Monday, September 29, 2014

I'll Just Google It

Everybody knows how to use Google to find information--right?  Wrong, according to Motoko Rich's article, "Academic Skills on Web Are Tied to Income Level," New York Times, Sept. 24, 2014, at A23.  A new study done by Donald J. Leu that appears in the current issue of Reading Research Quarterly (subscription required) showed "a general lack of online literacy among all students..."  Students may be adept at certain tasks (texting, posting photographs, using social media), but they are far less adept at tasks that require them to find and evaluate information.  This finding cuts across all income groups, but is most apparent in low-income students. 

Despite the higher rates of academic Internet use among the more affluent students in the study, a little more than a quarter of them performed well on tasks where they were required to discern the reliability of facts on a particular web page.  Only 16 percent of the lower-income students performed well on those tasks.
Many grade and high schools are not addressing digital literacy.  Perhaps this is because digital literacy is not a subject that is tested by standardized tests.  It could also be the result of teachers mistaking students' comfort with technology for actual ability to use the Internet for educational purposes. 
I was discussing this issue with one of the reference librarians this morning.  We have noted the poor quality of results that students get when they Google, how they rely on questionable sources rather than go to reliable sites maintained by educational institutions and organizations.  Her conclusion was that the librarians don't need to teach students how to Google; we need to teach them how to think.      

Sunday, September 28, 2014

New ABA Law School Accreditation Standards

The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has released their most recent modifications to the standards for accrediting law schools. Here is a link to their handy Explanations PDF. I found it easier to read and more useful for understanding the changes than their Overview document. You can get the full text of the Redline version (66 pages) which shows the original and changed text, as well as the Clean copy (42 pages), and all of these other documents and more, from this convenient page.

From the point of view of folks who have been involved in the discussions and sending in comments, the changes to the library standards are not a big surprise. Below are the revised standards affecting law school libraries.

Chapter 6, Library and Information Services
Std. 601, General Provisions There are four basic requirements for the library:
* provide support adequate to enable a law school to carry out its program of legal education,
* develop a responsive relationship with users,
* engage in planning and assessment, and
* implement technology when appropriate

and one requirement for the law school:
* provide sufficient financial resources for the library to fulfill its responsibilities

Std. 603, Library Director...
Std. 603(a) adds “providing information resources in appropriate formats to faculty and students” as one of the overall management responsibilities of the law library director.

Standard 603(c), the requirement that the law library director must have specific degrees for the position has been replaced with a requirement that the director must have “appropriate academic qualifications.” As in other provisions in the revised Standards, the Committee added the requirement that the director’s knowledge and experience must be “sufficient to support the program of legal education and to enable the law school to operate in compliance with the Standards."

Revised Interpretation 603-1 provides guidance for the Accreditation Committee by elaborating on how a law school could meet the Standard.The Standards Review Committee had recommended that the language of current Standard603(d), which states that “a law library director shall hold a law faculty appointment with security of faculty position,” be replaced in revised Standard 603(d) with the requirement that the law library director “shall hold appointment as a member of the law faculty with the rights and protections accorded to other members of the full-time faculty under Standard 405.” Based on the Council’s decision to make no change to current Standard 405,this revised change was also not approved.

Note from Betsy: Std. 405, mentioned above, is referring to the Committee's decision not to require tenure for full time teaching faculty. The Standard itself is titled Professional Environment, and includes many other details such as academic freedom, governance and due process. But in the context of the statement above, the reference is certainly to the Committee's decision about "security of position," or tenure. If the doctrinal faculty can't have a standard requiring tenure, the library directors shouldn't get a standard requiring it for them, was the decision, apparently. SIGH...

Revised Standard 604. PERSONNEL
The current Standard has been changed slightly to require a staff with expertise that will support the goals of the library and law school.

Revised Standard 605. SERVICES
No changes are recommended to the current Standard. The current Interpretation has been rewritten to better state how those services can be provided.

Revised Standard 606. COLLECTION
The revisions to current Standard 606 reflect the change from an emphasis on ownership of materials to providing reliable access to legal information. The revised Standard also links the choices of format and means of access to the needs of the institution. Revised Interpretation 606-2 elaborates on the definition of “reliable access” by providing ways to meet the Standard through ongoing access to databases or participation in a formal resource-sharing arrangement with other libraries.

The decoration for this post is rapper Lil Wayne's Law Library "Statutory Rape" which turned up when I looked for images of law libraries. Apparently Lil Wayne has spent some time in prison libraries and knows something about legal research, from a few posts I stumbled across, so the cover may be earned in more ways than one. I just wanted something other than the classic law school library, since that seems to be fading away... but I guess this is not the look most schools will be aiming for. For one thing, look at all those reporters on those shelves!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Blog Action Day Coming Right up

Woo Hoo! Blog Action Day is coming up in October. This year the theme is inequality.

I guess everybody has something to say about that.

I'll be brooding upon the theme but e-mail me if you have brilliant insights to contribute:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Two interesting articles on reading showed up yesterday. I couldn't resist. The New York Times ran an article by Alexandra Alter, "Line by Line, E-Books Turn Poet-Friendly." Readers (or writers) of poetry know that poems have a structure that matters. Line breaks, spacing and placement of words matter intensely to how the poem will be read and perceived.

So when the first e-books of poetry appeared a few years ago, the poet authors were taken aback to see that all formatting had been removed! According to Alter, at least one leading poet, John Ashbery requested his publisher withdraw the digital editions of his poetry books.

