Presenter: Rachael G. Samberg – Stanford Law School
State court records tend to be in disarray
Texas Task Force: tried to search for documents regarding a 19th century murder trial. TX Supreme Court appointed a task force to assess status and develop protection plan for state court documents. Distributed survey to all 254 counties – only 17% had records dating back to the Republic (1836-1845). County courts did not have funds to digitize or preserve these documents. ”Not every file contains a famous trial, but they’re all valuable”. Cal. Rule of Court 10.855 – “establishes a program to preserve in perpetuity for study by historians and other researchers”.
Legal lessons: Interesting historical developments, how property claims were resolved, statutory construction, lawyering process, discovery tactics, views on advocacy, jury instructions, and litigation costs. Rich social history.
Social history in trial court records: lives of former slaves, lives of women. These are often the only records of these historical events.
Files in jeopardy nationwide: clerks running out of space, lack of funds to digitize or care for aging records, retention schedules may require destruction, results in loss of history. States are starting to take notice!
Who’s involved in state trial court record preservation?: court clerks, state archives, state historical societies and universities, state supreme court judges, state bar associations.
Why are so many people involved?: state statutes, rules of courts, records retention schedules, internal policies at state archives. Need to look beyond the letter of the law.
Making sense of preservation paradigms: mandatory or permissive destruction, question of who can request/take the files. CA has a permisse program based on category and record creation date. CA also permits unaffiliated cultural institutions to acquire documents given approval by the superior court.
California’s Paradigm: permissive destruction, sampling program, records are available for transfer to unaffiliated institutions, notice of any intended trial court record destruction, records management clearinghouse. For 1910-1950 keep 10% plus 2% of a subjective sampling of records slated for destruction.
When an institution in CA requests that documents slated for destruction be transferred they must agree to make them reasonably accessible.
Other CA trial court records collections: Huntington Library, Berkeley’s Bancroft Library
The state keeps of master list of interested institutions and notifies them when documents are scheduled to be destroyed
What can we learn and teach from these cases?: lessons in CA contract law and civil procedure, great examples for classroom instruction. Many of these cases make the news, you can supplement the court files with secondary sources to give students more context of the case. Excellent examples of language, terms and conditions. Also useful for teaching legislative history and statutory construction.
Future plans: Digitization requires funding. Law schools, however, can work together to collaborate on collecting these documents. Raise awareness and lobby for change.
Working groups? Web-based collection development?
(apologies for the Credence Clearwater Revival pun)
It certainly appears that 2012 is going to be a very interesting year in the legal research industry. The two largest players in this market, Lexis and Westlaw, have both introduced new versions of their web-based products (namely Westlaw Next and Lexis Advance) with significant changes to both their search algorithms used for relevancy ranking and their user interfaces. Time will tell, however, what impact these new products will have on the market or legal research instruction. There is already some legal research scholarship suggesting that Westlaw Next may not be well suited for law school environments as it depends largely on crowdsourcing to determine relevancy (of particular note is USF Library Director Ron Wheeler’s excellent article available in Law Library Journal) which puts novel legal scholarship research at a disadvantage.
Along with these technology developments, we have also recently witnessed some major financial news among these companies. For example, Thomson Reuters, the parent company of Westlaw, is reportedly having a cash crunch meeting their near-term loan obligations. One notable financial blog even placed Thomson Reuters on its list of “12 Popular Companies that Could Go Bankrupt Very Soon”. Of course, financial and investing advice from a blog should always be taken with a grain of salt but it is still revealing that this market may be headed for some major developments over the next year. Additionally, West has recently announced their intention to sell off their casebook division, Foundation Press, although some speculate that this may be due to an expected decrease in the number of law students rather than low profit-margins.
The biggest development I see on the horizon is the emergence of Bloomberg. Those of us in the law library community are not unfamiliar with this company. Many of us witnessed their big marketing splash at AALL back in 2008. Given that 2008 was also the peak of the financial crisis, Bloomberg may have been a victim of poor timing. Regardless, it appears that Bloomberg is making inroads into the legal research industry. According to a recent Law Library Journal article by Laura K. Justiss, already 15% of law firms are using Bloomberg as an alternative to Westlaw and Lexis for locating primary legal sources. This number will undoubtedly rise as Bloomberg continues its reportedly quite aggressive marketing plan among law students (there is news that Bloomberg is giving accounts to law schools for free and even allowing students to use these accounts over the summer). Quite recently, DLA Piper announced that it has signed a contract with Bloomberg. Many of us have also read about Bloomberg’s recent acquisition of BNA, a company known for materials in tax, accounting, employment/labor law, bankruptcy and intellectual property. Given this acquisition, it appears that Bloomberg is trying to fill-in the “gaps” of materials it will need to truly compete with the Lexis/Westlaw duopoly. Some are even speculating that they may be preparing for a Lexis acquisition given Bloomberg’s investment in a case keynumbering system.
