ReadWriteWeb is reporting that “Internet Archive Partners With 150 Libraries to Launch an E-Book Lending Program.”


This new digital lending system will allow library patrons to borrow up to 5 e-books at a time for up to 2 weeks. People can choose to borrow either an in-browser version (that can be read via the Internet Archives’ e-reader that we covered here last December) or a PDF or ePUB version. The latter will allow readers to access the borrowed books from a number of devices, including iPads, laptops, and libraries’ own computers.

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Posted via email from jeiseman’s posterous

Following up on my post yesterday, I have been thinking for awhile about adding more video to this blog. The problem is getting the motivation during busy work times to create the content can be difficult. However, I think I’ve come up with a good system for using videos to comment on the hot technology topics of the day in a timely manner. The first in a series of videos (hopefully) appears below. Enjoy.

What IBM’s Watson Means for Law Librarians from Jason Eiseman on Vimeo.

Everyone is busy imagining why the IBM computer Watson is so important to their own industry. Robert C. Weber writes in the National Law Journal about how great it will be when computers like Watson can perform legal research on their own.

Imagine a new kind of legal research system that can gather much of the information you need to do your job — a digital associate, if you will. With the technology underlying Watson, called Deep QA, you could have a vast, self-contained database loaded with all of the internal and external information related to your daily tasks, whether you’re preparing for litigation, protecting intellectual property, writing contracts or negotiating an acquisition. Pose a question and, in milliseconds, Deep QA can analyze hundreds of millions of pages of content and mine them for facts and conclusions — in about the time it takes to answer a question on a quiz show.

Heard through Harvard Law Library on twitter

Posted via email from jeiseman’s posterous

Here you’ve put me in an awkward position.

See, now I have to defend AALL’s annual meeting program, and that really isn’t something I wanted to do.

If you haven’t been paying attention to the criticism of AALL’s programming you need to catch up. First, read Some thoughts on Programming at the AALL Annual Conference, then A Modest Proposal on Programming at AALL, then Dream Big or Comments on “A “Modest Proposal on Programming at AALL” and the Report of the AALL Annual Meeting Review Special Committee, Programming at AALL – A Modest Follow-Up…, and finally My Experience in Participating in the AALL Programming Process or AALL Educational Programming Needs to go Back to School.

Just to tell you where I am coming from in this discussion: I have worked at an academic library for the last year and a half, and spent 5 years before that as a firm librarian.

There seems to be a lot going on in these various posts and I’ll try to break it down.

Several of the blog posts and some comments say there is not enough relevant programming for firm librarians. But as a former firm librarian I can see relevant programing at almost every time slot. The very first time slot includes sessions on supervisory skills and digital collection development. Sessions on authentic online legal information, copyright, and instruction skills are also have relevance to firm librarians. From my own experience, I could see relevance in sessions on FOIA requests, accounting skills, and even historical legal research. I think, selfishly, one of my own sessions, Going Mobile: new tools to keep your library’s information moving is very relevant. At the firm I was at every lawyer had a Blackberry. Just today I heard a story of lawyers at one firm demanding IT support their iPads.

I suspect the real underlying complaint is not that there is a lack of relevant sessions, but a lack of sessions specifically targeted to firm librarians. For example, the Copyright session is not “Copyright for firm librarians,” it is a general copyright session. This complaint is, in my opinion, slightly more valid if somewhat untrue.

Like Nina Platt, I do not see firm librarians getting the short end of the stick. In fact, part of the problem with annual meeting programming is that it seems too often to try to cater to everyone and in some respects ends up not catering to anyone in particular. One of the surprises I’ve found as I’ve become more involved with AALL as an academic librarian is that many academic librarians don’t think AALL does a good job of catering to them at all. So while firm librarians may think they have it bad, they are not alone, they are not victims (despite Nina Platt’s anecdote), AALL needs to do a better job of catering to all their member’s needs.

