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Archive for the ‘Legal Information’ Columns


According to, communication is “the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.” That sounds pretty simple, but wait, can a word with that many syllables and so many modes of connectivity really be that simple? In the library world we know that if communication were easy, straightforward and not prone to misinterpretation, a lot of our time would be saved. Library school was all about the “reference interview”, and if I’ve learned anything since then, it is that the art of understanding and deconstructing someone else’s question is one of the most difficult . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Digitisation – Free Online?

This time I thought I would talk a bit about digitisation being done by libraries, specifically the Bodleian. This is not exactly related to law or legal materials, but it is about using technology to release manuscripts, books and documents that once were the exclusive preserve of specialist scholars and making them available to the world. The Bodleian has been digitising some of its earliest treasures for many years now, and as always, these projects go ahead when funding is available.

In recent weeks a great deal of coverage was given to the announcement that the Bodleian Libraries and the . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Tracking Down the Brazilian Anencephalic Abortion Case, in English

I got the heads-up from a Brazilian law librarian colleague about a significant opinion published on April 12, 2012. I decided to use the opinion for a kind of case study in how to find cases in English translation. The Supreme Court of Brazil ruled that pregnant women carrying fetuses with anencephaly can legally abort them. The Court’s press releases describing its votes and reasoning are here and here. They’re in Portuguese, which I can make out since I know Spanish, but Google Translate helps give the gist in English. Also, because abortion is a hot issue worldwide, there . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Bloomberg Law: The Wheel Turns

Tectonic plates are shifting in the world of legal information. The sale of the Bureau of National Affairs to Bloomberg surprised me. I worked with BNA a bit back in the pre-Internet days. I was a great fan of U.S. Law Week, a research tool that I felt was much undervalued. I even made a promotional video for them when they began to transition from offering solely a print product into adding a digital platform. Being employee-owned and devoted to high quality editorial content, BNA was easy to like. When Bloomberg came on the scene I saw the shades of . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Managing Unstaffed Satellite Libraries

Satellite libraries, as the name suggests, are libraries that are adjuncts to a principal library. In law firms, they can vary in size from a bookcase in a hallway to a full-sized library. Satellite libraries may be in the same building as the central library, or they may in a different city or even country. They may or may not have library staff running them. Unstaffed satellite libraries present a greater challenge as they depend on articling students, receptionists, or secretarial staff to do such things as loose-leaf filing and reshelving books.

Why do satellite libraries exist? For satellite libraries . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Developing a Library Collection Development Policy: Journals Part 2

This is another in a series of columns about developing a law library collection development policy for the new, digital information environment. In my last column, I looked at journals – what they are, how they’re produced and their respective markets. In this second part, I’ll look at how journals are used in legal research today in both practice and in law schools, their place in a contemporary law library collection, and possible policies for collecting them.

Journals vs Books

Journals are used differently than books. A legal treatise examines the many aspects of a single, relatively broad topic . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Inspiration to Innovation

The world has always had innovators and inventors. According to Wikipedia the oldest known tools used by humans are 2.5 to 2.6 million years old. In the late 1800’s Benz and then Daimler produced vehicles with an engine. Henry Ford manufactured cars in the United States and his fortunes really took off when he started producing black Model T’s on an assembly line. General Motors started offering colour choice and an annual model change, which forced Ford to change. And so on. From earliest times there have always been those who have had new, interesting, innovative ideas. Where do those . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Hide and Seek – a New Paradigm for Finding Official Documents?

The web makes so much information available that we sometimes forget that there are still many hidden archives and collections that are not immediately accessible by way of a simple Google search.

One example is the pages created by government departments that house reports, policy papers and the gamut of related materials that are collected by the departments to keep the public informed, and which are often commissioned to inform the government of issues and concerns that may form part of policy. One of our academics was concerned recently when she went to the Department of Justice website to locate . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

A Sobering Trip to New York City

These are ominous days for law librarians in the United States. On Thursday, February 23, I spoke at the sixth annual ARK conference on law libraries in New York City. The conference was attended almost exclusively by law firm librarians, with a sprinkling of academic law librarians and vendors sprinkled in. Jean O’Grady of the law firm DLA Piper was the lead organizer. I have known Jean for a long time; she is smart, funny and business-savvy. Her firm made news by signing on to the new Bloomberg Law service, making her even more interesting. For details check out Jean’s . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Trends in Academic Law Libraries: What Are the Implications for Private Law Libraries?

In 2011 the Education Advisory Board released a report, Redefining the Academic Library: Managing the Migration to Digital Information Services, which looked at trends in academic libraries and the direction in which they were going. Although I work in a private law library while the report deals with academic libraries, I found the report very interesting; a number of challenges that it identifies are also faced by private law libraries.

The usual suspects are here: rising journal costs, the challenge of being a library in the age of Google and Amazon, and trying to do more with less. The . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Don’t Dumpster That Book! a Life as Art Awaits It

Artists are cutting, burning, and hanging books to create “shaped prose”, landscapes, and faces. University of Iowa professor, Garrett Stewart, sees these book sculptures as symbols of “renewable intellectual energy.” The resulting art is pretty incredible, albeit bittersweet,and sometimes strangely beautiful (such as the Edinburgh paper sculptures). This “book tree” from a gallery in the Netherlands is a good example:

Click on image to enlarge

Give Law Books to Art

Law libraries in the Netherlands have also gotten into the act. Here is a sculpture created out of law books that have been written in, torn, or defaced . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

A New Law Librarians’ Institute?

A few weeks ago, Connie Crosby wrote about the challenge for law librarians in earning a law degree, especially if they’re already working in a law library and don’t want to attend law school full time. Around the same time, John Papadopoulos wrote about how the Legal Literature and Librarianship class at the University of Toronto’s Information School is always oversubscribed. It appears there is an opportunity here to fill.

After many years of planning, last June, the Canadian Association of Law Libraries/Association canadienne des bibliothèques de droit presented a week long program called the New Law Librarians’ Institute. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information