November 26, 2011
A Law Prof's Courageous Public Reckoning with Being a Sexual Abuse Victim as a Child
Law prof Mark McKenna speaks out for the first time about being victim of sexual abuse on Slate. From the opening paragraph of The Cruel Lesson of Penn State: How what happened in State College forced me to confront my own abuse:
A student raised his hand in my torts class last week and asked whether Joe Paterno might be exposed to liability for failing to tell the police about Jerry Sandusky’s alleged sexual assault of a young boy in the Penn State locker room. It was a perfectly legitimate question—we had been studying tort law’s general reluctance to impose liability for omitting to act. And it didn’t come as a surprise—I have always encouraged students to bring current events to class, and the Penn State situation was nearly impossible to avoid last week. Still, I had prayed no one would ask about it because I was not sure I could make it through any sort of answer. As I’d feared, the question stopped me cold.
Hat tip to Orin Kerr's post on The Volokh Conspiracy. [JH]
November 25, 2011
Richards' Study of Non-MARC Metadata Practices in AALL Libraries
From the abstract of Robert Richards' The Use of Non-MARC Metadata in AALL Libraries: A Baseline Study, 103 LLJ 631 (2011):
This article reports results of a 2009 survey of AALL libraries respecting non-MARC metadata practices, with a focus on interoperability. Results cover types of collections described with non-MARC metadata, as well as metadata standards, platforms, and tools. Results suggest substantial, though incomplete, awareness among respondents of metadata interoperability and the factors that enable it. This study is intended as a preliminary inquiry that affords some sense of law libraries’ recent non-MARC metadata activity and offers findings that may furnish a baseline for future studies of such activity.
Hat tip to Gary Price's INFOdocket post. [JH]
November 24, 2011
Giving Thanks Today but Worrying about the Future
Traditionally on LLB, a Thanksgiving Day post links to legal and historical resources about the Thanksgiving tradition. Not this year. We certainly should give thanks today but perhaps because I am an aging and decrepit Boomer-gen law librarian human being I am in more of a blues funk than usual.
I wonder about what younger people will be giving thanks for years from now. I'm not refering to law librarianship, per se. I'm thinking in terms of opporunties for all regardless of the career paths younger-gens hope to pursue and even X and Yers who already are on their career paths and are hoping to continue pursuing their chosen careers. I just don't see a bright future ahead. Even if we assume that someday equal opportunity will be realized in this country regardless of gender, race, national orgin, etc., I just don't see as big a sky on the horizon for current younger generations and future ones, particularly when in comes to white collar professions.
White collar professions are facing the same structural dynamics the blue collar workforce experienced starting in the late 1970s economic upheaval in US manufacturing industries. Are we approaching a "rest belt" in some sectors of the white collar industry? Looks to me like we are in law and related careers in the US. See The Vanishing American Lawyer, (OUP, 2010) by Thomas Morgan, Oppenheim Professor of Antitrust and Trade Regulation Law at The George Washington University Law School, former dean at at the Emory University School of Law, and former AALS President. From the product blurb:
Over 4,000 lawyers lost their positions at major American law firms in 2008 and 2009. In The Vanishing American Lawyer, Professor Thomas Morgan discusses the legal profession and the need for both law students and lawyers to adapt to the needs and expectations of clients in the future. The world needs people who understand institutions that create laws and how to access those institutions' works, but lawyers are no longer part of a profession that is uniquely qualified to advise on a broad range of distinctly legal questions.
... Law schools must also recognize the world their students will face and prepare them to operate successfully within it. Professor Morgan warns that lawyers must adapt to new client needs and expectations. The term "professional" should be applied to individuals who deserve praise for skilled and selfless efforts, but this term may lead to occupational suicide if it becomes a justification for not seeing and adapting to the world ahead.
Unlike US manufacturing which became "rust belted" because corporations refused to make capital investments in a timely manner which unions contributing to the "rust belting" by refusing to accept management calls for productivity enhancements by way of job classification reforms, pay structures more in line with individual employers than industry-wide pattern CBA, the first steps toward "rust belting" white collar professions is the failure to reform the current cartel structure of the legal services industy and professional legal education. With respect to the former, the reform of legal services in the UK is an expression of adapting to the New Normal, one that is certainly a disruptive change but one that is needed to avoid occupational suicide.
