Scientists Examine What Having Constant Access to Information Does to Our Memory

Several years ago, tech writer Nicholas Carr sparked a debate with his thought-provoking Atlantic article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”  In it, Carr suggested that not only is the Internet shaping our lives – it’s physically changing our the way that our brains function.

“[W]hat the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”

Intrigued by this question, researchers from UW-Madison, Columbia, Harvard took a closer look at what having constant access to information does to our capacity to retain information, reports Interesting Engineering.  “Together, they conducted a series of experiments with student volunteers which provides support for the contention that the Internet has an effect on our memory.”

In one experiment, students were asked to write down 40 pieces of trivia.  Some were told that their answers would be recorded, others were told that they would be erased.  When asked later to write down as many statements as they could remember, those who were told that their answers would be erased remembered more statements that those who thought they would be recorded.

In another experiment, a group performed a similar task, but everyone was told their work would be saved in folders with labels.  When asked to recall the written statements, students could only recall 25% of them.  But when asked in which folder a specific statement had been saved, they were able to identify 50% of the folders.

The experiments are telling, although not surprising.  Both demonstrate that we process and remember information differently when we know that we have technology backing us up.

Although exacerbated by the Intenet, this isn’t exactly a new phenomenon.  I make a grocery list before going to the store.  As a student, I took notes in class.  As a librarian of a certain age, I even used a physical card catalog to locate library materials.  Pencils, notebooks, card catalogs, books – these are all technologies that have long enabled us to record information so that we don’t have to have perfect recall.

Interesting stuff.  Check out the article for a further exploration of this phenomenon going all the way back to the ancient Greeks.

Videos Highlight how UW Law Library Fosters Research & Learning

Over the summer, the Law Library created a series of videos that highlights the ways that we foster research and learning at the University of Wisconsin Law School. Just in time to celebrate the UW Law School’s sesquicentennial (that’s 150 years if anyone’s counting), the videos highlight not only our beautiful library space but also our collections and research support.

Each 30-second video highlights a different facet of the Law Library:

      • The first video is an introduction and welcome to the UW Law Library

      • The second video focuses on the library’s broad collection of resources

      • The third video highlights the variety of research assistance that we provide

    • The fourth video shows off our beautiful library space where students gather for study and collaboration

    We hope that you enjoy and share these videos widely.  Here is a helpful link to a playlist of all the videos for easy sharing (list appears at the top right).

    Many people were involved in the creation of these videos both behind the scenes and in front of the camera, but I would particularly like to acknowledge the work of Reference & Technology Librarian, Emma Babler, who coordinated the project.

“Year of the Badger”: A Record Year for UW Law School

Law school admissions have been up almost across the board this year, but Wisconsin law schools have seen even more marked figures.

Marquette Law School has reported record numbers of female law students as well as out-of-state students.

UW Law School boasts its largest group of 1Ls since 2009- 275 students. This is almost twice the size of the 2017 incoming class (151 students).

Both law schools saw more applications this year, with UW seeing 25 percent more applications for the 2018 incoming class.

Check out this Wisconsin Law Journal article for the full scoop.

CRS Reports Now Available to the Public

By Eric Taylor, Evening & Weekend Reference Librarian

Once the exclusive province of Congress, the CRS Reports are now available to everyone.  Thoroughly researched and produced by the Congressional Research Service, the CRS Reports are nonpartisan briefing papers about current and emerging affairs of interest to members of Congress and their staffs.

The core mission of the Congressional Research Service, a legislative branch agency, is to provide “timely, objective, and authoritative research and analysis to committees and Members of both the House and Senate.”  Their reports support “Congress in its legislative, oversight, and representational duties.”  The wide range of topic areas for which CRS Reports have been produced include: constitutional questions, foreign affairs, agriculture and economic policy, science and technology, intelligence and national security, health care, education, immigration, transportation, and many others.

The year was 1914 when Senator Robert La Follette Sr. and Representative John M. Nelson, both of Wisconsin, championed a provision in the appropriations act establishing a special reference unit within the Library of Congress.  The new reference unit was based on Progressive Era ideas which promoted “the importance of the acquisition of knowledge for an informed and independent legislature.”  The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Library, established in 1901, was built on the same concept that informed knowledge could serve the best interests of the state.

At various times in its history, reports such as the Public Affairs Bulletins (in the late 1940s) and Congressional Research Service Review (1980s) were made available to the public, but until very recently the vast majority of reports produced by the Congressional Research Service were available only to Congress.  The public, researchers, and advocates alike have long asked for these reports be made freely available.  The passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 last March did just that by directing the Library of Congress to make CRS Reports publicly available online.

“The publication directive specifically mandates that the public website is to be “updated contemporaneously, automatically, and electronically, to include each new or updated CRS report released on or after” the date on which the Library makes the website available for public access.”  The complete inventory of CRS Reports will be made available sometime in 2019.

