The Law Library invites you to look at our main display case inside the Reading Room. The case shows off, in photos, some of the many Rare Treasures of the Cornell Law Library. The display is presented in anticipation of three open houses at which you can view the actual materials. The Law Library will open the Dawson Rare Book Room at the East end of the Reading Room on February 10th, March 9th, and April 20th from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Note that some of these materials may be accessed in digital form here.

The Law Library has rich collections of rare materials. The Trials Collection is one of the most popular. It contains pamphlets that report trials involving murder, domestic disputes, and love triangles! The most famous of these trials are those of Lizzie Borden and Edward Rulloff. The Donovan Nuremberg Trial transcripts have attracted scholars from the United States and Europe.

A collection unique to the Cornell Law Library is the Laws of Liberia. The library has had requests from law firms, the United Nations, and the Liberian government for this material. Another treasure is The Charter of the Province of Pennsylvania and City of Philadelphia printed and sold by Benjamin Franklin in 1742. Additional materials of importance in Anglo-American law include Coke’s Institutes and Blackstone’s Commentaries.

On display in the Rare Book Room is the Scottsboro Train Replica used as an exhibit in the historic 1930’s trial of the “Scottsboro Boys”. It, among other materials, was a gift of the defendants’ attorney, Cornell Law alum Samuel S. Leibowitz, ’15. You can see a portion of this famous model train, an eighteenth-century Blackstone, and a seventeenth-century Littleton in our display case. We invite you to join us at one of our open houses this spring to see more of our riches.

The Cornell Law School Library has been named one of the worlds most beautiful by Flavorwire! Page through to entry number 18 and you’ll see the amazing Gould Reading Room. We join a list of elite and stunning spaces, including Trinity College Library in Dublin, Old Library, St. John’s College at Cambridge, and the George Peabody Library at Johns Hopkins.

Students, faculty, and staff of Cornell Law School are justly proud of our space and very grateful for the generosity and foresight of Eleanor and Milton S. Gould, for whom the Reading Room is named, and Myron Taylor, a major law school benefactor for whom the building is named.

Have you ever been on the 4th floor of the Law Library and wanted to access the wireless network with your smartphone? Well, your life just got better because wireless connectivity is now available on that floor. The 4th floor’s traditional laptop ban remains in effect as laptops can create bothersome noise. However, most other devices these days have silent keyboards. This makes iPhones, iPads, etc compatible with the quietly studious atmosphere of the 4th floor.

Connect away….

Now for our final post on the Student Satisfaction Survey.  In addition to asking about the facility and website, we questioned students on their use of, and satisfaction with, the library’s Access Services and Research Services.  Access Services include circulation, course reserves, and Interlibrary Loan/Borrow Direct.  Research Services include the reference desk and research consultations.  Overall, 50% of respondents use the Circulation Desk from a few times per month to a few times per week.  An additional one-third uses the desk a few times per semester.  Reference Desk use, of course, is less than that of circulation.  46% of respondents use reference from a few times per semester to a few times per month, while 6% use the desk quite frequently—from a few times per week to daily.  Students are more likely to use reference as they progress through their law school careers with 35% of 1Ls never having used the desk, while only 12% of 3Ls report never using the desk.  As expected, journal staff members use reference service more frequently than other students.  Research consults, which are a more focused and time-intensive service, have been used by 1/3 of respondents.

Student satisfaction with Access Services is noteworthy.  90% of those who have used the Circulation Desk are mostly to very satisfied, 42% of users are very satisfied.  73% of those who have used course reserves, and 73% of those who have used Interlibrary Loan/Borrow direct are mostly to very satisfied.  While more users of course reserve report being “mostly” satisfied as opposed to “very” satisfied, this is likely due to the availability constraints caused by high demand of certain items.

Student satisfaction with Research Services is similarly high.  78% of those who have used the reference desk are mostly to very satisfied with 35% reporting being “very” satisfied.  Research consults are a big hit: 54% of students who have had a research consult are mostly satisfied, while an additional 38% are very satisfied.  Most research consults were for either a class paper or a journal note the student was writing.

Comments on the core services, and the Law Library generally, were plentiful.  The library is appreciative of both the very positive comments and the constructive ones.  Representative responses to the question “What do you like most about the Law Library?” include:

  • “The large amount of resources and the helpful staff.”
  • “The librarians. Seriously, you guys are great.”
  • “I enjoy interacting with the library staff. They have always been able to assist me with my research and to help me track down a source. Thank you.”

We also asked the question “What do you like least about the Law Library?”  This yielded numerous constructive comments, which overwhelmingly focused on the physical plant.  As noted previously, space and temperature issues featured prominently.  Representative comments on service issues include:

  • “There should be more transparency in the carrel assignment system.”
  • “Not enough copies of core hornbooks on reserve.”
  • “You should allow ILL/borrow direct for books which are on course reserve.”

The library really appreciates these comments as they flesh out the numerical ratings and help us to prioritize items that need to be addressed.  The comments regarding course reserve comport with the numerical ratings.  These comments will assist both Access Services and Collection Development personnel in making decisions to improve the student experience.

