Western Pennsylvania Law Library Association

A chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries.

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2016-2017 Annual Report

WPLLA continued to provide programming opportunities that included on-site and remote capabilities to accommodate members.   Roundtables continue to be popular with our members.  WPLLA hopes to offer more informal social events to help strengthen networking for members.

In 2016-2017, the Programming Committee chaired by Joel Fishman offered several well-attended programs.  These included: Honorable Judge R. Stanton Wettick – Lunch and Learn: Professor Douglas M. Branson – Holiday Party:   Current Problems and Concerns – Roundtable Discussion:  Current Problems and Concerns II – Roundtable Discussion:  Deep Dives in Legal Research – Webinar.  WPLLA continued its Holiday and Banquet events.

WPLLA was honored to have AALL incoming President Greg Lambert visit WPLLA members in May and to be the special guest speaker at the Annual Spring Banquet.  Greg met with several of members at their libraries as well as had several meals and meetings with Board Members.

WPLLA’s Legal Education Ad Hoc Committee continues to be interested in continuing our long held commitment to education held a membership meeting. The plan is to offer short webinars on key research topics to summer associates. This programming was once again postponed.

The WPLLA website redesign by Liz Whittington, featuring a public and members section was rolled out at the Annual Business meeting in October.  Board member Sarah Steers has assisted with providing content. As many members still utilize the listserv it was decided to maintain both services. The WPLLA Newsletter ceased publication following the retirement of Sallie Smith.

The WPLLA membership directory (pdf) was supplied to members.

The WPLLA Board Acknowledges that members feel increased demands on their time and energies at work and at home.   WPLLA offered a list committees with short descriptions and examples of “limited time” volunteer opportunities to increase participation. One of the goals for the 207-2018 term is a review and simplification of the bylaws.

WPLLA publicized among its’ members the 2017 AALL Member Registration Grant. Several applicants applied and incoming Vice President/President elect Melanie Cline was determined to be the most deserving applicant according to the criteria established by AALL.

WPLLA continues to provide networking and educational opportunities to its members and continues to promote itself to the larger legal community. The Board and its members reach out to mentor and welcome new members and look for opportunities to promote WPLLA membership.

The Executive Board for 2016-2017:  Pat Roncevich – President; Joel Fishman – Vice-President/President Elect; Kate Fry – Secretary; Liz Whittington- Treasurer; Ann Unger – Past President; Jamie Yancich and Sarah Steers – Members at Large.

The Executive Board for 2017-2018:  Joel Fishman – President;   Melanie Cline – Vice President/President Elect – ; Kate Frey – Secretary; Sarah Steers – Treasurer; Pat Roncevich, – Past President; Jamie Yancich and Karen Eriksen – Members at Large.

Pat Roncevich, President 2016-2017

June 23, 2017


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Members of AALL are “making a difference in a multitude of ways”

From the September 6, 2017 Law.com article Quiet No Longer: Law Librarians ‘Forgo the Status Quo‘ :

Law firm libraries are making a positive impact by promoting justice, combating misconceptions, and navigating change. And most importantly for the legal services sector, they are delivering value by conducting legal and business research, managing the procurement of critical research tools, and promoting the exchange of knowledge. Going forward, library managers and their staff will ensure that they never settle for the status quo if they continue to harness the same spirit of engagement and activism that punctuated the start of this year’s annual conference.

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Link Roundup – September

Digitized Bound Congressional Record 1941-1950 Now Available The U.S. Government Publishing Office, in partnership with the Library of Congress, has made digitized versions of the Congressional Record (Bound Edition) from 1941-1950 available on govinfo. This release covers debates and proceedings of the 77th through the 81st Congresses.


JSTOR launches updated design and navigation JSTOR has a new look, and the logo has also been modernized to better suit the variety of digital environments in which users interact with the service.


Elsevier acquires bepress – leading showcase of academic research Elsevier, the global information analytics business specializing in science and health, acquired bepress on August 2, 2017, a Berkeley, California-based business that helps academic libraries showcase and share their institutions’ research by allowing institutions to collect, organize, preserve and disseminate their intellectual output.


