BILETA 2014 keynote: Sarah Glassmeyer

by Paul Maharg on 16/04/2014

0900 start, unusual for the morning after the conference dinner, so yr intrepid correspondent is doing well to be here for Sarah Glassmeyer‘s keynote, digits on more or less the right keys. A law librarian by background, she works with CALI as content director.  Big changes in virtually all jurisdictions, eg access to justice crisis, technological changes. etc. Great analogies between Lego and law, and law and the Magic Kingdom, and the importance of metadata and search (she cited the librarian joke about the user wanting to read the book called Oranges and Peaches [ie Origin of Species]).

Tomorrowland is Susskindland – she distinguished between NewLaw, eg SeyfarthShaw’s Lean and Project Management, Inksters’ Pop-up Lawyers, DL, and ALTLaw is new practice areas, new players, tools, mechanisms, creation, new, Shake — phone app to make contracts, Collateral Consequences Calculator from Columbia Law, LegalZoom, Form Automation.   In education, MOOCs.  And then there are Hackers: punk aesthetic, homegrown tools to serve themselves/communities, keyword is DIY, and options are edupunk, libpunk, lexpunk — like the Occupy movement in legal ed tech, library tech, and legal tech.

In Fantasy Land, she says, are the regulatory bodies — law societies, bar associations, university consortiums, SRA/BSB. First-rate allocation in the Magic Kingdom.  Fairy Godmothers or Wicked Stepmother…?  Frontier Land is Legal Aid/Public Defenders/Self-Represented, ‘where A2J issues go to live or die’.  Adventure Land is us, academics: translation of law, providing context, great freedom to ‘think big’ via scholarship.  But how valuable is scholarship, really?  I agree with the question mark, and more of that in my slides, in my session upcoming.

Sarah pointed out that there’s animosity between the Lands, but they do talk to each other.  True, but the quality of the relations is surely essential.  She went on to point out the Tunnel System under the Magic Kingdom.  Which in her analogy is information, data.  She distinguished knowledge from information from data, observing the role of the containers of law, the problems of the format (eg 5 inch floppy) and the software (eg XML).

Access to information is a human right.  But access to information can degrade how precious that information actually is.  Access to justice issues are the business of everyone in Law.  So in terms information and knowledge, law and education data should be free.  And most information, she observed, has already been paid for several times over.  A law journal article is written (by paid staff), is peer-reviewed (by paid staff), is published in the journal (sometimes paid editors, sometimes not) which the university buys, both print & e-prints, etc.  Good point.  It’s an invisible point for the most part.

She made the plea for open access, open source.  What is open?  no monetary cost, different levels of access, both content and container to be entirely accessible, eg creation of open legal knowledge products — remember, she said, last year Thomson Eeuters had 1.4B dollars revenue from  firms for basic legal research.  Proprietary software keeps people from owning electronic information, by contrast.  What can academics do?  Publish scholarship on OA Journal or self-archive, retain your copyright, encourage academe creation of FOSS software, use OS tools, advocate to governments, donate to LIIs/FOSS.


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