Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Jail for Books

I enjoyed reading this article from today's Boston Globe about Dunster House, the oldest dormitory on the Harvard campus, which is known for its "ornate library with the chandelier, fireplace, and wood-paneled walls [which] has drawn students to its prized collection of classics, thousands of dust-covered tomes from Cicero to Twain." Because of thefts from the collection, which includes some "highly valuable volumes [and] irreplaceable first editions signed by authors," the administration decided to put "two brass bars ... across nearly every shelf, making the books impossible to peruse." If you look at the illustration, it looks as if the books have been put in jail. This "solution" is supposed to be temporary while the administration figures out what to do with the books, but in the meantime students are unhappy; they have "complained that the collection now seems just for looks, akin to a Potemkin village, and that there could have been other ways to protect the books while allowing students access." Note that the link to the Dunster House Library makes no mention of the fact that the collection is inaccessible, although the Harvard Crimson has publicized the situation. If the books are off limits, is this still a library?

New Building for CUNY Law School

The New York Law Journal is reporting that CUNY Law School will move into a new building in the fall of 2011. The story is below. As the story points out, the current facility at CUNY is notoriously hard to get to and has been inadequate since its founding. The new facility will be more accessible and will enable the school to expand its programs. Congratulations to the folks at CUNY!

Law School Moving to New NYC Campus in 2011

By Daniel Wise | New York Law Journal

The City University of New York School of Law will move to new quarters in fall 2011 under a resolution approved yesterday by the board of trustees. The school is expected to buy the lower six floors of a 14-story building owned by Citigroup at Court Square in Long Island City for $150 million. The acquisition will give the school an added 70,000 square feet for a new part-time program aimed at older adults and students from working-class backgrounds.

Since its founding in 1983, CUNY Law has been located in a former junior high school in Flushing, Queens. That building, at 150,000 square feet, is "bursting at the seams" and difficult to reach by public transportation, according to Dean Michelle J. Anderson. The new location is within walking distance to subway and bus lines, the Long Island Railroad and a state Supreme Court building.

The school will make a $50 million down payment with funds appropriated in 2008 by state lawmakers for construction of a new building, according to CUNY Law spokesman Michael Arena. The balance will be financed with either tax-exempt bonds or federal stimulus money, he added. Citigroup's proposal that the school purchase the floors as a condominium was the most attractive of several proposals received in response to a formal request. It would have cost $250 million to build a new school from scratch, Mr. Arena said.

CUNY has approximately 390 students.

Library Catalogs Getting Serious Upgrade

The Chronicle of Higher Education offers a wonderful article in its Sept. 28, 2009 issue, Technology section and online here "After Losing Users in Catalogs, Libraries Find Better Search Software."

...traditional online library catalogs don't tend to order search results by ranked relevance, and they can befuddle users with clunky interfaces. (snip)

That's changing because of two technology trends. First, a growing number of universities are shelling out serious money for sophisticated software that makes exploring their collections more like the easy-to-filter experience you might find in an online Sears catalog.

Second, Virginia and several other colleges, including Villanova University and the University of Rochester, are producing free open-source programs that tackle the same problems with no licensing fees.

A key feature of this software genre is that it helps you make sense of data through "faceted" searching, common when you shop online for a new jacket or a stereo system. Say you type in "Susan B. Anthony." The new system will ask if you want books by her or about her, said Susan L. Gibbons, vice provost and dean of Rochester's River Campus Libraries. Users can also sort by media type, language, and date.

These products can also rank search results by relevance and use prompts of "Did you mean … ?"

"It's sort of our answer to, Why it is you need a library when you have Google?" said Ms. Gibbons. "What this is going to do is show how much you've been missing."

It's a pressing issue. Libraries once had a monopoly on organizing data about content. No longer. And today some users gripe about how libraries present materials online: how scattered they are, how sluggish searches can be, and how often those searches are useful only if you already know exactly what you want.

The worry for Jennifer Bowen, assistant dean of the River Campus Libraries, is that library catalogs could become "marginalized."

"There are people who just cannot find what they need," she said. "And they're just sort of giving up on libraries."
The article points to a survey by Ithaka (the non-profit group referred to in Marie's post, just below this one), which specializes in promoting technology in higher education. The study found faculty members to decreasingly dependent on the library for their research, and increasingly ambivalent about the value of libraries. Boy, is that bad news for libraries!

According to the article, librarians are now seeking to develop "Web-scale index searching," which is the new holy grail, taking the place of our last goal, "federated searching." Where federated searching tried to pull all our collections together for a single point search, yet it skipped going through a centralized index, and searched individual databases separately. With the new "web-scale index searching," there is a single point search of the entire collection, but like Google, the system is searching a centralized index created from all the databases, books, articles, and all digital objects. At this point, it is a goal, not a reality. But the idea is to break down the silos that make searching for information in the library such a frustration to our users.

The new products are coming online, and are called "next-generation catalogs" or "discovery interfaces." Some librarians consider them dumbed-down versions of the traditional catalog. The new search interfaces don't require the user to understand the difference between monographs and serials, for instance.
Encore, from Innovative Interfaces, adopted by at least 44 academic libraries in the United States, according to Mr.[Marshall] Breeding's [director of innovative technology and research at the Vanderbilt University library,] tally; AquaBrowser, from Media lab Solutions, used by 23 libraries; and Primo, from Ex Libris, adopted by 13 libraries.

How much institutions will have to pay for new commercial systems will vary depending on both what comes with the software and the size and complexity of the library. That could mean a price as low as $10,000 for a small academic library to one in the $100,000 range for a much larger one, Mr. Breeding said.

A 'Shift of Power'

In the open-source world, at least 10 academic libraries have turned to VuFind, which originated at Villanova. Virginia's Blacklight, with Stanford University as a development partner, is in a beta phase. And Rochester's eXtensible Catalog, or XC, backed by $1.2-million from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will be rolled out in the spring.

The shift from commercial products to open-source ones is about more than money, though.

Bess Sadler, chief architect of the online library environment at the University of Virginia, sees the open-source Blacklight project as a "shift of power," as she wrote recently in the journal Library Hi Tech. The idea is that libraries, which know their local needs, should control the technology that patrons use to gain access to their collections. That's a change from the one-size-is-good-enough-for-everybody, commercially managed model that has prevailed in the industry.

The ability to customize is important when it comes to something like a music collection. A librarian might get this question: "I play the guitar. My boyfriend plays the flute. What duets can we play together?" In the past, even though Virginia had cataloged the instruments used in all of its sheet music, a search of that information was impossible because the fields that were indexed were maintained by a vendor, Ms. Sadler said.

"The problem with a vendor solution is that it's hard for vendors to tailor that solution for different collections, for different user populations, for different specializations," she said.

With an open-source system, a library can set its own relevance rankings and adjust them based on what users want. By maintaining the system itself, Virginia is now able to search by musical instrument.

The downside is libraries need someone on staff who can install and maintain the open-source program. So far, vendors aren't supporting products like VuFind the way they support established open-source products like Koha and Evergreen, both integrated library systems, said Mr. Breeding. Vendors will install software like Evergreen, host it on their own servers, and provide a help desk that you can call if something breaks. Not so for the newer software. Another barrier is going to be trusting that an open-source project is sustainable. There is always a concern that there will not be a community of users to keep developing it.

Also, the open-source systems have been slower to fold in article-level data, Mr. Breeding said. Most of that action is on the commercial side.

With Blacklight, you won't be able to get individual journal articles. If you're doing research on cell division, for example, a search will tell you that Virginia subscribes to the journal about cell division, but you'll have to go to a journal database for the article.

"That's going to be true for a very long time," Ms. Sadler said. "For the foreseeable future, you're going to need to go to separate interfaces in order to search licensed content."

