Resource Radar: American Prison Newspapers, 1800-2020

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

I have so much to write about, but I’ll have to start with a fascinating JSTOR webinar I attended about a project to digitize American prison newspapers. The project is led by Reveal Digital, which has been part of ITHAKA since 2012. Their mission is to publish Open Access primary sources from historically excluded groups. Currently, the prison newspaper project is about 45 percent funded, and as the collection is being digitized, only those libraries who have contributed to the fund can access the content via JSTOR. Once the project is fully funded, it will be open access!

Merced College offers courses to students who are incarcerated. These classes are taught in person, but, because of COVID-19, they are correspondence courses this semester. I think this will be a particularly exciting collection for our faculty who teach in the surrounding state prisons and those who teach about mass incarceration on campus.

(If you’re an academic librarian, you may also be interested in the Merced College Library’s correspondence reference service for these students. My colleague Karrie Bullock serves as the lead for this service. It was partially modeled after San Francisco Public Library’s prison reference service. Karrie and I attended a presentation led by SFPL librarians Jeanie Austin and Rachel Kinnon and intern Rosa Hall called “What If Patrons Can’t Access the Internet?: Reference by Mail for Patrons Who Are Incarcerated” during the CLA Conference in 2019, and she got lots of great ideas from the session.)

During the JSTOR webinar I attended, which I discovered was the last of a three-part series, I also learned about the Prison Journalism Project (PJP), which provides an online platform and journalism education to help”incarcerated and incarceration-impacted writers tell stories about their communities.” The original vision was to establish journalism education programs in prisons, but when COVID-19 hit, the founders began an online publication on Medium asking for submissions from those in prison. With the help of the American Prison Writing Archive, they received a substantial number of submissions on a variety of topics. In April, the Prison Journalism Project migrated to their own website where they publish writing and artwork by prisoners, formerly incarcerated people, and friends and family who have been impacted by incarceration.

The organization offers submission guidelines, FAQs, writing prompts, and handouts to guide writers. While these are available online, physical copies are also sent to prisons. Submissions can be emailed or sent through JPay or through the US mail. Stories are scanned and then transcribed and edited by volunteers. (The PJP is currently seeking volunteers to help transcribe or edit stories!) PJP publishes about 10 stories a week. Writers retain copyright of their work, and every writer also gets a portfolio page. On the website, stories are tagged by state and topics. The co-founders are also working to develop a toolkit for educators, which will include a textbook in comic book format.

I also learned about the San Quentin News and the podcast Ear Hustle in this webinar. One of the co-hosts of the podcast is actually inside San Quentin. I had never heard of either of these before, but I’m glad to have more resources to learn from those who are incarcerated or were formerly incarcerated. These resources are also potentially very valuable for reference work!

You can find all three of the JSTOR webinar recordings related to the American Prison Newspaper project below. I will need to watch the others soon.

You do have to share your name and email to watch the recordings.

Critical Reading for Learning & Social Change

ACRL’s Instruction Section’s Discussion Group Steering Committee held its annual virtual discussion forum on June 6, titled “Critical Reading for Learning and Social Change.” The panelists included Anne Graf (Trinity University), Rosemary Green (Shenandoah University), and Stephanie Otis (University of North Carolina at Charlotte).

While I watched the webinar live, I needed to re-watch the recording. You can find the webinar description, recording, chat transcript, and some accompanying materials, including a reading list and a handout with reading tips, at the IS website: acrl.ala.org/IS/annual-virtual-discussion-forum-recording

Towards the end of the presentation, Graf made a statement that really stood out to me: “Reading is done in private, which is why we don’t pay attention to it.” I think this is a fair assessment. As a librarian who teaches mostly in a one-shot landscape, time is limited. Most of what we offer when we mention how to read scholarly articles is a short game plan. I realize that a lot can be done just by showing what Otis calls the physicality of reading. I have never shown students that reading, for me, looks like a marked up print-out with underlines and notes. Graf also notes that she will ask professors how they read, which I think is great. Again and again, I am reminded that modeling helps show students skills that we take for granted. Graf also mentions that one assumption she had been making as a librarian is that teachers teach reading and librarians teach evaluation, but these are not separate acts, and perhaps we do need to do more to close this gap, especially as reading takes a lot more time than students think. (The handout that Otis offers shows that shows that students should read three times…)

This webinar provided some strategies that can help students become aware of their own reading practice. One exercise is to have students reflect on what it means to read academically in a journal prompt. Green, who works mostly with graduate students, says that responses typically range from “reading with purpose, connecting to what one already knows, and reading to reflect.” She also has students complete the Metacognitive Awareness of Reading Strategies Inventory (MARSI), which is about 30 questions. The inventory helps students realize what they are already doing while also cluing them into other strategies. Similarly, Graf has first-year students simply make a list of what they do as readers.

