Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sources for 50-State Surveys

If you are researching the laws of more than one jurisdiction, you can often save time with a fifty-state survey. These publications compile citations to the laws or regulations for each state on a particular subject, eliminating the need to search each state’s laws individually.

Fifty-state surveys can be found in various formats. The Law Library has long subscribed to the Subject Compilation of State Laws (Reference KF1 .F67; 1960-present), a print series which offers citations to books and articles that compare state laws on a particular topic. However, because new volumes do not cumulate, the Subject Compilation usually requires researchers to consult several volumes in order to find all of the relevant listings for a single topic. Fortunately, the Subject Compilation of State Laws is now available through HeinOnline ( The online version may be searched or browsed by topic, greatly streamlining the process of locating all relevant entries on an issue.

On LexisNexis (, fifty-state surveys are available in the 50 State Surveys, Legislation & Regulations database, which is easily accessible from the Law School search screen under Legislation & Politics > U.S. & U.K. Surveys on Lexis may be downloaded as spreadsheets, which provide hyperlinks to specific regulations or statute sections in each state on a particular topic. Lexis continues to add new topics to its surveys database; recent additions included surveys for regulation of billboards and other outdoor advertising as well as the determination of damages for eminent domain proceedings.

Westlaw ( offers the SURVEYS (for topics governed by statutes) and REG-SURVEYS (for regulatory matters) databases, which initially reprinted the surveys available in the National Survey of State Laws (also available in print at Reference KF386 .N38). Westlaw began to add its own survey topics to the database, which has now grown so large that it is available as a separate research tab. To add it to your Westlaw screen, look for the option to "Add a Tab" in the upper right-hand corner.

For other time-saving research tips, ask a librarian.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

AudioCaseFiles: Assignments on your iPod?

Law students are natural multitaskers, but even the most dedicated 1L wouldn't risk the embarrassment of reading a casebook on the treadmill. Enter AudioCaseFiles, a relatively new web site which offers MP3 downloads of more than 1,000 cases from the most popular law school casebooks. It's an ideal service for auditory learners, those with long commutes, and perhaps even insomniacs.

AudioCaseFiles offers the option to browse cases by topic or by casebook, and includes several from the Duke Law booklist (such as Kadish's Criminal Law and Its Processes: Cases and Materials and Friedenthal's Civil Procedure: Cases and Materials, among others).

If listening to court opinions isn't your idea of a good time, AudioCaseFiles has also expanded into video, with more than 4,000 hours of footage from actual trials in a variety of practice areas. (View the list by case names; you can also sort video offerings by practice area.) Trial practice students, in particular, may be interested in viewing real case videos.

Users must be registered with the service to download any media on the site; Duke Law students may now register for AudioCaseFiles with their law school e-mail account. AudioCaseFiles is now linked from the library's Legal Databases & Links page, under the "Legal Links" column.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Study Rooms Now Available

Eight private study rooms are now available on Level 2 of the Law Library. These rooms are available for the use of individual law students or groups of students, and can be “checked out” for four hours at a time from the Circulation/Reserve desk on Level 3 by presenting a Law School ID. Students may also reserve a room up to 24 hours in advance.

Each study room is currently equipped with a 32-inch LCD screen, which allows up to three students to plug in a laptop for visual presentations. In the coming weeks, all of the study rooms will also contain a built-in computer with DVD playback and a webcam with videoconferencing and recording software.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Newspapers Get Digital

Due to the sheer volume of daily publication, most newspapers do not provide their contents online in PDF or other page-image formats. Historically, newspapers have made their contents available in microform, but this means that frequently, the only libraries which own a microform version of a local newspaper are limited to the geographical region where the newspaper is published. This makes interlibrary loan requests difficult and time-consuming for owning libraries to fill, particularly when most newspaper articles are available in HTML through databases like America's Newspapers and InfoTrac Custom Newspapers. For these reasons, it is the policy of the Duke Law Library not to submit interlibrary loan requests for newspaper articles which are available in HTML format.

However, some researchers prefer to view original (PDF) images of newspaper articles, and an increasing number of free and subscription sites are filling that need. Various major U.S. newspapers are available in PDF through the Duke database ProQuest Historical Newspapers. This database includes PDF versions of:

  • New York Times (1851-3 years ago)
  • Wall Street Journal (1889-1989)
  • Washington Post (1877-1990)
  • Los Angeles Times (1881-1985)
  • Atlanta Constitution (1868-1939)
  • Atlanta Daily World (1932-2003)
  • Chicago Defender (1905-1975)

America’s Historical Newspapers (1690-1922) also offers downloadable facsimiles of many early U.S. newspapers.

PDF versions of historical articles from selected British newspapers are also available in Duke’s electronic databases. The London Times is available in PDF through the Times Digital Archive (1785-1985). The Times Literary Supplement is also available in PDF in a separate database, TLS Centenary Archive (1902-1990).

In addition to the Duke databases listed above, the free site Newseum: Today’s Front Pages provides PDFs of the front pages of many national and local newspapers for the current date. The Archive section maintains selected front-page PDFs for dates of historical interest (including the deaths of national figures, major terrorist attacks, and Hurricane Katrina).

Finally, the Google Blog recently announced an initiative to digitize historical newspapers through its Google News Archive Search. Although results in this search are a mix of pay-per-view and free articles, the free articles include scanned images from newspapers such as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the St. Petersburg (FL) Times. It's always worth searching the free web for an article-- you never know where it might turn up.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Closing the Congressional Documents Gap

Earlier this week, the HeinOnline database announced the completion of its Congressional Record scanning project, which spans 1873-2003 (a scan of the "daily" edition for more current volumes is also available). Hein had already digitized the predecessors to the Congressional Record (the Congressional Globe, the Register of Debates and the Annals of Debates in Congress), meaning that Duke users now have access to a complete, searchable PDF set of the debates in Congress dating back to 1789.

Legislative history researchers at Duke have additional online resources for congressional resources which are too old to be published on GPO Access. The U.S. Congressional Serial Set Digital Collection has been steadily scanning volumes of committee reports, currently dating from 1817-1952 (with an additional 2-3 years being added each month). With GPO Access providing committee reports back to 1994, and the CIS microfiche set in the library covering back to 1970, the digital collection will quickly close the gap in committee report research which has previously been filled by the printed Serial Set available in Perkins/Bostock library.

Committee hearings date back to 1995 on GPO Access, but a digital collection through LexisNexis Congressional provides searchable, well-indexed PDF copies of older hearings, many dating back to the late 1800s.

One frequently-requested but often elusive piece of congressional research is the end result of debates and hearings related to new laws-- the statutes themselves. Session laws are readily available through GPO Access and HeinOnline's U.S. Statutes at Large library, but to locate historical versions of the U.S. Code, researchers usually must look through superseded volumes on Level 1 of the library. GPO Access provides a search of only the 1994, 2000, and (coming soon) the 2006 editions of the U.S. Code. However, there is a glimmer of hope for legislative history researchers: Hein hints in its blog post that the U.S. Code is on its digitizing wish-list...