August 7, 2010
Totally, Utterly Off Topic: Men in Black Red
See this "urgent" CCN Living story, Women prefer men in red, study shows. So this is why whenever I wear a pink dress shirt to work, one law library colleague always says "pretty in pink." Just for the record, because it is a guy thing, I only have one. [JH]
Nominations Call for the Carnegie Corporation of New York/New York Times I Love My Librarian Award!
Nominations for the third annual Carnegie Corporation of New York/New York Times I Love My Librarian Award! are being accepted through September 20, 2010 here. You can nominate librarians in the following categories:
- School Library
- Public Library
- College, Community College, University Library
From the announcement:
Up to ten winners will be selected this year and receive a $5,000 cash award, a plaque and $500 travel stipend to attend an awards reception in New York hosted by The New York Times. In addition, a plaque will be given to each award winner’s library.
The award is administered by the American Library Association with support from Carnegie Corporation of New York and The New York Times.
August 6, 2010
If we needed any more reasons to be paranoid about web privacy, consider these statements from Eric Schmidt at the Techonomy Conference last Wednesday. CNET reports him noting that artificial intelligence can take 14 pictures of anyone from the Internet and more often than not accurately identify that person, and that location based services can often accurately predict where a person is headed. He suggests the only way to manage the challenges of technology is through "much greater transparency and no anonymity." I think the NSA and the people who manage Facebook probably agree with him.
That statement is likely to annoy the people at Privacy International even more when they were annoyedthat the U.K. government gave Google a pass on the Wi-Fi data the company "accidentally" collected through their Street View trucks. Those trucks are now back on the street in Old Blighty, sans Wi-Fi antennas. [MG]
Friday Fun: Welcome to UncyclopediaIt's the content-free encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Hat tip to Mark Giangrande. [JH]
When Free Services and Technological Advances Challenge the Existing Market Structure for Commercial Legal Publishing: A Perspective from Canada
A very interesting post by Slaw's Gary Rodrigues on major commercial legal publishers facing the realities of the 21st Century legal publishing environment in Canada, Staying Relevant in Legal Publishing opens with the following:
The two leading Canadian legal publishers, Carswell Thomson and LexisNexis Butterworths, have something in common – both face a major challenge for continuing relevance in the Canadian market. Interestingly enough, the real challenge does not come from each other, but from free services and technological advances, and increasingly from small but nimble legal publishers committed to the delivery of high quality competitively priced products. How each of them responds to this challenge will determine their ultimate role as providers of legal information in the Canadian legal market.
Two teaser snips because you really should read the post in its entirely. What's happening in the very expensive legal publishing market in Canada may likely happen here in the hopefully not too distant future:
Both Thomson Reuters and Reed Elsevier could decide to keep their legal and regulatory publishing businesses but operate them in a lower gear, with limited investment and an emphasis on maintaining existing revenue and profit margins rather than pursuing unachievable targets for growth.
Alternatively, and perhaps more likely, Thomson Reuters and/or Reed Elsevier could decide to leave the legal and regulatory business altogether and sell their content to the truly innovative companies like Bloomberg or Google.
Compared to Canada, we are behind the curve but the Canadian experience provides additional support for the LAW.GOV case. Being a Canadian legal information professional can be interesting these days. [JH]
Reminder: Law Librarian Conversations Podcast Today
Greg Lambert and Margi Maes join Law Librarian Conversations' hosts Rich Leiter and Roger Skalbeck to discuss new developments in the law library world and Frank Houdek will discuss the new AALL Hall of Fame today from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM CDT.
Follow the conversation in the chat room during the live broadcast at http://lawlibcon.classcaster.com/chat.
Subscribe to LawLibCon on iTunes here: http://u.cali.org/2jwf
August 5, 2010
Wave Goodbye to Google Wave, and Google Calculates The Number of Books In The World
Google formally announced the demise of Wave yesterday. The reason is that Wave had picked up hardly any traction from users. So what was Wave? It was a product that allowed people to communicate and collaborate in real time, sort of like chat, email, and document management all rolled up into one. I hadn't used Wave personally. Although I had read descriptions of it when it appeared in beta, I hadn't any clear idea behind the concept. Apparently, I wasn't alone. Much of the commentary on the announcement echoed that point and others. Wave was slow, the interface was cluttered, and it didn't integrate with the existing technology it was supposed to replace. Google has said that Wave wasn't a total loss. The company plans to integrate the technology that was Wave in other services.
Update: The Harvard Business Reviewapplauds Google's decision to shutter Wave. They appreciate the fact that Google was willing to take risks, recognize failure, and cut is losses. Failure is necessary on the path to innovation. The HBR notes:
Certainly the business world is rife with examples of other firms that keep investing more resources and staff in failing projects in the hopes of a miraculous recovery or simply to avoid the public embarrassment of failure.
