Librarians in the Classroom

problem solving lectureResearch librarians at the IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law played key roles in an intensive, seven-day intersession course in January designed to simulate real-life, collaborative work at a busy law firm. The course, Problem Solving Skills for Lawyers, was taught by Professors Katharine Baker and Kari Johnson, and took students through four complex legal problems requiring a mix of written work and presentations on tight deadlines. Continue reading

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Things to do in Chicago when finals are over

Because you have spent the last several months studying, you may have forgotten how much fun there is to be had right here in Chicago, and some things are even free!

Skate away your finals woes!


Navy Pier Winter WonderFest—Winter festival on Navy Pier through January 11.  Includes mini golf, ice skating and the Toboggan Tunnel.  Tickets: $5 for admission and $25 for rides.

Millennium Park Ice Skating—Ice skate right in the heart of Chicago with a backdrop of the city’s skyscrapers.  Free if you own your own ice skates—skate rentals are $12.

Free Fitness Week, Chicago Park District—January 2-11. Visit one of the 72 fitness centers located in Chicago parks and use equipment such as treadmills, cross trainers, stationary bikes, weights and more. Check out their website for information on group fitness.

Continue reading

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Who controls your Facebook Feed?

facebook-icon-danleechObviously you control who your friends are on Facebook and what groups you join and pages you “like.” But what shows up in your “Top Stories” is controlled by the Facebook algorithm. It uses your actions – clicks, likes, comments – to prioritize content, along with other factors that you have less control over.

This spring an article was published showing that for one week in January 2012, staff at Facebook worked with scientists to study “emotional contagion” by manipulating how many sad or happy stories were shown to 689,003 users.  Most people weren’t happy to hear that Facebook was experimenting on – not just with – its users.

Chicago-Kent’s Professor Valerie Koch weighed in on the story:

If you think you may be missing key content, or if you are concerned about how your feed is being manipulated, here are ways you can take that control back:


Facebook Friend otpionsOn a friend’s page, it’s easy to see if you’re “following them” – but you can go an extra step and click on your friend connection menu to get notifications for each post they make or add them to a list. “Close Friends” is one of the automatic lists, but you can create your own too.

Find your lists here, where you can choose your favorite lists:


facebook-list-favoritesAdding a list to your “favorites” will make it easy to view them under your “News Feed” as a quick filter.

When you are browsing the desktop (non-mobile) version of Facebook, you’ll be able to see everything posted by those people, even if the Facebook algorithm would normally hide it.


When you join a group, you can choose how often you want to see the updates shared in the group. Do you want to see everything?  Just highlights? Nothing? You can also specify that you’ll only see posts from people you know. Find all of your groups at this link to review your current settings, note your favorites, etc.



Facebook has two major incentives to not show all the notifications from the pages you like. One is for users: if they show too many, you may feel your personal content has been drowned out by ads. One is for their own profit: if they show fewer updates and pages want to share more, they can charge pages to push more content to you. Which then become more like ads and the cycle begins again…

If you have specific pages that you’d like to see, you can use “Get Notifications” the same way you can for friends – it’s under the “Liked” menu:


And, just like for friends, you can also create lists – called “Interest lists” for pages, that give you a quick place to see all updates for pages on that list. Here’s one I’ve created for Chicago-Kent pages.

Total control?

After the stories with Facebook’s experiments on users, several writers decided to try experiments with their own Facebook feeds to see what they could learn:

What did they find? You can annoy your friends very quickly when you start liking everything and those notifications flood their feeds. Also it’s very hard to get rid of certain types of content: engagement announcements, new jobs, birthdays, etc.

Whatever your strategy, it’s likely that Facebook will continue to decide what you need to see most, and there’s only so much you can do to work around that.

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Free Legislative History


Anyone who has ever had a legislative history research project knows that it can be hard work parsing through all of those documents trying to find legislative intent.  It makes sense to find those legislative documents as quickly as possible, so that you can get to the hard work of finding legislative intent.

The best way to find all of the legislative history documents for a statute is to look for a compiled legislative history.  Compiled legislative histories put all of the relevant documents together, in full-text, in one place.

But, Clare, that sounds expensive!  It can be.  Some of the best sources for compiled legislative history are on Westlaw and HeinOnline.

However, there is a great site that lists free compiled legislative histories available online.  It’s from the Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, D.C. and you can find it here.  This links you to legislative histories compiled by the Department of Justice, law professors, and others.

You may find some that are not true compiled legislative histories, in that they do not include the full-text of the documents, but they will at least give you a citation to find the document elsewhere.

