Tag Archives: Betty Thomas

A New Framework


For the past fifteen years, academic librarians and teaching faculty have used the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL)’s Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (2000) as the basis for learning outcomes when teaching information literacy. These standards have been recently revised by a task force. The Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education was developed and released for comment in July. The final version will be presented to the ACRL Board in August for approval in September.

Implications for Law Librarians and Faculty

The American Association of Law Libraries Information Literacy Standards and Legal Research Competencies are based upon the ACRL Information Literacy Competence Standards for Higher Education (2000). Once the new Framework is adopted by ACRL, the standards for legal research may also change to mirror the updated thinking.

The Framework is substantially different from its predecessor.  With changes in the higher education environment for students, faculty and librarians, the Framework is no longer a set of standards with prescribed skills. It is called a framework because it is based on interconnected threshold concepts with flexible options for implementation.

Information Literacy Redefined

The new Framework redefines the term information literacy so that it is more useful to different disciplines and academic institutions.  (Some library authorities like William Badke dislike the term and refer to information literacy skills simply as research processes.) The new definition follows:

Information literacy is a repertoire of understandings, practices, and dispositions focused on flexible engagement with the information ecosystem, underpinned by critical self-reflection. The repertoire involves finding, evaluating, interpreting, managing, and using information to answer questions and develop new ones; and creating new knowledge through ethical participation in communities of learning, scholarship, and practice.

Threshold Concepts

Threshold concepts are “those ideas in any discipline that are passageways or portals to enlarged understanding or ways of thinking and practicing within that discipline.”

The six threshold concepts are:

  1. Scholarship is a Conversation
  2. Research as Inquiry
  3. Authority is Contextual and Constructed
  4. Format as a Process
  5. Searching as Exploration
  6. Information has Value

Each threshold concept is supported by:

  • Knowledge practices (abilities) which are demonstrations of ways in which learners can increase their understanding of these concepts
  • Dispositions which describe ways in which the affective, attitudinal, or valuing dimension of learning can be addressed.

The framework will be accompanied by a toolkit that will include assignments and assessments for different situations. There has also been discussion of having a separate mapping document to help link the threshold concepts to the old standards. Ultimately, an online sandbox will be created to help librarians and instructors see a variety of practical applications.

This is the basic framework. The discussion will continue. There will be some changes before the task force presents the final version to the board. However, the basic structure will still include these concepts and a new framework.

~Betty Thomas~

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Net Neutrality or a Two-Tiered Internet?

What is net neutrality and what are the issues?

Law professor Tim Wu coined the phrase “net neutrality” in a 2003 law review article.   While net neutrality has a number of complex implications, the main idea here is that the Internet is an impartial conduit for information and that all traffic on the Internet would be equal.  That concept seems pretty straightforward. However, net neutrality is a complex, important concept to understand.


Tim Wu (Open Rights Group)

Since the world moved from dial-up to broadband, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has worked to keep the Internet open and neutral. However, on January 4th, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the FCC’s “Open Internet” rules in Verizon v. FCC. Basically, the court stated that the FCC does not have the authority to impose its net neutrality rules on Internet service providers (ISPs).

“Even though the Commission has general authority to regulate in this arena, it may not impose requirements that contravene express statutory mandates. Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such.”

As a result of this decision, there is a grey area that allows Comcast or Verizon to charge extra to have content from certain providers like Netflix streamed more quickly or give preference to their business partners.

Founding Principle. The Internet was founded on the principle of net neutrality. As Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who created the World Wide Web, has said, “Being able to connect freely and equally to the Internet is the fundamental social basis of the Internet, and, now the society is based on it” (Scola, 2014). We take for granted that we as a members of our society, we can access the information we want just like everyone else.

Consumerism. The Consumers Union has been vocal in the debate on net neutrality. They believe that the new FCC rules while prohibiting Internet service providers from blocking traffic, would allow ISPs to charge online providers like Amazon, Google, or Netflix a fee for preferred access to customers. Delara Derakhshani, Policy Counsel for Consumers Union, stated that this Internet fast lane “could create a tiered Internet where consumers either pay more for content and speed, or get left behind with fewer choices” (“Internet,” 2014). Conceivably, content providers could give preferential treatment to online sites that pay them the most.