But commercial vendors, smelling a new market, are stepping in. Serials Solutions, a subsidiary of ProQuest, released a software product in July called Summon. The company has been negotiating deals with publishers and content providers to create a searchable index of their content. It's like Google, except what Summon provides is an index of the "deep Web" of paid content. So now university libraries that pay for a subscription to Summon can let their users search their licensed content as well as locally owned stuff, together. Summon has 17 customers so far, including Arizona State University and Dartmouth College.

The catch? It can be expensive.
The hope is that libraries can recapture the markets that we are losing to Google and other search engines on the Web. We hope the better interfaces will help us make the most of the expensive databases and materials that we purchase for our users, making them more easily accessible to them, more searchable. But the problems to be solved are very tricky. We have to work with vendors and/or our own programmers, and whatever the solution, it will certainly cost a good deal. Either we will have to pay for a turn-key operation, or for in-house maintenance and tweaking. Perhaps we will have to pay for some of both.

But if we truly are able to make our catalogs as attractive and easy-to use as Google, and as intuitive, that might be worth a good deal! It would be re-investing in the money already spent on the collections, and on the man-hours devoted over the decades to organizing the meta-data that is our vast array of cataloging records. If we can afford it... I think it would be worth every penny.

Withdrawing Print Titles

Ithaka has issued a new report entitled What to Withdraw? Print Collections Management in the Wake of Digitization. Its goal is to help libraries that want to recapture the space made available when digitized journals are discarded. To quote from the executive summary, "this report addresses two key questions: which types of print journals can libraries withdraw responsibly today, and how can that set of materials be expanded to allow libraries the maximum possible flexibility?" For journals with reliable digital access, retaining the print serves primarily a preservation function. There are other reasons for retaining print: "the need to fix scanning errors; insufficient reliabilty of the digital provider; inadequate preservation of the digitized versions; the presence of significant quantities of important non-textual material that may be poorly represented in digital form; and campus political considerations." The situation will be different in each library, but it is safe to say that "many of the rationales for retaining print are likely to decline over the course of time." The report concludes that most journals do not meet the criteria for withdrawal at this time, but that several strategies should be put in place to increase the number of journals that do:

First, organizations pursuing digitization projects should [be] more transparent about their standards and practices. Second, when digitization quality is low, it should be upgraded over the course of time. Finally, the library community should aggregate the work of exisiting mechanisms for print storage, de-duplication, and preservation, so that print repositories can more effectively contribute to a system-wide withdrawals strategy.

We have moved all but the last ten years of our periodicals to offsite storage (still on our campus, however) in order to free up shelf space in our main building. It was HeinOnline that enabled us to do this. HeinOnline is a reliable provider of high-quality digital access to periodicals, and thus addresses most of the concerns about retaining print set out above. Nonetheless, I have not yet made the decision to withdraw any periodicals permanently from the collection based on the availability of HeinOnline, but that day will probably come sooner rather than later. We are making decisions about which new law reviews to purchase based on their availability on HeinOnline, LexisNexis, and/or Westlaw. The cost is not our main concern, as academic law reviews are cheap; our main concern is space, which is a problem of long standing at our library.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How much have students really changed?

I went today to our university's Center for Teaching Excellence for a book group meeting. Part of the conversation turned to the Kindle. The group leader said she had talked to her undergraduate students last night about the Kindle and asked how many had one. None of them owned a Kindle, and a few asked what one was. She was amazed. She said, "Don't you like to read online?" They told her they really liked to hold books! She said, "What gets in the way of learning when we read?" They answered, "When we don't know the meaning of a word." She told them that when you click on a word in the Kindle, it automatically calls up the definition in an online dictionary. They were interested, but not sold. They still preferred to read in books. They said they liked the "feel and touch of books." Our leader said she thought it was resistance to change. I am not sure she is right. I think maybe the Kindle is just not ready for prime time, and the students are too savvy to be stampeded by glitz.

I wonder. The article in the Boston Globe about the school that emptied its library of books, and bought a handful of Kindles, a flat screen T.V. and an expensive coffee machine garnered 490 comments on the Globe website, (the link above to the article takes you there). By far the majority of the comments decry the Cushing Academy's decision to remove books entirely from the library. A group of school library associations had their presidents compose a letter strongly opposing the Cushing Academy model, posted here, at OOTJ. (I can't help but note a comment saying that the Globe article overstates what happened at Cushing -- that they did not actually get rid of all their books, just supplemented them with electronics... hmm it would not be the first time a journalist overstated something to get a more spectacular story). The Globe ran a first person essay just yesterday that keyed off the Cushing story to reflect on the Kindle versus book controversy.

This is by way of introducing my latest quandary. I am experimenting with a Sony Recorder that can upload the recording to a computer for editing and processing. I am using it to comment on student papers rather than writing notes in the margins. I write a number in the margin, instead, and say the number, and then make my comments on the recording. I will load each commentary on a thumbdrive and give it to the student with the paper. Each paper has a short set of final comments and a grade, but the lengthy comments in the text are replaced with numbers and a recorded commentary.

My arthritic hands feel much better. My froggy throat is worn out. But, I am wondering whether the students will be happy with the comments they get. I would be driven to distraction by the set-up. But I am not the same generation. I was happy to believe my colleagues in the 1-L writing program who have been doing this for several years and claim their students love this feed-back. But when I mentioned what I was doing this Sunday to my 19 year old daughter and 24 year old son, they both thought it would make them crazy to get feedback like that. I will have to ask the students after they have time to mull the experience.

Some of the recent experiences that have come my way make me question all the things I have been told about the differences between me and younger folks. Maybe, on some things, our preferences are not so far apart. It probably depends on the issue.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Right to Know Day (FOIA and all that jazz)

Monday, Sept. 28 is International Right to Know Day!

International Right to Know Day was established by access to information advocates from around the globe. It was first celebrated on 28 September 2003, and 2009 will see the 7th International Right to Know Day.

The aim of Right to Know Day is to raise awareness of every individual's right of access to government-held information: the right to know how elected officials are exercising power and how the tax-payers' money is being spent. (snip)

What You Can Do
if you are an NGO / civil society organization ... hold an event, a debate, an award ceremony .... write a press release ... hold a discussion with a local community group or in the local school ... print up posters and t-shirts and hand them out in the streets ... get people involved and, best of all, get them exercising their rights by filing request for information!

if you are an individual ... file a request for information, write a letter to your local newspaper, ask your local town hall to put up notices telling people about the right to information, or ask them to put more information on their website ... write to your local council or to your member of parliament and ask them what they are doing to promote government transparency!

if you are a teacher or pupil ... have a discussion in class about the right to know and why open government is important ... think of some requests you can file with your local authority or with a government body such as the Ministry of Education ... find a local issue that you would like to know more about such as the quality of the drinking water or the budget for the sports centre and file requests for more information!

if you are a librarian or write an Internet blog ... you already understand the value of information, so make sure you inform your members/readers about Right to Know Day!
(from the FOIA Advocates' International Right to Know Day website... There is lots more there, most especially including a wonderful Resources page with excellent links to organizations, Guides, Toolkits, Papers, and a link to selected cases on access to government information litigation from Bulgaria. I am guessing that this section is growing so it's worth checking back. Bookmark it!

And, even more useful than the Right To Know Day website, the Journal Governance is giving free online access to an excellent article on the right to know litigation: Cary Coglianese*, The Transparency President? The Obama Administration and Open Government, Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration and Institutions


President Obama has trumpeted transparency as a major part of his agenda, promising "unprecedented" openness throughout the federal government. Although Obama benefits politically from the contrast with his predecessor's reputation for secrecy, in the long run an excessive emphasis on fishbowl governance can raise unrealistic expectations and ultimately backfire. After all, at some point transparency has its costs, such as when disclosure dampens internal deliberation or undermines privacy. The real issue, then, is how much transparency and what type. Despite its rhetoric, the Obama Administration has placed limits on transparency and will likely continue to do so. Yet members of the public and open government activists are unlikely to appreciate the need for such limits, leading to disappointment and charges of hypocrisy. It remains unclear whether Barack Obama will earn the mantle of the "transparency president"—or whether the hopes he has raised will, when unfulfilled, only reinforce public cynicism.

