Category Archives: Library Associations

AALL’s 2018 New Product Award goes to BLaw’s Points of Law

According to today’s AALL eBriefing, Bloomberg Law’s Point of Law artificial intelligence solution has been awarded AALL’s 2018 New Product Award. For a review of the product, see Mark Giangrande’s LLB post.  — Joe

“The Board will be gathering more facts in order to determine how to effectively respond” to LexisNexis’ tying ultimatum

We have been reporting on recent LexisNexis tie-in attempts wherein the Company refuses to sell print or ancillary products in retaliation for cancelling Lexis Advance as if this may be a new company sales policy. Initially I thought a rogue LN sales rep may have created the reported situation involving a large law firm in Texas. Having now heard confidentially about similar tie-in negotiations, I and I have no doubt other invoice-paying law librarians are interested in finding out what is going on and what we are going to do about this to support member institutions. So is our association’s Executive Board.

At last week’s meeting, the Executive Board heard a request from CRIV to issue “a statement of disapproval of the LexisNexis policy.” Instead of issuing the statement, the Executive Board has decided to gather “more facts in order to determine how to effectively respond” according to AALL Member News for the Week of April 9, 2018. No word on who is performing the investigation, when it will commence and conclude, whether the results will be reported to the membership in a timely manner, and what AALL will do with the results of its investigation.

OK, our association isn’t exactly known for its consumer advocacy efforts on behalf of all institutional members but I hope AALL’s statement means that it will solicit additional information, this time from all law librarians who have been confronted with LN’s tie-in ultimatum. If your law library has been the recipient of LN’s ultimatum, I think the best people to inform right now are the members of CRIV. The more instances of similar negotiations, the better.

Let’s not let LexisNexis get away with giving the Executive Board the same sort of “answers” the Company gave CRIV when CRIV asked LN three times for an explanation. Here they are:

First attempted explanation — “Our pricing is different in each market and varies depending on which products and solutions work best for each customer. Accordingly, we sit down with customers and explain the pricing for their firm, including what products are sold together and which are sold separately. If any of your readers want to discuss, we are happy to do so directly with them.”

Second attempted explanation — “Keep in mind that Lexis has been selling integrated products as a package with Online for many years with notable examples such as Lexis Search Advantage, Lexis for Microsoft Office, Verdict and Settlement Analyzer, Profile Suite, LN Publisher, and Digital Library. As we retire Lexis.com this year, and upgrade users to Lexis Advance, we will more fully leverage our
platform that consolidates all content and tools to one ecosystem. This affords considerable benefits to users including being able to navigate seamlessly between products, have answer sets surfaced across products, and gain access into the central Online content repository, that formerly would have been restricted by product.”

Third attempted explanation — “It is impossible for us to answer this specific question with a blanket statement since all markets have unique pricing plans suited to buying preferences. What does apply at a broad level is that we are continuing to integrate products into Lexis Advance where all global content and tools will be housed and maintained to the highest level of accuracy and currentness. We are
exploring pricing and packaging options that offer a seamless experience across products and access to related answer sets not possible with satellite products. Please refer to related information provided in the LexisNexis/CRIV conference posted on CRIV Blog, Dec. 20, Again, If any readers wish to discuss, we encourage them to contact their account team directly.”

I call BS.

Hopefully, our association will aggressively pursue what may be the most serious complaint about LexisNexis in at least a decade. — Joe

At 1:00 PM CDT Friday, AALL may decide to issue a “statement of disapproval” over one very expensive legal information provider’s tie-in negotiating tactics

Yesterday I reported that CRIV has been unsuccessful in attempting to resolve a dispute involving LexisNexis and a large law firm in Texas over LexisNexis’ refusal to sell its print products unless the firm renewed its Lexis Advance license. (Since then I have heard about how LexisNexis has coerced other law libraries using the same negotiations tactic.). At 1:00 PM CDT Friday, the Executive Board will consider CRIV’s recommendation that AALL issue “a statement of disapproval of the LexisNexis policy.” If issued, what should the statement say?

How about a strongly worded condemnation of what may be anti-competitive tying because (1) two separate products or services are involved, (2) the sale or agreement to sell one is conditioned on the purchase of the other, (3) the seller has sufficient economic power in the market for the tying product to enable it to restrain trade in the market for the tied product, and (4) a not insubstantial amount of interstate commerce in the tied product is affected. Enumerating the elements of a per se violation of antitrust law might be a good start for advocating for our institutional membership base. — Joe

What! Is LexisNexis discriminating against law libraries that cancel Lexis Advance?