Finally, to gauge interest in additional research services, we asked students “Would you be interested in attending one-hour research workshops presented by the library on a specific topic?”  Three out of four indicated that they are somewhat to very interested in such workshops.  Related comments were made in response to a question on what else the library should provide.  These include:

  • “More research trainings.”
  • “I wish the librarians taught more for-credit classes on legal research, especially research for transactional law.”

Overall, the survey confirmed that students are quite pleased with the Law Library and the plethora of services the library provides.  It also helped confirm that students do have facility-related issues with cold temperatures and limited space, especially group study space.  The survey also highlighted areas within the direct control of the library that need to be addressed, specifically the carrel-assignment procedure, availability of course reserve materials, and the policing of noise and food.

The Law Library greatly appreciates all of those who took time to complete the survey.  The feedback, both positive and constructive, is helpful in assessing what works and what does not, and in charting a course for the future.  And congratulations to our prize winners: Joseph Pohlkamp (2L) won the reserved study carrel for next fall, and Lilian Balasanian (3L) won the $25 Cornell Store gift card.  Awesome!

This is the second post on the Law Library’s Student Satisfaction Survey.  Today, we’ll look at the responses to questions about the Library’s Web site.  While the frequency of use runs the gamut, 3 out of 4 respondents indicated that they use the site from a few times a semester to a few times per week.  The site itself received good marks: 61% of respondents are mostly to very satisfied with the site.  Only 4% indicated dissatisfaction.  In addition to satisfaction ratings, we asked students which features they are using.  The site is mostly commonly used for the Library Catalog, the Online Legal Resources, checking library hours, and linking to Westlaw and Lexis.  Other often-used features include Interlibrary Loan/Borrow Direct, research guides, and the Legal Research Engine.

There were numerous positive comments made about the Web site, and these focused on the ease of use and navigation of the site, and the depth and breadth of content and resources.  There were several constructive comments made about the Web site and these, interestingly, generally said that the site is not intuitive and difficult to navigate.  The old adage that you can’t please all of the people all of the time holds especially true for web sites.  That said, we are always looking for improvements that can be made to the site.  As we update the site’s content this summer, we will look for changes that can be made to improve the organization and navigation of the site making it more intuitive and accessible.

If you have additional feedback on the web site, do let us know in the Law Library.  The next post on the Satisfaction Survey will consider library core services.

Reading Room at DuskIn February, the Law Library conducted a Student Library Satisfaction Survey.  More than 160 students responded to the survey for which we are most grateful.  Respondents included JD students from all three classes, LLMs, and JSDs.  A significant number of students indicated that they are currently active with journals, moot court, clinics, or as research assistants.  Four out of five respondents visit the library, not including walking through, from a few times a week to daily.  Not surprisingly, 90% said they visit the library to study.  Other common reasons to visit the library include using the Internet and printers, copying and scanning, checking out books, and researching for assignments.

The survey gleaned both quantitative and qualitative information on the use of, and satisfaction with, Law Library facilities, web presence, and core services.  We’ll address each of these on the Competitive Edge blog.  Today’s post looks at library facilities.

To gauge student satisfaction with the library facilities, we asked respondents to rate the floor/space they use most often on five criteria: noise level, lighting, study space, group study room availability, and temperature.  Students rated primarily the Reading Room, the second-floor, and the new ground floor.  The mean numerical ratings of noise, lighting, study space, and temperature balanced at the “neutral” rating, but leaned toward satisfaction.  On group study space availability, ratings leaned toward dissatisfaction.  This is an ongoing issue in the Law Library, of which we are keenly aware.  This is an item that we will address to the architects who are planning the law school renovation.

Temperature is also an issue, as reflected in the many comments we received.  Typical of these:  “It’s too cold in the Reading Room,” and the very expressive, “COLD! The reading room is freezing.”  We are also aware of the cold temperatures in the Reading Room and on other floors.  The Reading Room in particular, with its high ceiling and tall windows, is very difficult to heat.  However, we have informed the facilities staff that students have expressed dissatisfaction with the cold.

While both the cold and lack of group study rooms are ongoing issues, there were many positive statements on the physical plant, too.  Representative comments include:  “The Reading Room is beautiful” and “It is a great place to study and be productive.”

The survey also inquired about equipment in the Law Library, including copiers/scanners, public computers, office supplies, and wireless Internet connection.  Students are quite satisfied with the wireless connection, and generally satisfied with copiers/scanners, public computers, and office supplies.

The survey did elicit numerous comments on equipment and supplies in the Computer Lab, which is administratively separate from the Library and is under the purview of Law IT.  Comments noted that computer mice and keyboards are often missing, printers often do not work, and that staplers and other supplies are either damaged or missing.  We have discussed these matters with Law IT.  IT regularly replaces missing or damaged items and that the printers are regularly maintained (and replaced) through a contract with the Computing Center.  It is to the benefit of all students to use the equipment with care and to replace any item you may have borrowed.  As the Lab cannot be staffed 24/7, students can help by keeping an eye out for problems and reporting them to the Lab managers as soon as possible.

