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9.25.2003

Arrrrrgggh RSS Bob from Daily Whirl kindly pointed out that when you view Legal References via an RSS reader, there's no link back to the post itself. I'm busily linking all my previous posts using their permalinks, which is a pain, but not impossible.

I have a question for anyone wise in the ways of RSS. Because Legal Refs is on Blogger, I don't have much choice but to use LISFeeds RSS-ify to create a feed. Is there a way to create a post with a link back without posting first to get the permalink? Anyone know what sort of scheme Blogger uses to decide what the permalink address will be? Anyone have an easier way?

9.24.2003

Google vs. Cornell Librarians The Ithaca Journal has an article on a study pitting Cornell librarians against Google researchers. The conclusion? What some librarians have been saying all along:

"The source should match the person's need," Lance Heidig said. "If you want a quick fact, use Google. If you're writing a dissertation, you should be in a library, either virtually or physically."

I agree with that statement, sort of.

If you want a quick fact, Google (or AlltheWeb or...) is definitely the place. If an attorney asks me for materials on lazy susans, I say sure, no problem, I'll get back to you. Meanwhile, I have no clue what the things are, much less where I would find information on them, so I throw the term in Google. I am able to get a quick and shallow grasp on the concept so I can begin my real research.

The problem is that a lot of people, even educated and/or smart people, don't know how to use a search engine to get an answer. A search for a quick answer can become slow and tedious. Librarians help retrieve books, sure, but we can also teach research skills to those who want to learn.

(For more info on Google Answers from a researcher's point of view, see Jessamyn West's article called, "Information for Sale: My Experience With Google Answers," from Searcher Magazine.)

9.22.2003

OCLC Sues Hotel for Trademark Infringement The Library Hotel, located just a few blocks from my office, is getting sued because they've been using Dewey Decimal Classification as a guiding theme. Read the Newsday article.

(Side note: I had no idea libraries were charged for the use of DDC.)

9.17.2003

Federal Law Libraries When I am asked to retrieve documents from a government agency, unless I have a specific number or subsection to call, I like to find the agency's library and start there. Sometimes this strategy works well, sometimes it doesn't. Law Librarian's Society of DC has a Federal Law Libraries directory that's great for this purpose. The list includes staff, hours, ILL policies, and contact information where available.

9.16.2003

On-Topic, Sort Of The Scout Portal Toolkit provides subject access to legal pathfinders on the web. This looks like it will be a great resource.

And speaking of the Internet Scout Project, how did I miss their weblog?

Organizing Links I've read many articles about creating web pages and they all have the same advice: create a site structure first. I created a basic structure, but because of time constraints, the structure was not as detailed as it perhaps should have been. I've now added so many links to the library home page that I need to change the organizational structure. In my mind, the most important thing about a web page is not its look but its function. When a user visits the page and they have a specific task in mind (i.e. Finding a link to a site that will list the county St. Paul, Minnesota is in.), can they, without much effort, discern where they might find that link with a minimum number of steps? I'm not sure that we're achieving that goal right now.

I've been wandering around the Web, trying to find good examples of organizational structures. The Librarians' Index to the Internet is a good one. The Guide to Law Online and The Virtual Chase's Legal Research Guide are also helpful.

And speaking of web links, LII has a great index of sites that talk about how to find information on the Invisible/Hidden Web, sites that aren't visible to search engines.

Interesting Blog Inter-Alia's linked up Braced for Impact. He's got some fascinating links and thoughts on technology, privacy, etc. You should go check him out!

9.04.2003

Slightly Off-Topic Rant Steve of Library Stuff posted Black Saint's "Five Point Plan for Saving the Library":

1) Close down library
2) Get rid of the homeless
3) Burn down library (don't tell the junior "J.Los")
4) Perform exorcism
5) Rebuild library


Having worked at the branch he's complaining about, as well as others in the NYPL system, Black Saint's post stuck in my craw.

My response? Here's my three-point system for saving the library (New York City's, in particular):

1) Money for professional staff. NYPL's had to resort to using folks with only Bachelors degrees or less to staff the reference desks and do other tasks that would normally fall to librarians with degrees. The staff are underpaid and overworked. Retention of good staff is difficult because of the conditions. Of course, I am not excusing a bad attitude or poor customer service.
2) Money for books. Because the budgets for all city agencies have been cut, NYPL had to make cuts somewhere. There's no money in the budget for new books for the next few years, from what I understand, aside from money that comes in from long-standing grants. That means that new release you want will have a waiting list miles long.
3) Money for social services. There's no place for the homeless to go in New York City since social services have been cut. The library's warm in the winter and cold in the summer. The library has a bathroom. They won't kick someone out just because they're homeless. Knowing this may not alleviate a library patron's discomfort, but perhaps it makes the situation a little more understandable.

Barnes and Noble is fine, but try finding a book or a person to help you find that book. Workers can tell you if the book is in stock but they can't necessarily tell you where to find it. At least at the library, everything has a call number. Can they suggest other books that you might like? Doubtful.

Though I left the public library for greener pastures, I find that I advocate for them in my daily life. A few tips that may make your library use more pleasant:

1. Most branches have a drop box (Mid-Manhattan does) near the door so you can return your books without waiting in line. Unless your book is overdue and you want to pay fines.
2. You can avoid fines by renewing your books at a branch, online or over the phone.
3. For that matter, you can look up a book, place a hold and renew a book-- all online. To look up a book or place a hold, access the book's record in the catalog. To renew a book, access your patron record.
4. A friend of mine recently visited the branch near City Hall. When she tried to place a hold on a book, they told her that the only place the book could be sent was her home branch. This is not true, unless things have changed. You can place a hold on a book owned by any library in the system and get it sent to any other library in the system. Try that at a Barnes and Noble near you.

None of these things change the fact that the libraries in New York City (NYPL, Queens and Brooklyn) are woefully underfunded and suffering. Thus, unfortunately, the patron experience sometimes suffers.

Don't give up entirely. Push city officials. Donate money or time. Keep visiting the library!

Is Your Firm on the A-List? AmLaw has a new survey called the A-List. This one uses successful law practice, pro bono performance, decent treatment and development of new lawyers; and diversity of workforce as factors. My firm isn't at the top, but we aren't at the bottom either.

9.03.2003

Environmental Documents from the Federal Register The EPA has grouped all Federal Register environmental documents from 1994-present together on one page. Browsing by subject is possible, but only if you have a specific date in mind. You can also search by date, keyword or page number.

I'm not entirely sure there are benefits to using this instead of the Federal Register through GPO Access. The GPO Access version is the official one.

9.02.2003

Flattered... and Thrilled Headlines from Legal References are now included at Daily Whirl. How exciting is that? If you haven't visited Daily Whirl, you definitely should. They've got headlines from 100+ legal sites. Set your preferences to include only the sites you're interested in.

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