The following complaint was reported by CRIV to the Executive Board for the Board’s Spring 2018 meeting.

In July of 2017, an AALL member (a librarian at a large law firm in Texas) submitted a help request to CRIV regarding a change in LexisNexis sales policy that she felt was detrimental to her firm, and requested that CRIV mediate the situation with LexisNexis. Specifically, the librarian’s complaint alleged that when her firm decided not to renew its subscription to the Lexis Advance database, LexisNexis retaliated by stating that they would no longer be willing to sell any LexisNexis print materials or ancillary online legal products (such as Law360) to the firm.

In the Spring Meeting Board Book 2018 (Tab 14, PDF pages 186-188), CRIV reports to the Executive Board that our representatives were given unsatisfactory answers when they questioned LexisNexis about this complaint. Still waiting for an explanation… . — Joe

Nominations sought for the 2018 Roy M. Mersky Spirit of Law Librarianship Award for Public Service

Each year, the Roy M. Mersky Spirit of Law Librarianship Award for Public Service Committee honors a law librarian or law library organization for service to the community. Please help us recognize law librarians or law library organizations by nominating a worthy individual who has made a meaningful contribution to a social or charitable cause or concern. A review of past award recipients shows the variety of charitable work that may be recognized.

Award recipients are selected from nominations submitted to the Award Selection Committee, which consists of Dick Spinelli, Counsel to the President, Wm. S. Hein & Company; Professor Barbara Bintliff, director of the University of Texas, Tarlton Law Library; and Professor Richard Leiter, director of the University of Nebraska Schmid Law Library. The previous award winner, Steve Anderson, who was honored for his work with the Howard County Early Onset and Newly-Diagnosed Parkinson’s Disease Support Group and many other activities that address quality of life issues for people suffering from Parkinson’s, will also serve on the selection committee.

The award will be presented to the recipient during the 2018 AALL Annual Meeting in Baltimore.
An award will be given only when an outstanding individual is nominated. The committee encourages nominations from anyone with information regarding individuals who might fit the profile of an award recipient. Please help us to recognize the people who represent a special dimension of the “Spirit of Law Librarianship.”

The award, established in 1991 by Roy M. Mersky, former director of Tarlton Law Library at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, and Richard Leiter, director of the Schmid Law Library at the University of Nebraska, was created in order to give special recognition to individual law librarians who might not otherwise be recognized by their peers for their important work. The award was established in lieu of accepting royalties from their book, published in 1991 by the Fred B. Rothman & Co., Inc (acquired by William S Hein & Co., Inc. in 1989), The Spirit of Law Librarianship. The second edition was published in the spring of 2004 by Alert Publications, Inc.

The deadline for nominations is June 1, 2018. To make a nomination, please contact: Professor Richard Leiter, Schmid Law Library, University of Nebraska College of Law, Lincoln, NE 68583-0902; rleiter@unl.edu. Information about past award winners, the nomination process and the Roy M. Mersky Spirit of Law Librarianship Award for Public Service Foundation, please visit tarltonapps.law.utexas.edu/slla

— Joe

Should the next AALL executive director be a law librarian or an association professional?

Recently AALL members learned that our association’s executive director is resigning after 11 years at the helm. Kate Hagan is leaving at the end of this fiscal year in September. A search committee chaired by Gail Warren, a former AALL treasurer, who also served as a member of the search committee that selected Kate Hagan for the job in 2007, has been formed. Will the Executive Board once again hire an association professional? Should it?

Whether the executive director should be a librarian or an association professional has been the subject of much debate within ALA recently. For nearly a century, every ALA executive director has been a credentialed librarian. In November, this changed when the ALA Council replaced the requirement by stating that a library degree is strongly preferred but not a required educational qualification for the executive director position. Some ALA members are opposed to the change and are trying to overturn the Council action by voting on a resolution to reverse the Council’s decision right now. Results will be announced on Wednesday, April 11th.

Prior to the current voting, ALA released a number of documents that framed the debate. Here’s one, ALA’s Pros/Cons Table which outlines the issues, issues that the reader can place in an AALL context with one caveat, AALL is a much, much smaller library association than ALA.

