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Archive for the ‘Legal Information’ Columns

Libraries – the Value of Just in Case, Not Just in Time

I am using the column this time to explain my anxiety that society risks losing too much as the materialism of ‘value’ replaces the experience of centuries of unquantifiable practice and purpose.

It is my concern that too many libraries are under threat from the bean counters. Libraries have always existed as places for the ‘just in case’ event, providing the go-to location when you want sustenance of the mind in some way – knowledge, leisure, curiosity, information, entertainment.

However the world is in thrall to the ‘just in time’ mentality of financial wunderkinds who do not value those ‘old . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

The Curse of Loose­-Leaf Law Books

At the annual meeting of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries last May in Moncton, one of the keynote sessions was on The Future of Legal Publishing. The keynote speakers were Robert McKay and Jason Wilson, moderated by Gary Rodrigues – all fellow Slaw columnists. The opinions offered by these legal information industry experts were informed, insightful and fascinating, and the audience – a roomful of law librarians – was completely engaged. Though each of the speakers had his own vision of law publishing’s future, all were unanimous on one point in particular: there is no future for loose-leaf . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Locating Current Constitutional Texts

In 2014, Egypt, Thailand, and Tunisia adopted new constitutions. On June 1, 2015, Norway amended its constitution to codify judicial review. Recent constitutional developments and events like these generate documents that can be hard to find. The texts of proposed amendments to constitutions, draft constitutions, and recent constitutions can be published in a variety of sources. These documents might not exist in English translation, but only in the original language or vernacular. Herewith some tips for locating new constitutional texts.

The standard sources for constitutional texts are regularly or continuously updated, yet they can be at least a year out . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Summer Updates: MOOCs, Congress.gov and UELMA

Summer is just beginning and I have a little extra time to follow up on some of my earlier columns. As usual I am focusing on open access resources for the frugal learner and researcher. I wrote about massive open online courses (MOOCs) two years ago and have been taking these free courses ever since.

My favorites so far have been the University of California at Berkeley’s Science of Happiness and Harvard University’s Poetry in America series. I most recently completed Poetry in America: Emily Dickinson. Both of these courses are offered by edx and I recommend them as . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

How Will We Find What’s Outside Our Walled Gardens?

I have been thinking about discoverability of legal information materials for some time and worrying that in many cases it isn’t as good as it could be. At the Canadian Association of Law Libraries in Moncton last month the exhibitor hall was full of people with the goal of selling attendees information products in various forms. There were fewer people there with the goal of helping make those purchased materials accessible once they are acquired.

Legal information materials’ primary users have generally been subject experts (of various degrees), and this has meant that there has been less pressure to improve . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Copyright and Clarity

I recently took a course on copyright law. A number of the questions that came up during the course could not be answered with a simple yes or no; often the answer was “in this circumstance, you should talk to a lawyer.” The course made it clear that there are many misconceptions about copyright. For example, several people taking the course believed that you could freely use copyrighted materials if you were not profiting from your use of these materials.

The copyright questions that librarians have to wrestle with often fall into the grey areas of copyright law. As a . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Losing the Past

Are you working in a firm that has gone through a merger, or been rebranded through a takeover? Have you had occasion to look on the web and try to locate the old firm by name or by its URL? In most cases if you do this, you will no longer find the websites which once displayed the proud information of the firm, its partners and its achievements.

Why has this happened? In most instances when a firm is merged or subsumed with another, or becomes part of a new network, it is thought to be bad for client relations . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Preservation Week: Pass It On!

The American Library Association has declared the week of April 26-May 2 to be Preservation Week. In recognition of this event, I thought I’d take the opportunity to present Slaw’s readers with an overview of some of the large-scale partnerships, projects and initiatives working to preserve our print heritage, particularly in law. As you’ll see, there’s lots going on, though Canada’s barely at the party.

Centre for Research Libraries, JSTOR and the JSTOR Print Archive

One of the leaders in developing and encouraging collaborative partnerships for the digitization and preservation of our print heritage is the Center for Research . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Digitization of Print Materials: A Solution in Search of a Problem?

Over the past few years “But can’t you digitize this [and throw away the original]?” has joined “but isn’t it available electronically?” as a justification for getting rid of print library materials.

While there are advantages to having materials in digital format, the digitization process should not be treated as an easy way of reducing a library’s physical holdings. University libraries have been carrying out interesting digitization projects for some while now, but smaller libraries may find digitizing material more challenging since they do not have the same resources to call upon.

Before starting a library digitization project, there are . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

On the (Reform) Road to Mandalay – and Yangon

Last October, John Claydon wrote for SLAW about the work being done by Canadian lawyers in Cambodia. I thought I would follow the thread by providing an overview of the system and legal education in Burma/Myanmar.

In 2012, the University of Oxford was encouraged by one of its famous alumni, Aung San Suu Kyi, to work with the University of Yangon to revive its undergraduate education programme. After more than 30 years, the regime was opening up to the outside world. Yangon and Mandalay Universities were allowed to resume undergraduate education, which had been banned in the wake of . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

So I Spend a Lot of Time Thinking About Clothes . . .

When I taught a course on legal information last summer appropriate dress in a legal environment was a topic of some interest to those starting their careers. And as I find recent conversations about feminism and clothes to be quite interesting, I thought I would write out my thoughts in more detail.

There is reasonable concern about the different ways women and men are discussed and judged in relation to what they wear, and there are certainly biases observed in the ways they are treated. While I have observed that men do get a certain amount of the benefit of . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Link Rot: the Problem Is Getting Bigger, but Solutions Are Being Developed

Wikipedia defines link rot as “the process by which hyperlinks on individual websites or the Internet in general point to web pages, servers or other resources that have become permanently unavailable.” Link rot is common throughout the online world. It is particularly troubling, however, when it occurs in legal materials where researchers seek to find important items that are no longer at the cited URL.

One early project to combat this problem began in 2007. The Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group “features government, policy, and legal information archived from the Web through a partnership between state and academic law libraries.” This . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information