Mark Gediman at the 3 Geeks and a Law Blog suggests breaking up the conference into tracks based on type of library. This solution may certainly be worth a try. And apparently the Private Law Library section Summit was created in response to the problems firm librarians have had with AALL programming. I can’t say that as a firm librarian I would have been uninterested in the PLL Summit agenda, but the agenda does not seem particularly geared towards firm librarians compared to the general annual meeting agenda.

The first part of the summit addresses persuasive communications, time management, better presentations, and business skills. These are not skills unique to law firm librarians and some even seem to be addressed by AALL regular programming. For example, annual meeting program E1 is “Using Pecha Kucha to Enhance your presentations.” Comparing the summit agenda with the annual meeting programming you will see additional items already covered in the annual meeting.

I think the need for such a summit would be a little more convincing if the opportunities for such a thing hadn’t already existed within the AALL annual meeting. Besides the examples I’ve already mentioned there is also the Lawberry Camp unconference I’ve worked on with Sarah Glassmeyer. When we were originally proposing the unconference we asked both PLL and the Academic section to co-sponsor it. We then wanted to include the Court section, thus trying to include all members. When PLL and ALL-SIS seemed to not be interested we abandoned that plan.

Lawberry Camp is currently free, and Sarah and I are dedicated to keeping it at a very low cost for members in the future as well. Firm librarians would be welcome to come to the unconference, start up firm-specific round tables, give firm-oriented lightening talks and get to interact with librarians from other library types. We would also be willing to work with them to provide some sort of forum within Lawberry camp, as we’ve tried to do with attendees of the cancelled Creative Commons workshop.

Now, some criticism of AALL programming is warranted. At the recent CALI conference a random law school IT worker sitting next to me on a bus complained about the programming process and how onerous it was. And the process for presenting this year, my first experience, has not been pleasant.

But AALL has made some efforts to improve. Already AALL has shown a willingness to try adding tracks to the conference, moving around deadlines, and hopefully more improvements will come. Furthermore, AALL goes out of it’s way to ensure firm librarians are recognized in AALL leadership, committees, and organization.

There’s plenty to criticize with the AALL annual meeting. But having now attended AALL as a firm librarian and an academic I’m not convinced that firm librarians have a particularly strong grievance against AALL compared with the grievance every member should have over the current programing process.

“Innovation isn’t a goal, useful is a goal. If you can be useful and innovative, even better. But useful first.” – Jason Fried, 37 Signals

It might seem like a cop out, or a bad review, or even patronizing. But when I say Wolters Kluwer’s Intelliconnect product is useful I mean that as a high compliment. As the quote above states, one of my favorites, useful is something to aspire to.

A few weeks ago Wolters Kluwer invited myself and several other law library bloggers to New York to meet with some executives and trainers to learn some more about their Intelliconnect product. Full Disclosure: because this demo was in New York City, and I live in the New York metro area I did not accept any compensation from Wolters Kluwer, except for a lunch on the day of the demo.

We have this product at the school, but I haven’t given it much use. This training makes me think I might find a use for it, I might not otherwise had seen. Part of the problem for academic institutions is that this is really a practitioners tool. It’s really geared towards practicing attorneys who live and breathe their practice areas and the editorial content Wolters Kluwer provides for them. I could go into a lot of different aspects of this product – there is a lot to cover – but I am just going to focus on a couple of things that stood out to me.

First, Intelliconnect is not a “Wow” product. It’s not going to overwhelm you with a slick interface or fancy features. Rather it is a workhorse product, one with valuable editorial content and a serviceable online interface for accessing it.

The first thing I’m going to mention about the current version of Intelliconnect is a negative. It is optimized for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser. Browser compatibility has become a big issue for me with vendor products. In an academic institution like ours where most students are walking around with Macs, only working on IE, or not being platform or browser compatible is a big problem.

