an article from today's Harvard Crimson written by Robert Darnton, director of the Harvard University Library.

Monday, February 11, 2008

It's the new millennium. Do you know where your library is?

Yikes! We are living in the midst of a sea change in information services. Libraries are teetering between the print world and the digital future. We scrutinize licenses anxiously and read articles such as The Ownership Delusion in the AALL Spectrum for February, 2008. This article is subtitled "Are Law libraries Really Getting More by Buying Electronic Documents, or Simply Paying More?" Questions like these interfere with the law librarian's sound slumber!

So do questions like:

* Will there be law libraries in 10 years?
* Will there be any librarians left in 20 years?
* Will we be able to access laws more than 2 years old in the future?
* Will anybody care?

I am proud to be part of a profession that at least is trying to tackle these questions and assure the (ungrateful?) future's access to legal information and history. Lawyers don't usually think they will need an out-of-date statute -- right up until it's key to their case. Judges may not think about whether they will be able to read their own decisions -- unless they are grumbling about buying them back from legal publishers and online providers. Librarians are the ones who worry about such access 24/7, and are working to solve the problems. We may not be able to solve all the problems by ourselves, but we know how to tug on sleeves until we put together teams that can fix the problem.

I hope there are librarians in the future. I believe they are going to be needed, even if our patrons and great-grandchildren of patrons don't know it yet!

The image decorating this little rant/celebration is from . I like the ominous look to this celebration, which may be a bonfire or a conflagration. It suits how I feel about my profession and its uncertain future. The site seems to be an image archive for indivuals and I believe the image I chose was actually taken by Tor Amumdson.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

More unsolicited advice for Martindale

As part of our continuing coverage of Martindale-Hubbell in its digital form, here is a posting from Kevin O'Keefe of Real Lawyers Have Blogs:

Wow! Watching the election results this evening I caught a commercial for Martindale-Hubbell's Traditional lawyer talking with screen shots of the website.

No question such ads will draw traffic to the website. It will put a lot of wind in the sails of LexisNexis Martindale's salespeople calling on lawyers to retain their listings in Martindale-Hubbell, a requirement to be listed in, Martindale's consumer and small business law website....

Martindale is selling ads at in the form of directory listings and banner ads on directory pages. Martindale is now buying ads so they can get lawyers to buy ads....

Martindale may be better served by getting its directory of all lawyers indexed in Google, lawyer by lawyer, and do so with a search engine optimization wallop that only Martindale could bring. Lawyers would be lined up to pay Martindale for a listing then. But Martindale, as best as any one can tell, does not allow Google to index all the lawyer bio's and firm profiles that Martindale has....

Rather than compete with Google (we've seen a lot of losers) why not leverage your asset in conjunction with Google's strength? Wouldn't Martindale be better off using the latest technology to get their lawyers' profiles fully indexed at Google? Wouldn't that be a win/win for Martindale and its lawyer customers?
With forward-looking scholars announcing boycotts of locked-down academic journals and other walled gardens, that sounds like good advice to me. Closed systems and limited access as a business model is looking increasingly misguided.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Breath of spring on a snowy February Friday!

The spring beauty is a small wildflower that has versions in nearly every state. This image is courtesy of . Don't be fooled by the red beetle with black spots! That's not a lady bug. Wrong shape. I suspect a lily beetle. Anyway, take a deep breath if you are in snow country (or one of the states that just had terrible tornadoes, or otherwise have lousy weather today. Spring is on its way!

My daughter clipped a bunch of forsythia branches and they just came into bloom today. What a life saver in the snow and dark of Febuary! The close-up image of the yellow forsythia blooms are courtesy of

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Book review and request for discussion

I wrote an essay on my thoughts after reading Francisco's Goldman's The Art of Political Murder and Thomas Geogeghan's See You In Court for the Winter 2008 issue of SCCLL News . I closed with an invitation for discussion. The issue with many interesting essays is now available on the SCCLL website.

Black History Month at the Brooklyn Supreme Court Law Library

As part of the Brooklyn Supreme Court's Black History Month Celebration, the Library has made a display of New York State laws dealing with slave history. Until I started researching the topic, I wasn't aware of how much slavery had been part of the state's legal fabric. (I didn't make it to the Historical Society's exhibit on slavery last year.) Our library has a complete set of New York State statutes so the exhibit is so moving. Just to see the words on yellowed paper gives such a sense of the reality of the laws.

Don’t Push Send!

I heard a wonderful singer on the radio the other day. Carrie Newcomer, whose new album, “Geographies of Light” can be seen & sampled at The song I heard was “Don’t Push Send!” It’s a cautionary song about all the many ways you can regret sending an e-mail. Visit the site and listen to a clip, and take her message to heart!

