Solstice Evening Posts

Happy Solstice, everyone! Are you as ready as I am for the days to get longer again? Well, it’s still going to be a while, so you might as well get caught up on blog posts from my RSS reader:

Tanning leather is a toxic endeavor and also quite fatal for animals, but a new alternative bio-based leather promises to be more environmentally friendly. Richard Wool, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Delaware has been working on an eco-leather alternative made from natural fibers and oils. Flax or cotton is […]

I am pretty excited about this; I hope it really is environmentally-friendly as well as cruelty-free. And would durable be too much to ask? I totally do the non-leather shoe thing (and purses and stuff, but that’s not as big of a deal), but they aren’t as high quality (on the other hand, they aren’t as expensive, either, so I can afford more of them).

  • New on SSRN: Legal Education in Crisis, and Why Law Libraries are Doomed, Out of the Jungle
  • The dual crises facing legal education—the economic crisis affecting both the job market and the pool of law school applicants, and the crisis of confidence in the ability of law schools and the ABA accreditation process to meet the needs of lawyers or society at large—have undermined the case for not only the autonomy, but the very existence, of law school libraries as we have known them.

    Oh, well, this isn’t depressing at all!

    Vampires, of course, feed on something that we desperately need but also can’t imagine being a source of food. You have metaphorical vampires in your life. These are people that feed on negativity, on shooting down ideas and most of…

    I guess I wasn’t the only one struck by Seth’s post:

  • Keep Calm and Carry Garlic, 3 Geeks and a Law Blog

This is the time of year when we reflect on all that has happened over the past 12 months; the successes, the failures, the moments of epiphany, the stumbles, the growth and change, basically everything that makes us human. That is why I was so struck by the timing and subject of Seth Godin’s recent post about vampires (and he’s not talking about Team Edward or reviewing the latest True Blood episode). Seth explains that these metaphorical vampires are “people that feed on negativity, on shooting down ideas and most of all, on extinguishing your desire to make things better.” What is so striking to me is that Seth says that these vampires cannot be cured; they cannot be shown the error of their ways. Trying to change their minds and get them on board is a waste of time. Seth explains that all we can do for these people is pity them.

… So we added to our list of services which have closed this year. Services like Xtranormal and Google Reader, just to name a couple.

So what do you do when your favorite web service shuts down? There are four basic steps that can help.

Imagine, if you will, a Venn Diagram. One circle is the unholy mess that is the current state of legal education.  One is the systematic failures surrounding issues of Access to Justice.  And the third circle is the Reinvent/Innovate/New Law world of individuals attempting to make the practice of law more efficient using technological solutions.


Saturday Evening Posts


Seeing if this clickbait works as well as the last one.

I starred a lot of things in my reader this week. Hopefully you will find some of them interesting!


Relaxed can connect to your Facebook or Twitter accounts and automatically send out to replies to let people know you are taking a break from social media.

I think, maybe, if you need this app, you might have a bigger problem. But, on the other hand, if you need this app, I’m glad it exists for you!

Another amazing recurring bit in the Arrested canon is the Cornballer, George Sr.’s popular but really dangerous invention. The Cornballer, of course, made Cornballs, likely delicious fried treats (probably spelled with a ‘z’ like treatz), but it also severely burned its users.

Totally want to make these.

If you want to get a little activity while you sit at your desk or your computer, the DeskCycle may be a good fit for you. It’s a tiny stationary bike that’s essentially just the pedals, small enough to slide under your desk at work or at home so you get some pedaling in while you work, chat, or play video games.

Where our beloved FitDesk is a full standing exercise bike, the DeskCycle does away with the seat and handlebars, and instead acts a bit like a recumbent bike. You sit in your desk chair, and you continue to use your computer normally, you’re just pedaling under your desk. When we say the DeskCycle is small, we mean it—it’s only about 20 inches across, 24 inches long, and the tallest pedal height is 10 inches. That means if you have two feet square under your desk, you can fit this thing under it and use it without issue.

Going to measure my desk in my office first thing next time I go in. I kind of want this.

This morning Pew Internet & American Life released its latest report on libraries in the digital age. “How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities” reports on the value of libraries services to their community.

People who answer these studies always seem to say they value their libraries, but does it ever have an effect on what happens to public libraries?

I admit that I don’t understand how 3-D printing works, but are people clamoring for the ability to print lingerie?

Part 7 of my Top 10 Ed-Tech Trends of 2013 series

This is the third year in a row that I’ve chosen “data” as one of the “top trends” in ed-tech. (See 2011, 2012) If you’re looking for a sunnier view of data in education, read those. 2013, in my opinion, was pretty grim.