I have been able to use the product using Firefox on my Mac laptop. However, I recommend you don’t use it in Google Chrome. While you might be able to get by doing some things in Chrome once in awhile you can run into a problem where you can no longer operate in the system and have to shut down. They say they are working on cross-browser functionality, and that will be great when it arrives, for now you are limited though.

Online books or books thrown online?

There was a debate among some of those present about whether Intelliconnect is a good interface for accessing the online, traditional book content long published by CCH or if they had simply taken their print material and thrown it online without giving thought to advantages and disadvantages made possible of the internet. I am of the opinion that they have done a satisfactory job of making this material available through Intelliconnect. Part of this may be that no one seems to have gotten online law books 100% right yet, and I am not going to hold Wolters Kluwer accountable for not getting all the way there.

I think the reason I may have liked Intelliconnect more than some of the other participants is because I like browsing. Intelliconnect is really oriented towards browsing this material. Unfortunately browsing can be difficult if you subscribe to many of their subject areas. However, they have some nice features that allow you to simplify your menu. You can set your own specific practice areas or save your favorite material to a My Favorites folder.

The image to the left shows the Covenants Not to Compete treatise saved to a My Favorites folder. I think this product is really oriented towards practitioners who would operate non stop in a treatise like this one. If you had to  consult this treatise or another manual over and over again, then this product is really geared towards that.

Search

The Intelliconnect search is ok. Really the best part of their search is that you can search those important practice-specific books that may be valuable for you. Again it’s not going to knock you out like WestlawNext, but it will find the documents you are looking for. It has some nice post-search filtering options.

You can filter out results by jurisdiction, library (subject area), and  document type. When you click on a result the document opens in a frame, this can be a little disorienting for some – I didn’t really have a problem navigating through it. This display can be seen below.

Practice Tools

The real killer feature for Intelliconnect, at least the library I was looking at, is the Practice Tools. There are a few different Practice Tools available and seem to vary based on the different libraries/subject areas you subscribe to. The Labor and Employment Law State and Federal Law comparison tool I looked at was really fantastic. Essentially it allows you to create something like a 50 state survey (or however many states you select), including federal law , for various employment and labor law areas.

I tried this out on the immigration section of the comparison. This state comparison is very well done. One of the great features is that it incorporates editorial content into the comparison. It is configurable to display laws that are updated within 90 days, or even as recent as 10 days. In the image below the new Arizona immigration law is explained in a comparison with immigration-related employment law from other states. You can see that the Arizona content is highlighted in yellow.

Future Developments

According to the folks at Wolters Kluwer they have some updates coming where they are really going to focus on improving their search algorithm. While I applaud their investment in search I think they need to keep in mind the need to browse and navigate their practice-specific editorial material.

In addition to cross browser compatibility they also mentioned that they would be looking at enabling this content to be available on mobile devices. This would be welcome as well. They have some updates planned to help make the interface a little more intuitive or to give users a little more help when navigating the system. This is always welcome.

Conclusion

There are problems with the Intelliconnect interface. It is not perfect, and there is plenty I could nitpick with. But for me and reviewing a product like this I am going to go by the standard of whether or not the product is useful. Intelliconnect is not Lexis or Westlaw and comparing it to those products is unfair. Intelliconnect is a practitioners tool, a useful one. And that makes it a good one.

Back in November I had the opportunity to meet and interview Jeff Jarvis at a conference here at Yale. His talk was fascinating and the interview (embedded below) was interesting as well. I promptly had our library order What Would Google Do and was not disappointed. This book is a must-read for librarians.

Jarvis starts by outlining how Google has changed, well, everything. He discusses the importance of links, relationships, being public and searchable, and the importance of using data to support business decisions. The second part of the book is more of a thought exercise, with Jarvis (and sometimes his blog audience, and others) discussing how Googlethink might be applied to various industries.

