Why do I do this?

RIPS Law Librarian Blog

For the second year in a row, I have had the pleasure of writing one of the last posts before the New Year.  But instead of making resolutions, I wanted to answer a question and send out a call to action.  So why do I blog?

I will admit there are some times when deadlines are looming that I ask myself, “Why am I doing this?”  I have many demands during the workday, and I have a full home life.  Most days I don’t set down to relax until well into the evening.  It would be easier to pass on some extra-curricular activities and give that time to a more pressing duty.

But what fun would that be?  In the time I have been working with the RIPS Law Librarian Blog, I have had the opportunity to write about the great things we are doing at my library, think about…

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Considering Oxford Historical Treaties

By Ryan Harrington

manuscriptFollowing up on the recent discussion of Hein’s World Treaty Library, I’d like to report on my experience trialing it at the same time as the Oxford Historical Treaty product.

If you are at all like me, you were somewhat confused about Hein’s Historical Treaty Index, which I now understand to mirror the index from Parry’s Consolidated Treaty Series. It appears that Hein identified the full text and Consolidated Treaty Series cite for bilateral and multilateral treaties and included the text in its library. My understanding is that the series is not complete, but Hein is working towards completion. To be perfectly clear, Hein provides researchers with the text of the treaties that would be available in the Consolidated Treaty Series, but does not provide the official Consolidated Treaty Series.

A month ago, during a conversation with colleagues from schools in the northeast, I reported a critical strength for the Oxford product was the ability to run a full-text search. I believed that one could only search the index on Hein, but Steve Roses from Hein later informed me that I could search the full-text. In light of my misunderstanding, Hein listed the Historical Treaty Index as a “document type” on the full text search option (email to me from Steve Roses on 11/17/2014).

In my opinion, Oxford Historical Treaties does contain enough other advantages to make the purchase worth serious consideration. Most obviously, it provides pdf images of the Consolidated Treaty Series.

Anyone who is familiar with the interface of one or more of the other Oxford products will immediately recognize Oxford Historical Treaties, which will make navigation simple for users. The filters (content type, treaty type, party, date, etc) will be useful for empirical or comparative work.

Most notably, Oxford Historical Treaties is integrated with the Oxford Law Citator, which links to other Oxford products, such as Oxford Reports on International Law and Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law as well as commentary in Scholarly Authorities in International Law. For example, when I run the Citator for Treaty of Peace between Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Germany and Turkey, and Russia, signed at Brest-Litovsk, 3 March 1918 (223 CTS 80) I am currently able to pull up 19 references to the item, including a PCIJ decision, nine Max Planck articles, and commentary from several scholarly titles.

If that does not satisfy you, the editors also write that “[f]uture developments are planned such as including contextual commentaries for specific treaties commissioned by general editor Randall Lesaffer.”

Review of HeinOnline’s World Treaty Library

By Jim Hart

treatySince HeinOnline’s beginning in 2000, it has been “named to the Econtent 100, ‘a list of companies that matter most in the digital content industry’”; has won AALL’s Best New Product Award three times; and has grown to 54 libraries, some of which are full-text, some indexes, and some both. Some contain only primary sources; some contain only secondary sources; and some a mixture. The most recent addition to the list of HeinOnline libraries is the World Treaty Library, which covers the period from 1648 to the present. This is a truly monumental library. Hein’s description says, “All together more than 180,000 treaty records have been identified.”

When you first open the World Treaty Library, you see the horizontal, light blue banner just below the title that is labelled “Browse Options.” The majority of the options in this section list their contents by title for browsing and the titles link to full-text.

All the databases in Browse Options follow this pattern except the Treaty Index and Bibliography. The records in the Bibliography database are all linked to their WorldCat records by the ISBN or OCLC number. I seem to have gotten too used to full-text databases from HeinOnline’s other libraries so I found myself wondering how useful the bibliographic records are. Perhaps I’ve forgotten the days when ILL was new.

The Treaty Index is the default link that is selected when you first bring up the World Treaty Library. Although the Browse Options banner is still at the top, it is the databases in the white box below the templates that are now active. These databases are all indexes, although the bibliographic records in the United Nations Treaty Series, Hein’s U.S. Treaty Index, Historical Treaty Index, Martens’ Treaties, and the League of Nations Treaty Series link to the full-text of the treaties.

Hein has said that 80% of the bibliographic records in the indexes are linked to full-text treaties. Of course this varies by index. Here are three indexes with the percent of records with links to full-text: Rohn’s World Treaty Index 44.4%, Multilateral Treaty Calendar 82% and Historical Treaty Index 100%. (Email from Steve Roses to Susan Gualtier, 13/2/2014.) As I understand it, the Historical Treaty Index is the same as Parry’s Consolidated Treaty Series so, of course, Hein has all the full-text treaties in that set. Hein says that the treaties in Rohn’s World Treaty Index and the Multilateral Treaty Calendar link to full-text if the source cited is available in the World Treaty Library. (Email from Miranda Barell, Customer Service HeinOnline, 11/26/2014.)

