Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Blog posts now viewable on Facebook

If you are not already a fan of the library's official Facebook page,South Texas College of Law | The Fred Parks Law Library, this is a good time to sign up. With the help of a tool called TwitterFeed, all entries posted to our blog will now be sent directly to our Facebook page. In fact, you may be reading this on Facebook now! You can easily keep up with our library blog simply by visiting the page. It's one-stop shopping!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

C-SPAN Video Archives Now Available Online

From the Government Documents Department...

For some people, C-SPAN is a cure for insomnia, but this cable network provides a wonderful service by recording the public proceedings of our government for all posterity. Now, you can access all every C-SPAN program aired since 1987, totalling over 160,000 hours of video on the newly created C-SPAN Video Library. The site is comprehensive and easily searchable . From the site:

"Programs are extensively indexed making the database of C-SPAN programming an unparalleled chronological resource. Programs are indexed by subject, speaker names, titles, affiliations, sponsors, committees, categories, formats, policy groups, keywords, and location. The congressional sessions and committee hearings are indexed by person with full-text."

Take some time to check out the site and you'll find video of the Iran-Contra Hearings, President Clinton's impeachment trial, and even the 2006 Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner featuring Stephen Colbert's humorous look at politics and the media. Practically speaking, you may find a video of the Congressional hearing you need to trace the legislative history of a particular statute -- a much more dynamic approach to research than poring over endless pages of text.

For more, take a look at this New York Times article: C-SPAN Puts Its Full Archives on the Web

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Government Tweets?

Would you be surprised to find out your government officials were tweeting? Would you approve? Well let the surprise end here, your government officials are in fact tweeting. After a presidential campaign in which social networking stole the show, there should be no wonder that over 2500 agencies and individuals in the public sector currently have a Twitter account.

What is Twitter? According to Twitter's website it is a " real-time information network powered by people all around the world that lets you share and discover what’s happening now." Tweeters can alert their followers to bits information in a timely manner.

GovTwit is a website that provides a directory of all government agencies, public officials, and other individuals or organizations that report on the government. You can access the website at: The site also keeps statistics about these Twitter accounts, like which are most active, which have the most followers, and which are the newest. The site also has a blog which discusses new information about government tweeting at

Do you want to know what your Senator is up to right now? Chances are, they have a twitter account you can follow to find out. Do you want to know what the CDC is working on? Become a follower of one of their Twitter accounts. Everyone from the President of the United States to the local Houston fire department has a tweeting stream that you can follow.

Whether you approve of it or not, social networking activities like tweeting seem to be a permanent part of government today. What better way to keep up with the people you elect?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Informational Professional (Librarian) and Proud of It

By Jessica R. Alexander, Reference Librarian

I am attending the South by Southwest Interactive Conference. I am fascinated with the breadth of knowlege of the panel presenters. I am in a presentation about the semantics called Beyond Algorithms: Search and the Semantic Web. This is heady talk. These guys and the one woman panelist are the best thinkers on search engine algorithms. But I keep thinking about targeted legal information and the ability of a law librarian to take a patron's question and provide them with one or several sources leading to an answer. The web is a real add on to our tools. But for hundreds of years scholars, especially librarians, have invented ways to organize and search for information.

For example, despite Google and the other big players, it is not possible for the casual user to determine what the operative case law is on a specific legal issue in a specified jurisdiction for a specific point in time. In paper research achieving this result takes the expertise of someone who understands the structure of the legal system. In United States jurisdictions it is the common law case precedent system interfacing with statutory law. This kind of search on the web requires a subscription to very expensive databases of legal information. When a patron comes into the law library she gets the benefit of both online and paper research tools.

More later...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Google Scholar

By Jessica R. Alexander, Reference Librarian

I am just beginning to use Google Scholar to perform legal research. My first impression is: wow! I was using the search engine to locate the source of the famous quote by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes using the word "penumbra." Using 'Oliver Wendell Holmes and penumbra as terms, I found an article in a law journal. When I clicked on the article the search engine opened up the article from our subscription database HEINONLINE. More on Google Scholar later.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Recent Acquisitions

Defiant Dads: Father's Rights Activists in America, Jocelyn Elise Crowley , (Cornell University, 2008) and Courting Change: Queer Parents, Judges and the Transformation of American Family Law, Kimberly D. Richman, (New York University Press, 2009).

By Jessica R. Alexander, Reference Librarian

When I saw the book cover for Defiant Dads, I thought of a quiet library patron with hurt in his eyes who has spent years trying to gain custody of his son in South America. After a divorce, his wife took his young son home to South America. When this dad visits his son, the wife's relatives demand that he hand over his passport during the visit.

In her informative book, Crowley gives a political face to the many non-custodial fathers who have formed or joined father's rights groups in the United States. She provides the reader with an overview of the legal and economic forces that have catalyzed the movement: family breakdown and the states role in determining issues of custody and child support. Numerous statistical information is provided about societal changes that have affected the movement.

I highly recommend this book to family law professors and students who plan to represent families in divorce, child custody and support matters.

Richman's, Courting Change, taught me the term "gayby boom." This term is used to describe a revolution in the exposure of the problem of gay and lesbian people and parental rights issues. The book is written from a critical legal and legal realism viewpoint. Richman begins the book with tragic illustrations of the absurdity of laws that automatically curb the parental options of gay and lesbian individuals and families. She goes on to give an overview of the case law with copious case law citations by discussing doctrines such as the now discredited "tender years doctrine," and the universally accepted but illusive "best interest of the child" standard for determining custody and child support issues. She concludes by saying that the persistence of the indeterminacy of these parental rights issues, cause contradictions and inconsistencies that continue to plague this area of the law.