Academic, County, and Law Firm Librarians: Three Sides of the Same Coin

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Early on in Graduate School, I remember my Professional Adviser taking the time to sit me down and talk about the various career paths law librarians could embark on. Honestly, I was really only familiar with the law school’s library, using its vast, comfortable reading room as my command station to hammer out papers about information sources and using technologies to meet patron needs. Admittedly, I was confused and befuddled when my Adviser stated, beyond academic law librarians, there are also private law librarians and government law librarians. Prior to this, I had no idea law firms employed librarians—little did I know this was where the future me would thankfully find gainful employment. So, even as a future law firm librarian, I was certainly oblivious to the fact the law librarian profession is comprised of three large classes of professionals: academic, government, and private.

Now, from working in the industry and serving in professional organizations, it’s really intriguing to hear about the differences among these various classes of law library professionals. The patrons value different criteria, and this vastly influences the research environments: for example, private law firms emphasize cost effective legal research whereas academic and government libraries put a premium on providing educational opportunities. Members of ORSLA, the SLA Oregon Chapter, posted their experiences of working in different law librarian environments by detailing the various questions they received in a given week; all three articles are a fascinating and recommended read and make for a great exercise in examining not only the similarities, but, more importantly, the differences among our related professions:

Heartbleed bug makes internet users heartsick!

Two whole years!  That is how long it took experts to uncover what may be the biggest security flaw to ever affect the internet.  It’s big.  It’s bad.  It’s out there.  Worst of all is that you have probably already been a victim. Continue reading

Gmail Turns 10

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As a fan and admitted abuser of Gmail accounts (I have one for each personality I guess), I have to pass along this CNN Money article about Gmail turning 10 yesterday. To summarize, CNN Money points to these particular Gmail features as the reasons why Gmail became the industry dominant e-mail provider:

  • Size of space offered: ever-growing but initially 1 GB back in 2004, compared to Yahoo’s 100 MB)
  • Google-search-enabled searching of archived emails
  • Auto-save for unfinished email
  • Undo send, allowing users 30 seconds to retract sent emails
  • Priority sorting of important emails
  • Integration into Google services

Et tu, ALM? Another Provider Up for Sale.

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When the news broke a few days ago that ALM, formerly American Lawyer Media, was going to put up for sale, reaction from legal information professionals seemed subdued at best.  Yet we cannot help but wonder what this means for an industry that is still struggling to find its footing in the wake of one of the worst global economic downturns we have seen in recent generations.  Has the independent legal news and analysis been the biggest victim of the ongoing recession? Continue reading

The Perils of PACER

Anyone involved in legal research is more than familiar with PACER (the name, an acronym, stands for: Public Access to Court Electronic Records). Before we delve into the glaring weaknesses and errors of PACER, let’s just step back and give thanks that there is a way for users to access docket and documents filed in all federal district, bankruptcy, and appellate courts—it could always be worse (and judging by some state court docket site designs, it can be much, much worse). Clearly, this is a massive undertaking, and the volume of information being tracked and made electronically available is absolutely stunning. But, PACER does have its flaws, here are a few of the more conspicuous:

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Majority of AmLaw 200 Firms Do Not Have Mobile Sites

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Jeff Richardson at iPhone J.D. comments on Law Firm Mobile’s recent study showing only 42.5% of AmLaw 200 firms have mobile sites–this, after the ABA’s 2013 Legal Tech survey stated 90% of attorneys use smartphones. Global 100 firms fare even worse: only 39 Global 100 firms have mobile sites. This is perplexing data–the legal industry is characterized by its competitiveness, why are so many firms choosing to willfully disadvantage themselves by not having a mobile site?

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FOIA Futility

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As law librarians, I’m sure most of us have a FOIA request horror story or two (hundred): requests that took months to fill, required numerous follow-ups, or were never fulfilled at all. Unfortunately, our FOIA experiences are not out-of-the-ordinary. According to a recent study most government agencies are doing a poor job of handling FOIA requests. The Center for Effective Government, a non-profit dedicated to increasing the transparency of government, recently compiled the results of a study they conducted to measure how quickly and accurately 15 government agencies responded to FOIA requests. The agencies’ performance was assessed under three criteria: processing requests for information, establishing rules for information access, and creating user-friendly access. Seven of the 15 agencies received failing grades:

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How Are Public Libraries Changing?

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Appearing March 7th in The New York Times, Katharine Q. Seelye’s article “Breaking Out of the Library Mold, in Boston and Beyond” (available here) examines how renovations of large, public libraries exemplify how the roles of public libraries and public librarians have drastically changed. Public libraries are moving far away from being dusty book repositories, and toward being airy, open social centers designed with the omnipresence of electronic devices in mind. And, as this role-shifting and repurposing has occurred, public library usage is spiking upward across the county; Boston’s central library alone saw an increase of nearly 500,000 physical visits in 2013.

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iBraryGuy’s eReader Poll – Have your say!

The bad news just keeps piling up for that venerable, big-box purveyor of print – Barnes & Noble.  We have been hearing for quite some time about the chain’s falling sales and revenue figures.  Now, the news is reporting on layoffs and funding cuts to its Nook eReader division.  Et tu, dear Nook? Continue reading

Imagine that! Getty makes millions of photos freely available

In a surprise move that will empower bloggers, Getty Images has made over 35 million of their archived photo images freely available for non-commercial, online use.  The Getty archives contain some of the most notable photographs ever taken.  From the whimsical image of Albert Einstein sticking out his toungue for the photgrapher to the heart-wrenching smoke trails that remained in the sky following the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986, Getty Images has opened a vast collection of poignant and intriguing snapshots the capture the best and the worst of the human experience. Continue reading