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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.
3/18/2013 1:01:16 AM

Book Review: A Legal Framework for Emerging Business Models: Dynamic Networks as Collaborative Contracts

Book Review: A Legal Framework for Emerging Business Models: Dynamic Networks as Collaborative Contracts. Weitzenboeck, Emily M. Edward Elgar, 2012. Hardcover, ISBN: 978-1-78100-465-4. $145. 363 pages.

The first chapter of Emily M. Weitzenboeck’s treatise A Legal Framework for Emerging Business Models: Dynamic Networks as Collaborative Contracts lays the framework for the chapters that follow, describing dynamic networks, explaining organizational evolution trends, and defining the related terminology. I’d say this is the most important part of the book, as these terms and overall concepts are going to be unfamiliar to most U.S. law students, professors, and practitioners without some serious background in theoretical business studies, with an emphasis on technology and a specific interest in international business.

Dynamic networks are relatively recent organizational forms that include “an increased use of joint ventures, subcontracting and licensing activities,” all of which “can be assembled and reassembled in order to meet complex and changing competitive conditions” (9, quoting a cited 1986 article by Miles and Snow). They all include vertical disaggregation, brokers, market mechanisms, and full-disclosure information systems. In much-needed layman's terms, these are business arrangements in which large firms outsource major aspects of their operations to other companies, which puts them at an advantage in competitive markets with multiple organizations battling it out in the same fields.

Weitzenboeck, a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Oslo, Norway, in the Norwegian Research Center for Computers & Law, is obviously an expert in the field, but I found myself struggling with the abstract concepts she presented until she turned to more concrete examples with a series of case studies on dynamic networks in various European nations in Chapter 2.

Chapter 3, “The Precontractual Stage,” refers to United States law for the first time in the book, citing the Uniform Commercial Code, the Restatement of Contracts Second, and even a law review article by the venerable contracts treatise author E.A. Farnsworth, all dealing with the obligation of good faith imposed in the performance of every contract. At that point, I can say I’ve never been so relieved to read some U.S. contract law, after encountering so many unfamiliar jurisdictions and their own unique laws, to say nothing of the high-tech business-speak. The “good faith doctrine” comes up throughout the book, including as the focus of a later chapter, as a common factor in most nations’ versions of contract law.

In the end, despite its discussions of contract law, partnership law, and contractual networks, there are so few relevant United States law examples that the majority of U.S. law libraries would not refer to it much, if at all. A typical academic law library would not find much use for this title, unless the law school had an LLM program or other classes in international business law. Law firms engaged in any sort of international business dealing with contracts, especially in highly technical industries, may find it more relevant for their libraries or offices, as would universities with international business and MBA programs. European law libraries and firms would find Weitzenboeck’s book more useful as well.

Louis Rosen is a Reference Librarian and Assistant Professor of Law Library at Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Florida.

Posted By Louis Rosen at 3/18/2013 1:01:16 AM  0 Comments
3/6/2013 11:29:57 AM

Book Review: Greening Libraries

Greening Libraries, by Antonelli, M. and McCullough, M. Library Juice Press, 2012, 270 pages inclusive of author information and index. Softcover, $32, ISBN 978-1-936117-08-6.

The use of the verb “greening” in the title made me think that this book would be a how-to guide for making a library more eco-friendly. It is not. This book is a collection of essays on the subject of green libraries. Mostly, the essays consist of case studies of how specific libraries became more environmentally friendly or adopted environmental policies. Therefore, this book is something a librarian might purchase if they were looking to brainstorm possible ideas for greening rather than a book a librarian would purchase to learn how to implement a green idea.

This book is not geared specifically toward law libraries, but rather libraries of any type. Most of the authors either come from university settings or public library settings. Because of its essay structure rather than how-to orientation, this book may be better suited to an academic collection than a firm or government library collection. However, a few of the essays are good enough to be recommended for a librarian’s personal collection.

The book is divided into three parts, one on green buildings, one on green committees, services and programs, and one on green resources. In my opinion, the most useful essay from the first section is “Greening Libraries in Historic Buildings” by Aldritch, because most law librarian readers will be part of an existing building rather than facing an upcoming construction project and most of the other essays describe how to plan buildings to be green at the design stage. From section two, the most useful essay is the one that describes how East Carolina University created a green committee and the committee successes: “Tending the Garden: Growing Your Own Green Library Committee” by Andresen, Gustavson, Hisle and Reynolds. It is the third section which contains my overall favorite essay of the book. “Beyond Swag: Reflections on Libraries, Pencils, and the Limits of Green Consumerism” by Hudson is an essay that examines our practices of promoting libraries with free products such as pencils and vendor’s free products at conferences. At issue is whether giving out free “green” products can truly be considered green given that green giveaway items are less environmental destructive rather than non-environmentally destructive and that giveaways in general play into the idea that we are consumers who can easily be swayed by collecting an endless number of duplicative items.

