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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.
7/24/2013 10:51:00 AM

Program Review: Exhibitor Showcase - Understanding Search Algorithms - How Lexis Advance Works

Marty Kilmer, V.P. of Product Platforms, and Ian Koenig, Chief Architect, set out to give us an inside look at how the search algorithms deliver results within Lexis Advance. Kilmer also announced that the next major release of Lexis Advance is coming soon, including navigation improvements and adding source titles to the Word Wheel (a great addition in my opinion).­

Before the discussion on the search algorithm, Koenig made two clarifications on searching issues:
  • The Word Wheel does not include associative retrieval (e.g., a query on "abortion" will not surface results for Roe v. Wade).
  • Lexis Advance does perform word stemming but will not search alternative word forms. For example a query for "produce" (as in "produce documents") will not find instances of the term "production."
Koenig then walked through the steps of a Lexis Advance search and how the search is analyzed by the algorithms in place.

The algorithm then ranks the results using the following criteria: 
  • Phrase recognition
  • Case names & citations
  • Concentration of terms
  • Coverage of terms
  • Prominence
  • Recentness (level of authority, validity)
  • Document segment the search terms appear in
  • Number of hits within the document of the search terms
Unfortunately, there was no time for questions - and this seemed to be common with the Exhibitor Showcases that I attended. I think this is quite a shame and at future meetings I would like to see these sessions either lengthened or AALL should urge vendors to allow time for questions. Attendees were encouraged to visit their booths for follow-up questions, but I believe facing questions in front of an audience would have put their feet to the fire, so to speak, more so than talking with them one on one on their turf.
Specifically, I expected them to address a key issue that has come up in discussions with my fellow law librarians – that the Lexis Advance search algorithm - specifically as it applies to natural language searches - is simply not as strong as that of some of its competitors. It is interesting to know how it works, but I would have liked to know what they’re doing to make it work better.

Posted By Diana Koppang at 7/24/2013 10:51:00 AM  0 Comments
7/24/2013 9:09:18 AM

Program Review -C5: Law for the Non-JD Librarian

Presenters: Ajaye Bloomstone, Coordinator; Francis X. Norton, Jr. , Speaker, Loyola University New Orleans; Heather Casey, Speaker, Georgetown University Law Center.

After Bloomstone's introductory and housekeeping notes, Norton led the session with a brisk and witty overview of US Primary & Secondary Law. After pointing out that our English roots begat language, a love of tea, and common law, he led with his thesis statement: the whole of law is born of conflict.

Norton’s content was truly a basic level introduction to US Law.  Levels of rulings were discussed (The Constitution > Statutes > Regulations), as were several basic US Primary Law sources, such as the US Code, the more helpful US Code Annotated, and the Code of Federal Regulation.

Secondary sources, unlike primary sources, are treatises that explain or comment on the law. He pointed out several types, such as Restatement of the Law, digests, and law journals.

Norton’s way of framing law research, asking the question “who cares?” (or “who might care?”), was probably the most useful takeaway concept if one already had some familiarity with the basics of US Law. Asking what conflicts are inherent in your query or whose jurisdictions will be affected by your conflict is a good way to narrow down what sort of resources to use. His talk was supplemented by a US Law Resources handout covered largely print sources of primary and secondary law.

Casey presented a practical guide to collecting Foreign, Comparative, and International Law materials. Casey broke down the components of FCIL materials and listed types of resources that generally accompany each, such as codes and gazettes. Her talk was supplemented by a handout listing major print as well as free and fee-based electronic FCIL resources.

Due to the nature of foreign publishing, managing the time expectations of researchers is key when hunting down resources. Creating an FCIL policy was also suggested to help smooth out questions relating to formats, foreign language acquisitions, and binding policies for pamphlet-type publications. For anyone beginning their journey into FCIL collection, Casey’s talk and handout were likely to be a great resource. 

