Thursday, March 23, 2017

Arthur Miller Articulates the Importance of Legal Research

When we are in the midst of being bombarded with the various microagressions that are commonplace as a law librarian in the law school hierarchy, we might lose sight of why we do this.

Especially considering this:
The ABA has been “over” law libraries for years now. After completing the last accreditation inspection team visit I went on, I swore I would never do another one. Back in the day, the librarian member of those teams mattered because the ABA’s Standards on law libraries had some teeth. Now, after years of watering down those Standards, law schools often tilt toward US News rankings as the end all/be all and as we know, library matters have an infinitesimal impact on USN’s calculations. I think the fact that no one (outside of our own professional association) is mentioning libraries as a part of the future of legal education is (sadly) not accidental. - Steve D. Hinckley

But we know, innately, that legal research is the foundation. It's complex and creative and helps build connections to form legal minds and make effective legal arguments.

Here's the great Arthur Miller to remind us of why it's important:

Part I: 


Part II: 


Amen, Sir!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Database of Law Related Movies

We all love a good law movie, right? Well, we're all in luck because lawyer and law librarian Ted Tjaden created a database of Law-Related Movies.

The 172 law-related movies on this site have been arbitrarily limited to those that contain one or more of the following features: interesting courtroom scenes, portrayal of lawyers, themes of justice or liberty, or discussion of substantive legal issues. 

The pages have been divided into the following topics:
These movies are great for entertainment purposes or may be useful for instruction, particularly the "movies organized by substantive law subject."

Law libraries might also use these titles to host movie nights. Or, like some of my wonderful colleagues at Texas Tech, to create a movie series at a local theater that hosts a panel discussion after the show.

Thanks to Ted for creating this wonderful list!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Combating Link Rot in SCOTUS Decisions

We know that link rot is a large problem in modern Supreme Court decisions.

According to a ... study, 49 percent of the hyperlinks in Supreme Court decisions no longer work. The problem is that those citations allow lawyers and scholars to find, understand and assess the court’s evidence and reasoning. For most of the Supreme Court’s history, its citations have been to static, permanent sources, typically books. Since 1996 justices have cited materials found on the Internet 555 times, the study found. Those citations are very often ephemeral.

As noted in 2013 by the NYTimes, the Supreme Court has taken modest steps to address the matter. Its opinions note the date each site was last visited, and its clerk keeps a hard copy of those materials.

SCOTUS needs to do better and find a reliable electronic archival tool that will capture screenshots of the web resources and host them for easy access in perpetuity. We have Perma.cc, but the very busy Justices haven't taken the time to archive their own cited internet sources.

In steps the UC Berkeley School of Law Library and web application developer Philip Ardery to address this problem by hosting U.S. Supreme Court Web Citations. This service captures snapshots of any web resource cited by the United States Supreme Court immediately after their opinions are issued. The goal of the service is to leverage current web and archiving technologies to minimize the link rot that complicates research as websites change or become unavailable over time.

You can subscribe to receive updates. Contact Michael Lindsey, UC Berkeley Law Library's Directory of Library Web Development for additional information

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Law Libraries Respond to Changes in ABA Reporting

In the seven years that I've been a law librarian, ABA reporting for law libraries has made a fairly dramatic shift from measuring inputs to measuring outputs.

Chapter 6 of the Standards, along with most of the Standards, now places an emphasis on outcomes instead of inputs. For libraries, that means an analysis of how well the patrons of a library are being served rather than how much we spend for various activities, and much of the information now required comes from the sabbatical site visits rather than from annual information on expenditures or staff.

One of my colleagues recently pointed out that during an ABA site visit, law libraries must highlight how our patrons are being served. As the physical collections shrink, we need to focus more on customer service.  

