Even Supreme Court Opinions Change

I was incredulous when I read Harvard law professor Richard J. Lazarus’ forthcoming article, The (Non) Finality of Supreme Court Opinions. In the article, Lazarus states that “the [Supreme Court] Justices routinely correct mistakes in majority and separate opinions relating to the arguments of the parties, record below, historical facts, relevant statutes and regulations, opinions of their colleagues, and Court precedent. The Justices also, even more significantly, sometimes change their initial reasoning in support of their legal conclusions.” What?! I thought that an opinion released by the Court was definitive. In reality, however, only when an opinion has been published in the printed and bound United States Reports is it considered “final” and “official,” and this printing often occurs several years after the Court’s initial ruling. In fact, all bench opinions and slip opinions from the Court include this notice:

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D.C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.

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Are We the “Parents at the Party?”: Assessing the Use of Multiple Communication Channels with Today’s Students

Sept-ImageIn an age of pervasive social media and constant connection to the digital world, colleges and universities – and therefore libraries – find themselves questioning how best to reach our students. Naturally, we experiment with a variety of methods, from chat and text reference to Facebook and Twitter accounts and more, resulting in scattered communication channels. The question then becomes: Is it beneficial to send your message out through a wide array of channels, thereby casting the widest net? Or is this actually counter-productive because students then lack a central channel for receiving communications from the university?

The Survey

Last spring, I surveyed our students about the Law Library’s communication channels –  everything from our Twitter feed and Facebook page to our digital sign, Continue reading

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Information Anxiety

Information overload or anxiety is a concept that we, as librarians, have to overcome on a daily basis. What exactly is information anxiety? From a librarian’s point of view, the term can refer to our users feeling overwhelmed by information. The digital world we live in lends itself to users feeling stuffed with information, consumed by an overload of information that is being presented to them at every moment. Our users are constantly surrounded by information via the Internet, phones, tablets, work and home computers, TVs…and much more. It is difficult to turn off this information, even when we want to.

Nonetheless, information should not be seen as a hindrance. It should be seen as helpful. Having information aids us Continue reading

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Evaluating This Year’s Crop

For those of us lucky enough to work in academia, the passage of time takes on a cyclical, almost agrarian, cadence. Many of us enjoy a festive week away from work to kick off the long dark of winter. During the winter months, students huddle in the library, and librarians spend much of their time shepherding their flock through the dark times. Graduation celebrations cap the rebirth and renewal of spring. The heat of summer sees our students go off to labor in their chosen fields, and due to their absence, librarians also pursue the more labor-intensive “library projects.” However, in agricultural societies the most important and exciting time of year occurs with the collection of the harvest. This also holds true in academic law libraries. Every fall, as cool breezes inject new energy into campus, so does the arrival of a new crop of 1Ls. Continue reading

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Taking on a Nontraditional Reference Duty

This past year, our library started strongly marketing research help in an area we had not publicized before – completing the Character and Fitness portion of the state bar application. This was a serious push: we advertised at new student orientation, we put up a website, we designed a basic LibGuide on our state requirements and other resources that might be helpful, and generally sold the heck out of the library as a helper for this process. Our campaign has been very successful. The students know to come to the librarians. They ask questions in person, over the phone, and by email. Continue reading

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Citation, citation, citation!

Ah, fall. The time when the thoughts of law review staff turn to cite-checking, and 1Ls are introduced to the bane of Judge Posner’s existence.

I actually love the Bluebook. No, really. I even have the credentials to prove it, hand-made by one of our profs for me:

I heart bluebooking

But I know not everybody shares these sentiments, particularly first-year students. So, as part of the library’s first-year research instruction responsibilities, I volunteered to create tutorials that Continue reading

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What is a reporter?

This semester’s postings started with a great discussion on reference services. We all get interesting questions from a variety of patrons, and I am sure that every one of us has our favorite reference questions to share. But what happens when you get a question which gets at the core of legal research and it comes from an unexpected source?

Much like any academic law library, the early part of the semester is busy for our reference librarians as we are frequently working with the journal members during their cite-checking endeavors. One librarian received the question posed in the title – what is a reporter? This came from a second year student who had done Continue reading

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