More generally, much more generally, every new debt crisis in Europe makes me shutter a little bit more and makes me wonder when we in the US will be facing our own debt crisis the minute countries like China decide to stop propping up US currency because it has become a "bad investment," because the US economy is no longer the most stable national economy in a globalized economy, because there are other ways to keep the value of their own national currency deflated by hedging their bets on other national economies.
Every time the Beltway substitutes partisian politics for addressing structure reforms that might achieve some sort of long-sighted consensus on national issues, issues that ultimately are international, I see another opportunity lost. With each lost opportunity, the problems just increase by another order of magnitude. But political leadership is absent.
Were do we go from here? Hell if I know but in the future I will be thankful if during my "retirement years" I can get a job as a Walmart greeter. [JH]
Quoting from "walmart greeter", definition 2, in the Urban Dictionary:
As I entered the store, I was approached by the walmart greeter. Our eyes met for only a moment, but it was enough to see the deep, painful hopelessness in his gaze. Whoever the person he used to be had died long ago, leaving a spent shell, an automaton. An emotionless drone pretending to be a human being. "Good morning." he said to me. In subtext he might as well have said "Please kind stranger, kill me and end my existence, for I have not the strength to do it myself." Pity stayed my hand, and I made a mental note to avoid Walmart at all cost.
November 23, 2011
Penguin Pulls Books From Overdrive Lending Program for Libraries
Penguin announced on Monday that it was pulling its digital editions from Overdrive’s library lending program because of security reasons. This may have more to do with Overdrive’s relationship with Amazon, who angered publishers by offering free ebook loans to its Prime account customers in limited circumstances. The Authors Guild raged against the Amazon machine for that one. Security may be the cover for the move, but it’s questionable given that the security for the Overdrive lending program is the same for books sold to Kindle users.
If Penguin is concerned about piracy, consider that only one paying customer need have the skill to strip away the DRM from their titles. The rest of the world need only have the skill to click on a download link. You’d have to kill the entire web to stop piracy in those circumstances. Oh, wait, isn’t that what SOPA is for? [MG]
Right-sizing Academic Law Library Print Collections in and for the 21st Century: Cornell substituting print with digital like "all other top law schools are doing" but consequences need to be addressed
Most every academic law library director knows that when their institutions need more space, the law library's big footprint on the blueprint becomes an attractive target for a land grab. Law firm directors too. At least since the hiring boom of the 1990s, many firms have cut back firm library square footage to build new offices. One could argue the case that is why private sector electronic information budget spend increased proportionately higher than print info budget spend a decade ago and has continued to escalate.
Law firms led the way. Commercial leasing costs for increasing space was trumped by e-spend increases but that was back in the bill-back to client days. The new normal is for clients to view e-spending as law firm overhead (like p-spending for a law library collection was). Eventually, no client will pay for firm e-research spending. But I digress... . However, law firm e-spending is a leading indicator of where all law libraries are heading. Government and academic e-spend as a percentage of total information budget spending has reached record highs according to a recent survey of AALL reporting libraries. In terms of academic law libraries, reported e-information spend is largely based on virtual wholesale pricing for WEXIS and some other commerical vendors for near "total package" offerings. Imagine what it would be if academic law libraries had to face pricing options offered in the private and public sectors.
Substituting commercial e-Law access for law library square footage. At one time, the academic land grap of library space was fairly small ... a study room here, a nook there. No longer. A case in point is Cornell. Cornell Law School is enacting a three phrase renovation and expansion construction plan that will cost between $55 and $60 million. The project will be completed by 2014 at the earliest. Student, faculty, administrative and academic program spaces will be constructed. The law school's dorm will be re-purposed. Most of the Cornell Law Library's stacks on the bottom five floors of Myron Taylor Hall will be removed to accommodate other space needs.
