American Library Association (ALA) Reference and User Services Association (RUSA): Best Free Reference Websites List

The list includes:

Please see:

RUSA’s Emerging Technologies Section selects annual list of Best Free Reference Websites

For information about the American Library Association (ALA) and its Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) , please see here and here.

Cross-posted at Law Library Blog.

Are we teaching what they will use?

Here at Stanford we haven’t shown our students Shepard’s in print in at least a decade.  And we have long since stopped using the digests in print as well.  So it was good to see these decisions validated in an article from the latest issue of Mississippi College Law Review, “Are We Teaching What They Will Use? Surveying Alumni to Assess Whether Skills Teaching Aligns with Alumni Practice,” by Sheila F. Miller.

The article wasn’t surprising to me, except the evident reluctance by law school alumni to use low-cost tools made available to them, namely Casemaker and Fastcase.

As can be seen from the frequency of usage chart, Lexis and Westlaw continue to be the most popular choices for online research. This finding is not significantly different depending on the size of firm, or year of graduation. This data is similar to a 2007 survey of Chicago lawyers in which 87% of attorneys surveyed who had practiced for zero to five years did “most” of their research in Lexis or Westlaw.   Casemaker provides free research for members of both the Ohio and Indiana Bar Associations. 43 Yet, only 16.9% of respondents used Casemaker often, very often, or always, and only 13.5% used it at least sometimes. This was a surprising number given the number of the respondents in small offices. In the follow-up interviews there was some criticism of Casemaker. For example, attorneys stated Casemaker is “too slow” and Casemaker is “not as easy as Westlaw, and I have an unlimited subscription for Ohio law.”

From Footnote #43:

Fastcase provides basically the same service for some other states, and we asked in the survey about Fastcase as well. The numbers were so low on Fastcase use that I did not include them in the tables of results.

Ineffective Assistance of Library: The Failings and the Future of Prison Law Libraries

By Jonathan Abel, in Volume 101, Issue #5 of The Georgetown Law Journal (June 2013).  Here’s the abstract:

The prison law library has long been a potent symbol of the inmate’s right to access the courts. But it has never been a practical tool for providing that access. This contradiction lies at the core of the law library doctrine. It takes little imagination to see the problem with requiring untrained inmates, many of them illiterate or non-English speakers, to navigate the world of postconviction relief and civil rights litigation with nothing more than the help of a few library books. Yet law libraries are ubiquitous in American prisons. Now, in light of a technological revolution in legal research methods, prison libraries face an existential crisis that requires prison officials, courts, scholars, and inmates to reconsider the very purpose of the prison law library. This Article takes up that challenge by providing a novel historical account of the prison law library’s development.

This Article uses original historical research to show how prison law libraries arose, not as a means of accessing the courts, but rather as a means of controlling inmates’ behavior. By placing the origin of the prison law library in the first decades of the twentieth century–half a century earlier than typical accounts–this Article shows how the law library evolved to take on a new purpose in the 1960s and 1970s, when the Supreme Court and other courts first began to fashion a law library doctrine. The central argument of this Article is simple: The courts’ attempts to graft an access-to-courts rationale onto a law library system that had developed for other purposes led to a law library doctrine riddled with contradictions and doomed to failure. This historical account helps explain a prison law library system that never really made sense in terms of providing access to the courts. As prisons look to update their law libraries in light of sweeping technological changes, it is all the more important to understand the history of the law library system so that authorities can plan for its future.

 

 

Finding History in a Drawer

In 1875, a jury committed Mary Todd Lincoln to an insane asylum.  This week, the Chicago Tribune reported that two Illinois State Supreme Court justices discovered her trial papers still on file with the Cook County Clerk!  The Clerk’s Office will be donating them to the Lincoln museum, but we hope the story does not end there.  Like many others, we’ve previously posted about the cultural heritage reflected in state court files.  Some of the stories told in these documents are historically significant, like Mary Todd Lincoln’s commitment, or John Wesley Hardin’s murder trial (see this Texas Task Force report).  Many stories, however, are just minor threads in life’s tapestry: divorces, probates, business disputes.  Whether the story is big or small, the court records that tell it may be irreplaceable.

