July 24, 2010
Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be iPhone App Developers
Tomi Ahonen has produced an analysis on iPhone economics. The conclusion -- the vast majority of apps will lose money, only a very small number generate significant revenue. See Ahonen's very interesting Full Analysis of iPhone Economics - it is bad news. And then it gets worse. Hat tip to Andrew Odewahn's O'Reilly Radar blog post, iPhone economics and lower barriers to entry.
Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don't let 'em pick guitars and drive them old trucks [and create them iPhone apps]
Make 'em be doctors and lawyers and such
July 23, 2010
Maryland Environmental Case at Heart of Clinical Funding Legislation Goes Forward
I wrote earlier this year about an attempt by members of the Maryland legislature to tie funding at the University of Maryland to disclosures about clients and expenditures of the Environmental Law Clinic at UM's law school. The bill that ultimately passed requires the school to list clinic cases with descriptions and a list of non-privileged expenditures for a two year period. No funding cuts were included in the final legislation.
Much of this legislative outrage over the clinic's activities was triggered by a lawsuit filed on March 2nd by the clinic on behalf of an environmental group against Purdue Farms and others for pollution discharge into Chesapeake Bay. According to news reports, the case survived a motion to dismiss. Take that, legislative branch. Would the Maryland legislature have reacted if the case were brought by private attorneys acting on a pro bono basis? Somehow, I can't imagine a tourism campaign based on something like "come to Maryland where we tolerate water pollution if it comes from a major business in the state." Even New Jersey knows better. The ultimate issues in the case have yet to be decided, so keep that tourism slogan on hold. [MG]
Answering Sarah's Question--What is my goal with all these Blog posts?
In a comment to my blog post yesterday Sarah Glassmeyer wrote "Speaking of wondering, I have been wondering what your end goal is in writing your series of posts about AALL." She went on to say "But all of this information has been public for years. Why the surprise at it?"
It is true that much of what I am writing about is public information (e.g. where SIS dues go, the invitees to the Leadership Academy and Management Institute). But just because something is public information it does not necessarily follow that it is widely known. Many librarians expressed surprise at the fact that SIS fees go 50% to the SIS and 50% to AALL. So, what I am doing is publicizing this information to spread awareness among the librarian community. I want to start a dialog among librarians about the way their professional organization is operating. I personally think some changes are needed in order for us to thrive in the coming years. But that's my opinion and I am only one librarian. To accomplish change you need many librarians. And, of course, that means many different opinions as to what type of change and indeed if there should be any change in the first place.
Sarah also asked me if I wanted to have a private law librarian organization separate and apart from AALL. I understand why she would ask that since I am a private law librarian and most of what I have written about is from that viewpoint. But my answer to Sarah is an emphatic "no!" I think we need more collaboration between academic and firm librarians, not less. I think there are so many different opportunities for us to work together and make our profession stronger and better regarded. We have started a group in New York that aims to do just that and I hope to write more about that soon.
So my goal is very simple: start a dialog, contribute my ideas, and hope that some good comes from it.
Friday Fun: Jenny Westlaw Cruises AALL Denver
Interviewing AALL President Catherine Lemann and others...
Linking eBooks to eCourse Management Systems: Which Very Expensive Legal Vendor is Going to Win the Market After the Hooding Ceremony?
Legal publishers take note. The Chronicle's Wired Campus columnist Jeff Young reports "It has been hard to get most professors excited about e-textbooks, but publishers continue to try new ways to sell them on the format. The latest strategy seems to make the e-textbooks even easier for professors to use, by integrating them more tightly into the course-management systems they are already familiar with." The story, Latest Attempt to Hawk E-Textbooks: Make Them Easier for Professors to Use, goes on to report that "Blackboard announced deals with a major textbook publisher— McGraw Hill—and two college bookstore chains—Barnes & Noble College Booksellers and Follett Higher Education Group—to sell textbooks through the tech company's course-management system and to tie online assignments from the e-texts directly into existing online gradebooks."
In the legal academy, TR Legal has literally kicked Lexis' butt. By way of TWEN, students are exposed to West's online products even before they are allowed to use Westlaw in their first year legal research and writing classes. Law students come from an undergrad eCourse management system that is in most cases is Blackboard-driven but Lexis' hacked version of Blackboard simply doesn't cut it with law profs. TWEN, score one for TR Legal.
At the moment, my understanding is WestlawNext isn't TWEN-friendly. I could be wrong but if not, I expect TR Legal is smart enough to know that student indoctrination in WLN will come by way of TWEN or TWENnext unless, perhaps, Lexis finds a way to develop and link eLegal textbooks to their eCourse management system. Students want expect eBooks because carrying pounds of print plus laptops is so 20th Century; law profs, even those still using WordPerfect, are coming around to accept the notion. Adoption rates for casebooks and the like that integrate eTexts into eCourse management is "in play."
