Monday, December 22, 2008

Two new reports explore President Bush's legacy

A report from the Governemnt Documents department...

At the close of George W. Bush’s administration, the White House has released a new report that highlights our forty-third president’s accomplishments over the last eight years. Both reports can be found on the Bush Record webpage.

The report is called Highlights of Accomplishments and Results: The Administration of President George W. Bush, 2001-2009. This 52-page document explores President Bush’s legacy and includes an appendix called 100 Things Americans May Not Know About the Bush Administration Record.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Transition to a New Administration

As promised in the previous post, we are providing links to sources that will allow you to follow our country’s transition to a new presidential administration.

On the website for 2008-2009 Presidential Transition Resources, the following is noted:

The Presidential Transition Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-293) authorizes the General Services Administration (GSA) to develop a transition directory in consultation with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The Act provides that the transition directory "shall be a compilation of Federal publications and materials with supplementary materials developed by the Administrator that provides information on the officers, organization, and statutory and administrative authorities, functions, duties, responsibilities, and mission of each department and agency." Senate Report 106-348 clarifies that the directory is intended to "assist in navigating the many responsibilities that fall on a new administration" that is "confronted by an overwhelming amount of material."

Among other resources, this site includes organizational charts, a guide to inauguration events, and links to important government documents regarding leadership, recordkeeping, and national security. Two sources are worth special mention: The Plum Book and The Prune Book.

The Plum Book (a.k.a the United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions) is published every four years by the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and the House Committee on Government Reform. It lists more than 7,000 federal civil service leadership and support positions in the legislative and executive branches and is used to identify presidentially appointed positions within the Federal Government. This reference tool will keep you informed about the various positions our new president will be required to fill in the coming months, including agency heads, policy advisors, and members of the cabinet.

The Prune Book, published by the Council for Excellence in Government, is also designed for use during the transition to a new presidential administration. It profiles the toughest management jobs in the federal government and is “written specifically to equip the incoming presidential administration with insights into staffing the key appointed positions.” A related resource, A Survivor’s Guide for Presidential Nominees, is a handbook for those who aspire to work in the new administration or those who have been nominated for federal positions. It is designed to answer all your questions regarding “nomination and clearance, Senate confirmation, and compliance with ethics laws and financial disclosure rules.” If you’re selected to work for President Obama, this is the source to consult when making your decision to accept or decline the position. is another good source for information about the transition period. This website will keep you up-to-date on latest news, events, and announcements as America ushers in the new Obama-Biden administration.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Government Documents Highlighted Each Month

At least twice a month, we will be highlighting an interesting government website or online resource. Often these resources will pertain to topical issues or current events. Many of the websites will be online publications produced by the federal government or a federal government agency. Others will be sites created by academic institutions, think tanks, or independent organizations and will provide commentary or analysis on the actions of the government. Occasionally, we will also include sources produced by or for state and local government entities

The first topic we are going to address is the presidency. In particular, we have chosen to highlight a source that examines voting trends both past and present. In the next blog post, we will provide links to resources that address the transition to a new administration.

To view voting trends throughout America from 1840 to 2004, visit the site, Voting America. This site, developed by the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond, was designed to explore “the evolution of presidential politics in the United States across the span of American history. The project offers a wide spectrum of cinematic and interactive visualizations of how America voted in presidential elections at the county level over the past 164 years. You can also find expert analysis and commentary videos that discuss some of the most interesting and significant trends in American political history.”

Consolidated analysis of 2008 presidential voting trends is not yet available in a comprehensive or organized fashion. Voter turnout and some demographic trends have been reported in various sources, but, so far, no one-stop reference tool has been created to examine the detailed patterns of American voting behavior in 2008. (If you think that we’ve overlooked such a source, please let us know!)

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Bite at a Time - Economic Bailout Information

Jessica R. Alexander, J.D., M.L.I.S., Reference Librarian

Where does the Treasury secretary get authority to move large amounts of money into the accounts of banks without new legislative action? For weeks, I have been thinking about an approach to understanding this and other events in the economic meltdown. The Fred Parks Law Library subscribes to the CCH Business and Finances Resources Network portal. (Your STCL e-mail address is required.) It links to primary and secondary materials on banking, finance, and securities. Access it through Stanley by clicking on the Library tab and going to the alphabetical database list.

Once in the network, the user is confronted with myriad options for searching. You can search one database or fifty. Paper materials comprising volumes of the CCH Federal Banking Law Reporter (KF970.C61) and the CCH Federal Securities Law Reporter ( KF1436.5.C65), located on the fourth floor are included in the database.

