Tag Archives: Betty Thomas

A Study in Environmental Activism

Stand Up That Mountain: The Battle to Save One Small Community in the Wilderness along the Appalachian Trail  by Jay Erskine Leutze.

Stand Up That Mountain: The Battle to Save One Small Community in the Wilderness along the Appalachian Trail by Jay Erskine Leutze.

For anyone who loves the North Carolina mountains, the Appalachian Trail, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Smoky Mountains… this is an all too familiar story. Jay Erskine Leutze’s first book is his account of the battle against a large gravel mine set to take down Belview Mountain in Avery County, North Carolina. Not only was the largest surface mine in the South to be located adjacent to homes in the small community of Dog Patch but also within close view of the Appalachian Trail, a federally protected park.

Jay Erskine Leutze is a non-practicing lawyer who graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After law school, Leutze retreated to an “intentional” quiet life in Avery County intending to write, fish and hike. His quiet life ended in 1999 with a test blast that shook his home and a call from fourteen-year-old Ashley Cox that got him involved in a legal battle against Paul Brown and the Clark Stone Company. The case became known at the Putnam Mine case.

This book is the story of Leutze’s four year campaign that started with pulling together a legal defense team to a landmark decision upheld by the North Carolina Supreme Court. Along the way, his legal team partnered with advocacy groups such as the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Appalachian Trail Conference, and the National Parks Conservation Association to oppose the mine. In an ironic twist, they were also drawn into supporting the State of North Carolina as the state Division of Land Resources revoked Brown’s ninety-nine year mining permit, an unprecedented decision. The story clearly shows the twists and turns of multiple court battles as the case goes through the legal process.

Just as the case meanders through the court system, Leutze’s story fleshes out the importance of the area, describing in detail the scenic aspects of the mountains and the history of various parts and people like Sugar Top, a condominium complex built on the top of Sugar Mountain that resulted in North Carolina’s landmark Mountain Ridge Protection Act. Leutze’s humble tone and passion for the cause makes this an unusually attractive story. Here is a true guide to environmental advocacy.

landscape

 

~Betty Thomas~

Note:  Stand Up That Mountain has been added the Charlotte Law Library’s collection and is available for check out.

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Filed under Book Reviews - The Stranger the Better, Books & Stuff, collection, Of Interest to Law Students

Every Step of the Way — 2014 LAUNC-CH Conference

everystep1EVERY STEP OF THE WAY

March 10, 2014

With a conference title about steps and conference location in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, I was surprised not to see Tarheel footprints everywhere.

Every year the Librarians’ Association at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sponsors a one-day conference.  While there are occasionally public librarians in attendance, the majority of attendees and conference sessions relate to academic librarianship. This year’s LAUNC-CH Conference focused on supporting student and faculty research. As usual there were lots of excellent presentations on every aspect of the topic.  This blog post reviews the keynote presentation.

Keynote Presentation

Designing Academic Libraries for New Ways of Research

everystep2Nancy Fried Foster, Senior Anthropologist at Ithaka S+R talked about her work in helping design new libraries to enhance the work practices of students and faculty doing research. According to their website, Ithaka S+R is a research and consulting service that helps academic, cultural, and publishing communities in making the transition to the digital environment. Foster’s presentation contained three parts: participatory design and the use of ethnographic methods, work practice studies of research, and design beyond precedent.

In using the participatory design process, different experts (architects, graphic designers, faculty, students, leaders, and staff) work together through the following steps: gathering information (using ethnographic methods), analyzing the information, developing a concept, and building, testing and iterating the process. The most interesting part of her presentation was the ethnographic methods used in the process. Some of those methods follow:

  • “Retrospective” interviews.  Students were asked to draw out where they were physically and for how much time at different steps of the research process, resulting in comic strip-like frames.
  • Coding sheets for observations. Where exactly were students located and what were they doing in the different parts of the current library at various times?
  • Photo elicitation interviews. Students were asked to take photographs about how they do their academic work and also about their lives. In debriefing the students, the researchers gained insights into the lives of students doing research.
  • Mapping diary. Using a large map of the campus, students plotted out where they went, for how much time, and how they used the campus and the spaces on campus to do their work.
  • Design workshops where faculty and staff drew pictures of how they would use the space. The researchers were interested not so much about the objects included as what the items represented.

