Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hein Online: hippest legal info vendor?

I've got to give a shout out to Hein Online, which is one of my favorite resources to turn students on to. Their collections, including the law review archives, legal classics, and English reports, are, of course, fantastic. But it's their marketing and outreach efforts that are downright hip.

Hein has been blogging since last September, and posting tutorial videos on their YouTube channel since March. Now they just might be the first legal information vendor to have a Facebook fan page. How cool is that?

My prediction: Hein will be on Twitter before the end of the year. Meanwhile, Lexis and Westlaw will keep wasting paper and email bandwidth on their librarian updates that I'd rather get via RSS.

Hat tip to @conniecrosby; x-posted to Novalawcity.

The Justice Dept. and Political Hiring

Click on the title to this post to read a Washington Post article today on a report about Justice's recent political hiring practices: Another Blow To Justice, by Jamie Gorelick dated today, July 29, 2008. There are also links to related articles from this page. The report covers not just the favoritism to "good conservatives" in hiring prosecutors and other staff under Alberto Gonzales, but also looks at hiring of immigration judges during John Ashcroft's tenure. A key quote:

During the Bush administration, we have seen U.S. attorneys fired under circumstances that have led many to conclude they paid the price because they wouldn't prosecute Democrats; honors program applicants screened for their political leanings; and now the process of hiring line prosecutors and immigration judges similarly politicized. How do we reassure the American people that justice is being meted out fairly? Trust and respect lost are hard to win back.

Worse, the reports lay out evidence that the political appointees behind many of these missteps knew that what they were doing was wrong.

But responsibility does not end there. The department's senior leadership turned over hiring decisions to people with no history and no understanding of the institution, people who came from the Republican National Committee or White House political functions. The predictable result was that the department would have, in essence, political appointees in career positions. Thus was the department's fundamental promise to the American people -- which had been respected for decades -- broken.
The wonderful image of broken justice is courtesy of http://www.oregonjail4judges.org/, which from the group's name, you can tell is about a different legal/political mess.

Here is a link to the PDF file from DOJ itself. It appears to be commonly called the Goodling Report, dated 7/28/08. The title on the document itself is "An Investigation of Allegations of Politicized Hiring by Monica Goodling and Other Staff in the Office of the Attorney General."

Student Loan woes will impact law schools

I've been watching articles on problems with student loan availability, and considering how much this is going to impact law schools. Here is a small sampling of recent articles:

Massachusetts state lender has no funds for 40,000 students
(Boston Globe 7/29/08)

Hotline for Massachusetts students to get help locating loans
(Boston Globe 7/29/08)

Student Loan News (New York Times 7/29/08) A very nice guide, and collection of archived articles both on the troubles this academic year and recommendations, warning about scams, etc.

ABA offers alternatives to billable hours

OOTJ previously noted the articles in the ABA Journal about changes in law firm billing away from the billable hour, and the many downsides to that traditional form of charging for legal services. Click on the title to this post to read a nice article from Your ABA: Q&A about alternatives.

Blast from the Past

We have dozens of cassette tapes at home. My husband created many compilations of our favorite music to listen to on car trips, and they are like snapshots in time. There is the tape that has the theme music from the Ghostbusters, which at one time was my son's favorite movie. There is the tape that contains children's favorites, Old McDonald Had a Farm, etc., put together when our children were tiny. And then there are the tapes that contain show music and folk music and anything else that would help to keep us awake while driving long distances. One of my all-time favorites is of tenor Kenneth McKellar singing the songs of Robert Burns, of which I never tire. Of our two cars, only one has a cassette player; in the other car, we play commercial CDs which don't have many memories associated with them. They do, however, have much better sound quality than the cassettes my husband recorded so many years ago. We also enjoy listening to books on tape from the public library while driving. This is something we couldn't do when travelling with small children, but it works well for us now. We have listened to the Autobiography of General Ulysses S. Grant, especially compelling because we were visiting Civil War sites at the time we were listening to the book; Jack Kerouac's On the Road, which was a good choice for our somewhat more conventional road trip; and, most recently, Cormac McCarthy's moving All the Beautiful Horses, which we hated to have come to an end.