The idea being explored is worth revisiting every single gift-giving season. Little girls are confronted by strong messages about beauty and body image conformity very early. They are pushed into sexy images early as well. It’s not just Barbie and Bratz with totally unrealistic body dimensions. The Disney princesses, even re-worked for modern theories of empowered women are still worth discussing with little girls. Do you have to have a dainty little nose to be a princess? Do you have to be thin? Do you have to have little feet and elegant hands? How about whether you have to have swishy smooth lush shiny hair that swoops back and forth around you? Do you have to have big eyes with long lashes? What if your mouth isn’t small in a cute, pointy chin, with pouty lips? What if, maybe you aren’t a classic beauty? Does beauty mean you are good? Does good mean you are beautiful? These two things are sort of mixed up together in the Disney princesses, and in way too much of our little kid toy, AV and illustrated material.

This isn’t what the blog author is talking about so much here, but have you seen the imagined girl-appealing portraits of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Anne Frank, Harriet Tubman, et al that she starts this post with? I think it’s important to introduce children to these figures as role models in lieu of the Disney princesses, of course, but the drawings of the figures make them look like … Disney princesses. Which, of course, is part of the point – get girls interested in them. But they’ve got the waspy waists, giant eyes, low-cut gowns, etc. I think the sparkly clothes and “fairy-like” aspects could be kept – thus raising interest in girls – without making them have the same physical characteristics that we complain about with the Disney princesses (and Bratz dolls, etc., of course).

Do you have a great lesson plan or assignment that you’d be willing to share?  How about handouts or PowerPoint slides?  If so, then we need your help! The RIPS Teach-In Kit Committee is currently accepting submissions for the 2014 Teach-In Kit.  The Teach-In Kit is […]

Once our hybrid internet legal research class is all polished and shiny, I’m thinking of contributing to this.



Day 3 of NaBloPoMo. Thought I’d write about questions I got today while on the reference desk. Really hope there are some … you never can tell with Sundays. I don’t think the first-year-students have anything due tomorrow, and I know the Law Review students had their papers due last Friday, so I don’t think I’ll be seeing any of them. (Just in case my boss is reading – I do have other things I’m working on if no patrons have questions!)

  • 2:30. Paralegal student wanting to know about the LSA (List of C.F.R. Sections Affected). Helped her find it, and then helped her navigate it to see if a specific section had been affected earlier this year (spoiler alert – it had!).
  • 3:10. Patron wondered if the library offered free PACER use to the public. We do not, but I looked up the PACER fees for her and we discussed PACER for a while. She said she thought the courthouse offered free PACER to the public (not sure she meant state or federal courthouse; am assuming federal), but that then she’d have to pay for printing. I suggested she ask the court librarian if she had the option to save documents she wanted and then email them to herself, thus avoiding the printing costs.
  • 3:20. Not a patron question, but noticed that a student was walking around, Starbucks in hand, wearing fluffy slippers. Idly wondered how long she had been/was planning on being here today.
  • 4:00. Went up to make some tea. Also am wearing cat-eye glasses and have my hair up in a bun-type-thing. If only I were wearing a cardigan, and shushing somebody, I’d be confirming everybody’s stereotype of a librarian in one fell swoop. (I note that it is exceedingly quiet today. Our first floor has an “open voice” policy, but it’s noiseless this afternoon).
  • 4:20. Patron asked where he could find the Minnesota Statutes Annotated. That’s hardly even a real question. I can point to them without getting up.
  • 4:44. Patron just asked me if public computer needed to be turned on. Me, puzzled by the question, “Is it currently on?” It wasn’t on. I turned it on. (I did not count this as a reference interaction.)
  • 5:52. I seriously think nobody else is going to ask me any questions. In the meanwhile, one of the things I’m doing is trying to create a schedule for the conference that I’m going to attend later on this month. The conference website is not interactive (I can’t create a personalized schedule based on the sessions I want to attend), and it’s hard to navigate. Furthermore, there’s about 5 sessions that I want to attend for each time slot. Trying to decide how to rank my choices – sessions that will be helpful to me in creating my own courses, vs. sessions that will help me assist our professors in designing their courses.
  • 7:00. 4:44 was my last patron. So, kind of a dead Sunday. You never can tell how it’s going to be.

In which I write about legal research

Minn. Stat. (2010)

Minn. Stat. (2010)

As one does. You know, sometimes.

I recently read an empirical research paper called, “Rebooting Legal Research in a Digital Age,”  which discusses the results of a survey asking new lawyers how they do legal research. This stuff is like catnip to me; I can’t resist these surveys. I’m always looking for insight into how better to teach students legal research skills, like the do-goody, suck-uppy librarian that I am.