Using these methods, the design team continued with the participatory process by doing the following:

1. Co-viewing interviews and artifacts. They taped interviews with the team members.

2. Analyzing the transcripts by cutting and pasting, organizing commentary. There  is also coding software available to use in this analysis.

3. Inspecting, categorizing, comparing and contrasting data. They used space where photographs taken of the library were posted on one wall and across on another wall were photos from 5 years later. The team compared and contrasted the similarities and differences.

4. Interpreting and developing requirements from all the information gathered. The team categorized student comments and needs and dug further into the drawings made by library staff.

everystep3

The second part of Foster’s presentation dealt with work practice studies. For example, one study found that faculty were dealing with too much paper, had sharing problems with cowriters, lost files, and encountered problems with migrating their research data to new systems.  Many of the brainstormed solutions now exist as Google products. In another study, the researchers discovered that the largest percentage of faculty used the recommendations of their personal network to find resources for their research.  At another university, the team realized that the library staff’s drawings of private offices represented not only their need for quiet space to get work done, but also a core need for respect and job security that an office represented.

The last part of Foster’s presentation dealt with design beyond precedent. She explained the purpose of metaphors is to make new things seem familiar. Foster asked the attendees, “How would you conceptualize use of the library?” Some of the ideas suggested were a marketplace, museum (like the Library of Alexandria), a coffee house in 18th century England, a laboratory, the heart of learning, a sandbox, or an incubator.  What metaphor would you use to describe your library? In sum, Foster’s presentation was different because she provided a non-traditional view of library use and design.

Interestingly, the day after the LAUNC-CH Conference, Ithaka S+R released their findings from a 2013 survey of American library directors. The respondents were “nearly unanimous” in their emphasis on teaching research skills to undergraduates as their top priority. The two core undergraduate services of widespread importance were “providing reference instruction to classes” and “providing a physical space for student collaboration.” All these findings tie back to the keynote address about redesigning academic libraries to support research.

~Betty Thomas~

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The Future of Libraries?

Photo by Eric Gay/Associated Press of Eric Gutierrez at BiblioTech

Photo by Eric Gay/Associated Press of Eric Gutierrez at BiblioTech

A library without books?

BiblioTech is an all-digital, public library outside San Antonio, Texas run by Bexar County that opened last September.  Designed like an Apple store, the library has two long tables with 48 iMacs, an IPad bar, and a circulation desk.  Through another door, patrons will find a room with Xbox 360s with Kinect and Microsoft Surface video tables loaded with Kaplan educational games.

A tiny café sells coffee, flash drives, and headphones. The back of the area has space for patrons to bring their own devices and connect to the wireless Internet.

The library has 10 MacBook Pros and 40 iPads available for checkout by the hour for use in the library. Bibliotech has 600 e-readers and 200 pre-loaded e-readers for children available for home use. Patrons can select up to five eBooks from a collection of 18,000 titles. After a checkout period of two weeks, the book just disappears from the device.

6,000 people visited the library during its first week, borrowing 180 e-readers.

Judge Nelson Wolff of Bexar County, an avid book collector who is credited with the BiblioTech vision, explained the initiative in an NPR interview in October. First, the County wanted to bring library services to the community at a competitive price. BiblioTech cost $2.3 million to create with a yearly operating cost of $1.1 million. In comparison, a conventional library currently being built in Austin will cost $120 million. Second, another goal was to narrow the digital divide. BiblioTech would bring access to the internet and digital devices to an economically disadvantaged area. While Judge Wolff acknowledged that not every book is in eBook format and that BiblioTech is not fulfilling that role, he points out that the library is providing access to information and other digital resources that are not available in that community. The county plans to extend BiblioTech’s reach to shopping districts, transit stations, and large businesses.

futureoflibraries2

~Betty Thomas~

References

  • Bookless library in Texas aims to ‘break down the barriers to reading.’  (2013). Washington, D.C.: National Public Radio. Retrieved from ProQuest Research Library database.
  • Cottrell, M. (2013). Paperless libraries. American Libraries, 44(9/10), 11.
  • Electronista staff. (2014, January 4). All-digital Bibliotech library opens in Texas, eschews paper books. Retrieved from http://www.electronista.com/articles/14/01/04/library.offers.48.imacs.ipads.other.tablets.for.client.use/
  • Nawotka, E. (2014, January 19). It’s Here: A Library with Nary a Book. New York Times, p. A27B(L). Retrieved from InfoTrac Newstand database.
  • Sanburn, J. (2013, October 7). Smoked stacks. Time, 182(15), 70. Retrieved from MasterFILE Complete database.

