All posts by Bonnie Shucha

Study Examines How Academic Law Libraries Use Blogs to Engage with Users

A new study in the latest edition of The Reference Librarian explores the use of blogs by academic law librarians.  In “An Exploratory Examination and Critique of Academic Law Librarian Blogs: A Look into an Evolving Reference Communication Practice,” author Grace Jackson-Brown of Missouri State University “demonstrates how academic law librarians use blogs as a communication tool and become proactive in their Reference/Research roles.”

Jackson-Brown identified 227 law library blogs (using the list maintained by CS-SIS).  Of these, 67 were academic blogs.  A small random sample of seven blogs was selected.  WisBlawg was one of the blogs included in the study.  A full list appears below:

Jackson-Brown examined posts from the 2014-15 academic year and placed them into categories based on the primary content of the post.  The largest category (30+%) was “Reference/Research.”  These were further subdivided into the following:

  • Texts about reference and/or research resources or services
  • Embedded media about reference and/or research
  • Links to or attachments of Research Guides (LibGuides or other bibliographies)
  • Promotions about instructional workshops, research forums, or other reference/research formal instruction

Jackson-Brown found that the blogs in the study were mainly targeted toward internal audiences (primarily law students) but that the blogs also had wider appeal to general audiences.  WisBlawg is an outlier among the group as our primarily target audience is external as noted in the study.

In her conclusion, Jackson-Brown states that

The study shows how a sample group of law librarians through the social media of blogs engage with their libraries’ users and wider audiences or communities. The law librarian bloggers “push out” important information content based on what they anticipate will be of interest or need to their users and audiences in an effort to connect and interact with communities of researchers and library users.

Book Review: My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg

My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Law Library Stacks: KF8745 .G56 A3 2016
Book Review by Eric Taylor, Evening Reference Librarian

My Own Words is a delightful read.  The words and stories are hers.  A woman ahead of her time.  Lucky in love to have met life partner, Marty, who was her champion in all things.  The strong work ethic and independent streak she got from her mom.  A mother herself juggling work-life balance.  An avid reader from early on who also happens to love opera.  These are some of the pictures her stories paint.

Arranged in five Parts, the book includes editorials, speeches, tributes, remarks on some of the major cases of our era, and essays on the work of a Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States.  Each Part, and their attending chapters are set up with short introductions by Justice Ginsburg’s official biographers, Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams.

The collection begins with an editorial she wrote for her school newspaper in 8th grade.  The year is 1946, just after WWII, and she writes: “Since the beginning of time, the world has known four great documents, great because of all the benefits to humanity which came about as a result of their fine ideals and principles.”  She is speaking about the Ten Commandments, Magna Carta, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence.  “And now we have a fifth great document, the Charter of the United Nations.”

One piece not written by Ruth, but rather her husband, Marty, comes in the form of remarks he made as he introduced the Honorable Ruth Ginsburg on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellowship Program at Georgetown University Law Center in 2003.  A man full of wit and good humor, and as you can tell by his comments, lots of love and admiration for his wife.

The legal profession was not populated by many women when she graduated from Columbia Law School in 1959.  She was a trailblazer, but by no means alone.  In Part Two, she offers tribute to other women who have led the way.  These include historical figures such as Belva Ann Lockwood, the first woman to argue a case before the nine Justices, and the brave Anne Frank, as well as, contemporaries like Sandra Day O’Connor, and Gloria Steinem.  Ginsburg writes of Justice O’Connor’s approach to all things: “Waste no time on anger, regret or resentment, just get the job done.”

The 1970s saw Ruth Bader Ginsburg use her legal skills to advocate and advance the cause of women as equals before the law.  The decade was very productive for her, and many other women, as gains were made legally and socially.  The chapters in Part Three speak to her role in this movement, one of which, “The Frontiero Reply Brief” marked her first oral argument before the Supreme Court in 1973.  That same year she wrote in the ABA Journal “The Need for the Equal Rights Amendment.”  Despite the ERA’s failure in 1982 three states short of ratification, the cause of gender equality had moved forward.

President Jimmy Carter appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 1980.  President Bill Clinton then appointed her to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993.  The selections in Part Four include her Rose Garden Nomination Acceptance Speech, and Opening Statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Part Five – The Justice on Judging and Justice – is by far the longest in the book and begins with “Workways of the Supreme Court” in which Justice Ginsburg describes the “procedures at my workplace.”  She explains “one cannot get a firm grasp on the substance of our decisions without some grounding in the rules, practices, and traditions that frame our decisionmaking.”  The next two chapters speak to “Judicial Independence” and the work of the Chief Justice in her “Tribute to Chief Justice Rehnquist.”

The chapters that follow return to two themes so very central to this book: human rights and the administration of justice.  In “Human Dignity and Equal Justice Under Law,” Justice Ginsburg speaks about Brown v. Board, and Loving v. Virginia to reflect on the pivotal role these decisions have had in advancing the cause of freedom and equal protection under law for all.  Loving was decided by unanimous decision, but many others are not.  Part Five also includes a section on the role of dissenting opinions, and the bench dissent.  In her own words, you can read seven of her recent bench dissents in cases such as Ledbetter, Sebelius, and Hobby Lobby.

No review would be complete without a story about Ruth’s love for the opera.  It is well known she and Justice Antonin Scalia shared this passion.  Composer Derrick Wang penned “Scalia/Ginsburg: A (Gentle) Parody of Operatic Proportions” a comedy in one act inspired by the two Justices’ opinions and the operatic precedent of Handel, Mozart, Verdi, Bizet, Sullivan, Puccini, Strauss, et al. (see 38 Columbia Journal of Law and Arts 237 (2015)).  She writes in preface “If I could choose the talent I would most like to have, it would be a glorious voice.”