While this all may sound, well, "academic," it is not. Law student exposure to a vendor's electronic offerings leads to practitioner reliance on that vendor's online products. See Playing No-Limit Texas Hold 'em with TR Legal and Lexis for Licensing Online Legal Resources. [JH]
1-800-FIX-THIS: Thorn v. Blanchard in Westlaw, Corrected Now?
The Volokh Conspiracy is one of the most widely read law prof blogs in the US and the "prime mover' of this blog is UCLA law prof Eugene Volokh. Recently he noticed that the Westlaw version of Thorn v. Blanchard, 5 Johns. 508 (N.Y. 1809), had an error
Westlaw lists the opinion as coming from the Supreme Court of New York, which isn’t now and wasn’t then the highest court of the state. The opinion actually comes from the Court for the Correction of Errors, also known as the Court of Errors, which was indeed New York’s highest court; that court decision was reviewing a lower court judgment from the Supreme Court of New York. And the difference is significant, as differences between a decision of a jurisdiction’s highest court and a lower court tend to be.
But when Volokh contacted West, he was informed that the Company would not correct the error.
That strikes me as a bad policy. I realize that Westlaw likely makes very little money from its old cases, and that experienced Westlaw users know some errors are inevitable. But Westlaw is still in the business of providing reliable information to its users. When it learns that there’s a demonstrable error in its database, it should correct it, rather than knowingly continuing to provide incorrect information. The organization’s unwillingness to make the correction — especially when the correction is likely to be cheap and easy, if a user is willing to send them the necessary supporting evidence — suggests that it doesn’t have much of a commitment to accuracy and product quality.
I’ll still keep submitting corrections for more recent cases, since my goal there is to help my fellow legal researchers, not to help Westlaw as such. But this experience definitely downgrades my opinion of Westlaw.
Note the comment trail to Volokh's July 20, 2010 post, Westlaw Refuses to Correct Errors in Old Cases that includes some who had to insist by repeated communications to the Company to make Westlaw accurate. Law librarians have had similar experiences. Perhaps TR Legal needs a 1-800-FIX-THIS hotline.
Corrected Now? When I checked at noon, yesterday, "yes"! See image below, left. It would be interesting to know when it was actually fixed. Was it after the hue and cry in the comment trail to Volokh's post was spotted by TR Legal?
Auditing WEXIS Database Content for Accuracy. Content providers to Lexis once had, perhaps still do have, special access to the vendor's database files that displayed upload dates. It might be advisable if both of our very expensive legal search vendors published an audit trail in each file display that identifies upload date and correction date information. Did Lexis have the information right all the time? Don't know. See image below right.
The sad truth is that neither TR Legal nor LexisNexis provide evidence to their user population that they regularly audit the accurancy of the resources they publish online. In this instance, it took the publicity generated by one very prominent law prof blogging about the matter to get a correction made. One has to wonder how many other submitted corrections are simply ignored. [JH]
July 22, 2010
Some Thoughts on Reputation and the Web
Jeffrey Rosen posted a though provoking piece on NDTV.com called "The Web Means the End of Forgetting." It caught my eye initially because it talked about Reputation Defender, a company that's been running radio advertisements about reforming web reputations. Given how the web operates, I wondered how they would work to meet their claims. Their techniques are to request web sites to take down negative information about their clients along with manipulating search results in Google and others by seeding the web with positive information and creating multiple links to that information. This can raise the positive stuff to higher levels in a search result. Reputation Defender probably earns its money for the efforts they have to make to minimize the bad stuff.
That bit of news is only a very small part of a very long essay on how the web never forgets, much to the detriment of everyone. It's not merely an issue of Facebook privacy controls (or lack thereof). The web records everything, from gratuitous pictures by strangers to the bits and pieces people share on their own. As to the former, there is face recognition technology that can identify strangers in a picture and tag their names to it. This is because there are samples out there that already identify these individuals, so computers making a match from a large database of publicly available material is hardly a challenge.
Rosen's main points are that an unforgetting web means we'll all have to live with our documented indiscretions, some of which may affect our life options at a later point in life. Things like educational or employment opportunities are documented in his essay. These are things that may ultimately force a change in general attitudes about an individual's lifestyle choices as public and private personas start to merge. The glass house and stones metaphor comes to mind, though with the Internet we'll all be living in a glass house soon enough.
The later part of the essay advocates for expiration dates on information, good and bad. Even credit agencies are required to remove information from a credit profile after seven years. Rosen suggests that there may be a way to add technological limits to the web that does something similar. Otherwise, the concept of forgiveness, especially of very old indiscretions, will always haunt an individual.
The essay is very long and well worth reading for anyone who is concerned with reputation, the long tail social aspects of reputation and the ability of technology to shape our knowledge, and ultimately, our opinions of each other. Read it here.
