Westlaw has heard from many in the law school community about the Lexis ASPIRE program (blogged last week) and will be launching its own plan for those soon-to-be law school graduates impacted by start date deferrals and similar circumstances. The program will be called YourLegalCareer dot com and the website will bring together a number of useful Westlaw resources including links to free CLE courses through WestLegalEd Center, a discount subscription to Attorney Jobs, and options to request a free password for pro bono or other work. It is expected to be up and running by the end of May, so stay tuned.

A recent post from the rips-sis listserv points to a recently published article entitled “The Virtual Tax Library: A Comparison of  Five Electronic Tax Research Platforms” by Katherine Pratt, Jennifer Kowal & Daniel Martin of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles (8 Fla. Tax Rev. 931, 2008).  The article studies and compares the tax research platforms of BNA, CCH, RIA Checkpoint, Lexis and Westlaw.  It also provides a comprehensive listing of many free tax information sources online, including government sites, tax scholarship sites, policy organization sites, and blogs.  The article is available on Westlaw:  The Virtual Tax Library: A Comparison of Five Electronic Tax Research Platforms.  An earlier edition is posted on SSRN and has the virtue of including all screenshots and Appendixes A and B which are tables comparing the 5 platforms (the Westlaw version doesn't include the visuals).

CS-SIS has recently created a wiki for members to share ideas and information such as use of technology in law libraries, reviews of various tools & gadgets, resources used or produced by law librarians, and more.

You'll also find information on CS-SIS itself, including a calendar of events and deadlines, CS activities at the AALL Annual Meeting, and information about the leadership positions within CS-SIS.

I’d like to particularly point out the Law Library Blogs list. Michael Robak has done a wonderful job of updating this list which I formerly maintained at the University of Wisconsin Law Library website.

Note that the wiki is still a work in progress. You’ll find that some areas are more complete than others. CS-SIS members are invited to contribute to the wiki. Simply request an invitation at http://aallcssis.pbworks.com/request_access.php. Please enter your name in the optional message box.

A big thanks to Katie Jones and Sharon Nelson for their work in setting up the wiki.

Kudos to LexisNexis for their  Associates Serving Public Interests Research (ASPIRE) Program which provides up to 15 months of free legal research services to law school graduates doing work for the public good.  Law school graduates can sign up to access certain LexisNexis services free of charge here on the LexisNexis law school website. As many of us know, this is a difficult year for our graduating law students and LexisNexis says that they applaud new graduates who elect to pursue public interest work while waiting for their professional law firm practices to begin.  Says Scott Collins, Vice President of Law Schools for LexisNexis, “we take public service work pretty seriously. That’s something that LexisNexis stands for.  And if we can provide services for students that want to do that work in the short or long term, that’s a benefit to the student, to the agency they’re working for, to LexisNexis, to the law school, and for the firm these students may be going to.”

Public interest employment must be for a non-profit or charitable organization; government employment is excluded from the program. Documentation confirming  eligibility for this program must be included. Eligible graduates include deferred fall associates pursuing public interest work during their deferral periods, 2009 graduates who elect to pursue public interest work while searching for law firm employment, and those 2009 graduates who pursue public interest work as a continuing profession.  Eligible grads will get complimentary LexisNexis access  throughout their public interest employment period, up until September 2010 maximum. The free LexisNexis access will include federal/state cases, codes, regulations, and law reviews.

On Monday, July 27th, CS Member Scott Frey will lead a Roundtable discussion a the AALL Annual Meeting titled “Mashing Up the White House.”  We will focus on how libraries are using the technological initiatives by the Obama administration to enhance their web sites and improve the delivery of government information.  As an added treat, Sunlight Foundation Policy Director John Wonderlich (http://www.sunlightfoundation.com/people/jwonderlich) will be joining the discussion to give his take on government transparency and the use of technology.  You might want to review President Obama's Technology Issues page at http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/technology/ to learn more about how this Administration plans to improve government by using technology.  This will be an interesting program and I'm sure we will have some lively dialog.