Ultimately, it is difficult to predict what these changes will bring to legal education and legal research. Bloomberg certainly has the financial ability to “purchase” market share by offering their services and products as a “loss-leader”. Regardless of how this all falls out, it appears that 2012 will indeed be an interesting year for electronic legal research.
We are very excited at Santa Clara Law to be launching our new Digital Commons, based on software from BePress. Although we haven’t yet begun our major digitization projects, we already have a number of “born-digital” documents hosted on this digital repository. Some collections include published faculty scholarship, working papers, and some special library collections. These special collections include:
- The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Litigation Collection (this is a collection of documents produced during litigation over the recent federal healthcare reform legislation)
- The Rosetta Stone v. Google Collection (this collection contains exhibits from the un-sealed joint appendix for Rosetta Stone Ltd., v. Google Inc., No. 10-2007, on appeal to the 4th Circuit)
- The Watergate Hearings (This is a collection of papers produced during the Watergate Hearings that were donated by Congressman Don Edwards to the Heafey Law Library)
The library technology market is entering an exciting phase as libraries are finally moving past the ILS (integrated library systems) model that has been used for decades. Current ILS products, such as Ex Libris’ Voyager, Innovative Interface’s Millennium, and Sirsi’s Symphony, are being slowly replaced by web- and cloud-based systems. These systems unify ordering, acquisition, cataloging, and even the discovery layer into one service. This will undoubtedly have profound effects on the work of library staff. For example, OCLC’s new web-scale management service, OCLC WMS, will essentially replace copy cataloging. Presently, this is still a big task for most academic and public libraries. Although some catalogers may be apprehensive about these changes, I think the end of copy cataloging will actually enable library staff to re-focus their efforts on improving the bibliographic data of their local holdings and have more time for digitization projects — thereby enabling discovery and access to new materials.
The big players in this nascent market include:
Undoubtedly, these products will change as they are developed. Regardless, we are beginning to see where the future of library management software is heading.
- Innovative announces new ILS : with eye towards accessible data – Library Journal
- Innovate Interfaces to launch Sierra : a new-generation automation platform – ALATechSource
- Marshall Breeding interview on the future of library automation (video) – Vimeo
- Automation Marketplace 2011 : The New Frontier – Library Journal
This has been a very interesting year for institutional repositories among law schools. Over the last few years, there has been a trend for academic institutions to create digital repositories both for archival purposes and to provide greater access to their faculty’s scholarship. Some solutions that have been in the market include Dspace and Fedora Commons. These systems, however, have proven to be difficult to use for most libraries which have affected their adoption rates. Although they are fairly easy to setup, these digital repository systems require maintenance which is problematic as technical support is not offered for these open-source solutions. Seeing an opportunity, Berkeley Electronic Press has embarked on a digital repository project of its own called Digital Commons. This system has a number of significant advantages over the previous offerings. For one, all the back-end and maintenance is done by Berkeley Electronic Press themselves. Secondly, BePress already owns Expresso - the system most law professors (and students) use to make electronic submissions to law reviews and journals. By integrating the repository with the submission system, BePress has created a product that is much more likely to be adopted, and used, by law faculty.
The issue that needs to be confronted, however, is how to convince law faculty that there is added value in using their institution’s digital repository along with SSRN. As you may know, SSRN (Social Science Research Network) is used by a majority of law faculty to host their scholarship before they submit it for publication. The “legal audience” is already there at SSRN. What many law professors fail to realize, however, is that while SSRN has a legal audience, the system itself is not designed for access or discovery. SSRN has very poor search engine optimization which makes finding legal scholarship difficult if users are not already familiar with the author or the title of the article. This is where Digital Commons can provide additional value. The strong point of Digital Commons is that the system is designed for discovery by search engines. The University of Maryland discovered that when materials were hosted on both SSRN and Digital Commons the download rates increased by 400% and the audience from SSRN remained stable – meaning that Digital Commons is bringing in new readers, not cannibalizing them from SSRN.