Each user can set up search options customizing search history and favored sub databases. Upon entry into the portal, links to the latest news in Securities, Banking, Anti-Trust and Trade Regulations are displayed. Clicking on the Banking tab, I decided to start with a white paper authored by CCH analysts, Kathleen M. Bianco and John M. Pachkowski, entitled, "The Economic Bailout: An Analysis of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act." It is an excellent summary and analysis of events leading to the bailout. It contains information on the primary laws used as tools in addressing the crisis.

With this information the user can link to the “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008” or EESA (the bailout law), and underpinning laws such as the The Federal Reserve Act. To access these primary laws click on the Banking tab at the main page and then the Federal Banking laws option. EESA can be found under the subheading, Federal Banking Law Reporter Legislative Documents (1995 to present), and The Federal Reserve Act is located under Federal Banking Law Reporter Laws. It’s a start to answering complicated questions about our current economic situation.

Legal News

Today's Legal News:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Swamplot - Informative Houston Real Estate Website/Blog

Jessica R. Alexander, J.D., M.L.I.S., Reference Librarian

Swamplot is a blog dedicated to Houston Real Estate news. It is a window into the effects of the financial crisis on Houston and has information on urban planning.

There are fun entries too. Today, the site features an entry about new late-night/all-night eateries at Montrose and Westheimer.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

We the People: a new exhibit on Constitutional Law is up in the Library lobby.

In May 1787, a Convention was held in Philadelphia to amend the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, the first constitution of the United States of America. A month into the Convention it became clear that that the Articles were going to be rewritten. Based largely on the Virginia Plan, written by James Madison, the new Constitution of the United States was adopted by the Constitutional Convention September 17, 1787, and went into effect after 9 of the 13 states ratified it in March of 1789. The Constitution defines the three branches of government, outlines the powers of each branch, and reserves rights for the individual states. The Constitution defines who is eligible to run for federal office, who is eligible to vote, and how officials are elected. Given the excitement that surrounded the historic 2008 Presidential election, perhaps its time we look at where we started and where we are going. Please enjoy this selection of Constitutional materials from the Special Collections Department of your Fred Parks Law Library.
If you have any questions on this exhibit, would like more information about Special Collections, or would like to know how to donate materials to the Special Collections Department please contact Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian, at 713-646-1720 or

Legal News

Today's Legal News:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Political Junkies - Don't Miss

Jessica R. Alexander, J.D., M.L.I.S., Reference Librarian

In my previous posting on interactive election 2008 maps, September 22, 2008. I omitted a major site called Its statistical analysis is very sophisticated and can fill hours of your valuable time in the next week.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tuesday's Legal Resource: E-Journal

By Adrienne Cobb
Reference Librarian

Many members of South Texas College of Law may already be familiar with databases such as Hein Online and LegalTrac, which allow users to search for articles in legal periodicals. However, the Fred Parks Law Library also subscribes to several databases that allow users to find non-legal articles. Members of the South Texas College of Law community can find a listing of all the databases the library subscribes to in the Database channel on the library tab in Stanley.

If you want to limit your search to journals that provide full text articles online, both legal and non-legal, the E-journal Portal is a good choice. There is a link to the E-journal Portal in the channel on Stanley entitled Find Full Text Journal Articles. Simply click on the E-journal Portal link and type in the name, or part of the name, of the journal you are looking for. E-journal Portal will then provide a results list with links to databases where you can find full text articles from that journal. You can then click on the link to that database and search for the article you are looking for. As always, please feel free to speak with a reference librarian if you need help using this, or any other database.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Fred Parks Law Library Honors Banned Books Week

by Adrienne Cobb, Reference Librarian

The week of September 27-October 4 the Fred Parks Law Library will be honoring Banned Books Week. Banned Books week was started to celebrate the freedom to read. You can learn more about this observance at the American Library Association (ALA) website. Each year they also post a list of the most frequently challenged books on their site.

Books are banned in schools and libraries in the United States for a variety of reasons including political, sexual, religious, and social. Banned Books week helps to raise awareness in hopes of challenging the banning of books in order to promote the free flow of ideas in American society. There have been a number of legal cases and laws involving censorship that legal scholars may be interested in. These include:

Sund v. City of Wichita Falls, 121 F.Supp. 2d 530: Public library patrons brought action to enjoin enforcement of city's resolution that gave library card holders the right to censor children's books by having books removed from children's area of library to adult section.

Campbell v. St. Tammany Parish School Board, 64 F.3d 184: Parents brought suit against school board that removed all copies of book from parish school libraries.

Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260: Staff members of high school newspaper filed First Amendment action seeking injunctive relief, money damages and declaration that First Amendment rights were violated by censorship of certain articles.

Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District No. 26 v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853: An action was brought seeking declaratory and injunctive relief with respect to removal by defendant board of education of certain books from school libraries.

The Patriot Act section 215: (P.L. 107-56)

To honor this event the Fred Parks Law Library will join the ACLU in hosting an event at the South Texas College of Law campus. During this event several members of the South Texas College of law and the ACLU will be reading passages from books that have been banned. This year's event will take place in the student lounge on Thursday October 9 from 12:00pm-2:30pm. Refreshments will be served.

Please also feel free to view the display in the foyer of the Fred Parks Law Library honoring Banned Books Week.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tuesday's Legal Resource: 360 Search

Many members of South Texas College of Law may already be familiar with databases such as Hein Online and LegalTrac, which allow users to search for articles in legal periodicals. However, the Fred Parks Law Library also subscribes to several databases that allow users to find non-legal articles. Members of the South Texas College of Law community can find a listing of all the databases the library subscribes to in the Database channel on the library tab in Stanley.

If you want to limit your search to journals that provide full text articles online, both legal and non-legal, the E-journal Portal is a good choice. There is a link to the E-journal Portal in the channel on Stanley entitled Find Full Text Journal Articles. Simply click on the E-journal Portal link and type in the name, or part of the name, of the journal you are looking for. E-journal Portal will then provide a results list with links to databases where you can find full text articles from that journal. You can then click on the link to that database and search for the article you are looking for. As always, please feel free to speak with a reference librarian if you need help using this, or any other database.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Interactive 2008 Presidential Election Maps

Jessica R. Alexander, J.D., M.L.I.S., Reference Librarian

If you are a political junkie, there is no better fix than an interactive Electoral College presidential election map. These maps allow you to create various scenarios for victory by one party or another:

270ToWin is fun. It has a simulator in which the user virtually rolls the die based on polling data. organizes polling data from a number of sources, and also has a map, with a mouse rollover feature which displays polling data for each state.
The Economist features a world interactive map.

Other maps:

The New York Times

The Los Angeles Times

PBS News Hour

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Library Closed

Due to approaching storm Ike in the Gulf, the South Texas College of Law, including the Fred Parks Law Library, will be closed starting at 5:00pm on Thursday September 11, 2008. Current notification state that we should resume normal hours on Monday, September 15, 2008.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Blogs and the Election - Our New Democracy!

Jessica Alexander, J.D., M.L.I.S., Reference Librarian
Blogs have exploded. Authors include famous people and your best friend. During the next two months election news and discussions will be published at a feverish pace. It could even be said that blogging will influence the outcome of the election. As opposed to an opinion-editorial (op-ed) piece in a newspaper, a blog is published daily on line and usually allows feedback by the public.

Here are a few suggestions for deciding which political blogs to follow?

1. Google - pull down the "More" button on the main page and select blogs; there is an advanced search option in the blog search engine.

3. What are your favorite political magazines, the National Review, The Nation, U.S. News and World Report, The New Yorker, The Economist, Mother Jones... Peruse their web pages and there will be a list of bloggers who contribute to those magazines.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tuesday's Legal Resource: Congressional Universe Digital Collection Update

The Fred Parks Law Library recently added the digital collection to it's subscription on Congressional Universe. Now when preforming a search you will no longer need to copy the CIS number to find documents in microfiche, you will be able to obtain most documents in both html and as a PDF copy of the original.

The collections (and dates) that will now be available on PDF are:
  • LexisNexis Congressional Serial Set
  • LexisNexis Congressional Research Digital Collection Historical Archive
  • LexisNexis Congressional Hearings Digital Collection 1824-1979 LexisNexis Congressional Hearings Digital Collection 1980-2003
If a digital copy of the document you are looking for is available in PDF format, it will read as "LexisNexis Congressional Research Digital Collection, Full Text Available" in the results listing. To obtain the PDF copy all you need to do is click on the link in your result that reads: "Replica of Original".

Please note that not all documents will be available in PDF format. To obtain copies of the original in such a case refer back to the original post on Congressional Universe.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tuesday's Legal Resource: Making of Modern Law

The popularity of digital and electronic legal resources over the past decade has led to a number of publications now available online. In many respects this has not only made legal research and study easier to access, but easier to preform as well.

The Fred Parks Law Library has recently purchased the Making of Modern Law series which provides electronic access to over 21,000 materials from early American and British law. Now members of the South Texas College of law can access legal classics by Blackstone and Chitty and others.