Innovation. American Libraries Association (ALA) President Barbara Stripling argues that having to pay for faster, efficient access would dissuade entrepreneurs from experimenting. Websites of small businesses and nonprofits would be out of the mainstream and all those start-ups would never make it out of their garages. Stripling has stated, “Many of the innovative services we use today were create by entrepreneurs who had a fair chance to compete for web traffic. By enabling the Internet service providers to limit access, we are essentially saying that only the privileged can continue to innovate” (Miller, 2014). While limiting access would not be the end of the Internet, we could lose the creativity that has resulted in current advances.

Intellectual Freedom. The ALA’s policy statement on the issue of net neutrality is based on the value of intellectual freedom. Intellectual freedom is one of the ethical principles of the profession and is included in the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association. Intellectual freedom is the “right of all peoples to seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction.”  The Internet allows everyone to inform themselves and others. Without net neutrality, information could be more restricted.

Digital Divide. In April, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) held a hearing to focus on the role of libraries in providing Internet Services. The IMLS is charged with advising the president and Congress in such matters. The hearings highlighted the fact that the digital divide continues to grow in this country. A Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project report in 2013 states that while 70% of Americans have broadband access; 88% of households with incomes over $75,000 have broadband. Only 54% of households with an annual income of less than $30,000 have broadband. Furthermore, the Pew study found 63 million Americans do not have either a broadband connection or a smartphone.

Access.  Public libraries, not only worried about having to negotiate with ISPs over potentially high rates for patrons to have access to the library’s resources, are also concerned about the broader issue of protecting the equitable use of the Internet for the “common good.” 77 million people use the public library for Internet access each year (“ALA Responds,” 2014). According IMLS President Susan Hildreth, 60% of American libraries offer the only free computer Internet access in their communities and only 9% of those have high capacity connections (Herther, 2014). Furthermore, Internet service providers will not have any business incentive to run fiber optic cable to small towns; and without fiber optic cable, there is no broadband access. Without a policy of net neutrality, these numbers will only go down.

Some organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have gone so far as to warn that ISPs could conceivably slow down the websites of political parties and other organizations with which the ISPs’ executives disagree.

A Solution. Kathleen Ann Ruane in a report for the Congressional Research Service suggests a solution for the FCC that would enable the Commission to continue its advocacy of net neutrality. According to the Verizon ruling, the FCC does have the authority to issue rules; however, because Internet service providers are classified as information services rather than telecommunication services, the net neutrality rules concerning anti-blocking and anti-discrimination were thrown out. A reclassification of broadband Internet service providers would seem to be a logical solution for the FCC and others advocating for net neutrality.

Net neutrality is complex and important issue.  After reading about the issues, there are still other underlying questions such as: how do you allocate scarce resources (bandwidth) in a free market economy? Traditionally that would be regulated by price. So then the question becomes who pays and how much? This blog only touches the surface.

Still confused?

John Oliver describes net neutrality as the most boring important issue. His humorous You Tube video (13:17) is worth watching. He gives a not-so-boring explanation.

What Can We Do?

Activists protest against proposed new net neutrality rules outside Federal Communications Commission in May. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Activists protest against proposed new net neutrality rules outside Federal Communications Commission in May. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Or we could….

Email comments to the FCC at openinternet@fcc.gov. The FCC has established a new inbox to accept comments through the summer. Chairman Wheeler plans to have new rules in place before the end of the year.

An Addendum

On Thursday, July 10, 2014, 11 higher education and library groups issued a set of 11 principles regarding net neutrality meant for the FCC to consider in its rule making. The principles can be found at http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/EPO1305_1.pdf

Want to read more?