UC Merced’s Bright Success Center (BSC) typically offers a “How to Read Your Textbook” workshop every semester. I do wonder if there is metacognitive component to the workshop. Last year, I had thought to reach out to my contact in the BSC about offering workshops beyond reading for textbooks, which is important, but there are other kinds of materials students have to read while in college. I am feeling much more motivated to reach out since I have something more concrete. If they already do something similar, I would like to observe the workshop to learn what students already know, what they do, etc. It may be able to help inform some of my own teaching in the research classroom.

I seem to have paid the most attention to Graf’s strategies since she teaches in the environment that most closely resembles my own. She also shared an exercise that I think many of us have probably done in some variation. Rather than telling students what to look for, she has students make those connections on their own first. I have done an exercise where students make their own criteria and then apply it to an article, but this is a little different. First, she has all the students find the full-text of an article based on a citation (to get some searching out of the way) and then quickly decide on the source’s quality and appropriateness for their class assignment via a vote on a 1-5 scale. She doesn’t use any polling software for this, but I would be inclined to use it so that students would feel more comfortable sharing what they think. She then engages the class in a Q&A session about things they notice about the article and what else they may need to look at or consider. The conversation generally turns into a realization that students need to spend more time reading the article to determine its relevancy.  The total exercise takes about 10 minutes. She sometimes then has students vote again.

While I didn’t look through the chat transcript, resources that folks shared in the chat include:

 

Predictable Misunderstandings in Information Literacy: Anticipating Student Misconceptions to Improve Instruction

I finally was able to watch the recording of Lisa Hinchliffe’s Credo webinar, “Predictable Misunderstandings in Information Literacy: Anticipating Student Misconceptions to Improve Instruction,” in which she provides an overview of the preliminary results of a qualitative study she conducted to determine what librarians believe are first-year students’ misconceptions related to information literacy.

In 2017, Library Journal and Credo Reference conducted a survey to learn how two- and four-year institutions tie information literacy to the first year experience. The survey results, “The First-Year Experience Instruction Survey: Information Literacy in Higher Education,” indicate that students are not well-prepared to conduct academic research, lack experience using libraries, don’t understand that they need to learn research skills, and are overconfident in their abilities. Librarians’ challenges in teaching information literacy include limited contact time with students, having too many outcomes, not having specific assignments to contextualize lessons, and not sharing the same expectations as course instructors. There were over 400 comments related to the findings.

Hinchliffe and her research assistants were curious to know if there are student misconceptions that drive errors in information literacy practice. These misconceptions are plausible inferences based on previous experience. Once we can identify these misconceptions, we can help students unlearn habits and strategies that worked for them in high school but may not serve them as well in college [see Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design (2008)]. Hinchliffe and her assistants coded responses to the report that seemed to answer “What is challenging about teaching first-year students?”, removed duplicates, and then synthesized the responses into nine summary misconceptions to form an initial inventory.

Students:

  1. think that they shouldn’t ask for help
  2. don’t see themselves as “scholarly apprentices” (view themselves outside the community of practice)
  3. think of research as a linear process
  4. think of the library as the place to find books
  5. equate relevancy search rankings as a measure of quality vs. relevance to the search statement they enter
  6. conflate achieving access and information quality (don’t understand that finding information isn’t the same as finding “good” information)
  7. believe that free online resources are sufficient
  8. believe that Google is a sufficient search tool
  9. believe they are information literate (Hincliffe later explains that students interpret information literacy as a cross between computer and digital literacy)

In the second phase of this project, Hinchliffe and the research assistants held librarian focus groups online to discuss the misconceptions. The librarians noted other student misconceptions, including:

  • all library resources are credible
  • every question has one right answer (rather than seeing research as an opportunity to explore possible answers)
  • the library is the place to study or work with fellow students (no mention of collections or resources)

As a practicing librarian with a limited five years of full-time experience, I have an anecdote for each of these. While further research needs to be conducted, what strikes me about this is that we can redirect some things we do in the classroom to help dispel some of these misconceptions. Hinchcliffe also reminds us that the best way to do this is to provide students with the opportunity to encounter these misconceptions so they can self-correct their assumptions.