*University of Pennsylvania

Tip of the OOTJ hat to my wonderful Suffolk colleague, Alasdair Roberts, who edits the journal, and passed all this information along to his colleagues.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Legal Jobs Outlook Roundup

Putting together several ABA articles today, the legal jobs outlook is maybe not as grim as before. It depends on the geography and practice area, and the job hunter's credentials (which is always the case, I suppose). Here are the links & how I put them together in my crystal ball:

Look first at Above the Law and "Last Week in Layoffs" for the real scoop on what's happening on the street the week of September 21, 2009. There seems to be a slowdown in the layoffs, with only one firm, British IP firm Marks & Clerk laying off nine lawyers and 51 staff. However, the real pain is in the job offers to summer clerks. Above the Law ran a story Sept. 15 titled Nationwide No Offer Watch, and the same day ran a story on Baker and McKenzie deferring job offers. And of course, check the Lawschucks Layoff Tracker.

There was a sort of misleading ABA article, "Worst of the Recession is Over" referring to a PricewaterhouseCooper Survey. A survey of more than 50 law firms found that, partly due to the serious cost-cutting measures, firms are starting to see their profits tick back up in the three months April - July, 2009. Real estate is still doing poorly, but corporate mergers and acquisitions is starting to perk back up. However, the ABA article includes a link to the British legal magazine, the Law Society Gazette, which ran the original article. This article reveals that the survey is looking entirely at British firms:

PwC’s quarterly benchmarking survey showed an 18% rise in profits per equity partner (PEP) since January at the 10 largest firms, and a 41% surge at the top 11 to 25 firms. Profit margins also saw a boost in firms of all sizes.

In the meantime, there is also a cautionary tale in the ABA online. The brief article refers the reader to an online article at Career Center by two legal search firm partners, Deborah Ben-Canaan and Martha Fay Africa (who was also formerly the director of placement at U.C., Berkeley).
According to a survey of hiring managers and employees (and based on the other surveys we've seen, these are extremely conservative estimates), 18 percent of candidates lied about their skill set and 7 percent lied about the companies they had worked for. Over the years, our experience has led us to the same unfortunate conclusion -- there are far too many occurrences of resume falsification. Some recent examples include:

• A candidate whose resume was exemplary; she was charming, professional and ultimately was a finalist for a general counsel position. A review of her resumes from earlier years, however, turned up several inconsistencies: a) different law firms showed up on different versions; b) employment years were changed; and c) the candidate had actually passed the California Bar much later than reflected in her resume. The candidate was pulled from the finalist spot.

• A candidate with stellar credentials was looking for an in-house position. He added a year onto his law firm experience, but neglected to mention that one of those years was spent as a summer clerk, and not as an associate. Additionally, the candidate indicated that he had two jobs at the same time, and upon further probing, it came out that he was only an intern in one of the positions.

• A candidate was looking for an in-house position. He morphed his solo practitioner experience working on some small matters for a computer company into an item on his resume that stated that he was actually employed inside that company. (snip)

Candidates may think that stretching the truth a little bit is not a big deal, but it is. We have heard lawyers tell us that they only worked in a job for a few months, so they left it off their resume, or they had a bad experience in that job, so it was left off the resume and then dates were stretched to cover any resume "gaps." This is deceit, plain and simple.


These types of career blunders can put a black mark on your reputation in more ways than one. If you are already employed and your employer finds out that they were deceived about your experience, you can lose your job. If you are in a high-level position, this also may mean unwanted publicity.

For instance, Michael Brown, the former FEMA director, was relieved of his management duties following Hurricane Katrina and resigned three days later amid allegations that he had falsified portions of his resume. And in a case much closer to home, the California Commission on Judicial Performance removed Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Patrick Couwenberg from the bench after finding him guilty of willful misconduct in office, conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and improper action under the state Constitution. "He lied to become a judge, elaborated on his misrepresentation for his enrobing ceremony and subsequently lied to the commission in an apparent attempt to frustrate its investigation," according to the commission's report. Couwenberg had misrepresented both his academic and military background, claiming, among other things, that he had been a corporal in the U.S. Army, received a Purple Heart, participated in covert operations in southeast Asia, attended Loyola Law School and worked at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher -- none of which was true. During the proceedings, Couwenberg's attorney said his client suffers from "pseudologia fantastica," a mental condition in which the person engages in habitual or compulsive lying. (snip)

This is a tough economy and people are taking drastic actions to get themselves noticed. Desperate times call for desperate measures, right? Wrong. There is never a time when duplicity or "stretching the truth" is appropriate. In fact, we believe that in this candidate-rich economy, truthfulness, morality and ethics become even more important. The competition is fierce, and one misstep can make you a damaged commodity. If anything, this is the time to become more scrupulous about how you present yourself.


So before you send in your resume for that perfect job, consider how you are presenting yourself. Are you being completely honest? An honest resume is neither exaggerated nor deceptively vague. Below are a few of our recommendations:

• Do be 100 percent accurate and complete with regard to all facts; remember that they can be easily confirmed. These include start dates, titles, employers, GPAs and Bar numbers (especially if you have a different/married last name now and your name isn't easily searchable on Bar records).

• Do describe your accomplishments. Be specific.

• Do tailor your resume specifically to each job for which you are applying. This is a key resume technique. But remember to illuminate your strengths through accurate descriptions rather than fabrication.

• Don't leave dates off a resume.

• Don't leave jobs off a resume.

• Don't embellish accomplishments or titles; make it clear when a given title was in effect.

• Don't claim a proficiency in a foreign language or other valuable skill unless you have it.

• Don't puff or overuse effusive adjectives.

If you are not sure how something will be perceived, ask the recruiter you are working with to help you. The key is to set yourself apart, while being able to back up everything you are selling. Remember, if you always tell the truth, you never have to remember which lie you told! Truth is your ally.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Obama's Judges

Jeffrey Toobin has written a trenchant analysis of President Obama's judicial-selection process in the September 21, 2009 issue of The New Yorker. Toobin discusses the difficulty of choosing candidates who will be successful in the confirmation process, and notes that "the only Obama nominee who has been confirmed to a lifetime federal judgeship is [Justice Sonia] Sotomayor." Obama has nominated seven individuals to the federal appeals courts, and ten individuals to the federal district courts. As Toobin says, "vacancies abound," but bringing Obama's nominees to a vote has proved to be impossible in today's highly partisan Senate. He also questions whether Obama's picks are really liberals, pointing to the "post-partisan language of the White House [which] sounded a lot like that of traditional judicial conservatism." Toobin points to White House statements extolling Sotomayor as "'a nonideological and restrained judge'"; emphasizing that she "'wrote expressly about the importance of judicial restraint' in her Senate questionnaire when she became a circuit-court judge'"; and stating that "her opinions 'reflect a keen understanding of the appropriate limits of the judicial role.'" To Toobin, the White House statements and Sotomayor's recent testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee "amounted to an acknowledgement that conservative rhetoric [about judicial restraint], if not conservative views, had become the default mode for Supreme Court nominees." It is possible that "the use of conservative language by Sotomayor and her allies was merely an attempt to forestall Republican opposition," which was, of course, futile in the end as most Republicans voted not to confirm her. The article provides a fascinating insight into the recent history of the federal courts, and is must reading for anyone interested in how the judiciary might evolve under President Obama.