This same colleague opined that, on the horizon, law school administrator's will look at this [measuring outputs only] as another opportunity to slash library budgets particularly in regard to print. Outside of state-specific needs, this will effectively kill print collections. The library of the future will be vested in digital collections accessible anywhere for the convenience of our patrons, a smaller footprint on the campus due to decreased need for stacks ,and the need to create more modular space as needed to accommodate different sized study groups, for example. We will also need to offer the latest technologies to draw users into our space. High speed internet, movable digital white boards, etc.  The need for expert librarians that know how to navigate and manage the digital collections is where library administrators will need to vest their political capital within the law school. Even this will come under pressure as IBM's Watson grows more proficient. It is a rapidly changing environment.

For a fairly prescient discussion of law libraries in the digital age, see this article on The Virtual Academic Law Library. Of particular interest is the SWOT analysis near the end.  

With this perfect storm brewing, it is time to start analyzing our law libraries' own strengths and weaknesses in our brave new world.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Call for Full Citizenship of All Law Faculty

The clustering of women in legal writing, in clinics, in academic support, and in librarian positions means that a disproportionate number of women law teachers in the United States hold jobs with significantly lower pay, with more limited voting rights at faculty meetings, and with less support for many things that tenure-line faculty take for granted (sabbaticals, support for scholarship, travel, etc.).

Starting today (International Women’s Day) and continuing until April 4th (Equal Pay Day), the Legal Writing Institute is collecting signatures on a statement advocating for all law professors to enjoy equal status – or “full citizenship” – on their faculties, regardless of the subject matter they teach.

LWI Policy Statement on Full Citizenship for Law Faculty (Adopted March 2015):

The LWI Board has adopted a policy statement on principles of equality for law faculty that will guide its future planning and decisions. This statement explicitly signals our commitment to the policy of full citizenship for all law professors, and it is designed to communicate that commitment to our members as well as others in the legal academy and the legal profession. The policy statement also has been adopted by the ALWD Board of Directors and the SALT Board of Directors: 

The Legal Writing Institute is committed to a policy of full citizenship for all law faculty. No justification exists for subordinating one group of law faculty to another based on the nature of the course, the subject matter, or the teaching method. All full-time law faculty should have the opportunity to achieve full citizenship at their institutions, including academic freedom, security of position, and governance rights. Those rights are necessary to ensure that law students and the legal profession benefit from the myriad perspectives and expertise that all faculty bring to the mission of legal education.

If it strikes you as odd, unfair, and perhaps even illegal that a historically-discriminated-against class of Americans are treated this way simply based on the subject matter they teach, please click here and sign on.

Friday, March 3, 2017

A Concerted Effort to Collect Law Library Statistics

We've caught wind that the ABA Standards Review Committee will be proposing to the ABA Council that Section III of the annual questionnaire (dealing with libraries) be eliminated, along with many other parts of the questionnaire not seeking data required by the Standards. This proposal will be considered by the Council at its July meeting for implementation in the 2017 questionnaire. Issues involving the questionnaires are not subject to hearings as are changes to the Standards--they just go directly from the Committee to the Council. The information regarding faculty members (director or teaching) in the library will continue to be collected in other parts of the questionnaire, and there will be a line for total library expenditures with other law school expenditures.

This does not bode well for the compilations of law library statistics that we rely on to work with law school administrators.

As mentioned in the announcement, the annual compilation of library statistics has been continued largely because of librarian interest in the information--they are not included in the Standard 509 reports and a law school would not be subject to interim monitoring for any of the data reported. So, if we want to continue the effort of compiling more detailed library information, it will have to be done by us. 

While AALL will certainly be helpful in this endeavor, more libraries may want to look into the ALLStAR Benchmarking Survey.

ALLStAR, or Academic Law Libraries: Statistics, Analytics and Reports, is a new project supported by the Yale Law Library and the NELLCO Law Library Consortium that will enable academic law libraries to systematically gather and analyze a large set of relevant and previously unobtainable data points. Using Counting Opinions' LibPAS as the interface, participating libraries will be able to analyze their own operations, as well as undertake extensive benchmarking against any other participating library or libraries they choose.