The strengths of the World Treaty Library are the complete holdings of full-text treaties in Major Treaty Collections; Historical Treaty Index, U.S. Treaties and Agreements; and U.N. Treaty Publications. I would add Scholarly Articles to this list because it pulls articles about treaties from the Law Journal Library.   Although the U.S. and U.N. treaty collections are duplicated from other HeinOnline libraries and widely held on their own, Major Treaty Collections holds things that are rare such as the British Foreign and State Papers 1814-1968; Martens Treaties 1817-1944, which itself includes 9 more titles; and J. Dunont’s Corps Universel Diplomatique du Droit des Gens (1726-1731). I would also add Hein’s sophisticated search capabilities including template selections specific to treaties such as treaty numbers and operators such as grouping, field grouping, fuzzy searches, and boosting. A third strength is the external sources that include many authoritative library subject guides to treaty research as well as some lists (Avalon and Canada) and explanations of treaty practice and procedure .

The one clear weakness that I can find is that the World Treaty Library lacks the full-text of the Bibliography database citations, Rohn’s World Treaty Index, and Multilateral Treaty Calendar.

Finally, let me give Catherine Deane’s AALL blog post its due. Although she concludes that the World Treaty Library is worth buying, she explains its strengths and weaknesses. The weaknesses include the duplication of the U.N. and U.S. treaty collections from other HeinOnline libraries. Catherine turns this on its head, however, by noting that the World Treaty Library allows us to search all these databases at once. Catherine rightly finds that the extra cost of duplicate content is reduced by the discount for the duplication for Core and United Nation Law Collection subscribers. She also concludes that “…the duplicative materials seemed to be a fairly small portion of all of the documents offered in the World Treaty Collection….” This point also turns out to be both a strength and a weakness. Hein says, “Approximately 50% of the content in the World Treaty Library is unique to the collection.” (Email from Steve Roses to Susan Gualtier, 13/2/2014.) Therefore 50% is duplicated. In the end it seems to me that the question is whether the discount pays for the duplication. I’ll leave it up to you to decide. For Catherine some of the World Treaty Library’s features are both strengths and weaknesses. You’ll have to judge which one they are for your situation.

As I said at the beginning, this library is monumental and complex. Its enormous content and Hein’s strong searching capabilities recommend buying it. I say this, however, without comparison to other sources and a number of features that are both strengths and weaknesses. In the end you’ll have to judge yourself whether those features are strengths or weaknesses to your library.

Introducing…Susan Gualtier as the December FCIL Librarian of the Month

catears1.  Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a very small town called Halifax, PA, about two hours west of Philly.

2.  Why did you select law librarianship as a career?

Before becoming a law librarian, I practiced law for several years in New York City and Washington, DC. It would occasionally occur to me that I might be able to go back to library school, but I kept rejecting the idea as too expensive and time-consuming. When I finally decided to go, it was a bit of a snap decision – one day, I was working on a particularly tedious document review, and three days later, I was applying to library school.

 3.  When did you develop an interest in foreign, comparative, and international law?

I was interested in foreign, comparative, and international law as early as college. In fact, during my junior year, I decided to get a part-time job and ended up working for Dan Wade at the Yale Law Library, where I updated looseleaf services for the foreign and international law collection. In a way, I wish I’d realized then that I wanted to pursue law librarianship as a career; I could have saved myself a tremendous amount of stress by avoiding applying for law firm jobs! However, my experiences with practicing law and taking the bar exam definitely inform how I relate to my students, so I can’t really say that I regret practicing first.

4.  Who is your current employer? How long have you worked there?

I currently work at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center Library at Louisiana State University, where I’ve been for a little over three years. Laissez les bons temps roulez!

5.  Do you speak any foreign languages?

I speak Italian and French.

6.  What is your most significant professional achievement?

To be honest, I think that my most significant achievement has simply been finding my way to a career that is intellectually challenging and emotionally fulfilling. Anything else that I accomplish in the profession will just build upon that foundation.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Pasta of just about every variety.

8.  What song makes you want to get up and sing/dance?

I’m really into music and live shows, but I’m not much of a dancer. I do like to sing. I think that the only proper answer here would be “Don’t Stop Believin’.”  No one can stay silent when that song comes on.

9.  What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)?

I wish I had the ability to speak Russian. I majored in Russian history in college, but never learned the language, and I’ve always regretted not studying it when I had the chance. Unfortunately, there are other languages that would probably be higher on my list now because they’d be more useful in my work. But who knows? I like to think that there’s still time for almost anything.

10.  Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you not go a day without?

I couldn’t live without my three awesome cats. I have two black cats that I adopted together about seven years ago, and a two year old rescue tabby that I adopted last year. The tabby swims and plays fetch. She’s a most unusual cat.

 11.  Anything else you would like to share with us?

I have the most juvenile taste in television. I absolutely live for Pretty Little Liars. It’s “A-mazing.”

Combating Link Rot for Legal Writers

RIPS Law Librarian Blog

Much of what we do as librarians revolves around preserving knowledge and making it accessible.  Thus, the growing issue of “link rot” and “reference rot” in legal information is a troublesome problem.  Link rot is the phenomenon of broken links – when the URL provided via a hyperlink no longer functions.  Reference rot is a bit more deceptive; in this situation the hyperlink still works, but the webpage or information provided is no longer that which was originally linked to. In their recent article Perma: Scoping and Addressing the Problem of Link and Reference Rot in Legal Citations, Jonathan Zittrain, Kendra Albert, and Lawrence Lessig provide some perspective on just how big the problem is. They found that half of the links provided in Supreme Court opinions and over 70% of links cited to in the Harvard Law Review “do not produce the information originally cited.”  As Zittrain puts it…

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