Each state’s preservation rules differ.  Some place the retention determination in the hands of state libraries or archives, some issue mandatory retention schedules based on the nature of the action, and some afford the clerk of court discretion to dispose of files after prescribed time periods.  Even if a clerk of court wanted to save everything, storage expenses and space constraints make this impossible.  The costs of digitizing every paper record are prohibitive.  As cultural institutions may not be interested in less noteworthy files, many are noticed for destruction.  Provided that a state’s rules allow it, however, law libraries may be uniquely positioned to rescue these files — preserving not just the documents, but also state history.  And if you spend some time digging through them all, you never know just what you might find…

Michael Hart, Father of Project Gutenberg

Today’s New York Times includes the lengthy obituary: “Michael Hart, a Pioneer of E-Books, Dies at 64.”

The obit tells the story of the fascinating history of Project Gutenberg, which was born when Mr. Hart typed out the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1971 and made it freely downloadable from Arpanet.   From that beginning, the project has grown to include over 30,000 books.

The obituary also discusses various copyright issues and Mr. Hart’s connection with then Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig when Prof. Lessig met for lunch with Mr. Hart to see if he might serve as lead plaintiff in a constitutional challenge to the Copyright Term Extension Act.  Mr. Hart, after pouring sugar on his pizza, told Prof. Lessig that he saw the ligitation as a chance to “challenge the entire social and economic system of the United States.”    According to the obit. Prof. Lessig was looking for someone a little “less visionary” and enlisted Eric Eldred for the cause, which resulted in the 2003 Supreme Court decision Eldred v. Ashcroft.

Liking Libraries

The past weekend Wall Street Journal ran a profile of Soleio Cuervo.  Mr. Cuervo is a product designer for Facebook, and part of the team that developed the thumbs-up Like button.  Facebook is my neighbor (although, alas, they are moving to a new headquarters soon) and my neighborhood also has a charming public library, which is part of Mr. Cuervo’s story.

The Man Who Got Us to ‘Like’ Everything

by Geoffrey A. Fowler

The Wall Street Journal, Saturday/Sunday, August 13-14, 2011, p. C11

. . .

His favorite quiet spot to work is the public library in Palo Alto, Calif., near Facebook headquarters. . . . “. . . I find having a little solitude makes me more productive, and the public library is good for that.”

. . .

After Google Book Search: Rebooting the Digital Library

“After Google Book Search: Rebooting the Digital Library” 
University of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 559

RANDAL C. PICKER, University of Chicago – Law School

The rejection of the Google Book Search settlement means that we are at a point of rebooting how we design our digital library future. There were many criticisms of GBS and the settlement but perhaps chief among those was the risk that approval of the settlement would have locked in a single approach to digital libraries. Google would have received unique access to the so-called orphan works and that would have provided it what may have been a decisive advantage against digital library competitors, both private and public. As we move forward on the orphan works, we need to do so with two principles in mind. First, we need to enable broad competing uses of the orphan works while, to the greatest extent possible, respecting the rights of the orphan works holders. Second, we should not repeat the mistake of the GBS settlement by somehow tilting the table in favor of digital library monopoly, either public or private.

We should want to foster a rich digital library ecosystem. GBS makes clear that we can have large-scale private digital libraries. That is an important development and one that we should seek to enable. If we create use rights for copyrighted works for digital libraries, we should be sure to make those privileges available to both public digital libraries and private digital libraries such as GBS and its successors. Our existing statutory safe harbors for libraries favor noncommercial libraries and archives. The emergence of GBS suggests that that is too narrow a conception of what libraries can be in the digital age and we need a statutory scheme that supports that.

Source: LSN: University of Chicago Law School, Law & Economics Research Paper Series Vol. 13 No. 4, 06/27/2011

 

Save the Tweets: Library Acquisition of Online Materials

The latest issue of AIPLA Quarterly Journal (Volume 39, Issue Number 2, Spring 2011) just landed upon my desk, and at page 269 I found this article calling for “digital acquisition rights”:

Save the Tweets: Library Acquisition of Online Materials, by Jodie C. Graham

Its abstract from the AIPLA webpage:

As the Internet becomes an increasingly pervasive communications technology in society, public discussions and other born-digital documents of social and political importance frequently exist solely on various websites.  To fulfill their missions of preserving public knowledge, libraries seek to acquire and make accessible web documents to scholars, students, and other library patrons.  However, section 108 of the Copyright Act, which previously provided sufficient protection from liability for libraries’ acquisition and reproduction activities, does not adequately map onto the technological realities of acquiring digital documents over the Internet.  As a result, libraries must accept the risk of copyright infringement liability or forgo preserving historically important online documents.  This Note proposes a set of amendments that would update section 108 to extend libraries’ current limited protections from copyright liability to the acquisition, preservation, and making available of online documents.​

Hip High Hires Hein

Mainly for its debate team – see below.

