Category Archives: Government & Public Law Libraries

First Amendment issues that arise within the physical space of the public library

Applied First Amendment Jurisprudence for Public Libraries [SSRN] by Marc Lowell discusses “the historic pathway of key [First Amendment] cases that bring the relevant law regarding the physical space of the public library.” Here’s the abstract:

Whether the physical space of a public library is entitled to some degree of special protection under First Amendment jurisprudence is of great import to public library administrators for a variety of reasons that include the development of patron behavior policies, patron interaction and staff training, and reducing the probability of litigation involving the infringement of First Amendment rights of patrons. This paper discusses the legal intersection of First Amendment protections and public library spaces and suggests constructive steps public libraries may take to reduce risks of litigation, legal costs, and exposure to First Amendment hazards with patrons.

Recommended. — Joe

It’s Pearl Harbor Day – New Text And Audio Collections at the FDR Presidential Library

Here’s a bit of news that archivists and historians may find useful on this anniversary of Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States into World War II.  The Franklin Roosevelt Presidential Library has placed some 46,000 pages of speeches in draft, transcript, and final form online.  This collection is accompanied by another which comprises the complete audio recordings available of those speeches.  The site describes the collection:

The FDR Library, with support from AT&T, Marist College and the Roosevelt Institute launches online one of its most in-demand archival collections – FDR’s Master Speech File – over 46,000 pages of drafts, reading copies, and transcripts created throughout FDR’s political career. Presented alongside the Speech File is the Library’s complete digital collection of Recorded Speeches of FDR.

The earliest recording is dated 1920.  That’s pretty amazing given the state of recording technology in that era.  It’s more amazing that it can be downloaded in the ubiquitous MP3 format.  It’s that casual.

I’ve visited this site plenty of times in the past.  There is a wonderful collection of public domain photographs that document the Great Depression, the New Deal, and World War II.  There is some amazing stuff in these collections.  Speaking of Pearl Harbor, scroll halfway down this page for digitized research materials relating to Franklin Roosevelt and the Day of Infamy.

23-0132M

The original caption reads: “USS West Virginia and USS Tennessee after attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.”  Archivist note:  USS West Virginia, BB-48, sinking after being hit with seven torpedoes and two armor-piercing bombs.  Along side is USS Tennesse, BB-43, after being hit with two bombs and being damaged by the explosion of the USS Arizona.  In the foreground are yard patrol craft which appear to be assisting in damage control and rescue operations.

Mark

What’s Going On At the Library of Congress?

Librarian of Congress James Billington abruptly retired on September 30th instead of January as previously announced.  Then the Christian Science Monitor follows up with this unflattering article on the LOC’s lack of technology chops.  Interesting.

Mark

Short Takes On The News: Wikipedia, Tor, Jerry Lewis, and the Upcoming ORALL Meeting

Wikipedia decided to dance with the devil when certain editors were given complementary accounts to Elsevier’s ScienceDirect.  Ars Technica is reporting that the company is donating 45 accounts to top editors at the online encyclopedia.  This doesn’t sit well with some open source advocates like Michael Eisen.  He’s shocked that people who use the encyclopedia will click on links that will only lead to an abstract and an option to buy.  Of course, that’s not quite true for us in academics, at least for us employed at an institution with a subscription.

The debate pits those who believe in open access only against those who believe that links to pay walled articles share useful information in understanding a topic.  Count me in the latter group, not because I can get to the “download PDF” link, but because there is a world of useful information that exists beyond open source.  Libraries and not just those from universities are a big help in getting this kind of information into the hands of researchers or the general public.  Hey, we bought the subscription so none of you had to.

In another report concerning information freedom, it looks as if the Department of Homeland Security has taken a dim view to the Kilton Public Library in Lebanon, New Hampshire becoming a node on the Tor network.  DHS sent a stern email to the Lebanon Police Department who then contacted the Library.  The net effect (no pub intended) was to temporarily halt the project until the Library could gather community input.  Pro Publica has the story.