Why Benchmark?
  • To identify, understand, and quantify our strengths and weaknesses
  • To understand the drivers of demand on library resources and how they are changing
  • To enable you to align internal resource allocation
  • To enable you to: 
    • Justify resources needed 
    • Motivate staff to consider change
    • Plan strategically for the future
While this information will no longer be part of the ABA annual questionnaire, it still behooves law libraries to maintain statistics for benchmarking purposes. ALLStAR may just be the concerted effort that we need to fill this impending gap in our information. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

When a 3L Says, "I didn't know we had a law library."

After starting a new position, it's always a good idea to evaluate the programming at your new institution and possibly bring experiences and programming initiatives along from your previous institution.

At my last institution, I was a reference librarian, and I also taught a full-length course on scholarly writing. When I arrived at my new institution, I noticed a hole in the curriculum when it came to instructing the students on best practices for scholarly writing. 

Because many of our students take part in seminar courses or the journal write-on competitions each year, it seemed natural to start a scholarly writing initiative at my new institution. 

Starting Fall 2016, two new scholarly writing programs were introduced by the law library. The first was a Scribes Student Legal Writing Society group. As the Executive Director of Scribes, I was tasked with starting local chapters of this group at the various law schools. The first year would be a pilot year with two law schools taking part. As part of the Texas Tech Law Chapter, the legal writing faculty, specialists, and law library faculty came together to provide monthly programming to the students that coincided with the timeline for writing a journal note, seminar paper, or independent-research paper. 

We created a toolkit of programming materials, and the events have generally been well attended. We've had quite a few students tell us that their seminar-paper grades were much higher after attending the sessions and incorporating the various best practices. 

The other scholarly writing program introduced this year was to incorporate the law library in seminar course instruction. Each semester, I identify the faculty members who are teaching seminar courses, and I email an overview of the instruction materials to remind them of the program. 

The seminar course instruction consists of
  • Developing a thesis
  • The parts of the paper
  • Researching the particular subject
  • Attribution and plagiarism (The Bluebook)
Additionally, for each course, we create a research guide that provides this information and points to helpful sources for the individual course topic. 

After a successful seminar session this morning, a 3L said, "I didn't even know we had a law library. It's too bad I didn't know about it sooner." Part of the point of these sessions is to perform outreach and show the value of the law library. We are also making great strides in the quality of our programming to 1Ls and our voluntary Excellence in Legal Research program to reach the students earlier. 

With new associates spending upwards of 30% of their time doing legal research, it's imperative that we show the students early and often that the law library has a true value to their legal education.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Happy Fair Use Week!



Happy Fair Use Week 2017!

Fair Use Week is an annual celebration of the important doctrines of fair use and fair dealing. The week is designed to highlight and promote opportunities presented by fair use and fair dealing, to celebrate successful stories, and to explain these doctrines.

For law libraries, AALL has created a wonderful resource called Guidelines on the Use of Copyrighted Works by Law Libraries. This guide discusses, among other things:

The area of copyright law is constantly in flux as we learn more about what fair use means through case precedent, particularly for libraries and archives. 

We've seen the ongoing Google Books litigation, with post on the progression of the case here (District Court), here (Court of Appeals), and here (SCOTUS). 

The Georgia State case that involves library course reserves. 

And HathiTrust litigation, which ultimately decided that providing a full text search database and providing access to works for people with print disabilities is considered fair use. 

During this Fair Use Week, take time to explain and promote fair use and fair dealing as essential limitations and exceptions to copyright - particularly for librarians and educators. These limitations and exceptions allow for the advancement of knowledge and ideas and help promote creativity and learning. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Designing a Law Library Learning Space

Barbara Fister over at InsideHigherEd recently discussed practices for designing learning spaces in libraries. Her post was informed by a new report published by Project Information Literacy called Planning and Designing Academic Library Learning Spaces.

The report involved interviewing 49 librarians, architects, and consultants involved in 22 library construction projects that were completed between 2011 and 2016. The research probes how these three parties negotiate their values and incorporate them into designs, what kinds of learning are these new and renovated spaces meant to support, and what best practices (and worst practices) might inform libraries embarking on a renovation. 