About the law library, The Cornell Daily Sun quotes Law Dean Stewart Schwab: “As the world goes digital, libraries everywhere, including here, are replacing print collections with digital ones in order to reallocate space. Frankly, all other top law schools are doing this as well.” Indeed that is the case with respect to major (and minor) law school libraries. It's the Shed West Era. Who really needs print reporters, digests, Shepard's, legal encyclopedic sets, law reviews, federal and state statutory and administrative codes in print anymore? In the context of academic law libraries, why maintain lightly used practice-oriented sets of BNA, CCH and Matthew Bender loose-leafs in print?
The difference between academic libraries, particularly ones which other law librarians hold an antiquated tradition-bound perception that assumes our "great academic law libraries" will provide extensive research collections, and law firm libraries is the 21st century transformation of academic law library collection development mission statements. Academic law libraries are becoming just as insititional user focused as law firm and corporate legal department libraries have always been. Today the legal academy defines its user "community" much more narrowly. In The Cornell Daily Sun story Cornell Law Library director, Femi Cadmus, is quoted: "Both print and digital collections, important to the research and scholarship of our faculty and students, will continue to be maintained." In and of itself, I find this to be appropriate objective and not a radical departure in academic law librarianship as practice today, so no criticism of Cornell is intended or implied. However big-picture consequences do need to be addressed.
While many major (and smaller) academic law library collection development practices, if not official policies, can be viewed as format neutral, the reality is that many decisions are being made on the basis of whether or not the resource is available on WEXIS, HeinOnline and other e-vendors. Due to print price inflation vis-a-vis virtual wholesale pricing for WEXIS online, for example, one can expect more and more secondary titles to fall into this cancel-print-and-substitute-WEXIS-access decision. This has sometime been called the "law library without walls" approach. However, in many instances, there is the invisible wall of license-restricted access only to institutional users. What about the 21st century equivalent to good old interlibrary loan, namely document delivery fulfillment by way of a fair use provision in e-licensing?
Consequences: we are all pirates now. Aargh, a case in point. In response to an out-of-state public law library request for a practice-oriented overview on an Ohio state law topic, I downloaded and emailed my colleague a section of a Matthew Bender Ohio secondary resource we have on Lexis in both or user account and patron access plans (so sue me Lexis, if you think I violated our license; ah ... well, it is very rare indeed that I do any "ILL" work). In the good old days, we would have photocopied and mailed or faxed the material if we had it on our shelves. Those good old days are history.
(Note to Lexis: we have two copies of the title on our shelf but, you know what, when this aging and decrepit law library director is filling in for other staff, I'm not wasting my time to photocopy and fax p-text because I have to review my annual renewal notices. Note to readers: I didn't check my Lexis licenses to see if the Company accommodates "fair use;" perhaps it does. Note to self: Am I publishing this adverse interest admission today because it is just ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and I am hoping that Lexis forgets it next week? Plus I am taking today off as vacation time to extend the holiday weekend. Oops, my bad, some Lexis senior executives and my Lexis online and print account managers know how to contact me at home. Wendy and Jen, hope you enjoy Thanksgiving! Please note, I haven't shown my staff how to download multiple sections of an online title in one click but that doesn't mean they don't know how to do it. Loop back up to how we have two print copies of the title on our shelves for text I "ILL-ed" in 21st century.)
The notion that major academic law libraries are supposed to maintain the greatest print collections accessible to all researchers does not reflect the realities of the 21st century now and that will probably most certainly increase in the near future to encompass more substitute e- for p- secondary materials. Think possible eBook licensing restrictions. Yes, I know many current law library patrons inside and outside the legal academy don't like law eBooks but two factors will change that: (1) enhanced law eBooks, when they come to market in mass, will convert some users and (2) more importantly, generational shift from a user population that has not be exposed to enhanced eBooks to one that has been exposed to enhanced e-textbooks in grade and high school will change user attitudes.
Earlier this year, the Cornell Library System announced that it was rejecting all NDAs in publisher and vendor agreements because "an open market will result in better licensing terms." Perhaps Cornell will take the next step by insisting on a fair use provision in all e-licensing. Someone has to. [JH]
Friday Fun on Wednesday: Is it Time to Push a Food Truck instead of a Book Cart?
Should law school libraries take advantage of their captive audience by selling food to students like airlines do to their passengers? Square Peg 1L thinks so. See Why Don't They Have Catering in the Library?