To access the Making of Modern Law you must log on in Stanely and find it using the Databases channel on the Library tab.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tuesday's Legal Resource: Congressional Universe

Legislative history is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of legal research. The one benefit of finding federal legislative history is the wealth of resources available to the seeker. One of those resources is a database that the Fred Parks Law Library subscribes to called Congressional Universe, published by Lexis.

There are a variety of ways to search for documents including by document number, member of Congress, subject terms, or keywords. Despite this, the site can be rather tricky to use, especially for first timers who don’t have an exact document number. A reference librarian will be happy to help individuals who need help with their search.

Congressional Universe provides access to a number of documents pertaining to federal legislation in a variety of formats. Congressional Universe will often provide html formats for many materials in the results. The Fred Parks Law Library provides access to hard copies of the documents in microfiche on the first floor. To obtain these documents in microfiche you must use the CIS number in the results you get on Congressional Universe, usually located in the heading of the document in the upper left-hand corner.

Using the following example: CIS-NO: 2004-H201-2

2004: the year the document was published. The last two numbers will be on the upper right hand portion of the microfiche

H201-2: the H signifies that the document was published by the House of Representatives. This portion will be located on the upper left hand corner of the microfiche.

It is important to note that documents published prior to 1970, specifically 1789-1969, are considered part of the Serials Set which has different, and less consistent, coverage than documents published after 1970. In the Serials Set you will find the committee reports, journals, manuals, and administrative reports of both Chambers in addition to a variety of directories, orations, and special publications. You will usually not find committee hearings and prints.

Using the CIS number for finding Serials Set documents in microfiche, there would be no year, so you would just search using the alphanumeric portion, for example: CIS-NO: S5056.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tuesday's Legal Resource: Hein Online

Hein Online is one of the most popular databases available to members of the South Texas College of Law and visitors to the Fred Parks Library. This is most likely due to the variety of resources it offers in PDF.

Hein Online is well known for it’s law journal library which houses most American law reviews and many international law journals. One of the benefits to using Hein Online versus other resources such as Westlaw and Lexis is that whereas other databases provide limited coverage going back only twenty or thirty years, Hein provides full text access to most of its law reviews dating back to the very first volume, which occasionally dates back to the 18th century. One important fact to keep in mind is that most of the journal listings in Hein will not include the most recent year of publication.

Members of the South Texas College of Law community can access Hein from any computer going through the Stanley portal. They can find it in the Library tab in the Library Databases channel. There is also a link on the library homepage in the Databases list. However, this link will only provide access on computers located in the Fred Parks Law Library.

Other materials available in Hein Online are:

The Code of Federal Regulations (1938-1984)
English Reports, Full Reprint (1220-1865)
European Center for Minority Issues
Federal Register Library (Complete Through May 2007)
Foreign & International Law Resources Database
Legal Classics
Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (Editions 1-8)
Philip C. Jessup Library
Session Laws (State, Federal, Austrailia, and Canada)
Treaties and Agreements Library
U.S. Attorney General Opinions
U.S. Congressional Documents
U.S. Federal Legislative History Library
U.S. Presidential Library
U.S. Statutes at Large (1789-2005)
U.S. Supreme Court Library (Complete Coverage for Opinions)
World Trials

Monday, July 28, 2008

New Weekly Legal Information Resources

Starting this week, the Fred Parks Law Library will begin offering links and information on legal resources available through the library.

Each Tuesday you will learn about a particular legal resource available through the Fred Parks Law Library. These resources will include information on databases, print materials, and other sources that law students and legal researchers may find valuable.

So be sure to check in every Tuesday to learn more!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Library Hours in August

Please Note:

The Fred Parks Law Library will be closed on the following dates in August. Normal Hours will resume in September:

Saturday & Sunday August 2 & 3
Saturday & Sunday August 9 & 10
Sunday August 31

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Religion and the Law: The Establishment Clause and New Religious Movements

