Now Accepting Submissions: The 27th Annual RIPS-SIS Legal Research Teach-In Kit

infographic5

Dear Fellow Law Librarians & Information Professionals,

The future of the legal profession is in your hands!

Even if you do not teach, you can join other librarians toward the common goal of better library instruction.  How?  By submitting to the RIPS-SIS Legal Research Teach-In Kit.  What can you submit?  Instructors: assignments, games, presentations.  Everyone else: we need your reference questions!  They are valuable for designing in-class exercises and assessments.  We don’t need particular formats.  We don’t need perfection.  We need whatever you’ve got!  We need it because the Teach-In Kit and the instruction and information our members provide is so valuable to our profession and the diverse communities we serve, including our fellow members!

The RIPS-SIS Legal Research Teach-In Kit Committee is now accepting submissions for the 27th Annual Teach-In Kit.

Past submissions include:

game to teach jurisdiction inspired by Apples to Apples

presentation to teach local government law complete with an in-class assignment

-Several syllabi including for course on special topics like environmental law

-See past Teach-In Kits for still more examples.

Still not sure you have something worthwhile to contribute?  Watch this!  (full screen is best!)

Call for Submissions!

Deadline for submissions: Friday, January, 25, 2019

Where to send your submissions: Please send by email attachment to Gail Mathapo: gmathapo@law.ufl.edu

We are looking forward to hearing from ALL of you!

Thank you,

Gail

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Posted in RIPS Teach-In Kit, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Westlaw Edge’s New Compare Versions Feature

library-869061_1920Back in the olden days, this fall, before the advent of Westlaw Edge, I showed my research class some recently amended Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) sections. Using old Westlaw, we looked at the current versions of A.R.S. sections and then, under Credits, clicked on the links to retrieve the most recent amending acts to see how the text of the statutes had changed. It wasn’t particularly difficult for students to understand how acts amended existing A.R.S. sections since newly added text was highlighted in blue and deleted text had a strike-through line. If an act amended multiple A.R.S. sections, we had to scroll down to locate the A.R.S. section of interest.

As little effort as this required, apparently it was too much, since the Westlaw Edge powers-that-be decided to ever so slightly simplify the process of viewing/understanding the most recent amendments to a statute with the introduction of the Compare Versions feature.

What Has Changed?

On Westlaw Edge, statutes that have been amended at some point now have a Compare Versions button on the top right of the screen. Hovering a mouse over the button produces an explanatory mouseover with the text Show most recent amendments. And, indeed, that is what you get when you click on the button.

Using Arizona law as an example, A.R.S. § 36–2161 is a law about abortion facility reporting requirements. It was amended in 2018 by 2018 Ariz. Legis. Serv. Ch. 219 to require facilities to attempt to obtain ever more intrusive information on why a woman decided to obtain an abortion.

Retrieving the statute and clicking on Compare Versions produced the image below. The added text is still highlighted in blue but the deleted text is now red, though with the same strikethrough line. There is also information about the number of new deletions and additions to the statute and arrows to facilitate easy navigation through the changes.

Compare Versions Statute

I don’t have a screenshot of the 2018 Ariz. Legis. Serv. Ch. 219, the amending act, from old Westlaw. However, I am pretty sure that the format of acts hasn’t changed much in the Westlaw Edge. It has the same blue highlighting for text additions and strikethroughs for text deletions.

Compare Versions Act

Is This an Improvement?

Is the Compare Versions button a usability improvement over clicking on the most recent amendment under the Credits heading? Certainly the feature is not earth-shattering, but I think it is a useful step toward the goal of providing users with an at-a-glance understanding of statutory changes. Usability enhancements have to start somewhere, and they are often improved in the future.

Also, it is easier to see the changes to a statute in the Compare Versions view since the deletions are in red and the blue for the text additions is, well, there is some quality about the blue that makes it a bit easier to see. (I am not sure that the screenshots are doing it justice so you might have to compare the two yourself on Westlaw Edge.)

Another possible advantage is less confusion for new users such as first year law students. Many are just learning how statutes are amended and seem to find clicking on amending acts rather confusing. With the Compare Versions button, users don’t have to understand what Credits and citations such as Laws 2018, Ch. 219, § 1 mean into order to see the most recent amendments to a statute.

Suggestions for More Improvement

Author’s Apologetic Note – 1/10/2018

Oooh noooooooooo, so embarrassing! As kindly pointed out via the comments below and multiple emails, what I wished for…err…already existed! Which I would have known if I had thought to click on the History tab. You already CAN compare two prior versions, as seen below.

history and compare versions

Ignore This Part!