And all purchases could be conveniently charged to your school account. Schools certainly don't have to worry about the damages to the books, cause lord knows nobody uses those anymore.
In re SOPA: Library Copyright Alliance v. Register of Copyrights
I would like to be very clear at the outset. It is my view that if Congress does not continue to provide serious responses to online piracy, the U.S. copyright system will ultimately fail. The premise of copyright law is that the author of a creative work owns and can license to others certain exclusive rights – a premise that has served the nation well since 1790. Congress has repeatedly acted to improve enforcement provisions in copyright law over the years, including in the online environment. SOPA is the next step in ensuring that our law keeps pace with infringers. -- Maria Pallante, Register of Copyrights
Quoting from Pallante's written statement submitted for last week's carefully managed House Judiciary Committee hearing. For commentary, see Nate Anderson's Register of Copyrights: without SOPA, copyright "will ultimately fail" on Ars Technica's Law and Disorder.
For a more measured response to SOPA, one might want to review the ALA, ARL and ACRL letter to the Committee. [JH]
AALL's Technical Services SIS Awards Committee Seeking Nominations for the Renee D. Chapman Memorial Award by Feb. 1, 2012
The Renee D. Chapman Memorial Award for Outstanding Contributions in Technical Services Law Librarianship is presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of Law Libraries to an individual or group in recognition of achievement in a particular area of technical services, for service to the Association, or for outstanding contributions to the professional literature.
Factors considered in selecting the recipients of the Award include such things as the publishing, presenting, or sharing of innovative techniques or research, analysis or commentary; or development of software, hardware, or other mechanisms that significantly enhance access to law library materials and collections. These contributions may be applied in the functional areas of processing, preservation, or technical services administration. Contributions may also consist of service to Technical Services SIS as a whole.
Members of AALL may submit the names of persons for consideration to the chair of the TS-SIS Awards Committee. Nominations must include the candidate's full name, title and current firm, company or institution name, and address; or, if retired, name and last previous place of work and home address. Letters of nomination must be signed by a person other than the individual(s) being nominated. Each nomination should include a complete list of projects, programs, and/or publications of the candidate and a description of the candidate's work with respect to improvements in bibliographic control or access to legal materials and services. All documentation must be submitted in typed form.
The application deadline is February 1, 2012. For further information see the Chapman Award section of the Technical Services SIS handbook at http://www.aallnet.org/sis/tssis/handbook/related/chapmanaward.htm or contact the TS-SIS Awards Committee Chair, Michael Maben at mmaben(at)indiana.edu. All materials in support of a nomination should be sent to Michael Maben, Indiana University Maurer School of Law Library, 211 S. Indiana Avenue, Bloomington, IN 47405-7001 by February 1, 2012.
Opening: Assistant Law Librarian for Technical Services, Univ. of Akron
Duties: Oversee all aspects of the law library's cataloging and processing functions. Compile statistical data and coordinate technical services. Perform various cataloging procedures for all types of library resources. Supervise the work activities of the Technical Services staff while providing assistance and support when necessary. Direct supervision and evaluation of work as a first-line supervisor for non-exempt staff including hiring, terminating, and disciplining. Represent the law library on committees and in meetings with the law library staff, faculty or outside organizations. Provide legal reference services and government document reference services and instruction to the Law School's faculty, staff, and students as well as the general public. Maintain a familiarity with legal reference sources, legal publications, and online sources. Teach a legal research course for law students and perform related duties. Share in evening and weekend reference rotation.
Qualifications: A Master’s degree in library science from an ALA accredited library school and a minimum of two years experience working in a library cataloging or technical services department is required. Working knowledge of reference sources, online cataloging and serial control subsystems is required. Computer skills including word processing, e-mail, and online database capabilities is required. The ability to instruct students, perform legal research, and prior supervisory skills is required.
