Western Pennsylvania Law Library Association

A chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries.


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Lexis Acquires Ravel Law

On April 27, 2017, WPLLA hosted a program called “Deep Dives in Legal Research.”  During that program, we heard from two legal informatics startups, Casetext and Ravel Law.

Much like a teenager with a lofty goal, startups also dream of making it big, like being acquired by a major player in the field or launching a successful IPO.  Well, Ravel just hit the big-time!  According to industry reports, LexisNexis has acquired Ravel.

According to a June 8, 2017 post on LawSites , LexisNexis “will be fully integrating Ravel Law’s judicial analytics, data visualization technology and unique case law PDF content from the Harvard Law Library into Lexis Litigation Profile Suite and Lexis Advance.”

LexisNexis users should see Ravel’s full integration into existing services sometime in early 2018.

Ravel’s allure stemmed in part from its commitment to free and open access to the historical document collection it scanned from Harvard Law School.  Currently, LexisNexis states it will continue that access.

A June 8, 2017 post by Legaltech News provided additional detail: this deal was three years in the making. LexisNexis formalized the arrangement after an intense buying spree, first acquiring Lex Machina in 2015 and then Intelligize in 2016.  Legaltech News also notes that Ravel didn’t spend those three years just sitting around and waiting; rather, it developed a Firm Analytics Tool for its arsenal of research capabilities and announced that product launch just a few weeks ago.

It will be interesting to see how LexisNexis incorporates Ravel into its corporate umbrella, as well as how it will roll out or offer Ravel’s analytics tools.

If WPLLA members would like to learn more, please email a Board member and tell us your questions and concerns.  We would be happy to reach out to our Ravel contacts (or provide you with their contact info), or schedule a follow-up program for Fall 2017.


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A Tour of Pittsburgh Bookstores: Update

Here’s a great update to our blog post, A Tour of Pittsburgh Bookstores.

Amazing Books and Records is opening a new location on the South Side!  As noted by the Pittsburgh City Paper, this will be the first “full-time bookstore” on the South Side in many years.  Keep your fingers crossed for a grand opening in early June.

The owner of Amazing Books, Eric Ackland, plans on using the 4,600 square foot space to its fullest potential.  The book displays and inventory will be greater than what’s housed in either of the other locations (Downtown and Squirrel Hill) and he plans on opening a coffeeshop and café later.  Most exciting for literature lovers and blossoming writers is that the space will allow for different writing workshops, including the Steel Quill Writers Workshop.  Check back to the Amazing Books website or the Workshop’s Facebook page for an upcoming schedule.

Ackland acknowledges the risks associated with expansion, unconventional retail hours, and a new location in a notoriously nightlife-friendly neighborhood (see the City Paper article for a more nuanced explanation) – but the eventual workshops will hopefully become a significant source of revenue for the burgeoning chain.

Congrats to Amazing Books and Records!  Here’s hoping to more fun updates for this locally owned bookstore, and all of others from our original post.

Again, if we missed your favorite bookstore in our original post, send WPLLA an email and we’ll update the list ASAP!


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2017-8 Board Members Announced

Your 2017-2018 WPLLA Board Members are:

  • Dr. Joel Fishman – President
  • Pat Roncevich – Immediate Past President
  • Melanie Cline – Vice President/President Elect (newly elected)
  • Sarah Steers – Treasurer (newly elected)
  • Kate Frey – Secretary 
  • Karen Eriksen – Member-at-Large (newly elected)
  • Jamie Yancich – Member-at-Large

Thank you to Ann Unger (Immediate Past President) and Elizabeth Whittington (Member-at-Large) for serving on the Board.


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Alternative Library Spaces

Guest post by Sarah Steers, WPLLA Member-at-Large

A breathtaking, 19th Century brick-and-marble-and-granite behemoth certainly represents the idea of a library: formal, imposing, permanent.  But communities change.  Contemporary construction lines the main thoroughfares and financial resources don’t necessarily support breaking ground on a new stone library.  How can a city provide a bedrock location for much-needed (and wanted) library services in the face of such change?  By thinking out-of-the-box (and looking at big box stores), some cities have solved the crisis.