So this survey looked at 190 new-ish attorneys (in practice five years or less). I can’t remember enough of my stats class to know if this is a sufficient pool of respondents. They found some interesting things, some of which we’ve heard before: associates think they need more legal research training in school; they do their research online, etc. Here were the parts that most jumped out at me:

Considering the significant amount of time that associates spend conducting online legal research, nearly half surveyed (49%) feel that legal research should be a larger part of the law school curriculum. And, eight in ten feel that there was at least one area of legal research that should have been given more time. Statutory research, administrative law, and public records searching topped the list for specific areas that deserved more time or exposure. A greater law school focus on online research would seem even more critical given that, as previously noted, associates believe employers expect them to have strong legal research skills, they spend the majority of their time in paid for legal research services, and many firms may not be offering professional development in this area.

I have some quibbles with some of their explanations for their findings:

There is wider use of Boolean queries over Natural Language searching as a search method, particularly among associates in practice two or more years (51% use Natural Language, 79% use Boolean with nearly half using both). That said, associates in practice less than two years favor Natural Language, and this trend is expected to continue as a result of Google exposure and the emergence of next-generation research platforms such as Lexis Advance® and WestlawNext®. Certainly, as this trend grows, there will likely be a debate about the effectiveness of research results using Boolean search query compared to Natural Language.

I am perfectly willing to accept that most people do not embrace Boolean searching the way that librarians do. But, could it not also be  the case that, as attorneys become more experienced as searchers, they find that Boolean (sometimes) works better, rather than that newer associates are necessarily younger and more used to Natural Language searching (which, after all, has been around for quite a while, even if it is much more ubiquitous – and, admittedly, better – now)?

And the concluding sentence to this paragraph is interesting – if Natural Language continues to improve, there very well may be a debate about the effectiveness of the two methods (well, it will be a short debate – if it improves enough, and it is easier to do, that’s the method people will use, period). However, at least for me, Boolean searching remains much more effective now, in both Lexis Advance® and WestlawNext®, even though these systems are diligently trying to get me to stop using it. Heck, Boolean is often more effective than Natural Language searching on Google. That’s why power searchers use it.

And I was perplexed by this part:

In general, [for statutory research,] small and large law firm associates both tend to take similar approaches but start out quite differently. Large law firm associates start by consulting an index or table of contents for federal statutes or a particular state, then go to case annotations in relevant statutes, and next link to related materials, ending with a citation validation program. In contrast, small law associates begin by formulating a Natural Language search in statutes, follow the same workflow of reviewing case annotations in statutes, linking to related materials, and concluding with a citation validation program. 20% of associates begin statutory research by running a search in an online case law database to find a case mentioning a relevant statute. One may hypothesize that the variation in research methods is a result of cost recovery. Large law firms typically charge clients for online research and consulting an index or table of contents is a free or inexpensive option. 

(Emphasis mine). If it’s “free or inexpensive,” shouldn’t everybody start their statutory research this way, regardless of whether they work for a small or large law firm (also, wouldn’t small law firms be even LESS willing to pay for the inefficiencies apparently created by not going to the TOC or index??)? I may be misunderstanding this paragraph.

I do think the differences in the way new associates versus not-so-new associates approach research is something to pay attention to – although I think it’s hard to make conclusions about why the differences exist. Is it because newer associates are younger, more “digital natives”? Is it because they are simply more inexperienced? Will their own research habits change as they become not-so-new associates?

And, of course, I need to pay heed to differences between the way I approach searching and the way students/associates do. Do they all need to become power searchers? I don’t know.

Presentation Outfit


So, yesterday I took part in a CLE presentation given by the local chapter of the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association, and this is pretty much what I wore. Well, my tank top did not cost $207. Also, I wore totally different rings. And my suit isn’t exactly exactly like this one, but it’s pretty close. So much so that when I saw this one on Etsy, I thought it was the same one, but the Etsy listing says it’s a vintage Japanese deal, which mine is decidedly not. And I think my skirt is a little shorter.

Turns out, one probably doesn’t need to wear a tweed suit with black and white flecks and black pumps to a middle-of-the-afternoon, 1.5 hour presentation for new, solo practitioners. Still, I love the suit and don’t get many chances to wear it.

For your reading enjoyment …

Sometimes I star things in Google Reader or Twitter or wherever because I want to be sure to mention them in my Saturday Evening Post, and sometimes I do it to remind myself to read something, and sometimes I do it to save “important” things. Then the starred items are automatically sent to Evernote, where I forget about them until Saturday, when I’m looking for something to post. Point is, I cannot remember which particular bucket these items fall into.