The bottom line is that if you’re looking for a practical guide, look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for food for environmental thought, this might be a good place.

Emily Marcum is Law Librarian for the law firm of Lightfoot, Franklin & White, L.L.C. in Birmingham, Alabama.

Posted By Ashley St. John at 3/6/2013 11:29:57 AM  0 Comments
TOPICS: book reviews
3/1/2013 3:05:49 PM

Book Review: A Documentary History of the American Civil War Era, Vol. 1: Legislative Achievements

Mackey, Thomas C., ed., A Documentary History of the American Civil War Era, Vol. 1:  Legislative Achievements (Knoxville, Tenn.:  Univ. of Tenn. Press, 2012), 331 pp., ISBN: 1-57233-869-5, ISBN-13: 978-1-57233-869-2, $49.95 (hardcover)

Produced as part of the University of Tennessee Press’ “Voices of the Civil War” series, this volume is the first of a projected three-volume set compiling selected primary documents of the “Civil War era,” which covers a period ranging from the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 to the Supreme Court’s decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896).  Each of the 51 document headings in the first volume, which focuses on legislative material, is introduced with an essay establishing a historical context for the document(s) contained therein.  Not surprisingly, by far the most prevalent source is the United States Statutes at Large.  Despite certain idiosyncratic editorial decisions and a few transcription errors in the primary documents, the first volume will prove a useful resource for historians of both legal and non-legal focus, and its value should increase once the remaining two volumes are released.

This first volume is intended to cover “Legislative Achievements”; the second, due out on April 15, “Political Arguments”; the third, release date to be announced, “Judicial Decisions.”  Given the stated organization, certain of the selections in this first volume may raise an eyebrow or two.  Excluding the presidential vetoes, which make sense in this context, there are three inclusions from the executive branch that pose a bit of a mystery, although one could say that two of them are quasi-legislative in character, and the third is combined with an act of the Kentucky House of Representatives.  Even so, this tends to make the set’s topical delineation a little counter-intuitive. 

As the introduction notes, the selection of documents “is not meant to be complete, just representative” (Mackey, supra, at xv).  Although the bulk of the selections have to do with the origins and conduct of the War and Reconstruction, with particular emphasis on civil rights, there are a couple of outliers as well—the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 and the National Banking Act of 1863, for example--which appear to have been included because of their long-term importance to modern American infrastructure.  Indeed, less than half of the selections actually occur during the Civil War, and, with a couple of exceptions, the volume disregards Confederate legislation.  The more extensive coverage is on the postwar period to 1878, with particular emphasis on the running battle between Andrew Johnson and the Republican Congress, culminating in Articles of Impeachment against the President in 1868.  I, for one, think this emphasis was an excellent decision, and, for the constitutional law scholar, the interplay between the Executive and Congress on the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Reconstruction Acts, and the Freedmen’s Bureau Acts raises thorny issues echoed in the current Voting Rights Act debates—especially Johnson’s stated belief that there was no need for the legislation, and that it unfairly targeted Southern states. 

There are some very minor transcription errors, but they’re reasonably manageable with an application of context.  The work is also indexed well, although one or two items are placed out of chronological order—usually because paired with another document from an earlier date.  Ultimately, though, these don’t detract substantially from the work’s utility.

Overall, I found Mackey’s explanatory essays to be concise and informative.  The occasional repetition between them makes clear that this work isn’t intended primarily to be read cover-to-cover, but as a reference work for legal historians and political scientists.  The legal focus will also draw your constitutional law professors in, and I believe that the value of the selections will only increase when the other two volumes appear.  A preview of forthcoming content is even provided in the form of a chronology that lists all the primary documents in the set.  Whether your faculty’s field is civil rights, Con Law, or legal history, they should find this a convenient resource for primary source research into many of the laws that formed modern America.

David E. Matchen, Jr., is the Circulation/Reference Librarian at the University of Baltimore School of Law, and is trying his hand at fantasy baseball this season.

Posted By David Matchen at 3/1/2013 3:05:49 PM  0 Comments