So if you need a shortcut to legislative history and you need it cheap, look no further than the LLSDC’s Legislative Histories of Selected U.S. Laws on the Internet: Free Sources.

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How the Library Can Help You During Finals

Finals will be here before you know it, and that means a wave of students hunkering down in the library to study.  Here just a few ways that the library can help you prepare for success on your exams.

Exam Database

The library’s exam database contains past exams for many of your courses and professors.  Submission of exams is solely at the discretion of each faculty member, so not every course or professor is necessarily represented.  While not all-inclusive, it is always a great idea to check to see if your professor has put any past exams in this database.

Exam Database

First Year Student Welcome Guide

The library has prepared a guide for first year students that includes helpful study tips, locations of study materials,  links to library and outside resources, and a wealth of other information to help you survive exams.

Welcome Guide

CALI Codes

Many of you may have heard of the CALI awards given to the top scoring student in each law school course.  One of the best ways to prepare yourself to win a CALI award is by doing CALI lessons.  CALI offers study lessons for virtually all law school courses to help prepare you for what you will see on your exams.  Stop by the reference desk for Chicago-Kent’s registration code.


Study Rooms

Come to the circulation desk to reserve a study room up to a week in advance for you and your friends.  Study rooms are limited to one hour per day, per student.  These rooms are very popular around finals time, so be sure to plan ahead if you  would like to reserve one.

ck library 094

During finals, the library will offer earplugs for students who prefer absolute silence for studying or test taking.  Please feel free to stop by the service desk to pick up a pair.

Restricted Access and Extended Hours

Restricted Access


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Edicts from Apartheid

We’ve blogged once or twice before about the books in our Library of International Relations (LIR) collection, built over several decades by Eloise ReQua, a Chicagoan who believed that books could foster better understanding among cultures.

One volume that recently caught our eye is a United Nations pamphlet titled Apartheid in Practice, published in 1971. It’s a collection of 300 statements culled from South African race laws of that era, presented, according to the introduction, as “an attempt to overcome the difficulties created by the complexity of the apartheid laws. Each statement sets out in simple terms the effect of one of these laws.”

For instance:

7: Even if an African … was born in a town, has lived there continuously for 14 years and has worked continuously for the same employer for nine years, his wife commits a criminal offence by living with him for more than 72 hours, if she has not received a permit to do so.

15: An African boy, aged 16, who has left school and lives at home with his parents (who maintain him) but does not work may, at any time, be arrested without warrant by a policeman who “has reason to believe he is an idle person.”

74: An African factory worker who is absent for work for 24 hours without permission, in addition to being dismissed, (a) may be fined by a Government inspector an amount not more than $2.80, which is withheld from his wages, and (b) is guilty of a criminal offence punishable by a fine of not more than $70 or imprisonment for not longer than three months.

The collection of statements was prepared by Leslie Rubin, a former South African Senator who represented black South Africans as a so-called “natives’ representative” before going into exile and eventually becoming Professor of Comparative Law at Howard University, the post he held at the time he undertook this study. The work was commissioned by the United Nations Secretariat Unit on Apartheid as a revision and expansion of Rubin’s 1959 study, This is Apartheid.

86: An African whose employment is terminated by a municipal labour officer may be required to leave the area where he works, together with his dependents, within 24 hours.

106: A white man who spends a few hours each week in his own home teaching his African servants to read is guilty of a criminal offense.

118: It is unlawful for a white person and a non-white person to drink a cup of tea together in a café anywhere in South Africa unless they have obtained a special permit to do so.

As we celebrate twenty years of democracy in South Africa, this book is a stunning reminder of the degradations of the apartheid era and the terrible depths from which today’s South African society is emerging.

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The Case of Celestial Copyright

The facts of this case sound more like an argument your friends might have over a bottle of wine than the basis of a law suit. If an alien came to earth and told you the secrets of the universe and you copied those into a book, could you sue someone who distributed that book for copyright infringement?

