February 2, 2013
Beyond the Initial Construction and Implementation Phase: Examining Institutional Strategies for Digital Content
In Sustaining Our Digital Future: Institutional Strategies for Digital Content, Ithaka S+R examines "the strategies that institutions have in place for supporting digital content resources beyond their initial construction and implementation". The report "is both an assessment of the university environment as a host for digital content and an exploratory look at how cultural heritage institutions think about and plan for sustaining and enhancing the value of their digital collections." Quoted from the announcement. A snip from the Executive Summary:
Although the most visible signs of our embrace of digital media belong to the world of commercial entertainment and the iPads, e-readers and smartphones we use to consume it, the shift taking place in scholarly communications is proving to be no less transformative. It is not only data sets and scholarly articles that are being created, but dynamic digital resources — websites, digital collections, databases of crowdsourced or born digital content — and they pose opportunities and challenges that are all their own. Aside from the riskiest of experiments in digital innovation, it has become clear that a great deal of the content that libraries and scholars are creating today is expected to endure.
However, whose responsibility it is to look after this content is still unclear. In the United Kingdom, the current political and educational context offers urgent and specific reasons for institutions of higher education to support the outputs of its faculty: declines in government spending and national mandates for open access of scholarly outputs have encouraged this conversation. Meanwhile, the potential for use and re-use of this content has never been greater. While the hot issues around big data sets and peer-reviewed research articles often take centre stage, this study focuses on those digital content resources that require some form of support and management even after they are built. How are institutions supporting and maximising the value of the digital content their faculty and staff create?
Hat tip to DigitalKoans. [JH]
February 1, 2013
Pew: Americans Like Technology in Libraries
The availability of free computers and internet access now rivals book lending and reference expertise as a vital service of libraries. In a national survey of Americans ages 16 and older:
- 80% of Americans say borrowing books is a “very important” service libraries provide.
- 80% say reference librarians are a “very important” service of libraries.
- 77% say free access to computers and the internet is a “very important” service of libraries.
Moreover, a notable share of Americans say they would embrace even wider uses of technology at libraries such as:
- Online research services allowing patrons to pose questions and get answers from librarians: 37% of Americans ages 16 and older would “very likely” use an “ask a librarian” type of service, and another 36% say they would be “somewhat likely” to do so.
- Apps-based access to library materials and programs: 35% of Americans ages 16 and older would “very likely” use that service and another 28% say they would be “somewhat likely” to do so.
- Access to technology “petting zoos” to try out new devices: 35% of Americans ages 16 and older would “very likely” use that service and another 34% say they would be “somewhat likely” to do so.
- GPS-navigation apps to help patrons locate material inside library buildings: 34% of Americans ages 16 and older would “very likely” use that service and another 28% say they would be “somewhat likely” to do so.
- “Redbox”-style lending machines or kiosks located throughout the community where people can check out books, movies or music without having to go to the library itself: 33% of Americans ages 16 and older would “very likely” use that service and another 30% say they would be “somewhat likely” to do so.
- “Amazon”-style customized book/audio/video recommendation schemes that are based on patrons’ prior library behavior: 29% of Americans ages 16 and older would “very likely” use that service and another 35% say they would be “somewhat likely” to do so.
I’m intrigued by some of these such as the desire for GPS-navigation apps. I suspect the day can’t be far off when bar codes are either replaced or supplemented by RFD chips embedded in books. The technology may allow not only locating the book on the shelf but circulating them as well. Then there is the ability to find mis-shelved books via tracking technology.
Americans certainly see libraries as forward-thinking when implementing technology. In that regard, the American Library Association recently honored five libraries for technology based cutting-edge services. Some of these are quite novel. For example, the Goethe-Institut New York Library teamed up with the Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science to develop German Traces NYC. The app overlays augmented reality images over images from a mobile device’s camera to show German cultural heritage in New York. Personally, I’m holding out for Google Glasses to take advantage of this kind of technology. I’ve been keen on the product coming to market since I first heard of the concept.More on the awards for other cutting-edge technology in libraries is available from ALA here. [MG]
Law Porn, Now a Topic of Long-Form Commentary
"'Law porn' is an epithet that refers to professional-looking, glossy publications commissioned by law schools to tout their own achievements and to create the impression of a vibrant, intellectual culture" writes Doug Litowitz in Law Porn and Its Discontents, 6 The crit: a critical legal studies journal 15 (Winter 2012).