Preferred Qualifications: A Juris Doctor Degree from an ABA accredited law school, one to three years experience working in a law library cataloging or technical services department, experience cataloging using an Integrated Library System (ILS) such as Innovative Interfaces' Millennium, and have supervisory experience in a library setting. Experience with the Federal Depository Library Program, one to three years experience working in a law library or similar setting providing legal reference services using both print and online resources. And experience using Lexis, Westlaw and other legal databases, including experience with Internet-based legal research, including emerging electronic resources,( e.g., Google Scholar, electronic journals, on-line court dockets and current legislative materials, etc). Prior experience with general social science research/ resources, and prior teaching experience. Strong interpersonal skills that facilitate collaboration and teamwork, along with strong verbal/written and communication skills. Strong organizational, time management, and project management skills. A commitment to continuous service improvement, innovation, and a strong service ethic in assisting library patrons.
Deadline: Open until filled
Send Application Materials to: Complete the online application, attaching a cover letter and resume.(Maximum of 4 separate attachments allowed, some files may need combined into one file for uploading).
The University of Akron is committed to a policy of equal employment opportunity and to the principles of affirmative action in accordance with state and federal laws.
November 22, 2011
Newsflash: Law Schools Don't Teach Law Students To Be Lawyers
There was an article published in the New York Times last Sunday, What They Don’t Teach Law Students: Lawyering, and it’s worth reading, even if we knew most of it already. In summary, the legal academy doesn’t teach law students how to be lawyers. New associates don’t know the basics of transactional law and clients don’t want to pay for them to learn the ropes on their nickel. As a consequence, plum law jobs are drying up, which means the market for law graduates is bad.
Several commentaries about the article have appeared. One in The Atlantic, Why Law Schools Are So Bad at Creating Lawyers (and How to Fix It), suggests that large and prestigious law firms send an ultimatum to schools such as Harvard that they won’t hire graduates until the curriculum changes to teach more practical skills. I think it would take the economics to get a lot worse before that happens, but these are strange times. Who knows what could happen.
The Times article notes that the curriculum is the way it is (teaching theory) by design. That may surprise those who do not work in academics, but it’s true. The only time law schools embrace members of the bench and bar is when they are rich enough to donate, lend prestige through their accomplishments, or act as customers to CLE offerings. Very few schools, even those that recognize the divide between theory and practice do anything radical to tilt teaching to practical skills. This is due to the law school inferiority complex, not wanting to seem to be a trade school.
I don’t understand that myself. I would worry less about what my academic peers think of my standing of an academic discipline. Medical schools bridge that gap with intern programs before graduates are licensed as doctors. Business school graduates are taught how to manipulate markets and money. I don’t know what the business graduate market is like, but I hardly see any stories about it compared to that of law. It must be doing well enough. Both professions are trades in a sense, as one can buy services from those holding medical and business degrees. Why not law?
Then there is the scholarship. According to the Times article, a study shows that some 40% of law review articles are not cited in cases or other law review articles. This scholarship, however, is what drives the promotion train in law schools. There are unfriendly quotes from Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Breyer on the state of legal scholarship, both of whom dismiss the value of current faculty writing. Chief Justice Roberts identifies it as not “much help to the bar.” True dat Mr. Chief Justice.
I can appreciate this myself as I provide research services to faculty. I roll my eyes at some of the stuff I find but pass it along, nonetheless. For a bit of fun, check out one of my favorite articles that parodies the whole postmodern thing, Pomobabble: Postmodern Newspeak1 and Constitutional “Meaning” for the Uninitiated, by Dennis W. Arrow, 96 Mich. L. Rev. 461 (1998). It runs some 228 pages, most of them being footnotes. The title, as indicated, contains the first footnote of the article. It received some pointed criticism at the time it came out as it exposed some faculty sensitivity concerning the type of scholarship popular in law reviews. Some either couldn’t or refused to get the joke. For a bit more fun, see this short note in U.S. News.
I agree with the conclusion of the various articles that law schools aren’t about to change their operation soon. What we have now works very comfortably for those providing the service. We’ll need quite different circumstances to break that comfort. [MG]
TR/Westlaw China Gobbles Up iSinolaw
Sadly, I must report about the latest so-called merger of online publishers. I just received a letter from Stephan Yao, CEO or Thomas Reuters Legal, China and Gordon Wong, Business Director of iSinolaw. According to this letter, the two companies signed an agreement on November 18th, 2011 (Beijing time) where "future iSinolaw will be replaced by Westlaw China service."