This collection of short stories shine a light on the arc of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life and career.  Each one is unique, special, and enjoyable to read in their place.  Together they form a much fuller picture of one of the most intelligent, worldwise, and thought-provoking jurists of our time.  Readers can delight in the fact there is a full-length biography underway to be published when the time is ripe.

2016 WI State Capitol Ornament Features Supreme Court Hearing Room

Looking for a holiday gift for the attorney on your list?  This year’s Wisconsin State Capitol Ornament features the beautiful State Supreme Court Hearing Room.

ornament

According to The Third Branch, newsletter of the Wisconsin Judiciary,  the ornament “is a replica design of the most prominent
features of the Wisconsin Supreme Court Hearing Room,
including The Signing of the Constitution, the carved
mahogany judicial bench, and pilasters of Italian Breche
Coraline marble.”

Since 2004, the proceeds from ornament sales have
supported over $70,000 in restoration projects around the
Capitol building. Previous ornament sales have helped to
fund the visitor’s bird’s-eye view from the glass perch inside
the dome of the State Capitol.

The State Capitol Ornament is presented by the Wisconsin Historical Foundation and is available for purchase from the Wisconsin Historical Society.

New Site Aims to Make Every CRS Report Publicly Available Online

If you’ve ever tried looking for a CRS Report, you know that they can be very difficult to track down.  A new site called everyCRSreport.com is hoping to make them more publicly accessible online.

Currently the site includes 8,260 CRS reports, although that number will change regularly.  It’s unclear what date range is covered by the site, although it does say that “if you’re looking for older reports, our good friends at CRSReports.com may have them.”

[update 10/27: Per @danielschuman at Demand Progress “the @EveryCRSReport website has all the reports currently available to congress. They can go back to the 90s, but not usually.”]

If you’re not familiar with CRS Reports, they are reports issued by the Congressional Research Service which is a legislative branch agency housed inside the Library of Congress.  These reports contain analytical, non-partisan information on topics of interest to members of Congress. 

Although the reports are works of the United States Government and not subject to copyright protection, the federal government has, thus far, not made them publicly available.  Numerous non profits and commercial vendors have been working to fill the gap.

According to the website, EveryCRSReport.com is a project of Demand Progress in collaboration with the Congressional Data Coalition — a bipartisan coalition founded by Demand Progress and the R Street Institute to promote open legislative information.

WI State Law Library Named in Honor of Justice Prosser

In a ceremony on October 19, the Wisconsin State Law Library was officially named the David T. Prosser, Jr. State Law Library.

From the State Law Library blog:

The event, attended by a number of public officials, marked Prosser’s 40 years of public service on the Supreme Court, Tax Appeals Commission, and Legislature prior to his retirement in July of 2016.  [The] ceremony was also an opportunity to highlight the library’s 180 years of service to the State of Wisconsin.

For more information, see the WI Court System’s press release.

UW Law Library Celebrates 35th Anniversary as US Government Documents Depository

This month, the UW Law Library celebrates its 35th anniversary as a Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) Selective Depository.

As a Selective Depository, the Law Library receives certain classes of federal government documents free of cost and makes them available to the university and law school communities and to the general public.  The Law Library also houses some documents for the UW Madison General Library System which serves as a Regional Depository.

Our Documents Assistant, Margaret Booth, has created a lovely display entitled “Documents Through the Decades” showcasing the history of our 35 years in the FDLP and some interesting documents of various media types.  There are even a few floppy disks – remember those?

fdlp1

There are also some giveaways, including brochures, pocket constitutions, bookmarks, notepads, and pencils.

fdlp2

Latest on the Pacer Litigation

There is a good piece on the latest in the Pacer litigation on Quartz.  Several non-profits claim that fees charged by Pacer, an online database of papers filed by litigants in the US federal courts, exceed the cost of providing the records.

While the 10 cents a page that most people are charged to view documents doesn’t sound like much, critics say that the very existence of the paywall has stifled the development of tools to meaningfully search and analyze the data.

“You should be able to say, for example, ‘Give me everything that has the word motion in its description and that talks about copyright,’” says Mike Lissner, executive director of the nonprofit Free Law Project. “That’s not possible.”

Lissner, whose group provides free online access to primary legal materials, says the system’s shortcomings are a direct result of the fees attached to Pacer documents. “If the data were free,” he says, “you’d see an ecosystem cropping up with competitive services improving it.”

The case is currently before the US District Court for the District of Columbia.  Judge Ellen Huvelle is expected to decide in the coming days whether a lawsuit accusing the government of setting Pacer fees at unlawfully high rates can proceed.

Head of Reference position open at the UW Law Library

The UW Law Library invites applications for the position of Head of Reference. The Head of Reference is responsible for overseeing the reference and instructional service programs of the Law Library. The position directly supervises four reference librarians.

A full position description with application instructions is available at http://www.ohr.wisc.edu/Weblisting/External/PVLSummaryApply.aspx?pvl_num=88230

Please contact Bonnie Shucha with any questions about the position.  To ensure consideration, applications must be received by October 23, 2016.  Anticipated start date is January 2017.

– Update 10/11/16:  Although the preferred start date is January 2017, we will consider candidates who may be unable to start until May or June 2017.  Please indicate possible delayed start date in your cover letter.

Florida 1st State to Mandate Technology CLE for Lawyers

The Florida Supreme Court has approved a rule requiring state lawyers to take technology-related CLE courses.

From Ambrogi’s LawSites:

The rule change, ordered by the Supreme Court of Florida on Thursday, added a requirement that Florida lawyers must complete three hours of CLE every three years “in approved technology programs.” The rule raises the state’s minimum credit hours from 30 to 33 to accommodate the tech requirement.

For more information, see the ABA Journal.