Google Books Settlement Fairness Hearing Postponed (again!) reports that U.S. Authors Guild and the American Association of Publishers have asked the court to once again postpone the Fairness Hearing in the Google Books Settlement in order for these parties to consider and respond to the points made by the Justice Department in their Statement of Interest. They ask for a status conference to be held on November 6. Unless Judge Chin grants this request for an extension, the current deadline for his decision about the Settlement is October 7. In the earlier blogpost about the DOJ comments, recall that the Justice Department had real concerns about due process and antitrust problems with the Settlement, but was very supportive of the Project overall. They actually said they did not want the Google Books Project to lose momentum. They simply want the judge to think carefully about structuring the Settlement in ways that address the concerns the DOJ raises.

Future of Academic Libraries?

Librarians reacted "coolly" to a presentation by Daniel Greenstein, Vice Provost for Academic Planning and Programs at the University of California. The presentation was part of a meeting on sustainable scholarship sponsored by the Ithaka group. Greenstein's presentation was the subject of an article in Inside Higher Ed. According to Greenstein, the "university library of the future will be sparsely staffed, highly decentralized, and have a physical plant consisting of little more than special collections and study areas." He believes that outsourcing some library functions is the answer to universities whose budgets have been hit hard by the economic downturn. Cataloging, for instance, could be shared among universities or "contracted out to providers such as Google." Collections could shrink as libraries share repositories of print and digital materials, which will save space and money. Ultimately, as "individual libraries' archives and services shrink ... so will their staffs."

I can understand why the audience's reaction was cool. Greenstein's presentation completely missed what libraries are actually about these days. He seems to think librarians are presiding over book museums, when in fact a majority of our time is spent teaching students how to use resources in all formats, proactively supporting faculty scholarship, creating user guides, getting involved with and supporting educational technology, and generally anticipating and meeting the needs of our communities. Outsourcing cataloging really bothers me, in particular the notion of outsourcing cataloging to Google given their track record with metadata. Furthermore, I have worked with cataloging provided by vendors, and rarely is it up to the standards that we have set for our library. Outsourcing sounds like a great idea to administrators until they realize how much control over the process they have lost. It can also be more expensive than anticipated. I think that Greenstein does not understand that libraries today should be judged by the quality of the services they offer, and that is dependent to a great degree on the quality of the staff.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Justice Dept. Weighs in on Google Book Settlement

The Chronicle of Higher Education alerts us that the Department of Justice issued a statement of interest about the Google Book Settlement last Friday, Sept. 18, 2009. The link takes you to the PDF of the full text post of the document as submitted to the Court. Among other nits, the DOJ comments:

* The Parties Have Not Demonstrated that the Class Representatives Adequately Represent Absent Class Members

* The Proposed Settlement May Be Inconsistent with Antitrust Law

However, the Department of Justice is not entirely inimical to the Settlement:

The United States strongly supports a vibrant marketplace for the electronic distribution of copyrighted works, including in-print, out-of-print, and so-called “orphan” works. The Proposed Settlement has the potential to breathe life into millions of works that are now effectively off limits to the public. By allowing users to search the text of millions of books at no cost, the Proposed Settlement would open the door to new research opportunities. Users with print disabilities would also benefit from the accessibility elements of the Proposed Settlement, and, if the Proposed Settlement were approved, full text access to tens of millions of books would be provided through institutional subscriptions. Finally, the creation of an independent, transparently-operated Book Rights Registry (the “Registry”) that would serve to clarify the copyright status and copyright ownership of out-of-print works would be a welcome development.

Nonetheless, the breadth of the Proposed Settlement – especially the forward-looking business arrangements it seeks to create – raises significant legal concerns. As a threshold matter, the central difficulty that the Proposed Settlement seeks to overcome – the inaccessibility of many works due to the lack of clarity about copyright ownership and copyright status – is a matter of public, not merely private, concern. A global disposition of the rights to millions of copyrighted works is typically the kind of policy change implemented through legislation, not through a private judicial settlement. If such a significant (and potentially beneficial) policy change is to be made through the mechanism of a class action settlement (as opposed to legislation), the United States respectfully submits that this Court should undertake a particularly searching analysis to ensure that the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 (“Rule 23”) are met and that the settlement is consistent with copyright law and antitrust law. As presently drafted, the Proposed Settlement does not meet the legal standards this Court must apply.
FRCP 23 is the rule governing class actions. It's set up to try to ensure that when a class of plaintiffs with aligned interests settles a class action that will affect absent class members, whose interests may not line up, those interests will still be represented fairly. The DOJ sees problems both with the opt-out nature of the coverage of "absent" authors and with the adequacy of notice to the huge number of affected parties. This is particularly true when you consider the holders of copyrights for out-of-print works (who may not even be aware of their ownership), and foreign rights holders. The open-ended nature of the future exploitation of the works, without any specific rights being named -- very "amorphous and malleable" in the words of the DOJ statement, and very troubling as to the nature of the rights being transferred by an entire class. Yet, the Statement also says it hopes the parties do not lose their momentum, and strongly supports some resolution that will ultimately make the availability of the material possible.

This is very much like the messages I heard at the Boston Public Library convocation on the Google Book Settlement. The librarians also felt that the availability of the material, the accessibility to handicapped readers, the ability to research from remote areas were all strong pluses in favor of the Google Book Project. But the possibility of abuse and mis-use built into the business model was very troubling. It would be a good solution if the Settlement were to address the problems. It is really too sad that policy-making bodies or a consortium of libraries did not deal with this earlier.

A follow-up to the story on the Cushing Academy Library Abandoning Books

OOTJ readers saw the post from the Boston Globe, a few weeks ago, where the headmaster of the private school, the Cushing Academy, was proudly announcing that he was disposing of all the 20,000 books in the library and moving to a "bookless" model. Henceforward, the Cushing Academy would use only a handful of Kindles, a flat-screen TV, and $12,000 cappuccino machine where the books formerly stood. The Massachusetts Library Association just released the following letter from the leaders of three school library associations, in response to the Cushing Academy situation. I thought OOTJ readers would like to see the next move in the saga:

September 21, 2009

A school without books is one in which fewer students will be reading, and those of us who work with students every day in the libraries of our nation’s schools have no doubt that access to the traditionally printed word is an essential component of a successful education.

Urban planning theorist Jane Jacobs postulated that a healthy community—one that is economically, socially, politically, and environmentally vibrant—is designed and built based on the activities, values, and concerns of the full range of its constituents. Diversity is its hallmark. The same can be said of libraries: if they are monolithic, adherents to a single format and inflexible, they outlive their usefulness. The library that James Tracy envisions for Cushing Academy, the independent school that he leads in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, will unfortunately be such a place after the planned removal of its entire printed book collection, and his actions are cause for great concern in our profession.

Dr. Tracy has argued the opposite; he believes that by discarding 20,000 books and choosing to deliver information to all his students in digital format he is a trailblazer who has placed Cushing "in the forefront of a pedagogical and technological shift" (“Letter to Cushing Academy Alumni,” September 2009). However, his drastic act ignores certain fundamental truths.

First of all, individual libraries are built intentionally, over time, by trained professionals, and resources are selected with the needs of the community that the library serves in mind. Such collections are vibrant entities that continually expand and contract. Many resources are available electronically but many are not and may never be. In addition, books go out of print quickly, databases stop archiving material without notice, and e-book collections are compiled by corporations that do not differentiate one school from another. Once a library has purchased and has on its shelf a book that perfectly meets the need of a group of users and has the potential for continued relevance, what does an institution gain by discarding that book? More to the point, what does it lose?

Secondly, a school library's most important goals are to support the academic curriculum, to teach information literacy and to foster a love of reading. None of these goals can be reached completely without the inclusion of printed books. The last 500 years have proven that printed books are a uniquely successful information-delivery system and, when they are organized in a library and used in conjunction with information in a variety of other media, offer multiple and repeated opportunities for learning. The removal of printed books impoverishes an entire learning modality and dismisses outright the value of books' physical attributes, in and of themselves and as conduits for browsing and serendipity, and the contributions of that physicality to a student’s reading experience.

