Legal Scholarship and the Expectations of Old, Western White Guys

Today’s Read:
Alonso Gurmendi and Paula Baldini Miranda da Cruz, Writing in International Law and Cultural Barriers (Part I), August 7, 2020, http://opiniojuris.org/2020/08/07/writing-in-international-law-and-cultural-barriers-part-i/

It’s getting to be that time of year. I’m staying afloat, and feeling OK and reasonably productive, but waves of emails and requests and things that need to be done ASAP are threatening to pull me under if I’m not careful. Alas, COVID hasn’t really changed the volume or urgency of the work in my world, I’m afraid. At least I don’t spend 90 minutes a day commuting right now. But whether I am always using that found 90 minutes productively is a different story.

Anyway, I wanted to get in a read before the crush of the fall semester is here. I did myself a favor and chose a short blog post this time, and I am so glad I did! This wonderful piece by Alonso Gurmendi and Paula Baldini Miranda da Cruz really got me thinking about language and legal commentary. It allowed me to further contemplate some of the thinking I was doing in my last blog post, in which I explored the legal canon, who decides what’s in it, and how librarians may be complicit in that system: a system that definitely fails to amplify minority voices.

Well. We who care about legal literature must ask ourselves what place foreign-trained legal scholars, especially those who are not native English speakers, have in that literature, mustn’t we?

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Who Decides What’s In “The Canon”?

Today’s Read: Alexandra Kemmerer, Juristische Kanonfragen: Andere Auffassungen nähren die Neugier (Legal Canon Questions: Other Views Feed Curiosity), July 27, 2020, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, https://www.faz.net/aktuell/wissen/geist-soziales/juristische-kanonfragen-gegenprobe-auf-den-juristischen-kanon-16682327.html.

Today’s read is a short newspaper article written by my friend Alexandra Kemmerer, who is a Berlin-based senior fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law (located in Heidelberg).  She also writes for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, which is where this article was published.

This article is in German, and it stretched me in terms of both language and substance, so I hope I get everything right AND can do it justice.  I also want to use it as a springboard for some thoughts I have about how the concept of the canon affects academic librarianship.

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Who were the Members of the Nazi Party?: An Empirical Study

Today’s Read:  Christian Stass, NSDAP: Neun Millionen Deutsche…, Die Zeit, June 24, 2020, https://www.zeit.de/2020/27/juergen-w-falter-nationalsozialismus-nsdap-politologie/komplettansicht.

I have spent a lot of time over the last few months, as have many other thoughtful people I know, wondering about Trump supporters.  Who are these people, and what motivates them to not only have supported Trump in 2016, but also to continue to support him in spite (or maybe because) of his performance over the last few years?

A few archetypal traits keep coming to my mind when I think about who Trump supporters are, shaped by several factors, such as people I know who support him (including many members of my own family) and the media.

For better or worse, here is the list:

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Copyright Law Impacts How Libraries Provide Access to E-Books: During a Pandemic, Should It?

Today’s Read:
Congressional Research Service (CRS), COVID-19 and Libraries: E-Books and Intellectual Property Issues (Apr. 28, 2020), https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/LSB/LSB10453

This topic has been on my mind a lot since we all went on lockdown and couldn’t access physical books anymore.  The pandemic has not stopped research, of course.  There are still deadlines to be met.

My focus, as always, is on supporting our LLM students.  They cannot graduate without submitting a research paper, and some of them were still doing research as late as April (the original deadline for LLM papers this year was April 25, although many students got extensions).  To have their access to our print collection blocked by circumstances of fate was very unfair, and I felt so badly for them.

Not to make light of what is a very serious global health pandemic, but there are, of course, a few not-negative ways to spin this.  It wasn’t as if only some of the students could not access print books — the restriction affected everyone equally.  Furthermore, LLM theses are not graded on a curve, at least not as far as I know.  The students do not compete against each other.  When you are writing an LLM thesis, the goal is to do the best and most thoroughly-researched paper you can possibly do under the circumstances you find yourself.

When I was writing my own LLM thesis, I had about 6 weeks to do the bulk of the work because, in Germany, you are not permitted to begin work on your thesis until you finish your LLM coursework.  My leave of absence was nearly over by then, and I really needed to get back to my job in the library (where I had a quick look at some relevant resources in Harvard’s library collection, in addition to wrapping up the writing and editing).  I made it work the best I could.  Could my thesis have been better?  Absolutely, if I hadn’t felt so rushed to gather and process sources, and then pound it out.  But it got done, and it got a decent grade, and I was able to finish my LLM.

I tell that story to show that I really feel for the students, in whatever circumstances they find themselves.  And where they were finding themselves during the final few months of this academic year was locked out of the library, with no access to print books unless they’d checked them out beforehand.

Duplicating print and electronic resources in a sustainably cost-effective way is a conversation that we have been having in our library for a very long time, and restrictions on lending e-books is always a primary element of the discussion.  So I was glad to find the CRS report that I am discussing today, which frames this conversation against the backdrop of the current situation.

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Getting a License to Use an Out-of-Print Work Published in Germany

Today’s Read:
Deutsche Nationalbibliothek (German National Library), Lizenzierungservice Vergriffene Werke (VW-LIS) (Licensing Service for Out-of-Print Works), https://www.dnb.de/DE/Professionell/Services/VW-LiS/vwlis_node.html (https://perma.cc/K3CE-Y38F)

The German National Library (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, or DNB) recently announced a service to offer licenses to use (Nutzungslizenzen) works that are out-of print (vergriffen).

