Friday, August 26, 2011

IT Security Myths for Libraries

Interesting post from LISNews. We should probably all know these myths about IT security, but its good to have a little reminder. Though it does make you abit paranoid... Read the article here

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Closing of Toronto Public Library Branches

Over the past couple of weeks, many of us here in Toronto have no doubt heard about Rob Ford's plan to make up the budget shortfall in Toronto by cutting services, including closing down branches of the Toronto Public Library. There was a big public meeting nearly a week ago, in which hundreds of people made submissions to Mayor Ford's executive team, many imploring him not to close library branches.

Interestingly, there was an article written in the Toronto Star on July 21st about whether privatizing the library service would be good for the city. For the most part, the article said that it would not help much. It wouldn't really improve cost savings. I think more importantly, the library would lose its community connection. Check out the article here

What does all this have to do with academic law libraries? Well, here in Canada academic law libraries are being asked to do more with less. It has been this way for a while now. There are no (and I hope never will be any) indications that law libraries will close their doors. They are too important to the lifeblood of the law school, and to the university as a whole. In fact, many academic law libraries are conducting renovations in order to make themselves more student-oriented, with more group study rooms, wireless internet connection, and more relaxed seating. The one big concern I have is that libraries are in many places forced to give up space in return for other things like more faculty offices.

I am not suggesting faculty offices are not important, but cutting space for libraries is very dangerous. For one thing, it leads to less space for collections. I realize that electronic sources are getting better, and many sources are being digitized, but not enough sources are digitized to risk cutting print. Just recently, I had to look for a government document that we did not have, only the main library. Fortunately, they have it in print, so we were lucky. If they didn't, I would have had to have done an interlibrary loan for it. Now, that would not have been so bad, but we can't keep relying on ILL forever for every single thing. If we can't digitize it, and there are many things we can't,than the need for library space becomes ever more important.

No, not more important, it is essential, just as the branches of the TPL are essential for the community, the same holds true for academic law libraries for our faculty, staff, students, and the general public.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Free U.S. court summaries!

Although in Canada we don't usually worry too much about what the U.S. courts are doing, its often useful to find out what's going on. As an academic librarian, I never know what kinds of questions I will get, and when it comes to US law, it can be tricky.

Well, Justia has a free service (you need to sign up for it though), which gives you daily summmaries of cases from all levels of the US court system, including the state courts. It's not perfect, but at least it adds to the open access movement. Check Justia out here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

"The Great Encyclopedias of Legal Research"

A very nice post appeared yesterday in slaw under the above title. This will be the first in a series of posts written by Gary Rodrigues dealing with "Encyclopedias" of legal research. The first of these posts talk about what the Encyclopedias are, and what they have that have made them so authoritative for many years. Even today, they are still an indispensable tool when doing legal research.

I know that in my teaching, I always tell my students about these encyclopedias, whether it is the CED's (Canadian Encyclopedic Digest), the Canadian Abridgment, or Halsbury's Laws of Canada. It is one of the things the first year students learn how to do in their legal process course. Unfortunately, most students don't realize the value of these Encyclopedias. They are, I think, one of the first stops students should make in their research quest. We all know as librarians however, that most students will go right to the cases (or worse, to Google) and then get frustrated.

With many of these digests now online, they are available in a different format, but I would argue that in many ways, the online format isn't as good as the print. Trying to find your way can be a bit messy. But, that's my own opinion.

Look at the post here

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Waited unitl the storm blows over!

So much has been made over the past couple of months about Jeff Trzeciak presentation at Penn State that has much of the academic library community in an uproar. For those of you who haven't been paying attention, Trzeciak has said that he will not hire any more librarians at McMater University (where he is the University Librarian). Instead, he will hire Ph.D.'s and post-docs in various subject specialties.

My voice probably won't add much to the discussion, but I thought I'd say it anyways. This is an extremely dangerous course of action. As a librarian himself, Trzeciak should know better. Librarians do much more than staff the library, or sit at the reference desk. We are on committees, not just in the library, but in the University as a whole. We meet with students individually for sometimes an hour at a time to help them with their research. I myself have sat with a student for over two hours in my office working with her on her research. I don't think many post-docs can say that!

More importantly, as academic librarians, it is our job to know how to research, and to pass that knowledge on to the students and faculty that we serve. We have been trained to do this, and we are therefore eminently qualified to do this. It also takes years of practice to do it well. Many post-docs don't have that sort of training. In fact, many of these people rely on librarians to help them with their own research. If they need help with their own research, how are they going to be able to help undergraduate students with their research.

The next few years at McMaster and elsewhere will be very interesting.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

YouTube in the courts!

Interesting that Proposition 8, the law in the California State Constitution that said that marriage is only between a man and a women, will now be constituionally challenged in the courts.

This is nothing new, as laws get challenged all the time. However, this time it is different, as the constitutional challenge will now be posted live on youtube. The case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, has generated such interested that a website has been set up to accommodate the interest at

In Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada has always put its appeals on television, and the Ontario Court of Appeal flirted with cameras for a brief time, but no trial has ever been shown live in Canada. I think there may have been some interest in doing this before the Bernardo trial, but that idea was quickly nixed because of the fear it would have on the fairness of the trial.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Retro-Progressiveness for Librarianship

An interesting book has come out today from a library science professor at U of T's I school. Professor Juris Dilevko believes that

anyone wishing to work in an academic, research, or public library must independently pass a series of essay-type subject-specific examinations in about ten to fifteen fields or areas of the arts, social sciences, and sciences. In addition, he or she must be able to read and speak at least one non-English language fluently.

While I admit I have not read the book (it was just published in November), Dilevko's premise seems to me to be bit far-fetched. The idea for example, that anyone can pass exams with essay-type questions in 10-15 areas of law is extraordinarily difficult-if not impossible-in this day and age. Take the subject of law for instance. There are so many different areas of law that law librarians have to at least have a basic understanding of. It used to be that they could have a good general knowledge across a wide spectrum of the law. Now, we're lucky if we are competent in one or two areas.

I do agree with his idea that professionalism has devolved to a point where people are more concerned with credentials, careers, and the accumulation of power and prestige. However, the notion that we should not be obsessed with being professionals is missing the mark. I do not believe we are obsessed with being professionals, it is just that that is the nature of the beast. We are professionals, who handle information, and we use our knowledge-in many cases-for the social good. There have been many times when I have helped patrons who have no knowledge of the law find information on their topic. I won't try and explain the law to them-that is something I cannot and will not do as a librarian-but I will at least show them where to go, and who to turn to for further help.

It would be an interesting book to read, but I'd be worried about what I would think afterward.