Law Librarians: “No more sacred cows”

Law Librarians: “No more sacred cows”

By Alan Cohen
The American Lawyer
September 3, 2009

“Doing more with less” has long been a goal, even a mandate, for law librarians, but now it’s “do much more with far less.” Money is part of the story according to The American Lawyer’s 14th annual survey of law firm library directors. And “Nothing is a sacred cow anymore.”

Law Journals and Open Access: A Call to Action

Here’s a little article I just wrote for Speaking of Computers, ”an e-newsletter for the Stanford academic community.”  This has been covered here before, but I think it’s a message worth repeating, especially as we brace for budget cuts and some hard decisions.  And besides, now I have a really nice photo to share!

 Law Journals and Open Access: A Call to Action

In November, I had the pleasure of attending a meeting of the so-called Gang of 10 law library directors (directors from some of the nation’s top law schools) held at Duke Law School in Durham, North Carolina. One of the activities of this meeting was the drafting and signing of the “Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship,” which calls for all law schools to stop publishing their law journals in print format and to rely instead upon electronic publication, coupled with a commitment to keep the electronic versions available in stable, open, digital formats.

Why Open Access?
Each of the nation’s 200+ law schools produce at least one student-edited law journal, containing scholarship and important policy pieces from law professors, judges, distinguished practitioners, and students. The bulk of legal scholarship is published in such law journals. Here at Stanford Law School we produce nine such journals. Right now the only way to access all of this significant content electronically is through expensive databases such as HeinOnline, LexisNexis and Westlaw.

It would be a better legal information world if researchers could reliably turn to the host law school for any law journal from that school and find all of its articles, available for free in open and stable electronic formats.

Open Access Leaders
It was especially fitting that this inspirational document was drafted and signed by us while at Duke. Duke is a leader in the open online repository movement, with the Duke Law Faculty Scholarship Repository created in 2005, and all Duke law journals made accessible online since 1997. The Duke Law Faculty Scholarship Repository is a full-text electronic archive of scholarly works written by the Duke Law faculty, as well as other scholarship produced at the law school. A scholarship repository and open access law journals go hand-in-hand.

The chief architect of the Durham Statement was John Palfrey, the new library director at Harvard Law School, who is also a leader and visionary in the open access movement. In May 2008, the Harvard Law School faculty unanimously voted to make each faculty member’s scholarly articles available online for free.

What’s Next?
The Durham Statement is our exercise in aspiration, with the hopes of getting more – eventually all – law schools on the open access bandwagon.

There are issues yet to be resolved. For one thing, especially during these difficult economic times, financial analysis is needed. Law schools receive royalties from the online databases that provide law journal access – some schools far more than others – so the cost-savings to the schools from ceasing print and to the schools’ libraries from no longer having to buy, bind and shelve issues needs to be carefully weighed against any potential loss of revenue income. And there are additionally important archival and standards issues to be debated and decided.

The Durham Statement seeks to move the analysis, debate, and discussion forward.

For More Information
Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship

The Duke Law Faculty Scholarship Repository

Harvard Law School open access motion












The authors of the Durham Statement. Top row, left to right: Dick Danner (Duke),
Radu Popa (NYU), John Palfrey (Harvard), Claire Germain (Cornell),
Paul George (University of Pennsylvania), Jim McMasters (Northwestern),
Blair Kauffman (Yale). Bottow row: Paul Lomio (Stanford),
Judith Wright (University of Chicago), Terry Martin (University of Texas).

Carl Malamud’s campaign and his many Stanford Law School friends

From Washington Internet Daily, “Agencies,” March 02, 2009 Monday, Vol. 10 No. 39:

. . . Carl Malamud, pushing state legislatures to renounce any claimed copyright interests in legal codes and make them freely available as searchable databases (WID June 20 p7), has support from big names in free-culture and open-government circles. They include [SLS professor] Larry Lessig, founder of Creative Commons, tech publisher Tim O’Reilly, Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer [SLS alumnus and lecturer] Fred von Lohmann, Columbia University law professor Tim Wu and University of California at Berkeley law professor Pamela Samuelson. Malamud’s model, described on his campaign site at, is Augustus Giegengack. The printer campaigned his way to becoming U.S. Public Printer by getting endorsement letters from Rotary Clubs and hand-delivering them to the Franklin Roosevelt White House. Malamud said the GPO should lead the effort to make all U.S. primary legal materials available online, create more materials for the public domain that can be re- mixed by users, “reboot” the .gov domain by “installing a cloud” and upgrading its video
capabilities, and work more closely with libraries.