Our history with cassettes is why I was sad to read an article from The New York Times describing the "demise of cassettes," which have been "eclipsed by the compact disc." The article does point out that the compact disc will probably be killed off by the availability of music over the Internet, "but that is a different story," as the author concludes. Brian Downing of Recorded Books predicts that the cassette tape "would be pretty much gone in three years," although his company will continue to publish in other formats. I can't say I'm surprised. Our students increasingly request recorded study aids in CD rather than in cassette format, and we no longer buy many cassettes unless that is the only format in which the material is offered.

Sad Situation at Hyde Park

The editorial section of July 28's The New York Times discussed the sorry state of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum at Hyde Park, New York. Nick Taylor points out that the "nation's first presidential library, is literally falling apart. The roof leaks, the basement floods, asbestos is flaking from old steam pipes, an ancient electrical system could send the whole place up in smoke." It sounds a lot like our house when we moved in fifteen years ago, but the difference is that we have spent the last fifteen years dealing with our house's problems, while NARA has not given the Roosevelt Library this loving care; the other difference, of course, is that our house does not contain a national treasure. Taylor tells the history of the Roosevelt Library (FDR himself designed the building) and donated land from his estate for the building site. The Library is run by the National Archives and Records Administration, which should be ashamed of itself for putting these vital historical documents at risk. The Roosevelt Library, is, according to Taylor, among the most used of the twelve presidential libraries, and the records it contains are vital to understanding the achievements and failures of one of our most important presidents. Funding for a three-year program to repair the Library was approved by the House Financial Services Subcommittee. The plan must go for approval to the House Appropriations Committee, and then the full House and Senate must also support it. As Taylor statements in his concluding paragraph, "We can and should be better stewards of our history."

Friday, July 25, 2008

Whoa, St. Louis!

I have been watching in shock and dismay as Belgian behemoth InBev gobbled up Anheuser-Busch in a pretty hostile-sounding take-over. (the first link is to a St. Louis Business Journal article which starts "Anxiety. Excitement. Disgust." The second link is to the WSJ Deal Journal article which almost sounds admiring when it describes the "...“Godfather”-worthy hints to A-B’s recalcitrant board....")

I lived in St. Louis, the home of Anheuser-Busch for ten years. Jim Milles grew up there, and I send him and all my St. Louis friends my condolences. According to my neighbors in South St. Louis, AB was a very paternalistic employer for many years under the previous chair, Auggie Busch. It was where blue collar kids aspired to get a job when they grew up.

Anheuser-Busch also sponsored the free and pretty cool Grant's Farm amusement place. (not really a park, it didn't have rides). It probably gave the Busch family a nice way to write off the grounds of their big mansion, but it also gave St. Louisans a wonderful FREE place to bring family and friends. You called a few weeks in advance and got your reservation. Then, you drove out to the Grant's Farm. You could visit some of the Clydesdales while you were there. You left the parking lot, and rode a motorized tram into the "farm."

You passed through fields housing exotic deer, antelope, bison and zebras. Then you got dropped off at the central area. There were miniature horses to pet. Cannon balls and fences made of civil war rifle barrels. A miniature zoo with a shows by trained birds and African elephants could be enjoyed. You could tour Ulysses Grant's home that was transported to the grounds. And you could rest up and have lunch in the Tier Garten. With beautifully carved stone grotesqueries, the brick buildings surrounded a brick-paved square. You could buy hot dogs, knackwurst with kraut, and sodas. And adults could get two free A-B beers. The bar tenders must have a wonderful memory for faces because they really did recognize if a person came back for a third beer. It was a wonderful and fun day for a family or group of friends.