In other news, the Library of Congress is acquiring a large archive of material documenting the career of comedian Jerry Lewis.  Lewis is donating some of the material while other parts of the collection will be purchased.  The archive will document some 70 years of Lewis’ career and include rare recordings that do not exist anywhere else.  The Fort Wayne New-Sentinel has the story.  Speaking of Fort Wayne, the city will host the 2015 meeting of the Ohio Regional Association of Law Libraries (ORALL) on October 21-23.  Details are available from AALL and the organization’s web site.  Early registration discounts end on September 15.  The registration form is here.  The Program looks pretty good in my opinion.

Mark

Study Examines The Shrinking Print Collection in Law Libraries

I get press releases. Oh do I get press releases from publicists on some of the wackiest topics out there.  I’m not going to go into that because there is one that actually relates to something in which I’m interested.  I’ve written about the shrinking print collection before, especially when it relates to primary materials.  I have advocated cancelling reporter subscriptions because there is so many alternative sources for it in subscription and free databases.  Mind you, it should be a thoughtful cancellation considering how well the online alternatives can be a solid substitute.  The same applies to secondary sources where the treatise is available through an electronic subscription via Lexis, Westlaw, or another electronic library package.  I believe we at DePaul are not unique in considering the issues.

Well, back to the press release part.  The Primary Research Group has issued a commercial study on the shrinking print collections.  It’s called Law Library Plans for the Print Materials Collection, ISBN 978-157440-353-4.  Here’s a sample set of stats from the publication:

  • The cumulative 2-year drop in spending on print resources from 2014-2016 by the law firms in the sample is expected to be 22.6%.
  • For small law firm libraries the number of subscriptions to print journals went from 66.67 to 51.67 and then to an anticipated 45 over the three year period, a cumulative 2-year drop of 32%.
  • Primary works accounted for a mean of 35.53% of spending on print legal materials with a median of 30% and a range of 5% to 90%. For law school libraries, print primary materials accounted for 54% of the total print materials budget, a much higher percentage than for law firm libraries 28%, or government law libraries, 32.86%.

The last one is interesting.  We in the academic business try to prepare students for the tools that they can expect to use in practice.  If law firms are buying less print, and I’m assuming a firm in this situation is using an online database, why are academic libraries still buying at a much higher percentage?  But, hey, that’s just me wondering that.

Here is more information about the report:

The study is currently available as a PDF and will be available in book format on September 9, 2015 and can be ordered now. The price for either version is $135.00; site licenses are also available. To view the table of contents, an excerpt, questionnaire and list of participants, view our website at http://www.PrimaryResearch.com or visit the product page for this report at http://www.primaryresearch.com/view_product.php?report_id=561.

The question I’m thinking about now is how to utilize the space that will become available.  I’ll write my thoughts about that later.

Mark

If, then, unless: How many law libraries belong to the American Association of Law Libraries?

Sounds like a simple question that can be easily answered, right? Well, not according to a review of a recent “report” provided to our elected leaders at their November board meeting. See Membership Statistics 2019-2013 (Numbers as of May 31 of each year) behind AALL’s paywall.

The report includes a table for the “number of entities with AALL members” and itemizes AALL member entities in the follow categories:

  • Law School
  • Private Firm
  • Government & Court
  • Corporation
  • Other
  • Non-Affiliated

A couple of data definition questions. Did any member of the E-board seek clarification about the categories used? For example:

  • Does the “Corporation” category report data just for member corporate legal departments, etc., or does it include vendors?

Whatever it includes, “Corporation” membership declined from 80 in 2008-09 to 52 in 2012-13.

  • “Other” probably includes a couple of library consortia, non-profit, non-library-types but god knows what else. Vendors here?

Whatever this category’s stats capture, “Other” declined from 169 in 2008-09 to 133 in 2012-13.

  • As for “Non-Affiliated,” a footnote explains that the category covers those who “have not indicated an affiliation.”

Does that mean individual human beings are being included as institutions or entities in this head count? It’s kind of hard to draw any other conclusion.

Just the “facts”, please. Excluding the mysterious categories a/k/a “Other” and “Non-Affiliated,” but including “Corporations” under the assumption, right or wrong, that it captures corporate legal departments and the like, total law school + private firm + government and courts + corporations membership declined by 191 institutions, from 1,595 in 2008-09 to 1,404 in 2012-13. That’s only a 12% decline. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Oh wait, that’s about half the percentage decline for similar reporting periods reported in  “Table 5: AALL Libraries Estimated Information Budgets” published in the online editions of AALL’s Biennial Salary and Organizational Characteristics Survey.

