Message from New RIPS Chair

Hello RIPS members,

It is with great excitement that I begin my year as Chair of RIPS-SIS. After four days of meeting and talking to RIPS members in Austin, I’m energized and ready to help put your ideas into action, with the help of our Executive Board, Strategic Planning Committee, our team of committee chairs, and our community of active members.

While the committees themselves have many interesting and innovative initiatives they are getting ready to take on, I am particularly excited about the work the Board and Strategic Planning Committee are going to be doing on updating our Strategic Plan. This five-year plan will be a reflection of what our ideal Special Interest Section would be, taking ideas from members across the country and setting out an action plan to make them happen.

My hope is that you will all contribute by sending in your ideas of what your ideal vision of RIPS would be, of what we should be aiming to be. We’d also like to hear your ideas for what types of projects and initiatives you’d like to see RIPS tackle. No ideas are too small or too big, so please share them with us either by contacting a member of the Strategic Planning Committee (listed below) or Executive Board or by sending them via Twitter at @RIPS_SIS.

It was wonderful to meet so many of you in Austin. My thanks to you for the inspiration and energy you bring to our SIS. Let’s keep the conversation going!

Alyson Drake
RIPS Chair, 2017-2018

Strategic Planning Committee Members:
Ashley Ahlbrand
Karin Johnsrud
Heather Joy
Rebecca Mattson
Shannon Roddy
Alexis Sharp
Genevieve Tung
Katie Crandall, ex officio
Paul Gatz, ex officio
Katie Hanschke, ex officio
Susan Nevelow Mart, ex officio

Posted in RIPS Strategic Plan | Leave a comment

RIPS Events at AALL


AALL is basically here and I wanted to remind you of the great RIPS-SIS Programs, especially our new Meet & Greet event which will feature yummy treats and great conversation on topics on which YOU voted, that we have in store for Austin:

Saturday, July 15, 2017

  • Dine-Around Dinners with TS/OBS/RIPS/CS Special Interest Sections, TBA (hosted by incoming Chair Alyson Drake; incoming Member-at-Large Paul Gatz, and incoming Secretary/Treasurer Katie Hanschke)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

  • RIPS-SIS sponsored program: Understanding the Human Element in Search Algorithms: 11:30-12:30pm
  • RIPS-SIS Patron Services Roundtable: 12:45–1:45pm Hilton-Room 415A
  • RIPS-SIS Legal Research Competencies Roundtable: 5:15-6:15pm Hilton-Room 415A

Monday, July 18, 2016

  • Meet & Greet: 4:00-5:00pm ACC-Room 14
  • RIPS-SIS Research Instruction Roundtable: 5:00-6:00pm Hilton-Room 415A

Don’t forget to stop by our Marketplace table (if you are attending CONELL) and our great interactive poster in the exhibit hall!

I wanted to thank everyone for attending and contributing to our first virtual meeting this past June. We have reviewed the feedback survey and will take your comments into consideration for next year! Overall, it seemed to be a great success.

I also wanted to thank all of our outgoing Chairs and Board members—I cannot begin to thank these amazing people for their hard work and dedication to RIPS-SIS. Make sure to say “hello” when you see them in Austin (and attend our programs). We will be posting a separate “thank you” post to these amazing individuals after AALL has officially concluded.

It has been wonderful serving as your Chair this past year and I have truly enjoyed supporting such a great organization. I can’t wait to see everyone in Austin!

Safe Travels,

Katie Crandall

RIPS Chair

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If You Come at the Justice, You Best Have Sources

By Christine Anne George

It started out, as most catastrophic events do, with a simple tweet.

Should be easy enough, right? Did esteemed future jurist and Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Nathan Cardozo sit for the New York Bar Exam five agonizing times before passing on his sixth try? Not knowing anything about this allegation, I went looking for the source. The post on Before the Bar, which was included in the tweet, linked out to another post from Bar Exam Hell. Here’s where we run into a slight issue. Bar Exam Hell did not list or link out to any sources for its entry on Cardozo. Before the Bar also includes links to a few other stories. Tipping the Scale has no source listed. Buzzfeed links out to the Wall Street Journal which cites a post on the Brennan Center’s blog by Elizabeth Wurtzel. (Sidebar: Love the Wayback Machine. Love. It.) The post on The Volokh Conspiracy also goes back to the Wurtzel post, which is beginning to seem like Patient Zero for this rumor. Yes I do say rumor. Spoiler alert: it’s not true.