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Authors Guild v. Google: Google Books and Fair Use

google

Did you hear cheering on November 14th?

Academic librarians and researchers cheered the decision of U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the Authors Guild against Google. The decision in Authors Guild v. Google supported Google’s digitization of more than 20 million books saying Google Books was protected by the principle of fair use.

History of the Case

Starting in 2004 Google, in agreement with several academic libraries, started digitizing the libraries’ collections, creating a searchable database, and making text available in “snippets.” In response to a search term, Google provides a list of books in which the search term frequently appears. Users could click on a result that links to an “About the Book” page showing sellers of the book and/or libraries that have the book in their collection. Since some of the digitized works were still under copyright and permission was not requested from the copyright holders, Authors Guild Inc. brought a class action suit against Google for copyright infringement in 2005. Jonathan Band’s flow chart of the case’s history leading up to the current decision follows:

GoogleBooksLitigationFamilyTree

Google defended its actions under §107 of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §107. Google argued that the author’s copyrights were not damaged by having their books digitized into Google Books as readers could not retrieve the entire book. In order to read the whole book, the “reader still must buy a book from a store or borrow it from a library.”

The Decision

Judge Chin stated that “Google Books provides significant public benefits.” Furthermore,

“It has become an invaluable research tool that permits students, teachers, librarians, and others to more efficiently identify and locate books. It has given scholars the ability, for the first time, to conduct full-text searches of tens of millions of books. It preserves books, in particular out-of-print and old books that have been forgotten in the bowels of libraries, and it gives them new life.”

He also said that Google’s digitization was “highly transformative,” in several ways. First, researchers can identify and find books through snippets; and second, readers can search for books through text mining, a new means for doing research in books.

Ultimately, Judge Chin noted that Google Books would actually benefit authors and publishers as readers would be able to discover more books and have easy access to purchase them. He said, “In this day and age of on-line shopping, there can no doubt that Google Books improves books sales.”

The Future

The Authors Guild has already filed an appeal in the case. However, recent defeats for the Authors Guild in its case against the HathiTrust (a partnership between five major university libraries to create a shared digital repository) lead many to believe that they will not be successful in this appeal.

Authors Guild, Inc. et al v. Google, Inc., U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 05-08136

Google Books

~Betty Thomas~

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Congratulations to Our Own Erica Winter Tyler: An Emerging Leader, Indeed!

Erica Winter Tyler has been selected as a 2014 Emerging Leader by the American Library Association.

Being selected is quite an honor. Charlotte Law Library News recently asked Tyler about her background and the Emerging Leaders program.

First, could we have some information about you? What is your background and how did you get to Charlotte School of Law?

I have lived in Charlotte for about 13 years. I am originally from Southern California. I graduated from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte cum laude in anthropology and Japanese. I have worked for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library system in the past.  I was very happy when I saw a position open with the Charlotte School of Law Library. I have worked for the law library as a circulation assistant since August 2012.

Please tell us about the Emerging Leaders (EL) Program?

I am also working full time on my Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) through The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I heard about the Emerging Leaders program from the LIS department. Emerging Leaders is a career development initiative sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA). EL began in 2007 to address the need for grooming a new wave of ALA leaders. The program is aimed at providing LIS students and new professionals with leadership and networking opportunities. Emerging Leaders accomplishes its goals through collaborative projects.

How are Emerging Leaders chosen for the Program?

Applications are accepted annually from late spring until summer. Applicants must submit responses to five essay questions, reflecting the American Library Association values.  For example, I was asked to describe my philosophy about effective leadership and how I would bring diversity to the Emerging Leaders program. Only fifty applicants are chosen for this opportunity and represent the ALA’s commitment to diversity in the field of librarianship.

What happens next?