JournalTOCs current awareness service for updates on latest subject matter specific articles JournalTOCs is a Current Awareness Service (CAS) where users can discover the newest papers coming directly from the publishers as soon as they have been published online. Useful for researchers, librarians, and students, it highlights papers published in the scholarly literature with international coverage and is free for individual users.


School property tax elimination doesn’t mean it’s over If a planned voter referendum passes this fall and the Pennsylvania Legislature does away with school taxes, it doesn’t mean property owners would stop paying all school taxes immediately. And a pending Pennsylvania Senate bill — The Property Tax Independence Act — calls for increasing personal income and sales taxes as replacement revenue for school districts.


Can Law Librarians Help Law Become More Data Driven? An online presentation describing new innovations in legal research, with an emphasis on data collection and analytics.


Free Law Project details vulnerability and possible exploits of PACER PACER/ECF is a system of 204 websites that is run by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AO) for the management of federal court documents.  In February 2017, the Free Law Project reported a major vulnerability in PACER/ECF to the AO. This issue has been properly addressed, and  the Free Law Project’s investigative report has more more details about the issues.


ALCTS e-Forum: The State of eBooks in Libraries An email from Cindy Cicco directed WPLLA’s attention to an e-forum held on August 15-16, 2017 discussing the complexities of e-books and the requirements of new workflows. While the date(s) for this forum have passed, a recap of the presentation may be available through ALCTS.


Another view on the Google book scanning project New information on the “Google Books corpus” and how to conduct computational analysis (e.g., looking for patterns in large amounts of text, etc.) without breaching copyright.


Report – Disruptive innovation in the courts A new paper, recognizing courts will not remain untouched by disruptive innovation, advocates for embracing (rather than resisting) the opportunities to improve business processes and make justice more readily available to a wider audience.


Massive new searchable database of federal court opinions, including ones that haven’t been formally published The Free Law Project, famous for its RECAP browser extension for PACER users, has now scraped all the federal court opinions available for free on PACER, and put them in a free database with a fairly powerful search engine: https://www.courtlistener.com/recap/


GPO and LC partner on release of digitized Congressional Record 1931-1940 The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) has partnered with the Library of Congress to release the digital version of the bound Congressional Record from 1931-1940 on GPO’s govinfo. This release covers debates and proceedings of the 72nd thru the 76th Congresses.


“Vroom” Is Researchers’ Answer To ‘Blazing Fast Internet’, Loads Pages 50% Faster Vroom, new software developed at the University of Michigan and MIT, is designed to reduce the time required for mobile devices to load web pages.  During tests, researchers have observed pages loading almost two times faster.


Podcast – Interview with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden An interview with Carla Hayden, the 14th librarian of Congress.  She is the first African American and first woman to hold the position.


CRS – Presidential Pardons: Frequently Asked Questions – Along with news updates Legal Sidebar, published by the Congressional Research Service, states in part: “… The Framers did not debate this question at the Convention, and it unclear whether they considered whether the pardon power could be applied in this manner. No President has attempted to pardon himself…Accordingly, this is an unsettled constitutional question, unlikely to be resolved unless a President acts to pardon himself for a criminal offense.”


Fisher on the Supreme Court’s Expansion of Presidential Power Professor, scholar, and prolific author Louis Fisher’s latest book analyzes Supreme Court decisions from 1936 to the present time, helping the reader understand how the Court  has greatly expanded independent executive power in external affairs.  Fisher posits that the result is a weakening of the basic system of checks and balances, and damage to the principle of self-government.


GPO issues digital release of Federal Register for 1980s The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) and the National Archives’ Office of the Federal Register (OFR) has released digital issues of the Federal Register from 1980-1989. The complete collection of issues of the Federal Registers from 1980 to present is now available digitally on GPO’s govinfo.