[M]y concern is not with the truth or falsity of law porn, but rather with its meaning for the legal academy. What troubles me–and this is the major point of this essay–is that most of the claims in law porn are neither true nor false, but rather a kind of magical speech in which saying something is an attempt to make it come true. In the technical terminology of the linguist, law porn conflates the indicative grammatical mood (statements about what is or isn’t the case) with the optative mood (statements about what is hoped to be the case). Rather than reporting on some antecedent truth, law porn is an attempt to create a truth a posteriori. Law porn is not news; it is mythology.
Litowitz starts off the conclusion of his recommended essay with "[w]hatever our opinions of ‘real porn,’ at least it is sought by a consumer, for his own gratification, to be viewed in private. The reverse is true for law—it is intended to benefit the sender, and it is public." [JH]
Friday Fun: "It's a Green Book"
And how often have we heard a patron say "I remember the book was [insert color]"? [JH]
January 31, 2013
More On The Drop In Law School Applicants
The news about law school admissions plummeting compared to the last two years has generated some commentary from outlets such as the New York Times, The Atlantic, the American Bar Journal, and other worthwhile news sources. The general themes seem to be: law school is expensive (we know this); there aren’t enough good jobs to pay off the immense debt generated by three years of law school (we know this as well); and law schools do not teach the right set of skills and/or lasts too long (open to a valid debate). There is little, if any sympathy for law schools.
The point of discussion that got my interest was the natural outcome of a shrinking enrollment, which is contraction in the legal education business. I’ve suggested this myself in earlier posts, but now commentators are starting to put projected numbers to the coming decline. The Atlantic projects 40,000 students enrolling this fall. The New York Times quotes Brian Tamanaha offering about 38,000 enrollees. As late as the middle of last December The ABA Journal quoted Paul Campos projecting between 52,000 and 53,000 incoming students noting that schools admitted 60,400 two years ago. Campos doesn’t put up any revised numbers in his article in today’s Business Insider. He does cite the New York Times without questioning the figures, however.
Law schools should expect a significant drop in revenue considering that the average tuition is $40,500 for a private law school and $23,600 for a public law school. Let’s assume an average tuition of $30,000 and the worst case of 38,000 compared to 60,400. That would be loss of $672 million in revenue. Something in the infrastructure has to give. The Times quotes Brian Leiter as projecting the closure of as many as 10 law schools in the next 10 years with the rest of the bunch reducing class size, faculty, and staff. The Times notes this is already going on at the Vermont School of Law through buyouts. There is a correction stating the original version of the story included faculty and staff, but so far its only staff. Something is going to give and when it does it’s going to be ugly.
There is one story that shows the trend doesn’t apply to one law school. Washington & Lee (ranked #24 by U.S. News) is deferring some enrollments from this year to next with cash incentives to the deferred. The suggested reason is the school’s emphasis on practical skills. The content of the law school curriculum is always part of the debate, but let’s see if they get jobs when they get out. [MG]
"Welcome to another day here in the new reality... "
according to Westlaw(shouldn't that be Legalsolutions)Insider [JH]
Imitation is the Best Form of Flattery
Or perhaps it is indicative of something else.
The color palette is an important factor in marketing a corporate brand. Shades of red as the predominate color is one of the most commonly used unless the corporate entity is in the medical services industry because red = blood; green = money is better. Blue also is very common. Orange, less so. But orange is used by Thomson Reuters (e.g., TRI's shower drain logo) and Bloomberg Law. Is that the reason why Thomson Reuters recently rolled out a "Legal Solutions" design display that imitates Bloomberg Law's color scheme?
Perhaps, but it may not be the most important reason. Quoting Jason Wilson from this post:
TR pages are getting dangerously close to the same color scheme of Bloomberg Law, and it makes me wonder why they are trying so hard to compete with something that hasn’t seen widespread adoption?