Finally, consider the facts. Years of research on reading have proven conclusively that students who read improve not only their vocabularies but also their abilities to reason and discriminate. However, as John Austin points out in his excellent review of Marc Bauerlein’s book The Dumbest Generation Ever (Independent School, Winter 2009), in spite of the exponential increase in the amount of information being digitized, young people are reading less and less of it. In addition, reading online, both because of the physical demands of the medium and because of multiple opportunities for distraction, does not result in the same focused engagement with the text that is possible with a printed book. Common sense suggests that we should be doing everything in our power to encourage students to read and engage with the printed page more, not less. We also do our students a disservice if we do not teach them how to use all the sources of information which they will encounter at the college and university level. Not surprisingly, the use of printed books is still very much in vogue in higher education.

Every librarian we know is in the vanguard of technology use at his or her school and a passionate reader and user of printed books. To suggest that the two are mutually exclusive is regressive and reveals a lack of knowledge both of the way digital information is created, sold and used, and of the value of appropriate printed materials to many users. Responsible collection development is not driven by a one-size-fits-all mentality or by access to unlimited funds.

Between us, we have 73 years of experience as librarians in both independent and public schools. Though many of the skills we teach are the same as they were when we first began working in the field, our 2009 toolkit is vastly different from the one with which we started out, and we are glad of it. However, that is no reason for us to jettison our rich collections of printed books.


Liz Gray
Association of Independent School Librarians

Cheryl Steele
Independent School Section of the American Association of School Librarians

Cassandra Barnett
American Association of School Librarians

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Great Programming on the Supreme Court! C-SPAN!

Starting Sunday, October 4, C-SPAN is offering law school's version of Sweep's Week! From their website:

Beginning Sunday October 4 at 9pm and continuing through that entire week--each night at 9pm -- C-SPAN will present groundbreaking and unique programs on the Supreme Court. Featuring our original documentary production "The Supreme Court: Home to America's Highest Court" as well as an unprecedented collection of original interviews with 9 of the living current and former Supreme Court Justices, Supreme Court week will offer viewers a rare window into the Supreme Court and those that serve there.
They are going to feature interviews with all the sitting justices plus Sandra Day O'Connor. In addition, the shows will talk with the Clerk of the Court, the Historian of the Court, Lyle Denniston at SCOTUS blog, and a host of other interesting people. Ought to be wonderful viewing and definitely something to alert your faculty and students to!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Speak up! Learn how to be more effective

Government information is something that nobody but librarians seems to care about. By the time members of the public know they need a piece of government info, it's too late for them to advocate for it to be made public. Librarians are the folks who see the need ahead of time, so it's up to us to speak up and protect the public interest. AALL is working to train librarians to be more effective. If you are a member of AALL:

Help improve access to legal information and strengthen AALL's voice in government decisions – join the AALL advocacy team. If you're interested in learning the tools you need to make your legislators to listen when you have something to say, we invite you to sign up for AALL's free online advocacy training session, Join AALL's Advocacy Team: How to Deliver Our Message, on Wednesday, October 14, from 1-2 p.m. EDT. Speakers are Government Relations Office staff members Mary Alice Baish and Emily Feldman and "advocacy guru"

Stephanie Vance, guest speaker at AALL's 2009 Day on the Hill. Vance will explain how to develop and deliver a message to your representatives regarding the importance of free online access to Congressional Research Service reports and the digital authentication of online legal resources.

Register today!

No More Shrinking Violets!

And, if you cannot attend the webinar, I am informed that may be archived, in part or whole. I am keeping my fingers crossed for the whole thing, since I have to teach right when the webinar is on!

Now for something completely different...

My former colleague, Cheryl Conner, is interviewed on ABA Journal's series, "Legal Rebels." I have been kind of steamed about some of these so-called Legal Rebels, who often don't seem like much of a rebel to me. Or sometimes, I have a major bone to pick with the so-called rebellion, as with David Van Zandt's deanship at Northwestern. Well, his ALDAness of his deanship at Northwestern, where he seems quite intent on attacking a number of classes of law school employees who already seem to be at-risk to me.

But, Cheryl Conner is more of a true legal rebel... she really makes legal types uncomfortable. I was there when a former dean told her that, while she was probably going to win a MacArthur Genius prize, that she really didn't fit into the law school here. Which was such a loss to Suffolk, and the students here. She was teaching the internship program and clinical seminars, including a special class called The Reflective Lawyer. This class included -- gasp! -- meditation.... You can see why Cheryl made the regular law faculty and students uncomfortable, and why she really should have been kept here and was absolutely invaluable!

Click here to see the ABA interview, read about Cheryl and for an even more interesting treat, hear a bit of the Declaration of Independence set to music by Cheryl, as sung by members of the Tanglewood Chorus.

Tip of the OOTJ hat to my colleague Susan Sweetgall for sending me the link! The picture of Cheryl Conner is from the ABA web page.

Teaching Evaluations

I truly love to teach. I have taught Advanced Legal Research at three different law schools starting in 1984--a quarter of a century! At first, it was a responsibility thrust upon me, but over the years, teaching has become one of the most rewarding things that I do. One aspect of teaching I don't love, however, is student evaluations. Agonizing over student evaluations probably reflects my own insecurities about my teaching and my desire to do the best job I can. The format of the evaluations has changed over the years, going from handwritten surveys to the online forms that we now ask students to complete. In my experience, students were more likely to fill out the handwritten form than they are to complete the online version, which means the rate of return has declined. Nonetheless, most students do complete the evaluations, which are the subject of a article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. (Note that access requires a subscription.) The author, H. William Rice, describes the reaction of some of his faculty colleagues to evaluations, from one professor who wanted to retaliate against a class who gave him poor evaluations by giving poor grades to "'those little bastards,'" to another, who belived that "student evaluations were 'an absolute violation of academic freedom.'" Some faculty members, according to Professor Rice, believe that students have too little substantive knowledge to render judgments about their effectiveness as teachers. However, as Professor Rice points out, students do have valuable insights to share, and very few of them make gratuitously nasty comments. At the very least, student comments should be considered. Here are a few concrete examples of how student evaluations have helped improve my course. As a result of much student feedback over several semesters about the heavy workload, I decided to petition to increse the credits my course carries from two to three; the petition was successful, and enrollment in the course increased as a result. Student feedback also convinced me to weight the assignments in my course, something that can be done easily using the gradebook on TWEN. And it was student feedback that convinced me that it would be wise to cut back on the use of "clickers" in my class; I still use clickers, but much more sparingly than in the past. I have tweaked the course in other, less substantial ways as a result of student evaluations. Most law school faculty get feedback from their colleagues about their teaching only as part of the reappointment and tenure processes. Once you are tenured, it is rare to get formal feedback on your teaching unless you solicit it from your colleagues. This is another reason why it is important to pay attention to what students have to say.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Techno Rant

I have frittered away most of a day trying to get some simple technology running. This is undoubtedly the most frustrating single thing about the frontiers of our our brave new world. I started to limit this to librarianship, but in my experience, you can waste hours out of your day trying to get new technology to work in any part of your life, so, hey! Time-wasting frustration -- It's not just for libraries any more!

I am sure that once I either figure out what I am doing wrong -- (It's always USER ERROR, isn't it?) -- or break down and call for help, the wonders of the new technology will fulfill its promise and my life will be better in all ways.

But right just this minute, what I really want is a Byte Bat. This was an ingenious attitude adjustment device I saw in the 1970's -- a baseball bat shaped weapon made of Nerf foam. You could take that thing and WHACK the living hell out of your computer, without doing any appreciable damage to the damned thing. You felt so much better afterward. All I can do right now is spit. And with the H1N1 epidemic looming, I really can't even do that. Darn.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Google Books Opposition & Support Summarized

The Chronicle of Higher Education today has an online article in its Publishing section that provides a very nice summary of the opposition and the support for the Google Books Project as we near the latest deadline for Judge Denny Chin to decide whether he will authorize the agreement. The column also appears in print as Hot Type in the Chronicle Jennifer Howard writes in "Choosing up Sides to Hate or Love the Google Books Deal,"

(snip) In Japan, the author and freelance writer Shojiro Akashi made the September 4 edition of The Japan Times because of his concerns about what the deal, if approved, would mean for non-American copyright holders. That put him in the company of a multitude of other writers, including the American literary powerhouses Jonathan Lethem and Michael Chabon, who have now publicly told the court that this deal is not to their benefit.

