March 26, 1996
The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), assisted by generous support from Boston-based legal publisher Little, Brown and Company, Paul McLaughlin, President, Professional Publishing Group, will fund research for a new Internet search engine. The project will be completed by January 1997.
This first-of-its-kind legal information search engine is the brainchild of Bert J. Dempsey and Robert Vreeland of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Information and Library Science, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Dempsey and Vreeland are the first recipients of the AALL/Little Brown and Company Research Grant, an award program conducted by the AALL Research Agenda Committee to fund projects of practical value to professionals who create, disseminate or use legal and law-related information. The Committee and its Advisory Group chose the Internet as the first year's topic and invited applications until early February.
Dempsey, Assistant Professor, School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, holds an MS in Computer Science, an MS in Mathematics, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Virginia. He received the 1993 Most Outstanding Graduate Student Award from the Department of Computer Science, University of Virginia and has written many computer related articles for various journals and conferences, including Journal of Computer Networks and ISDN Systems and the First International Workshop on Advanced Communications and Applications for High-Speed Networks.
Vreeland holds a BA in Government, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia and a JD in Law, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He is currently working on his MSLS at the School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has extensive experience in World Wide Web page construction and has developed custom indexing software within the School.
A part of Dempsey and Vreeland's project summary provides a lucid description of the Internet search engine:
The hypothesis behind the search engine is that knowledge of the specialized needs of the legal researcher along with innovative use of emerging World Wide Web technologies (e.g. the new Java language) can be used to produce a superior Internet searching tool. The key features of search engine include: (1) support for aiding the user in focusing searches on Internet sites specialized for the law, (2) a rich interface combining active content and multi-window display to assist in organizing and managing the search process, (3) a search session recording mechanism to enable incremental and multiple-person searching, and (4) automated query submission to a list of Internet sites. To evaluate the effectiveness and degree of user acceptance for the search engine software, this project will include extensive user studies in conjunction with the Katherine R. Everett Law Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
AALL member Laura N. Gasaway (Director and Professor of Law, Kathrine R. Everett Law Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina) will coordinate the user studies with Dempsey and Vreeland. Gasaway says her library "enthusiastically supports the proposed Internet-based research project. Since our staff and patrons regularly use the Internet, the proposed research tool fits well with our on-going mission to address the growing body of electronically available legal documents... We very much look forward to this exciting project."
The Research Advisory Group is part of the AALL Research Committee is a standing committee that reviews and proposes changes to the Association's research agenda, works within the Association and with other library associations to encourage research, and administers the Association's research grant program by reviewing applications, making awards, and monitoring research activities. Advisory Group members responsible for implementing the AALL/Little, Brown and Company Research Grant Program are Linda Maslow, Chair (Assistant Librarian for Research Services, Supreme Court of the United States Library, Washington D.C.), Leah Chanin (Director of the Law Library and Professor of Law, University of the District of Columbia, Washington D.C.), Patricia DeGeorges (Legal Library Manager, Pfizer, Inc. Law Library, New York, New York), Roberta Shaffer (Library Director, Covington & Burling, Washington D.C.) and Victoria K. Trotta, Law Librarian, Lewis and Roca Library, Phoenix, Arizona). Regarding the selected proposal, Maslow says,"Dempsey and Vreeland's project is exactly the kind of visionary work we should be supporting as an association of legal information professionals. An Internet search engine for legal research will be a great boon for all of us and will set a gold standard for the type of projects the AALL Research Committee should pursue."
The American Association of Law Libraries was founded in 1906 to promote and enhance the value of law libraries to the legal and public communities, to foster the profession of law librarianship, and to provide leadership in the field of legal information. Today, with over 5,000 members, AALL is generally recognized as the leader in the areas of legal research and law-related information management and retrieval. The Association represents law librarians and related professionals who are affiliated with a wide range of institutions: law firms; law schools; corporate legal departments; courts; and local, state and federal government agencies.