Here is a portion of the lyrics:

This is a story a very sad tale
Of intrigue and romance and electronic mail
A dangerous form of information, and the perils of instant gratification
How many times did I hit my Mac want to crawl inside and take the whole thing back
But its no use say it again and again
Don't push send
Carol wrote about her job's frustrations
What drove her crazy with aggravation
A list of every person's faults,
Precise and pithy, wry insults
She sent it off to her best friend
But saw with horror as she pushed send
She hit the keys and began to roar
She'd she'd copied the entire office floor
Chorus: Don't push send
Don’t push send
There are things that you just can amend
I tell myself again and again
Don't push send (snip)
I have certainly sent my share of e-mails that I regretted. I should have a little javascript program put up a full screen message saying - Don’t Push Send whenever there are too many all caps words in an e-mail. You could probably also create a helpful list of words that would also trigger such a message. Hmmm. Here are selected sad stories of various e-mails that must have been deeply regretted, and yet can never be called back -- I think I'll be making a post-it note to stick on my computer!
Boss's threats against "lazy" employees sends stock plunging here article about secretaries losing jobs over flamewar in 2005
A nice article, under "mental health" in the NY Times from 2007, which includes the new term "web rage"
Michael Hyatt's blog, "From Where I Sit" with a cool graphic and detailed story about an angry e-mail that turned out not to be a disaster. Helpful suggestions on pausing before you send a real flamer! Here
A Time Magazine article from 2000 promoting an etiquette guide, Poor Richard's Guide to Building Online Communities.
New Zealand Herald article about a flaming e-mail that went viral globally here
And of course, the immortal flame war between a lawyer and the new graduate he thought he was hiring, from the Boston Globe here
And this just out on the online ABA Journal! A lawyer had two similar names in the e-mail address book and sent a confidential e-mail to the wrong person! What a timely horror story!

Image is courtesy of

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

What Judges Read

I distribute a list of recently received law reviews to judges working in the Brooklyn Supreme Court weekly. Judges do read law reviews. The most recently requested law review articles so far have been:

Why Every Chief Judge Should See 12 Angry Men by Chief Judith S. Kaye. 82 Chicago-Kent Law Review 627-631 (2007)

Blinking on the Bench: How Judges Decide Cases by Chris Guthrie, Jeffrey J. Rachlinski and Andrew J. Wistrich. 93 Cornell Law Review 1-43 (2007).

Both are excellent. Judge Kaye's article demonstrates her commitment to public involvement in the courts; it is a pleasure to work in such an agency.

The second article is really exciting. Since Jim Milles has talked about the lack of inter-disciplinary hiring in library land, this article will point out how traditional legal research needs to include recent developments in decision making.

The See-saw Principle

The See-Saw Principle is how I look at facilitating change, whether it’s a personal conversation or a business meeting of some kind. Folks of a certain age remember see-saws or teeter-totters, as they were sometimes called, in playgrounds. I think they have largely disappeared because there was such great potential for injury – a simple board balanced across a fulcrum – usually a long bar with a series of teeter-totters mounted. Kids would sit on either side, roughly balancing each other, and push with legs, to see-saw up and down. Jumping off suddenly was the potential for injury – dropping your partner suddenly onto the ground with a bone-jarring thud!

The See-Saw Principle is simple, based on that image of the balancing lever, tilting up and down:

1. A see-saw balanced evenly takes very little pressure to start it tipping.

2. Too much pressure makes the board slam into the ground and rebound up, smacking you in the chops on the way to the opposite tilt.

To explain how this works in facilitating change, just imagine a faculty or staff meeting where no strong opinions either way have been voiced. A small comment will likely be enough to begin tipping the see-saw one way. It also means that it’s better not to speak too often or too much at length. Your comments will have much more effect if you are rarely heard from, and succinct when you speak.

The second corollary means that either lobbying too hard, or too “big” a person speaking for a change may have the opposite result – the see-saw will bounce off the ground, smack you in the chops on its way to the opposite position!

Words to live by. Image courtesy of

Happy Lunar New Year!

Lunar New Year (a.k.a. Chinese New Year) is actually celebrated all across Asia. It's a big family event, with lots of people traveling back home for the holiday (read this news story about Millions trying to get home, but not enough public transit in China on Lunar New Year). Travel was disrupted by 3 weeks of massive snow storms, backing up traveling people all across the large country.

Check out this informative page at about the lunar new year. There is info on the Chinese zodiac (this is the Year of the Rat), how the lunar new year is calculated (this year is Feb. 7), and lots of links to info on celebratory traditions.