A small update: If worrying about privacy and reputation aren't enough, this story in The Atlantic details how theives can use geolocation information embedded in photographs to track individuals and their habits to plan the optimal times for robbery and other bad stuff. I call it the unintended consequences of a technological nice idea. The story is "How Tech-Savvy Theives Could Cybercase Your House." [MG]
Of Leadership and Management Institutes
The topic for this post was suggested by a librarian who I chatted with at the AALL Conference. She suggested I look into selections for these institutes. I spent a considerable amount of time researching this and agreed there was something to write about.
In 2008 and 2009 AALL sponsored a Leadership Academy and in 2009 they also sponsored a Management Institute. Both required applications and a selection process. The Leadership Academy was publicized as being for "Law Librarians in the early stages of their careers..." and the Management Institute was publicized as allowing "...new & aspiring managers from all types of law libraries" to "develop the skills to manage with confidence today." Both the 2009 Management Institute and the Leadership Academy required registration fees of $250 with participants also having to pay their own transportation and housing expenses.
Now I have no data on how many applications were received and from what types of libraries. But I do have data on who was selected to attend and yes, once again PLL members were given short shrift. For the 2009 Management Institute the selections were: 21 academic law librarians, 5 state, county and court librarians, 2 law firm librarians, and one other category librarian. Also one librarian who I could not find in the AALL database. That's right. Two law firm librarians. The biggest SIS had 2 out of 30.
On to the 2009 Leadership Academy data. Of the 34 selected: 22 were academic law librarians, 8 were law firm librarians and 4 were state, county and court law librarians. Slightly better statistics but still disproportionate. And the 2008 Leadership Academy? Of the 35 selected: 26 were academic law librarians, 8 were law firm librarians and 1 was a state, county and court librarian. Appalling!
Now as I said I only know who was selected and not who applied. It is possible a smaller number of law firm librarians applied. After all, in 2009 many law firms were not encouraging travel to conferences and the steep cost of this probably discouraged many. The $250 registration fee plus airfare (got to figure at least $300 plus hotel of at least two nights (got to figure at least $400) plus incidental transportation and other expenses (conservatively $150) adds up to $1100. I don't see many law firms agreeing to pay those costs.
And those "new" librarians selected? Well, I don't want to embarrass anyone by naming names but there are present and past candidates for office on the AALL Executive Board who were selected as attendees at these conferences and none of them are what I would classify as being "new" to the profession, or management. And others who, while not candidates for the AALL Executive Board, are certainly not new to the profession or management. For instance, one candidate selected for the Leadership Academy had been a director of a law library for 12 years.
So, why should we care? Because private law librarians are given precious little opportunity for professional development and I don't see AALL reaching out to us to make sure we get sufficient opportunities. In order to get quality programming at this year's conference PLL sponsored its own pre-conference summit and will be doing this again next year. And because the 2010 Leadership Academy lost over $32,000 (which would have paid for the PLL Summit instead of members having to pay a $195 registration fee).
Now this year there were no Academies or Institutes and I understand that the Leadership Academy is now to be rolled into the Management Institute with the registration fee being increased to $525. That will certainly inspire a lot of private law librarians to apply.
I think these programs do benefit the individuals attending and law librarianship as a whole. And I have absolutely no objection to AALL funds being spent on professional development for law librarians, as long as it is spent in a fair and even handed manner. I call upon AALL to rethink and revamp. Why not have this before or after AALL so no additional airfare is required? Why not offer grants for deserving individuals who would not be able to attend otherwise? Allow the individual SISs (Academic, Private and State, County and Court) to choose who attends and allow them the number of slots in line with size so that fair representation is achieved. Individual SISs and chapters could also offer grants to those selected. Let's not waste a great opportunity.
In Case You Were Wondering
Some librarians asked me why I didn't do more than ask a few questions at the AALL Members Forum. The answer is that its not really an opportunity for an open discussion. You get two minutes to speak and no guarantee of any response from the AALL Executive Board. They already know my opinions on the Vendor Liaison and CRIV and the programming at AALL. I just couldn't see that making a two minute statement would add anything. It would be nice to have a forum that really is an opportunity for discussion with give and take. But honestly (and I am sure this will draw some boos) that the Members Forum ended with a sing along to Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In (modified to be about librarians) leads me to believe the Members Forum isn't taken seriously.
July 21, 2010
Short Takes On the News
- It can apparently be a crime to videotape police in action, in public, in some jurisdictions. Your crime may be wiretapping, or at least that's the excuse to suppress the activity. So far as I know, there is no crime called angering a policeman. ABC News has the story.