At Christmas time, people who really liked a light display would drive through the brewery grounds, which were always decorated beautifully. Anheuser-Busch is a dominant player in St. Louis city life, and the citizens of that city must be waiting with some trepidation for what changes will follow on this acquisition. There is a landmark neon sign of the Anheuser-Busch logo, the A with an eagle entwined, sitting above a major highway through St. Louis. I hope it will still be there, and that the relations between the city and the company will continue supportive and warm in the future!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Digital Preservation

There is a good summary of the issues relating to the preservation of digital information in today's Inside Higher Education. As the article points out, many individuals and institutions are racing against the clock to preserve digital data and

to tackle a whole host of problems that so far have no satisfactory solution. They range from hardware complexities, such as constructing storage devices that continuously monitor and repair data while remaining easily scalable; redundancy measures, such as distributing and duplicating data across storage devices and even across the country; universal standards, such as formats that could conceivably remain readable in the distant future; and interfaces, such as open software protocols that manage digital holdings and make them accessible to the public.
I guess the good news is that this issue is now on libraries' radar screens; the bad news is that there is no easy fix.

Monday, July 21, 2008

You marked your place with WHAT?!

AbeBooks reports on some of the odd items that purveyors of used books find inside their wares, many presumably having been used as bookmarks. In addition to a wide variety of currency, these items include rare baseball cards, diamond rings, baby teeth, and a strip of bacon.

As for me, I'm pretty mundane. I typically use the receipt I got when purchasing the book, or a mental note about which chapter/page number I was on.

Hat tip to LIS News.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Serenity Prayer Causing Agita

Our colleague Fred R. Shapiro is mentioned extensively in a front-page story in today's New York Times. The article is about the authorship of the famous Serenity Prayer, long attributed to the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. Shapiro discusses the authorship of the prayer in a forthcoming article for the Yale Alumni Magazine; the magazine will be published next week, but is already available online.

Niebuhr and his wife, Ursula, dated the composition of the poem to the early 1940s, and their daughter dated it to a Sunday service in 1943. However, Shapiro, using databases of archival materials, "has found newspaper clippings and a book from as far back as 1936 that quote close versions of the prayer. The quotations are from civic leaders all over the United States...and are always, interestingly, by women." None of the quotations mentions Niebuhr. Shapiro's explanation is that Niebuhr "probably unconsciously adapted [the prayer] from something that he had heard or read.'" Elisabeth Sifton, Niebuhr's daughter, wrote a book about the Serenity Prayer in 2003, and has written a rebuttal to Shapiro that also appears in the July/August issue. Sifton says that the quotations upon which Shapiro relies are "merely evidence that her father's spellbinding preaching had had a broad impact."

It sounds as if Shapiro has stirred up a hornet's nest!

Librarians feel spurned by Google

Click the link in the title above to read a Chronicle of Higher Ed online story titled "Librarians Accuse Google of Using and Discarding Them." I can't say I'm surprised, but doomed relationships are always so sad!

The image is a mosaic near Grant's Tomb in NYC, but courtesy of http://www.vagabondish.com/ in a blog announcement of the Museum of broken relationships in Croatia. What an intriguing sounding museum! Anybody been?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Back From Michigan

I'm back at work after three weeks in the beautiful state of Michigan, where we saw three of the Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, and Huron). We couldn't afford to go abroad this year, and so decided on a vacation within the United States. Of course, at the time this plan was hatched, gas didn't cost $4.50 a gallon. Some highlights of our trip were visiting two Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Grand Rapids, which has a large collection of well-preserved nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century houses; visiting the enchanting Dow Gardens in Midland (they were founded by the founder of the Dow Chemical Company, and I kept hoping against hope that the lush, green landscape around me wasn't the result of a heavy infusion of pesticides and fertilizers); the Toledo Museum of Art; the Detroit Institute of Arts, which has some real treasures, including The Wedding Dance by Pieter Brueghel the Elder; Ann Arbor, where we saw an interesting production of Mozart's Don Giovanni and I dragged my husband to the University of Michigan Law School Library hoping to see the famous grand reading room, which turned out to be shrouded in plastic and almost completely gutted as part of a renovation project--we did manage to see something of what's left of the room and spent some time going through the rest of the library, which is not under construction. It is always interesting to see what other libraries are doing, and I picked up a lot of handouts to share with my staff; Mackinac Island, which is a magical place, full of lilacs in bloom and fudge shops; a glass-bottom boat ride on Lake Superior, during which the boat hovered over three shipwrecks and we got an incredibly close look at the details of the ships; and Tahquamenon Falls, shown above, not as large as Niagara, but extremely scenic thanks to the dramatic color of the water. We got in a lot of walking and hiking, during which we learned why the mosquito is considered by some to be the Michigan state bird! I tried to keep up with OOTJ while I was away, but my computer access was sporadic at best; in fact, we couldn't even get cell-phone reception when we reached the Upper Peninsula and moved on to Ontario, which was frustrating. Fortunately, there were no crises at home or at work.

