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The AALL Spectrum® Blog is published by the American Association of Law Libraries. Submissions from AALL members and other members of the legal community are highly encouraged. Opinions and editorial views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of AALL. AALL does not assume any responsibility for statements advanced by contributors. The previous Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.
8/3/2012 12:40:48 PM

B-6: Finding Your Inner Nancy Drew: Public Records Resources Online

Presenters: Jennifer McMahan and Bridget Gilhool

I was looking forward to this presentation since the moment I saw it on the schedule, lo these many months ago.  I teach a course in litigation and ADR research which includes a section on public records, and was hoping to see some new resources to show my students.  (I was not disappointed!)  That said, I think that just about any law librarian would benefit from this program. 

The most important point about “Finding Your Inner Nancy Drew” is that the presentation was incredibly useful.  Jennifer McMahon and Bridget Gilhool have done sessions like this many times in the past, and it showed in their vast knowledge of the subject, combined with real-world tips.  These included always checking any records website to gauge its accuracy (using yourself as an example search is a good way to do this).  Even the smallest tips can save a lot of time: when doing a basic Google search for public records, searching for “LastName, FirstName” instead of “FirstName LastName” is likely to yield many more useful results, as this is how many records are written. 

Another note is that although McMahan and Gilhool tried to focus on free resources, they did point out that some websites have changed from free to paid and then back to free again, so it is always best to check.  As well, when one has access to websites that summarize public records, it can be useful to start there, and then head to more specific databases to verify individual points.

The session was completely packed with information—six pages of useful links (handout available here), broken down into categories such as birth and death records, marriage and divorce records, and information on people who are licensed to drive, affiliated with a corporation, registered to vote, or have graduated from college.  (This last can be surprisingly tricky—college degrees are not a matter of public record.)

The presenters kept their talk interesting by using the websites to search for famous people and organizations: one of the lawyers in the Lizzie Borden murder trial (for a local connection), Laura Bush, and other political and pop culture celebrities made appearances.  In fact, I would have preferred even more examples like these, especially because they showed how one can dig deeper into some of the websites.

Overall, an excellent session that will be extremely useful to me in the coming months and years.  Highly recommended for any librarian who has ever needed to search public records.

Posted By Stephanie Ziegler at 8/3/2012 12:40:48 PM  0 Comments
6/29/2012 9:29:57 AM

Book Review—Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators, Crews, Kenneth D., Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators, 3rd Edition. Chicago, IL, American Library Association, 2012, 192 pages inclusive of appendices and index. Softcover, $57, ISBN 978-0-8

The stated purpose of Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators“ is to provide a basis for understanding and working with the copyright issues of central importance to education, librarianship, and scholarship.” (p. xii)  Mission accomplished!  Kenneth Crews has written an excellent resource, providing effective strategies for both librarians and educators to use to address the complex copyright issues that arise in schools, libraries and other educational settings without sacrificing the teaching and scholarship needs of their patrons.  This book is a must have for all library types.

Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators takes the reader on a “graceful and systematic walk through the principles and functioning of copyright.” (p.1).  It is the authors hope that by reflecting on the entire copyright path from beginning to end, the reader will find various steps along the way that will lead to a more direct and easier answers to their questions and encourage a move away from the often relied upon, and complicated concept of fair use. As such, Part One of this book, The Reach of Copyright, addresses the basics of copyright protections, while Part Two, Rights of Ownership, discusses who owns the copyright, how these determinations are made, and the rights of the copyright owner.  Part Three provides an in-depth discussion of the law’s fair use exception.  In this section the author painstakingly walks the reader through the importance of fair use in the growth of knowledge, the language of the statute, and the four factors used to determine whether the exception applies.  In the final chapter in this section, the author applies the fours factors to common scenarios that arise in the academic and library settings.  In Part Four of the book, Focus on Education and Libraries, the author examines the TEACH Act, Section 108 provisions and how changes in technology, the rise of distance education, and other classroom innovations have affected the application of traditional copyright principles in these non-traditional settings.  Part Five, the Special Features section, discusses the complexities encountered when dealing with musical compositions and sound recordings, the DMCA and its anti-circumvention features, the law’s application to unpublished materials and archives, and obtaining permissions from copyright owners.

From beginning to end, there are many extra features in this book, when used in combination with its straight-forward, clearly written text, makes this an excellent resource on this topic.  They provide the reader with a wealth of information that can be used to clarify the points the author is making in the text.  First, most chapters begin with a list of “key points” the author hopes to convey, making it clear from the beginning which aspects of the law will be explained in that chapter.  Then, throughout the chapter, the reader will find boxes that provide citation to relevant cases, references to other chapters in the book for more detailed explanations, hypotheticals applying the law, and extensive end notes at the chapter’s conclusion.  All of this allows the reader to see how these concepts have been applied both by the courts and in common library and academic situations, making it easier to understand the complexities of this area of law. 

Furthermore, the appendices provided by the author are also very useful.  The first is selected portions of the Copyright Act the reader can refer to while going through the text of the book.  Next are several checklists the reader can use to help apply various aspects of the law.  There is a checklist to make fair use determinations; a checklist for applying the TEACH ACT requirements; and checklists for libraries to use when making preservation or replacement copies, or copies for a private study.  Finally, the author provides a model letter for permission requests, a guide to additional readings on this topic, and a subject index.  This book is more than just theory.  It also focuses on the practical implications of the law and provides the tools librarians and educators need to make informed decisions about the use of the material.

Overall, this is an excellent resource and a must-have for anyone who deals with copyright issues in libraries and educational settings.  The author has succeeded in providing a clear path for the reader that will enable her to make decisions that comply with the spirit of the copyright laws while protecting the interests of the copyright holders.

Posted By Christine Iaconeta at 6/29/2012 9:29:57 AM  0 Comments