---::--- Findings ---::---
From Maryland's First Legal Resource

---::--- Volume 3, Number 3, Summer 2008 ---::---

 

A Publication of the Maryland State Law Library
In This Issue:

Responding to Users' Increasing Information Needs

By Steve Anderson

There exists a popular saying that equates statistics with lies.  At the very least, statistical methodology has the tendency to obfuscate issues on occasion.  Nevertheless, at certain times, everyone acknowledges that statistics can reveal helpful information about progress and the use of services, among other characteristics.  For many decades, libraries have collected data relating to all sorts of details: circulation records, numbers of visitors or books purchased, and how often databases are searched.  In general, these figures are employed to demonstrate accountability and respect of the public’s trust in the management of the library, as well as to provide some foundation for future planning.

The Maryland State Law Library is little different from other libraries in the collection of data.  Every month, Library staff downloads reports from databases, charts numbers of reference questions, and checks the “electronic eye” that counts the number of visitors walking through the entrance.  The compilation and analysis of these statistics indicate that the number of requests for the Library’s services has increased during the last several years.

The Library primarily counts two groups of users: those who are offsite and use electronic resources or communications, and those who physically visit the Library.  While both measurements are important, the Library is especially interested in how it can assist potential users who access Library services remotely via the internet.

The Library’s measurements of online usage include the following: the number of catalog searches, the number of website “hits,” and the number of e-mail questions asked of the reference staff.  In Fiscal Year 2004, the total number of catalog searches for the year was 112,938.  After two series of navigation and design improvements and the inclusion of additional records indicating the availability of certain titles in Library databases, such as Gale’s “Making of Modern Law” and HeinOnline, catalog searches for Fiscal Year 2008 climbed to 307,902.  After two redesigns, the number of website “hits” similarly rose during the same period: from 134,438 in Fiscal Year 2004 to 316,889 in Fiscal Year 2008.  The Library’s improvements to both the catalog and website account for only part of these nearly threefold increases, however.  It also appears that usage is driven by search engines “spidering” websites and databases in order to improve their coverage of internet resources.  Fortuitously, the end result of improved search engines is greater access to the Library’s resources, which increasingly may be found via search engine queries.

Additionally, the number of e-mail reference requests to the Library staff has increased in the same time span.  Offsite Library users posed questions via e-mail a total of 2,331 times in Fiscal Year 2004.  Within five years, this figure has risen to 3,342—a 43% increase.  One might attribute part of this growth to the Library’s helpful customer service, but important external factors likely explain a great deal of it, too.  Because members of the public generate the vast majority of e-mail questions, it is probable that more people are finding themselves with unaddressed legal needs and are turning to the Library as a resource for basic information.  Of course, at the same time, the citizenry is becoming more adept at computer use and e-mail communication.

The State Law Library also is experiencing heavier usage by walk-in visitors.  In Fiscal Year 2004, approximately 10,088 visitors were counted.  (Historically, the total number has been adjusted to subtract possible staff foot traffic; this adjustment has been held constant through the years.)  Five years later, this number has risen modestly to 12,070.  The Library began charting phone-in and walk-in reference requests in January 2006.  During the first full Fiscal Year of data collection, the total number of these requests was 5,137.  In Fiscal Year 2008, customers asked 5,822 questions—an annual rate of increase of 13%.  One can attribute such an upsurge perhaps to a combination of unmet legal needs, the growing complexity of the legal research environment, and enhancements to the Library’s collections and services.

The Library hopes that its services will continue to meet the escalating research needs of its diverse user community for many years into the future.  By accurately planning enhancements to its services and collections, the Library intends to remain responsive to citizens’ legal information requests, both within the Library and in an online environment.


PIXELS

By Mary Jo Lazun

Updates to Library Catalog

As many of you have probably noted, along with changes to the web site the library has also revamped the look and feel of the catalog. Along with a new look, the catalog also has some new features. My personal favorite is the spell checker. If you type the word "legla," the system will now ask you if you meant "legal." For those of us who think we can type fast, but really can't, this is a wonderful feature. Look for the "Did you mean...." under your search box with a link to the correct spelling or other spelling choices.

Another new feature in the catalog is the ability to create a persistent or permanent URL to the record. Each entry has a link that says "Create a permanent link to this item." Clicking on this will change the URL from a dynamic link (based on your current search) to a permanent link to the catalog based on the record number. So instead of getting something like http://lawlib.state.md.us/search?/Xjudiciary&SORT=DZ/Xjudiciary&SORT=DZ&SUBKEY=judiciary/1%2C2319%2C2319%2CB/frameset&FF=Xjudiciary&SORT=DZ&1%2C1%2C, the result will be a simple link you can save or share, like http://lawlib.state.md.us/record=b1101416. As long as that record is in the catalog the link will always work.