I wanted to share with readers this snippet from Inside Higher Education, which confirms what I have observed in my own library:

For all the talk about how the Internet might lead students and others to abandon libraries, there’s new evidence that any decline has been minimal. In a typical week in the fall of 2006, “gate count” at academic libraries was 18,765,712 — or an average of 5,188 per college or university library. The term refers to the number who physically enter and individuals who enter repeatedly are counted more than once. The figures come from “Academic Libraries 2006,” released Tuesday by the National Center for Education Statistics. The average gate count per week per library is down 2 percent since 2004, the last time the agency conducted the survey. Other highlights of the new survey: The 3,600 academic libraries in the United States collectively hold 1 billion books and other paper materials; there were 221 libraries holding at least 1 million books and other paper materials; total expenditures were $6.2 billion — about half of that sum on salaries.

We have found that since we renovated our library last year, students have returned to use the new facilities. Maybe some of this is due to the new chairs, which are ergonomically friendly, and the enhanced lighting. It is hard to say, but there are times when almost every seat in the new reading room is in use. There is no better proof that we made the right decisions about our renovation than this--"butts in the seats," as one of my colleagues puts it.

Monday, July 07, 2008

CS-SIS Web 2.0 Challenge is Now Available

I'm posting the message below on behalf of Bonnie Shucha, but OoTJ readers should feel free to contact me with any questions!

Are you interested in learning about applications like blogs, wikis, and Second Life, but don’t have a lot of time?

Take the AALL Computing Service Special Interest Section's Web 2.0 Challenge!

The Web 2.0 Challenge — a free, comprehensive, and interactive online course — will use hands-on exercises to introduce law librarians to many kinds of social technologies in just five weeks. The course is intended for those who have little experience with these technologies but are interested in learning more.

Although enrollment in the course is now full, anyone may follow along with the course as a guest. Most of the course content will be available to you. To access the course, go to http://www.cssis.org/Web20Challenge/login/ and select "Login as guest"

The course is scheduled for the five weeks after the AALL Annual Meeting (July 21-Aug. 24, 2008). You may follow along with this schedule, or at your own pace if you prefer.

If you're planning to attend the AALL Annual Meeting, I invite you to attend session H1, Cool Tools: Energizing Law Librarianship with Web 2.0 on Tuesday from 9:00 to 10:30. I'll be leading one of the showcases in which I'll discuss the Web 2.0 Challenge and preview the course content.

If you have any questions about the Web 2.0 Challenge, please contact course organizers, Bonnie Shucha , Debbie Ginsberg , or Meg Kribble.

Bonnie Shucha

Depression re-examined

The link in the title to this post will take readers to the Sunday Boston Globe, July 6, 2008. The article is Head Fake: How Prozac sent the science of depression in the wrong direction, by Jonah Lehrer. The article discusses how recent research shows that depression is actually rooted in problems with the brain's ability to renew its cells. A bit disconcerting, but an excellent article for those with an interest in depression.

Special Court Addresses Veterans' Issues

Click on the link to this post to read a fascinating article about Judge Robert Russell in Buffalo, NY (Jim's town!)who set up a court to address the needs of veterans who run afoul of the law. The article talks a bit about efforts or aspirations around the country to duplicate this service to veterans, so watch for similar efforts in courts near you. It also mentions that Sen. John Kerry is working with veterans groups to draft a bill

on legislation that would provide grants for the creation of veterans treatment courts like the one in Buffalo.

