Category Archives: News

Breaking news and opinions.

Will PACER’s records removal motivate use of software alternatives?

PACER-Cross

Earlier this month, PACER announced court documents for closed cases from the last decade in the U.S. Courts of Appeals of the Second, Seventh, Eleventh, and Federal circuits, as well as documents from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California will no longer be electronically available. More details, including the specific date ranges of what cases have been removed, are available here. Will users react to this event by increasing their use of free PACER alternatives currently available on the internet? The immediate reactions to this news have been justifiably critical of PACER’s actions:

PACER states the reason for the removal involves the impending implementation of “NextGen”, which has been developed to replace the current Case Management and Electronic Case Files System (CM/ECF). The above courts stored their records on locally created case management systems, systems that, according to the Administrative Office of the US Courts as reported by the Washington Post, could not be made to be compatible with NextGen.

Rather than increase usage of PACER’s NextGen, will this situation, where such an enormous collection of data has been so quickly eradicated, signal a change in user behavior and lead to heavier usage of the alternative databases that store and mirror the collections found on PACER? The obvious alternatives include RECAP, the software that populates the Internet Archive with PACER dockets and documents essentially via crowd-sourcing, and then offers those dockets and documents in the Internet Archive for free. PlainSite is another repository containing federal court dockets and documents that offers free searching and retrieval. Justia, too, offers an easily navigable interface that contains dockets and documents for free, including those no longer available in PACER. The shortfall with these alternatives to PACER concerns the completeness of a case’s available documents; most of the sites are populated with the opinions of the cases, but getting the briefing, or other documents, can be spotty.

More, cloud-and-crowd-source-based alternatives to PACER could potentially see an uptick in users as well. PacerPro, which I wrote about previously here, is definitely one of these interfaces; once a PacerPro user downloads a document from PACER, this document is added to PacerPro’s cloud and becomes free for all other PacerPro users to access–the big caveat right now is PacerPro has neither appellate nor bankruptcy courts available in its system. Though, PacerPro CEO Gavin McGrane mentions on the PacerPro blog, that adding appellate and bankruptcy courts is in the works. Inforuptcy, another piece of software that fits the cloud-and-crowd-source bill (and another piece of software I have written about here), saves documents users retrieve from PACER to its own cloud as well. Users of this interface can then, similarly, freely download these cloud-saved documents. Inforuptcy currently has bankruptcy courts, but not district and appellate, though, according to Bob Ambrogi’s LawSites blog, district courts are planned to be added by the end of the year. And lastly, the large commercial vendor Bloomberg BNA operates on the cloud-and-crowd-source model as well; again, once users download a PACER document through the Bloomberg BNA interface, these documents become free to other users. Bloomberg BNA has district, appellate, and bankruptcy courts, but also carries a heftier price tag. These alternatives attempt to mirror and host the PACER collection while also providing document pull cost-savings to users and sleeker interfaces, and all could see their stock rise now that PACER has opted to destroy their electronic records.

The no-longer-electronically-accessible documents can be obtained from these courts directly—either by sending a court runner, or possibly enlisting a snail mail request. The drawbacks are, runners can be expensive (a minimum of $100 is usually required), and snail mail requests can potentially take longer than what’s acceptable in a firm. A third alternative is to use the Westlaw and Lexis brief banks to see if the big commercial companies have scanned and hosted court documents on their own servers—and, of course, there are various costs associated with doing that as well.

All in all, though this is a burdensome situation, it also presents a great opportunity to law librarians as retrieving court documents is one of our many specialties.

Vendor Trends: Interactive Data Visualizations

The Exhibit Hall at AALL showcased a clear trend towards vendors offering visualization tools to improve the process of legal researching. From a macro level, legal research has transitioned from being a chiefly print-based medium to a primarily electronic-based medium, and, encouragingly, vendors have developed tools to really exploit this shift. Continue reading

SLA Offers 2014 Contributed Papers

SLA Logo

Original scholarship is an often over-looked part of many annual conferences. It tends to get lost iin the chaotic shuffle between presentations, continuing education, time in the exhibit halls, and, of course, the need for social interaction with colleagues. It often seems that the heroes who work so hard on contributed papers end up having ther praises unsung. Luckily, the Special Libraries Association is belting out a tune of praise for its scholars from this year’s annual conference. Continue reading

iBraryguy Releases “60 Sites in 60 Minutes” List from SLA2014! Who made the cut?