There are numerous ways to keep up with developments in legal bibliography and legal research.  Blogs bring lots of news about legal research plus more.  Twitter is great for breaking developments and news (some of my favorites here include @aabibliographer, @EJWalters, @glambert, @jasnwilsn, and the amazingly good @lawlib).  Visiting the vendor booths and demonstrations at the conference exhibit hall, while one of my very least-favorite things to do, is also useful for learning the latest and greatest. 

But there’s no substitute for face-to-face meetings with vendor representatives.  Here at Stanford we always look forward to our more-or-less annual visit from Steve Roses, our HeinOnline representative.  Steve is personable, highly intelligent, and shares his passion for his products with us — he’s less a salesperson and more a partner in our research efforts.  And we always learn something new.  During Steve’s last visit  here, while we were chatting about this and that, Steve mentioned that Hein had just acquired its first high school customer, a high school in Texas.  I found that tidbit intriguing and shared it with my class; one of the students later e-mailed me a note, “I have a friend who went to [that high school*].  It’s a very achievement oriented high school!”

*The school wishes to remain anonymous.

I shared that information with Steve and he recently wrote to me that Hein now has its second high school customer:  Loyola High School in Los Angeles.

The school’s library director, April Hannah, reports that the school acquired the database primarily for its debate team and she is delighted that she can provide an affordable legal database to the team and its coaches (they just can’t afford LexisNexis she wrote in an e-mail).

I’m really impressed.  How many times have we reference librarians received a request from a patron who was looking for a certain law review article and threw up their hands saying “I couldn’t find it in Lexis or Westlaw.”  So many students find LexisNexis and Westlaw to be the be-all and end-all for, well, everything.  It’s always a pleasant revelation when we show the students (and faculty) how they can locate secondary sources plus a huge corpus of law review content, read compiled legislative histories, find the Federal Register going back to the beginning of time, plus lots more, and all without worrying, or even thinking about, search charges.

And I just can’t wait until the kids from Loyola High School make their way to law school!

(The high school, by the way, was the subject of a MSNBC segment on community service – you can watch the clip here

http://vimeo.com/13773712 )

Kindle and Libraries

In yesterday’s New York Times, Claire Cain Miller and Miguel Helft reported on Apple’s tighter control of the App store.    TechCrunch then added that Apple’s moves may “foreshadow war with Amazon Kindle.” 

As Jason Kincaid writes: ” instead of beating Amazon on price or features, it looks like Apple might just cut them off. Or force them to use in-app payments, which give Apple a 30% cut and would kill Amazon’s margins. Amazon has avoided using Apple’s in-app payments system by kicking users to a browser to complete their transaction, but according to the NYT report . . .  it sounds like this will be banned.”

Just last week, Amazon announced a major event: Kindle book sales had finally passed paperback books sales on Amazon.com. (Last year, Kindle book sales outpaced hardcovers.)

With all of this swirling about (and very little mention of what this means for libraries), what should I see on our shelving truck? 

Gregory K. Laughlin has a new article in the University of Baltimore Law Review: “Digitization and Democracy:  The Conflict Between the Amazon Kindle License Agreement and the Role of Libraries in a Free Society.” (Volume 40, Number 1, Fall 2010)

Laughlin asks “whether libraries may lend e-books to patrons without violating the copyright owners’ exclusive right of distribution.”    He continues:

“Amazon, in the license agreement to which a purchaser of a  Kindle e-book must assent prior to downloading the e-book, retains ownership of the “Digital Content” (i.e. the e-book), and imposes a number of restrictions that are inconsistent with transfer of ownership to the purchaser, including prohibiting redistribution.  If libraries are not owners of the Kindle e-books they acquire, then by the explicit terms of the Amazon license agreement, as well as Section 106 of the Copyright Act, they may not lend the e-books to their patrons.”

….

“Are the license terms prohibiting the lending of e-books (and other digital content) enforceable under existing law? . . . If so, should the Copyright Act be amended to provide libraries with an inalienable right to lend e-books that is equivalent to their current right to lend printed books?”

Laughlin argues: “The right of libraries to lend e-books to their patrons should be inalienable…. There is still time for society as a whole to establish definitively what rights a library has to lend e-books that it acquires.  Congress should guarantee that the interests of the reading public are protected; and it should do so in a way that guarantees the same freedom of access to e-books that the public has enjoyed with physical books for well over a century.”