"A lot of veterans, when they come home, find the transition difficult and we all turn to different things to get through those times," said Campbell, who served in Iraq in 2004-2005. "If we're not lucky enough to have a strong family social network to hold us together in those difficult times, people turn to drugs, turn to alcohol."

"All of a sudden they find themselves in a position where, instead of being the outstanding patriot who's always been the person everyone looks to, they find themselves on the other end of the law," Campbell [Patrick Campbell, legislative director for Iraq Veterans of America] said. "This is going to get service members back to serving their country again."
That's a great idea, and a realistic way to support some of the former service men and women after they return. Send Sen. Kerry an e-mail note if you support this piece of legislation. The link for his name will take you to his official website.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Celebrating Independence Day -- Happy Fourth!

Dear OOTJ,
Happy Independence Day! As an officially Grumpy Old Librarian, I had considered publishing a diatribe about the many ways in which our wonderful country has gone off the tracks. However, after reading the Seymour Hersh essay in this week's New Yorker (read it here), describing the Bush Administration's maneuvering to set up an invasion of Iran, I was so mad and upset, that the GOL had to lie down and take a nap.

So, after a refreshing nap, it seemed rather churlish, not to speak of depressing, to focus on negatives on a day that should be a celebration. I do love our country, even when I am mad. I thought about how every time I read much history, it turns out that what looked like a better time in our history turns out to have been at least as corrupt, as party-politics, and as driven by self-interest and a cynical outlook. Even that's kind of cold comfort -- taking the long view, it turns out that there never was an idyllic past.

So, we'll just look at the bright side. I stopped by the wonderful Library of Congress This Day in History site. If you go, remember that it changes every day, so it'll look different tomorrow. The LOC has its own archive here, or you can check the Way Back Machine Internet Archive to see if they took a snapshot of the page for July 4, 2008.

The first celebration of July 4th was in 1777, and John Adams described the events in Philadelphia in a letter (text at Library of Congress here) according to Adams, the celebration was only thought of on July 2, and so there was not time for a sermon, "as every one wished." Wow, how times have changed! But in some respects, that first, rather spontaneous celebration would be quite familiar. All day, church bells were ringing. All the big ships in Philadelphia harbor were decked out in the colors of the many nations represented. The sailors ranged themselves across the yardarms and rigging. And at 1 PM, as Washington, Adams and members of the "Marine Committee" were taken up the river in a ship, all the ships fired 13 gun salutes. Crowds of people formed along the docks and streets, "huzzaing." And at dinner, music was provided by a band of Hessians captured in the Battle of Trenton. They had a parade of some soldiers and artillery that were passing through town on their way to camp. After dark, nearly every house had candles in the window, and bonfires made the night bright. They even "played off" some fireworks.

The picture is courtesy http://www.geofflawrence.com/photography_tutorial_photographing_fireworks.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Salute to Texas Lawyers

Note to readers: Raymond Ward, picked up this post and got comments from some lawyers in the know. This pleading was a joke, a hoax that got loose on the internet. See Ray's post at http://raymondpward.typepad.com/newlegalwriter/2008/07/the-dumbass-def.html

My sister, who is a prosecutor in Austin, shared with me a short, but pithy pleading from a Texas civil action for personal injury. The defendant pleads in pertinent part:


Defendants assert that Plaintiff's damages were caused in whole or part by his own contributory negligence. Specifically, the plaintiff is a dumbass who failed to unlock a twist lock, causing his own injury - the f***king idiot (no stars in the original folks) Thus, a jury should also consider the negligence of the plaintiff and defendants assert the dumbass defense.

WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, defendants WALLACE MOSES AND APM TERMINALS pleads (sic) therefore, for a take-nothing judgment and that the case be dismissed because the plaintiff is a malingering dipsh*t, for all costs, and for all other just relief.
From the defendant's answer in Albert Henry v. Maersk Line Limited, Harris County (Texas) docket number 2008-26963, filed June 4, 2008. I have a PDF image of the pleading if anybody wants proof that this is not exaggerated. The filing attorney submits this answer "respectfully," which I guess is different in Texas from where I practiced. However, I think I'll file the dumbass defense for future use!