- The University of Texas will be presenting arguments in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals next month defending its use of race in its admissions policy at the undergraduate level. The case appears to be a test case designed to revisit Grutter v. Bollinger, which allowed the narrow use of race in admissions. The Texas legislature passed a law guaranteeing admission to those in the top 10% of their high school class. The result was a more diverse university class. The two plaintiffs were just below the 10 % threshold. The University was allowed (under current law) to use race as a factor in that circumstance. The plaintiffs claim that this amounted to discrimination against them. The University won at the trial level. See Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, 645 F.Supp.2d 587. The Texas Tribune has more details about the suit and the appeal, with links to court documents.
- Indiana is facing suit by a former convict to overturn the "graduation from a law school requirement" before being able to take the bar. Clarence K. Carter was a good enough jail house lawyer to impress one judge in his own proceedings. The suit is a long shot. More in the Indianapolis Star.
- The Wall Street Journal weighs in with another dismal report that summer hiring is down significantly at law firms. Sometimes I think articles such as these are just piling on at this point. As Reagan would say, there you go again.
Today's Legal Publishing Vendor Reps May Want to Learn from the Best in the Business: Some Advice from Hein's Dick Spinelli (And a Program Suggestion for Philadelphia 2011)
One of the last scenes I witnessed in Denver before catching a cab to the airport was Hein's Dick Spinelli and Steve Roses sitting in a hotel bar enjoying a beverage (won't say what kind), both sans business suits, but working on scheduling trips. In all my years of knowing Dick I don't recall ever seeing him in a pair of shorts and a polo shirt. One reason probably being that 40 years of chain smoking does not make me jump at the opportunity to join the annual Hein Fun Run (canceled this year, I think, because of the altitude). But I'm only a few years away from responding to the Scooter Store ads, so someday he and I might be competing in the bony knees and chicken legs division of the annual Hein Fun Run.
I didn't want to intrude on Dick and Steve's meeting so I didn't take a photo but you will find a similar one at A Life in Law Books: Dick Spinelli [Download the article] (Spring 2010 issue of A Legal Miscellanea produced by the Jacob Burns Law Library, George Washington University Law School). The article is a thoughtful interview with Dick. Whoever conducted it (no attribution, was it Jennie C. Meade, Director of Special Collections, and editor of A Legal Miscellanea?) asked all the right questions. Dick's responses to several unintentionally provide excellent advice on how to conduct business for all vendor reps.
Today's Reps May Should Want to Learn What It Takes to be a Professional Vendor Rep. With the rapid turnover of vendor reps, particularly for larger legal publishers, these days, it's not uncommon for institutional buyers to find themselves in meetings where they know more about the vendor's product line than the vendor rep does, much more about the competition's products, and one hellva lot more about their own institutional information resources and needs than the bright young thing that just handed them their business card. These reps might want to learn what it takes to be a professional legal publishing representative and they can if they study Dick's responses to the following questions in the interview.
Could you describe for us the range of activities performed by a “traditional” law book seller during a typical annual day visit to a large law library?
Those of us who know your work see only its public aspect. What makes up the remaining “behind the scenes” portion of your work?
In today’s book/online database-buying climate where the range of sources and media you offer is more complex than in the days of print-only, how have your methods of serving your law libraries changed, if at all? Has the relationship of law book seller to law library/law librarian changed since the 1960s?
Traditional law book sellers knew their books: the subjects in them, how they were organized, their physical characteristics, cost. They also knew their libraries and the needs of their customers. Has this knowledge-based “advisory” approach faded with the panoply of materials available combined with the relative transience today of publishers’ representatives, and if so, what has replaced it and why?
A snip from Dick's answer to the last listed interview question summarizes what it takes:
I believe that regardless of whether the product is print or electronic, the publisher’s representative must be as knowledgeable as possible, or the buyer, researcher, and publisher all will suffer. The rapid growth of online resources has made it difficult to maintain familiarity with all available databases, but more than minimal knowledge of content is necessary, plus the recognition of the value of that content to a particular library. An understanding of how the product works from the researcher’s perspective is important and can be a valuable selling point. ... A representative must understand a library’s philosophy of collecting and its target subjects.
So young and not so young vendor reps, learn something from the best in the business [Download the article] and maybe someday someone will write something similar about you:
Dick has been a trusted advisor and flexible working partner transacting the business of selling law books (including of course all the evolutionary formats: microform and electronic databases). Dick always has maintained good humor, understanding, and integrity.
A Master Class for Vendor Reps at Philadelphia 2011? The article mentions that the first AALL annual meeting Dick attended was the 1968 meeting in Philadelphia. I doubt the 2011 meeting in Philadelphia will be the last he attends. But let's celebrate the occasion -- perhaps AALL will allow CRIV-Lite to put on a session for vendor rep training moderated by Dick next year. Just Dick and other vendor reps wanting to learn how to conduct business because if the meeting was open to all interested law librarians, including CRIV members, that might be too scary a prospect for our association's leaders. At least such a session would be a step in the right direction for improving the library-vendor relationship.
