AALS Section Program -- Law and Computers

Friday, January 7, 1994

Bringing the Net's Information Resources into the Law School

Jim Milles

Technical Considerations: You Can Lead a Horse to Water...
Human Considerations: ... But You Can't Make Him Drink

  1. Technical Considerations: You Can Lead a Horse to Water...
    1. A Low-Budget Approach to the Internet
      1. You can do a lot with a low budget, dial-up connection to the Internet--but you can't do everything. In fact, you're missing a lot of the essence of the Internet, how it works and the resources it provides (i.e., dial-up is not that different from using Westlaw or LEXIS; you're not in control of what you can do, what clients you can use; a lot, particularly multimedia, is in practical terms unavailable.)
      2. If exploring the Internet has been compared to drinking from a firehose, then what I'm going to talk about is drinking from a firehose--through a soda straw.
    2. Dial-up connections
      1. Advantages of low-budget connectivity: uses existing equipment (modems and phone lines), free software (e.g., Kermit); doesn't look too different from what faculty are already accustomed to; can usually rely on University's Computing Services for most hardware and software-related matters.
      2. Disadvantages [as is often the case, disadvantages are the flip side of the advantages]: stuck with '70's technology (line-oriented interface), unable to enjoy graphical and multimedia resources like Cello; the fact that it looks somewhat familiar obscures what's really going on and can make the Internet harder to understand; we're at the mercy of the University's Computing Services department (little or no control over what services can be provided and what priority to give them).
    3. Gopher as an access tool
        For a low-budget environment, gopher is probably the best tool, rather than WWW. Will look essentially the same whether you're using a 486/66 at 14.4Kbs or a PC XT at 2400 baud.
          [Here is a connection to Jim's Gopher. Ed.]
  2. Human Considerations: ... But You Can't Make Him Drink
    1. Creating Awareness
      1. Memos, demos, schmoozing: Bringing relevant resources to the attention of faculty who would be interested (e.g., ILSA-L, legwri-l, rferl-l, donosy-l...); conducting programs to show faculty what can be done on the Internet. Faculty interest has increased significantly.
        1. "'Where to Start' for New Internet Users"
      2. I read the news today, oh boy: The Internet in the Mass Media; with all the recent news stories, it's impossible to say how much of the increased faculty interest is due to my efforts and how much to Time and The Wall Street Journal.
    2. Training Issues
      1. Developing in-house expertise: Have to demand that librarians, computer support personnel, or others learn their way around the Internet, and give them the support necessary to do so.
      2. Developing a training program:
        1. Defining goals
          1. What do you want to get out of the Internet? Possibilities: keeping up with cutting-edge technology; facilitating communication for pedagogical, research, and administrative purposes; more efficient use of familiar resources (Westlaw and Lexis); exploring new and unfamiliar resources (e.g., Cello); electronic publishing (from discussion drafts to electronic journals).
          2. What do you want to put into the Internet?
            1. At least, you'll want to consider how to present your school to the world, e.g., what kind of information to put on a Gopher -- most universities now have gophers available.
            2. Beyond that, there is the culture of the Internet; the term "lurkers" suggests that active participation and contribution is encouraged, and the technology makes it easy to do; might as well take advantage of it. What resources (special library collections or centers like the Llewellyn and Eastern Europe materials Lessig spoke of) do you have that might be useful to others and ought to be shared?
          3. In-house experts have to look at:
            1. The needs of the law school, curricular and research-related;
            2. The available resources of the law school, both technical and human;
            3. The strengths of the law school, if you're considering publishing on the Internet.
        2. Developing training resources (An Introduction to Using the Internet handout)
          1. List of law-related discussion lists.
          2. Command sheets for BITNET LISTSERV and Unix listserv lists.

Jim Milles
James Milles is Head of Computer Services and Associate Professor of Legal Research at Saint Louis University School of Law. Mr. Milles has been involved with the Internet since 1990, and is the listowner of several Internet discussion lists, including: ILSA-L, for the International Law Students Association; MAALL, for the Mid-America Association of Law Libraries; and NETTRAIN, for Internet trainers. NETTRAIN currently has over 1800 subscribers from 43 countries.

Mr. Milles is also on the editorial board of EJVC-L, the Electronic Journal of Virtual Culture, and is the author of An Internet Handbook for Law Librarians, published by Glanville Publishers.

Mr. Milles is the chair of the MAALL Internet Committee and is a member of the American Association of Law Libraries' Internet Task Force; both committees are charged with promoting access to the Internet among law librarians, particularly those working in law firms, corporate law departments, and state, court, and county law libraries.

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