Program participants will meet for the first time at the ALA Mid-Winter Conference in January 2014. Emerging Leaders will have the opportunity to review potential projects and rank the ones that interest them the most. Ultimately, Emerging Leaders are assigned to a project based on individual job skills, personal interests, and library type. The finished product of these collaborative efforts will be showcased at the annual ALA Conference in July (Las Vegas this year!). Each group will present the results of their projects, and write up a report of the project’s accomplishments. The Emerging Leaders program is a year-long engagement. Afterwards, Emerging Leaders are expected to join one of the various ALA committees for a 2-year commitment. I am particularly interested in the ACRL (Association of College & Research Libraries) and its associated Anthropology and Sociology Section (ANSS). I would love to work on long-distance collaborative social science based library projects! Since I am already a distance learning student and also completing an internship as an embedded librarian, I am very comfortable with long-distance collaborations.

Emerging Leaders are involved as a team in completing a project. What types of projects have been completed in the past?

I am very excited about the prospect of working with other new LIS professionals. It will be an amazing opportunity to become more familiar with the ALA organization and to provide direct input to current ALA leaders. Some of the projects that Emerging Leaders have worked on in the past have included video and library wiki creation. Other project teams have developed a “curricular design” for ACRL’s 101 program and presented success stories of the best practices from institutions that have received the “Grow Your Own @ Your Library Institutional Scholarship” program administered  by the Public Library Association (PLA)

I am particularly interested in library ethnography and would love to design a case study project on student user behaviors in academic libraries.

What is the final result of the program?

The goals of the program are to provide new professionals and current LIS students the opportunity to gain confidence in their leadership skills, become familiar with the ALA organization, enhance their collaborative skills, and develop these skills with innovative uses of technology.

Congratulations Erica!

~Betty Thomas & Erica Tyler~

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Embedded Librarianship: A Collaboration That Improves Student Learning Outcomes

showcase

Today’s community college students need to know what research resources are available through their college’s library, to learn how to efficiently access the information they need, and to be able to critically evaluate information. The term for this set of skills is information literacy.

Instructors who return to academia or work as adjunct professors have a learning curve to understand how information is now accessed. Full-time faculty with constant demands on their time to keep up with the developments in their field, perform community service, and be available to a larger number of students, find keeping up with the changing mix of databases and the various ways of accessing information to be difficult. As a result, librarians have become technologically savvy in order to provide better services to the academic community.

Research Instruction in K-12 School Environments

Today’s college students are products of their high school education, which often includes a dearth of information literacy knowledge. Besides learning additional subject content in college, students need to learn information literacy skills, which will enable them to be contributing citizens in America’s democratic society. They need to be able to find credible information and evaluate overwhelming amounts of information. In many instances, college students arrive on campus knowing only how to do a basic Google search. There are a number of reasons that students do not have research skills

Budget Cuts. Budget cuts have resulted in fewer school libraries and fewer state certified school librarians. Pennsylvania is one recent example. Despite a study by the nonprofit Education Law Center of Pennsylvania that found, “regardless of race, class or disability, students with access to a full-time school librarian had higher state reading scores” (Vanaski, 2013), Pennsylvania’s legislature has cut funding for librarians. As a result, many school districts, such as York City Schools, are cutting librarian positions. Abigail Critz, a college librarian and graduate of Manheim Township School District, warned that library cuts will leave students ill-prepared for the demands of college research (Wallace, 2013).

Charter Schools. Charter schools, most of which often do not receive capital funding to build library facilities, refer students to public libraries. According to the U.S. Department of Education (2007-2008), only 51% of charter schools had a school library (Traska, June, p. 27).

Technology. Students have access to desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other electronic devices that enable them to easily access the Internet; therefore, students may not be as motivated to seek out librarians when they need research assistance.

The Collaboration

With the constant changes in research instruction and the lack of information literacy skills of high school graduates, the collaboration between instructor and librarian addresses a critical need in the teaching and learning environment. The word collaboration comes from the Latin root to labor together. According to Jacobs and Jacobs (2009), “What is imperative for collaboration is the discovery of a common ground through conversation and dialogue. Collaboration, like research and writing, is a process that has to start somewhere” (p. 79).