Why do I think of, oh, Microsoft, and oh, Zune, or the Kin, though with the latter, MS proved they could cut a loser before it mushroomed into something worse. [End update]
Speaking of Google, the company's official blog states a count for the number of different books in the world as 129,864,880. Really. As they say:
This calculation used an algorithm that combines books information from multiple sources including libraries, WorldCat, national union catalogs and commercial providers. And the actual number of books is always increasing.
The methodology Google used to come up with that number is here. I'm sure there are more unique titles in world beyond that, at least informally. That's a number, though, that likely can't be calculated. [MG]
Kagan Confirmed; Will Become the 112th Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court on SaturdayThe Senate confirmed Elena Kagan by a 63-37 vote today. Kagan is scheduled to be sworn in at the Supreme Court on Saturday according to The BLT: The Blog of LegalTimes. [JH]
Enterprise-Level Legal Search: Beyond Vendor-Dictated User Interfaces to the Multi-Vendor-Platforms Integrated UI
Remember those web portal pages we used to create to prove links to licensed resources and reliable websites by title and by topic? Remember thinking there has to be a better way to do this? Anyone who has taken Programming 101 knows that electronic resources are anchored on Planet Earth by being tied to a physical location in server memory. It all boils down in programming to addressing each one on their hosted servers which these days means linking to fixed URLs even when the protocol requires a secured URL that is IP-authenticated or user name protected for access. But that's not the better way I am referring to. Designing and implementing a multi-vendor-platforms integrated user interface is the better way.
The Problem and Its Solution.We typically license online legal resources from multiple vendors. While users may have difficulty finding the right database to use for TR Legal or Lexis, the more fundamental problem is deciding which database(s) to use across the entire range of offerings institutional buyers provide. In his recent post, Why spend money on a UI when all you want is the content?, Mark Gediman, Director of Information Services, Best Best & Krieger, describes the problem and the solution his firm has created:
Our firms purchase content from multiple vendors and it is becoming more and more challenging for our attorneys to find the materials they need. They would be able to work better if they can access the online materials in the same way they do on the shelf. On the shelf, West materials sit in the same section as Lexis and so on. We have built a UI (Full Disclosure: our UI is hosted by LexisNexis) that allows attorneys to find materials based on how they work, not who publishes them. A tab is set aside for each practice and links to online materials are grouped in ways that mirror the way their workflow. For example, under the Litigation Tab you would have items grouped by Civil Pretrial/Discovery, Civil Trials & CiviL Appeals, not by West or Matthew Bender.
This is where I think WestlawNext tripped up. I have been involved in contracts for Lexis and Westlaw for over 20 years and every one of them was content-based. Over that period, we have seen some major evolution in both of these products, not the least of which was the shift from a software- to a web-based search platform. Not once during this time have I been charged extra for the changed UI. Now, if this allowed me to search across multiple platforms I might consider it worth the premium. But I can’t see justifying the extra expense to search just the same resources that I have been able to search for years without trouble.
Best Best & Krieger's across-multiple-vendor-platforms in-house UI directly links by practice areas to West, LexisNexis (Matthew Bender), BNA, CCH and other vendors' online sources by title aka database (It also includes websites). This sure as hell beats portal pages in my opinion and points to the way legal researchers really want to access online resources. No more, which vendor questions. No more, how do I find the database offered by vendor X I need to use questions. No doubt a lot of work went into this. More lies ahead because Best Best & Krieger is working on a federated search function to add to this UI but even in its current iteration, the UI solves fundamental problems. One might say they have replicated library stacks for browsing electronic resources that is vendor neutral in the sense that one is freed from the vendor-supplied user interface at the start of the research project.
This is the way of future and at Best Best & Kriege, the future has arrived. From this perspective, one can understand why Mark thinks WestlawNext has tripped up. Before any vendor-supplied UI, before any SE improvements, content is king. While WLN's SE has, to quote Peter Jackson, TR Chief Scientist and Vice President of Technology, "baked [metadata] into the search algorithm itself. Previously, all that metadata was there, but it was really there for navigational purposes. It was there for the searcher to consume but it wasn’t actually informing the search engine" no SE is going to make a researcher smarter, not even if/when a fully evolved "Semantic Web" is deployed. Score one for content.
Online Legal Search Efficiency. TR Legal claims that WestlawNext researchers were 64% more efficient in completing their tasks than Classic Westlaw researchers based on the average time required per identical research project, saving a whopping but not quite seven minutes from 10 min. 51 sec. using Classic Westlaw to 3 min. 55 sec. using WLN. I guess this is a good thing if your WLN license for out-of-plan resources is going to be the hourly rate option. OY, I'm going to be 64% more efficient in finishing this post if I just avoid commenting on that "infometric" factoid. However, if we are really going to talk about online legal research efficiency, the across-multiple-vendor-platforms UI Mark's firm has crafted to provide their user population with a unified way to find licensed online resources is substantially more efficient.