Law libraries are quickly seeing the value in Digital Commons in promoting their faculty’s scholarship. Just in the last 18 months, we have seen an explosion of law schools purchasing Digital Commons subscriptions. Additionally, many law schools are also purchasing LawKit from BePress which enables them to integrate their student law reviews into Digital Commons, including the submission process via Expresso. Frankly, I think this is very exciting for student law reviews. These journals are now open to a much wider audience, enabling these materials to be used by non-legal academics. If this trend continues, we may see that the Durham Statement (a proposal to enable wider access to legal scholarship) becomes a reality.
- Santa Clara Law Digital Commons
- Institutional Repositories at Law Schools : Trends and Triumphs (CALI Conference 2011 presentation)
With the drop in prices for e-readers, there is a lot of discussion about what role e-books and other electronic media will play in law libraries. Although e-readers have been on the market for a number of years now, it has only been recently where the prices on these units have dropped to a point where there is widespread appeal. There has even been movement by large legal publishers, notably WestLaw, to integrate e-readers into their products. For example, users of WestLaw Next can export all printable materials to their Kindle e-mail address. This is very convenient for reading long law review articles or cases – although the ability to annotate or make notes is still very rudimentary.
This column aims to answer two basic questions about these e-readers: should law libraries think about purchasing e-book/e-readers and how can we improve the experience of reading legal materials electronically?
For the first question, it seems that libraries would be well advised to wait until this nascent market further stabilizes. As e-ink based e-readers compete with multi-function devices, such as smartphones and tablet computers, we may find that e-readers will decline in popularity. This does not, of course, mean that there will also be a decline in electronic materials – just that these materials will be read with other devices.
Additionally, although legal publishers seem eager to integrate e-readers and smartphones into their services, they are notably less eager to actually produce e-book legal materials. WestLaw is experimenting with electronic casebooks but they are presently viewable only on computers and not mobile devices. Essentially these “e-books” produced by Westlaw are scanned copies of their print titles. As they are also protected by DRM technology, that are not exportable to any mobile device or e-reader.
Consequently, much of the value in using an e-reader for legal research is reading documents exportable from WestLaw Next and PDF documents. WestLaw has made exporting documents to a Kindle rather easy and straight-forward. Users just simply click on the Print icon and select “Send to Kindle” as the export option. They then enter the Kindle’s email address (remember, to use XXXX@free.kindle.com to avoid 3G network charges) and the document is sent wirelessly and automatically synced with the Kindle. I find the experience of reading law review articles or cases on the Kindle to be rather pleasant as long as you don’t need to make annotations or highlight text.
One of the nice features of the Kindle, however, is the ability to read PDF files natively. This is a great feature because you can send PDFs to your Kindle knowing that the formatting will remain the same. A problem, however, is the size of the Kindle screen (this applies to the Nook as well). The cheaper unit has only a 6” screen which makes the text of a PDF quite small and difficult to read. Fortunately, this problem can be alleviated by cropping out the margins from the PDF file. This gives more room for the actual text and will make it easier to read. Sadly, the Kindle or the Nook doesn’t do this automatically to PDF files. However, there is a tool called BRISS (yes, it is a circumcision joke) that will automatically crop the edges off the PDF file and make it much more appropriate for reading on an e-reader.
In summation, it appears much too soon for law libraries to seriously consider purchasing e-readers. Because this market is moving so quickly, it would be wise for libraries to wait and see where it goes. However, there is present value in using e-readers for legal research and librarians can help their patrons to improve the reading experience on these devices.
There is a new article available via SSRN that discusses the new features within WestLaw Next and how these may impact legal research in academia. Written by Ron Wheeler, the library director at the University of San Francisco School of Law, the article is a great discussion about this new legal research product and addresses some of its strengths and weaknesses. Professor Wheeler has an in-depth analysis of the impact of “crowd searching” and how this technology may be ill-suited for law school environments. He argues that WestLaw Next may be valuable for firm environments, where a small number of legal materials are used frequently, compared to law school environments where scholars write on emerging and novel legal areas. Professor Wheeler is one of the foremost law librarians, and legal research experts, in the country. I highly recommend this article.