Thomas and McIntosh started collaborating by applying the embedded librarian concept to an introductory online communication course in a pilot program. The goals and course requirements for research and written communication skills made this course a natural place to build a collaborative relationship. The instructor contributes expertise in course content, and knowledge of effective teaching and learning techniques. The librarian contributes information expertise. The end result is better student outcomes.

In a Special Library Association report, Shumaker and Talley (2009) define embedded librarianship as follows:

[Embedded librarianship] involves focusing on the needs of one or more specific groups, building relationships with these groups, developing a deep understanding of their work, and providing information services that are highly customized and targeted to their greatest needs. In effect, it involves shifting the basis of library services from the traditional, transactional, question-and-answer model of reference services to one in which there is high trust, close collaboration, and shared responsibility for outcomes. (p. 9)

Thomas and McIntosh’s classroom experience paralleled Hall’s (2008) findings that, “As a whole, students were using far too many poor quality Web sites (p. 28),” such as Wikipedia, as an authoritative source, and that overall student learning was negatively impacted by this practice. As a librarian, Hall attended the instructor’s class sessions to learn more about the assignments and help students develop information literacy skills; Thomas followed Hall’s example by attending the on-campus speeches required of the online communication students. Additionally, the embedded librarian had access to the Blackboard course where she was able to see the assignments and the instructions given by the instructor throughout the course. These activities gave Thomas a better understanding of the course, assignments, and students’ skills in order to collaborate with the instructor.

The instructor

  • Created course content that required students to do research for each of four communication assignments.
  • Required students to post their initial speech outlines and draft papers, complete with bibliographies, in APA format in the Discussion Board. As a result, the instructor, embedded librarian, and fellow students were able to post constructive feedback on the work before the students submitted assignments for grading.
  • Provided written comments on students’ final work, including feedback on resources and the bibliographic formatting of those resources.
  • Submitted the course to be reviewed by the College’s e-learning team for Quality Course Review approval that provided further improvement and refinement.
  • Reviewed research articles on embedded librarianship integration into communication courses.

The embedded librarian

  • Gained access to the course as a Course Builder in the course management system (i.e., Blackboard).
  • Created a research guide with resources, search strategies, and citation guidance tailored specifically to the assignments of the course. The guide included contact information for the embedded librarian. (CPCC uses Springshare’s LibGuides.)
  • Added Your Librarian to the navigation menu in Blackboard. The Your Librarian button links to the research guide mentioned above.
  • Posted periodic announcements through Blackboard that go directly to students’ campus email. These announcements were timed to coincide with assignment due dates and included advice on research resources and other relevant information.
  • Commented on student discussion board postings in Blackboard, particularly when they posted draft speech outlines and papers. Usually, by commenting on the first postings, students would read the comments and revise their materials.

The collaborators

  • Met periodically to address specific questions or concerns from students.
  • Worked during lunch meetings, discussing class progress and making plans.
  • Communicated throughout the course and between semesters to continually improve the course based on student feedback and perceived need by the instructor and/or librarian.

Student Surveys

End-of-course surveys were conducted by both the library staff and the course instructor. Students were asked whether they contacted the embedded librarian and whether the embedded librarian feature should continue. Responses included:

“I did find the information the embedded librarian gave me on my papers helpful. She was very active in the course…using the academic-based electronic databases.”

“Having an embedded librarian is…good…for the course. For me personally, [the embedded librarian] was especially helpful in the area of formatting references and citations for my papers.”

“The Embedded Librarian feature taught me how to cite APA when most of the time I use MLA.”

“The Embedded Librarian was great in reviewing my speech drafts and suggesting additional research…she helped me…by posting feedback through discussion-board postings and email. I did like the email communication that was sent as well. She did help broaden my understanding of researching through databases.”

“I liked the convenience of the embedded librarian. She is very helpful in research and formatting. Taking an online course I like to communicate online. Having a librarian online vs. having to see her in person, I believe is a great direction for online learning.”

“I enjoyed getting the feedback that was posted on the different student’s papers and assignments as well as the emails…, as they provided…useful information regarding the research. I…like having the library link so close at hand and it was easy to use the embedded librarian link to access research materials.”

“I liked being able to e-mail the librarian.…The librarian was very helpful and gave me good advice when needed. The librarian is a necessity for this course.”

