Issues concerning libraries and the law - with latitude to discuss any other interesting issues Note: Not legal advice - just a dangerous mix of thoughts and information. Brought to you by Mary Minow, J.D., A.M.L.S. [California, U.S.] and Peter Hirtle, M.A., M.L.S. Follow us on twitter @librarylaw
I'm working at the Justia office today, and had a conversation worth sharing.
Conversation with Nick Moline, programmer at Justia
Moline: We just added full text decisions, orders and opinions for federal district court cases if they've been filed at PACER. This is in addition to the full documents that we post for featured cases. We put a picture of a gavel <http://cases.justia.com/federal/district-court/> next to the cases that have decisions in the files.
Minow: Really! Are all federal district court opinions available now?
Moline: The courts are supposed to post them, and most, but not all of the opinions are online. [Ed. note: According to PACER, this functionality "will only be available in courts that have installed District Court CM/ECF version 2.4 or higher, and will only provide free access to opinions filed after the court is actively using version 2.4"]
Minow: And these are available for free?
Moline: Yes, free. They're already available free via PACER, but the general public wouldn't necessarily have access to the PACER database without registering. Also, the PACER database is only searchable by date. We cross-reference the decisions with our database of federal case filing that we've already fetched. That means you can search by party name and case type. Soon we'll add more search capabilities.
Minow: Will we be able to search full text?
Moline: In some cases, yes. Some of the documents are scanned, but others are converted from Word documents. Most of the decisions are full-text searchable. The lawyer submitted documents and filings are often still scanned documents at this point. You should see some of the handwritten docs from some of the pro se parties. But most of the court decisions are full indexable. We use Google's Custom Search Business Edition, and I'm going to add a filter to focus on the cases to help folks search. Google has already indexed about a thousand of the cases, and the results show up in a regular Google search. For the scanned documents, Google does OCR the document to make it searchable if they can.
Minow: What dates do you cover?
Moline: Today we have documents form 2006+. Later this week we'll have the 2004 and 2005 cases. We will move back from there.
Minow: Does that mean I can go back and find cases with "library" as a keyword and find those cases.
Moline: Yes. If "library" is part of the party's name, you'll find the cases. If "library" is in one of the full text-searchable documents, you'll find those too - once Google has indexed them, which should be in a week or so.
Minow: When is the database updated?
Moline: We run daily updates to update the database with new orders and opinions.
Minow: You know, I just had my own experience with that. I subscribe to the cases that have been tagged "library" i.e. http://news.justia.com/cases/library/. On Aug. 20, I saw a decision had been issued in a library case that same day. I blogged it on Aug. 21, and got more hits on that post than any other in recent memory. Thanks for talking with us, and thanks for the great service!
A federal judge in Ohio ruled in favor of the Clark County Public Library on Aug. 20 with regard to the lawsuit by a patron who contested a ban on his use of the library for two years.
For great detail, see the court filings at Justia.
Also, Justia has updated court documents on other library cases there. If you know of other pending federal district court cases of interest to libraries, let me know and I'll see if they can be added.
Some libraries still ask for social security numbers on their library applications. Others have stopped that practice, but haven't purged their patron record databases of these numbers.
Yes, collection agencies want the numbers, and perhaps having this information can increase your success rate in tracking down scofflaw patrons.
But consider the downside. If someone hacks your database, or if you have a bad employee, this highly sensitive information is at risk. Once it's gone, it's gone. Patrons have little recourse once identity thieves get their hands on these numbers.
At the 2007 ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., the ALA Council unanimously adopted a Resolution on the Use and Abuse of National Security Letters. To date, 14 state library associations have endorsed the ALA resolution: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
Interview with Mark Weinberg, Chicago civil rights attorney with a specialty in panhandling cases
Minow: When can a library tell people not to panhandle or solicit - e.g. on the sidewalk leading up to the library front doors?
Weinberg: Nobody should be permitted to block the entrance to any building anywhere, including a library. And laws are already on the books that prohibit this. Should there be special restrictions on panhandling? Most cities have so-called "Aggressive Panhandling Laws" that impose special restrictions on people who panhandle by, for example, prohibiting people from panhandling in certain locations, like within 10 feet of a cash station or 10 feet within a bus stop. Some of those restrictions make sense. Panhandler or not, nobody should be allowed to hover over anybody at or near a cash station. That act is a threatening in and of itself. But, generally speaking, the public space, like public sidewalks, should be open to everyone. So, my answer is that if a person who is panhandling is on the public space and not blocking the passage of anyone, he or she should not be arrested for the act. And, no, it shouldn't matter if it's close to a library.