The genesis of this exhibition was an unsolicited gift from Bridge publishers, a publishing company owned and operated by the Church of Scientology, who sent libraries around the country two complete sets of the scientology books written by L. Ron Hubbard. (These books do not fit in with our acquisitions policy and thus will not be added to the library collection.) About two weeks later, news outlets began reporting on the raid of a Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saint’s (FLDS) compound called Yearning for Zion in El Dorado, Texas, by Child Protective Services. Lawyers from around Texas including some from STCL went to San Angelo to represent the children removed from the compound. These two unrelated events got me thinking about what Sociologists call New Religious Movements (NRMs) and the law. Examples of NRMs include Scientology, New Age religions such as Wicca, the Unification Church, Jehovah Witnesses, Krishna Consciousness, and extreme elements of Christian fundamentalist and Pentecostal movements (Dawson 1998, p. 580). Many NRMs are recognized religions in the United States; however there are some that are deemed cults or are splinter groups of other recognized religions. There are several areas of law in which you may encounter NRMs: as defense attorneys, prosecutors, civil rights and family practice attorneys, and even in tax law. In Cantwell v. Connecticut (310 U.S. 296), the Supreme Court stated that the Free Exercise Clause “embraces two concepts – the freedom to believe and the freedom to act. The first is absolute, but in the nature of things, the second cannot be.” (Gedicks 2005 p. 1187) The role of lawyers and the courts therefore, is not to determine if the belief is valid, but if how those beliefs are practiced is lawful. Put very simply you can believe anything you want, you just can’t do anything you want. This exhibit showcases works in the Fred Parks Law Library’s collection that discuss religious freedom and the law as well as some historical material and cases from the Special Collections holdings. It also contains loaned materials.
This exhibition is not exhaustive nor does it contain any material relating to mainstream religion (i.e. Christianity, Judaism and Islam). Please direct all questions regarding this exhibit to the Special Collections Librarian, Heather Kushnerick, at

Dawson, Lorne L. “The Cultural Significance of New Religious movements and Globalization: A Theoretical Prolegomenon.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 37(4) (1998): 580-595.

Gedicks, Frederick Mark “The Permissible Scope of Legal Limitation on the Freedom of Religion or Belief in the United States.” Emory International Law Review 19 (2005): 1187-1275.

Friday, June 13, 2008

New Summer Holiday Hours

On Friday, July 4th of 2008 the Fred Parks Library will be closed. Regular summer hours will resume the next day on Saturday.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Silva Rhetoricae - Still the Best Site on the Web - According to Me!

Jessica R. Alexander, Reference Librarian
For both pleasure and profit look at my favorite website, Silva Rhetoricae. It is a beautifully constructed site, which after more than ten years continues to fascinate and serve as a valuable tool. It will enhance a law student's or legal professional's ability to construct effective argument.

This site adds profound meaning to and explication of the term "figure of speech" and takes us into the forest where these figures and other rhetorical devices come come alive. Trees and flowers making up the forest lead to fascinating definitions and examples of rhetorical devices.

For law students, faculty and other members of the legal community it can be a practical resource for constructing argument in briefs, memorandums and oral arguments.
For the purpose of writing this blog entry, I entered the term "law" in the site's search box. One of the many results is a path to a Greek term relating to argument using anecdotal references: chreia. Once there, the user is given tools such as definitions, related rhetorical devices, and directions and examples for composition.

Check this site out, folks!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Alum Alex Taylor, 2001

Jessica R. Alexander, Reference librarian
Our alum, Alex Taylor, (A. Alexzandra Taylor) worked as a student assistant in the library. Her heart is just as beautiful as she is. She has just left her practice in Houston to move to DC with her husband, Jason Heimberg, and her new baby, Alexis. I went to a goodbye open house at her condo a few weeks ago.

Alex's husband and his brother, Justin, co-wrote a hilarious book, The Movie Plot GeneratorBrothers Heimberg Publishing 2004). It is signed and I have contributed it to our collection. There is a sample plot generator on the website. Check it out.! The brothers also have a movie coming out - Ace Ventura Jr.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Mining Texas Courts Online

Jessica R. Alexander, Reference Librarian
Texas Courts Online is the official site of the Texas Judiciary. Opinions of the Texas Supreme Court, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the 14 Courts of Appeals are online.
While this website provides the full text of the opinions, a major drawback is a user cannot conduct a unified search of all the courts. In addition there are no embedded links to the cases cited in the opinions. The user must click on the site for each court and perform a search. Despite this, the sites are useful for specific tasks that the user may not have explored. For example, a box in the lower right column of the Texas Supreme Court site has links to the following areas:
  1. case search,
  2. opinion search
  3. electronic briefs
  4. oral argument information
  5. oral argument audio
  6. oral argument video - co-sponsored by Saint Mary's University School of Law (unfortunately, only the Texas Supreme Court has the audio and video features)

There are also several uses for the websites that may not be apparent from the face of the sites:

  • verifying the accuracy of Westlaw and Lexis , etc. subsequent history
  • examples of briefs
  • finding leading experts and attorneys by area of practice
  • identifying major cases to aid in further electronic or paper research, saving time and online access fees
  • preparing for oral argument by listening to or watching videos of past oral arguments
  • links to administrative procedures, brief filing requirements, forms and rules of procedure