Sorry Dick, just following up on the Dick Spinnelli for AALL Vendor Liaison! theme. [JH]
Is the Cost of Staying Competitive in Online Legal Search Worth a "Premium" Paid by Users of WestlawNext and Soon to be Users of Lexis Advance?
Yes, "New Lexis" has an official name now. It's "Lexis Advance" (Hat tip to 3 Geeks' Greg Lambert). Should we pay a premium for them? Alan Cohen's American Lawyer article accompanying and promoting the release of AmLaw's Law Librarian Survey 2010, Law Librarian Survey 2010: More Bang, Less Bucks writes, "One chief [law firm librarian] resents having to pay for WestlawNext at all: 'It should be their cost for staying competitive.'"
That's an interesting proposition but I'm inclined to think that if very expensive legal search vendors couldn't recoup their investment costs over the long-term, there is little economic incentive to improve their services, at least not until new competitors find a way to break through the duopolistic wall. Call me a capitalist sock puppet! Applying a 20th Century pricing scheme to a 21st Century service in the case of WLN is an entirely different issue; pity the poor Cobalt developers who might very well be some of the best in the business, who might very well be pounding their heads against the proverbial corporate wall because of what the TR Legal bean-counters and in-house and outside marketing mavens have done to their baby. Do note, however, that any return on investment should be viewed from a long-term perspective, should be reasonable and incremental from that perspective, and should be for a service that is really "ready for prime time."
One would hope that our very expensive legal search vendors would spend as much time and expense on providing law librarians with detailed information about their new roll-outs -- without leaving that to a sales force consisting of some vendor reps who aren't nearly as well informed as, oh, I don't know, a professional like Dick Spinelli. (see LLB's Today's Legal Publishing Vendor Reps May Want to Learn from the Best in the Business) -- as they do in churning out marketing pablum like Johnny and Jenny Westlaw. See Meg Kribble's Lessons from AALL2010: Keep It Real, Vendors.
Hopefully Lexis has learned from the fiasco that was TR Legal's WLN launch, marketing tactics and pricing schemes; the ball will soon be in their court for Lexis Advance. We'll have to wait and see if Lexis has learned not to blindly charge ahead -- advance Lexis! --- like entrenched WWI soldiers about to face the machine gun barrage that is the legal information professional blogosphere. [JH]
July 20, 2010
New Paywall at the Times of London Shows Steep Decline in Online Viewers
Rupert Murdoch instituted a paywall at the Times Online (London) web site on June 15th. He has also blocked search engines from listing stories from the Times. Anyone connecting to the site is referred to a sign-up page requiring a £1 subscription payment to proceed. Most analysts expected a drop in casual viewers, and the numbers don't disappoint the disappointers. GigaOm claims a drop in online readership by about 65%. The Guardian claims numbers of 90%, a bit more brutal. GigaOm suggests that the Times is comfortable with the drop as it is likely meant to shore up the print side of the business by making it easier fo readers to get the news that way. I remember back in the day when a database called Westlaw started competing with Lexis. West put up case summaries and headnotes, expecting subscribers to look up the case in the National Reporter System printed volumes. Things have changed a bit on Westlaw since then. The database is not ad supported, but the idea of limiting online access to preserve reliance on print has not gone away.
The Guardian (still free and a great paper) is reporting that the Times had 15% of UK online newspaper traffic in February of this year. That number is estimated to have fallen to 1.06% of traffic. There are other comparative figures in the story. But as GigaOm points out, the strategy of protecting the print sales is containment, and not very forward looking. The strategy also assumes that Murdoch will settle for making money from committed Times readers and not worry about the "freeloaders." The problem with this mentality is that sooner or later, people will discover free alternatives to the same news and get more up to date versions of stories than in the morning paper. Contrast the Wall Street Journal, running behind a partial paywall and is apparently profitable from combined operations. The Journal, however, focuses on financial information and is a market news darling. The Times is a venerable British institution, but is it that unique as a news outlet? The managers are hoping that with its cachet it is. Let the market work its magic. I'm sure Rupert Murdoch wouldn't have it any other way. [MG]
E-books Outsell P-books on AmazonA July 19th New York Times technology article, "E-books Top Hard Covers at Amazon," reports that Amazon is selling 180 e-books for every 100 hardcover (assume hardcover = print?) book sold. The opposite is true for my institution's monograph collection. About 15 to 20% of the monographs I select for my institutions's collection are purchased in e-book format. Where do other academic law libraries stand on e-book acquisitions? [BA]
It's Not Friday, but - heck, it is summertime!
So I just couldn't wait for Friday Fun to roll around - besides, I'm trying to take Fridays off this summer in lieu of a real vacation. This pre-Friday post is about library marketing. Hopefully, you all got a kick out of U of Washington's library goes gaga video
Now, Brigham Young University "Old Spices" their marketing video. Hilarious! And, more importantly, very effective! (VS)
Doesn't AALL charge membership dues or do you know where your SIS dues go?
