Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Cuil" Competes for Search Engine Crown

CNN reported yesterday that former Google employees have launched a competing search engine, Cuil (http://www.cuil.com/). Creators declare Cuil (pronounced "cool") to be "the world's biggest search engine", possibly indexing up to three times as many web pages as Google (although exact figures for Google's scope have not been publicly available since 2005).

Cuil displays your search results in a 2- or 3-column layout, with brief summaries below each item. An "explore by category" box and navigation tabs help to narrow your results (ever "Google" someone with a generic name, or someone who shares their name with a celebrity?).

The next time you have to search the web, experiment by comparing your results in both Google and Cuil. To assess your results in other major search engines, the site Thumbshots.com will provide side-by-side comparisons of the top hits for a search term in selected search engines, but it unfortunately does not yet include Cuil.

Of course, Cuil and Google are far from the only competitors in this field. To locate lesser-known or specialized search engines, check out the directories at SearchEngineGuide.com and the Yahoo! Search Engine Directory. The recent College@Home posting on "100 Useful Niche Search Engines You've Never Heard Of" may also provide you with some interesting alternatives for your web searches.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Ease Your Bar Exam Anxiety

As the bar exam draws closer, the tension becomes palpable in the Law Library. Although Bar/BRI study materials and commercial outlines are, undoubtedly, more than enough reading material for the bar exam, the Library does have some additional titles which may provide insight on the experience, and perhaps even a bit of serenity:
  • Darrow-Kleinhaus, S. The Bar Exam in a Nutshell (2003). [On Reserve]
  • Friedland, S. The Essential Rules for Bar Exam Success (2008). KF303 .F75 2008
  • Walton, K. Strategies & Tactics for the MBE: Multistate Bar Exam (2003). [On Reserve]
Above all else, remember this: You know more than you think you do.

Good luck to all of our bar exam-takers in these last few weeks before the big day(s).

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

New Look for the Library Catalog

We've previously reported on SearchTRLN, the mega-catalog of the Triangle Research Libraries Network (Duke, NC Central, NC State, and UNC-Chapel Hill) which allows you to see at a glance which area library owns an item and even to submit interlibrary loan requests directly from the search screen. As we mentioned in March, phase two of this project included the development of a customized local version of the SearchTRLN interface for the Duke community. The new catalog launches today, and will soon be the default view from the Duke University Libraries homepage (but not yet the Law Library homepage-- more on that in a moment).

The new catalog interface includes many features and functions:
  • single-click search refinement (limit your results by library, format, and more)
  • book cover image displays (where available)
  • the ability to save searches as persistent bookmarks
  • the ability to save/view searches as dynamically updated RSS feeds
However, as an unintended consequence of the Law School renovation's book storage, the new catalog interface also displays nearly all books from the Law Library and Law Library Annex collections as "Unavailable". While many Law Library materials are still in inaccessible storage during this last month of the renovation, the Annex remains stocked with thousands of titles available for checkout.

Please keep in mind this rule of thumb when looking at Law Library materials in the "new" catalog:
  • If the "Locations" line says "Law Library Annex"-- the item should be available on the shelf (unless it is checked out to another borrower, which will be clearly indicated); disregard the "Unavailable" message for Law Library Annex items.
  • If the "Locations" line says just "Law Library"-- the item is most likely in inaccessible storage for the remainder of the renovation (unless it is checked out to another borrower, and is thus subject to a recall or hold request).
Due to this technical issue, the Law Library will continue to link to the "classic" catalog interface for now, and likely until the remainder of the collection returns from storage (which will correct the erroneous display). Note that if you are using the new catalog interface, you may switch to the "classic" catalog at any time using the tabs at the top of the screen.

As always, talk to a Law Library staff member if you are unsure of the status of a particular title in the new catalog. We are happy to help.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Dish on Durham

As previously noted in this blog, dining options on the Duke campus are a bit more limited over the summer (see Duke Dining summer 2008 schedule at http://dining.duke.edu/pdfs/wwte.summerhours.2008.pdf). Fortunately, our summer starters and Bar/Bri attendees are not doomed to starve!

If you missed the Independent Weekly’s May publication of “The Dish” (its twice-annual pullout section devoted to Triangle-area restaurants), you can still access all the reviews at http://www.indyweek.com/gyrobase/Dining. In fact, the online dining guide offers more functionality than the print guide, since users can sort restaurant listings by type of cuisine, location, or keyword.

In addition, the Duke Law Epicurean Society maintains the blog Carpe Durham (http://carpedurham.wordpress.com), in which law students review local restaurants and even provide photos. The mostly-anonymous reviewers (identified only by initials) have continued their work into the summer.

Although the scope of the featured restaurants on both sites does expand well beyond Durham city limits, Duke Law students will find more than enough appetizing options nearby. Bon appetit!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Who Owns Legislative History?

In November 2007, Westlaw announced an exciting new database for legal researchers. The US GAO Federal Legislative Histories Collection (FED-LH) provides comprehensive legislative histories in PDF for most federal Public Laws enacted between 1915-1995 (although not all years are yet available). These histories compile the full text of "laws, bills, committee reports, Congressional Record documents, transcripts of hearings, and other documents" related to a particular Public Law. Although the Law Library has access to a variety of federal legislative history materials online, researchers usually must visit several different sources to access all of the various documents related to a particular law. The GAO histories on Westlaw seemed to make such effort redundant. So what could possibly be the problem?

In March 2008, the blogosphere raised concerns about the exclusive terms of the contract with Westlaw's parent company, Thomson West (now Thomson Reuters). The histories were compiled by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the "investigative arm of Congress." Because most federal government publications are considered to be in the public domain, government watchdogs expressed concern over the exclusive and commercial nature of the digitization contract, when GAO could have pursued digitization partnerships with universities or nonprofit organizations in order to make these legislative histories more widely--and freely-- available.

Carl Malamud, the founder of public.resource.org (previously discussed in this blog for its "Recycle Your PACER Documents" initiative), launched a Freedom of Information Act campaign to make the GAO histories freely available for digitization by the Internet Archive or other such organizations (follow his FOIA paper trail here). Although the initial response was discouraging, last week GAO released 10 DVDs of legislative histories to Malamud. More than 600,000 PDF files are included in this release-- the product of an abandoned in-house digitization attempt by GAO, prior to the Westlaw contract.

The initial release has been posted at http://public.resource.org/gao.gov/index.html. However, Malamud has not stopped there. He's currently petitioning GAO to allow public.resource.org or the Internet Archive to scan the same materials which were provided to Westlaw, and plans to ask Congress for funding to make the same materials publicly available.

The excellent Free Government Information blog has been tracking the story (see all stories tagged "GAO"). Add the free GAO materials to your legislative history research repertoire and stay tuned for further developments in the story.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Library Closed for July 4th Weekend

In observance of Independence Day, the Law Library will be closed on Friday, July 4. Regular summer service hours will resume on Monday, July 7.

Over the holiday weekend, current members of the Law School community will retain 24-hour building access with a valid DukeCard.