He even manages to apply this Googlethink to the restaurant industry, one that would seem to be incompatible with it. But his description of a potentially Googleized restaurant is fantastic. I want to see this happen. He also tries applying this thinking to lawyers, even mentioning Westlaw, Lexis, and Fastcase and how Googlethink may change legal information.

Libraries are never covered in the brainstorming session. It would be easy to dismiss the exercise for libraries, and say that we already know what a Google Library would be, Google is already building a library right? But this would be a cop out. The value in brainstorming about partnerships, opening our collections and processes, and re-examining our own roles in the current information ecosystem cannot be understated. Doing this through the lens Jarvis provides is very worthwhile.

For example, Libraries would be be well-served by some of Jarvis’ most important lessons. He says, “decide what business you’re in,” and “do what you do best.” Deciding what business libraries are in and what we do best has not been librarians strong points in recent years.

Reading What Would Google Do will hopefully give librarians something to think about as they start trying to answer some of these questions.

I wanted to wait a few days for part 2 of my post to think about my position and what had been written and said. Since then a few more posts have shown up, most notably from Tom Boone, and at the Law Librarian blog. And, as is always the danger when waiting to post something, much has already been explored by other bloggers. But I do have something to say about this, and I’m going to say it. The best way i can describe this post, is me trying to think my way through why this is such a controversial issue.

The title of this post is a joke of course about the oft contentious relationship between librarians and vendors. But the reality is that the vendor-librarian relationship should never be an adversarial one. It may often feel this way. Vendor’s reps are often selling something while librarians seem to be always trying to do more with less. But it is a relationship rather than a transaction. And the relationship between vendor and librarian is key. As a people person myself I have always valued relationships with vendors and some vendors have been better than others in that regard.

As difficult as it is for some librarians to believe, for me, Thomson Reuters Legal (TRL) has been one of the better vendors in terms of relationship building. In recent years, their marketers have been very good at engaging librarians in social media and building relationships without resorting to traditional sales pitches and “vendor-speak”, often genuinely engaging people on twitter and blogs.

And I think this is why the SWAG issue is so contentious. We are uncomfortable with an extravagant gift,  as most of us would be when anyone we had a relationship with simply handed us something like an iPod. And for myself this is why I don’t accept vendor SWAG. This feeling of unease, extends to something even small.

But what then, are we to make of vendor dinners, or sponsorship of events? Even Sarah Glassmeyer admits to being conflicted about what is and is not appropriate to accept from a vendor. But these particular benefits don’t seem to bother us as much. And why should they? I have bought drinks and dinner for colleagues. As Scott Berkun says in the keynote I embedded in this post, there are three timeless technologies: speaking, writing, and drinking. Vendor parties involve two of these. Dinners and parties are relationship building events.

Similarly we are not bothered by accepting LexisNexis, Wolters Kluwer and other vendors sponsoring AALL grants. And we shouldn’t be. They are not buying allegiance to their brand, and we are never quite as suspicious of these activities. Similarly we should not make that assumption about SWAG.

Of course sometimes AALL must take a stand on certain issues. Many of us applauded, rightfully so, when AALL refused money from TRL last summer for refusing to participate in the Price Index. TRL refusal to participate is contrary to the relationship we thought we had. But the relationship between this vendor and our flagship organization continues. It must.

But this is just proof that despite our missteps, and there have been plenty of actions by librarians and vendors which are contrary to a healthy working relationship, we are still partners. TRL invited many bloggers who were critical of their product to take the trip to Eagan, MN. And they and other vendors would do well to continue the practice of engaging critical bloggers, Sarah Glassmeyer included.

However, I would advise librarians to do the same. When vendors are deserving of criticisms, we should criticize, worthy of praise we should praise, and even if we have to sanction we should do that too. But these vendors, whether we subscribe to their service, or we remain only potential customers, are our partners and we should always remember that.

