All posts by Bonnie Shucha

Merger of WI’s Legislative Reference Bureau and Legislative Council Considered

In a guest column in the Capital Times, the reports that the Wisconsin Legislature is considering merging the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) with the Legislative Council.

Both are nonpartisan legislative agencies but they serve different functions.  The LRB provides legal, research, and information services to the Wisconsin Legislature whereas the Legislative Council staff supports effective lawmaking by providing legal advice and guidance to standing committees of the Legislature.

The agencies also have different confidentiality requirements under Wisconsin Statutes 13.91 (Leg Council) and 13.92 (LRB).

See the article for more information.

CRAAP Test Provides Tips on Spotting Fake News

Reports of fake news seem to be increasing every day.  In her recent Practice Innovations article, UW Law Library Reference & Instructional Services Librarian Jenny Zook offers some helpful tips on spotting fake news.  The list is based on the cleverly named CRAAP test (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose) developed by a librarian in 2004.

You apply the test by searching for clues to the authenticity of a news item by asking yourself a series of questions:

  • Who wrote the article? What is the byline ? Does it have an author, and if it is a scholarly article, is the author an expert in that field of study?

  • Check the date. When was the article written? Is it dated anywhere in the article? Fake news is often undated or lacks currency.

  • Is the URL from a trustworthy source or does the URL only mimic a trusted site? For a compiled list of untrustworthy sites, check the listing from Dr. Melissa Zimdars in Tips for analyzing news sites.

  • Is the site clickbait? Do ads pop up the moment you click on the link?

  • Boom! Does the news elicit an emotional reaction, like anger? Is the language inflammatory or one-sided?

  • Look for confirming bias. Fake news spreads quickly because we seek out information that reinforces what we believe.

  • Is the article written well or is it filled with grammatical errors and typos? Is it written in all caps? Fake news creators may be clever, but they aren’t known for their smooth writing skills or style.

  • What, if anything, does the article link to? Does it cite reliable sources of information? Is the data verifiable? Who are the experts cited?

  • If the article includes images or videos, can you trace them to another source? Fake news will often include mislabeled or altered photos or videos.

“Right to be Forgotten” Doesn’t Apply to Searches Made Outside EU

Five years ago, Europeans gained the right to ask search engines to block certain information about them.  It was unclear, however, if this “right to be forgotten” extended to Internet searches made outside the European Union.

It appears now not that it does not per an opinion issued by European Court of Justice advocate general Maciej Szpunar.  “Search requests that are made outside the territory of the European Union should not be subject to the de-referencing of search results,” wrote Szpunar.

The decision relates to a 2015 dispute between Google and the French watchdog group CNIL (Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés) over Google’s decision to limit the right to be forgotten just to its French domain rather than apply it to all its national search engines.

See Reuters and The Inquirer for more.

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.

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.

CRS Reports to be Made Publicly Available

Under a provision of the 2018 omnibus appropriations act that was passed by Congress and signed by the President earlier this month, all non-confidential Congressional Research Service  reports must be made publicly available online within 90 to 270 days.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is the non-partisan public policy research arm of the United States Congress.  They produce analytical, non-partisan reports on topics of interest to members of Congress.  Because of their high quality, CRS reports are excellent resources for legislative or public policy research.

Until now, there had been no comprehensive, official public online source that provided access to this government information.  Under the new policy,  approximately 3,000 non-classified reports will be released annually.

For more information, see these articles from Demand Progress, Federation of American Scientists, and Government Executive.