I am very much looking forward to seeing how this research continues to take off and what it might mean for those of us in the front lines. I also think having a discussion around these misconceptions might be particularly good to have with librarian colleagues who teach, as well as course instructors.

From ‘Design Thinking’ to ‘Design Knowing’: Re-conceptualizing Librarianship as a Design Discipline Webinar

My interest in design thinking began when I took the Hyperlinked Library MOOC in Fall 2013, although I only completed half the modules. The following summer, I took User Experience as an independent course through San José State’s iSchool Open Classes. If you’ve happened to poke around in my blog (it’s really to a means to keep track of what I read, conferences, projects, etc.), you’ll find that I’ve written about my interest in learning and instructional design.  I’m still contemplating a second Masters or certificate. My current job is focused on instruction, which includes the design of learning objects to aid the research and instruction process. I’d like some more formal learning and training.

I finally had the opportunity to watch the May 12, 2016, recording of the Blended Librarians Online Community webinar “From ‘Design Thinking’ to ‘Design Knowing’: Re-conceptualizing Librarianship as a Design Discipline.” Rachel Ivy Clarke recently earned a Ph.D. at the University of Washington Information School; her research centers on this topic, and you can follow her @archivy, contact her at raclarke@uw.edu, or visit her website at archivy.net. The webinar stems from a letter Steven Bell wrote in response to an August 2015 report called “Re-envisioning the MLS: Findings, Issues, and Considerations.” Clarke reached out to Bell after reading his letter, which sparked her interest in the subject of approaching librarianship from a design perspective. Steven Bell has also previously written on this topic in his November 2014 Library Journal post “MLD: Masters in Library Design, Not Science.”

Here is the webinar description:

Although librarianship is often traditionally framed as a science, librarians have always been designers: creators of tools and services ( everything from indexes to curricula to  ) that connect people with information. Librarians have never really explicitly conceptualized their work as design work or viewed themselves as designers. Recent years have seen an upsurge of interest in applying “design thinking” to library work, but librarianship also aligns with “design knowing”—foundations of knowledge in design that differentiate it from science.  (2016)

This was a really great webinar to explore both how design is a form of knowledge different from the sciences and humanities and the ways in which librarianship is a design discipline. It’s a compelling argument, and I am impressed with Clarke’s work.

Here are my notes with the examples Clarke used in the webinar.

“Designerly Ways of Knowing”

Design is concerned with the artificial world–making things in order to solve problems. Nigel Cross, a design scholar, developed “designerly ways of knowing” that span across different design fields. Clarke argues that these also span librarianship. She has pinpointed three “designerly ways of knowing,” which include creation of problem solutions, generation of knowledge through making, and design evaluation methods.

1. Creation of Wicked Problem Solutions

Designerly ways of knowing include the of creation artifacts, or things, to solve “wicked” problems; the way we frame these kinds of problems makes a significant impact on how the problems are solved. In librarianship, we create artifacts to solve information problems, including tangible items, such as indexes and pathfinders, or digital items, such as an online catalog or LibGuides; conceptual systems, such as the Library of Congress Classification and Dewey Decimal Classification systems; and events, such as story times, or services, such as instructional curriculum.

Wicked problems are unique problems in that whatever context they are in, they can’t be solved the same way in a different context. They are interconnected, challenging problems without a single answer and aren’t solved through a traditional scientific approach; solutions, instead, are ranked as either better or worse and will vary depending on what aspect of the problem is being addressed. For example, solutions like a library catalog will vary depending on what is seen as the main problem–is it more to help people access materials, for inventory control, or to introduce people to diverse materials? Wicked problems also have many stakeholders with different perspectives, like librarians, administrators, and patrons. Are classification systems designed to help librarians, patrons, or both librarians and patrons?