But now, e-books have managed to deliver digital versions of poetry that retain all the original formatting. The digital versions now are equivalent to print poetry editions. Some poets remain skeptical, according to Alter's article. But Ashbery just signed an agreement to release digital editions with Open Road for $15 each.

The second article yesterday was in the Wall Street Journal, by Jeanne Whalen, "Read Slowly to Benefit Your Brain and Cut Stress." Whalen reports on book clubs that are forming, not to discuss books, but to simply sit together silently and read. The article is actually a mish-mash of a bunch of different pieces of information about reading, some reported very briefly. It is possible that Whalen was severely edited. The article is frustrating because it mentions briefly a number of important points, but never fully explains them. The online article at WSJ does offer an entertaining "Test How Fast You Read" feature.

The reading club Whalen first reports on, from New Zealand, calls itself the Slow Reading Club. Slow reading is a major movement that has been growing for some years world wide. There is no particular leader, but there have been several books and a number of more in-depth popular and semi-popular articles about the process. I would recommend reading "Reading Fast, Reading Slow" by Jessica Love, from The American Scholar, Spring, 2012 for a much better explanation of the movement, and the science behind it. Love is a cognitive scientist who has done some of the investigations of reading and is a science writer and blogger.

For instance, when we read, our eyes don't smoothly sweep across the lines of text. We skip across the text, stopping periodically in what scholars of reading call "fixations." At each fixation, our eyes can take in about 4 letters to the left, and 15 to the right of the fixation point, on average. The letters at the edge of that perception range are fuzzy and may simply be guessed at in terms of general shape or lower/upper case. That information will speed up the reading at the next fixation, where those peripheral letters from the right will be more central. Meanwhile, we decode about 8 of the letters in the center of the fixation. Then we hop again, which the scholars call a "saccade." Love reports that reading scholars find that readers typically spend about 10% of reading time in those hops, "saccades," during which no reading is happening. There is a lot more detail in the article about how the reader quickly (or slowly, in the case of surprises) decodes words.

The article goes on to cover studies of speed-reading (mostly badly done), but a few of which are reliable to show that the faster you go, the less you recall. Slowing your reading, even because the text is illegible or missing some letters, increases retention of the content, apparently. Yoo-hoo, textbook editors! Here's an idea! Actually, can you imagine trying to read for class and have missing l_tt_rs? It w_uld dr_ve you cr_zy!

One thing the Whalen article on WSJ covers that is not mentioned in the older article from Dr. Love, is the research about what happens when people read online. Love mentions that most research on reading has been done online. But she does not say anything about the patterns discovered. Whalen mentions the F pattern. When readers in English (and I think other Western languages that read left to right) read web pages, researchers have found that the readers' eye movements follow an F pattern. The eyes scan completely across the page for the first few lines, then sweep down the left side of the screen. Web developers tend to know this fact and use it when they create those left hand panels and top tabs or menu bars. Or ads.

The decoration for this page is courtesy of (I am not sure you want to go there; I think it's not safe, but it had this nice image).

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Why do the vendors roll out new versions in September??!!

This year, Lexis has chosen to roll out a new version of Lexis Advance on September 8!

Why thank you guys!

Isn't that just the most thoughtful thing?

Librarians and teachers around the world are just loving having a brand new version that they need to scramble and get comfortable with just as their students are arriving.

Why couldn't they have released this back in June?

Well. I am guessing (with my cynic's hat on), that they didn't really want any testing and reviews floating around out there to taint the trumpet blasts and floating glory clouds as they rolled this out to students.

Of course, maybe they just hadn't finished debugging it in June. Maybe I shouldn't be so cynical.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Regulatory Activism

The public is commenting on proposed federal rules in record numbers, according to a story entitled "Federal Agencies Are Flooded by Comments on New Rules," published in the Wall Street Journal, September 3, 2014.  For instance, the State Department has received over 2.5 million comments on the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.  The Federal Communications Commission has received over 1.26 million comments on net neutrality.  And the Environmental Protection Agency is processing "hundreds of thousands of comments on new emissions rules for power plants."  The comments come from several sources, including "groups with a stake in the outcome, organizations that rally similar-minded people to their cause and individuals who simply want to weigh in."  And the comments take different forms, including "legal-brief type treatises from affected businesses and interested groups, form-submitted comments written and sometimes bundled by interest groups, and letters from interested Americans, ranging from thoughtful to flippant." 

What accounts for the surge in comments?  With Congress unwilling or unable to act, the Obama Administration has used "executive actions to achieve its policy objectives," and the public has responded by waking "up to the potential of agency rule-making."  This is the opinion of Nuala O'Connor, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology.  An additional factor is undoubtedly the federal websites, such as, that encourage public involvement in rulemaking by facilitating the submission of comments. The volume of public comments over the last twelve months has "in some cases ... given [agencies] pause as they write final rules." 

The article explores how advocacy groups spur action by using social media and email to get the word out about proposed regulations.  The groups also generate form letters that individuals can send to the agency responsible for the regulation.  How do the agencies manage the high volume of comments they are receiving?  Agencies must respond for the official record.  One coping strategy is to group similar comments together and generate a common response.  However, a more thoughtful comment will usually receive an individualized response.  The agencies are currently managing the workload, but "experts question their ability to effectively handle that much public input."