Here’s the thing: I love footnotes. As a writer, nothing brings me more joy than writing an article whose footnotes are so crammed with additional tangential information that they could comprise a second article. As a reader, I’m downright giddy when I see a number in superscript following an interesting sentence that will lead me to even more sources. Yes, I am that person. Even while blogging, I can go a bit hyperlink-happy. So you can imagine me working through the various stages of grief upon realizing that the “sources” for this allegation were nothing more than an echo chamber. Once I finished breathing into my paper bag and accepted that sheer force of will would not make any proper sources magically appear, I got ready to go full on librarian on this question. Now’s probably a good time to throw in that I don’t particularly care whether or not Cardozo passed the bar on the first go. There’s nothing wrong with having failed the bar, but not properly sourcing…that’s unforgivable.

With all the confidence of a reference librarian on a mission, I marched off to our shelf of Cardozo biographies. That’s right. I hit the books. Actual, physical books. Only there was a bit of a problem. I couldn’t locate any footnotes, citations, or, in some instances, even mentions, of Cardozo’s bar exam experience. As it would turn out, there was one biography that had just the footnote I needed, but at the time of the search frenzy, both of our copies were checked out.

The following is accepted (and verified) fact:

Cardozo graduated from Columbia College in 1889.[1] He continued on at Columbia’s law school.[2] Right around the end of his second year, there was a bit of a kerfuffle—the two year LLB program was being expanded into three years.[3] Cardozo, along with a few faculty and many students, did not return.[4] Cardozo has acknowledged the fact that he did not graduate from law school.[5]

At my whit’s end, I decided to phone a friend. And by a friend, I mean many wonderful librarians and archivists at a variety of institutions, which are listed at the end of this post. There was quite a bit of research drama as I found out that the NY State Bar Exam was not standardized until 1894[6] (which meant that the official record began in 1895[7]), but there was an 1871 law[8] that somewhat regulated what the bar exam should be and when it should be administered in New York. (I have to give a special shoutout to the awesome people I spoke to at the NY Board of Law Examiners who, given the time of year, would have been perfectly within their rights to hang up on the random law librarian asking about the bar exam from 1891.) However, it all ultimately came down to a footnote in Andrew L. Kaufman’s biography, Cardozo, which pointed to Box 10 of the Benjamin N. Cardozo Papers at Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

If you stop by the Butler Library and request Box 10, you’ll find a folder of diplomas and awards. Within that folder is a photstat of Cardozo’s certificate of admission. It states that he took the bar on June 26, 1891 and was admitted on October 7, 1891.

Cardozo Certificate

Benjamin N. Cardozo’s New York Bar Admission Certificate, October 7, 1891, Benjamin N. Cardozo Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York. Reproduced with Permission.

So let’s lay this rumor to rest and remember to always, always, always cite sources, no matter what the medium. I also have some thoughts on how those sources should be formatted, but, given the fact WordPress removed all my small caps, we’ll save that for another time.

Many thanks to:

My colleagues Carolyn Brown, Kay MacKey, Richard Kim, and Carissa Vogel

Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library, especially Tara Craig

The U.S. Supreme Court Law Library, especially Jennifer Kim

The New York City Bar Association Library

The New York State Board of Law Examiners

The New York State Archives, especially Jim Folts

Professor Norman Otto Stockmeyer

[1] “Columbia College Commencements,” NY Times, May 11, 1889.

[2] Richard Polenberg, The World of Benjamin Cardozo: Personal Values and the Judicial Process 39 (1997), citing Cardozo to Ernest Abraham Cardozo, Nov. 21, 1932, Benjamin Cardozo Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York.

[3] “A Student’s Protest,” NY Times, Mar. 31, 1891.

[4] Polenberg, The World of Benjamin Cardozo 39.

[5] Id.

[6] Alfred Zantzinger Reed, Training for the Public Profession of the Law: Historical Development and Principal Contemporary Problems of Legal Education in the United States with Some Account of the Conditions in England and Canada 103 (1921), available at

[7] 2 Alden Chester with E. Melvin Williams, Courts and Lawyers of New York: A History, 1609-1925, at 890 (Law Book Exchange, Ltd., 2005) (1925)

[8] 1871 N.Y. Laws 1015. Rules referenced within the law can be founded in the Appendix at 1871 N.Y. Laws 2194.

Posted in Factual & Investigative Research, Information Literacy | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

RIPS Virtual Annual Meeting Tomorrow, 6/21

RIPS Members—

As you may know, our RIPS virtual annual meeting is TOMORROW at 1:00 PM CST! We are very excited to offer this meeting in a virtual format as we hope this will accommodate our busy RIPS members’ schedules.

A few things to remember before tomorrow:

1. You must register for this webinar!

2. You may have seen the 2017 Business Meeting Agenda on MyCommunities, but please make sure to look again at everything we have included! One agenda item is to vote on last year’s 2016 business meeting minutes (which are included with the agenda). You also have access to the committee reports from 2016-2017. Your RIPS committees will be elaborating on those reports tomorrow at the meeting.