To join a Special Interest Section (SIS) of AALL you pay a fee in addition to your rather hefty membership dues. That fee was $15. At the recent AALL Business meeting it was announced that the fee was now going up to $20. Thats a 33.33% increase. In this economy? Wih law librarians still losing their jobs? Really?
To add insult to injury, where do you think your SIS dues go? Directly to the SIS? Well, not all. The SIS only gets 50%. Yes, you read that right. Of the $15 dues we have been paying only $7.50 of that goes directly to the SIS. The rest goes to AALL. Don't they already charge us membership dues of $222 annually?
Well, you can call me naive but I never knew this. I thought my SIS fees were going directly to PLL so they could provide me with quality programming and provide grants and scholarships. No wonder the PLL Summit had to charge a registration fee of $195 per person. Look at the math. The PLL SIS has 1445 members. At $7.50 a head (half of $15) that means $10,837.50. That's not a lot of money compared to the dues AALL takes in. A pittance for sure.
Now I can just hear the response from AALL. I am sure they are going to tell you they use the money to support the Special Interest Sections. Why is AALL controlling half of the SIS fees? Why not give it to the SIS to let them do what they deem necessary in the best interests of their constituency. If AALL thinks they know whats best for the Special Interest Sections, why have them? Why? Because they fill a need that AALL does not and because the different constituencies often have very different needs and its members know best what they need.
So we get a pittance. Really? Shame on you AALL, give the Special Interest Sections the money paid in for fees to them in full and directly.
July 19, 2010
Wisconsin Rules Teacher Emails on Government Systems are Not Subject to Disclosure
The Wisconsin Supreme Court released the opinion in the case of Schill v. Wisconsin Rapids School District. I wrote about the case last September. It raised the issue of whether personal emails sent by Wisconsin teachers over the school district's email system were available as government records via FOIA requests. The ruling potentially could expose personal information for any government employee if that information was transmitted or stored on a government system.
In this case, the school district's policy was clear that employees could use their state email accounts for occasional personal business. There was also a disclaimer that there should be no expectation of privacy in the email content. Proponents of disclosing the personal emails wanted those records declared public as a matter of law. The Court declined to do so. There were actually two questions before the Court. Are these government records, and if so, were they subject to a balancing test that favored disclosure over other public interests? Some Justices agreed that these were public records, but would balance against disclosure. The lead opinion by Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson declared that the emails were not public records and therefore not subject to the balancing test.
From the opinion:
¶9 For the reasons set forth, we too now conclude that while government business is to be kept open, the contents of employees' personal e-mails are not a part of government business. Personal e-mails are therefore not always records within the meaning of Wis. Stat. § 19.32(2) simply because they are sent and received on government e-mail and computer systems.
* * * *
¶23 In the instant case, the contents of the Teachers' personal e-mails have no connection to a government function and therefore are not records under Wis. Stat. § 19.32(2). The contents of personal e-mails could, however, be records under the Public Records Law under certain circumstances. For example, if the e-mails were used as evidence in a disciplinary investigation or to investigate the misuse of government resources, the personal e-mails would be records under the Wis. Stat. § 19.32(2). A connection would then exist between the contents of the e-mails and a government function, namely the
The Court examined the statutory language, legislative history and other policy statements, acknowledging that all of this combined weighed towards the widest possible disclosure of government information. The Justices concluded that the same language required a governmental connection to the content. The Court also noted administrative interpretations, such as attorney general opinions and letters that were consistent with its own conclusion.
Two Justices argue in dissent that the emails are public records and suggest that the balancing test would favor disclosure. They agree with the requester that it facilitates awareness of government activities by teachers by disclosure. The requester admitted in his own pro se brief that he was on a fishing expedition to see if there was discussion of teacher support or opposition to specific school board candidates. Moreover, disclosure would help determine whether or not teachers were using the email system in a way that detracts from the time they were supposed to spend on official duties.
I think the Court's decision was the correct one. It is consistent with other states that have ruled on similar issues. It should also put public employees on notice that these kinds of cases will come up. Although Wisconsin ruled that the emails are not public, there will be further attempts to interpret whether emails are personal or have some connection with public business. One way to avoid this is to get a Hotmail or Gmail account. Their free and accessible from any Internet connected computer. The led opinion noted that the issue of accessing a personal email account from a public computer was not before the Court. That's an issue which still can be argued, though given this decision, it's likely that would not transform personal email into something subject to disclosure. My own opinion is that teachers can have private opinions about elections and candidates. Those should not be subject to disclosure.
Please AALL, Don't Stop Paying Members for Their Expertise!