This is a very intriguing and timely announcement.  With libraries and archives currently closed to the public because of COVID-19, there has been a marked uptick in the requests that we are seeing from researchers for digitized materials.  Establishing a reasonable licensing procedure that would allow us to offer digitized versions of out-of-print works could really help ease some of the pain that researchers are experiencing right now.  I do not know if there is a similar service offered here in the United States — if not, it would be an interesting conversation to have about whether the Library of Congress should consider offering one.

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Equitable Information Access and Librarianship Praxis: Let’s Get Critical

Today’s Read:
Lauren Smith & Michael Hanson
Communities of Praxis: Transforming Access to Information for Equity
The Serials Librarian, v. 76, nos. 1-4, pp. 42-49
DOI: 10.1080/0361526X.2019.1593015

I recently submitted a proposal to write a chapter on Critical Legal Studies for a new library science textbook, and it was accepted.

In the proposal, I used the Critical Legal Studies research guide I created for our library to create a framework for the future book chapter. Basically, I want to get the content of this guide into some kind of written form, since library research guides have a bit of an ephemeral quality.

While the chapter will be primarily about critical studies in law, it will also include some basic information about critical librarianship. I want to encourage future law librarians consider issues of disproportionate representation and information access in their own professional practice. Or, put another way, I hope that they will choose to incorporate praxis into their practice of librarianship.

For this reason, this recent article from The Serials Librarian caught my eye, and I decided to blog about it. The article is based on a presentation given by Lauren Smith at the 2018 NASIG (formerly the North American Serials Interest Group) conference. In her talk, Smith discussed three themes that are necessary to “democratize” information, which means making sure that all people are empowered to exercise their right to access it: power, praxis, and privilege.

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Creativity, Connection, and Conversion

Today’s Read:
Austen Ivereigh, An Interview with Pope Francis: “A Time of Great Uncertainty,” Commonweal, Apr. 8, 2020, https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/time-great-uncertainty

Today’s occasional read is not my normal fare. I was very moved by an interview with Pope Francis that was published on the Commonweal website last week, and want to talk about it.

I am not Catholic but I am a great admirer of many aspects of the pope’s ideology. I found many aspects of this article to be extremely relevant to my own experience of life under lockdown so far. There is clearly a reason that many non-Catholics see this pope as a moral and spiritual leader for our times.

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Contemplating Work and Burnout

Today’s Read:
Luisa Barthauer et al.
Burnout and Career (Un)sustainability: Looking into the Blackbox of Burnout Triggered Career Turnover Intentions
Journal of Vocational Behavior, v. 117, 2020
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2019.103334

Now that so many of us are working from home (WFH), I imagine there is a lot of thinking that we can never get away from work. Our worklife is bleeding into our homelife in ways that we have never experienced before.

I personally am struggling with uncertainty, a lack of diverse people to talk to about how I’m feeling about things that bother me, and the sense that every single one of my own shortcomings is (a) amplified, (b) unfixable, and (c) annoying and burdensome to anyone who happens to hear me talk about them. These have been standard thoughts for me in a work context for many years, and I have been practicing not letting those thought invade my non-work life lately. But that practice is, obviously, in tatters right now.

If there was ever a time for working on self-compassion and self-care, this is it, and I am doing it. When we do this, we face a lot of things about ourselves that we may not like that much, and that we are struggling to change. If this is happening to you, you are not alone. You are OK now, and you’re going to be OK later.

This is a rather lengthy lead-up to the article that I am looking at today, but I am not apologizing for that. We must talk about how we are struggling right now so that we can process it all.

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Social Connections in the Workplace: Why They Matter

Today’s Occasional Read:
Julianne Holt-Lunstad
Fostering Social Connection in the Workplace
American Journal of Health Promotion, v. 35, 2018
https://doi.org/10.1177/0890117118776735a

Every once in a while it’s nice to keep things relatively simple. I have read and written about some very complicated articles since I started this blog. Today, I decided to take a look at a short article about why we need social connections in the workplace.

This topic is timely, of course, as so many people (including nearly all my colleagues in the library) are working from home right now because of the coronavirus. This topic is also timely because I am serving on a committee at my library that is examining workplace culture and establishing a set of cultural norms for our organization. Since I volunteered for this committee, I have been asking myself a lot why workplace cultural norms are so important. This article was a good reminder of some of the answers to that question.

The science around social connections and relationships is pretty clear about their benefits. Social isolation and loneliness, each on their own, have been found to lead to physical and mental health problems, premature cognitive decline, and other things that make life unpleasant for people. However, it is those two factors working in tandem, meaning that a person is both socially isolated (lacks a social support structure) AND lonely (lacks sufficiently meaningful social connections), that really do some serious damage, especially if the person is experiencing this at work and it impacts the time and energy they can spend developing social connections outside of the office.

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Keep Calm, Carry On, and Wash Your Hands

Today’s Occasional Read:
Dori B. Reissman et al.
Pandemic Influenza Preparedness: Adaptive Responses to an Evolving Challenge
Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
V. 3, No. 2, Article 13, 2006
doi: https://doi.org/10.2202/1547-7355.1233

Welcome to our new reality.

As the country slowly shuts down due to the CoronaVirus pandemic [https://perma.cc/3P5T-GZ2D], I decided to return from my long hiatus of reading and writing about a scholarly article to focus on the literature that discusses the psychological impact of dealing with a global health crisis like this.

This article was written in 2006, in response to the avian flu virus, but it honestly could have been written yesterday. I found so much content here that is extremely relevant to life today.

The authors begin by defining a pandemic virus as having four characteristics; (1) it’s a new virus emerging from an animal-related source; (2) people don’t have immunity to it; (3) people get sick from it; and (4) the virus spreads easily and efficiently, “through coughing, sneezing,or a hand-shake.” (p.1)

Check, check, check, and check.

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