Minow: Would the same apply to people with political petitions, girl scout cookies or other solicitation?
Weinberg: Yes. The law should be the same for everyone, but as enforced in the real-world, there's definitely a double standard, meaning commercial solicitors like, say, newspaper vendors or people passing out a new high-fiber breakfast cereal are rarely, if ever, interfered with by the cops. People goo gaga over their free samples. But panhandlers get arrested all the time for the same activity. This is especially odd since, under the law, commercial speech has generally received less First Amendment protection than political speech, but in the real-world commercial solicitation actually gets treated much more generously. Why? This is America; we love our commerce.
Minow: What about after hours? For example, Los Angeles enacted an ordinance http://lapd.com/article.aspx?&a=2475 prohibiting the public from loitering outside libraries between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. What do you think about that?
Weinberg: After-hour restrictions on panhandling are quite popular today. Most Cities impose such restrictions. And such restrictions have been upheld as constitutionally-permissible. And in theory such reasonable restrictions don't bother me, but in practice they do. That's because in practice cops use these reasonable restrictions to interfere with lawful, innocent and peaceful panhandling activity. In Chicago, for example, the "Aggressive Panhandling" law limits panhandling within 10 feet of a cash station, but the cops, when the mood strikes them, arrest panhandlers for panhandling within 10 feet of any building that has a cash station within it, which basically allows the cops to arrest panhandlers with impunity, which they do. So, the problem is the misuse and misapplication of these reasonable restrictions. The problem isn't the laws; it's their unreasonable applications.
Second Annual Digital Library Conference and Vendor Fair, Hogan Center, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts, October 25, 2007
May I Digitize this Photo? Go With the Flow When may we digitize a photograph, diary, letter? When is an old photo in the public domain? If it’s not, is there still a way we can scan it legally? What disclaimers should we use? This talk uses an easy to follow flow chart to help make sense of complicated questions.
Speaker: Mary Minow, Library Law Consultant
The Digital Commonwealth: the Bridge to Library 2.0 Library 2.0 projects have the potential of transforming library staff and programs, and engaging patrons in new levels of involvement in their community and library. Building the Digital Commonwealth will allow libraries to implement ideas and technologies associated with Library 2.0 and identify individuals who can help them manage the transition to this new technology. What’s the downside? We’ll talk about that too!
Virtual Archives: Preparing to Create a Digital Collection / Gregor Trinkaus-Randall, Preservation Specialist at the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners
Case Study: Statewide Digital Project, Connecticut History Online / Kendall Wiggin, Connecticut State Librarian
The Future of the Past: Digital Libraries in the Age of Social Software/ Elizabeth Thomsen, Services Manager for NOBLE, the North of Boston Library Exchange
How do they do it? Displaying Digital Images on the Web / Nancy Heywood, Digital Projects Coordinator, Massachusetts Historical Society
Scanning 101 / Scott Kehoe, Technology Consultant, Northeastern Massachusetts Regional Library System
Case Study: Museum Imaging Workflow / David Mathews, Manager, Imaging Studio, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
New Trends for a Traditional Subject: Primary Sources and the World Wide Web in Teacher Training and K-12 Curriculum Support / Jayne Gordon, Director of Education and Public Programs, Massachusetts Historical Society and Kathleen Barker, Education Coordinator, Massachusetts Historical Society
Building Repositories: Three Perspectives / Ann Devenish, MBLWHOI Library, Woods Hole, MA; Michael Bennett, Access Services Supervisor, CW/MARS; Mark Caprio, Digital Repository Program Manager, Boston College
Metadata Considerations for Digital Collections / Amy Benson, Program Director, Digital Services, NELINET, Inc.
Case Studies in Digital Collaboration: Sudbury’s Goodnow Library and Town Departments and the Topsfield Historical Society and Town Library / Bill Talentino, Director, Goodnow Library, Sudbury; Laura Scott Lowell, Goodnow Library, Sudbury; Bill Whiting, Topsfield Historical Society; and Jackie White, Director, Topsfield Town Library.
Picture This! (But Don’t Forget the Context) / Ronald A. Gagnon, Executive Director, North of Boston Library Exchange