2. Generation of Knowledge through Making: Iteration, Reflection, and Repertoire

We generate knowledge through the making processes, which include iteration, reflection, and  drawing on a repertoire of knowledge. The process of creating artifacts is as important as the results; the design cycle supports the idea of iteration. Clarke indicates that the design process is gaining traction in librarianship, and I find that she is correct. Check out Design Thinking for Educators and Design Thinking for Libraries. Clarke remarks, however, that reflection does not seem to be as strongly represented in design thinking as it relates to librarianship. She suggest that we are reflecting all the time without actually talking about it and that we might not recognize this as a legitimate form of knowledge in our profession. We typically might think of reflection as occurring in the test part of the design process, but reflection is intrinsic in the process–it is ongoing, or “in action,” as explains Clarke. (I really think she is onto something; I also see this in the research process. Reflection is not strongly emphasized in information literacy, either, but it is essential throughout the process. I know that professors sometimes have students write a reflection at the end of a research assignment, but some have students write in journals about the research process while students are working on a research assignment. Interestingly, at the end of the webinar when Clarke was taking questions, she commented that many people were mentioning that information literacy is a wicked problem.) Design also relies on repertoire; Clarke argues that librarians are often drawing upon past knowledge, experiences, and ideas they see to make decisions for their libraries.

3. Design Evaluation

Evaluation methods in design are also different than in science. Scientific evaluation methods like replication don’t work well for design work. Design is meant to come up with different solutions, not repetition. One method for evaluation in design is rationale–the justification and reason for design choices, which is based on how the problem has been framed. For example, if the purpose in keeping the Dewey Decimal Classification system is for a school library to be able to work more closely with the public library, that’s a better classification design for the school library to use than an author and genre classification system. Another method involves constructive critique–what works and doesn’t work in this particular design? The feedback furthers the artifact and furthers knowledge.

Implications: Research, Education, Practice

Librarians do all of these things. Clarke is arguing that we make design more explicit in research, education, and practice.

She and I also agree on a lot of things regarding current LIS research. I was tickled that she touched on the complaints that library research is not research-y enough; it’s more “this is what we did and how we did it.” I know I have been critical of that in the past myself, but that’s because I wasn’t thinking about our discipline as being a design discipline. Librarianship isn’t a hard science, and it isn’t a humanities discipline. I always tried to explain it as an applied field, but what does that really mean. Is it education? Clarke argues that these traditional measurements aren’t appropriate; she explains that research through design is emerging in user experience and interaction design fields, which may use some traditional evaluation methods but is not necessary for the research to be valid. How a library reports that they did something, which includes the rationale behind it, is valid research. We do need increased avenues for critique, and Clarke mentions that there does seem to be a growing interest with the rise of the critical librarianship movement. For example, critical librarianship critiques that the Dewey Decimal System, which comes from the Victorian era, emphasizes knowledge categories in white, Christian terms. However, the movement is still not grounded specifically in design. Perhaps our profession could arrange spaces where people could bring in their designs for critique as another mode of research; the Museums and the Web conference does this.

Clarke argues that Masters of Library and Information Science (MLIS) programs in North America offer no design courses. Students are introduced to design through MOOCs and workshops, or they become introduced to design while on the job. Taking the Hyperlinked Library MOOC and User Experience a few years after I graduated with my degree is what really got me thinking more about design. Clarke notes that the University of Washington is launching a new (online) course for its MLIS program in Fall 2016, Design Approaches to Librarianship. Clarke also says that MLIS programs lack the “studio environment” with ongoing feedback, a safe pace to practice and fail, how to reflect, and how to give and receive critique. Given that one of librarianship’s core values in lifelong learning, she argues that MLIS programs should encourage students to be proactive in increasing their skill sets. Not everything is going to be taught or learned in library school. I could not agree more!

Clarke believes that if we re-frame librarianship as a design discipline, we will create better designs. These better tools and services will help libraries be better at advocating about the library’s values, which may lead to more funding. Clarke claims, “Embracing design offers potential for empowerment.” Clarke shares a study she read about user experience librarians that showed that even these librarians do not see themselves as designers. It could be because the actual design work is being carried out by other departments, such as the IT Department. Since these librarians aren’t designing the tool, they feel like they have no power over how it will look or work. Many librarians also buy tool and products from vendors. Some of these perspectives could be changed with increased education, but workplaces could also build design tasks into job descriptions or offer support for design projects. As many libraries are beginning to have makerspaces and other kinds of innovation labs in their spaces, Clarke believes it is imperative that we consider thinking about librarianship from a design perspective. She asks, “How can we empower others to be makers if we don’t fully understand making ourselves?”