Just click on the “Search” button to see what is available now.

Wisconsin Ethics Opinions now freely available online

 

The State Bar has recently made the Wisconsin Ethics Opinions freely available on their website. The ethics opinions can be reached in two ways:

    1. Use the direct link to search the opinions by keyword or by type (such as Formal, Informal , Withdrawn or Memorandum Opinions): https://www.wisbar.org/formembers/ethics/pages/opinions.aspx
    2. If you are used to navigating the WisBar site -Go to the State Bar’s homepage: https://www.wisbar.org/Pages/default.aspx then place your cursor on “for Members”. Finally, click on “Ethics” in the first column of the choices.

Previously, the ethics opinions were only available to State Bar members or by request. Now, legal scholars from across the US can access the opinions.

More information about the ethics opinions, rules and committee can be found on the Wisbar ethics homepage: https://www.wisbar.org/forMembers/Ethics/Pages/Ethics.aspx

CourtListener Now Offering PACER Docket Alerts

By Eric Taylor, Reference Librarian

The Free Law Project recently announced the availability of PACER Docket Alerts on CourtListener.com.  CourtListener is a free public access website tracking federal and state courts.  The Docket Alert tool will send you an email anytime there is a new court filing in a case you are following in PACER.  Access to PACER documents is provided by the website’s RECAP function.  Clicking on the RECAP Archive link allows users to search for available PACER filings.

Setting up Docket Alerts using CourtListener is simple (quoting the Free Law Project’s press release):

“The best way to get started with Docket Alerts is to just make one. Try loading a popular case like U.S. v. Manafort or The District of Columbia v. Trump. Once the case is open, just press the “Get Alerts” button near the top. Then, just wait for your first alert.”

Give it a try.  I did with U.S. v. Manafort and the Docket Alerts started flowing in the very first day the alert was set, and they just keep coming.

The primary source powering these alerts is RSS data provided by PACER websites.  However, not all courts have RSS feeds yet.  So another very important source is the docket information contributed by RECAP users.  Attorneys and others who download documents from the PACER system using their paid accounts can participate by installing the RECAP Extension to then upload these same documents to CourtListener’s RECAP Archive.  To date, 37M PACER docket entries have been uploaded to the RECAP Archive which includes 6.5M searchable PDFs.  The RECAP Archive continues to grow with the addition of over 100,000 docket entries and 2000 PDFs every day.

The value of CourtListener goes well beyond RECAP and PACER.  CourtListener also provides a free searchable archive of over 4M court opinions with more being added by the day.  They also have one of the largest collections of oral arguments available on the Internet.  Their coverage page breaks down the figures and services in greater detail.

There really is no other legal website like it.  As the courts continue to charge the public fees for access to PACER, the Free Law Project practices what they call PACER Advocacy to bring these documents out into the light for the world to see for free.

Access to free PACER Docket Alerts is not unlimited, however.  Any user can monitor five dockets for free.  Those who install the RECAP Extension will get an additional ten docket alerts.  Users who make monthly contributions to the Free Law Project can make as many alerts as they need (within a reasonable limit).  The current suggested minimum monthly donation is five dollars per month.

 

What if There Were TurboTax, but for Appellate Briefs? (Guess What- There Is!)

Formatting appellate briefs is tough- there’s no getting around it. Brief-writers, be they attorneys or pro se litigants, have to pay very close attention to specific formatting details like margins, font, citations, headings, etc. If briefs are submitted to the court of appeals clerk’s office and they do not meet the stringent requirements, they are rejected.

Luckily, the State Bar of Wisconsin Appellate Practice Section recently created a tool called the Brief Assistant to help out. The Brief Assistant is an app which “allows the user to draft a correctly formatted initial brief, response brief, or reply brief that can be downloaded, saved, edited, and then filed in an appeal.”

In order to use Brief Assistant, the user simply creates a free account, selects which type of brief to create, then answers basic questions asked by the app (similar to how TurboTax works), which populates the brief. Brief Assistant will also provide users with tips for writing the required sections of the brief.

Brief Assistant can be a useful tool for lawyers, paralegals, legal secretaries, and pro se litigants- it even has two different tracks- one for legal professionals, and one for pro se litigants- the one for pro se litigants provides sample model briefs so that the user can see what the finished project should look like.

You can read more about Brief Assistant here.

Instantly Create and Share a Bibliography with ZoteroBib – Even in Bluebook

When I’m writing a document or article and I need to manage a bunch of citations, my go-to tool is Zotero.  It’s an incredibly powerful citation manager that helps you collect, organize, cite, and share research – and it’s open source which means that it’s free!  Zotero is perfect for large research projects where you’re researching over a period of days, weeks, months, etc.  It supports thousands of citation styles, including Bluebook.

Zotero

But sometimes you just want to create a quick and dirty list of citations.  If you’re looking to just cite a few sources, EasyBib is not a bad choice.  They teach kids to use it in elementary school.