As always, the user may discover many uses and advantages of exploring these official sites in the course of legal research.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Behind the Controversy over the Per Curiam Opinions of the Texas Supreme Court

Jessica R. Alexander, Reference Librarian
The Texas Supreme Court is being criticized for the rate at which it issues per curiam versus signed opinions. (ABA Journal, online edition, posted May 8, 2008). The group, Texas Watch, issued the report. (Per curiam decisions are issued by a panel of the Court, are not signed by any justice, and thus have no majority or dissenting opinions.) Texas Watch argues that these opinions reduce the accountability of Texas Supreme Court judges and the rate at which they are issued is an anomaly compared with other state judiciaries and specifically the United States Supreme Court.

Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 47 Opinions, Publication and Citation and its subdivisions are the controlling rules. Designation and Signing of Opinions;Participating Justices. Annual reports on the Texas Judiciary are posted at the website, Texas Courts Online. The 2007 annual report on Supreme Court activity is posted at .

It cites Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 59.1 as the controlling rule for per curiam decisions. This rule provides: 59.1 Submission Without Argument. If at least six members of the Court so vote, a petition may be granted and an opinion handed down without oral argument. It seems that the report could more clearly explain the process if it delved into the intricacies and contradictions of Rule 47.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Our TRACFED Database

Jessica R. Alexander, Reference Librarian
My blog entry about authoritative sources for federal government statistics Are We a Nation of Prisoners, first posted on April 23, 2008, omitted mention of a database called TRACFED. The library has a subscription which can be accessed by the South Texas community through the alphabetical database list on our Stanley home page. (This database can also be accessed directly through their website by the public, although free access is more limited.)

This database publishes and analyzes government data gleaned from statistics that the federal government itself chooses to compile and from other sources such as Freedom of Information Act requests generated by the TRACFED experts.

For example, my blog entry referenced Inmate Count in U.S. Dwarfs Other Nations, a New York Times article about the rate of imprisonment in the United States. At TRACFED, a researcher can access a report on the number of prison sentences (per criminal offense) of one year or more handed down in January 2008.

For a researcher, TRACFED is a valuable resource. CAVEAT: For custom analysis, etc., an additional charge may apply.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

On Target - The Art of Archery - What does it have to do with anything?

Jessica R. Alexander, Reference Librarian

At this time of year I think a lot about exams and studying.  I empathize with nervous and self-doubting students.  I have been thinking about how to write a blog piece about zen and exam preparation and performance - like "Zen and the art of taking law school exams."  But this title for a blog piece seemed phony and trite.

Then there is coincidence. Today, my friend Ward and I went to the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft.  Its a wonderful place where visitors can view sophisticated art, talk to the artists in residence, take classes, and buy pieces of art.  I happened to venture into a small studio labeled fiber artist.  Its inhabitant was Greg Rubio, who turns pieces of recycled cloth having significance to his past into art.  The archery target is the central theme.  (You can view his work at The Drawing Center viewing program. At the home page click on Viewing Program and do a key word search for Rubio.

As a fabric collector I was fascinated.  We talked about his art and about his love of archery. (My friend Ward has a connection to archery because his grandfather, C. E.  Schurman,  was once the Nebraska state men's archery champion and President of the Nebraska Archery Association. He was also a craft person and artist who carved his own elegant bows and made his own arrows.)

The synchronicity and ironies just kept coming.  When I told Greg that I was a librarian at STCL, who likes to collect book jackets and every so often, when in a certain "zone," can create art out of fabric or recycled book jackets, he told me that a friend of a friend is a first- semester student at STCL.  He related that the student is rather frantic about final exams. At that moment, my attention turned to pieces of ecru paper tacked to the wall above him.  The papers contained intricate writing that seemed almost indecipherable.  I asked him about them and he told me that they are notes from his archery teacher about technique.  They will be the subject of his next art project.  I inquired further and he explained that archery requires the archer to defeat body reflexes to the extent that they impair the physics of the string and bow, and the accuracy of the archer's sight.  Curbing these reflexes requires "a certain letting go." The archer cannot turn his head to peer around the side of the arrow, a natural reflex, but must allow his eyes to focus in a straight line.

I exclaimed that his friend's STCL friend should talk to him as soon as possible about her exams.  The same "flight or fight responses" to the self-doubt and fear of exam taking impairs an otherwise intelligent and prepared student.  His coach's approach in writing to him in an art form about the psychological-physical "zen" of archery is exactly what some students need to turn hours of study into success.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Crunch Time Again!

