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This blog provides a space for conversations about articles and ideas found in AALL Spectrum, the monthly magazine of the American Association of Law Libraries. The previous blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.
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 Emily Marcum 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
2/26/2013 11:29:19 AM

The March Issue of Spectrum is Now Available on AALLNET

We hope you enjoy the articles from the latest issue of Spectrum and encourage you to share your thoughts and feedback using the "comments" link below!

Public Relations: Digital Signage
A new tool in your arsenal of knowledge
By Deborah Schander

How Can We Make Our Discovery Layer More User-Centric?
Using Banned Books Week to reconnect with our users
By Christine Korytnyk Dulaney

The "Social" Side of Law Libraries
How are libraries using and managing social media
By Ashley Ahlbrand

Request for Proposal: a Requirement for all Professionals
Using an RFP to select the best technology system for your library
By Richard Jost

Cheaper Online?
Our firm library's gradual move to all electronic
By LaJean Humphries

Attitude is Everything
Surveying the perceptions and attitudes of embedded law librarians
By Andrea Alexander and Jordan Jefferson

The Missing Link
Making research easier with linked citations
By Nick Harrell

From the Editor
Fresh Bread
By Mark E. Estes

From the President
2013-2016 Strategic Directions: Mission Based, Goal Oriented
By Jean M. Wenger

Washington Brief
Opening the Government
By Emily Feltren

The Reference Desk
I have been serving on the Executive Board of my regional association as secretary-treasurer, and it is almost expected that I run for vice president/president-elect. However, I am in the process of changing jobs. I am torn between my committment to my association and my responsibilities to my new employer. What steps should I take?
By Susan Catterall

Member to Member
When you are taking notes, do you prefer to use a computer, tablet, smart phone, or paper and pen? Why?

Views from You
A view of the Placer County Courthouse in Auburn, California, from the front porch of the Placer County Law Library

Posted By Ashley St. John at 2/26/2013 11:29:19 AM  0 Comments
TOPICS: spectrum