Assuming LAW.GOV succeeds someday, imagine accessing metadata-rich primary materials relatively free (retrospective and complete), licensing whatever individual secondary sources one wants from commercial vendors -- one plus of the eBook distribution channel will be that users will see that this is both possible and what they want but without needing a dedicated eReader -- and a citation index just like one used to do when buying print materials for collection development by title. Then add developing in-house or acquiring a license to a commercially produced multi-vendor platform UI plus an in-house or commercially produced federated search function to it. Toss in adding in-house work product or whatever other files or websites you want. Also toss in being also be able to control how secondary sources are displayed so that users don't have to navigate through content slices, too, because that's just another programmable addressing function -- once again eBook users will be demanding more from legal database vendors than the current slices of content to improve usability.
The Future of eContent Acquisition and User Interface Engineering for Online Legal Research at the Enterprise Level. Someday licensing online content is going to be reminiscent of acquiring individual print titles for storing on library shelves. The bad old days of creating web portal pages containing links to individual CCH BNA, etc., databases, reliable websites and links to Westlaw and Lexis generally to try to inform user populations of what is available will be replaced with an across-multiple-vendor-platforms user interface like the one Mark and his firm have developed in-house. In other words, I do believe there will come a time when licensing online sources replicates how institutional buyers once acquired print sources, that is by title ("database") because we will be in a vendor-dictated independent or "neutral" world where our institutions' workflow processes define the parameters of how we provide electronic resources.
TR Legal's stopwatch approach to legal research efficiency for WLN, noted above, echos back, unintentionally no doubt, to the turn of the 20th Century approach to task-oriented optimization of industrial work tasks. Henry R. Towne quoted from his 1886 paper in the Forward he wrote to the 1912 edition of Frederick Winslow Taylor's Shop Management:
To ensure the best results, the organization of productive labor must be directed and controlled by persons having not only executive ability, and possessing the practical familiarity of a mechanic or engineer, with the goods produced and the processes employed, but having also, and equally, a practical knowledge of how to observe, record, analyze, and compare essential facts in relation to wages, supplies, expense accounts, and all else that enters into or affects the economy of production and the cost of production.
Our very expensive legal search vendors are not the ones who will "ensure the best results." We, the institutions who license online legal resources, will be. I'll be retired before the multi-vendor platforms UI with a federated SE is commonplace and I don't know how many other institutions have implemented similar improvements to legal research efficiency but congratulations to Mark and his firm for being at the forefront of this development. While Mark mentions that his firm worked with Lexis on this UI (read, I think Lexis has also seen the future), others may want to investigate the solutions offered by AgentLegal (read before TR Legal realizes that the future is fast approaching so it better not ignore it by not acquiring the company).
Tying Print Holdings to Electronic Resources at the Enterprise Level. While the multi-vendor platforms integrated UI may be the wave of the future, Greg Lambert has offered an excellent suggest for improving current vendor-supplied user interfaces at the level of the institutional buyer:
For every title that your law library subscribes to in print, the Westlaw or Lexis databases should identify those titles whenever they come back in a search result or database lookup. In my opinion, it should do so regardless of if you also subscribe to that same title in its electronic format.
See Greg's Tying Print & Electronic Resources - Is It Too Late To Save Print? for details. [JH]
Opening: Systems Librarian, University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of LawThe University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law is recruiting a librarian who, under the direction of the Associate Director for Public Services, will be responsible for evaluation, coordination, and promotion of the library’s electronic resources, including databases, journals, books, and reference sources; design and development of the library's online presence, including coordination of content on an electronic resources web page; development and implementation of online legal research instruction, including training tailored for faculty, students, and librarians; identification and monitoring of new and emerging technologies and trends of interest to the library, including recommendations for the purchase of electronic resources; and vendor relations, including scheduling and coordinating online training with account representatives.
This is a newly-titled position – Systems Librarian -- created as part of reorganization of our professional staff. The Systems Librarian works as part of the public services department team to deliver excellent research and references services and participate on the faculty liaison team, the collection development committee, and in the regular reference rotation.
Requirements are a J.D. from an ABA-accredited law school and M.L.I.S. or equivalent from an ALA-accredited library school. Experience with current information technologies, including web authoring tools, and experience in legal research and legal research instruction are strongly desired. Strong written and oral communications skills and ability to work as part of a team are essential.