Jessica R. Alexander, Reference Librarian

At the reference desk I overhear conversations about upcoming exams and feel the tension in the air as students pass by. I can empathize, because I was there once. In the 1970's, it seems to me that law students were more naive about the implications of grades, job placement and salary (or I was just out of the loop.)

I am aware that studies about learning styles and techniques can be important information for exam takers. While browsing, I happened upon a blog (by a law professor) that pointed to a recent New York Times Op-Ed piece that I missed, "Tighten Your Belt, Strengthen Your Mind" by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang, published April 2, 2008. These two experts in neuroscience recommend conserving willpower for important tasks. They also recommend exercise as a way to build it. They are the authors of a book called “Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life.”

Are We A Nation of Prisoners? - Authorative Sources for Study of World Prison Populations

Jessica R. Alexander, Reference Librarian

Today's edition of the New York Times contains a front page article, "Inmate Count in U.S. Dwarfs Other Nations." I won't comment on the political and social positions taken in the article. But it is helpful to know about the sources for the cited statistics. The International Center for Prison Studies at King's College London put the conclusory statistics together. Their website is interesting and has interactive maps. Their statistics are drawn in part from The United States Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics. It has a sub-department called International Justice Statistics. These two DOJ websites are a valuable source for scholarly papers and just arguing with friends or foes!

Library Resources for Transactional Forms

Jessica R. Alexander, Reference Librarian

STELLAour online catalog is the starting point for finding transactional forms both in paper and online databases. Click on the STELLA link from either your STANLEY account or the library's home page. Begin with a Keyword search (one of your words should be “forms”). For precision add relevant key words such as contracts and construction. Click submit. Click the modify search button to use the Limit/Sort Search box. If the search is modified and limited to years after 1979 (randomly selected) more precise results are obtained. They represent the best sources for construction contract forms in the library. Practice searching from the keyword screen and modifying your search. A Subject search modified in the same manner will also be productive.

For more help in formulating your search ASK A REFERENCE LIBRARIAN!

This subscription database contains some of the most important resources for forms. Search online versions of the Texas Transaction Guide, Business Organizations with Tax Planning, Commercial Finance Guide, Construction Law, Computer Law and others. We have paper versions of many of the Texas and non-state specific items in the library. See the database lists on the library tab in STANLEY.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Library Changes During Finals

The Fred Parks Law Library will extend hours April 28th-May 14. We will be open until 2:00am during this period (no library services from midnight until 2:00am).

The Fred Parks Law Library provides a variety of spaces for study and meetings by currently enrolled South Texas students. Room capacity varies from 2-8 persons. Rooms are available on a first come, first serve basis. Group size has to be appropriate for room capacity.

Several areas of the library are reserved specifically for quiet study during finals. During finals the 1st floor, 4th floor, and 5th floor are ultra quiet areas. Cell phones, beepers, and conversations are not allowed as a courtesy to other patrons.

Food and beverages in unapproved containers are not allowed in the library.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Little old law books on exhibit in library

Miniature books from the library’s Special Collections Department are on display in front of the Patron Services desk on the 2nd floor. These books, published in the 16th and 17th centuries, were most likely printed for law students. Their small size (most are under 4 inches tall) meant the books were less expensive to produce and thus less expensive to buy. Prior to the mechanization of the book industry all books were printed and bound by hand, a time consuming and expensive process. By making miniature books printers and publishers could save money on paper and pass those savings on to their customers.
These miniatures will be on display until the end of June, at which time they will disappear back into the Rare Book vault – don’t miss them!

Rare Books and all items in Special Collections are available for use by students, faculty, staff, and outside researchers from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday by appointment. To make an appointment contact Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian, at 713-646-1720, or by email at

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Online access to current United States Code provisions

Jessica R. Alexander, Reference Librarian

The official United States Code is published in its entirety ever six years, e.g., 2006, 2000, 1994, 1988…). These editions are commonly referred to as the 2000 Code, the 1994 Code, the 1988 Code, etc. In between these major issue dates, cumulative supplements are issued yearly containing new laws and amendments.

The Code is published by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel and printed by the Government Printing Office (GPO). Sessions laws (Public Laws from a particular Congress, i.e. 110th are slotted into one of the 50 United States Code Titles.) The publication of the Code is complex. The intricacies of the process are described in detail at the website.


Bluebook Rule 12.2.1, requires if at all possible, citation to the publication date of the official code. The printed version runs years behind the designated publication date. In our library we have received all of the volumes of Supplement V of the 2000 version in paper. The 2006 volumes are yet to come.