Sitting at dinner with executives from Thomson Retures Legal (TRL) in St. Paul, MN, one of my colleagues asked, “what do you expect from us?” The answer was that they simply wanted to tell their story. At the time I wondered if this was a direct hint toward a recent blog post I wrote, encouraging vendors to tell their story. I put the suspicion from my mind. My suspicions were re-ignited the next day at their headquarters in Eagan, MN when one of the reference attorneys presenting to us specifically referenced that blog post.

But the most amazing part of the trip was what TRL successfully did during that meeting, and have failed to do since. They told their story.

That’s why I had been planning on writing a post about the trip to Minnesota, and meeting with the WestlawNext folks. It was a unique experience and an interesting process that itself could be important, beyond the topic of discussion (WestlawNext).

And after February 1 when they unveiled WestlawNext at LegalTech in New York, I was prepared to blog about the value provided by the bloggers I sat in those meetings with, compared to the superficial tweets and posts coming from LegalTech.

But my friend and colleague Sarah Glassmeyer may have forced my hand a little by raising the issue of vendor swag and question of ethics, including the decision I and others made to accept an all expenses paid trip to Eagan Minnesota to meet with the WestlawNext team and preview the product.

Comments about this have ranged from the on point, to the factually inaccurate (all librarians on the trip had passwords which enabled them access to the product). And a larger discussion of librarian vendor relations has followed.

Now, I currently do not accept vendor swag. I used to. I do not remember the exact point at which I stopped accepting it (early 2009), nor do I remember the exact reasons (general feeling of ickiness). But I do not accept swag anymore. However, I did accept this trip to see WestlawNext.

I did not accept the trip immediately and not without some reservation. Yes, I questioned whether or not it was appropriate to accept a trip from TRL to preview this product. Beyond the ethical questions raised by accepting such a trip, flying to Minnesota, on about two weeks notice, in January at the start of the semester, is at best an inconvenience and at worst a pain in the ass. As my colleague mentioned this was not a trip to Hawaii.

Now here’s where it gets a little tricky.

I am a blogger – whatever that means to you – to me that includes some amateurish semblance of news gathering, editorializing, and simply passing on information. I decided long ago to not to place too much emphasis on counting how many visitors I have, subscribers to my feed, etc. I have had offers to monetize this blog and turned them down for one reason or another. But there are some people who do indeed read this blog, and find it valuable.

Now, since I am not employed as a professional news gatherer my organization cannot afford to send me to every event that may be valuable. I either use part of my professional development/travel budget, or pay my own way. Which is fine. In this particular instance, TRL decided to pay to fly me and other bloggers into Minnesota on their own dime. They gave me a place to stay for the night, and fed me. It was not a vacation. I spent most of one day traveling, and the second day in meetings.

I decided, right or wrong, that it was within my professional responsibility, and the scope of this blog to accept this trip. I mean that it may be advantageous to the organization that employs me (Yale Law Library) to have a staff member get an early insider’s view of an important new product, it may be advantageous to my career (I am up for promotion in a few years) to note that I was recognized as a blogger recognizable enough to be worth the cost to fly out to Minnesota, and valuable to the readers of my blog that I was at the meeting.

I stand by the decision.

Now some people,like this commenter, might think this makes me a less reliable authority on such matters. That doesn’t worry me. Long time readers of myself and Tom Boone know who we are and whether or not we are valuable, reliable sources of information. Frankly, I think devaluing our two voices (along with the other dozen or so bloggers there) is a disservice to any law librarian and their own professional reading.

There is of course a larger issue of vendor-librarian relations that I think should be addressed. And this is a wholely different issue than accepting an ipod (a gift I wasn’t offered and would not have accepted). FYI, I was offered but did not accept any swag while on this trip.

But I will save this larger post for later. Let’s consider this part 1.

On Tuesday, 2/2/10 I’ll be co-presenting about how to use Google Wave. We have created several waves for this presentation. This post is an will be an example of embedding a wave on a website or blog.