Thinking about librarianship as design also offers some broader considerations. Clarke sees that the values of librarianship–privacy, democracy, intellectual freedom, diversity–is what separates us from other information professions. She says, “Values are always embedded in design artifacts.” She explains that if we aren’t designing our systems, software, furniture, buildings, etc., our values are not carried out into the design.

I deeply enjoyed this webinar, and I watched it pretty closely, stopping the recording often to take notes and jot down the examples Clarke gave in showing the audience how the work of librarianship is entrenched in the discipline of design. I’m very interested in reading more of her work and more about design.

 

LibGuides CMS Webinar

I  haven’t been posting since I started my new job on June 1. I have been busy and thoroughly enjoying every moment. It’s Saturday, and I’m actually at the library now. Most of our new student orientations are during the week, but there are a few on Saturdays. After some morning presentations, I got the opportunity to welcome and speak with students and their families ¡en español! at the information fair. I really enjoyed it, and I think I helped people feel welcome. I have a couple more presentations this afternoon.

Coming in early today gave me a chance to watch a recording of a LibGuides CMS webinar that my manager sent me. She and the library’s technology manager attended the webinar on June 19th. I came from an institution where it took several years just to get a link to the library on Blackboard, so the features introduced by Springshare’s courseware integration tool are a bit amazing. Here is the rundown of the webinar.

Instead of being compatible with specific course management systems (CMSs), it is Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) compliant, so as long as your campus’ CMS is also LTI compliant, the LibGuides CMS will work with it.

With LibGuides CMS, not only can you display a LibGuide directly in your campus’ CMS (when you click on the link in the CMS, it opens directly in it), you can also add other things, such as a chat window, your library’s hours through LibCal, a list of the specific subject librarians, LibAnswers, and an A-Z list of subject-specific databases.

The webinar instructor did a great job explaining and showing step-by-step how you, at the CMS course shell level, can add a subject LibGuide to a slew of subject-specific courses though the automagic tool. You can also do this with class-specific guides. Changing between a subject and class-specific guide and vice versa is very easy. You can also add a single guide to a single course though manual mode. If you are wondering about usage statistics, those are also readily available.

The webinar also covered an upcoming update to the A-Z list in LibGuides. The A-Z list will be on its own page in both LibGuides and LibGuides CMS. There is also a place for internal notes and a way to mark certain databases as popular or be able to hide, say, a trial database. There is also going to be a keyword feature to increase discoverability. Only LibGuides CMS will have access to community analysis, which will allow you to see how many people in the system have a certain database, etc.

Research Design in Librarianship Sage Webinar

So back in September, I registered for Sage’s Research Design and Librarianship webinar because I wanted to learn more about the experience of librarians who went through Loyola Marymount University William H. Hannon Library’s Institute for Research Design in Librarianship. (Sage is the sponsor for the Institute in 2015 and 2016.)  I finally got the chance to watch the recording from Sept. 29th. I know it’s May. Can you tell I’m going through the last of my work files?

IRDL is an intensive two-week course in research methods and design to help librarians conduct original research. The IRDL is grant-funded for three years. I missed the deadline to apply for 2016 (a good thing since I didn’t know I’d be starting a new job during the Institute’s time frame), and the first year the IRDL was offered was in 2013, so I may not ever get the chance to apply, but I have always wanted to conduct my own research. As a community college faculty member, research is not required for tenure, and in my new job, research is also not required but it is highly valued, so I think this is  a great place for me to be. Unfortunately, with this change, it also means that the idea I had for a project needs to be tabled, but I just need another idea!

If you’re in the place where you have an idea but need some motivation to get yourself writing, check out this handy little guide, “Get Writing! Overcome Procrastination, Remove Roadblocks, and Create a Map for Success.” You might need to adapt some of it since this exercise works best with a partner. I attended the corresponding workshop, led by Jerilyn Veldof and Jon Jeffryes from the University of Minnesota Libraries, at the American Library Association Annual Conference in June 2014 in Las Vegas. It was very helpful, even though I didn’t have a strong idea of a topic to write on back then.