3. Another important agenda item is to vote on our newly revised RIPS-SIS bylaws. We’ve made a number of changes, from adding an antidiscrimination article to adapting to a more technology-focused world (i.e. omitting any references to paper ballots!). Please Review the new bylaws and be ready to vote on their adoption at the virtual business meeting. You can compare them to our current bylaws!

We can’t wait to talk with you tomorrow! If you can’t make it, make sure to still register to receive a recording of the business meeting.

The RIPS Board

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Law Library Staff Self-Care: A Collaborative White Paper

By Jessica Almeida, Nicole Dyszlewski, & Heather Simmons

At last year’s AALL Annual Meeting, members of the RIPS Patron Services Committee discussed starting a collaborative writing project with members of LISP tackling the topic of self-care and law librarians. After returning to our institutions, we continued to mull the idea over and decided to co-write a white paper. The idea gained so much support that there were more volunteer authors than there were opportunities to write, so the group bifurcated and started work on TWO white papers.

While both white paper groups consisted of members of LISP and RIPS, they took a different approach to the project. One group tackled the topic of open access in law libraries. The other group has been hard at work on a white paper about law library staff self-care.

As editors of the self-care white paper, Nicole Dyszlewski, Jessica Panella, and Brittany Strojny have recruited authors from all different backgrounds to write complementary chapters on a variety of topics from mindfulness to an organization’s role in self-care. The editors also reached out to AALL and have negotiated for and arranged a low-cost mechanism for the publishing of this white paper, which is being supported by AALL and co-funded by RIPS and LISP. In addition, the template for the white paper will be available to future authors interested in publishing similar works.

While the paper itself will not be available until the Fall, members of the self-care white paper group will be presenting an overview of the project at this year’s AALL Annual Meeting. Please come visit us at the poster session presentation and hear about the project. Below are the details of our poster:

Legal Ease: A Collaborative Self-Care White Paper

Wellness and self-care are words often heard, especially in the context of lawyers and law students, but what about law librarians? Our days can be filled with deadlines, countless interruptions, doing more with less, and difficult patrons. Self-care and wellness are ways to combat the everyday stressors of the profession. Making the effort to be more mindful, setting limits, and knowing when to ask for help are all steps we can take toward a healthier and less stressful life. As part of a collaborative effort between two special interest sections, RIPS-SIS and LISP-SIS, this poster session will be a sneak peek at a forthcoming white paper on how law librarians can combat stress and burnout by embracing self-care and wellness.

Jessica Almeida, University of Massachusetts School of Law; Nicole Dyszlewski, Roger Williams University School of Law; Heather Simmons, University of Illinois College of Law

Posted in AALL Annoucements, Issues in Law Librarianship | Tagged | Leave a comment

Why LawArXiv?

by Magaret Ambrose

You may have already heard that the Cornell Law Library, LIPA, MALLCO, and NELLCO have embarked on a mission to empower the legal scholarly community and to champion open access principles by ensuring community ownership of legal scholarship through LawArXiv.

You can learn more about LawArXiv, its objectives, partnership with the Center for Open Science, and governance structure by visiting You can also visit LawArXiv itself and submit pre-prints, published articles, data sets, and other work products.

This post, however, will focus on the question of why LawArXiv’s mission is an important one. In other words, why is open access important, and why is community ownership of legal scholarship important? These two questions are intertwined, and both speak to an opportunity for law libraries to be proactive, instead of merely reactive. As a profession, we need to stake a claim in the open access market, to ensure that law libraries can negotiate from a position of power instead of weakness, not only to ensure the profession’s relevancy but to also ensure the principles of the profession are preserved for the future.

Why is open access important?

Chances are, anyone reading this already knows why open access is important. Most likely, a person would not be a librarian to begin with if they did not at some level understand how important open access is in theory and in practice. Instead, a more interesting approach to this question is to ask: what does open access represent in terms of a business model, for both for-profit and non-profit entities?

In this sense, there is an old model, and a new model. I want to make the argument that the new model represents both a danger, as well as a singular opportunity for libraries to take back something that until very recently, was thought to have been largely controlled by for-profit companies. To start, under the old model commercial publishers largely have the academic publication market cornered due to the limited resources of academic libraries and academic institutions to support the costs of publishing peer reviewed materials. As recently for example, as 2013 this author mused that the likelihood is small that a major shift in academic publishing from the commercial sector to the academic sector would happen anytime soon.

Even with academic publishing being firmly within the realm of commercial publishers, libraries still have a place. Although the commercial publication model is not perfect, libraries are still able to promote a version of open access through shared community resources.  Libraries might not have control over publishing, but they do have some measure of control over how materials are distributed. They are able to keep commercial publishers honest to a certain extent because libraries can stymie the demand side of the equation for commercial publishers by providing varying patron groups access to academic published materials in a way that limits costs to the individual.