There has been increasing attention to the difficulty of accessing Congressional Research Service Reports.   As many of us know, the only way to get these reports is through the efforts of dedicated people who want them to be more widely availabe; for example,  the LLSDC has a page in their Legislative Source Book dedicated to CRS reports and the Thurgood Marshall Law Library at the University of Maryland has collected CRS reports in the subject areas of Homeland Security/Terrorism and Health Law.  However, with the recent increased visibility of the issue the New York Times today published an editorial urging the Senate Rules Committee to pass  Senate resolution 118 sponsored by Sen. Lieberman of CT that woul require the CRS to publish its reports on its website so the public would have access. The AALL strongly supports the resolution and our own Emily Feldman,  Advocacy Communications Assistant in the AALL Government Relations Office recently blogged on the topic as well.

There's been a lot of buzz lately about the new search engine computational knowledge engine Wolfram Alpha (which is still in beta but due to debut later this month). The search engine, developed by Stephen Wolfram (a former partical physics prodigy), is “like a cross between a research library, a graphing calculator, and a search engine.” It doesn't search through Web pages, and it will not help with movie times or camera shopping. What it does is answer questions. Using algorithms and formulae, it computes the answers to queries from enormous quantities of data in databases that are maintained by Wolfram Research or licensed from others. Wired says it is like an “anti-Google.” Meanwhile, Google has announced it's own data-centric service that currently includes data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau's Population Division David Talbot at MIT's Technology Review has written an article comparing how Wolfram and Google compare in answering the same questions. Neither was perfect. For example, in one test Talbot entered the query “cancer New York” and said that he was hoping to find statistics for the disease in the state of New York. Wolfram showed him where the Cancer constellation could be found in the night sky viewed from New York, when it would next rise and set, and included a map of the night sky. Google provided links to Memorial Sloan-Kettering hospital in New York, the New York State Department of Health's cancer page.

As a librarian, it seemed obvious from his report that what needs to be developed in both is something that would simulate the “reference interview”. Any librarian knows that if a library patron walked up the ref desk and said “I want to know about cancer and New York” we would do a reference interview to quickly find out what specific information the patron wanted to find.

If you're interested in learning more about WolframAlpha, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard recently held a sneak preview and discussion with Sephen Wolfram and Jonathan Zittrain (law professor at Harvard) and has posted video and audio on the Berkman website.

Amazon has announced its new, larger Kindle eBook Reader. Called the Kindle DX, it has a 9.7-inch screen (about a third larger that the current Kindle), costs $489 (pre-orders are being taken for summer delivery) and will hold up to 3,500 books. The larger screen is intended to make it better suited for reading newspapers and academic textbooks, and  features include the ability to bookmark and annotate what you are reading. The New York Times, Boston Globe and Washington Post are going to test-offer the new Kindle at a reduced rate for long-term subscribers.

Whether or not libraries can lend Kindles isn't clear, according to a recent article in Library Journal.

The folks at DigitalPreservationEurope (DPE) are committed to making digital preservation materials available to a wide audience. They are creating a series of short animations aimed at the general public that introduce and explain digital preservation problems and solutions. DPE's goal is to make cartoons that summarize complex digital preservation issues in an entertaining way. The first one features “DigiMan” who explains “bit rot” and urges you to annotate your data with metadata and store it in a safe repository. Future animations will be released on their You Tube Channel.

In case you missed the announcement, this Friday, May 8 from 3:00 to 3:30 pm Eastern time, CALI is hosting a webinar that will introduce you to basic skills necessary to author a new or modify an existing CALI lesson with lesson authoring software: CALI Author.  Topics covered will include working with the menu, adding new questions, re-arranging the sequence of questions, adding popups and other hyperlinks, adding images, and more.  The webinar is free for faculty, librarians and staff of CALI member organizations.  

CALI lessons can be a great pedagogical tool.  Of course we all know students who use the lessons published on the CALI website to review material in their law school courses.  But did you know that you can also alter existing CALI lessons to meet the needs of your particular class or even create your own CALI lessons just for your students?  The lessons don't have to be available to everyone on the CALI website, either, you can limit availability to your particular group of law students.  There is a lot of opportunity to use these lessons creatively.  But the CALI authoring software is somewhat complex, so I'm looking forward to the webinar on Friday.