60SitesCapture

It was another big year for “60 Sites in 60 Minutes” at the 2014 Special Libraries Association Annual Conference & INFO-EXPO. Hosted by the Legal Division of SLA and generously sponsored by LexisNexis, the panel once again shared their top picks with a full house. From search sites to news, travel, and even a bit of irreverent fun, there was something for everyone! What sites made the cut? You can find out here. Continue reading

iBraryGuy Hits the Conference Circuit!

Aircraft_crossing_paths

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  No, we are not referring to the end of the year holidays.  We are talking about library summer conference season, of course. That time of year when the business cards come out, the presentations go on, and the networking and educational opportunitiesget craaaaazy!  Hold onto your lanyards folks, because iBraryGuy is hitting the road with you. Continue reading

PacerPro Unveils DocketShare

PacerPro_2

I have been lucky enough to give a few presentations that usually require a brief explanation of cloud computing. I am intrigued by the concept, of course, but am always terrified I am going to lose the interest of my audience as I ramble on about private clouds, software as a service, security concerns, and the like, so I have been trying to discipline myself to really keep definitions to a sentence or two, and not ramble excitedly on about technological ephemera. My typical fall-back summary of the cloud is: cloud computing basically puts the internet in-between you and your hard drive. And because the internet is connecting you to your data, you now have the option of connecting other users to your data. This concept of collaboration is one of the fundaments of the cloud-computing/network age. Continue reading

iBraryGuy & Pinhawk Team Up for the One-Two-Punch!

Pinhawk iBrarGuyOur goal at iBraryGuy is to keep you in the know when it comes to news, trends, and cutting edge technology in the library and information professions.  To that end, we are excited to announce a brand new collaboration with a partner that is just as committed to the vitality of this industry as we are.  iBraryGuy is honored and delighted to be working with the folks at Pinhawk It is a one-two-punch designed to keep you at the top of your daily game! Continue reading

The Empirical Value of Special Librarians: An Australia ROI Study

AustralianROI

One of the biggest difficulties with the law librarian profession—and really, this is true of any profession with a strong customer service and/or pedagogical component—is gauging the empirical value of what law librarians do. There is not a one-step, direct, easily definable correlation between a law librarian task, and how much revenue that task generates or saves. Without the aid of ROI studies, specifically measuring the monetary value of law librarians is impossible.

A collection of Australian library groups collaborated to fund a ROI study on the value of Special Librarians (available here, and the library groups’ summary is available here). Special Librarians are defined in this study as librarians working in health, law, government, business, industry, media, and other commercial or industry groups with a very specific patron-base. The study was conducted by SGS Economics and Planning, an Australian planning and economics firm. The study concluded that for every dollar invested, special librarians return $5.43. The study indicates this might even be a low estimate.

How do special librarians bring this high amount of value?—here is how the study defined the skills of the special librarian:

  • High relevancy search results obtained quickly via thorough searches through robust content sets
  • Training to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of patron searching skills
  • Current awareness results curated from high relevancy, national and international sources
  • Management of specific, subject-oriented collections

Here are some extremely interesting findings of the study:

  • 40% of potential special library users enlist the help of librarians.
  • 56% of librarian-patron interactions are electronic, 27% are face-to-face, and 11% are by phone
  • Funding for floorspace, expenditures, and staffing have all fallen within the last three years
  • Librarians are 3.3 times faster than their users when undertaking the following tasks: performing research, reviewing literature, delivering documents, and other reference tasks

The study aimed to quantify the time saved by library users, and the value of “out of pocket” expenses saved via librarian resources. The methodology was to conduct in-depth case studies among Australia’s estimated 2200 special libraries; 11% of libraries responded to the study’s survey, and another 4% of libraries responded to the study’s questions about costs and benefits.

Much credit must be given to the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), Health Libraries Inc (HLInc), ALIA Health Libraries Australia (HLA), and the Australian Law Librarians’ Association (ALLA) for collaborating on administering and funding this project. This information is a giant boon to the industry, and extremely beneficial for budgetary negotiations, salary negotiations, and internal marketing and promotion of the library. Seeing results like this really makes me excited about anticipating what the AALL ROI project will find, as previously written about on this site.

Gmail Turns 10

Gmail

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.

alm_logo

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