To apply, please post your cover letter and resume to the DC government HR page at: https://erecruit.dc.gov/psp/erecruit/EMPLOYEE/HRMS/c/HRS_HRAM.HRS_CE.GBL?Page=HRS_CE_HM_PRE. Search for “Librarian”. This position is job id # 16485
August 4, 2010
Is Web Privacy Dead? Probably
Joe's graphic from yesterday on Internet privacy, or lack thereof, is a bit startling. I can agree with his sentiments that worrying about privacy is pointless, given the amount of personally identifiable information that exists about individuals in public and private databases. The graphic highlighted Google and Facebook. Cutting back on the "intrusions" from these companies wouldn't solve any problems.
There are three general ways in which third parties get information. People give it willingly. That's details provided to Facebook and shopping sites. People allow themselves to be tracked in return for services. Geo-location services on electronic devices provide a nice way to see where friends are. They also provide marketers, and maybe a few others, with a view to a person's habits. Then there is simply taking the information, via hacking. AT&T may not willingly provide personal information about who owns an iPad, but it didn't stop someone from exploiting a flaw in AT&T security to collect that information. There are other examples.
Computerworld's David A. Milman points out a few other circumstances where privacy is compromised. Here are a few from his article:
- A 23 year old hacker gains access to over 4 million users' private information on Pirate Bay.
- Mobile security firm Lookout releases the results for its App Genome Project, indicating that 47% of Android phone apps contain third party code and over 30% of iPhone apps access user location data.
- Ron Bowes of Skull Security collects profiles for over 100 million Facebook users and then posts them online for download. Gizmodo reports that a lengthy list of major corporations downloads the file.
How bad is it? The recent Black Hat security conference, dedicated to improving information security discovered that their supposedly secure video feed could be hacked and viewed for free.
He suggests that protecting online privacy is not a lost cause, and he suggests proactive steps that people can take. These include managing privacy settings on social sites; share less personal information; use dedicated email accounts for public contact; manage tracking cookies and other browser settings; and learn more. All wonderful suggestions, though they require individuals to be proactive in managing their web presence. One commenter suggested that people not be lazy when it comes to web privacy, but that is the problem. The browser defaults, in most cases, expose information, not hide it.
Another story that broke yesterday in the Wall Street Journal had to do with the privacy settings in Internet Explorer 8. The development team wanted the InPrivate browser setting turned on by default. InPrivate essentially blocks tracking and erases evidence of browsing sessions. That would certainly defeat Google's ability to track users. Unfortunately, the corporate side of Microsoft also runs an ad network and the Bing search engine also has an interest in tuning its algorithms. Both features require that same tracking information. Not only was the privacy feature not enabled by default, it has to be invoked each time someone wants to browse privately.
For the record, other major browsers, Chrome, Firefox, (save Safari) and the like have their privacy features set the same way. The Journal story also points out that the top 50 web destinations placed 64 pieces of tracking technology on a test machine. It's no wonder that Apple, as an example, wants to strictly control the iPhone and iPad environment. At the very least it means third-party software can't interfere with the Apple's iAds tracking. A related Journal article worth viewing is On the Web's Cutting Edge, Anonymity in Name Only. It about web analytics company [x+1] that helps companies make decisions about individuals based on their web and other habits. Decisions, for example, as to whether the person in question should get certain types of credit. A quote from that article:
"We never don't know anything about someone," says John Nardone, [x+1]'s chief executive.
From the perspective of how insidious web tracking may be and given the effort it takes to defeat it, I agree with Joe, real web privacy is dead. Governments do not seem inclined to mandate otherwise. Time to get with the program.
While we're on the subject, remember those airport checkpoint scanners that created images that show personal details of anatomy to TSA agents? Remember how the TSA said these could never be stored or downloaded? Well, turns out that the machines can store about 40,000 images. Not only that, but the Federal Marshals Service acknowledged that "approximately 35,314 images...have been stored on the Brijot Gen2 machine" used in the Orlando, Fla. federal courthouse. Can't wait for those to pop up on the web, or for someone to find a way to link them to tracking profiles. CNET has that story. [MG]
Are Reporter Advance Sheet Services Obsolete? (After a 34% Price Increase is Stanford Law Going to Cancel West's S. Ct. Advance Sheet Subscription?)
Observing that West's "Supreme Court Reporter advance sheet subscription has jumped up 34% from $547 last year to $730.69, and that’s with a $120.83 'Product Dependency Discount' (whatever that is)," Stanford's Paul Lomio questions whether the service is worth the cost at The supremely expensive Supreme Court Reporter Advance Sheets Service. "Arguably SCOTUSblog.com and its wiki have more up-to-date information than the West advance sheets. And SCOTUS itself does an admirable job of posting opinions."
Well, I opted to keep my subscription to the advance sheets for United States Supreme Court Reports, Lawyers' Edition 2d for now (and bound volumes, too) while canceling West's bound volumes and advance sheets because L. Ed. 2d is less expensive, much less so. The only other commercially produced advance sheet service we subscribe to right now is West's off-print for Ohio official reports. But considering the ready availability of current opinions for both online commercially and on court websites, I think advance sheets are obsolete. As Lomio observes in his Legal Research Plus post, the days of advance sheets serving a current awareness function are pretty much over. A 34% price increase just adds momentum to the Shed West Era.