A former Wal-Mart  houses the largest single-floor library in the U.S. in McAllen, Texas.  While the original library worked for the city for over 60 years, eventually the community’s needs outgrew the space.  When McAllen Public Library’s New Main Branch opened in 2011, square footage tripled from 40,000 square feet to 123,000 square feet.  Patrons sip coffee in the café, use meeting rooms with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment, and attend lectures in the auditorium.  Kids even play outside in the exterior children’s area.  Before-and-after pictures of the construction can be seen here; the library even won the 2012 Library Interior Design Award  from the International Interior Design Association.

The old Hickory Hollow Mall in Nashville, TN found new life in 2014 as Commons at the Crossing when the city repurposed it as a branch library, park, and community center.  The outdoor spaces spill over onto the grounds of the Ford Ice Center  next door, home to the Nashville Predators, the city’s NHL team.  The library space offers interactive digital projection services – arrows light the way to the location of a selected book and quickly morph when stepped on.  The library embraced other forms of tech, too, with 3-D printing demonstrations and laptops and iPads available for checkout.

Not to be outdone, Austin Community College bought and repurposed the Highland Mall  in Austin, TX.  The college’s administrative offices are located nearby, and employees noticed that the building was largely empty by the end of 2010.  When city residents voted to approve two bond propositions, the funds paved the way for the redevelopment of the mall into ACC’s Highland Campus, a truly innovative academic space.  Opened in 2014, the former J.C. Penney houses most of the campus, including the branch’s library [http://sites.austincc.edu/newsroom/celebrate-highland-campus-grand-opening-august-27/].  For pictures of the 170-foot skylight, cut out to give the building a more modern feel and let in natural light, click here.

Rather than be constrained by the conventional idea of what a formal library “should” look like, these communities took what they had available to them and simply made it work!


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WPLLA 2017 Banquet

Please join us for the 2017 WPLLA Banquet! Our special guest will be AALL Vice President/President-Elect Greg Lambert.

When: Wed. May 10th at 5:30 pm
Where: McCormick & Schmick’s (Downtown – 301 5th Ave. Map)

PLEASE RSVP to Ann Unger.
SEND CHECKS to Liz Whittington at K&L Gates 210 Sixth Ave. Pittsburgh PA 15222 (Please note slight change from the flyer).

2017BanquetFlyer


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Reading Is FUNdamental! Book Drive April 9-15, 2017

Join the Western Pennsylvania Law Library Association (WPLLA) and the Special Libraries Association – Pittsburgh Chapter in an effort to help bring the joy of reading to local youth!

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly two-thirds of low-RIF Pittsburghincome American families do not own any books for their children. RIF Pittsburgh works to fill this critical void in our community by placing more than 88,000 new, high-quality, high-interest books into the hands of more than 21,000 of our city’s most economically disadvantaged children.”   RIF Pittsburgh

Reading Is Fundamental Pittsburgh  offers children in our area the opportunity to choose and own their very own books!

Here’s How You Can Help:

Select and Donate a Book (or two) Today:

During National Library Week, April 9-15, drop off your new book donations (for children ages 2-12) at either of the following locations:

The Barco Law Library circulation desk, on the 4th floor of the University of Pittsburgh Law Building, on the corner of Forbes & Bouquet in Oakland

Or at…

Babst Calland, Law Library, Two Gateway Center, 603 Stanwix St, Pittsburgh. (Please contact Mary Stacy, librarian, in advance to make arrangements at 412.394.6534 or mstacy@babstcalland.com.

AMAZON.com: Place a book order through Amazon.com and request delivery to:

Reading IS Fundamental Pittsburgh

10 Children’s Way, Suite 300 Pittsburgh, PA 15212        

 * Note: Please inform Karen Shephard at shephard@pitt.edu if you place an Amazon order, so we can alert RIF Pittsburgh that a book is on the way. Thanks!


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Save the Date: 4/27/17 Deep Data Dives in Legal Research

We have tentatively scheduled the next monthly WPLLA meeting for Thursday April 27th.  We’re dipping our toes into some deep data dives for legal research.

Join us for demonstrations of Ravel and Casetext’s CARA, followed by time for discussion.  Ann Unger will be hosting the entire event virtually, but she has a conference room reserved at Dickie McCamey for anyone who wants to stop by.

We’re finalizing a few details, but feel free to reach out to Ann or Sarah Steers with any questions.