Which leads me to suggestions for improvement…because no matter how much I like something, I could always like it more!

 Currently, Compare Versions only shows how a statute has been altered by the most recent amendment. However, since statutes are often amended multiple times, it might be nice to have a Compare Versions view for prior amendments. For example, A.R.S. § 36–2161 was originally enacted in 2010 and then amended in 2014, 2017, and 2018. Perhaps there could be a Compare Older Versions timeline of amendments which allows the user to choose to see, in this example, how the 2014 amendments changed the 2010 statute or how the 2017 amendments changed the 2014 statute. Some might be thinking, “Oooh, maybe the historical statutes databases such as Arizona Statutes Annotated – Historical already have the Compare Versions feature!?” Nope, I checked.

I am not sure many Westlaw Edge users would find this useful, but theoretically, things could get crazy. For a current statute, multiple previous amendments could be shown at one time, indicated by different colors – green highlighting/strikethroughs for 2018 amendments, red for 2017, etc. The same feature could be available for prior versions of the statute, simultaneously showing prior and subsequent amendments. Maybe hovering a mouse over a word, phrase, or subsection could produce a pop-up with its amendment history? (Okay, I am getting off the topic now…)

 Conclusion

In conclusion, I am excited about the new Compare Version feature and hope to see it expanded in the future!

Posted in Legal Research, Legal Technology, RIPS blog, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Guest Post: Library Neutrality: Keep It, Question It, or Forget It?

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by Sarah Lamdan and Nick Szydlowski

Many libraries and librarians have long claimed or aspired to be neutral. Librarians often invoke neutrality when they try to curate balanced collections, create inclusive spaces, and evaluate and recommend information resources objectively.

At the same time, many librarians argue against neutrality as a professional stance. Some librarians believe that libraries, like most other spaces, cannot truly be neutral. Librarians make decisions every day. Every choice, whether to purchase a book, highlight a work in a display, or offer a reference response, prefers one option over another. Librarians sometimes suggest the profession should advocate on issues like censorship, privacy, open access, and intellectual freedom that affect libraries and their users.

Skepticism towards library neutrality is experiencing a renaissance. In February 2018, the American Library Association (ALA) President James Neal asked librarians whether libraries are truly neutral spaces, and whether they should be. The answers were diverse and varied. Champions of library neutrality described libraries as “content neutral” spaces where librarians treat everyone the same. They equated library neutrality to free speech: everyone has the right to explore materials in the library, and that right should not be tempered by the topics people choose to view.

In contrast, librarians argued that discussions about library neutrality are theoretical. Aspirational neutrality ignores the political actualities of library work. Chris Bourg, Library Director at MIT said “If we believe that libraries have any role to play in supporting and promoting truth in our current post-truth culture, then our work is political and not neutral.” Many of our libraries are housed in organizations that are part of, or deeply invested in, local and national power structures. Our largest vendors are multinational corporations moving rapidly towards a business model focused on analyzing data, including data about our users. Do we think of our law schools, firms, vendors, and courts as neutral institutions? What would it mean to achieve neutrality within a non-neutral institution?

Moreover, library professionals are 85% white and a growing pool of scholarship suggests that our professional culture, including the self-perception of libraries as neutral, presents obstacles for librarians of color. David Lankes, director of the University of South Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science, added, “If we do not address inequities, we are not neutral—we are harmful and instruments of oppression.”

The conflict over library neutrality is not new. In 1972, David Berninghausen published “Antithesis in Librarianship: Social Responsibility vs. the Library Bill of Rights” in Library Journal. The article proved to be a turning point in the library neutrality debate, asserting that “social responsibility” ideals, such as racial justice, environmentalism, and LGBT rights cannot coexist with the principle of intellectual freedom. Berninghausen argues that librarians and library organizations cannot effectively support both. Pitting social responsibility ethics against the principle of intellectual freedom became known as the “Berninghausen Debate.” The idea that librarians expressing their views detracts from the intellectual freedom of library users has lasted for decades, despite major social responsibility problems. As in 1972, librarians are divided on whether to remain neutral or speak out against problematic information practices in the digital data era.

These debates, while engaging, suggest that we will not soon reach a consensus on library neutrality. But a stronger and more diverse profession will make space for those with different approaches to this ethical and political question. There is, and always has been, more than one way to be a good library or a good librarian. With that in mind, it is worth asking: how can librarians with different opinions and orientations work together within our libraries and professional organizations? Perhaps there is the opportunity within AALL for a different type of conversation about library neutrality.