Carl is our hero.  And we (as in librarians) are his.  Carl has been a guest speaker at our Advanced Legal Research class and has made many comments about the role of law librarians in liberating legal information, and he spoke at last summer’s AALL meeting in Portland too.

A Statute by Any Other (Non-Acronomial) Name Might Smell Less Like S.P.A.M., or, The Congress of the United States Grows Increasingly D.U.M.B

“A Statute by Any Other (Non-Acronomial) Name Might Smell Less Like S.P.A.M., or, The Congress of the United States Grows Increasingly D.U.M.B.”

Cleveland-Marshall Legal Studies Paper No. 08-151

CHRIS SAGERS, Cleveland State University – Cleveland-Marshall College of Law

While the question why we Americans name our statutes is rarely asked and not obvious, it turns out to be extremely interesting and, at least in the case discussed in this essay, illuminating. Namely, it appears to have occurred to someone on Capitol Hill that there is something to be gained by devising statute names that spell out clever acronyms. These things normally aim to be amusing or cute in some sense, and also usually serve some rhetorical purpose. A first surprise about them is their recent and shocking profusion. During the first two hundred years of the Republic there appear to have been perhaps two such statutes. In the twenty years since, there have been at least fifty-three.

But on closer examination the practice turns out to be not actually so amusing after all, and thinking about it is not just some trite diversion. This trend in its detail turns out to have something fairly sobering to say about the way our Congress has operated for some years now. It also has something to say about who our elected representatives are as people, how they see their responsibilities, and just how low their opinions of we their constituents really must be. The ugliest thing about it is that, with we Americans, this sort of thing works; American democracy, like the popular names of several recent statutes, is a joke that isn’t funny.


And I love footnote #2 from the article:  “Though librarians are paying attention, God bless ‘em.  See Mary Whisner, What’s in a Statute’s Name?, 97 L. Lib. J. 169 (2005).


Source:  LSN Law & Rhetoric Vol. 2 No. 9,  02/03/2009

New book: A Leadership Primer for New Librarians

Chandos Publishing  recently released a guide for new LIS graduates,  ”A Leadership Primer for New Librarians: tools for helping today’s early-career librarians become tomorrow’s library leaders.” Authors are S. Byke and D.L. Lowe-Wincentsen.  Hat tip to the Gaunt slips.

A Leadership Primer for New Librarians: tools for helping today’s early-career librarians become tomorrow’s library leaders

Chandos Publishing, 2008

ISBN: 9781843344193


This book provides strategies and practical tips for leadership development in the field of librarianship. With the increase of both new graduates entering the field and upcoming retirements, there is a foreseeable gap in library leadership. Many early-career librarians will move into roles they are not ready for and others will find themselves having to lead without being in traditional leadership roles. This book offers suggestions for librarians facing these challenging new circumstances. The book shows how to create leadership opportunities when none appear to be present, how to take charge of your own professional development, and how to become an effective follower as well as an effective leader. The book helps the reader to recognize and take advantage of the leadership opportunities set before them


Table of Contents


What you didn’t learn in your LIS program

Becoming a leader even if you aren’t in a leadership position

Why follower isn’t a dirty word

Setting yourself apart

Self promotion

The next steps

The Toolbox



Japanese Law Librarians Blog

Takako Okada has created an English language blog dedicated to Japanese legal research called “Japanese Law Librarians Blog.” Ms. Okada is a law librarian at Keio University Library.  This promises to be a great resource for tracking developments in Japan. For example, her latest post mentions a site that offers Japanese legislation in English. Domo arigato gozaimas to Takako Okada for this useful new blog.

Japanese Law Librarians Blog

Journal of the Argentine Association of Law Librarians

Volume 3 of the Journal of the Argentine Association of Law Librarians has just been published. Articles are in Spanish.

Table of Contents



2. ARTÍCULOS (Articles)
Tendencias en la investigación sobre recuperación de información
jurídica, por María Luisa Alvite Díez

2.Trends in research of legal information retrieval.