This case, Urantia Foundation v. Maaherra, 114 F.3d 955 (9th Cir. 1997), is about the Urantia Book, a compilation of questions posed to spiritual beings and their answers. The Urantia Foundation registered for copyright protection in 1956 and renewed its copyright in 1983, classifying the book as a “work for hire.” In 1990, Kristen Maaherra started distributing a study guide to the book on computer disks (remember floppy disks? Anyone? Never mind) along with the complete text of the book. The Foundation called foul. Continue reading

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Faculty and Staff’s Favorite Banned Books: Part 4

Alex Magalli, Administrative Assistant at the Law Review, writes about “The Societally Crass yet Brilliant Works of Bret Easton Ellis”

They say the Dutch Masters painted with more than 60 unique shades of black. Similarly, Bret Easton Ellis has at least that many tones of vile. And like those Dutch guys who could make their work pop regardless of the subject, Ellis’s prose explodes off the page. American Psycho’s businessmen comparing business cards is taut-wire fear; Rules of Attraction’s parties are cyclones of misguided indulgence. There are thousands of good writers and hundreds of great writers and dozens of legendary writers, but rifling words off the page so as to make the reader set the book down and whisper “that’s good” is praise that only a handful of writers can claim (Higgins; Proulx; DeLillo; Bolaño; Nabokov; a few others).  If there is such a thing as writing with jazz (and there is), then Ellis writes with grunge.

Given how rare the talent of sizzling words is, should we call it a shame that it comes from a writer determined to dip his pen in ink that’s part blood, part drug detritus, and part better unknown? No. We need it. Literature is humanity, and humanity gets ugly sometimes. American Psycho, Rules of Attraction, Less Than Zero, Glamorama: all challenged, frequently banned, undeniably poignant dissections of the seamy and unmentionable.  Sex, drugs, rock & roll, nihilism, obsessive material capitalism. Banning Ellis’s works doesn’t even require explanation:  put it on the high shelf, hide it from the kids. Yet the man’s genius for character and form and, yes, Shock Value, cannot be denied, nor the pleasure of devouring his work. Ellis humanizes complex depravity, and gives insight into why the depraved deserve portrayal as well as the saintly. Ellis shows us that some Holden Caulfieds don’t drape themselves in nostalgia and self-doubt, they choose a road paved in vice and vulgarity. But that’s life, humanity, and we need to acknowledge it.

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Faculty and Staff’s Favorite Banned Books: Part 3

Elizabeth De Armond, Professor of Legal Research & Writing, wrote:

Although I wouldn’t say The Hunger Games was an all-time favorite, I thought it was a wonderful book – a top example of kid-lit – and was somewhat astonished to see that it was among the ten most banned books of last year.  It is a book to convert non-readers into readers, and to absorb even those of us who do not ordinarily read science fiction.  It has a clever main character who is female but not always stereotypically feminine, and themes of virtue and vice that surpass its dystopian setting.  Lots of action, vibrant detail, rich secondary characters. I hear it has been made into a movie, but as a rule I avoid movies made from books I liked!

Dan Saunders, Faculty Scholarship Marketing Coordinator, found a favorite on the list of banned books:

I was surprised to see The Lord of the Rings on the banned books list, and even more surprised to learn that “satanic content” was what led the citizens of Alamogordo, New Mexico to burn it in 2001. This is of course supremely ironic, given that J. R. R. Tolkien was a devout, lifelong Catholic who played an important role in fellow writer C. S. Lewis’s conversion from atheism to Christianity. Tolkien bristled at facile interpretations of The Lord of the Rings that reduced the story to the level of political or spiritual allegory. But it is plainly evident that the three novels portray what might be called a traditionalist Catholic worldview that is anything but satanic—with themes like the apocalyptic triumph of good over evil, the restoration of a lost king, the conservation of the earth, and the elevation of the weak. For these reasons and others—namely, all of the quests, battles, and unforgettable characters—The Lord of the Rings remains one of my favorite books period, let alone banned books.

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Faculty and Staff’s Favorite Banned Books: Part 2

We asked faculty and staff of the law school to write to us about their favorite banned book. To give them some ideas we included a list of classic novels that were banned at one time or another:  One more staff member and one member of the faculty have responded, and their remarks are below.

Professor of Law Richard Warner wrote:

I spent a good part of my senior year reading Ulysses under the supervision of Ian Watt [Stanford professor and literary critic], who made me see that it was laugh out loud funny. People associate it with its stylistic innovations, but it is also a great comic novel. Both the style and the comedy inspired Catch-22, another banned book.

Gwen Osborne, Public Affairs Director, wrote:

My pick is Their Eyes Were Watching God, author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston’s best known work. First published in 1937, the novel explores issues of race, gender and class through the life of Janie Crawford Killicks Starks Woods. In Janie, Hurston created a strong, independent African-American female character unlike most black women found in fiction of that time. The book’s central theme of women’s empowerment still resonates more than 75 years after it was published. Zora Neale Hurston died in obscurity in 1960 and the book was out of print for nearly 30 years until Alice Walker — then a college professor — resurrected interest in Hurston’s life and work. It’s not surprising that Walker’s 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Color Purple, contains many of the same themes as Their Eyes Were Watching God and is also a banned and challenged book.

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