The current iSinolaw service will cease functioning on, ahem, Valentine's Day a/k/a February 14th, 2012 (Beijing calendar day).
The letter states that TR will assume iSinolaw's contracts and provide necessary customer support. It does not provide any information about refunds to those of us who subscribe to both Westlaw China and iSinolaw. Typical.
So folks, another one bites the dust. (VS)
Hello Catalogers of Graham's Federal Rules of Evidence in a Nutshell (2011)
Hat tip to NKU Law's Carol Bredemeyer for calling attention to the fact that "evidence" was omitted from the title page for the latest edition of TR Legal's Federal Rules of Evidence in a Nutshell. Quoting from her recent lawlib list message, "Big opps there, TR Legal!"
Don't think cataloging rules have changed so much since I did a wee bit some 30-plus years ago that title pages aren't still used as the primary source for cataloging with a note field for cover page title. Might be time for a uniform title entry to substitute for "Federal Rules of" title entry? More uniform title entries to follow?
Just how much sloppier can the production editorial staff get before pushing the "send to" manufacturing buttom. My bad, that assumes TR Legal still employs production editors. "Never assume" is just a good rule for lawyering. Clearly it now applies to libraries' automatic shipments and cataloging (and advertising and acquisition decisions) these days.
Since this goof was not to the best of my knowledge officially communicated by CRIV-Lite to TR Legal, we may never see a "Dear Colleagues" response from TR Legal. If we ever do, which of the follow three possibilities do you think would most likely be representative of TR Legal's communication in terms of tenor:
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for calling attention to another one of our screw-ups. You will receive a corrected title page and a bottle of Elmer's glue to tip it into your copy or copies of "Federal Rules of" at no charge other than your staff time.
Like OMG, thanks for the heads-up. We had no idea but we will ship out new copies with a corrected title page as soon as manufacturing spits out all the year-end crap we are sending to you. While we will kill more trees to do this, the new copies will be sent free of charge. As you know, we never "charge for shipping" anyway.
Based on customer input, we no longer find it necessary to provide accurate title page information for cataloging purposes. Just as our customers have indicated that our print format switcheroos don't require much work to change bib records from former loose-leaf services to some sort of generic serial record for annual and semi-annual pamphet editions, we believe the most efficient way to address this change is to switch over to a generic series title, namely "Nutshells," and cutter all topical Nutshells solely by year of publication, at least until we stop indicating their year of publication.
Providing Users with Search Algorithm Information
Matt Cutts, Distinguished Engineer, recaps ten changes to Google's algorithm implemented during the last couple of weeks on Google's official Inside Search blog including, for example:
Snippets with more page content and less header/menu content: This change helps us choose more relevant text to use in snippets. As we improve our understanding of web page structure, we are now more likely to pick text from the actual page content, and less likely to use text that is part of a header or menu.
Better page titles in search results by de-duplicating boilerplate anchors: We look at a number of signals when generating a page’s title. One signal is the anchor text in links pointing to the page. We found that boilerplate links with duplicated anchor text are not as relevant, so we are putting less emphasis on these. The result is more relevant titles that are specific to the page’s content.
Refining official page detection: We try hard to give our users the most relevant and authoritative results. With this change, we adjusted how we attempt to determine which pages are official. This will tend to rank official websites even higher in our ranking.
Improvements to date-restricted queries: We changed how we handle result freshness for queries where a user has chosen a specific date range. This helps ensure that users get the results that are most relevant for the date range that they specify.
Very expensive legal SE vendors take note. The "secret sauce" is not publicly disclosed by providing this sort of information. But it could help users and law librarian-instructors acquire a better understanding of today's new legal SEs. Since some of our very expensive legal vendors are re-engineering their SEs for the Google generation, perhaps they should steal another idea from Google by creating their own official "inside search" blogs. [JH]
November 21, 2011
NY Times Group Subscriptions
The Blogosphere is reporting that the NY Times subscription department has finally come to its senses and is offering group subscriptions to companies with 50 or more employees (it said companies, not educational institutions so interpret at will). On E-content, for example, reports that the NY Times will provide a self-management tool for companies to assign, delete and keep track of individual employee access. Oh joy!