“I loved this feature and even found myself using [the Your Librarian button that connects to research guide] for other courses that didn’t have the same feature.”

“The research guide…helped narrow my search and have better more credible sources.”

“I did find that knowing how to do research in the CPCC databases and create a bibliography in proper APA format was very useful to me.…I can now do up a ‘References’ page and in-text citations without needing to look them up!”

Conclusion

In the collaboration process, Thomas and McIntosh made several observations about students and how they learn online. Thomas found that students were predominately online working on their coursework on Friday evenings and during the weekends. Thus, providing assistance at those times helped students at their point of need. Another realization came as students would contact the librarian after posting their speech outlines asking for help with research. In other words, Thomas and McIntosh realized the need to add a research component in the early stages of assignments to get students to do research on their topics early in the process rather than just plugging in references in the their outlines. Finally, there was the realization that many students in this course did not know how to figure out keywords and use them in a database search or to evaluate the credibility of their sources. Thomas and McIntosh have collaborated in revising the course to take these observations into consideration. Furthermore, the grading rubrics of each assignment now incorporate evaluation of sources and citation formatting.

With the increasing number of classes going online, collaboration with an embedded librarian helps instructors improve students’ information literacy skills. Students learn to evaluate information that will not only help them with coursework but also carry over to their work and personal lives. While various community colleges are implementing alternative models of collaboration, embedded librarianship meets the needs of 21st century instruction and learning. Thomas and McIntosh plan to continue to collaborate and anticipate even more pronounced improvements in student outcomes in the coming year.

~Betty Thomas~

Thomas, E. A. & McIntosh, A. (2013, October).  Embedded librarianship: A collaboration that improves student learning outcomes.  Innovation Showcase8(10).  Retrieved from the League for Innovation in the Community College at http://www.league.org/publication/showcase/

References

  • Hall, R. A. (2008). The “embedded” librarian in a freshman speech class: Information literacy instruction in action. C&RL News, 69(1), 28-30. Retrieved from http://crln.acrl.org/content/69/1/28.full.pdf+html
  • Jacobs, H. L. M., & Jacobs, D. (2009). Transforming the one-shot library session into pedagogical collaboration: Information literacy and the English Composition class. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 49(1), 72-82. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.
  • Shumaker, D., & Talley, M. (2009, June 30). Models of embedded librarianship final report. Retrieved fromhttp://hq.sla.org/pdfs/EmbeddedLibrarianshipFinalRptRev.pdf
  • Traska, M. R. (2013). The void in charter schools. American Libraries Magazine, 44(6), 26-30. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.
  • U. S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics. (2007-2008). Schools and staffing survey (SASS). Retrieved fromhttp://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d11/tables/dt11_431.asp
  • Vanaski, N. (2013, March 14). Check out why we must fund libraries.Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved from NewsBank database.
  • Wallace, B. (2013, June 15). ‘Muzzled’ MT parents keep fighting: Opposition’s momentum grows in wake of cuts to art, music, gym and library programs in elementary schools. Intelligencer Journal-Lancaster New Era. Retrieved from NewsBank database.

Additional Reading

  • Groce, H. (2008). Information-seeking habits and information literacy of community and junior college students: A review of literature. Community & Junior College Libraries, 14(3), 191-199.
  • Kvenild, C., & Calkins, K. (Eds.). (2011). Embedded librarians: Moving beyond one-shot instruction. Chicago, IL: Association of College and Research Libraries.
  • Shumaker, D. (2012). The embedded librarian: Innovative strategies for taking knowledge where it’s needed. Medford, NJ: Information Today.
  • Tumbleson, B. E., & Burke, J. J. (2013). Embedding librarianship in learning management systems: A how-to-do-it manual for librarians. Chicago, IL: Neal-Schuman.
  • Wade, W., & Donner, J. (2013, April). Teaching speech online: It can be done. [Web log message]. Retrieved fromhttp://www.league.org/blog/post.cfm/teaching-speech-online-it-can-be-done

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11 Things I Learned About Web Searching

Recently I attended WebSearch University: Power Searching with the Pros, which was a conference organized by Information Today. The following are just a few of the interesting things I learned there.