IRDL is definitely a need. Many librarians didn’t have to take a research methods course in graduate school. In college, I started off as a sociology major and took a research methods class, and in graduate school I took a research methods class in how to evaluate programs and services, but I am not confident in thinking I can devise a whole study. The poll at the beginning of the webinar showed that 41 percent of attendees were involved in research, but that 58 were not! 7.5 percent indicated they were not confident in their abilities to conduct research. Here is a citation to an article about this topic by one of the IRDL’s directors: Kennedy, M. R. & Brancolini, K. R. (2012). Academic librarian research: A survey of attitudes, involvement, and perceived capabilities. College & Research Libraries, 73(5): 431-448. doi:10.5860/crl-276

It was really interesting to hear about the research being done by three IRDL “graduates,” and it was also good to hear about how they have fostered a community to help support one another as they work on projects. I think that’s really part of the issue—not having colleagues engaged in original research studies.

These research summaries are taken directly from the webinar email reminder.

Frans Albarillo is a Reference and Instruction Librarian at Brooklyn College, City University of New York. His research focuses on how immigrant students use academic libraries. Frans has finished his first IRDL project on foreign-born students, and is writing up the results. He is preparing to start a second project with an IRDL fellow in the second year cohort that focuses on how graduate students and faculty use mobile devices for teaching and research.

He focused on this topic because he found that there was a lot of literature on international students but not on foreign-born/immigrant students. His works will begin to help fill a gap. He chose to do a survey and got 93 of his targeted 100 students to participate in the survey.

Frans

At the time of the webinar, John Jackson was the Reference & Instruction Librarian for Wardman Library at Whittier College; he is now Outreach Librarian at Loyola Marymount University. His current research examines the values that undergraduates place on the knowledge practices outlined in the new ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.

What was really interesting about the research design in this work is that rather than have students tell the librarian what he or she would do in a given situation, Jackson instead read vignettes of a student named Jenny and then asked the students he was interviewing to offer advice about how she should proceed in the research process. Very neat!

John

Lisa Zilinski is the Carnegie Mellon University Libraries Research Data Specialist. As part of the Scholarly Publishing, Archives, and Data Services Division, Lisa consults with faculty to identify data literacy opportunities, develops learning plans and tools for data education, and investigates and develops programmatic and sustainable data services for the Libraries. Her research experience focuses on research data management education and literacy principles; integration of data services into the research process; and assessment and impact of data services and activities.

Zilinski was re-recruiting faculty for her focus group. She was six months into her research project and changed institutions, which was a huge challenge. As a community college librarian, data services is something that is run by our Office of Grants and Institutional Research people for the institution, not really individual researchers, although we do have an IRB, which is quite rare. I think there is only one other CA community college with one.

Lisa

The IRDL representative, Marie Kennedy, shared the following four texts used in the IRDL.

Bernard, H.R. (2013). Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Fink, A. (2013). How to conduct surveys: A step-by-step guide (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Guest, G., MacQueen, K., & Namey, E. (2012). Applied thematic analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Guest, G., Namey, E., & Mitchell, M. (2013). Collecting qualitative data: A field manual for applied research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Some webinar participants and the researchers also offered (I revised some of these to be the current edition):

Robson, C. (2016). Real world research (4th ed.). Hoboken, NJ:Wiley.

Salkind, N. J. (2014). Statistics for people who (think) they hate statistics (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Wildemuth, B. (2009). Applications of social research methods to questions in information and library science. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

The open-access, peer-reviewed journal Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (EBLIP).

LexisNexis Academic Webinars

This year, I am making good on my goal to actually watch webinars when they happen and/or watching the archived recording during the same week (or at least month!) I receive access to it. I have a few saved from last fall and spring semesters that I need to watch.

I participated in LexisNexis webinars at the end of August, and while I do use LexisNexis at the community college and at the university, I don’t use it a whole lot. Here are my notes for each of the webinars.