No word on cost yet. Individual subscriptions range from $15 to $35 depending on your number of access points (website, smart phone, tablet).
Adopting group access is supposed to "keep the readers rolling in." I think IP address access, instead of a "self-management tool", would roll them in quicker and in greater numbers, but that's just me. (VS)
Get Out of (Some) Debt Free Card
Two Yale law profs, Akhil Reed Amar and Ian Ayres, are suggesting that law schools offer to pay half of loan debts incurred if students decide to quit law school after receiving their grades at the end of their first year.
A half-tuition rebate splits the loss of an aborted legal career between the school and the student. Each has skin in the game, so students will not go to law school lightly, and law schools will have better incentives not to admit students likely to fail.
For more, see Amar and Ayres' Paying Students To Quit Law School on Slate.
Interesting idea but wouldn't a rebate program increase tuition for the rest of the admitted students? To cover potential costs, law schools would have to hedge their bets based on some sort of forecast of the expected number of students who would take the rebate offer each year, assuming, of course, law schools would not stack the deck by gaming first year grading. [JH]
"The physical book is a jail for ideas" - Prensky
When I first started reaching Marc Prensky's Commentary, In the 21st Century University, Let's Ban Books, (Page A30 of the November 18th Chronicle of Higher Education if you don't have an online subscription), I thought it was going to be a satirical piece on the hysteria of e-books. In his Commentary, he advocates for a bookless (as in physical item, not content) university -- not just a bookless library. I thought it was a satire when he stated:
In this bookless college, all reading - which would still, of course, be both required and encouraged - would be done electronically. Any physical books in students' possession at the beginning of the year would be exchanged for electronic versions, and if a student was later found with a physical book, it would be confiscated (in return for an electronic version).
In Mr. Prensky's vision of the traditional university, these confiscated books (and I suppose the library books) would be sent to those places and institutions that wanted or needed them.
It is a bit of an illogical approach - unless the endgame is to advance a digital divide among institutions of higher education. If the point is to get rid of physical books because they are no longer needed, than where would they go? Mr. Prensky steers clear of that sticky problem we all struggle with - throwing out the printed word. No one likes doing it, we have all done it, and we do it because there is no where to send many of our printed books.
We will get there Mr. Prensky, but at a slower pace than you prescribe. And, I doubt we would ever confiscate a physical book just because it is a book in the traditional sense of the word.
In Mr. Prensky's world, all students would need to purchase an e-reading device that supports the format of the assignments from the faculty from whom they are learning. Or the school might need to make that purchase for their students. There are schools that do this of course, but given the current budget crisis, and, to be even more localized, the criticism of the cost of a legal education, this is a problematic proposition that again, increases that digital divide. And we would also need to assume either that a uniform standard for e-books is adhered to by all players, or the apps necessary to read all things digital are available to all devices. And, in our world, until the Bluebook editors decide to do create a useful digital citation standard, and publishers publish in that standard, digital books may drive our journal students batty! And the judges. Don't want to annoy the judges.
There are also a few cost issues Mr. Prensky disregarded. Digital materials are not open access materials. They can be, but often they are not. They cost money - even if one was to simply link to a chapter or an article from a course page, the school still needs to own it. And, the digital cost may be prohibitive in comparison to (gasp) an article placed on library reserve.
In his Commentary Mr. Prensky believes the sciences, rather than the humanities, are more likely to be the first champions of the bookless university because of their already evident desire to share ideas. He fails to recognize that while the hard sciences have some of the best open access materials, they also have the most expensive. We can only hope that will change as change marches on, but currently, the march is kind of slow. And, he is correct, the march in the humanities and social sciences is even slower.
Then of course there is copyright. Global copyright. In his commentary, Mr. Prensky suggests:
Whatever isn't there electronically, librarians, students, or professors, can easily scan, as many already do.
Scan them? He needs to review some videos at CCC. There may be a lot of this going on, but it may not be legal and you may end up getting sued. And, you might find that the author will not grant rights to share his or her material digitally, even if you want to pony up the royalty money. Not everyone is as altruistic as Mr. Prensky. This issue is just an enormous stumbling block that has yet to unfold in legislature, courts, and the board rooms of the world. I hope librarians will continue to lobby for fair copyright. We, more than most, know the stakes --- which is why we just do not scan willy nilly!