  1. Spiders crawl the web looking for links in web pages. These spiders grab words on a page from the HTML code and add them to a database. Unless someone links to a webpage, it may not be picked up by a search engine. (See Matt Cutts’s 3 minute explanation:  How Search Works)
  2. Knowledge graphs are starting to appear on the right side of Google search results. Most of the information pulled for these graphs comes from Wikipedia, errors and all. This is a change from getting links to information to having answers on the search results page. Search “What is the capital of Iowa” to see an example of a knowledge graph.
  3. In-depth articles. Google wants to go broad and deep. In search results for certain topics, Google is adding longer reads. For example, see the results when entering a search for death penalty.indeptharticles
  4. Where has Advanced Search gone? Google has made advanced search harder to find. Now it is hidden in two places, the gear button at the top right of the page gearbutton and at the bottom of the search results page.searchresultspage
  5. Blekko is an alternative search engine to Google and Bing. The pros say it provides nuanced searches that block a lot of noise like eHow sites. Blekko may also be an alternative to Google and Bing in that it has not yet started selling users’ information.
  6. Have you noticed Google has been putting an image beside result entries? Google is integrating its products like Google+.  To compete, Bing has recently partnered with Facebook as I personally discovered when going to search there.bingandfacebook
  7. On the issue of privacy, there are a number of ways to opt out. While the search engines have opt-out options, your internet provider can still see every “hop” made and collect metadata. You can have alternative accounts, use different browsers for home and work, work with different search engines like Blekko or DuckDuckGo, switch to InPrivate browsing or other browser private modes, delete cookies, clear search history, turn off location, create a burner phone number and/or email for purchase sites, and still not be totally private. For fun, you can go to www.google.com/settings/ads  and look at your own profile. Switch browsers and see how your profile changes.
  8. While I had been aware of filter bubbles from Eli Pariser’s book and Ted talk
    I was reminded again of how Google and Bing are moving to personalize searching.  A filter bubble is a website algorithm which guesses what information a user would like to see based on information about the user like search history.  If you search mostly commercial and social media sites, the results from a search for more academic information may give you less than desired results.
  9. Google rolls out 500 to 600 experiments each day. You may not even be aware that you are in the experimental group and you might get quite different results from your searches as a result.
  10. Google Trends views frequency of search queries over time. It is a good proxy of what people are searching. It can also be narrowed by country or local area.
  11. Most of the free or low cost sources for EDGAR (SEC’s Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system)  searching are gone; but there is an interesting company called WordsAnalytics that analyzes the words of a company’s SEC filings to note changes.  For business researchers, the scores for sentiment, litigiousness, and risk can provide useful intelligence.

While I learned a lot more than these 11 things from the conference, I thought these were particularly interesting. Perhaps I have linked to enough websites in this posting to have the Charlotte School of Law Library News rise higher in search results.

searchengines

~Betty Thomas~

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Other Libraries with Legal Resources for the Public and Attorney Members

Now that we have moved into our temporary quarters in Charlotte Plaza, we are no longer open to the public or our attorney members. We hope to see everyone again when our library construction is completed. In the meantime, there are several libraries in the area that have legal resources. A list follows which includes the address, phone number and a link to each library’s website.

catolawlibrary

Cato Law Library

Cato Campus

Central Piedmont Community College

8120 Grier Road

Charlotte, NC 28213

704-330-2722 x7819

http://www.cpcc.edu/library

atkinslibraryAtkins Library

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

9201 University City Boulevard

Charlotte, NC 28223

(704) 687-0494

 http://library.uncc.edu/

charlottemeckmainlibrary

Main Library

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

310 North Tryon Street

Charlotte, NC 28202

(704) 416-0100

http://www.plcmc.lib.nc.us/

colemankaresh

Coleman Karesh Law Library       

University of South Carolina School of Law

701 Main Street

Columbia, SC 29208

803-777-4155

http://www.law.sc.edu/library/public_services.shtml

~Betty Thomas~

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A Guide to Free, Online Family Law Resources

familylaw

Several weeks ago, a Charlotte School of Law student asked about free, online resources related to family law. The list below includes websites, blogs, and listservs.

Since the Charlotte School of Law will be closed to public patrons and attorney members until we are in our new location, we thought these resources might be of particular interest. Family law is always a popular topic.