 

 

 

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The Evolution of Legal Education Could Lead to Positive Opportunities for Law Librarianship

library-979896_1920The American Bar Association (ABA) announced in January of this year that it recommends easing restrictions, or expanding opportunities, on distance-learning law school classes. If the proposal, or Standard 306, is adopted the ABA would allow law schools to offer one-third of their required credits in an online format. The current rule utilizes a permissible number of credits rather than a permissible percentage. The ABA currently limits the number of credits that students may earn online to 15 credits. If approved, the proposal would additionally remove the prohibition on first-year law courses being offered and would permit 1L students to take up to 10 credit hours through distance learning.

Riding the early wave of this proposal, the University of New Hampshire School of Law seeks to offer what UNH calls the nation’s first online specialized law degree. The School of Law is awaiting permission from the ABA to begin offering a J.D. that will be specifically curated from the start to focus on intellectual property and technology law. While this news is certainly great for educational institutions that are looking for new ways to “stream” income, I personally believe that this is even better news for the profession of law librarianship. Distance learning can offer transformative new options for law librarians.

These new course formats represent an opportunity to expand library services. With new degree programs being offered in law schools, presumably requirements to support those programs will also shift. For example, new online degree programs could require a law librarian to support the online program, just as those law schools that have evening programs must have law librarians (or reference hours) to support the evening students. A need for expanding library services is ever-present in our industry, but new revenue flow, one can hope, should mean job creation for law librarians—or, Online Law Librarians.

Law librarians are adept at wearing several hats and making the most of the resources available. That being said, if law schools begin ramping up technology in order to offer online degree programs, then I am hopeful that will soon lead to technological advancements in the law library. Not all, but many law libraries have faced several budget cuts in recent years, which means that there is little room for the technological advances that are required to keep up in the information world. Distance learning could reverse that trend.

All in all, I am excited about this potential transition in the administration of legal education as it presents many new opportunities for educators and librarians alike. Similar to the concept of a living Constitution, legal education and law libraries must evolve and adapt to new circumstances in order to accommodate a changing community.

Posted in ABA, Customer Service, employment & reference librarians, Issues in Law Librarianship, Issues in Librarianship (generally), Legal Education Standards, Legal Technology, Patron Services, Reference Services, RIPS blog, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Submit to the RIPS-SIS Legal Research Teach-In Kit!

Dear Fellow Law Librarians & Information Professionals,

Infographic5

The future of the legal profession is in your hands!

Even if you do not teach, you can join other librarians toward the common goal of better library instruction.  How?  By submitting to the RIPS-SIS Legal Research Teach-In Kit.  What can you submit?  Instructors: assignments, games, presentations.  Everyone else: we need your reference questions!  They are valuable for designing in-class exercises and assessments.  We don’t need particular formats.  We don’t need perfection.  We need whatever you’ve got!  We need it because the Teach-In Kit and the instruction and information our members provide is so valuable to our profession and the diverse communities we serve, including our fellow members!

The RIPS-SIS Legal Research Teach-In Kit Committee is now accepting submissions for the 27th Annual Teach-In Kit.

Past submissions include:

game to teach jurisdiction inspired by Apples to Apples

presentation to teach local government law complete with an in-class assignment

-Several syllabi including for course on special topics like environmental law

-See past Teach-In Kits for still more examples.

 Still not sure you have something worthwhile to contribute?  Watch this!  (full screen is best!)

Call for Submissions!

Deadline for submissions: Friday, January, 25, 2019

Where to send your submissions: Please send by email attachment to Gail Mathapo: gmathapo@law.ufl.edu

We are looking forward to hearing from ALL of you!

Posted in AALL Annoucements, RIPS Teach-In Kit, Teaching (general), Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tracking Class Action Settlements

I recently got a check in the mail for the grand total of $2.65. I was, unbeknownst to me, part of a class action settlement. Apparently, I had purchased Aveeno lotion that had been mis-branded as “natural” when it had included synthetic ingredients. I wasn’t surprised that I had purchased poorly branded lotion. What surprised me was that I had no idea I was part of the class or that the action was even taking place! Didn’t I need to sign something and send it back to be part of a class?

Apparently not.

My original notice of settlement could have been lost in the mail, or I just didn’t get one and the vendor had my information already. Either way I was sent money and, even if it was only $2.65, this made me happy! It also got me thinking, how many other class action settlements have I unknowingly been a part of? And how I can ensure that I’m not missing any money that I’m owed?