And what of pedagogy? The word is still out on processing digital information, health effects of reading long discourse online, and retention of that information. Anecdotally, I can tell you that the printers at my law school still get a lot of use (and they are not printing out their fantasy league standings or restaurant reviews). It isn't very scientific, but I'm sure it means something! I need a grant to investigate it further. And probably some PhDs who are smarter than I am. All I know is that students at my last school and students at my current school study the same. They have a laptop, a book, and notes and they use them all. And they take up 2 1/2 spaces. Does their preference count? I recall that e-books are not favored by students. See for example MG's post Digital Access Isn't Everything and my own Confusing Trend in E-books.
Perhaps Mr. Prensky merely meant to be aspirational, but it is unclear to what he wants higher ed to aspire to be other than bookless. He claims leaving physical books behind is a sign a progress, like switching from scrolls to books. He does not raise any benefits from what I can read.
Articles like this remind me of one of the stupidest questions to ask a librarian (yes, sorry, but there are stupid questions): When do we get rid of the books? The question triggers the above litany of reasons why we cannot go completely digital this time tomorrow. I wish these problems did not exist, and I wish I was not the one that has to continually point them out to library luddites. Prensky's broad brush Commentary does not make it any easier to direct a library or school into the 21st century with a considered approach that minds the rights and responsibilities of the school to its students and faculty. (VS)
The Labyrinth of Library eBook Acquisitions
When interviewed for being recognized as a 2011 Mover & Shaker, Sue Polanka, Head of Reference/Instruction at Wright State University Libraries, was quoted in the LJ profile article:
"As much as people call me an expert, I'm not," Polanka says. "I just keep track of things, know where to find the information, and have an amazing network of people whom I can contact for information and advice."
Well, those are all avenues that eventually produce expertise. Folks may remember Polanka's No Shelf Required: E-books in Libraries (editor) (ALA Editions, 2010). No Shelf Required: 2: Use and Management of Electronic Books (editor) will be published by ALA in 2012. She is also moderator the must-read blog, No Shelf Required.
In a recent American Libraries "Dispatches from the Field" column, titled A Guide to Ebook Purchasing, Polanka offers an overview of the factors that must be considered by libraries contemplating the integration eBooks into collection development planning including the variety of eBook publisher business models and acquisitions by way of individual libraries and through consortia. "It’s a complex labyrinth. But one day, it will be easy [for libraries looking to acquire eBooks]," writes Polanka.
In general, law libraries are further behind the curve in eBook acquisitions compared to other types of libraries. That's largely because we are only now starting to see a substantial number of eBooks in sales catalogs and law e-commerce sites. We can, in my opinion, acquire a lot of professional intelligence from public and general academic librarians from librarians outside our community. In this case, one may want to note that Polanka's American Libraries article in taken from the introduction to the November/December issue of Library Technology Reports (watch for its release here). [JH]
When May a Library Loan a Loaded eBook Reader? Four Scenarios
Check out Mary Minow's answers on LibraryLaw Blog for the following:
- The device is empty. The only copyrighted content is the code itself that the device uses to display ebooks.
- The device is loaded with public domain content and/or content with permission to lend (such as creative commons licensed content).
- The device is loaded with ebooks licensed from a vendor such as Amazon. The license may allow a limited number of copies such as five or six.
- The device has unauthorized content.
November 20, 2011
Round-Up of Law Practitioner Blogs
Tampa St. Petersburg Injury Attorney Blog
Examines injury and accident cases, news, and opinions in Tampa, Florida. Published by Clifford K. Wells
Washington Injury Lawyer Blog
Examines injury cases, news, and opinions in the state of Washington. Published by Williams Law Offices, PLLC
Georgia Injury Attorney Blog
Examines injury cases, news, and related matters in Georgia. Published by the Law Office of Casey W. Stevens
Lawyer Marketing Expert
Discusses Internet Marketing topics and the legal industry nationwide. Published by
Integrity Internet Consultant, Dan Stratford
Leveraging strategic communications for the legal industry & legal tech
Examines legal marketing news, ideas and related matters. Published by Louise Rosen Byer.