The new model under open access, however, is different, and there are different rules.  First, it’s important to note how the new model came into being. When I think of the growing trend towards open access, and when I read articles like this, -about a website that allowed free access to pay-walled academic papers and how it was able to re-emerge on the dark web – I can’t help but think of the ‘Life will find a way’ scene in Jurassic Park. As long as commercial for-profit publishers keep their profit margins well in excess of 30%, and charge upwards of $30 per article, there will always be a need to provide access to academic materials that does not break the bank. This might seem comforting to those that work in libraries. Yes the ‘publication’ environment is increasingly online, but libraries are still needed to a) provide access to individuals through shared resources so as to alleviate the costs on the individual and b) provide a layer of discoverability.

By focusing on these two library-added value propositions, you may start to see the problem when you factor in that commercial publishers are increasingly eyeing big data and online user platforms as their profit model. Elsevier most likely did not acquire SSRN with the sole purpose of charging authors and platform users fees (although if there is no viable alternative like LawArXiv, there will be nothing to stop them from doing so). They’ve most likely looked ahead, studied the trends, and know the economy of the future is about data: it’s about mining it, curating it, selling it to others to inform their business operations, advertising opportunities, identify new trends in research and innovations, etc. They don’t need to charge authors and users to turn a profit. Much like Facebook and Google, their main product will not be the publications themselves, or the content on the platform, but the behavior of their users on the platform and all of the data and marketing opportunities that come with it.

Considering that the other side of the new economy is developing online user interfaces to enhance user experiences and anticipate user needs, then what you have is for-profit entities that have swayed the balance of power in their favor.  They are chipping away and downright encroaching on the value-added services previously provided by libraries. And they’re doing it in a way that does not reflect on the ethical qualms of manipulating user behavior and mining user data for profit. Commercial publishers are no longer content to have a monopoly on publishing, they now are hungrily staking out their claims on the research process, and the research distribution and dissemination process, for the data that those processes generate. They are very astutely using a type of open access that cleverly masks their profit motive like a wolf in lambskin. If libraries do nothing, if they do not claim a stake in the open access arena, then their negotiating power to protect patrons and the integrity of legal scholarship is greatly weakened. Which bring us to the second question of this post:

Why is community ownership of legal scholarship important?

There are many answers to this question, and some of these answers are complicated and long. A short(ish) answer is that anytime you pass information through a third-party intermediary you add the risk that there will be distortions. If you’ve ever played the game ‘telephone’ or seen Norman Rockwell’s famous painting ‘The Gossips‘ the same principle applies. It is not that commercial publishers are inherently evil and libraries and academia are inherently good, rather it’s that each camp necessarily operates on a different set of values and each has a different set of priorities. When the responsibility of publishing, distributing, and ensuring discoverability of scholarship is placed entirely within the hands of third-party intermediaries, inevitably there will be a distortion as the information is filtered through the values and priorities of commercial-publishers-turned-data-miners and UI developers. These values and priorities can, at times, be diametrically opposed to those of the academic community. When this is the case, librarians will not be able to fulfill their role because they have been cut out of the equation by these same commercial-publishers-turned-data-miners and UI developers. This, in turn, casts a shadow over the entire process and leaves room for the integrity of the scholarly community to be impugned. This is not to say that commercial publishers will necessarily behave unethically, merely that a system that does not check their ability to do so results in a loss of integrity of the academic community.

So… why LawArXiv?

Seen in this light, the mission of LawArXiv is an important one because it is meant to protect the integrity of the legal scholarly community. LawArXiv will only work if those in the legal scholarly community recognize the dangers of the new data-driven economy, as well as the opportunities that true open access can represent. On the one hand, LawArXiv is reactionary in that it is a response to recent developments.  On the other hand, LawArXiv is a vehicle for the profession to be proactive by doubling down on some of the core principles of librarianship: protecting patrons and scholarship from profit-driven motivations and ensuring access that is free from high-cost burdens. Projects like LawArXiv may make it possible for law libraries to negotiate from a position of power on behalf of legal scholars and patrons, rather than weakness. If you are interested in this project, have feedback, or have any questions, please email

Please note:  the opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own and do not represent LawArXiv, Cornell Law, LIPA, MALLCO, or NELLCO.

Posted in Access to Justice, Issues in Law Librarianship, Legal Research, Technology | Tagged | 1 Comment

2017 RIPS-SIS Travel Grant Recipients

The RIPS-SIS Grants Committee would like to congratulate our 2017 RIPS-SIS Travel Grant recipients. The following RIPS-SIS members have received funding to assist them as they travel to the 2017 AALL Annual Meeting in Austin, TX this summer. Congratulations and safe travels to everyone!

Brandon Wright Adler
Katie Brown
Whitney Curtis
Sandy Dunbar
Christine George
Nancy Strohmeyer
Janeen Williams

Posted in AALL Annoucements, RIPS Committees | Leave a comment