Lomio ends his post with "Isn’t this service really quite obsolete? If you think otherwise, I would welcome comments posted as we mull over whether or not we will cancel." Cancel it! [JH]
Gearing Up for WestlawNext Instruction in the Legal Academy
I agree with Tom Boone when he writes
I don't share the opinion of many that [WestlawNext] "dumbs down" legal research. To the contrary, I've found that it adds considerable power to most of the research I've done using the new system ... But as superior as it is to its predecessor, it still has legitimate problems. The issues associated with secondary sources in WLN need to be highlighted. Even if Thomson Reuters opts to not fix these problems, we as researchers need to be aware of them. And as instructors — both in the classroom and at the reference desk — we need to be prepared to educate others about them, too.
And that is exactly what Tom has done in The trouble with secondary sources in WestlawNext. Do check it out and the link he provides to an earlier post on the topic. Now that WLN has gone live permanently in the legal academy, law librarians and legal writing profs are grappling with how to provide instruction on WLN that goes beyond on-site vendor rep instruction to comprehensively address the best ways and means to use the service, including addressing the shortcomings of "the much-hyped interface," to quote Tom.
Do law librarians have to repeat ad infinitum that secondary content most certainly informs the less experienced practitioner (and informs utterly inexperienced law school students) who is more likely to be assigned legal research projects in the real world? For the less experience researcher, the first rule of case law research is don't try to discover the common law on your own because your research will never end. Turn to the secondary literature for a systematic analysis as a starting point for further legal research. Hence the criticisms, well-stated by Tom Boone and others. Hopefully, in the context of WLN, they will be fixed, not ignored.
It might be all fine and well that experienced practitioners who over the years have acquired some expertise in their practice area(s) through years of hard work only need to turn to primary sources for online research. However even experienced practitioners who are faced with addressing unfamiliar ground such as when statutory or regulatory changes substantially change the landscape of their specialty need to turn to the secondary literature for guidance. Luckily there is still BNA and CCH for that but neither BNA nor CCH should be viewed as being solely for "power users" in the legal academy or beyond. Besides, who knows what the future may hold. It may include WEXIS licensing that blocks primary source materials, leaving them the purveyors of only secondary source resources someday.
Sharing Law Librarian-Produced WLN Instructional Literature. Haven't asked Tom but know he has the programming chops to craft one of those social media thingees so law librarians can share WLN instructional aids. CALI is damn good for this but since not everyone has access to CALI resources, WLN aids produced by academic law librarians would be beneficial to all law librarians, academic, private and public sectors.
Sorry Tom, just a thought, and, certainly not a rush. As of June 30, 2010, TR reports that "[w]e are well ahead of the company's initial expectations" for WLN adoption, but only "approximately 5,700 customers" had signed on the dotted line.
Of course, there are other WLN interface matters, like not yet supporting printing to the dedicated Westlaw printers in law schools as noted by Mark Giangrande's LLB post which according to David Walker's LLB post won't be available until next year.
Meeting with Vendors in an Open AALL Meeting About the Economics of Interface. In his post Tom mentions that how online vendors treat (mistreat or just plain ignore the importance of) secondary source material was addressed at Julie Jones's AALL Denver panel discussion, "The Economics of Interface: Vendors Respond."
Following presentations by Thomson Reuters' Mike Dahn, LexisNexis' Molly Miller and Fastcase's Ed Walters, Larry Abraham of Fordham Law stepped up to the audience microphone and told the vendor representatives that their interfaces discourage users from using secondary sources, instead emphasizing primary law materials. Following Laurence's comments, a few other audience members (myself included) complained to the panel about how vendors treat secondary sources both within their systems and in training provided to subscribers.
Some vendors point to user studies to justify designing their SEs to give primary sources more importance than secondary sources (or to just provide primary sources). However,one has to wonder how much of this is the result of years of WEXIS--provided instruction that largely goes unchecked in law school because advanced legal research courses are not required? Are these user studies the mark of a self-fulfilling prophecy? Should anyone rely on a vendor-supplied or vendor-financed user study? If the study doesn't produce results the vendor doesn't wants us to hear, would it see the light of day?
Julie's panel was one of the very, very, very few sessions I wanted to attend in Denver and not just she is a former LLB contributing editor. But it got bumped off my schedule at the last minute. Tom and fellow travelers in the blogosphere filled me some later that day in the Exhibit Hall. Jason Wilson, for one, was reviewing the tweets posted during the session. Perhaps I need to revise my opinion about Twitter at least in the context of AALL open meetings. It was very interesting. Perhaps Tweets should be displayed live on a big screen behind the podium while panel discussions are taking place; talk about instant feedback!