Mr. Lethem and Mr. Chabon joined a coalition led by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed an objection on September 8. Mr. Lethem pointed to one of the biggest concerns voiced lately: privacy. "Now is the moment to make sure that Google Book Search is as private as the world of physical books," Mr. Lethem said in an EFF statement. "If future readers know that they are leaving a digital trail for others to follow, they may shy away from important intellectual journeys."

Opponents who complain about the alleged anticompetitive nature of the settlement made their objections known to the court as well. The Open Book Alliance, a coalition that includes Google's rivals, the Internet Archive, Microsoft, and Yahoo, as well as several writers' groups, accused the parties to the Google Books deal of "guile"—not a word I expected to see in a formal response to a copyright-infringement lawsuit. "Google and the plaintiff publishers secretly negotiated for 29 months to produce a horizontal price-fixing combination, effected and reinforced by a digital book-distribution monopoly," the alliance said in its objection. "Their guile has cleared much of the field in digital book distribution, shielding Google from meaningful competition."

So, other than Google and the other parties who shook hands on the deal, does anybody still actually like this thing?

Yes. An array of groups and institutions have filed amicus curiae briefs and issued statements in support of the Google Books settlement. In academe, supporters include Cornell University Library, the University of Virginia, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (speaking for similar associations in Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, and South Carolina). Thirty-two professors of antitrust law and economics have filed a motion in support. Social-justice and disability-rights advocates have endorsed the deal. Library groups have called for strict oversight of the settlement, if it's approved, but appreciate the possibilities created by putting so much material within easy reach.

(snip) One wild card is the Justice Department, which is supposed to report by September 18 on whether the proposed settlement creates an antitrust problem; the department's report will presumably carry a lot of weight with the judge.

And—this is what intrigues me the most—how will Judge Chin decide what role the federal courts can and should play in the creation and oversight of what almost everyone agrees will be a digital library the likes of which we have never seen before? Will he agree with Marybeth Peters, the U.S. Register of Copyrights, who told a late-to-the-game House Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday that the settlement "inappropriately creates something similar to a compulsory license for works, unfairly alters the property interests of millions of rights holders of out-of-print works without any Congressional oversight, and has the capacity to create diplomatic stress for the United States" because of other countries' objections? (I wonder what the judge will make of the suggestion that Congress has a role to play here.)

Judge Chin's decision could have a land-clearing, policy-setting effect on how we decide who controls access to information. The intellectual-property scene could be reshaped the way the telecommunications world was rocked in the early 1980s, when a federal judge decided that AT&T had a monopoly that must be broken. If the settlement dies, will its demise create a wave of Baby Bell-like book-digitizing projects?

Judge Chin could choose to decide the case on the basic questions of whether the deal violates antitrust law and whether it hobbles rights holders. But it will be a lot more interesting if he weighs in on the transformative possibilities and risks of what Google wants to do and is already doing. If he's very brave, perhaps he will even try to answer this question: If not Google's Book Search, what?
The sidebar list of related articles and a comment at the website alerts the reader that there was much wider-spread opposition to the Google Books Project in academia than the column suggests. Scholars have been disappointed in the displays of older books and how they have been scanned into the Google Books Project, for instance. And in earlier OOTJ posts here and here, I have reported on the program at Boston Public Library at which John Palfrey of the Harvard Law Library and Ann Wolpert of the MIT libraries and MIT Press both expressed great misgivings about the Google Books Project. While there are good things -- bringing a great number of books to a great number of people who otherwise would never have access; screen-reading programs for visually impaired users -- there are deeply concerning problems with the Project as it now is structured. It will be very interesting to see what Judge Chin decides to do and how it affects the future!

Facebook and Litigation

An article in the September 11, 2009 New York Law Journal, by Daniel L. Brown and Aimee R. Kahn on "The Perils of Facebook." (free with a trial registration)

As a result of the explosion in popularity of social networking Web sites such as Facebook and MySpace, where members "post" and share information about themselves as never before, attorneys, and particularly litigators, have begun to take note of the potential utility of this new medium. ...some recent court proceedings demonstrate that an adversary's MySpace or Facebook page may sometimes contain the all-important smoking gun, and such sites can potentially be used to serve legal process on an adversary. At a minimum, understanding the potential uses of social networking sites should be considered when preparing for litigation.

However, the ability to use information discovered from a social networking Web site as evidence has not yet been fully tested in courtrooms, and attorneys must understand the evidentiary and ethical implications of seeking and discovering such evidence. In fact, at least one ethics opinion has already addressed issues arising from counsel's potentially unethical use of such a site to discover evidence.

One thing is clear: Attorneys and their clients must become acquainted with the potential usefulness of social networking sites, as well as the potential hazards and limitations.
The article goes on to review a series of criminal and civil cases and evaluate how the rules of evidence, whether federal or state, either allow or disallow the photos or other material from the social networking sites. The authors include footnotes to the citations for the cases they discuss. Sometimes, courts, in allowing alternative service of process, allowed the litigators to use Facebook as one substitute service of process, reasoning that it would be more likely to be successful at reaching the party than other, more traditional means. The authors provide some final analysis:
Among other things, gathering evidence on a person's profile page poses Fourth Amendment privacy concerns, because the Web site member may claim that he or she has a reasonable expectation of privacy for the information posted on his or her profile page, or on a "friend's" profile page. Therefore, one must consider:

1. whether there is a reasonable expectation of privacy on a social networking site accessible to the public at large; and

2. whether there is a reasonable expectation of privacy on a social networking site that has been secured by some form of privacy protection, the later creating greater concern.

Moreover, in addition to having to satisfy the evidentiary standard for "relevance," discussed above, evidence gathered on a social networking site must also be properly authenticated and may be inadmissible for numerous evidentiary reasons such as hearsay if, for example, a third party "wall post" or "comment" is offered into evidence. While these areas have not yet been developed by case law, they must be carefully considered.

Indeed, a recent ethics opinion dictates that attorneys must be careful when gathering evidence from a person's social networking profile page. In Ethics Opinion No. 2009-02 the Philadelphia Bar Association Professional Guidance Committee addressed the propriety of an attorney discovering information from another person's Facebook profile page. In that case, in order to discover information contained on an adverse witness' Facebook profile page, the attorney asked someone to send a "friend request" to that witness in order for the attorney to discover impeaching information.

According to the opinion, an attorney must disclose his or her true intentions when attempting to access a member's profile page. The committee cited to its rule of professional responsibility regarding non-lawyer assistants, which provides that lawyers are responsible for the actions of third-party non-lawyer assistants. The Committee also noted that other ethical rules prohibit attorneys from "engag[ing] in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation." (snip)

Finally, attorneys themselves must also be careful about their own profile pages, because even judges are turning to MySpace and Facebook to gather "impeachment" evidence to use against attorneys appearing in their courtrooms. For example, recently, a state court judge in Texas used Facebook to discover information and to admonish attorneys appearing in front of her. The attorney in question had asked for a continuance from the judge due to a death in the family, but was later sanctioned by the judge when it was discovered that the attorney's Facebook profile page revealed a week full of drinking and partying.
That last paragraph is a wake-up call! I advise interested readers to go to the full article because I deleted a lot of footnote references for ease of reading. You will want to look at the entire article and note the actual citations if you want to follow up on the legal issues here. The link above takes you to the home page of the New Your Law Journal, where you will have to scroll down to the headline on the right, Savvy Use of Social Networking Sites, which will lead you to the article, where you must either enter your registration info or register for the first time to read it. I can't link to the article itself for you. Sorry 'bout that!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Next Step Beyond DRM... How would it affect libraries?