  • American Library Association. (2014, March/April). ALA responds to net neutrality decision. American Libraries Magazine, 45(3/4), 10.
  • Chant, I. (2014, February 15). Court strikes down net neutrality. Library Journal, 139(3), 12-14.
  • Delta, G.B. & Matsuura, J. H. (2014).  Regulation of Access, Interoperability, and Services.
  • In Law of the internet.  St. Paul, MN:  Thomson/West.
  • Heller, M. (2014, June 23). What should academic librarians know about net neutrality? [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://acrl.ala.org/techconnect/?p=4396
  • Herther, N. K. (2014, June).  FCC and IMLS update focus. Information Today, 31(5), 1-35.
  • Internet rules could put you in the slow lane. (2014, July). Consumer Reports, 79(7), 10.
  • Miller, R.T. (2014). A commons at risk. Library Journal, 139(3), 8.
  • Scola, N. (2014, June 12). Five myths about net neutrality. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-net-neutrality/2014/06/12/ff58ad7c-ec06-11e3-93d2-edd4be1f5d9e_story.html

~Betty Thomas~


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Secrets for Leading in the New Normal

During the 9th Annual Metrolina Library Association Conference held recently in Charlotte, North Carolina, David Singleton, Director of Charlotte Mecklenburg Libraries and Julie Walker, the new State Librarian of Georgia conducted a breakout session entitled, “Secrets for Leading in the New Normal.”  While Singleton and Walker have extensive careers in public libraries, all libraries share the same challenges in justifying their existence and making their organizations valuable to whoever is making funding decisions.

Singleton and Walker began their presentation by highlighting the changes in society which have necessitated changes in libraries. To demonstrate that people still love their libraries, they used the results of a Pew study and data from a Mecklenburg County (North Carolina) study in the chart below:


Using Gallup poll results, the library directors showed that people have confidence in their libraries and feel they are important to the community in comparison to other organizations.


While data that demonstrates the public’s positive perception of library value is a good selling point, the directors pointed out the complications of using such information during the recent recession.  They cited the American Libraries issue on The State of American Libraries 2013. When staff and library hours are reduced, patrons have limited access and begin to see less value and relevance in the library. This cycle is a warning for academic libraries too.


Another important selling point has been a Return on Investment (ROI) study conducted by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Urban Institute which concluded that the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library returns $4.57 in direct benefits for every $1.00 invested from all sources. Funders want to know that their money is being used to the greatest benefit.

Librarians have traditionally kept numbers like total checkouts, program attendance, reference transactions, and instruction sessions. However, funders are not interested in these measures. They are interested in outcomes, especially the impact on the community. Some examples of outcomes for public libraries are young children prepared for kindergarten, children and teens doing well in school, residents proficient with computer skills, and adults getting jobs. Academic librarians need to determine the outcomes important to their organizations and measure the library’s contribution.

While numbers and outcome measures are important in relaying the library’s value, Singleton pointed out that librarians also need to collect stories that tell of successes. Academic librarians need to articulate the library’s relevance in the 21st century, value to the community, value to funders, and competitive funding advantages. Singleton and Walker believe that libraries can thrive by identifying the needs in the library’s community, contributing uniquely, focusing on priorities and goals, collaborating with others, embracing change, staying grounded, and telling their story!

mla4~Betty Thomas~

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Employer Expectations for Legal Research Skills

Several weeks ago LexisNexis hosted a webinar about the legal research skills that employers expect from newly minted JDs. While this is a popular topic and quite a few articles have been written on the subject, I found this particular session to be more practical for students and faculty. The webinar included three guest speakers.


Sally Wise, Library Director, University of Miami School of Law spoke about the American Association of Law Libraries’ (AALL) Principles and Standards for Research Competencies. AALL has created a website (http://www.aallnet.org/main-menu/Advocacy/legalresearchcompetency)that delineates the five principles, seventeen standards, and forty-three related competences of legal research education. These standards are meant to bring value to the legal profession in several, practical ways. The competencies can be incorporated in law school curriculum, law firm training, and CLE instruction. As an assessment tool, the principles and standards can be used as part of the ABA Learning Outcome Standards, questions in bar exams, and lawyer performance evaluations.