Vendor Colloquium in Feb. 2011. Julie's Denver session illustrates something else. A vendor colloquium can be conducted in a opening meeting with vendors to discuss matters of importance in the library-vendor relationship but in a more general way in an open meeting at AALL Philadelphia 2010: Transparency and Accountability in the 21st Century without turning into a slug fest. Attendees can tweet!
Vendor-library meetings have been conducted at the chapter level so why not go national. But apparently our association leaders remain scared off by the prospect of members being in the same room as vendors since they continue to remain hell bent on holding their Colloquium of Law Librarians and Legal Publishers in February 2011. Even if that meeting is open to interested members, the audience will be substantially less because of the expense of an additional trip, instead of it being scheduled for Philadelphia. Some vendors seem to being ignoring the current economy; apparently so is AALL.
In what I believe is AALL President Joyce Manna Janto's first "From the Desk of" message, she reiterates the official line, writing:
one of my goals for the coming year is to have an honest and open dialogue between law librarians and information vendors about the changing nature of the environment in which we all work. I think the colloquium will be the perfect venue for us to conduct this necessary conversation.
Ah, no it won't if all interested members can't afford to attend two AALL meetings in one year. I know several of the librarian-members of the Vendor Colloquium Committee well enough to know that they are neither AALL nor vendor sock puppets but that's not good enough. Also note the Committee's charge is "common soon" and that this February 2010 meeting apparently is still going to cost the membership $27K while that cost can be reduced to $0K if held in Philadelphia.
Making the Composition of the Vendor Colloquium Committee Representative. Is a BigLaw firm librarian going to be appointed by our association's leadership to the Vendor Colloquium Committee? Don't know about you but in the food chain that is revenue sources for TR Legal, Lexis, CCH and BNA, if someone with substantial experience and qualifications from BigLaw is not appointed, this committee fails to represent an entire market segment of really big spenders and the issues they have. Another big spender missing on the Committee is federal agencies. While relatively small in membership compared to academic and private sector law libraries, their payments to and issues with our vendors are substantial. In other words, the current composition of the Committee doesn't come close to being representative of our institutional membership. [JH]
Opening: Technical Services Librarian, Univ. of Akron School of LawTitle: Associate Law Librarian
Job Requisition #: 006037
The University of Akron Law Library seeks a highly motivated individual to oversee all aspects of the law library's cataloging and processing functions for all types of library resources. Responsibilities include cataloging all types of library resources, providing legal reference services and government document reference services, providing legal research instruction, sharing in evening and weekend reference rotation, supervising staff.
Both a master's degree in library science and a law degree is required. Minimum of 2 years working in a law library or similar setting providing legal reference services required. Working knowledge of legal reference sources, online cataloging, serial control and acquisitions subsystems required.
For complete information about duties, qualifications, deadline, and applying, visit: http://www.uakron.edu/jobs/
For more information about the Law Library, visit our web site at http://www.uakron.edu/law/library/
August 3, 2010
Lexis Customer Support Really Burns My Britches
As you probably already know, if you encounter a technical issue with research product, you better hope that it is not with Lexis. I have never had a satisfying encounter with anyone at Lexis save the Librarian Relations Consultant for Tennessee. A year ago, I started keeping a log on how long it took to get an answer from or an issue resolved with Lexis from the moment I dialed the customer support line to the moment my prayer for relief was answered. I gave up on the log because I often lost track of the days it took to get pressing matters resolved. And, frankly, I don't know that my anecdotal experience would really be the impetus for change in their customer support.
So today, I went to log into Lexis. I tried logging on four or five times to no avail. I changed my password (it took a couple of tries). I tried logging on with my new password. It would not take. I dialed the customer service number. I listened to options; I pressed a button. I listened to more options; I pressed a button. I listened to even more options; I pressed a button. I waited; then I waited some more. (The snow fell, the snow melted.) I got someone on the phone, who informed me that my individual account was inactive as of July 28. "Really?" I said. She proceeded to see what was at issue. I waited. She got back on the line and was able to provide me with no information. She suggested that we call the law school's account representative. I told her, "But that will probably change tomorrow." She said it was PK. I told her that I was rather certain that it was no longer PK (PK hasn't been our account rep. for almost a year - and I honestly cannot tell you who is). She called PK. PK confirmed that she is not our account rep. Now, I'm waiting for a call.