Posted By Katherine arshall.1@onu.edu - Marshall at 7/24/2013 9:09:18 AM  0 Comments
7/23/2013 11:34:58 AM

Book Review: Entertainment Labor: An Interdisciplinary Bibliography

Entertainment Labor:  An Interdisciplinary Bibliography, by Jonathan Handel. Hollywood Analytics, 2013, 345 pages. Paperback, $95.00

Entertainment Labor: An Interdisciplinary Bibliography has something for everyone, but it is just that inclusiveness or comprehensiveness that could undermine the overall usefulness of the text. The book began as a compilation of sources Mr. Handel could refer to or choose as readings for his entertainment unions and guilds class for which he was an adjunct at UCLA School of Law. According to the introduction, “The bibliography grew and grew, and before long it became a project of its own.” Yet, because there is something for everyone in the book, it is hard to determine the intended audience or really latch on to a “best use” to which the book could be put.

The core of Entertainment Labor is an extensive collection of books and articles that address labor unions in the entertainment field. These books and articles are divided into chapters by subjects including Social Science Books, Selected Biographies (focused on notable individuals, like Ronald Reagan, who were heavily involved with entertainment unions like the Screen Actors Guild), Theses and Dissertations, Legal Books, and Legal Articles and Reports. Readers of Entertainment Labor may find the following helpful, depending on their very specific research needs:

  • The chapter Legal Articles and Reports is lengthy (approximately 40 pages) and would be handy for anyone conducting a preemption check before writing a new article on the union system.
  • The chapters Selected Biographies, Books About the Blacklist, Books about Depiction of Labor and Class, and Social Science Books would be handy if you’re building a historical picture of the relationship between unions and the entertainment industry.
  • Those negotiating against or on behalf of entertainment labor unions may appreciate chapter 16, Union and Guild Materials; chapter 9, Practical Books; and chapter 23, Union and Management Websites. Each of these chapters is very useful for someone unfamiliar with the entertainment labor union system looking for a bird’s-eye view.
  • Looking to leave library life behind? Check out the second half of Practical Books (Chapter 9) for texts on careers in the film industry.

Other chapters, however (particularly those that are only a page or two long), may become lost in the comprehensiveness of the rest of the chapters. For example, University Classes lists classes offered on labor unions in the entertainment industry. Software lists a couple of programs one could use to account for royalties and other earnings. Government Agencies lists four agencies (without providing contact information) that may make decisions affecting entertainment workers. It’s not that these brief chapters aren’t handy, but they seem a bit sparse compared to the other chapters.

Notable features described on the back book cover are quite useful for the most part: brief annotations, descriptions of legal cases, pinpoint pages and chapters, URLs, and a detailed chapter on materials available directly from unions and guilds. However, I found the 90-page index a bit incongruous and lacking in contextual clues. For example, WGA and Writers Guild of America are separate index terms, though they refer to the same subject. (The two terms do cross reference each other, however.) Also, there are no sub-terms to organize the material for the reader. The lawsuit Stone v. Writers Guild of America, West, is indexed three ways: under Stone v. Writers Guild of America, West; Writers Guild of America, West, Stone v.; and Writers Guild of America. Any dates used in the text are separate index terms (e.g., 1911, 1920–1960s, 1939–1953). Consequently, while the index is wildly thorough, it is not necessarily a tool one could use to get a sense of the material in the book.

Those issues aside, it is helpful that Mr. Handel has indexed his annotations. That indexing served as a handy cross reference among the various works. For example, if one looked up Aaron Spelling Productions, Inc. v. Society of Composers and Lyricists in the index, one would see the page on which the case is discussed (page 184) as well as the pages on which other works discussing the Aaron Spelling case appear. In effect, the index provides select secondary sources to refer to when reading about a particular case.

For any librarian looking for a comprehensive, very specific work on resources regarding guilds and unions in the entertainment industry, Entertainment Labor:  An Interdisciplinary Bibliography, could meet your needs...and perhaps even those needs you never knew you had until you've seen the unique scope of this work.

Ingrid Mattson is a Reference Librarian at Moritz Law Library, Moritz College of Law, The Ohio State University. She taught Media Law and Ethics to film students for five years prior to becoming a librarian.

Posted By Ingrid Mattson at 7/23/2013 11:34:58 AM  0 Comments