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 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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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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