If you have other feedback regarding the Law Library facilities, do let us know.  Our next post on the survey will cover the Library’s Web site.

The last day of class is a week away, so it’s time to start thinking about whether you’ll need your law school Lexis and Westlaw accounts this summer.  Full access to Lexis and Westlaw is turned off May 31 and does not reactivate until August 1.  However, if you meet one or more conditions you can extend your password for the summer.  These conditions cover various non-commercial activities, including public interest work, working as a faculty research assistant, journal or moot court research, and bar review.  New this year is an additional Lexis extension criterion that allows students to maintain access for “research skill improvement for educational purposes.”  This permits all students to extend their Lexis passwords, but keep in mind that commercial use is prohibited.

Passwords must be extended by May 31.  Basically, you need to complete an online form indicating to Lexis/Westlaw why you need full access during the summer.  Complete extension details for both Lexis and Westlaw are provided here:

In October, the Law Library ran its annual Student Summer Research Survey for 2010.  Close to 100 upper-division students responded to the survey for which the Library is most grateful.  There are some interesting highlights that we’d like to share.  First, the split in employer types broke down roughly into fifths, with 22% at larger firms, 20% at smaller firms, 19% clerking for judges, and 23% working for government.  Twelve per cent of respondents worked in public interest.  Research was a major work duty with 59% spending at least half their work time on research.  A statistic 1Ls may want to ponder as they consider the skills they will need for their summer work.

Lexis and Westlaw were commonly available, but 15% of the respondents did not have employer-provided Wexis.  Other online resources used included Fastcase, BNA, CCH, HeinOnline, Google Scholar, PACER, and other government web sites.  Pay-as-you go pricing plans for Wexis are still common with 30% of Lexis users having transactional/hourly pricing and 43% of Westlaw users on such plans.  Almost 1/3 of respondents said their employers had a policy on minimizing research costs, including requiring approval to use online subscription sources, and specification of cost-saving techniques and low-cost sources to be used first.  While Wexis and other online sources dominate, print is not yet dead with an overall 22% of research work being done in hard copy sources.

Eighty-one per cent of 2Ls believed that the research component of Lawyering did help prepare them for summer work.  Of course, there were many useful comments on this point.  Overall, 91% of respondents said they were prepared for their research duties.  To the extent that they were not prepared, half said the Law Library should improve the research component of Lawyering and 20% said to offer more advanced/specialized research courses.

Again, the Law Library greatly appreciates all those who participated in the survey and congratulates the prize winners, Emily Pickering and Chris Wild.  As one can see, the information gleaned from the survey is useful in charting the course of research instruction at Cornell Law School.

Lexis EnhancedIf you have signed on to Lexis recently, you’ve likely noticed a new look.  Like Westlaw, Lexis is currently in a period of change.  Later this year, Lexis will roll out a new platform to compete with WestlawNext.  But recently, Lexis has adjusted the interface of their current platform to make it more user-friendly and eye-appealing.  The interface uses crisper lines, fewer colors, and even more white space than the previous interface.  A change that many will appreciate is the reduction in the number of tabs running along the top of the page.  The most important tabs—Search, Get a Document, and Shepard’s—still appear; however, the many other available features are now tucked under a tab labeled “More.”  This is a great improvement.

Both the Recently Used Sources and Search by Topic or Headnote features have been moved to the right side in their own boxes.  This change achieves the dual goal of reducing clutter while making these features more prominent.  Also on the right side one sees Quick Tools, which allows users to quickly pull up documents, Shepardize, locate a source, or use the Lexis web with a single search box.  The right side also includes an Emerging Issues section highlighting articles posted by practitioners in an array of practice areas.  Overall, the changes Lexis has made are for the better.  In time, we will see what their answer is to WestlawNext.

WestlawNextBeginning September 13 you’ll notice an additional link when you sign on to Westlaw at http://lawschool.westlaw.comWestlawNext (WLN) debuts at Cornell Law School on Monday, and it is the newest platform for the Westlaw research service.  WestlawNext was years in development, and West is hoping that it will make legal research easier.  One of the goals of WLN is to make the legal research experience more Google-like.  The interface has been streamlined and takes on the look one often sees on the free web.  You no longer need to select a database and search queries can be kept simple.  West claims that they have developed the “world’s most advanced legal search engine” based on their editorial enhancements, Key Number taxonomy, and state-of-the-art search technology.  They have created a dashboard for navigation and users may create folders into which they can drag and drop documents for future access.

Perhaps the most significant distinguishing feature of WLN is that much of the research process is handled behind the scenes.  This may make research faster and easier in some instances, or seemingly so, but it also wrests control from the researcher.  So, give it a try.  Do some sample searches to compare it to the current iteration of Westlaw.  Is WLN a better system?

Some things to know: Westlaw will be here on Monday the 13th to promote the rollout of WestlawNext.  Current Westlaw will still be available, and you will use your same username and password to access WLN.  Also, be aware that you will not be able to print to the dedicated printers from WLN.  Of course, you will be able to e-mail, download, and print to an attached printer.

If you have questions, let us know.

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