Could it be because BLaw is recognized as a competitive threat by the folks in the Land of 10,000 Invoices despite BLaw's currently low BigLaw firm-wide adoption rate in the No Sacred Cows Era of commoditized online core content and search? For screen shot comparisons (and a hat tip for Jason's quote), see Greg Lambert's post Why Is Thomson Reuters' Legal Solutions Mimicking Bloomberg Law's Design?? on 3 Geeks (also orange chromed)
Frankly, I think content delivery comparisons are more significant in determining if imitation is the best form of flattery. Jason Wilson's above-linked post, Current Awareness Trend Continues (or ends): WestlawNext’s “Practitioner Insights” & Alerts Center, makes for much more interesting reading than just colors used for corporate branding because of the post's comparison of the Thomson Reuters-Wolters Kluwer collaboration known as "Practitioner Insights" via WLN with BLaw-BNA's speciality-centric resource centers.
By way of acquisitions and content collaborations because in-house editorial staff just isn't qualified, WEXIS is mimicking the current awareness services business model established decades ago by BNA and CCH to retain as much of their practitioner market share as possible. One can only wonder if one day we will be hearing that Thomson Reuters has acquired Wolters Kluwer's US Legal and Regulatory operating unit. Talk about imitation being the best form of flattery... . [JH]
January 30, 2013
Here Are The Latest LSAC Figures
As of 01/25/13, there are 217,432 Fall 2013 applications submitted by 30,098 applicants. Applicants are down 20.4% and applications are down 22.8% from 2012.
Last year at this time, we had 56% of the preliminary final applicant count.
The numbers vary slightly from week to week but stay over 20% compared to last year. Some of the current applicants will be rejected as unqualified meaning even fewer students starting the fall academic year. More on this from the National Law Journal here and here. [MG]
What Law Librarians Should Know About Aaron Swartz
That's the title of Scott Frey's (Reference Librarian, Western State College of Law) AALL Spectrum blog post about "programmer, hacker, internet activist, and information activist" Aaron Swartz (1986-2013). Frey's post provides a concise review of Aaron Swartz's all too human but also far too brief life's work and concludes with the following summary:
Aaron Swartz was very interested in information and how people can access and use it. He worked to make books, academic articles, and legal documents more available, and to foster freedom on the internet. I think that these interests gave him much in common with law librarians. Of course, some librarians would disagree with particular positions or actions that Swartz took. Few would go as far as Swartz did to further access to information, which led to federal investigation and prosecution. A librarian might reasonably be nervous about allowing someone like Swartz to use the library's computers! Nevertheless, I think that law librarians can take inspiration from Swartz's goals of information access and internet freedom, and his willingness to work for them.
Highly recommended for that (as well as hopefully signaling an editorial turning point for AALL Spectrum).
For a tribute to Aaron Swartz as a transparency activist and a legal analysis of the the criminal charges that plagued him, see the links at this LLB post. [JH]
January 29, 2013
Short Takes On The News: Admission Misinformation, Windows 8, Big Law, and Google
It seems that misreporting of admissions data is not exclusive to law schools. Inside Higher Ed reports that four universities and have misreported undergraduate test scores to U.S. News. The latest is Bucknell, which misreported SAT and ACT scores for a six year period. One MBA program reported incorrect admissions information as well. U.S. News seems to think this is not a trend, though the article seems to question that conclusion.
Anyone interested in purchasing cheap copies of Windows 8 upgrades are advised to do so by Thursday. Microsoft’s promotional pricing of $39.99 for downloads ends on January 31. Upgrades to Windows 8 Pro are available at that price for Windows 7, Vista, and XP. The price goes to $119.99 for the regular edition and $199.99 for the Pro edition. I saw the Windows 8 Pro disc set on sale at Costco for $66.99 and at Wal-Mart for $199.99. Microsoft’s download page is here. CNET has more pricing details here.
All the job troubles with Big Law suggested a retrenchment of what services and costs clients were and were not willing to pay. At least that was the narrative over the last several years. The Wall Street Journal reports in a very short article that the survey by the Wells Fargo Specialty Group shows law firms had good numbers in 2012. The figures aren’t reported, though the conclusion is. I doubt that this will lead to more hiring. My guess is a firm that could produce good financial results will not want to increase its overhead unless absolutely necessary.