There also is a substantial difference in the absolute number of AALL member libraries, institutions, entities, whatever, for similar reporting periods when the above reported stats are compared to stats used to estimate AALL member libraries total information budgets. Compare the below chart sourced with the data supplied to the E-board this month (which includes “Corporations” in the Private Sector category)

aall member entities 08 13

with the below chart compiled from AALL biennial survey data that was reported at Has AALL lost more than 50% of its institutional membership since 2001? (Nov. 4, 2013):

aall member libraries stats

What’s up with this? Hell if I know. I lean toward having more confidence in the committee that has been responsible for collecting and reporting AALL’s biennial survey findings. But  if  the data reported to the E-Board is correct,  then  AALL’s estimated total information budget stats for AALL member libraries are wildly inaccurate,  unless  someone recently decided to count “affiliations” at some sort of internal local level, like, for example, counting each branch office or each functional unit of a law firm as a unique institution, entity, whatever.

— Joe

Has AALL lost more than 50% of its institutional membership since 2001?

According to a review of “Table 5: AALL Libraries Estimated Information Budgets” published in various online editions of AALL’s Biennial Salary and Organizational Characteristics Survey, the answer appears to be “yes.” AALL institutional membership (by which I mean law libraries, not vendors) declined by 57.5% since 2001.

I seriously doubt that 756 AALL member law firm libraries + 333 AALL member government law libraries + 51 AALL member academic law libraries for a total of 1,140 former AALL member law libraries shut down since 2001. So why such a very large, huge really, decline? That was the first question I had when reviewing the recently pay-walled release of the 2013 edition of The AALL Biennial Salary and Organizational Characteristics Survey this weekend.

And the second question I asked myself this weekend was “can AALL remain sustainable when institutional membership declines from 1,984 to only 844 law libraries in a little over a decade?” My hunch is the answer lies in becoming relevant. — Joe

aall member libraries stats

Government Funding Deal Likely, Bringing Government Web Sites Back Up

I assume everyone is sitting on pins and needles over whether the government will be pushed into default by Congress’ seeming inability to fund the government and/or raise the debt limit.  I admit that I’ve probably spent more than a few minutes over the past few days wandering the chattering class web sites while nervously thumbing my latest TIAA/CREF quarterly statement.  I’m not going to take a stand on how this is going to (or ought to) turn out.  The latest news is that the Senate leadership has reached a funding agreement with House Speaker John Boehner going along with allowing a House vote.  Perhaps my and more than a few others’ retirement balances are safe for a few more months.  I’ll be happy when the legislation is signed into law.

One of the casualties of the shutdown has been government web sites.  Sites have either been down or available with messages saying they are not being updated due to the shutdown.  The Federal Trade Commission site still features a stark page stating the site is not available.  Sites that are available but with messages stating they are not being updated at present include the White House, the Department of Justice, and other major cabinet departments.  I’m happy to report that the Library of Congress web site appears to be functioning though it has a message saying it is not being updated.  Earlier reports indicated that the LOC was one of the first sites to become totally unavailable.  Thomas and FDSys are working as well, though the latter says it is processing congressional material in any event, even if it’s not posted immediately. The Federal Register is kept current to some extent.  Thomas, by the way, is not going to be with us much longer.  A message on that site says the Thomas web address will redirect to FDSys starting in November.

The Supreme Court is still going despite the shutdown.  The latest message on the Court’s web site says everything will continue, including public access to its building at least until the 17th of October.  We’ll see how normal everything becomes once the appropriations are made.

 

Mark

Nonessential services include web communications

Due to the temporary shutdown of the federal government,  the Library of Congress is closed to the public and researchers beginning October 1, 2013 until further notice.

All public events are cancelled and web sites are inaccessible  except the legislative information sites THOMAS.gov and beta.congress.gov

Source: Library of Congress Shutdown Message

See beSpacific’s Government Websites that are offline – the list will be expanded.  Joe