LexisNexis Academic News

  • LexisNexis Academic News has 17,000 sources.
  • LN also has broadcast transcripts and transcripts from news shows, like 60 Minutes.
  • LN also has speeches, both the transcripts as prepared, as well as transcripts as delivered (the online trainer said that President Bill Clinton was famous for straying from the prepared speech).
  • LN also has a feature that opens web news from 300 web sources.
  • Coverage varies by the source and updates also vary by source. For example, full-text NYT articles date back to 1980 and content is updated daily). The lesson here is to use the information button next to the source name for the details.
  • A note about full-text: While the articles available in the database are full-text, not all articles from a particular source may be included in the database. I knew this, but I didn’t exactly know why. One reason is that freelance articles are owned by the journalist, not the publication, so journalists can elect to have their content removed from the databases.
  • LN will find the singular, plural, and possessive forms of words in searches.
  • LN will also find equivalents, not to be confused with synonyms. For example, if you type 1st Amendment, LN will also find First Amendment. This is a really good tip when it comes to numbers in this context. A search for GOP will also bring up all versions of Republican Party.
  • Librarians love field searching. I hadn’t fully explored all the search possibilities, so searching by length was new for me. What I love about this is that it might be helpful for lower level English courses. (This kind of searching reminds me of Dialog, and I was obsessed with it. I was in library school between 2010 and 2011, and even we used Dialog. Headline searching FTW

LexisNexis Legal Research

  • I don’t think I have learned this much from one webinar before. I don’t get too many legal reference questions, but I can tell you that it’s not my strong suit. I always used LN with some trepidation, and while the students and I could find the relevant cases, I knew that I needed to know more about the legal research side in LN to get the most out of it.
  • For legal cases, you can search by citation, party, or topic.
    • Citation: You have to use the exact Blue Book citation, including the periods. The citations are composed of three parts: the first number refers to volume, the second set of letters is an abbreviation for the book or reporter, and the third number refers to the page.
    • Party: You don’t have to enter both party names, and they don’t have to be in the right order. LN will do the search. Just be aware that when doing a party name search, LN will go through short party names, as well as the full list of parties involved, which could be numerous. For example, a search for Jones v. Clinton will also pull results for completely different cases whose short party name does not have either Jones or Clinton. I used to wonder why results like this pop up, but the online trainer said that when LN does the search, it pulls matches from the full list of parties, not just the short party name. Party search looks for matches in the full list.
    • Topic: This isn’t natural searching. This search will look in the headnotes section for matches. Think of headnotes like subject searching/breadcrumbs in the legal world. Here’s how headnotes are super nifty. They tell you all the subjects/topics covered by a particular case. For example, if you look up the headnotes for Roe v. Wade, you can find that other issues besides a woman’s right to choose were involved.
  • The reason why a million things pop up when you do a party search for Supreme Court cases—everything related to a Supreme Court case gets published. This is why you get a lot of hits looking up one case.
  • LN has a handy Landmark Cases feature, which you can find near the big “search everything related to LN” search box. There is a button to the right of the large search box that says “Search by Content Type,” where you can find the Landmark Cases feature. Cases are organized by topic. This is such a useful tool for the kinds of material two-year college students need for their coursework.
  • Also under the legal section under the “Search by Content Type” button is a way to search for federal and state cases. For most student research, the online trainer says it’s best to stick to one’s jurisdiction when searching. In the Federal and State Cases Search, head to the advanced search settings. There is an option to select the specific circuit, such as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, as well as state, such as California.
  • One of my favorite parts of the webinar was a question the online trainer posed, emulating a reference question that is probably common, “What are all the [insert your topic] laws in California?” The easiest way is to go to the ““Search by Content Type” button,” go to the Legal heading, and then select “State Statutes and Regulations.” Under the advanced options, check box statutory code and then the state. Yay for codified law!
  • LN does not have cases related to those at the state trial level. This is because the verdict only affects the parties involved in the case. The decision does not do anything to an entire state or the nation. For these kind of cases, especially for a local issue of interest, newspaper articles are the best bet for research.
  • LN has a legal reference section! Find the “Search by Content Type” button, go to the Legal heading, and then select “Legal Reference.” Under the advanced options, you’ll find American Jurisprudence 2d, Ballentine’s Law Dictionary, Bieber’s Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations, and the Modern Dictionary for the Legal Profession.
  • At this point in the webinar, I had to talk to a faculty member, so I missed the introduction to Sheppard’s. It’s a nifty citation tool that allows you see if a case has been overturned, reaffirmed, questioned, or cited by other cases.