That is the short story of how I stumbled down the class action settlement research rabbit hole and what I do now to stay up-to-date on class action settlements.

sky ditch eye hole

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

How do I find class actions I may be a part of?

These three websites track ongoing class action settlements and link to the official websites where you can request to be part of the class, even if you never received anything in the mail. For example I’ve bought Premier Protein Drinks at Costco before, and there is a class action about these drinks now that I’m eligible to be a part of but I wouldn’t have known about it had I not checked today.

Top Class Actions

Consumer Action

Class Action.org

Keep up with the news

These are just a few examples of sites in the legal research world that you can use to ensure you know what’s happening in the world of class actions.

https://www.bloomberglaw.com/bloomberglawnews/class-action

Westlaw: Class Action Prospector

Westlaw: Class Action Reports

Westlaw Journal Class Action

Lexis Advance: I had trouble navigating Lexis to look for class actions. You can look at the news on Law 360 and it comes back with some results, but it wasn’t very targeted. When I searched for “class action” on Lexis Advance I kept coming across the Class Action Law Reporter. If the opinion is already in a reporter, you’ve missed your chance to be a part of the class action litigation, so by that point it is already too late for tracking.

numbers money calculating calculation

Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

Word of warning: if you do get a class action check, don’t forget to pay your taxes!

The IRS treats class-action settlement proceeds just as they do any other lawsuit awards. Make sure to check out the Settlements Taxability information on their website before getting excited about your huge payday!

Posted in Legal Research, Legal Specialty Subjects, Resources for the non-Academic | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Changing of the Seasons

Turkey soup for lunch must signal the end of the Thanksgiving weekend. Tie that in with the first snow day for local schools and you have the perfect day for law students (and law school library staff) to realize that finals are just around the corner. From a librarian’s perspective this actually means two things. One is that extended study hours are beginning, and the other is that the beginning of the next semester is not far away. It is time to take inventory of what is on your desk that needs attention, since it is pertinent to one of the two things listed above. The time is now to get ready for these two big events on the calendar.

Winter Picture

Winter in downtown Lansing, Michigan from my office window.

We have seen some recent posts about the things libraries do to attract students into their facilities. There have been some great ideas and I always appreciate the ingenuity and creativeness on relatively low budgets. Many times, we are faced with a no-budget option and that gets very challenging and at times interesting. How can you make students appreciate and use the facility just because it is a library and not for its coffee offerings? Isn’t a great selection of study aids ultimately better than popcorn and holiday movies running in your lobby?

Sometimes I feel like I am working too hard to be either Martha Stewart or Julie the Cruise Director! Those of you who know the reference should get a good laugh out of that. Despite the fact that I love a great party just like everyone else, I still want my professional work strongly reflected in what I do on a day-to-day basis (this coming from someone who just wiped off a few tables in our vending room). So, remember to highlight the following items about you, your staff, and your building whenever you have the chance (even if it means you scooping ice cream to get them in the door).

  1. The Library is the best place for a study hall. It is open the longest hours on campus and has a wide variety of seating/studying options. Students who study in libraries do better in school (there are citations to this, but you know how to find them).
  2. Librarians are experts in helping you get the information you need. This can range from suggesting a study aid to helping locate alumni that can help you set up an internship.
  3. There are many library resources that can be accessed 24/7 from the comfort of your home. The caveat here is that it often takes a librarian to show you what is available since you did not read the welcome email or listen well during orientation.

The Library should have the goal of touching the life of every student at least once during the semester. Make that a challenge to any student group you present to or anyone you engage in conversation. I routinely tell faculty they should stop by the Library at least once a semester and I tell them our busiest days and hours. Because they are in another building, about a block away, this seems truly difficult for many of them even though they park in the lot right next door to us.

Students are our bread and butter. They are the reason for our existence. If you do not love working at a service desk of some sort, maybe you should not be an academic law librarian. However you do it, students engaged by library staff will be put in the position to study and learn in the best possible way. Their ultimate success lies in part with the support we can offer them.

Ultimately, we want successful students to pass the bar and tell everyone that part of their success is tied to the library. As I prepare for an adjunct faculty orientation next week, I will remember to reinforce the value the library brings to the table in helping faculty so that we all are contributing to that goal of success for students.

So, bring on exams! Fancy dinners, loads of homemade cookies, and toasts to the New Year are just a few weeks away and that next semester will be here in a heartbeat. Get ready to put your best foot forward. Students are counting on you.

 

 

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