"Gung Hei Fat Choy!" is a Chinese new year's greeting. You can read an article from the San Francisco Chronicle about their celebration here. Gung Haggis Fat Choy (a creative blend of Scots and Chinese traditions has traveled from Vancouver, where it originated, to Seattle, and Connie Crosby blogs it this year, too. Visit her site with lots of great links, including a rap celebration. More traditional celebrations across the U.S in New York and again NYC's Chinatown, San Francisco's Chinese Culture Center, and Boston.

Learn about other Asian cultures' celebrations:
Korea at

VietNam's Tet at Wikipedia

And this handy survey from Asian American, though written between 1996-1998, it still has useful info from people of the cultures they are describing.
And, a virtual reality celebration in
World of WarCraft Whew! I'll bet there's one in Second Life, too, but I haven't had the time to look. The image is a new stamp from the U.S. Post office, commemorating this new Year of the Rat, from!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Touro Law Update

Here's another take on the possible sale of Touro Law School to Stony Brook from today's New York Law Journal:

Should acquisition talks begun a few weeks ago between officials of Stony Brook University in Southampton and Touro Law Center result in an agreement, the Long Island law campus could become part of the State University of New York system this summer, according to state Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, R-Port Jefferson, chairman of the Higher Education Committee.

"If negotiations between now and June succeed, Stony Brook could literally take the Touro flag down and put their flag up," he said yesterday in a phone interview.

Touro Law, a private institution established in 1980, moved in 2006 to a brand new $33 million facility in Central Islip as part of a comprehensive law campus that includes state and federal courthouses.

Acquiring an existing law school - well-housed and accredited by the American Bar Association - would be far easier than ambitions announced last year by officials at SUNY Binghamton to establish a law school on its campus.

Mr. LaValle, a Touro Law alumnus who has played a role in developing environmental studies at SUNY Stony Brook, said talks with Touro began due to parallel academic focus: community planning and the environmental programs.

Matters subject to negotiation between the two institutions, Mr. LaValle said, involve appraisals of both campuses, state appropriations and bonding methodology, and a tax support formula to support operating costs in converting a private law school with a current tuition rate of about $34,000 annually down to about $13,000 - the rate of tuition at the University at Buffalo Law School, already part of the SUNY system.

Mr. LaValle said the "floor price" for Stony Brook's acquisition of Touro Law would be $34 million, but "I have no clue as to the ceiling price."

Happy Mardi Gras, Oh, yeah.

Moving on beyond chocolate (though who would want to?), let's celebrate Fat Tuesday, aka Mardi Gras, or Carnival (from Latin, to say farewell to flesh, or meat):

Check out National Geographic's coverage of Carnival

And this post from what I think is the New Orleans boosters group, calling itself about Mardi Gras from our US party city.

Or this AP story on Mardi Gras colliding with Super Tuesday in New Orleans.

Or try to remember that there is a religious aspect to the holiday, which is the last hoorah before Lent starts on Ash Wednesday. Visit American post on Fat Tuesday.

So, though it's almost too late, laissez les bons temps roulez, y'all!

And now for something completely different

Fans of Monty Python's Flying Circus may be disappointed, but I'll bet the rest of OOTJ readers will enjoy the little video exploring a new start-up in Somerville, Mass, Taza Chocoloate. They are a bean to bar chocolate maker. That means that they buy the beans, grind them (on grindstones they cut themselves), and make the chocolate from scratch. I plan to buy a bunch of Taza chocolate (inspired by Mexican chocolate traditions) for Valentine's day. I hope you enjoy the completely calorie-free chocolate fix. Click on the link in the title to this post to go to the Boston Globe "Office Invasion" feature page, and choose the Taza chocolate entry (if it's not already cued up for you to watch).

Completely off topic, but I couldn't resist! (Pay no attention to that Milles behind the curtain struggling with Martindale-Hubbell)

Leave Martindale Alone!

Now I feel bad. First I picked on Martindale for their nascent social networking space, and then Steve Matthews made some snarky comments about their "cheezy non-blog." They're trying, darn it! And they're probably nice to their aunt!

Rule of thumb: any corporate blog entitled "The Official Blog of [insert name here]" is bound to be lame.

Martindale-Hubbell Reborn as MySpace for Lawyers

I've just received an email from LexisNexis asking me "Have You Networked Today?"

With your registration and the new My Martindale Network tool, it's never been easier to organize and manage outside counsel. Built in partnership with Corporate Counsel, My Martindale Network enables you to securely store Preferred Providers and short lists for other matters on This gives you one place to track and manage outside counsel, annotate profiles and use's Side by Side Comparison tool to make more informed decisions.
OK, the MySpace comparison is unfair. What Martindale is trying to do is redefine itself as a LinkedIn for lawyers.