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White Paper: Taking a Closer Look at the Changing Role of Today’s Law Librarian

Thomson Reuters just released a white paper discussing the evolution of the role of the law librarian:

The legal profession has undergone nearly a decade of fundamental change, and perhaps no single role has seen greater impact than the law firm librarian. Budget pressures, shrinking law library footprints, a decreasing reliance on print, a greater push for online resources, and the advent of new job responsibilities are just a few of the factors that have combined to push law librarians into new territory.

To read more about the survey results, check out the full white paper here: Taking a Closer Look at the Changing Role of Today’s Law Librarian

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Postcard Collection

Where would we be without our daily beSpacific roundup?  On one hand, the latest news in cutting edge tech and legal information.  On the other, sending us to the delicate and lovely corners of the internet – encouraging us to look at something beautiful and gaze upon something charming before it’s lost to time.


Springfield, Mass. Public Library –  Image Courtesy of the Sjoerd Koopman Library Postcard Collection at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign University Archives 

A recent link sent readers to the Sjoerd Koopman Library Postcard Collection housed at the University Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  The collection contains approximately 535 different digitized pictures and postcards of both American and European libraries.

Clicking through the images sends an online visitor back in time.  The earliest images are from the beginning of the 20th century, and the color palette from that era evokes a sense of nostalgia.  Check out the bright blue skies, large expanses of verdant green lawns, elongated perspectives that focus on majestic columns and balustrades.  As you race headlong into the later decades, you’ll still see some bucolic images.  But the postcards from the 1960s have some definite “General Electric Theater,” “better living through chemistry” vibes.  And by the time you get to the 1970’s era images, things get pretty groovy: indoor arboretums and hippies lounging on lawns!

Regardless of the decade, exterior views definitely feature a lot of stone masonry and brick facades.  Academic and public libraries seem to occupy an architectural space that exemplify permanence, respect, and classicism.

A jaunt through the Koopman Collection may even inspire a new hobby: collecting antique postcards.  Check out Ebay or Etsy or any number of other websites that promote postcard trading and collecting, or sell rare, vintage, or antique postcards.

The Koopman Collection doesn’t feature any images of Pennsylvania libraries.  If any WPLLA members have antique postcards with Pennsylvania library representations, feel free to share with us or send to University Library!  We’d love to see the pictures and share it here on our website.  Or, if you have any interest in collecting, or have any tips or tricks for how to get started – drop us a line and we’ll do a follow-up blog post.

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Link Roundup – August

What the Declaration of Independence Said and Meant An explanation regarding how the Declaration of Independence encapsulated the political theory that lead to the writing of the Constitution eleven years later.


5 Powerful Books to Inspire Women Lawyers


A reading list with three core beliefs in mind: First, knowledge is power. Second, women face bias. And third, work can be tricky in this intersection.


How to Talk to Famous Professors A guide to networking at industry events.
Search SEC historical EDGAR filings The archive of historical EDGAR documents allows users to enter complex queries to retrieve all but the most recent day’s EDGAR filings (from 1994 through 2017).
The Exponential Growth of Data Articles that explore the intelligent use of big data on an industrial scale.
Internet tool that removes everything from a web page except for its text


Textise is an internet tool that removes everything from a web page except for its text.
LC Online Exhibition – Drawing Justice: The Art of Courtroom Illustration The exhibit showcases the Library’s extensive collections of original art by talented artists hired by both newspapers and television to capture the personal dynamics of legal trials.


Research – States with right-to-carry concealed handgun laws experience increases in violent crime


States that have enacted right-to-carry (RTC) concealed handgun laws have experienced higher rates of violent crime than states that did not adopt those laws, according to a Stanford scholar.


Does a presentation’s medium affect its message? PowerPoint, Prezi, and oral presentations


Are PowerPoint presentations better than purely oral presentations or presentations that use alternative software tools? To address this question researchers recreated a real-world business scenario in which individuals presented to a corporate board.


Here we go again: GPO wants to change Title 44 After the 2017 annual ALA meeting, GPO Director Davita Vance-Cooks asked the Depository Library Council (DLC) to make recommendations for changes in Chapter 19 of Title 44 of the U.S. Code.


