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Archive for the ‘Legal Information’ Columns

The Other Eighty Percent: Dealing With Lesser-Used Items in a Library Collection

Librarians often use the rule that 20% of a library’s collection accounts for 80% of its use. However a recent OCLC study found that 80% of the circulation in a university library was driven by just 6% of the collection. Given that law libraries, whether academic, courthouse or private law firm, are constantly under space pressures, does this mean that we should be discarding the other 80-94% of the collection and using the space for something else? (Spoiler: my answer is “no”.)

Usage is not necessarily a good measure of the value of an item. There are items in my . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Developing a Library Collection Development Policy: Monographs

The new library of Osgoode Hall Law School is open, even if not yet quite finished. We’re still waiting for some of the furniture to be delivered and the rare books reading room (Canada Law Book Rare Book Room) is still under construction. I’m crossing my fingers that the missing pieces will be in place for the official opening of the new Ignat Kaneff Building, home of Osgoode Hall Law School, on October 16.

But there’s much more to a good library than well-designed facilities, access to good resources and helpful staff. One of the essential ingredients of any successful . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

A Flurry of Innovation: An Update on Free Law

The past two months have seen a flurry of innovative activity in the corner of the legal technology world that concerns free access to law and open legal information. Here are some developments that seem noteworthy:

Open Legal Educational Resources

New, free, and open versions — in ePUB and .mobi formats — of U.S. federal court rules have been published, jointly by the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School and CALI, The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction. This is the latest addition to the ePUB-based open legal publishing endeavor that John Mayer describes in this recent post. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Another Mac Convert

I was part of the Apple IIe generation – we installed them in the school I worked at in the 1980’s. They seemed great, but somehow the DOS computers that started to creep in seemed to allow us to do more in the background, and the techies decided that this was the way to go. I learned some Unix along the way, and that helped me create some smart databases in 1990 in my library, but I soon joined the crowds. My first computer purchase was a Windows PCc, and for more than 20 years I stuck with PCs. I . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Starting Points for Researching Haitian Law

Haiti is located in the West Indies, on the island of Hispaniola, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. Its official languages are French and Haitian Créole. It shares a border with the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic. It lies near Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the state of Florida in the U.S. It has a rich cultural heritage. However, researching Haiti’s law can be frustrating. Haiti is in the Caribbean, but works on Caribbean law mostly focus on English-speaking, Commonwealth Caribbean countries. Works on West Indian law tend to focus on the British West Indies. And works on Latin American . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

User Generated Content and the Law

The study of law is very intriguing, for someone like me who came to it via the back route. Since I work in a law firm library, and haven’t been to law school, I am very aware of my limitations when it comes to legal research. I like to think that makes me more observant and diligent. One of the things I’ve observed is the way the law overlaps. A few years ago, I was helping an associate sort out where he’d find the answers to a question involving dangerous driving. He ended up needing three separate pieces of legislation: . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

The Joy of Wildcards (And Boolean Operators)

Quicklaw and Westlaw Canada use “*”. CanLII uses “!”. I’m referring to the symbol that these databases use for as a “wildcard”, that is the symbol used to represent one or more characters in a string when carrying out a search. Conversely, when it comes to the symbol used to truncate a word, Quicklaw and Westlaw Canada use “!”, but CanLII uses “*”. (Google does not allow users to truncate search terms at all, although it does use “*” as a wildcard in phrase searches.)

Not only does the symbol used for the wildcard vary among online services, but . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Synergy and Hope in Philadelphia

Time and circumstance have been good to me. I began studying China in 1968. Why I did so was a mystery to all concerned. No one in my family had dreams further than the boundaries of Canton, Ohio. As my father, a working man who thought that I was throwing my life away by studying the Chinese language, put it, “You never even met a Chinese person before you went off to college. We don’t even have a Chinese restaurant in this town!” My decision was not based on practical reasoning; I just discovered as a freshman in college that . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Building Canada’s Digital Law Library

Over the past year, I have written a series of articles on the theme of (re)building a law library. Obviously, I attach great value to the concept of library as place: my previous column was on that very topic. For me, the expression “virtual library” is somewhat of a misnomer, for a library cannot be virtual if it exists in space and that space has a function. I much prefer the expression “digital library” to describe the non-physical aspect of the library collection, not the library itself, though the two are related and must be integrated in a . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

“Sites of Real Engagement”: Opens Up State Legislation is a new, free site providing online access to information about proposed legislation in U.S. states. Funded by the Sunlight Foundation and the Participatory Politics Foundation (PPF) and now covering six U.S. states, — which launched in January 2011 — enables citizens and organizations to learn about and track pending state legislation, the activities and votes of state legislators, issues that are the subject of proposed legislation, and campaign contributions to state legislators.

In July I spoke with David Moore and Carl Tashian — respectively PPF’s Executive Director and Director of Technology, and the developers of — . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Aggravation Due to (Dis)aggregation…

There is a trend that is causing me great consternation, and I think its impact is only just starting to hurt our users and budgets. It is the decision being taken by some publishers of electronic versions of journals and law reports to remove their titles from the aggregators, such as Lexis or Westlaw, and to build their own platforms and then sell the titles /access separately to consumers at a rate they think is achievable.

I admit to my fair share of cynicism in relation to legal publishers; many – though thank goodness not all – have always seemed . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Building Digital Law Libraries

After the 2010 earthquake destroyed Haiti’s law libraries, the Law Library Microform Consortium (LLMC), a non-profit cooperative of libraries, spearheaded the Haiti Legal Patrimony Project. 13 U.K., U.S., and German libraries contributed unique materials from their collections to help rebuild a collection of Haitian law online via the LLMC Digital database. Many of the 700+ titles on the master list (initially compiled from Law Library of Congress and Columbia University Law Library bibliographic data) have been digitized. The online collection comprises constitutions, statutes, codes, periodicals, and legal treatises. The Haiti Project is one of many digital law library initiatives. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information