What candidate pool will yield the best available executive director for AALL? — Joe

Tenth Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition

The Legal History and Rare Books (LH&RB) Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), in cooperation with Cengage Learning, announces the Tenth Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition. The competition is named in honor of Morris L. Cohen, late Professor Emeritus of Law at Yale Law School.

The competition is designed to encourage scholarship and to acquaint students with the AALL and law librarianship, and is open to students currently enrolled in accredited graduate programs in library science, law, history, and related fields. Essays may be on any topic related to legal history, rare law books, or legal archives. The winner will receive a $500.00 prize from Cengage Learning and up to $1,000 for expenses to attend the AALL Annual Meeting.

Winning and runner-up entries will be invited to submit their entries to Unbound, the official journal of LH&RB. Past winning essays have gone on to be accepted by journals such as N.Y.U. Law Review, American Journal of Legal History, University of South Florida Law Review,William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law, Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, and French Historical Review.

The entry form and instructions are available at the LH&RB website: http://www.aallnet.org/sections/lhrb/awards

Entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m., April 16, 2018 (EDT).

AALL’s ‘extreme vetting’ removes post on professional ethics for suggesting collective action by AALL readers

As the gatekeepers for the databases and platforms that we use for research, librarians have an obligation to honor privacy and civil liberties in their libraries, and to stand up to research product companies helping ICE to build supersystems for “extremely vetting” citizens and noncitizens alike. — Sarah Lamdan and Yasmin Sokkar Harker, LexisNexis’s Role in ICE Surveillance and Librarian Ethics, Law Librarian Blog, Dec. 11, 2017

Last week, Sarah Lamdan and Yasmin Sokkar Harker published “LexisNexis’s Role in ICE Surveillance and Librarian Ethics” on the RIPS blog. (Later republished on LLB.) The RIPS blog contains the disclaimer that “All opinions expressed in the posts herein are those of the individual author and do not represent the opinions of RIPS-SIS or AALL.” The disclaimer wasn’t good enough to stop our association from taking down the post in its entirety on the advice of AALL’s general counsel and without consulting with the post authors until after the takedown.

Why?

Two answers have been offered to the above question. First, our association’s rationale may be that AALL fears an antitrust lawsuit from one of our very expensive legal information providers mentioned in the post. Alternatively, perhaps, AALL fears alienating an organizational member that contributes funding to our association. Since our association’s general counsel was involved, it appears likely that AALL was afraid of possible litigation on antitrust grounds for singling out LexisNexis in the blog post. If so, we have a problem here, one that cannot be addressed by our association without some risk exposure. How much? Would LexisNexis sue AALL over this? I seriously doubt it but…

According to a comment posted by Dennis Kim-Prieto to an Immigration Prof Blog post about the Lamdan and Harker piece:

The upshot of [LexisNexis’s role in ICE surveillance] is that LexisNexis may no longer be a secure research resource for immigration practice and appeals. By searing [sic] LexisNexis, attorneys are giving them access to their search terms, which is what ICE really needs to inform the algorithms that will run the proposed database. Every immigration attorney and clinic should, in my professional opinion, find another source to use instead of LexisNexis. You may be inadvertently putting your clientele at risk by using LexisNexis!

If that is the case, then we have a situation where our ethical concerns for searcher privacy in database usage cannot find expression in concerted activity under the AALL umbrella because it might lead to an anti-competitive boycott of LexisNexis. As a professional association we are sinking in the quicksand of antitrust rules again. — Joe

LexisNexis’s Role in ICE Surveillance and Librarian Ethics

by Sarah Lamdan and Yasmin Sokkar Harker

A recent Intercept article listed the data corporations vying to build ICE’s Extreme Vetting surveillance system. The list of companies signing on to this project includes LexisNexis, a go-to product for legal and business research, news, and public-records searching. LexisNexis is a ubiquitous library resource. It can be found on public use computers and webpages in public, academic, and private libraries across the nation. For librarians in the legal field, especially, LexisNexis is an often unavoidable product, as it is one of two major research systems for the law.

Civil liberties activists and artificial intelligence (AI) experts quickly responded to the news by writing a letter, en masse, to IBM’s CEO, condemning the company’s potential participation in the ICE program. The AI experts decried the program as being “tailor-made for discrimination”, as it is meant to determine and evaluate an applicant’s probability of becoming a positively contributing member of society, as well as their ability to contribute to national interests and predict whether an applicant intends to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States. These types of programs have not been proven to be effective, and in other cases, have falsely labelled individuals as criminals or security risks. This program is not totally dissimilar to IBM’s role in the Holocaust as the statisticians and data-gatherers behind massive deportation and roundup lists. Librarians should be active participants in the conversation about the ICE project to build a system for surveillance and deportation.

