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.