Category Archives: News

Breaking news and opinions.

What’s in a Name: Does the GPO’s Name Change Impact Librarianship?

GPO

As of Wednesday, December 17th, the GPO is now the Government Publishing Office, a name change undertaken due to “the increasingly prominent role that GPO plays in providing access to Government information in digital formats”. Why did the GPO change their name and does this name change impact the library profession, which, similarly, has managed the transition from print to digital?

The key phrase from the GPO’s press release is “digital formats”: the standard format of information has changed, and so have the responsibilities of the GPO. This governmental agency now manages works born digitally, information disseminated electronically, and older works becoming digitized. As Davita Vance-Cooks, the Director of the Government Publishing Office states: “The name Government Publishing Office better reflects the services that GPO currently provides and will provide in the future.”

Upon the agency’s formation, in 1861, the dissemination of information required physical printing, the Printing of the GPO’s name referring to an actual printing press. Reading portions of 44 U.S. Code Chapter 3 – Government Printing Office, reveals various references to bookbinding, printing machinery, printing supplies, and other physical objects required, again, to physically print and distribute governmental information. Nowadays, the printing press has given way to the computer; the Printing in Government Printing Office did not properly reflect the agency’s workflow. And because digital publishing has largely trumped physical printing, the Government Printing Office name became a misnomer: the rebrand shows the GPO wanted to be seen as an agency that publishes, not an agency that prints.

From a perceptional standpoint, the librarian profession is linked to the physical library building. In reality, libraries are going digital, the physical spaces are becoming downsized and/or re-purposed, and librarians are managing these changes by developing skills suited for a new, digital world. The public opinion issue is when those outside the field assume a consequence of disappearing library buildings is disappearing librarians.

Though the economic crash of 2008 and subsequent downsizing certainly took their toll in the library (and every) industry, in its Occupational Outlook Handbook  United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 7% increase in library positions for the period from 2012 to 2022 (though it must be noted average growth is 11%).  We are looking at future predicted to have librarians, but perhaps not the physical libraries from where the profession takes its name.

The GPO’s response to a physical-to-digital transition was to rebrand itself with a name change—given its similar digital transition, is this something librarianship should explore? Does the profession need some type of macro re-branding? The issue has been explored before: recall the Special Libraries Association’s unsuccessful 2009 proposal to change its name to Strategic Knowledge Professionals (ASKPro). Why did that initiative fail, and what will be the ultimate consequences of the GPO name change? Are there other options to explore, like rebranding the actual concept of “the library” by promoting the concept of digital spaces? Again, our profession has responded well to a constantly changing digital world, but the question is how proactive do we have to be in letting the rest of the world know about it?

The Implications of Bestlaw

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On September 24th, Joe Mornin, a Berkely Law School student, released Bestlaw to the public-at-large (see the The Lawyerist‘s and The Recorder‘s admirable coverage of this story). In a nutshell, Bestlaw is a browser extension that improves upon the Westlaw Next interface. Remarkably, Joe Mornin designed the browser extension himself, and makes this piece of software freely available to download on his website (http://www.bestlaw.io/). Bestlaw’s website states the software accomplishes the following:

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THE CURRENT VENDOR SYSTEM

Legal research procedures are driven by vendors. At a basic level, getting to be a good researcher involves memorizing two bodies of knowledge: what legal information resources exist out there, and which vendors create those resources. Dovetailing into all of this, access of resources is controlled by the vendors as well; each vendor has their own, unique, separate interface. This environment makes practical sense because legal research is a commercial enterprise. Accordingly, vendors resemble information silos: their information is their capital. Would legal research be more efficient and effective if there was an incorporation of federated searching, which would enable searching across all of the vendor interfaces simultaneously? Of course! But, the current legal research business model necessitates individual, isolated research interfaces, with individual content collections accessible only via one point of access.

This current legal research business model introduces various problems for the user. Two of the more salient problems are: what information is actually unique inside a vendor interface, and how do vendors charge the user for non-unique content. Westlaw and Lexis, for example, charge transactionally, meaning every pull of information comes with a price tag. This is acceptable when a user pulls information that is absolutely unique to these specific vendors. However, users do not always pull unique information; commonly, they incur extra transactional fees by pulling information they could get for free from somewhere else. The issue, really, is the convenience of the interface: users are already inside a vendor’s specific pay environment, and it becomes really easy and convenient to pull resources inside the pay environment, rather than jump out and search for a free (and trusted) copy of the same resource.

PULLING INFORMATION FOR FREE

Bestlaw, remarkably, incorporates the ability to jump out of the Westlaw Next environment in order to get free copies of resources. As stated above, while inside the Westlaw Next interface, a user can pull free documents from free services like CourtListener, Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute, Casetext, and Google Scholar. The convenience factor of being in Westlaw Next’s environment becomes partially moot. Just to step back: Bestlaw adds a toolbar to the Westlaw Next interface, when a user is viewing a document. The toolbar enables the user to pull the exact same document they are currently viewing from one of the above mentioned free resources (so, in my understanding, a user would have already induced a find and view charge, but could circumvent the print charge).

IMPLICATIONS OF BESTLAW

Again, federated searching is the concept of inputting a single search into a single interface, and having that search performed across a multitude of databases. Think of inputting a case law terms and connectors search into an interface, and having that particular search run across Westlaw Next, Lexis Advance, Fastcase, and Bloomberg Law simultaneously. The results could be sortable by some combination of relevancy and cost, meaning the user would get highly relevant results at a lower cost. Rather than be information silos that require users to log into their specific, isolated interfaces, vendors would have to compete in a new technological environment, one where open competition would require the highest relevancy at the lowest cost. The user experience would be improved.

Bestlaw’s ability to jump out and pull from free resources while the user is in the Westlaw Next environment is a step in the direction towards federated searching; Bestlaw is forcing a mash-up of Westlaw Next and a handful of free legal information sources. The user, despite being in the Westlaw Next environment, is no longer restricted to pulling just Westlaw Next content, thus enabling the user the ability to circumvent “print” fees they would typically incur. This is a very intriguing development, and all credit has to go to Joe Mornin for getting the ball rolling.

Perla Makes a Point on PACER

filestackFew things have raised such hue and cry in our industry this year as the announcement that PACER was going to be without certain courts’ materials.  The concern expressed by law librarians and legal researchers clogged newsfeeds for weeks and made its way – all the way – into the halls of politics.  Yet while many saw an immediate challenge to the way we work, others saw an opportunity to turn an old model on its head.  Bloomberg BNA president, David Perla, in a recent article for Law Technology News, was among those not only seeing the glass as half-full but also thinking of newer, better ways to make it overflow. Continue reading

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

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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: Continue reading

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

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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?

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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!

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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

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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