Librarians are advocates and activists for privacy rights and the protection of personally identifiable information in surveillance, standing up against recent-anti-muslim Executive Orders and making it clear that libraries and information are for everyone. Librarians know that privacy and the ability to do research without fear of surveillance are the cornerstones of intellectual freedom. We have historically been active in the fight for civil liberties, even going to jail to protect our patrons from intrusive government surveillance.

Librarians are also invested in the ethical use of information. The ACRL Framework for Information Literacy emphasizes the role of “using information, data, and scholarship ethically” and the AALL Legal Research Competencies and Standards states that a successful legal researcher “distinguishes between ethical and unethical uses of information”. The Boulder Statement on Legal Research Education specifies that legal research instruction should include “an ongoing examination of professional standards, including the identification of ethical responsibilities.” Given this focus on ethics, librarians should explore and publicize the ethical implications of a system that would use personal data in a way that technology experts believe will falsely identify people as posing a criminal risk and expose those individuals to serious repercussions.

Critical information literacy, or understanding the source of information and the roles information providers have in society at large, is also a cornerstone of the library profession. As librarians, we must investigate the source of LexisNexis data. While many librarians are pleased by LexisNexis push-of-a-button dossiers on potential clients and library users are tickled that they can use LexisNexis products to track down ex-beaus and high school classmates, we cannot ignore the rotten roots from which this personal data springs. As of 2006, LexisNexis had the world’s largest electronic database for public-records related information. Along with Accurint, a huge public records database, LexisNexis purchased Seisint, a post-9/11 creation whose MATRIX system combines commercial and government records to enable the quick creation of “suspects” or surveillance targets. Seisint, and its MATRIX system, were condemned by civil liberties activists as a tool to propel the nation towards a “surveillance society.” It is incumbent upon librarians to understand and build awareness about the products we provide to the public. Especially if our patrons are likely to be harmed by ICE surveillance, we cannot, in good conscience, counsel them to use products under the LexisNexis umbrella to conduct research in our libraries.

As library organizations discuss ways library professionals can advocate for intellectual freedom, democracy, and equality, we should begin by grappling with how to react when our major database providers engage in massive surveillance projects with the government. It is an opportunity for us, as professionals to put our ethical standards and critical information literacy practices to practical use. As the gatekeepers for the databases and platforms that we use for research, librarians have an obligation to honor privacy and civil liberties in their libraries, and to stand up to research product companies helping ICE to build supersystems for “extremely vetting” citizens and noncitizens alike.

Editor’s Note: The above post was originally published on RIPS Law Librarian Blog, a publication of the Research, Instruction, and Patron Services Special Interest Section (RIPS-SIS) of the American Association of Law Libraries, on December 5, 2017. It was removed from the blog on the “advice of AALL General Counsel” as stated here. The authors asked to publish their post on LLB and I am happy to provide a means for this very important contribution to see the light of day. — Joe

 

Trends in AALL membership, 2007-2017: Law Firm/Corporate professional membership continues to decline

Since 2007, the biennial Salary Survey has reported on AALL membership by market sectors: Law Firm/Corporate, Government and Law School. The table, above, details non-AALL membership as a percent of the professional workforce as reported in the last six biennial salary surveys. The percent of non-AALL members in the law firm/corporate legal sector workforce increased 19% in 2017 compared to 2015 and has increased 56% since 2007. Note that the percent of the professional workforce in the law firm/corporate law sector who are not AALL members has steadily increased during the past ten years. No similar increase is manifest in the government and academic sectors.

Why?

Time to mount an AALL membership outreach campaign targeting non-traditional legal information professionals in law firms and corporate legal departments? — Joe

New milestone reached in law firm/corporate law information budgets

According to AALL’s 2017 Biennial Salary Survey & Organizational Characteristics, total information budgets increased substantially for government and law firm/corporate law libraries but not academic law libraries when compared to the 2015 survey results. Government libraries’ information budget increased 31% and law firm/corporate law libraries’ information budgets increased 26%. Academic law libraries’ information budgets were flat.