Also new is the ability to refine a search from the beginning or at the end. The "Advanced" tab lets you limit your search from the beginning. You can limit by date, collection, or publisher. If the results of your search are too large or too small you can click on "Modify Search" to make adjustments.

On the back end, we have purchased a URL checker and have been going through the catalog removing links to web sites and documents that are no longer available. At the same time we are continuing to add links to online content. Most recent Maryland state publications and task force reports have permanent links to our online repository, OCLC's "Digital Archive." We will continue to harvest and store these publications so that online access to these vital reports, and in many cases the entire web sites, are saved even though the web sites may have gone dark long ago.


Appellate Practice in Maryland:
Basic Resources for the Self-Represented Litigant

By Rudolf B. Lamy

As with many courts, the number of cases handled by self-represented litigants reaching the Maryland appellate courts is steadily increasing.

If you are, or know someone who is, considering a self-represented appeal, you may want to take advantage of the resources available in the Maryland State Law Library. Of course, you may also wish to reconsider the possibility of seeking the advice of counsel.

The Library provides FREE access to the Lexis databases at our public access internet capable workstations.  Lexis provides both the Maryland Reports and the Maryland Appellate Reports. The Library also has full sets of both Reports in hardcopy along with the Maryland Digest.

Appellate practice primary sources held in the collections of the Library include both the Annotated Code of Maryland and the Maryland Rules.  The Library has both the current and superseded editions of the Code and the Rules (Title 8 of the Rules is specific to appellate review in Maryland).

Important appellate practice secondary resources held by the Library are:

  • “Appellate Practice for the Maryland Lawyer: State and Federal” by Sandler and Levy
    (MICPEL : 2d [1994] & 3d [2001] & 4th [2007])
  • “Maryland Appellate Practice Handbook,” Sandler ed. (MICPEL, 1977)
  • West's Maryland Law Encyclopedia, “Appeals”

The Library also has a significant number of appellate practice treatises that are not specific to Maryland.  Among these resources you will find:

  • “Effective appellate advocacy” by Weiner, Lutz & Pannill (ABA, 2004)
  • “Federal appellate practice and procedure in a nutshell” (Thomson / West, 2008)
  • “Supreme Court and appellate advocacy: mastering oral argument” by Frederick (West, 2003)

Should you find yourself on the appellate court docket as a self-represented litigant, or even as an attorney making your first appellate appearance, the Maryland State Law Library has the basic resources you need.


The Creation of a General Treatises Core List

By Catherine McGuire

The Maryland Circuit Court Libraries Study Committee Report of 2001 included as its Appendix C a list of proposed minimum standards for Maryland Circuit Court libraries. Included in this was the following standard: “A basic collection of legal texts, treatises, practice materials and looseleaf services of contemporary value on subjects of interest to the legal community. (List of suggested available materials to be made available at the State Law Library website.)" (App. C.VII.C.10)

Colloquially known to Maryland Circuit Court law librarians as the "General Treatises List," the construction of the document has been an ongoing project. Initially undertaken by the Outreach Program, the project included input from the members of the Conference of Maryland Court Law Library Directors (CMCLLD) for compilation of titles in specific subject areas. After several months of research, weighing the pros and cons of topics and titles, the list is currently undergoing final edits. With luck, a final list will be available to Maryland Circuit Court law library personnel by the next Annual Meeting of Maryland Circuit Court Law Libraries.

The first step in drafting this general treatises list was the assessment of topics for inclusion. Circuit Court libraries in Maryland vary greatly from county to county; the needs of the user populations similarly vary. However, some topics, it was understood, were critical to the collection of any law library, no matter the size. For instance, all county law libraries should contain a basic treatise on evidence, but not all libraries have a need for a text on entertainment law.

Once a core topic list was agreed upon, surveying texts for inclusion began. Several tools were used in compiling possible titles, including, but not limited to, the catalogs of the Maryland State Law Library, the Library of Congress, and the Universities of Maryland and Baltimore law libraries; and Ken Svengalis’ handbook, Legal Information Buyer’s Guide & Reference Manual. Text selection criteria included reliability (citation frequency and broad known acceptance as authority); topical coverage; currentness; update frequency and reliability; and, in some cases, ease of contact with the publisher.

Over the many drafts, the list was narrowed down, revised, and rewritten. Items were added, deleted, and sometimes re-added. The overall goal was to have an end product that would not overwhelm the resources of a Circuit Court library, but would still establish a fullly workable and reliable collection for most needs of library users. The list is not intended to be a finite goal. Libraries with more funds should aim higher with their collections. The list is also not intended to be absolute – in some cases, there may be an alternative title available, which a library may choose to purchase or already own, thus fulfilling the goal of a complete core collection.

The General Treatises List will join the Maryland Treatises List as a key tool to assist Circuit Court library personnel statewide in achieving a core collection, a cornerstone of reaching a common acceptable standard for all Circuit Court libraries.