Elaine Egan, Manager, Department of Information & Knowledge Services, Shearman & Sterling spoke about expectations from a large law firm perspective. She sees that there are a number of challenges for new graduates:

  • Now, there are countless electronic content resources, where in the past there were a limited number of print resources.
  • Law firms now operate more like businesses. The mentoring and apprenticeship model is a luxury that firms no longer can afford.
  • Firms deal with complex global markets that add cultural complexities.
  • Firms have to provide higher levels of service, efficiency and cost containment than in the past.

Egan finds that her colleagues are giving new associates the following advice:

  • Ask questions to completely understand the research assignment.
  • Ask about specific resources that the firm might have that were not available in law school.
  • If you must use Google, use it correctly. Use the 10 minute rule and validate your results.
  • Make sure to use valid, authoritative sources such as Bloomberg rather than Yahoo! Finance.

She sees a need for graduates to have business and knowledge management skills. Graduates would benefit from understanding finance, accounting, marketing and operations, the core courses required in traditional MBA programs. Also, understanding knowledge management principles help new associates relate to clients as well as benefit their own organization. Furthermore, as with many types of organizations, Egan recommends that new JDs be knowledgeable of project management processes.

Julie M. Jones, Branch Librarian at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals Library in Hartford, Connecticut talked about expectations for working in the Federal Courts. As law clerks, new law school graduates spend much of their time reading case law and writing. The top primary tasks of law clerks require important critical thinking skills.

Jones points out the availability of libraries in the federal courts system. The headquarters is at the circuit court of appeals and there are branch libraries around the circuit. The judges advise clerks to use the 10 minute rule. When clerks have spent that time, judges will tell clerks to contact the library for help.

Jones highlighted several sources that new law clerks need to have extensive knowledge:

  1. Citations. Law school students need to know how to use the BlueBook index, search case law for examples, and cobble together citations. The source to know:  BlueBook.
  2. Case Law.Law clerks research case law all the time, so they must be able to do online advanced searching with skilled Boolean queries, field and segment searching, leverage Lexis Advance and WestlawNext, and be able to correctly Keycite and Shepardize results. The Source to know: PACER. Students need to understand binding authority and levels of authority in the same court.
  3. Statutes & Rules. Students need to know how to use annotated codes. Law clerks live in the Federal Rules of Civil and Criminal Procedures. Sources to know:  Fed. R. Civ. Pro., Fed. R. Crim. Pro., Moore’s, Wright & Miller. They should be familiar with the treatises because they are used regularly.
  4. Jury Instructions. Questions come up on this subject all the time. Sources to know: Sand’s Modern Federal Jury Instructions (preferred in 2nd Circuit) and O’Malley’s Federal Jury Practice and Instructions. Incoming law clerks should know what jury instructions are; how to use them; and how these are different from pattern jury instructions.
  5. Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Law students need to know what they are and how they are calculated. Some familiarity with crack cocaine sentencing guidelines in particular would be helpful. Source to know: U.S.S.C. Guidelines Manual.
  6. Format: Print or Online?With federal budgets, formats change. Federal courts do have access to WestlawNext and Lexis Advance. However, court accounts do not have folder and note taking features for security reasons so students should know how to work without those features. Some judges have strong preferences for clerks to use print resources. Also, the Second Circuit has limited access to Bloomberg Law. Sources to know: HeinOnline, Lexis, and Westlaw.


Carolyn Bach, Manager of Faculty Programs, Law Schools forLexisNexis concluded the session by covering LexisNexis™ Think Like a Lawyer Resources like the on-demand tools, cost effective research classes, and the new microsite at www.lexisnexis.com/tlal . Again this summer, students will have the same access to Lexis that they have during the year. May graduates can get an ID that can be used for educational purposes through December 2014.

~Betty Thomas~

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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.



~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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Every Step of the Way — 2014 LAUNC-CH Conference


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.


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.


~Betty Thomas~


  • 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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