Digital Rights Management, DRM, has been driving consumers crazy. The rights holders' attempt to protect their ownership interest in music, text, whatever, DRM has been a consumers' nightmare. If you have been foolish enough to sign up for Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program, you have had a personal, up-close encounter with DRM. According to a Sept. 4, 2009 story at TG Daily, Microsoft has now been hit with a class action law suit over the way it offered WGA as a "high priority update" without any hint that it was an anti-piracy program entirely for the benefit of Microsoft itself. The software collected and communicated consumers' IP addresses and their servers' IP addresses and sent that information back to Microsoft on a daily basis, in violation of anti-spyware and consumer protection statutes. In addition, WGA has been pretty much permanent once you installed it. Under pressure, Microsoft has issued some instructions on how to remove it.

Since DRM is getting such an awful odor, some folks have been trying to solve the problem of protecting the legitimate concerns rights holders have in their ownership, without unduly annoying the users of the products. Ars Technica has a story about one new theory. Digital Personal Property is the brainchild of a study group at IEEE (pronounced Eye-triple-E; it used to be the acronym for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. Today, the organization's scope of interest has expanded into so many related fields, that it is simply referred to by the letters I-E-E-E). According to the article, the group decided to turn the thinking around and treat the problem, not as "digital rights management," but as "consumer rights management."

Digital personal property (DPP) is an attempt to make consumers treat digital media like physical objects. For instance, you might loan your car to a friend, a family member, or a neighbor. You might do so on many different occasions and for different lengths of time. But you are unlikely to leave the car out front of your house with the keys in it and a sign on it saying, "Take me!" If you did, you might never see the vehicle again.

It's that the ability to lose control over property that is central to the DPP system. DPP files are encrypted. They can be freely copied and distributed to anyone, but here's the trick: anyone who can view your content can also "steal" it irrevocably. The simple addition of a way to lose content instantly leads consumers to set up a "circle of trust" that can be as wide as they like but will not extend to total strangers on the Internet.
How it works

Digital content lends itself easily to the creation of identical copies, so crafting a system in which digital content can be "stolen" is trickier than it might sound. The idea is to make it a "rivalrous good," one that, after being taken, deprives someone else of something.

DPP hopes to do this by relying on two major pieces: a title folder and a playkey. The title folder contains the content in question, it's encrypted, and it can be copied and passed around freely. To access the content inside, however, you'll need the playkey, which is delivered to the buyer of a digital media file and lives within "tamper-protected circuit" inside some device (computer, cell phone, router) or online at a playkey bank account. Controlling the playkey means that you control the media, and you truly own it, since no part of the system needs to phone home, and it imposes no restrictions on copying (except for those that arise naturally from fear of loss).

The playkey, unlike the title folder, can't be copied—but it can be moved. To give your friends and family access to the file in question, you can send them a copy but must also provide a link to the playkey. Under the DPP system, though, anyone who can access the playkey can also decide to move it to their own digital vault—in essence, anyone can take the content from you, and you would no longer have access to the media files in question if they did so.
This makes an interesting scenario for libraries. If publishers decided to adopt this for digital books, for instance, and we had an Inter-library loan request... Or we simply were preparing to lend the book to a patron. How would the library manage the digital material? Would we be able to set up policies, agreements and procedures that would protect the library's investment in the title or subscription, and allow us to lend the item, being certain to get it back?

I think we might be in very big trouble here.

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Florida Bar is Looking up Your YouTube Videos

If you are applying for admission to the Florida Bar, you had better clean up your social networking sites. The Florida Bar News reports that the Florida Board of Bar Examiners Character and Fitness Commission recommended expanding its current review of personal websites to include social networking sites. At their July meeting, the Commission voted to institute a policy of examining social networking sites on a case-by-case basis as "deemed necessary." The story notes the following categories would be examined:

• Applicants who are required to establish rehabilitation under Rule 3-13 “so as to ascertain whether they displayed any malice or ill feeling towards those who were compelled to bring about the proceeding leading to the need to establish rehabilitation;”

• Applicants with a history of substance abuse/dependence “so as to ascertain whether they discussed or posted photographs of any recent substance abuse;”

• Applicants with “significant candor concerns” including not telling the truth on employment applications or resumes;

• Applicants with a history of unlicensed practice of law (UPL) allegations;

• Applicants who have worked as a certified legal intern, reported self-employment in a legal field, or reported employment as an attorney pending admission “to ensure that these applicants are not holding themselves out as attorneys;”

• Applicants who have positively responded to Item 27 of the bar application disclosing “involvement in an organization advocating the overthrow of a government in the United States to find out if they are still involved in any related activities.”

Friday, September 04, 2009

Bookless Library

Cushing Academy, a prep school in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, has decided to dismantle its 20,000-volume library and replace it with a $500,000 learning center, the Boston Globe reports today. According to a statement on the library's website, the Academy

is in the process of transforming our library into one that is virtually bookless by 2010. ...[The] current collection ... will soon be replaced by millions of volumes in far less space and with much richer and more powerful means of access. Terminals we call 'Portals of Civilization' will give ready access to everything humans have achieved ... Space that previously housed bound books will become community-building areas where students and teachers are encouraged to interact, with a coffee shop, faculty lounge, shared teacher and students learning learning environments, and areas for study.

The headmaster, James Tracy, believes that books are an obsolete technology. The library stacks are being demolished and replaced with "flat-screen TVs to project data from the Internet" and "laptop-friendly study carrels," according to the Globe. The reference desk is being replaced with a "$50,000 coffee shop that will include a $12,000 cappuccino machine." Cushing has also "spent $10,000 to buy 18 electronic readers made by and Sony." These readers will be stocked with digital materials and distributed to students. Students who don't get the readers will be expected to do their assigned readings and research on their computers. The headmaster believes that Cushing is creating a "'model for the 21st-century school.'" Some on campus don't share this vision, worrying that students reading on computers will be distracted by email and text messages and will not be able to focus on longer works. The chairman of the history department wonders "'how this changes the dignity of the library, and why we can't move to increase digital resources while keeping the books.'"

It will be interesting to see if this model catches on at other schools. The article doesn't discuss whether students will receive bibliographic instruction or any other introduction to information literacy. Nor does it discuss the role of the library staff in a bookless library, which I think is key to success. Will the staff spend its time instructing the students? Negotiating with vendors for content? Cataloging the electronic resources it purchases or subscribes to? I worry because some of these students may be entering our law schools in five or six years. Every year it gets harder to teach research skills to students who think research equals entering keywords into Google and seeing what comes up, and have no idea what an index is or does. I believe that a bookless library can be made to work, although I wouldn't much enjoy spending time in it. But I don't think it can be successful without a strong, committed staff who work closely with the students and teach them the research skills they will need in college and throughout their lives. For a related article on the future of libraries from, click here. Thanks to Jack McNeill for forwarding this article to me.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Interviewing Hints for Lawyers & Librarians

I am looking at the Brainstorm Column by Gina Barreca in Chronicle of Higher Education Ideas (What to do When You are Looking for a Job Part I, Sept. 1, 2009). She is writing specifically for English PhDs interviewing for faculty positions on faculties at colleges and universities. But some of the points made in the column seem transferrable to other professionals, and inspired me to write a post here. (I sort of figured I owed librarians one after the post about why MLS folks don't get a look-in for clerical jobs at libraries).

Barreca's column takes the form of asking her colleagues around the country, English professors at various universities, to give advice to her graduate assistant on the best approach as she looks for a full time position on a faculty somewhere. Here are the most useful comments translated for lawyers and librarians:

1. Aside from the obvious (publications, stellar recommendation letters, etc.), what is it about an applicant's file that would make you insist on interviewing him or her?