So much has been written and spoken about the vendor liaison position on CRIV and payments to a member for services connected with this position. I support transparency in AALL and think HQ should come clean and put all rumors to rest - or come clean and accept responsibility. However, I want to bring attention to the payment issue. I support AALL paying its members for their expertise. In fact, I think that policy should be spread around a little bit more.
There is a lot of talent in AALL and HQ should be taking advantage of it. If they are willing to pay for it, all the better! For example, last year Tom Boone created a scheduler for the 2009 annual meeting - for free! It was such a good idea that AALL contracted someone else to do the same thing and paid them. I wish they would have paid Member Boone instead of a third party. Not sure why they did that... Makes no sense and I am still upset about it. Incidentally, CS SIS has made many overtures to AALL to help improve technology in our association and has never been successful in offering help (at no charge). But that is a different issue...
Payment can come in different forms. For example, at most conferences I attend, if you are a speaker for the conference, your registration fees are waived. And, the speakers are forced to "buy back" the educational material that they produced for the conference.
I do not object to the payment for a vendor liaison if it served a legitimate purpose and was a lot of work. Since we cannot see the "report" about why the position was created, I'm not sure what qualifications were needed. I would have preferred to see that position filled by one of our out-of-work colleagues if at all possible.
What I would love to see is some money spread around to help those looking for work right now. Wouldn't it be great to have some free educational webinars to improve skill sets or learn new skills? This is not exactly a new idea. The Special Libraries Association offers its members Click U, at http://www.sla.org/content/learn/members/webinars/index.cfm
SLA also offers certificate programs in topics like Copyright Management and Competitive Intelligence, at http://www.sla.org/content/learn/certificates/index.cfm
It also seems that SLA is also willing to pay outside experts to assist their members. In their career center, you have access to "virtual advisors" staffed by certified career coaches, links to articles and industry reports, and the ability to perform ILL requests for items not available electronically. That just scratches the surface.
The lesson here is that it is OK to pay people for their expertise when it pays off in some tangible benefit for association members. The CRIV liaison position did not have time to develop, but it would go a long way if the membership could be assured of some tangible benefit to them that would result from the position. And, it would take away some of the negative feelings that the former CRIV liaison is undoubtedly feeling if AALL would help out here.
What I do not want to see happen is AALL stepping away from the idea that it should not pay us for work we do that benefits the association. Please AALL, don't stop paying your members for their expertise, just be smarter about it. (VS)
PS: Here is the link to join SLA: http://www.sla.org/content/membership/joinsla/index.cfm
A "Continental Congress" for All AALL Members Attending "Philadelphia 2011: Transparency and Accountability in the 21st Century"?
In case you missed the annual board meeting in Denver, apparently no one could come up with a catchy theme for next year's annual meeting in Philadelphia so there won't be one (!). Was "let Facts be submitted to a candid world" rejected?
As for the open forum session that followed, well, even one knowledgeable WEXIS manager did a little figuratively speaking head scratching over our leaders failure to respond to a couple of questions asked by members. Ah, but that is one of the rules of conduct for the members' open forum session -- you can ask but they don't have to answer. Been there, done that, don't even try anymore.
In response to a reiterated request made public at the open forum, what can possibly be considered "confidential" in the consultant's report that led to the creation and appointment of an AALL Vendor Liaison? I guess we will have to wait to see if the complete or a redacted version of the report is released. The clock is ticking. By the way, did we pay for this report? Was it another one of those "volunteer" assignments with an "honorarium." Some folks are interested in knowing if some (all?) of the $6,014 in the Vendor Liaison line item that was reported as spent in the 2008/2009 budget went to a working law librarian as a retainer and, if so, why the opportunity to grab some AALL $$ was not widely broadcasted to the entire membership.
Philadelphia 2011: Transparency and Accountability in the 21st Century. Now that sounds like a good enough unofficial theme for what I guess we're just going to have to refer to as "Philadelphia 2011". At least "Transparency and Accountability" has a modern ring for going to the city that hosted both the First and Second Continental Congress.
We might not get to the Second Continental Congress' most famous result, The Declaration of Independence, next year. But we can at least aim for an outcome similar to the First Continental Congress, namely, a better and broader understanding of the problems and aspirations of law librarians and the institutional members they represent in the conduct of our association's business even if that means frequent, even heated, disagreements in open sessions as took place during the First Continental Congress.
Apparently one group that thinks this is one very bad idea are some current and former elected AALL officers. Hum... Then there is the rank-in-file of my generation. Many have simply given up on AALL ever changing. To them, I say, this is one screw-up we ought not leave for the Gen X-Yers to try to fix on their own because they haven't lived through the history like we have. To the Gen X-Yers, I would like to say use some of that energy now to help push AALL into the 21st Century. Ignore the institutionalized reasons, some might say excuses, for maintaining the status quo. Seize the moment or live with the consequences that more often than not AALL's institutional presence will continue to be an obstacle instead of an agent of change.