PDF versions of the 2006 edition, published to date are available on the Download PDF Version of the Office of Law Revision Counsel website. Titles 1 through 9 are available. According to the Bluebook Rule 12.2.1, "...federal laws enacted after the most recent publication of the Code should be cited to an unofficial code until publication of the next edition of the United States Code. As of this date a writer can cite to the official codes Titles 1-9. The other 41 codes should be cited to an unofficial code such as United States Code Annotated and United States Code Service. These publications are up to date in our library.

Also see the GPO Access portal to official publications of the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches of the United States Government.

(A later post will contain information on the interplay between the Statutes at Large and the United States Code.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Bluebook Gets Electronic!

The Bluebook has gone electronic! Students and faculty may now purchase
an electronic key for $25/year, or $55 for 3 years and access the rules
from their desktop.

No, it won't put the citation in blue book form for you, but it will
make finding the rule a whole lot easier. There is an alphabetical
index, or you can execute an advanced search. Or, if you prefer, there
is a table of contents framed on the left side of your screen, just
click and go to the rules you need.

For more information and a quick tour, check our their website at

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Late Opening for the Library

On March 19, 2008, the Fred Parks Law Library will be opening at 8:00 am instead of the usual 7:30 am, due to maintenenance issues

Monday, March 3, 2008

Valentine's Day Presentation

On February 14, 2008 the librarians at the Fred Parks Law Library gave a presentation on the wide array of brand new electronic resources available through the library as well as changes to the Library channels in Stanley. If you missed any of it, now you can view it here on our blog. The video is below:

Monday, February 18, 2008

What is an RSS Feed and How Can You Add This Blog To It?

An RSS feed is one way to keep track of frequently updated web material, such as a blog or online newspaper. The nice thing about an RSS feed is that it allows you to keep track of many web pages in one location. For more in depth information as to what an RSS feed is, click here.

To view an RSS feed you must first choose an RSS reader or aggregator. For more information on these services, click here. If you are unfamiliar with RSS feeds and don’t already have one a web based service is probably your best bet. Both Yahoo! And Google provide such services. Below are links to add this blog to other services if you already have an account with the company.

Using Google as an example, the following steps will allow you to create your own customized feed with this blog as a subscription. Many services operate in much the same manner:

1. Create an account with Google (or which ever service you choose to read your RSS feeds in).

On the Google home page, there is a link in the upper right hand corner reading "Sign In". Click on it. If you already have an account simply type in your user name and password. If you don't have an account, then there is a link allowing you to create one. In Google all that is required is an e-mail address and password.

2. Subscribe to this blog.

There are two ways to do this. The first is by clicking the icon below associated with Google. This is the easiest way. If you are already logged into Google it will automatically add this blog to your subscription list. Otherwise you will simply have to log in to add it.

You can also go directly to Google Reader and manually add this blog to your subscription. To do this, go to the Google home page. Then in the list of links in the top left hand corner of the page, click on "more." This will give you a drop-down menu of options, one of which is "Reader." click on this. In Reader there should be a link reading "add a subscription." When you click on this it will open a small window with a box for you to paste the URL for this, or any other, website in. At that point, either Google Reader will automatically add this blog, or give you a list of websites for you to choose from to add to your subscriptions. Simply pick the correct one and it will be added.

3. Log in to view your RSS feeds.

Once you have added a subscription all you have to do is log in to Google, or which ever reader you chose, to view it and any other subscriptions you've picked. In Google, you simply open Reader again and click on the links for the web pages you've subscribed to. Depending on the website, the reader may provide only a small portion of each entry or it may provide the full text.

The following is a list of icons associated with different reader or aggregator services. You do not have to use Google Reader to view this blog. If you already have an account with another service, or choose to use another service, simply click on the icon for that service below. If you don't have an account, most will take you to a page to create an account.

Add to AOL
Add to Bloglines
Add to Google
Add to MSN
Add to Newsburst
Add to Newsgator
Add to Pluck
Add to Rojo
Add to Technorati
Add to Yahoo

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Valentine's Day Extravaganza!

On February 14, 2008 the librarians at the Fred Parks Law Library will be giving a presentation on the wide array of brand new electronic resources available through the library as well as changes to the Library channels in Stanley. The event will take place in the Emilie Slohm room on the 6th floor of the library and there will be lots of Valentine's Day treats and valuable information for all attendees. There will be a series of 6 30 minute presentations at the following times:

10:00 am
11:00 am
12:00 pm
1:00 pm
2:00 pm
3:00 pm

All attendees at one of the 6 presentations will be eligible for a door prize given at the end of each presentation (must be present to win).

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Welcome to the new blog for The Fred Parks Law Library at the South Texas College of Law.