This week, it seems especially heavy on the “save ‘important’ things” bucket, so sorry if legal research isn’t one of your major interests. I don’t actually talk all that much about work on my blog, so this provides you with some insight on a lot of the things I think about all day.

    • Slaw, Reflecting on Legal Research Instruction. This is another librarian’s reaction to a post I drew your attention to a few weeks ago, along with her feelings about being in the middle of teaching a first-year legal research class. This point seemed particularly apt:

      To many students, legal research is sort of the broccoli and spinach of first-year law school courses, and research instruction tutorials come at a time when they’re beginning to feel the weight of their workload. Engagement can be a challenge, as can avoidance of information overload.


    • RIPS Law Librarian Blog, Reference Coaching for the Short Attention Span Patron. Aside from blaming “Sesame Street” as the beginning of the slide into short-attention-span territory, there’s a lot of good stuff here.

      I became concerned because of a reference question I recently received. I had a student working on a research problem. I directed the student to the United States Code and helped her with the index. It was a heavily litigated area and I pointed out the annotations. She looked at them. She looked at me. She asked “How would I know the answer? Would I need to read this?”

      Librarians need to craft reference interviews not to be more entertaining, but to coach the researcher to understand that the answer will not be easy, will not appear on the screen or immediately stand out to them in the book. Students need to be explicitly told that research will take hours, not minutes. That they should embrace this.

      Although this part:

      I told her no one would pay her as an attorney if it was easy to find a legal answer. Her face brightened. I also told her that, depending on the payment model, she would get paid for each hour spent researching.

      Reminded me that I thought I read something that said clients were being more circumspect about research fees. I guess I did not bookmark that in a way that would make me easy to find it again, though …

That’s all for now. Am planning on writing tomorrow about a meeting I had earlier today with a group of students I like to call LSOT, who tell me everything I need to know about kids these days.

Someone told me it’s all happening at the zoo …

Assuming you’re still interested in the Technology Petting Zoo that I mentioned briefly yesterday, here’s the story of how it all happened, and what all went down . . .

I saw this tweet in late September:

(or maybe I saw this Facebook status, I can’t remember) and immediately thought we should do something similar at our library. Asked supervisor if it would be feasible, joined forces with our Educational Technologist (hereinafter “ET”*) to organize, and begged people to contribute their talents.

My idea was that most everybody working in the library has some expertise and interest, if not passion, for something technology-based that our students/faculty/staff could benefit from learning more about and experimenting with (yeah, I ended that sentence with a preposition. Deal.).

Generalized interest from my co-workers existed, I think, but was not overly high – although some were really excited about it, and helped out a lot (seriously, could not have pulled it off without several of them really pitching in on many different aspects). I think some were dubious about the whole thing, and/or wanted something more concrete from me and ET in terms of exactly what they would be doing. But I wasn’t really  sure. And I really wanted people to be informal about it, and to be eager and interested in what they were “demo’ing,” so I didn’t have much more of a plan than, “Show up with a device (or a piece of software, etc.). Talk about what you like about the it, and how a student/prof could use it in law school.”

We got enough librarians to buy into it so that we had a room with at least five people available to demonstrate something: iOS apps, Android apps, differences between browsers, Kindles, Word formatting (this may sound odd, but every year we have students writing briefs who are stymied by requirements that they begin every section with new page numbers), the new exam software, and special scanners and how they can assist you to create a paperless office.

I ended up being fairly pleased with the whole thing. I would have liked a greater turn-out, but we never had a day where nobody showed up (we held the zoo for two-hour shifts on three different days). And it’s beginning to dawn on me that I simply can’t anticipate students’ schedules and perceived busy-ness vs. their willingness to come in for things and talk with librarians (even when there’s free food!). As an unexpected benefit, when there were no real attendees, those of us demo’ing talked with each other about our interests, and learned things we might not have otherwise.

Next time (if there is a next time!), I’ve gotta do something about getting staff more fired up. And figure out a way to hook more students. It wasn’t advertising, I don’t think. We advertised everywhere, electronic and otherwise. It could’ve been timing – law review students had their articles due, so maybe other students had long papers due? Or maybe students were just as unsure what would go on at the zoo as my co-workers were. I’m not sure.

In somewhat-related work news, I am currently setting up meeting number 2 of the “Library Student Outreach Team” (a group of librarians meet with a group of students and try to learn how the library could better serve them), so I’ll try to get a better sense of timing/scheduling from the students then.

So that’s that! See you tomorrow!

*I realize that this abbreviation is more commonly used for “Extra Terrestrial.” No disrespect intended! Really!