Finally, CNET reports on a documentary from the recent Sundance Film Festival called Google And The World Brain. It examines the failed book settlement and questions whether placing the world’s knowledge in the hands of a corporation. Google, can after all, change its mind about levels of access to its scanning project without much oversight. CNET’s review notes that the problem is bigger than Google, with implications for all when major corporations gather intimate information about its customers. Implications aside, that’s what you get in a commerce driven world. [MG]
Hello World from the Land of 10,000 Solutions
I'm "Legal Solutions" from Thomson Reuters, your 21st century "premier source for legal solutions, including WestlawNext and law books" (at least until "solutions" becomes too tired a buzz word). Type in http://west.thomson.com to be redirected to http://legalsolutions.thomsonreuters.com/law-products/ to watch my welcome to my new home video. Then take the site tour of my "one-stop convenience" store "for everything legal" hosted by my big daddy, Thomson Reuters (at least as long as the Thomson family doesn't divest their holdings to return to the oil and gas industry should this not work). I can't tell you how excited I am to join Jim Smith and Stephane Bello in our investors conference call on February 13th. Good riddence to Johnny and Jenny Westlaw.
Hat tip to Jason Wilson's And It Begins... and officially ends for West. [JH]
E-Books and You
Published on Jan. 15, 2013, here's ALA President, Maureen Sullivan's comments on the Association's eBook advocacy campaign and how librarians can help provide eBooks to their library patrons. [JH]
January 28, 2013
Law School Applications At A 30 Year Low
One of the stories I’ve been following is the drop in law school applications. Here’s the latest from the LSAC:
As of 01/18/13, there are 199,877 Fall 2013 applications submitted by 27,891 applicants. Applicants are down 20.1% and applications are down 22.3% from 2012.
Last year at this time, we had 51% of the preliminary final applicant count.
Those figures suggest applications will be fewer than 60,000 for the application year. The ABA Journal points out this would be a 30 year low. 68,000 applied for law school last year. These figures may be the new normal despite an improving economy. [MG]
OMG-ing About Content No Longer Being King
An interesting coincidence is occurring tomorrow. On the very same day, in very different locations, the nation’s two leading legal publishers are both staging day-long summit meetings, to which they have invited a variety of legal bloggers, journalists, industry analysts and "influencers". -- Bob Ambrogi in his LawSites post published the day before the January 16, 2013 events.
Indeed, very interesting. Bob does an excellent job reporting about the Thomson Reuters event at Thomson Reuters Unveils New Tools for Litigators, Corporate Counsel and Small Firms. LTN's technology editor, Sean Doherty, does the same for the LexisNexis event at LexisNexis Overture for LegalTech New York. Neither account was "influenced" as questioned in Kevin O'Keefe's Theatrical of the Absurd post about both events at Who's Influencing Who. (Kevin, if you ever do get invited to one of these events someday and decide to attend, note well they can be an "uninfluenced" grind unless you consider being "influenced" to make the go-to decision because you are desperately seeking a real hot pastrami sandwich or want to visit Diamond Jim's the night before or after the day-long event.)
One statement at the Thomson Reuters meeting struck a cord (update oops -- I meant to write nerve) with some. Quoting from Bob's post:
"We have decided that our long-term vision is not information, it is software tools, solutions, ways to enable attorneys to practice in a more cogent way," Mike Suchsland, president of Thomson Reuters Legal
Jean O'Grady found that to be jaw-dropping. See Thomson Reuters Legal Announces New Strategic Direction: Content no Longer King, Shift to Client Centric Platform. Blogging with tongue-in-cheek, one may reasonably conclude that Jason Wilson was "OMG-ing" this "revelation" at Legal publishing is dead! Long live software solutions! See also Jason's follow-up post, The Cupcake: A new editorial paradigm for legal publishing? because he asked and Mike Suchsland responded to Jason's follow-up request for clarification.