I needed to get onto Lexis so I could build links for my faculty. In effect, I was trying to help Lexis. Otherwise some of the faculty may never know of some of the valuable resources available to them on Lexis; but mysteriously something has gone awry with my account. So I want to take up the log again, but I want your help. If you can empathize with my experience today, maybe you would like to help keep a log as to how long it took to get an answer or resolution from Lexis. I think it would be an interesting study. It may even be an impetus for change (though I doubt it). But if you've been frustated with Lexis Customer Support as much as I have been (and maybe it is just me), maybe we can work together to provide statistics to point the finger and whisper "shame." Email me if you're in and we can figure out how to implement a log across institutions. (DCW)
CT AG Investigates e-Book Pricing
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has sent letters to Apple and Amazon over their deals with publishers. Blumenthal is concerned with "most favored nation" deals that Apple and Amazon have struck with major publishers for e-books. These deals require the publishers to give the best prices they offer to these distributors. As he says in his letter to Amazon,
Essentially, in this context, an MFN is a promise by a supplier (i.e., the publisher) to treat a buyer (i.e., Amazon) as well as it treats its best, "most favored" customer. In other words, if the publisher lowers its price for e-books to Apple, the publisher must offer that price to Amazon as well.
These types of agreements, as he further notes, are not per se legal or illegal. It depends on the market. These types of agreements are used a lot in the health care industry to keep health care costs down. If Blue Cross pays out $700 to a health care provider and that same provider charges $650 to another insurance plan, then Blue Cross also gets the benefit of the lower cost. In theory, as goods or services are priced lower, those with MFN clauses get the benefit of those lower prices. One assumes that the benefits are passed on to consumers, though that gets complicated. The courts have endorsed MFN contracts in the health care industry.
Blumenthal's concern is that the pricing for individual e-book titles from major distributors is more or less the same. There is no allegation of collusion among the distributors, nor any evidence that suggests collusion beyond the price consumers pay. I can understand his concern. At the same time, Amazon tried to pull an Apple when it tried to dictate pricing to publishers by limiting consumer costs to $9.99 per e-book. It was the publishers who balked by threatening to withhold distribution. The threat had teeth with Barnes and Noble, Google, Apple, and others getting into the game. Amazon caved in to get the distribution deal. In that context, MFN deals make perfect sense to Amazon, and probably Apple and others who may have them.
I think, in this case, that the distributors are more at the mercy of the publishers than the other way around. Blumenthal should consider an investigation into how publishers set their prices for e-books if he wants to understand how this market works. He may also want to consider how Google may factor into this. The mythical Google bookstorewas supposed to be launched this summer, with June as a likely target date. That time is obviously past though summer still lingers. No major distributor by volume will want to have artificially higher costs, and I would expect Google would want to have the same kind of treatment as Amazon and Apple. My best guess is that this investigation will not lead to any substantial surprises in how the e-book market is structured. Blumenthal is known for his investigatory activity as Connecticut Attorney General. If I were cynical enough, I would wonder if this had anything to do with his current Senate campaign. [MG]
On Extending the Outreach for LAW.GOV's Support: The Incubation Process Has Begun
Greg Lambert's title to his recent post says it all, If Law.Gov Remains An Exercise In Academia... It Will Die. I won't nitpick about Tim Stanley, Justia's CEO, Tim O'Reilly, O'Reilly Media's CEO, and Mitchell Kapor, founding investor of UUNET, founder of Lotus Development Corp., co-founder of EFF, founding Chair of the Mozilla Foundation, advisory board member of the Sunlight Foundation, and venture capitalist, being LAW.GOV signatories. His point is well made and duly noted. However, see Carl Malamud's comment to his post.
After much blogosphere "nudging" plus NOCALL taking the bull by the horns, AALL kinda sorta supports LAW.GOV although once again it fails to lead by not being an official signatory (something Greg might be able to "push" if he gets elected to the AALL Executive Board). The ABA should sign-on. The Conference of State Court Administrators also.
More significantly, some second-tier commercial legal publishers like BNA and CCH should join LAW.GOV. First they have to realize that making federal, state and local governments better wholesale distributors of standardized electronic primary resources will reduce their production costs while offering the potential to expand their presence in the legal marketplace.
I can write the "leave it to the private sector" argument in my sleep for an AALL-like "honorarium" TR Legal may base its lobbying campaign against LAW.GOV but there is an opening here for West and Lexis, too -- compete for becoming government contractors for electronic production of bulk-distributed primary resources LAW.GOV is promoting by adherence to its standardized best practices goal. At the micro-level, individual law firms can also sign on as well. Greg, how about King & Spalding?
And then there is Google... . But first there must be a statement of principles to support.
LAW.GOV's publication of its Principles and Declaration is the basis for extending the range of support for a distributed repository of all US primary legal materials.
Law.Gov is an idea, an idea that the primary legal materials of the United States should be readily available to all, and that governmental institutions should make these materials available in bulk as distributed, authenticated, well-formatted data. To make this idea a reality, a series of workshops were held throughout the country, resulting in a consensus on 10 core principles.