In recent years the Martindale website (the digital counterpart to the old reliable Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directory) has grown increasingly irrelevant. Who needs a lawyer directory in the age of Google when every law firm has its own website? Perhaps there is a market for a social networking service limited to lawyers. But I'm not sure; maybe it's more valuable for lawyers to network with clients and potential clients through existing services like LinkedIn, or even Facebook?

At any rate, it's nice to see that good ol' Martindale still has some life left in it.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Touro Law School to Change Hands?

The February 2 issue of Newsday, the newspaper for Long Island, reports that Stony Brook University is in talks to purchase Touro Law School. This is interesting because Touro moved into its new campus only last year. There are only two law schools on Long Island--Touro and Hofstra--and the addition of a law school to Stony Brook's other offerings would enhance its profile dramatically. Currently there is only one other law school in the SUNY system--University of Buffalo Law School--but that is in the northern part of the state. SUNY previously announced plans to create a new law school at Binghamton University, so this would make a total of four public law schools in New York State, CUNY being the fourth.

Why Students Want Simplicity in Research

From today's ACRLog:

The research process, by its very nature, can be both complicated and complex. For students it presents a gap between the known and unknown. They get a research assignment, usually broadly defined by the instructor, and then need to identify a topic without necessarily knowing much of anything about the subject. Then to further complicate matters the student must navigate unfamiliar resources, perhaps encountering new and unusual concepts along the way. A defining quality of a complex problem is that right answers are not easily obtainable. Excepting those students who are passionate about the study matter and research project, most students would prefer to simplify their research as much as possible. The problem, as a new article points out, is that applying simple problem solving approaches to complex problems is a contextual error that will lead to failure. I think this theory may better inform us about why students take the path of least resistance for their academic research, than our usual beliefs that they are just lazy, have adapted to their instructors acceptance of “good enough” research or that the blame lies with us for serving up too complex search systems.

Read the rest here.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Vive Lafayette!

On Friday, my husband and I visited the New-York Historical Society for the first time in many years. The purpose of our visit was to attend the exhibit called "French Founding Father: Lafayette's Return to Washington's America." In 1824-1825, the Marquis returned to the United States as the last surviving general of the American Revolution. His visit was a cause for national celebration, and the elderly Marquis was lionized everywhere he went. I was particularly interested to see the exhibit because Lafayette stayed at the home of my ancestors when he visited St. Louis, Missouri during his triumphal tour of the United States, and indeed a sketch of the house was on display. The exhibit did not disappoint. Among the items on display that particularly caught my eye were a key to the Bastille that Lafayette presented to George Washington; a chair originally purchased for Versailles by Marie Antoinette that made its way to the New-York Historical Society--Lafayette used it when he visited the Society during his visit to New York City; a letter from Lafayette to Washington urging him to free his slaves, something Washington did not do during his lifetime; a small coach that Lafayette rode in during his tour of New England; several portraits of Lafayette; Lafayette's copy of the Declaration of Independence--Thomas Jefferson consulted with the Marquis while he was drafting it; Lafayette's copy of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, in whose drafting Lafayette participated; and many objects that were manufactured specifically to commemorate the Marquis's visit. The curators argue that the works of art and objects made for the visit functioned as "vehicles for the invention and elaboration of forms of American identification and patriotism that still permeate our national lives today." The portrait above, which is on display at the Society, was painted by Edward F. Peticolas in 1824, and is from the Valentine Richmond History Center.

Because it was pouring and a walk in Central Park was out of the question, we decided to explore other parts of the collection. I had forgotten about the Society's fine collection of Tiffany glass, especially lamps, and about its fine collection of American portraits. The art collection no longer hangs in the galleries (they are now used for special exhibits), but is now located on an upper floor that was mostly deserted. Frankly, the way these priceless portraits are displayed is unfortunate. Nonetheless, walking through the narrow aisles, I was moved when I saw portraits of the founders of our country--James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton--and of Dred Scott, who fought to give meaning to the words of the Declaration of Independence.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Internet Filtering in Public Libraries

Click here to read an article in The New York Times, Westchester edition, about the Mahopac (New York) Public Library that is considering the use of Internet filters to limit access to pornography sites. The Mahopac Library is taking this step after two incidents in one month involving library public-access computers. The first incident involved a fourteen-year-old girl who communicated with an older man via chat rooms she accessed at a library computer. The second incident involved a male patron who downloaded images of child pornography while using a library computer. My colleague, Professor Bennett Gershman, is quoted in the article warning that "filters can...inadvertently curb access to areas of legitimate research that are protected under the First Amendment." I would not consider installing Internet filters at my library, but that is an easy decision to make--all of my patrons are adults, and I do not think it is right to limit what they can view any more than I believe in censoring what they can read. The decision would be a lot more complicated if my patrons included minors. As Professor Gershman says, "'Filters can remove a certain amount of information from the larger realm of knowledge that adults may want access to and that is protected under the First Amendment. How far do you go? It's a fine line.'"