Fister noted a surprising finding that [s]tudents weren’t part of the discussion, or at least not in any depth, in a majority of these projects. Apart from gate counts and a focus group or survey here and there, studying student needs or asking their opinion wasn’t part of the planning process (though some libraries gave students a chance to try out furniture before it was purchased). Librarians were more likely to get ideas from other librarians through touring other libraries or going to conferences than from their own user community.

Ultimately, the major recommendations from the report are as follows:
  • We must do better to study students use of space before and after renovations. 
  • Librarians must be part of campus-wide conversations long before a renovation is approved, not simply told after decisions are made. 
  • Flexible spaces should be designed with the unique needs of the local community in mind, including both students and faculty- needs of today and those we can anticipate for the next few decades.
Like many of the libraries involved in the study, it seems that most law library planning decisions are based on some qualitative data - like gate counts and check-out stats. But these decisions are also often based on library trends across the country without truly taking into account the individual needs of the local community.

For example, if you are a law library at a regional law school that prides itself on practical education and has a low publishing requirement for tenure, should you spend large sums of money on specialized monographs that few will actually use?

Of course, we all want a wonderful archive of material, but should this particular law library at this particular law school be concerned with collecting vast amounts of esoteric print content?

Or should this law library be more concerned with creating spaces that facilitate and support practical education, like clinic space, while also creating stronger institutional lending partnerships with libraries that can act as a major archive?

On the flipside, if you are a law library that can and should act as a major archive, do you have a responsibility to share your resources (think HathiTrust)?

It's difficult to fully assess these things while working with limited information. Many law libraries do not have the ability to support meaningful research that provides the information necessary to make truly informed decisions at the local level. Certainly talking with students and faculty before renovations and ensuring that librarians are involved in the planning process are important components. So is understanding your local community in the broader scheme of library trends.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Law Schools "Obsessed With Smartness"

The Chronicle of Higher Education ran an article this week on colleges being "obsessed with smartness." The "pecking order" of higher education — and the ratings that we use to establish the quality of our colleges and universities — has come to depend almost entirely on acquiring smart students.... Colleges receive their place in the latest magazine rankings, in large part, based on their selectivity in admissions, and upon factors like retention and degree-completion rates. Guarding those rates leads us to select the best possible students — because, of course, they are the ones most easily retained and most likely to graduate.


The real purpose of a college education, by contrast, should be to develop smart students. Their development depends not on the quality of the entering class but on the quality of our teaching and the ability of our institutions to cultivate intellectual and affective skills. If our campuses were driven primarily by a desire to develop student talents, the quality of the incoming class would matter far less than it does now. Our concern would shift away from acquisition and toward development.

Like undergraduate institutions, law schools are doing the same thing. But law schools are squeezed at both ends. US News ranks law schools, in part, by incoming student credentials AND on bar passage rates after graduation. Thus law schools place a huge importance on incoming credentials - particularly a prospective student's LSAT score - to help determine the likelihood of bar passage. There is some correlation between LSAT and bar passage (not perfect but some).

As I've written before on this issue:
We already have issues with diversity in the legal field, and this sort of gatekeeping will continue to exacerbate the problem. This isn't because minorities or poor nonminority students are inherently stupid. It's because the current state of legal education and higher education, in general, advances students who have been supported [financially and other] and encouraged throughout their education with better schools and test prep, etc.... Instead of gatekeeping before law school, we should consider innovative ways of teaching during law school that will ensure success in the legal field on a broader scale. Of course there are other issues with the cost of legal education and making sure that students who take on the huge debt load for a JD degree can successfully take a bar exam, but that isn't done with LSAT score alone.

We have predictive analytics for nearly everything now - think Moneyball or Nate Silver - why haven't we adopted a more well-rounded approach to law school admissions? A well-rounded approach that also includes a human element. For any law school relying on LSAT as a sole (or nearly sole) predictor of success, it is adding to the economically biased admissions culture and making a professional degree all but unattainable for a large number of people.