Electronic information budgets as a percent of total information budgets essentially was unchanged for government law libraries in 2017 at 35%. Not so for other market segments. Electronic information budgets as a percent of total information budget rose 16% for law schools, from 38% in 2015 to 44% of total information budgets in 2017. Law firm/corporate law libraries’ electronic information budgets rose 9%, from 69% to a record 75% of total information budgets in 2017. No time in the history of AALL’s biennial surveys has a market segment reached this 75% milestone. Is the end of this substitution trend in sight? I have my doubts. — Joe

Relevance: AALL leadership requires a diversity of types of institutional perspectives holding the office of president

There was a time in the not too distance past of AALL when it was very unusual for someone other than an academic law librarian to hold the post of elected AALL president. Diversity of types of institutional perspectives in the AALL’s presidential officeholder was lacking. Between the 2000-01 term and 2011-12 term, for example, academic law librarians held the position of AALL president 11 of the 12 terms of office. During that time, it was fairly commonplace to hear complaints that AALL was no longer relevant to the professional careers of many AALL members, particularly among disenchanted firm librarians.

Since 2011-12, the situation has improved. From the 2012-13 term through the current 2017-18 term, government law librarians, academic law librarians and firm law librarians each have filled the presidential post twice. Could this be why we hear fewer, quieter complaints about the relevance of AALL for members’ professional lives and their employers’ missions? — Joe

AALL members, time to get your vote on

This year’s slate of AALL candidates —

Vice President/President-Elect:

Michelle Cosby, Associate Director, Univ. of Tennessee Law Library
Carol A. Watson, Director, Univ. of Georgia Law Library

Executive Board Members:

June Hsiao Liebert, Firmwide Director of Library & Research Services, Sidley Austin LLP
Liz Reppe, State Law Librarian, Minnesota State Law Library
Karen Selden, Metadata Services Librarian, Univ. of Colorado Law Library
Christine L. Sellers, Research Specialist, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

Resources:

Candidates’ Statements and Bios

Recording of the AALL 2017 Candidates Forum for President-Elect

Recording of the AALL 2017 Candidates Forum for the Executive Board

Q & A PERSPECTIVE: Get to Know Your 2018 AALL Executive Board Candidates, AALL Spectrum, July/August 2017.

— Joe

ALA: “The Copyright Office belongs in the Library of Congress”

Currently the Register of Copyrights is appointed by the Librarian of Congress. For several years this administrative arrangement has caught the attention of members of Congress because, in 2015, the GAO identified the Copyright Office’s shortcomings in terms of the inability of the Library of Congress to support and management of the IT needs of the Office. See Strong Leadership Needed to Address Serious Information Technology Management Weaknesses (Mar. 31, 2015, GAO-15-315). That would change if H.R. 1695, Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017, passes. [LLB post]. The bill would make the Register of Copyrights position appointed by the president with confirmation by the Senate. Most, if not all, of the library community opposes this change as does Alisa Holahan, Google Policy Fellow, ALA, in Lessons from History: The Copyright Office Belongs in the Library of Congress (2017). Here’s a snip from the report’s conclusion:

The Copyright Office can benefit enormously from the support of a modern, efficient, and mission responsive IT system at the Library of Congress, particularly when the Office is empowered to collaborate with the Library’s IT department. Congress’s rejection of multiple prior proposals to move the Copyright Office indicates that it recognized the important benefits of the Office’s location within the Library of Congress and the significant costs of severing that socially and economically valuable relationship.

This remains the case today. Little would be gained by moving the Office, and a great deal would be lost, particularly in terms cost savings and coordinating the modernization process. The progress toward critically needed modernization that has been made so far could be erased, and future such efforts would likely be stalled, slower, less efficient, and more expensive. Further, maintaining the traditional connection between the Library of Congress and the Copyright Office is important both because it honors a cherished relationship of more than a century and because it recognizes the special role copyright plays in promoting the creation and dissemination of knowledge for all: the
Library’s own most fundamental mission.

— Joe

Why did Lexis Advance never receive AALL’s New Product Award?

AALL’s annual New Product Award gives the recipient vendor free fodder for an advertising campaign and a dose of much needed good press each year. “This award honors new commercial information products that enhance or improve existing law library services or procedures or innovative products which improve access to legal information, the legal research process, or procedures for technical processing of library materials. A ‘new’ product is one which has been in the library-related marketplace for two years or less. New products may include, but are not limited to, computer hardware and/or software, educational or bibliographic material, or other products or devices that aid or improve library workflow, research, or intellectual access. Products that have been reintroduced in a new format or with substantial changes are eligible.” Quoting from AALL’s New Product Award page.