The incubation process has begun. [JH]
Infographic on Internet Privacy or Lack ThereofIt's not that I don't think privacy for Internet users isn't important -- it is -- but I just gave up worrying about it many, many years ago. Can you say "National Security Surveillance Agency"? Fine, gather up all the data ya want. I'm more concerned about Internet censorship but here is an interesting infographic that points out just how far sites like Facebook and Google have limited privacy rights. For a larger display go here. [JH]
Infographic byWordStream Internet Marketing
August 2, 2010
But Where Was the Library
Last week, a funny comic from xkcd made its way around the social media carousel. It is called "University Web Site." The cartoon is about how things on a university web site are often not what people are looking for when to go to a university web site. It is particularly appealing to librarians because the pictoral takes the form of a Venn diagram. I am not sure why I think Venn Diagrams are appealing to us, maybe its just me, or maybe its genetically encoded into people who choose this profession for a career. In any case, it got a lot of mileage in our little world.
Sadly, the library is not represented on the part of the diagram that represents what people look for on a school web site, nor is it represented on the part of the diagram that represents what is actually on a web site. Now I know this is just a comic, and I should not take it too seriously, but I'm just saying... Where is the library?
Do you know where your library is? I mean with respect to your web analytics. Web analytics help market your library. Do you know how many hits your library page gets? How does it compare with other departments in your company or school? What pages do your visitors go to? How long do they stay there and where do they go next? What's popular? What's not? More importantly, what actions does your library take in response to those statistics? And, should this be reported on the ABA Annual Questionnaire as an indication of how libraries are responding to serve their academic communities better? Perhaps it deserves a metric in the US News and World Report Rankings. Hmmmm.
If you are using Sharepoint at your institution, Microsoft provides pre-built reports. These are useful; however, from what I see they are not as flexible or as extensive as the free GA. Then again, learning Sharepoint takes a lifetime so if someone out there is more experienced with the pre-built reports please correct me in the comments section.
I'd like to recommend a few titles for futher reading on this subject which are in no particular order and are highly selective based on what I found interesting:
Marshall Breeding, An Analytical Approach to Assessing the Effectiveness of Web Based Resources, 28 Computers in Libraries 20 (Jan. 2008)
Paul Betty, Assessing Homegrown Library Collections: Using Google Analytics to Track Use of Screencasts and Flash-Based Learning Objects, 21 Journal of Electronic Resource Librarianship 75 (March 1, 2009)
Wei Feng, Using Google Analytics for Improving Library Web Site Content and Design, Library Philosophy and Pracitce (2007)
Karine Joly, Embracing Web Analytics: How to get a web analytics revolution started at your university, 13 University Business 29 (June 2010)
Max Chafkin, Improving Your Sense of Site, 30 Inc. 35 (Nov. 2008)
Joe Morgan, Google Analytics for Libraries, at http://josephsandersmorgan.com/home/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2010/07/GoogleAnalyticsforLibraries3.pdf (last visited Aug. 2 2010) (YIKES! This guy put together a 50 page how to guide with a bibliography to boot!)
Duquesne Law School Hit With Discrimination Suits
Ugly things are going on at Duquesne University's Law School. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that a former female faculty member, Alice Stewart, has filed suit alleging sexual harassment, gender discrimination, retaliation, and breach of contract. The case started in 2003 when Ms. Stewart and other female faculty were candidates for tenured clinical faculty positions. They were told that the positions required a national search. Ms. Stewart claims that a male professor was given a similar position without such a search. A University compliance officer ruled in favor of Ms. Stewart in 2007 but the University brought in outside counsel to reject the findings. Subsequent allegations include having her job title changed, pay reduction, and moving her office outside the law school building, among others.
Some of the allegations are directed at interim Dean Robert Gormley. She alleges sexual harassment and a hostile work environment to him before he became dean. The Post-Gazette article also notes another federal against Duquesne by another former faculty member, Vanessa Browne-Barbour, who was rejected as interim dean in favor of Gormley. She claims she was rejected because of her race and gender. Also of note, is another suit by a black Duquesne law professor, Kellen McClendon, who alleges that he was denied fair consideration for the law school's deanship in 2004, and was called a "token" by Provost Ralph Pearson. The University doesn't deny the characterization, and it was defended by Duquesne President Charles Dougherty. The context for that comment is described in this story in the Pittsburgh City Paper. Duquesne denies all of the allegations and issued the usual "will vigorously defend" statement in response to the various cases.
Ms. Stewart's complaint is here, courtesy of the ABA Journal article on her suit. A video on the story is available from Pittsburgh station WTAE. An empirical view of Ms. Stewart's teaching (which is not a subject of the issues in the case) on Rate My Professor shows uniformly high ratings from the four ex-students who have commented on her. [MG]