So lots has been written about WestlawNext. Much more detailed analysis has been floating around. So rather than rehash what’s already been said all over the web, I’m going to provide some random thoughts I had about the project as I was sitting in the meeting at Eagan, MN. These are just from some notes I jotted down, that I think are interesting. Disclosure (again): Thomson Reuters paid my way to Eagan and put me up for the trip.

1. Attorneys do not look at documents on Westlaw beyond the first 5 to 10 results. I suspect it’s the same for Lexis, and pretty much any search site nowadays

This is what they found when researching how attorneys used Westlaw. I know that this is a problem on Google, one that has led to the emergence of the Search Engine Optimization industry, that search results beyond the first few almost do not exist. But to hear that attorneys by and large will rerun a search if desired search results don’t show up within the first few hits is very… I’ll say illuminating. Is this a failure on the part of firms, librarians, legal education, or attorneys themselves? Is it a failure at all, or just how research is done in the Google age, something that databases, search engines, librarians must simply accept as a modern research practice? WestlawNext is now accommodating this practice, as will other vendors I’m sure. Should librarians?

2. Analyzing customer usage to make the relevancy rankings more relevant, in particular measuring “meaningful interaction with documents”

For me, this may have been the most welcoming revelation about the new WestSearch relevancy rankings. They wanted to take user behavior into account in relevance rankings. But users click on documents in search results which are irrelevant. So how do you measure document relevance to a search. WestSearch incorporates what they called “meaningful interaction with a document” as signifying relevance to the search. Meaningful interaction may include actions like keyciting a document, printing a document, citing with reference, saving it to a folder, downloading, etc. These are the types of actions that were found to signify a relevant document. WestSearch will incorporate these actions into relevance rankings.

In addition to search results, WestlawNext will analyze documents saved to their folder system. The theory is that documents that appear in the same folder may have links between them and can also improve relevancy rankings.

What does this mean? It means that Westlaw’s relevancy rankings should continually improve as more people start using the system. Awesome.

3. All browsers will be supported. But Chrome is the best

Gone are those annoying pop-up windows, and messages telling us that something is best viewed on Internet Explorer. WestlawNext will be available on all browsers (Chrome is coming in mid-February). That means Mac users, Firefox users, Chrome users, Safari users will all be able to use WestlawNext on their desired platform. This is a very welcome development. It also makes me think that Westlaw may have been listening to all the user complaints about browser compatibility. Oh, by the way. Their studies found that Chrome was the most steady, fastest, most reliable browser.

4. Synchronization across all platforms

Save a document to your folder on WestlawNext online. Access it from your mobile device later. WestlawNext has been built with portability in mind. As we enter an age where people expect content to be accessible across multiple platforms, WestlawNext appears to deliver.

5. Possibility of command searching

Librarians seem to be worried about the disappearance of boolean searching. I am excited about the possibility of command searching. Currently in WestlawNext if you type “keycite [citation]” you go directly to a keycite report for that citation. Not a big deal, as Greg Lambert mentioned on the video I posted earlier. But imagine the possibility of typing “define [term]” and going straight to the definition in Black’s Law Dictionary. How about typing “ALR Index [term]” going straight to the ALR index. Do you see where I’m going with this? This system seems ripe for these types of shortcuts, and I am excited about some of the possibilities opened up by it. Whether or not others will be as impressed, or if and when these capabilities will be fully explored in WestlawNext has yet to be seen. But I would like to see it.

6. Super Bonus Final Random Thought

There is a lot more to think about with regards to WestlawNext. The system is by no means perfect. There are other issues to consider, like pricing.

But this new system is obviously a major shift in legal research. Couple this new product with Bloomberg, and the new Lexis product coming later this year, and alternatives like FastCase and the entire ecosystem of legal research may be completely different by this time next year.

I know some librarians and others are worried about what this means. But I think the application of modern search techniques, coupled with new web technologies may open up a whole new world of legal research for us. I look forward to some much needed changes.