Hundreds of rules and proposed regs frozen or jettisoned by Trump administration The Trump administration said it was pulling or suspending 860 pending regulations. Of those, 469 were being completely withdrawn. Another 391 were being set aside or reevaluated. These proposed regulations could be revisited at some point or dropped altogether.


Science concurs with librarians about value of reading actual books Science has weighed in, and the studies are on the side of paper books. Reading in print helps with comprehension.


National Archives Begins Online Release of JFK Assassination Records


On July 24, 2017, the National Archives released a group of documents (the first of several expected releases), along with 17 audio files, previously withheld in accordance with the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992. The materials released are available online only.  Access to the original paper records will occur at a future date.


U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission Members The commission includes eight members from Pennsylvania.

Senate leaders appointed the following Pennsylvania Congressmen to the selection Commission as members: Senators Casey and Toomey, and Representatives Brady and Meehan.

In turn, they appointed the following Pennsylvanians:

–  Daniel DiLella (Principal, President and Chief Executive Officer at Equus Capital Partners, Ltd.)

–  Dr. Andrew Hohns (Chair of USA250 organization, Managing Director at Mariner Investment Group)

–  David Cohen (Senior Executive Vice President of Comcast Corporation)

–  Dr. Amy Gutmann (President, University of Pennsylvania)


Supreme Court launches redesigned website The U.S. Supreme Court released a new version of its website on July 28, 2017 (www.supremecourt.gov).  The site update includes “a more consistent menu structure, a more interactive calendar, faster access through Quick Links, improved page load times, and reduced page scrolling.”


New on LLRX – The Library of Congress opened its catalogs to the world. Here’s why it matters.


This article articulates the historic significance and professional impact of the recent announcement by the Library of Congress that 25 million digital catalog records are now available to the public, at no cost.


New on LLRX – The Confusion Of Legal Education


This article identifies the significant disruptive reasons why undergraduate students are veering away from choosing law school for other types of graduate educations.


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Productivity Tools

Guest Post by Sarah Steers

With technology putting us on call 24/7 and the needs of family, friends, community, and work stretching us in about 187 different directions (combined with that nagging feeling we’re not enjoying the last few weeks of summer as much as we should), maybe a few new productivity tools would help us get a better handle on things?

The startup scene, blossoming here in Pittsburgh, is famous for waxing rhapsodic about the newest and latest productivity “hacks.”  I thought I’d steal a page from their book, and link to an article listing fifteen great new productivity tools: 15 Productivity Tools for Your Startup.  Published on TechDay, the article links to a host of new productive apps and tools meant to make your day easier.

For smaller firms or other law libraries trying to manage their social media accounts in-house, Buffer might be a way to post across a wide variety of platforms in one fell swoop; Buffer says it can mass- or bulk-post across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.  It proclaims to provide web analytic information.  I don’t use Buffer and I don’t know if it does a better job than Google Analytics, but it might prove to be a worthy competitor.

For lawyers looking to establish a reputation as an authority in a specific practice area or give their firm a media boost, you might want to suggest that they try HARO (“Help a Reporter Out”).  HARO lets you list yourself as an industry insider; next time a journalist needs an expert, they consult the HARO list and know just who to call.  As online media and news outlets explode, new cub reporters are going to need to get their soundbites from somewhere and someone – this idea sounds promising!

If your firm permits internal messaging systems, I would be remiss not mention Slack.  It’s the current gold-standard of messaging tools. “Slack is so well-known and widely used…” that it almost wasn’t included on this list of new up-and-comers.  In the end, though, Slack is so good at what it does – and so ubiquitously used – that any firm looking to install a messaging app may want to give it a try (provided it meets the firms compliance standards, of course).

So readers – have you used any of the apps mentioned in this blog post or listed in the TechDay article?  If you have user feedback, we’d love to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Reach out to WPLLA and let us know what productivity tools you use to make your life a little easier.  Goodness knows we all deserve a bit of a break!