Friday, February 01, 2008

Clothes make the lawyer?

Click on the title to this post to read a Wall Street Journal article by Christina Binkley, "Law Without Suits: New Hires Flout Tradition ... Young Attorneys' Casual Attire Draws Criticism at Big Firms; A Crackdown on Ugg Boots" (January 31, 2008; Page D8). The article features such tidbits as...

For young men and women, a business suit is an uncomfortable yoke to be dusted off for special occasions. "Getting up in the morning and putting on a suit is hard," says Sara Shikhman, a 26-year-old legal associate at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP in New York. She says she hasn't worn one in six months.
When it came time to pick a point person for a plum assignment at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips recently, the New York law firm chose "a polished, professional-looking associate" over a "brilliant" and experienced associate who had been counseled, to no avail, to improve his grooming and attire, says Renee Brissette, a partner at the firm.

The firm opted for someone more presentable to the client,... (snip)

Winston & Strawn brought in a personal shopper from a local department store last year to address associates on how to shop and dress for work. Mr. Mills says that when some associates do make an effort to dress up, they seem to base their look on Hollywood. "You get the TV-woman lawyer look with skirts 12 inches above the knee and very tight blouses," he says. "They have trouble sitting and getting into taxis."

The firm also hired etiquette consultant Gretchen Neels, a former executive recruiter, to give lectures on grooming, dress, and etiquette standards such as where to place one's napkin at dinner. (snip)

Ms. Neels, founder of Neels & Co. in Boston, has been making the rounds at law firms, as well as law and business schools at Duke, Harvard and other universities. She hears all sorts of complaints from scandalized partners: One young attorney wears yoga pants to work. Another associate blasted out a firmwide email searching for a size-32 belt when an unanticipated court appearance required him to dress up midday.

Ms. Neels notes that business-school grads share law associates' casual sartorial attitude, and she tries to connect the dots between what they wear and how they come across. When she was coaching M.B.A. graduates at Harvard last weekend, she says only about half came in a suit. One young man showed up in cargo pants, and his cellphone rang during the interview.

"What I'm getting from you is that you're a jerk," Ms. Neels told the student as part of her feedback. "Can you see how I'd get that?"
But more entertaining even than the article are the snarky blog comments which follow the WSJ article and a derivative brief article at ABA Journal (here).

Gosh, am I indulging in schadenfreude on a rainy Friday afternoon in my dressed down academic librarian garb? Gosh, am I indulging in outright envy at the salaries they're discussing? Slap the face, slap the face, and repeat the mantra, It's the Lifestyle, not the Money!

It's almost Groundhog's Day!

Groundhog's day is a great holiday because it's a festival of desperation in the face of a long winter. I'd say that's just what's needed now. It's not a federal holiday; nobody gets off work (except maybe in Punxsutawney); and we don't have any special foods to eat or prepare. But after weeks of gray, snow, sleet and ice, I love that we have a marker day. You either get six more weeks of winter or else 42 days (do the math!).

To find out more about Groundhog's day, you can visit a number of websites. I actually thought Wikipedia's article on Groundhog Day was the best I looked at. They cover the European origins of the holiday, where folks in the old country looked at a variety of hibernating mammals, from hedgehogs, to badgers to bears (yikes!-- I'm glad we only look at a sleepy little marmot!). They reproduce the old Scottish rhyme about telling the weather til spring by the weather on Candlemas Day. And they have links to all kinds of related articles from Imbolc (Irish celebration of the first signs of spring), to various climate centers, famous groundhogs and even to all kinds of fictional treatments of Groundhog's Day.

Groundhogs are actually awfully cute little animals. It's hard to find a picture to do them justice. A lot of images look suspiciously like prairie dogs to me. We've had groundhogs in our yard -- they can't resist fallen peaches, apparently, and they look like little toddlers in baggy fur jammies. Right up until they see you, and then they have a surprising turn of speed -- hard to believe something with such short legs and a baggy, slumpy appearance can go that fast! Image of a groundhog found at but I suspect they nabbed the picture from elsewhere.