Thomson Reuters won the award for WestlawNext in 2011 and Bloomberg Law won for BLaw in 2012. What ever happened to Lexis Advance? Launched in 2011, Lexis Advance would have still been eligible for the award in 2013 but PLI’s PLI Discover PLUS received it that year. PLI Discover PLUS is an excellent service but…it’s not from a major vendor of what was then a next-generation search service like, for example, WestlawNext was at the time Thomson Reuters received its award. Besides, I believe, PLI Discover PLUS would have been eligible for the award in 2014.

Lexis Advance was no better or worse than WestlawNext and arguably better that BLaw back in 2011-2013. So I’m left wondering why LexisNexis never received AALL’s New Product Award. For that matter, why didn’t LexisNexis receive the New Product Award when it launched the first professional grade, enhanced law eBooks and/or the first law eBook lending platform, the LexisNexis Digital Library? If LexisNexis systematically enhances its secondary works accessed on Lexis Advance with videos as it did with one title, the Company might be eligible again because “products that have been reintroduced in a new format or with substantial changes are eligible.” — Joe

List of Previous AALL New Product Award Winners

2017: Casetext, Pablo Arredondo, Vice President, Legal Research, San Francisco, CA, CARA

2016: Ravel Law, Daniel Lewis, CEO and Co-Founder, San Francisco, CA, Judge Analytics

2015: Lex Machina, Josh Becker, CEO, Menlo Park, CA, Legal Analytics®

2014: William S. Hein & Co., Inc., Getzville, NY and Fastcase, Inc., Washington, D.C., HeinOnline/Fastcase Integration

2013: Practicing Law Institute, New York, NY, PLI Discover PLUS

2012: Bloomberg Law, New York, NY, Bloomberg Law

2011: WestlawNext Team, Eagan, MN, Thomson Reuters – WestlawNext

2010: Fastcase, Inc., Fastcase Legal Research iPhone App

2009: William S. Hein & Co., Inc., Subject Compilations of State Laws (HeinOnline)

2008: Cassidy Cataloging Services, Inc., WLX Cataloging Record Service (WLX E Treatise Collection, Lexis II Primary Sources, and Westlaw IV Journals & Law Reviews)

2007: No award

2006: No award

2005: Thomson Gale, The Making of Modern Law

2004: Jenkins Law Library & American Lawyer Media, http://www.palawlibrary.com

2003: No award

2002: No award

2001: W.S. Hein & Co., Inc., Hein-On-Line

2000: IndexMaster, Inc., IndexMaster

1999: West Group, Key Cite

1998: Congressional Information Services, Inc., CIS Congressional Universe

1997: BNA, Inc., Health Law & Business Series

1996: No award

1995: Shepard’s McGraw-Hill, Inc., How to Shepardize

Learning analytics implicates ALA’s Code of Ethics

In Learning Analytics and the Academic Library: Professional Ethics Commitments at a Crossroad, College & Research Libraries, Forthcoming, Kyle Jones and Dorothea Salo discuss learning analytics and the ways academic libraries are beginning to participate in wider institutional learning analytics initiatives. The authors address how learning analytics implicates professional commitments to promote intellectual freedom; protect patron privacy and confidentiality; and balance intellectual property interests between library users, their institution, and content creators and vendors. From the article’s conclusion:

Though pursuing  LA [learning analytics] may lead to good outcomes for students and their institutions, higher education and the library profession still face an ethical crossroads. LA practices present significant conflicts with the ALA’s Code of Ethics with respect to intellectual privacy, intellectual freedom, and intellectual property rights. We recommend that librarians respond by strategically embedding their values in LA through actively participating in the conversations, governance structures, and policies that ultimately shape the use of the technology on their respective campuses.