The same long-term vision statement could have been made at the LexisNexis event too. It is nothing more than recognizing what have been WEXIS strategic objectives for a fairly long time now. As Outsell's David Curle said many years ago, our major vendors view themselves as being players in the professional legal services marketplace. They do not and have not for quite sometime self-identified as "legal publishers" in the 21st century "New Normal".
So why the OMG-ing shock? Core legal content and online search have been commodized. The WEXIS research platforms (i.e., WestlawNext and Lexis Advance) next current gen user interfaces and user experiences are so similar that a user population can be switched from one platform to another with relative ease -- meaning the Rx has turned from a brand name to a generic equivalent.
When "new" features are added to today's platforms, some in-house corporate prophets confuse that with "innovations." They are nothing more than tweaks. And some of those tweaks are nothing more than decades old wine being poured into new bottles. Hell, those software architects who have been around longer than their corporate prophets know that -- let's just call it in-house "reverse" software engineering.
About the only real difference between WEXIS is that one vendor has built its platform for the ground up in-house and the other's platform has not -- meaning one vendor's platform development cost is higher (and more costly to the subscriber base) than the other.
"Long live software solutions!" I feel Jason Wilson's professional pain. That's because he is not in the "professional legal services" business, Jones-McClure is a legal publisher that produces high editorial content in the form of annotated federal and some state code deskbooks. Hell, I buy Jones-McClure's federal code titles for our little county law library instead of TR Legal ones and would buy them even if they cost more than TR Legal's over-priced titles. Frankly, I just wish there were more annotated topical code deskbooks to buy from Jones-McClure including Ohio-specific titles because I would cancel all my WEXIS annotated (read regurgitated analytical content) Ohio code handbooks (with or without "free" eBook companions).
However whether WEXIS explicitly states or implicitly demonstrates by roll-outs that productivity and business-of-law solutions is their primary business plan focus, that is not "news." What once were just upsell opportunities for sales reps from the law library institutional buyer perspective simply is maturing at WEXIS to the point of consolidating their already-on-the-market many tools offerings with the addition of new tools. This will eventually lead to suites of solutions as being the primary focus of the professional legal services vendors once known many years ago as "legal publishers".
Here about the only current difference between WEXIS is one vendor's next current gen user interface for productivity solutions is a familiar screen display. Whether or not that is an important selling point for end users remains to be seen. Eventually WEXIS users will launch into their WEXIS suites from a "My WEXIS" integrated solutions interface which links to desktop and mobile vendor-specific licensed productivity, business-of-law, database search and eBooks products and services based on user population, practice-centric specific plans acquired by institutional buyers.
What about law library institution buyers? Both LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters are following the same game plan. Core legal content and online search are commodities. Their platforms are generic. Commoditized "Content+Search" is just one among many "solutions" and no longer is the most important one while some offered productivity solutions do embed "content+search" inside them.
The indoctrination model is and increasingly will be addicting law school students to productivity solutions some that to repeat and repeat again and again offer commoditized "Content+Search" embedded within them. That's because legal skills training is "hot" in the legal academy now and WEXIS has (finally) realized that is the case.
The traditional "stuff" of law librarianship in this regard is not and has not been "king" because it is and has been nothing more than a pawn for years. That makes law librarians nothing more than pawns too. So where does all this leave those law librarians and their professional association who are in denial about this? In the dustbin of history unless law librarians and AALL decide they don't want to be watching the game from the bench.End Note. I seriously doubt Jean O'Grady is a law librarian in denial. Her post, however, does speak to not being influenced by Thomson Reuters, Kevin. It's not like any of the Land of 10,000 Invoices or Garden of Eden Big Apple attendees have either the Shower Drain or Knowledge Bubble Burst corporate logos tattooed on their butts. Well, at least none of non-WEXIS employed ones. [JH]
January 27, 2013
Library Punks Lance Armstrong
A sign posted in an Australian library stated that all of the collection's books written by Lance Armstrong including "Lance Armstrong: World's Greatest Champion" will be reclassified from non-fiction to fiction (for obvious reasons). One social media comment stated that the sign showed "librarians do have a sense of humour". For details and a picture of the sign, see this BBC report, Australia library in Armstrong pledge prank. [JH]