Websites

Blogs

childcustody

Listservs (Washburn University School of Law)

  • FAMILYLAWPROF-L@lists.washlaw.edu Family Law Faculty/Professors list
    • To subscribe to the discussion group, Click here
  • JUVENILELAW@lists.washlaw.edu Juvenile Law list
    • To subscribe to the discussion group, Click here
  • AALS-FAMILYLAW@uidaho.edu Unmoderated list for law professors at member schools of the AALS
  • CHILD-COURT@abanet.org Forum to discuss efforts to improve the court process for child abuse and neglect proceedings and related cases; includes discussion of the federally-funded Court National Improvement Initiative; subscription upon approval by moderator
  • FAMILYLAW@uidaho.edu Moderated discussion group for individuals working in the field of family law, including law professors, lawyers, social workers, psychologists, counselors, and other professionals; “closed” list – subscriptions subject to approval by listowner
    • For subscription, send the following message to majordomo@uidaho.edusubscribe familylaw [your e-mail address]
  • LAW-FAMILY@mailbase.ac.uk UK-based Family Law List

Google Books

Google books can be used to find topical books related to family law. Often entire volumes are available.  An example of the relevant material available through Google Books include:

Your Favorite!

We hope you found this guide helpful. Do you have a favorite free, online resource related to family law? Please let us know in the comments section.

~Betty Thomas~

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Founders Online: The Ultimate Source in Founding History

foundersonline1

Launched on June 13th in Washington, D.C., the Founders Online website at the National Archives allows people to search an archive of the Founding Era. Anyone… students, researchers, citizens, lawyers can follow the debate about different founding documents such as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The papers of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams (and family), Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison and those who corresponded with them have been assembled in 242 documentary editions.

For the past 50 years, the National Archives has been copying documents from collections in the United States and around the world to create a record of the Founding Era. They have transcribed thousands of primary source documents… letters, diaries, ledgers and legislative drafts. They have transcribed these documents, added annotations to broaden understanding, and created volumes of books.

Launched initially with 120,000 fully searchable documents, The National Archives expects to have approximately 175,000 records.  Founders Online gives the following suggestions to help with research:

Researching a person: To discover the writings to/from a specific person, use the author and recipient facets on the Founders Online home page, or whenever the facet choices appear on the search or search results pages. Entering the first few letters of the last name in the empty box that appears above a facet name list will narrow the number of choices.

Beyond a person’s own writings, you may also want to search for items that mention the person in the writings of others. For example, you are interested in Mercy Otis Warren (1728–1814), a Boston woman known for her political writings. Warren wrote and received letters, and you can conduct the faceted search described above to locate these items. However, there are also references to Warren written by other individuals. To find these, conduct a general search for her using the phrase “mrs warren.” Such a search will result in many additional documents.

Researching a time period: To focus on a particular time period, select one of the predefined time periods and then narrow your search by entering terms in the search bar. Then click “Go.” Or use the date selector on the search page to enter a start date, end date, or both, to filter your results. (The dates searched are the dates when documents were written, when that is known.)

Researching a concept: Concepts are best searched for by experimenting with variations of search terms. Individuals used different terms for concepts over time and often did not use terms consistently. For example, you can search for such concepts as liberty, freedom, “bill of rights” or “freedom of the press” or “checks and balances” as single terms, or phrases (using quotation marks), or by using Boolean searching. Once you have a result set, sorting by Relevance will give highest ranking to documents whose title contains your search terms, or where your search terms occur at a high frequency relative to document length.

A guide with details about how to search this site can be found at http://founders.archives.gov/help/searching .  The database has two nice features: the citation on the right side column and a permalink to each document.

A search on the topic of “Sally Hemings” resulted in the following letter describing Thomas Jefferson:

sallyhemingsThe footnotes below the letter contain biographical information about Elijah Fletcher and “Black Sal.”

blacksal

Besides insights into their private lives, the Founders Online site provides understanding into the various Founders’ views on many public policy issues related to the founding or our country.  Having so many primary source documents transcribed and available online can further the discourse in our own era.

http://founders.archives.gov/

~Betty Thomas~

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Filed under electronic resources, Of Interest to Law Students, Websites