*Superb -teaching- evaluations.

Strike that word, teaching, and insert whatever is the key verb that you will be doing in the job you are applying for. If you are applying for an attorney position, you need evaluations for some lawyerly task; if you are applying for a librarian position, you need evaluations for a librarian's task, preferably in the area of expertise you are applying in.

(snip, intervening stuff has NO relevance!)
3. How can an applicant make his or her letter not sound like everyone else's but not be disturbingly quirky?

*By writing in the kind of iceberg-crisp prose you are likely to find at the start of each week's New Yorker-- sentences of no more than 15 words--with real verbs--and no jargon.
(Well, these ARE English professors! But still, don't you think this kind of prose is going to grab your readers' attention?)

4. What are you REALLY looking for when you interview someone? I mean, really?

*Easy self-confidence

(Snip, Then, the article goes on with detailed comments from individuals:)

* A consistent sense, from the entire application package, that the candidate would offer something to the institution that is needed, perhaps lacking, and which would complement what others at the institution contribute.


* A) Tailor the letter to the institution, speaking in its own language and focusing on any shared values (if it truly is a target for employment);
B) honestly communicate what the candidate sees, in/at the institution, that would provide for a rewarding career or work experience...a kind of "at _____ I could offer, do...." approach. Above all, I think an honest communication of who and what the candidate is key here;


* [E]nthusiasm communicated clearly and with pleasure.

* Thoughtful engagement with interviewers' questions--not canned, not so quick as to sound canned, and definitely tailored to the question at hand. Avoid the hop-skip to what you THINK is being asked (as in "Oh, yeah, that's the future-projects question...") because interviewers can always tell. Listen patiently while the interviewer asks the question; pause, think, and then respond genuinely.

* Maturity of the candidate--how he/she handles the stress of the interview, how she/he handles hostile or even lightly probing questions.

* THE FIT, something the candidate has no control over: Only the interviewers know the make-up of their faculty and are able to do a gestalt prediction about how that candidate will mix with the existing department.

* Worth stressing again: Enthusiasm. I've talked to academics outside of English who look for the same quality and say that a candidate who is truly excited about the intellectual adventure of his/her work often has an edge over others with better CVs. This is one of the reasons why departments should never skip interviews.
Keeping in mind that these comments are English department faculty discussing hiring new colleagues, there are, I think, some relevancies that apply when law firms hire or when libraries hire. We DO look for a new hire who will fit into an existing team. I mentioned this earlier when I spoke about the clerical position issue. It's a major consideration when we hire, and one of the worst mistakes if we choose the wrong person. It can literally poison a department or a whole library's work environment. It's one of the reasons so many workplaces have a trial period for newly hired employees when they can be let go without the lengthy termination process that is required for a long-term employee. You hope you never have to use the trial period in that way, only as a training period, but it's an escape hatch if you really find you've made a dreadful mistake of judgement.

The other points, enthusiasm and quiet confidence are worth keeping in mind as well. The speakers in the Barreca column are speaking specifically about enthusiasm for the applicant's dissertation or research project, but often lawyers or librarians have research projects to talk about. These can be major talking points in an interview. Bring a copy of your paper, especially if the topic will be relevant to the interviewer. Be ready to talk about the work you did on the project. You may be surprised how much interest your interviewer will show.

League of Librarians Trading Cards

Just for fun! Evidently, the idea was pioneered at Carleton College, but these trading cards were posted to Flickr by the librarians at the University of Rochester River Campus. They used the cards as an orientation welcome to new students. What a hoot! I am not sure all the cards actually give a recognizable photo of the librarian, but still, it's a terrific idea! Way up there with Super Librarian! Take a look, here. Wonderful fun. The image here is Ann Marshall, political science and law librarian (of course I had to choose her!), but there are lots of others so go look!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Celebrate Knowledge Day

This morning, I received a beautiful bouquet of flowers from one of my students. She was born and raised in Russia, and is a dedicated, committed student. She will make a great attorney. She explained to me that flowers are traditionally given to teachers on Knowledge Day, which is celebrated on September 1 in Russia and other former Soviet republics. September 1 is when school traditionally starts and, according to Wikipedia, "marks the end of summer and the beginning of autumn." The illustration also comes from the Wikipedia article on Knowledge Day. There are many rituals associated with this special day, including celebratory assemblies and the ringing of the first bell of the school year. My student told me that the fact that the first day of school is celebrated with such joy is an indication of the importance of education to the Russian people.

In doing some research on this topic, I discovered that this year Knowledge Day marks the official opening to the public of Russia's new digital library. According to this article, the "library provides access to almost 40,000 books and more than 43 million documents ...concern[ing] Russian history." It is the largest digitization project to be undertaken so far in Russia. There will be unique documents, such as orders from Czar Peter the Great and letters from Empress Catherine the Great to the French philosopher Voltaire.

Why MLS Candidates Don't Get Calls for Clerical Positions in Libraries

There was a thread on Law-Lib recently where an MLS who was laid off and looking for work bemoaned the fact that she was not getting calls for any of the clerical positions in libraries where she had applied. The discussion turned on why this should be. There was one rather bitter response that, they would not call the MLS back for a copy cataloger position because "they are afraid of how much you know."

I feel terrible for those folks out there who are looking for work in a bad economy. And I understand how easy it must be to feel bitter about sending out applications and hearing nothing. But I want to present the point of view of the interviewing library. Maybe it will make some sense of what's happening on the other side of the table. I don't know if it will make anybody feel any better about a tough situation.

We recently got the go-ahead to post a clerical position that had been affected by a months-long hiring freeze at our university. We got more than 140 applications before we closed the position. Among the applications were JDs, MLSs, and PhDs. It is enough to break your heart -- this is an entry level clerical position. We can tell just from the number and types of applications what a terrible market it is out there for job seekers.

From our point of view, we want to hire somebody who is going to want to stay in the position for long enough to justify the considerable amount of training we will invest. Not just one or two years, but longer. Our university offers tuition remission, so this is one drawing card and something we think about when we hire -- if you might be looking to do an undergraduate or a graduate degree, or put kids through college, you might be a long-term employee here. It also makes a clerical position a lot more attractive, more valuable, to the employee.

From our point of view, we really want somebody who is going to be happy, not just to have a job for a while because it's so hard to get one right now, but happy to have THIS job because it's the kind of job that suits them. That means somebody who is not overqualified to the point where he or she is going to feel demeaned by the job -- oh, maybe not right away, when they are grateful to have any job, but in a few months. That kind of feeling can absolutely poison the workplace and the team in it. We look for somebody who is going to be a good fit as part of a team -- and thinking of yourself as the swan in a flock of ducks in not going to work that way. We may be jumping to conclusions about how those degrees are going to affect your attitude -- you had better write a hell of a cover letter if you want to change our minds because it's a tough sell!

From our point of view, we absolutely do NOT want to hire somebody who may have credentials that "outrank" the immediate supervisor of this entry level clerk. The supervisor is a very bright person who has one master's, is nearly finished with a second, and speaks three languages. But her "certifications" are not in library science or law. If your "certifications" are MLS or JD, how fair is that to this supervisor to hire you into the position she has to supervise? If you were she, would it be fair to say you were "afraid" of the MLS's knowledge? Or would it be more appropriate to say the library wanted to avoid creating a toxic workplace and undercutting a supervisor? (* in the case of the clerical position we just posted, it is NOT a cataloging job)

We have 140 applications and among those, are not only unemployed MLS and JD people, we have a number of unemployed people who have experience that exactly or nearly exactly matches the requirements of this job. We have applicants who previously worked in other libraries in similar positions or in bookstores in similar positions. These are people who for 10 or 20 years have been happy doing this kind of work -- it is their profession, though it is not usually graced with that recognition. This is what they do for a living, and they are content, and very good at what they do. They need a job as badly as you do, with your MLS or JD.

Now, tell me why you should be called back.