— Joe

AALL awards Casetext’s Case Analysis Research Assistant product of the year

I must be getting old because when I read that AALL gave its annual product of the year award to Casetext’s CARA I didn’t know what it was. But Bob Ambrogi does. He reviewed the service last summer in New Casetext Feature Finds Relevant Cases For You, But Along With It Will Come New Pricing. CARA, which is short for Case Analysis Research Assistant, is a productivity enhancement tool for document review which automatically finds relevant cases to any document you upload into the system. Bob writes “[w]hat CARA is actually doing is comparing the cases in the uploaded document to the cases and articles in its database. For every case in the document, it is looking for other cases that are usually cited together with that case. It uses various indicators to weigh relevance, including how often two cases are cited together and how often they are discussed together in third-party articles contributed by Casetext users.” CARA’s output is a list of relevant cases not mentioned in the uploaded legal memorandum, brief, opinion letter or other document containing legal text.

Kudos to Casetext for creating what sounds like a useful tool. — Joe

Register of Copyrights: ‘Why should the Librarian [of Congress] have unilateral authority over an appointment that impacts so many livelihoods in the United States?’

Currently the Register of Copyrights is appointed by the Librarian of Congress. That would change if H.R. 1695, Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017, passes. The bill would make the Register position a presidential appointment with confirmation by the Senate, with 10-year term limit. It would create minimum standards for those who hold the Register of Copyrights position by requiring the officeholder to be a U.S. citizen who has professional background and experience in copyright law. Under the proposed legislation, the President will select a nominee from a list of names identified by a Congressional leadership panel that includes the Librarian of Congress.

H.R. 1695 was reported out of committee [H. Rept. 115-91] and placed on the Union Calendar on April 20th.  The Hill’s Dina LaPolt and John Meller in H.R. 1695: A vital first step towards Copyright Office modernization opine that this change makes sense:

The Register advises Congress and accordingly, Congress should have a hand in who holds this position.  It makes sense to appoint the Register via a standard nomination process involving our elected representatives, same as most other high-ranking government officials. Why should the Librarian have unilateral authority over an appointment that impacts so many livelihoods in the United States?

AALL opposes the bill, stating that our association believes it is unnecessary and would create management conflicts within the Library of Congress. But LaPolt and Meller report that two former Registers support it.

This bill is also supported by two previous Registers of Copyright, Marybeth Peters and Ralph Oman. They point out that the Act would address issues that have escalated in the relationship between the Copyright Office and the Library, which they state are “structural, not personal or political”, and explain that Congress should be able to obtain “independent copyright advice straight and true from the expert agency” rather than “filtered through the lens – and shaped by the perspective – of the head of the national library”.  Their opinion should carry great weight here—especially since they were themselves appointed unilaterally by the Librarian.

What do you think? — Joe

ALA’s top ten most challenged books in 2016 includes series written by Bill Cosby

Out of 323 challenges recorded by ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, the “Top Ten Most Challenged Books in 2016” are:

  1. This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki. Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, drug use and profanity, and it was considered sexually explicit with mature themes.
  2. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier. Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, was deemed sexually explicit, and was considered to have an offensive political viewpoint.
  3. George written by Alex Gino. Reasons: challenged because it includes a transgender child, and the “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels.”
  4. I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas. Reasons: challenged because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints.
  5. Two Boys Kissing written by David Levithan. Reasons: challenged because its cover has an image of two boys kissing, and it was considered to include sexually explicit LGBT content.
  6. Looking for Alaska written by John Green. Reasons: challenged for a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to “sexual experimentation.”
  7. Big Hard Sex Criminals written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky. Reason: challenged because it was considered sexually explicit.
  8. Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread written by Chuck Palahniuk. Reasons: challenged for profanity, sexual explicitness, and being “disgusting and all around offensive.”
  9. Little Bill (series) written by Bill Cosby and and illustrated by Varnette P. Honeywood. Reason: challenged because of criminal sexual allegations against the author.
  10. Eleanor & Park written by Rainbow Rowell. Reason: challenged for offensive language.

Source: ALA. — Joe

AALL supports passage of the OPEN Government Data Act, S. 760

From the April 5, 2017 letter to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs:

We support the OPEN Government Data Act for several reasons. First and foremost, this legislation would institutionalize the federal government’s commitment to open data and allow the United States to remain a world leader on open data. Second, adopting a policy of open by default for government data would ensure that the value of this public resource would continue to grow as the government unlocks and creates new data sets. Third, a firm commitment to providing open data as a public resource would encourage businesses, non-profits, and others to invest in innovative tools that make use of government data. And, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s review of the 2016 unanimously passed Senate bill, taking these steps would not have a significant impact on agency spending.

Here’s the text of S. 760. — Joe