EasyBib

 

You enter in a url, isbn, etc. to create citations one-by-one in several styles.  It takes multiple clicks to generate a citation.  Then you copy and paste each one individually into your document.  It’s also free but is riddled with ads.

But now there is ZoteroBib – a new free, tool from the makers of Zotero.  It’s like EasyBib but quicker, more powerful, and sans the obnoxious ads.  As you’re researching, just enter in your url, isbn, doi, etc., and click cite.  It automatically grabs the citation and adds it to your list in just one click.  Like Zotero, it supports Bluebook and many other citation styles.  And ZoteroBib works on any device.

ZoteroBib

 

Once you’ve finished compiling your list of sources, you can export your complete bibliography to your clipboard and paste into your document.  Or you can easily share your list of sources by creating a link to your bibliography with a single click.   This could be a very easy way for librarians to share a list of sources with faculty, etc.

ZoteroBib Export

 

From the Zotero Blog:

Powered by the same technology behind Zotero, ZoteroBib lets you seamlessly add items from across the web — using Zotero’s unmatched metadata extraction abilities — and generate bibliographies in more than 9,000 citation styles. There’s no software to install or account to create, and it works on any device, including tablets and phones. Your bibliography is stored right on your device — in your browser’s local storage — unless you create a version to share or load elsewhere, so your data remains entirely under your control.

News on the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau

A recent article from Madison’s local newspaper, The Isthmus, outlines some significant cuts to the staff and services of the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, particularly in the LRB research and library services department.

For example, the article cites a reduction in the number of “plain language” reviews of laws or court cases from 27 in 2014 to 11 last year. The number of reports produced by the LRB has also fallen in recent years from 22 in 2014, 16 in 2015, 5 in 2016, 1 in 2017, and none so far in 2018.

See the article for more information about the cuts as well as a bit of history of the LRB in Wisconsin.

Book Review- Table for 9: Supreme Court Food Traditions & Recipes

Brand new for your reading leisure!  This delightful book takes you way behind the scenes of the Supreme Court, and spotlights the culinary traditions that have been a part of the institution since its first session in 1790.

From cover to cover readers will be rewarded with recipes, wonderful photos, and stories brimming with history.  The author Clare Cushman, who is the Supreme Court Historical Society’s publication director, chronicles a very human side of the Justices.  Admittedly, not all their recipes or dietary habits are exactly appetizing, but there’s no accounting for taste.  The First Chief Justice, John Jay (1789-1795), liked oysters for breakfast, and there’s a recipe for scrambled eggs and oysters if that’s your thing (p.97).  Associate Justice Robert H. Jackson (1941-1954) enjoyed cowslip sandwiches for lunch (p.124).  Who knew?  Now you do.

Many of the Justices brought their lunches to work.  For Samuel A. Alito Jr. (2006-) it’s leftovers from home.  Word has it his wife is a wonderful cook.  Benjamin Cardozo (1932-1938) brought a slice of cake every day for lunch, but the other Justices teased him and he stopped bringing it (p.16).

This next one is sure to bring a laugh.  There was a time in the late nineteenth century when oral arguments were heard five days a week from noon to 4:00 p.m.  With no break for lunch, it was not uncommon for one or two of the Justices to leave their seats and slip behind the bench to take a bite.  The audience could not see them, but they could distinctly hear “the rattle of knives and forks.”  One day an advocate complained to Chief Justice Melville W. Fuller (1888-1910) that there was no quorum present.  The Chief Justice reassured him: “Although you may not see them…there are two Justices present who can hear the argument, and you may proceed.”  After many complaints, a formal lunch break was instituted from 2:00-2:30 p.m. (pp.13-15).

And how about this “A dietitian, Maryan Stevens has been credited with her husband John Paul Stevens’ longevity on the bench: he sat from 1975-2010 and was the third-longest serving Justice in history when he retired at age 90” (p.106).  His preferred lunch happens to be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with the crusts cut off (p.16).

There’s an entire chapter on Birthday Traditions, and does that pineapple coconut cake ever look good!  This would be Bill’s Birthday Cake by Natalie “Nan” Cornell Rehnquist (pp.54-55).  Another delightful chapter features Justices in the Kitchen.  Thurgood Marshall’s (1967-1991) grandmother taught him to cook although he tended not to follow recipes.  Sandra Day O’Connor (1981-2006) loved to cook and entertain.  She worked hard to revive the tradition of the Justices eating lunch together which had waned over the years.

There is so much to appreciate about this book, but you must really see it for yourself to take in its full impact.  Many of the photographs look good enough to eat, while others present the Justices as regular people enjoying the company of good food and friends.  The stories and captions that go along with them make for a wonderful hearty stew.  Bon Appétit!

This book is located in our library stacks, call number KF8742. C875 2017.

This post was written by our Evening Reference Librarian, Eric Taylor.