Overdue -- Reinventing AALL for the 21st Century. In addition to repeating the call that the so-called "Vendor Colloquium" should be an open meeting held at next year's annual meeting (which can be conducted without turning into a slug fest) so that all interested members can attend (read, opening the colloquium only to members who can afford a mid-year trip just isn't going to cut it, if anyone is thinking along those lines), it is time we start considering in "first continental congress" fashion restructuring AALL in open meetings.
At the very least we should be considering the reformation of AALL at the national level in terms of membership and the Executive Board along institutional lines (e.g., Private Law Firms & Corporate Law Libraries, Academic Law Libraries (public and private) and Public Sector Law Libraries) . We as a national association of law libraries have evolved to a point where our different institutional interests, issues and concerns are not well represented under the current AALL structure. Similar proposals have been floating around since at least 2002. See, e.g., Richard Leiter's well-reasoned argument at Reorganize AALL's Membership Structures for More Effective Representation of Members, 6:5 Spectrum 4 (February 2002). It's long overdue that we bring this matter to the membership for offical discussion, analysis and, hopefully, reform. Perhaps Rich can enlist a team of forward-thinking academic, private sector and public law librarians willing to consider ways to reinvent our association to accomodate the realities of the 21st Century.
In the very early days of AALL, the push was to bring professional expertise to bear on all types of law libraries that were in most instances managed by someone unskilled in the ways and means of librarianship. Saying "I'm a law librarian" meant something then. But for a very long time now that expression of professional identity has required qualification to provide meaning ... I'm a law firm librarian ... I'm an academic law librarian ... I'm a public law librarian. Have been each at one time or another in my so-called career I can speak from first-hand experience that each of these expressions of professional identity have substantially different meanings. Library management structures, fiscal affairs, collection development, reference and research services, technical services, professional qualifications and continuing education requirements have achieved differing manifestations of professional specialization.
Let's give credit where credit is due. Without AALL the professionalization that now exists might not have been established in law libraries. We've won that battle at the generic institutional level but it is time to face the reality that as professionals employed by different institutions, our practices are fairly specialized. We are more law firm librarians, academic librarians or public law librarians than we are "law librarians." It is time for AALL to move on by serving as an umbrella association for the basic varieties of its institutional members.
By structuring AALL membership and the Executive Board alone institutional lines, I am not suggesting functional crossover interests should be neglected but it is important to remember that we belong to the American Association of Law Libraries, not law librarians. The hue and cry over abysmal programming at annual meetings, the push-off of some programming by requiring law libraries to run their own institutes before the annual meeting, and the ad hoc but organized evening meetings of law librarians in Denver is just some evidence that the current system is broken and supports the argument that AALL needs to be fixed structurally.
The criticism of how our association has been addressing (or avoiding) the library-vendor relationship is further evidence that unless we structurally reform AALL along institutional lines to represent the major types of law libraries, particularly at the Executive Board level (think elected VPs for private, academic and public sectors), there is little reason to hope that the degree of transparency and accountability needed in the governance of our association will ever be achieved. Merely tweaking the current state of affairs is not going to work.
We the People Membership. At issue here is creating a structure that requires institutional representation all the way up our association's decision-making system of governance to guarantee responsiveness to diverse institutional interests. One may say many who represent private, academic and public law libraries are looking to form a more perfect union. Some may view this sort of restructuring as disruptive change. "What, tear up AALL's By-laws!" More, however, may be inclined to view this as a sustaining innovation that offers the prospect of revitalizing AALL. "Yes, time to rethink AALL for the 21st Century!" My hunch is even our vendors would welcome reformation of AALL along these lines because it reflects how they segment the institutional buyer market. [JH]
July 18, 2010
Round-Up of Practitioner BlogsHouston Car Accident Lawyer Blog
Analyzes car accident reports, news and opinions in Texas. Published by the Baumgartner Law Firm.
Chicago Injury Lawyers Blog
Covers injury law cases, opinions and reports in Illinois. Published by the Cavanagh Law Group.
Florida Probate Litigation Lawyer Blog
Provides opinion on probate law legislation, news and matters in Florida. Published by Koch & Trushin.
Stockton Injury Lawyer Blog
Provides insight on injury law cases, news and reports in Stockton, CA. Published by the Law Office of Frederick J. Sette.
St. Louis Injury Attorney Blog
Discusses injury law news, cases and reports in Missouri. Published by Ponder Zimmermann LLC.
Miami Criminal Defense Attorney Blog
Provides insight on criminal defense reports, cases and opinions in Florida. Published by The Law Office of Marc L. Stein, PA.
San Francisco Injury Attorney Blog
Examines injury law opinions, matters and cases in California. Published by Callaway & Wolf.
Sonoma County Bankruptcy Lawyer Blog
Reports on bankruptcy law legislation, news and opinions in California. Published by Richard C. Koman.