3. EXPERIENCIAS  (Practical Experience)
Referencia virtual por chat, por Marina Borrell y Evangelina Maciel.

3. Virtual chat reference

4. CURSOS Y CONFERENCIAS (Workshops and Conferences)
Los sistemas de información en las bibliotecas de estudios jurídicos: su
administración, tratamiento y control de la información, y relación con
otras bibliotecas, por María Isabel Abalo, María Inés Olmedo y María
Inés Vilá

4.  Information Systems in Law Libraries: administration, management of information and relationships with other libraries. 


5. Argentine Association of Law Librarians


6. News

To order a copy, contact the Publications Department of the Argentine Association of Law Librarians

Asociación Civil de Bibliotecarios Jurídicos (Argentine Association of Law Librarians)


The Research Log, and other great ideas for successful research

We tell our students to always keep a little log of their research projects and to jot down things such as important numbers as they come across them — for example, a statute’s bill number, Public Law number, title and chapter sites from the U.S. Code, and etc., etc.  A new book that just arrived at the law library offers “A More Complete List of Lists Every Researcher Should Keep” and it includes some wonderful information ideas for our students to include in their research logs.   The book, The Elements of Library Research, has a bit of an eye-rolling title, but it is deliciously written and includes “Mary’s Maxims” (tips from the author, Mary W. George, such as Mary’s Maxim #14 – “Curiosity Begets Serendipity”).  Anyone who wants to give a new student — be it high school, college, or graduate school — a head start would be wise to give this little gem of a book, perhaps packaged with Elements of Style


A More Complete List of Lists Every Researcher Should Keep

1. Keywords from thinking, brainstorming, background reading, or a thesaurus

2.  Relevant call numbers, to use for both shelf and online browsing purposes.

3.  Subject headings from the fullest display in an online catalog and subject descriptions from every relevant article database

4.  Authors and scholars whose work is repeatedly mentioned by others

5. Titles of peer-reviewed journals and popular periodicals

6. Titles of relevant reference tools related to the research project

7. Publishers that seem to specialize in the field

8. Insitutions, associations, societies, or government agencies that focus on the area of interest

9. Dates, such as the life span of key people, the exact date of a major event, or the publication year of primary sources

10. Order of the steps taken to obtain background information and discover souces, including the navigation path leading to electronic resources and the address of useful Web pages


Now that’s some great advice!

Here’s the book’s catalog record.


Author: George, Mary W., 1948-
Title: The elements of library research : what every student needs to know / Mary W. George.
Imprint: Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c2008.
Physical Description: xiv, 201 p. : ill. ; 22 cm.
Notes: Includes bibliographical references (p. [191]-194) and index.
Contents: Introduction to research as inquiry — From research assignment to research plan — Strategy and tools for discovery — The fine art of finding sources — Insight, evaluation, argument, and beyond.
          Subject (LC): Library research–United States.
                  ISBN: 9780691131504 (acid-free paper)
                  ISBN: 0691131503 (acid-free paper)
                  ISBN: 9780691138572 (pbk. : acid-free paper)
                  ISBN: 0691138575 (pbk. : acid-free paper)
LAW CALL NUMBER:                             
Z710 .G44 2008                               

Librarians and Campaign Finance

After seeing a recent post on the Open Secrets site regarding contributions to political campaigns, I wondered ‘what about us?’  What do librarians contribute, financially, to campaigns?

This is rough (and I do welcome comments and other search suggestions), but here goes:

After poking through the recent (2007-2008) election cycle contributions, which are current through mid-August 2008, contributors who self-described themselves as “librarian” donated $774,230 to candidates, parties and PACs. 

Of those folks, $186,102 dollars went to Obama, $182,822 went to Clinton, $26,100 to Edwards, $7,400 to McCain, and $16,700 to Romney (also notable: $19,860 to the DNC, $24,800 to Emily’s List).

And, I took a look back at the last presidential election fiscal cycle (2003-2004), and those who listed ”librarian” as their occupation contributed $513,912 — more than $250,000 less than the current contribution level and we still have a few months until the election.

Legal Links from Argentina

The Argentine Association of Law Librarians (Asociación Civil de Bibliotecarios Jurídicos- ACBJ) has recently posted a useful collection of Argentine legal links. Categories include: national government agencies, provincial governments, blogs, dictionaries, law schools, bar associations, legal guides, law libraries and legal publishers. These links will be useful for academics and practitioners. Muchas gracias to our Argentine colleagues.

ACBJ Legal Links

The ACBJ annual conference will be held October 9th and 10th in the beautiful resort town of Barilioche. This years’ theme is “The Rights of Minorities in a Knowledge Society.” For more information visit: