Category: News & Updates

Putting Your Browser to Work: Extensions That Make You More Productive

Browser extensions are effective tools for enhancing productivity and improving web browsing. Whether you need help staying away from distracting websites, saving articles for later, or remembering passwords, there is an extension or add-on out there that can help.

This article was originally published by Kris Turner on October 4, 2017 in Inside Track, the bi-weekly newsletter of the state bar of Wisconsin. Vol. 9, No. 19, October 2017.

Working in an office today, especially a law office, means that you will spend a lot of time staring at a computer monitor – conducting research, answering emails, and doing day-to-day work.

Browser extensions are a great way to make the technological aspect of your job easier. Extensions are add-ons that live within your browser of choice. They focus on performing particular tasks or improving user experience in a particular way.

The extensions below are mostly free and are meant to make you a more productive, better researcher. The majority are available for either Chrome or Firefox, but there are several that are available for other browsers as well. These browser extensions can help solve a workflow or productivity problem at little or no cost.

Find extensions by searching in the Google Store, the Chrome Web Store, the Firefox add-on menu, or similar locations in Opera, Explorer, Edge, or Safari. You can add these extensions by finding them in the store or menu and following the instructions on each page.

Legal Research Extensions

App

RECAP the Law

Availability: Chrome and Firefox

Price: Free

RECAP (PACER spelled backward) is a handy extension that encourages you to “free the law.” When you search PACER, any document or docket you view will be added to RECAP’s free database for others to use, essentially allowing you to provide a public service as you work. In addition, if you are about to view a document that is already in RECAP’s archive, you will be notified of the document’s availability before you view it on PACER.

AppBestlaw

Availability: Chrome and Firefox

Price: Free

For those who use Westlaw and Lexis, Bestlaw adds features to make legal research faster and easier. These features include bluebook citation copying, document sharing, content highlights, and much more. For those who rely on these giant databases, this is an excellent addition to your repertoire.

AppUnpaywall

Availability: Chrome and Firefox

Price: Free

We’ve all found that perfect article for research and … it’s behind an impenetrable paywall. What to do next? Unpaywall makes that next step easy by searching for free (and legal) versions of articles you need. Unpaywall crawls the web while you search, and lets you know if it finds a free version of that sought-after article. It’s a time-saving research tool.

AppGoogle Scholar Button

Availability: Chrome and Firefox

Price: Free

Google Scholar is becoming an increasingly reliable location for checking for scholarly journal articles (as well as case law). This extension takes that usefulness and enhances it by helping you find any article that you may be looking for with one extra click. If you are on a paywalled page, Google Scholar will search its archive to see if it can be easily and freely located.

AppJureeka!

Availability: Chrome and Firefox

Price: Free

Jureeka is a nice legal research tool to have running quietly in the background. A very simple tool from Cornell’s LII (Legal Information Institute), Jureeka adds links to case citations on many pages. If you find yourself on an informative page that lists cases, Jureeka adds hotlinks to each case that will send you to a freely available full-text opinion if it is available. Another time-saver when performing legal research.

Passwords, Adblocking, and Trackers

AppGhostery

Availability: Chrome, Edge, Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Safari

Price: Free

Ghostery is a great extension if you want to have fewer sites tracking you, blasting you with ads, or just generally slowing down your online experience. When Ghostery is running, it will tell you who is tracking you and for what purpose (analytics or social media, among other reasons). You can choose to block certain trackers on all websites, or just particular ones. This will lead to more privacy and faster internet speeds.

AppAdblock Plus

Availability: Chrome, Firefox, Opera

Price: Free

Adblock Plus removes advertisements from many websites. Pop-ups, ads before videos, ads that pop up under the web page, and background ads all are removed from your web experience. This will make your browser work faster, and generally lead to a less stressful time online. Adblock Plus leads to not only a more productive day, but also an overall better time online.

AppDisconnect

Availability: Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari

Price: Free (for basic, premium options available)

Disconnect not only blocks ads, but also eliminates trackers, enhances bandwidth, and generally makes your work online faster and safer. Disconnect combines the elements of many of the other browsers listed here by blocking trackers (like Ghostery), blocking ads and videos (like Adblock Plus), and creating a secure VPN connection. It’s a nice one-stop shop for safer online browsing.

AppTimewarp

Availability: Chrome

Price: Free

Timewarp is a great way to increase your productivity. It has three ways to keep you away from time-wasting sites. It adds a timer to designated websites to show you just how much time you are spending on that page. You can have it redirect your browser away from a time-wasting website. And you can add a quote that shows up when you visit the pre-designated site as a warning about wasting time. If you need it, it’s a cool way to self-police your browsing habits.

AppStrict Workflow

Availability: Chrome

Price: Free

Need a more merciless and unyielding extension to keep you away from distracting sites? Strict Workflow, when activated, imposes a time limit in which you must be productive, and then a brief break to check other sites. You choose which pages should be blocked, and Strict Workflow will do the rest.

AppLastPass

Availability: Chrome, Edge, Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Safari

Price: Free (with premium options)

LastPass is a solution if you have trouble remembering various website logins, while still using unique passwords to ensure better security. You only need to remember one password (for LastPass), and LastPass will store your information securely and allow you to log in without having to remember difficult passwords. LastPass can also store your payment information, other secure data, and be synced across platforms and phones so you can be more secure in an increasingly unsecure internet.

AppRescueTime

Availability: Chrome and Firefox

Price: Free

RescueTime is another extension that tracks how much time you are spending on distracting websites. RescueTime determines which of your tabs is active and tracks how often and for how long you are there. It can also tell when you walk away from your computer and stop tracking when you aren’t there. Your logs can then tell you just where your day goes. It is a handy way to review your day and your typical work habits.

New Tab Productivity Extensions

AppMomentum

Availability: Chrome

Price: Free

When you open a new tab, Momentum replaces the plain white page with a beautiful image and a quote. You can also edit the page to add your goals for the day, list your most popular links, and keep track of your local weather. Momentum very simply provides you with an overview of your day when you open a new tab.

AppOneTab

Availability: Chrome and Firefox

Price: Free

I am very guilty of this – I will often have 10 or more tabs open while performing research, and will lose my way when trying to remember where I was. OneTab takes away this hassle by converting your tabs into one tab that lists everything you had open. It is just as easy to view (if not easier) and will save you time as you try to retrace your research.

AppBe Limitless

Availability: Chrome

Price: Free

Be Limitless, much like Momentum, takes your plain new tab page and pumps it full of useful information and productivity tips. With this extension, you get the beautiful background, a productivity tip, and a tracker that tells you how much time you have spent being productive, on social media, and more. These extensions take the “dead space” of the new tabs and make them work for you.

AppSpeed Dial FVD

Availability: Chrome

Price: Free

Another great way to enhance your new tab page is to make it a “speed dial.” There are several extensions that can do this, but Speed Dial FVD does so with a unique 3D menu that syncs with your bookmarks and your most frequently visited pages. Save yourself one step while opening new tabs with a speed dial for your favorite sites.

Reading and Writing Extensions

AppPocket

Availability: Chrome, Edge, Explorer, Firefox, Safari

Price: Free (with premium options)

One way to make your time more productive is to save for later any interesting articles you want to read. Pocket allows you to do just that and makes them available later on for online or offline reading. On top of that, Pocket will also suggest similar articles or trending articles of the day, aggregating results based on what you are saving. It’s a great tool for when you need to get work done, but really don’t want to forget about an article you want to read.

AppMercury Reader

Availability: Chrome

Price: Free

Mercury Reader is an effective tool for those of us that get easily distracted when reading an article online. Mercury Reader strips away all the distractions, leaving only the actual content that you want to read. Safari and Firefox both have reader modes, and Chrome has one that is currently being worked on. Mercury Reader allows you to get your simple reader view right now.

AppGrammarly

Availability: Chrome, Edge, Explorer, Firefox, Safari

Price: Free (with premium options)

If you are like me, you are often nervous about a grammatical or spelling error in an important email. Grammarly is there to put your fears to bed. As you write (on any web page), Grammarly tracks your spelling and grammar and makes suggestions to ensure that you are not embarrassed. You can turn Grammarly off at any time in case you do not want it tracking you. Grammarly goes above and beyond the normal spellchecker and has saved me from making numerous errors.

AppReadism

Availability: Chrome

Price: Free

There are times when you just have to read an article online. Readism will give you an estimate of how long it will take you to read it via an unobtrusive box in your browser. A simple but extremely effective way to manage your time while online.

Miscellaneous Productivity Extensions

AppGoogle Translate

Availability: Chrome and Firefox (unofficial version)

Price: Free

While Google Translate is a pretty well-known feature of Google, the browser extension makes its tools even easier to use. If you find yourself on a page in a foreign language, you can simply click the translate icon to quickly get a translation of the whole page. You can also highlight a particular phrase for a quick translation. While the translation is likely not 100-percent perfect, it will certainly give you an idea of what the page is about.

AppHovercards

Availability: Chrome

Price: Free

Hovercards is a combination security and productivity extension. If you receive an email with a link that you don’t trust, Hovercards allows you to “peek behind the curtain” and see where that link will take you. Hovercards will also play a video in its popup screen, saving you the time of actually visiting the site for the video to play.

AppNoisli

Availability: Chrome

Price: Free

If you are at all like me, you sometimes need to drown out distractions while you are working. Noisli does just that for you, providing white noise that is aimed to both increase productivity and relax you. You can modify the white noise yourself or simply select random and let the white noise roll.

AppAwesome screenshot

Availability: Chrome

Price: Free

Taking a screenshot within your browser is an excellent tool for you to use to show a computer problem to your information technology department, to share your ideas easily, and to quickly share inspiration. However, many of these tools only take a picture of what is on the screen. Awesome screenshot allows you to take a shot of the entire website, saving you and the recipient time and aggravation.

Extensions: Effective Tools

Extensions can be extremely effective tools that can greatly enhance your productivity (and also improve your personal web browsing). Whether you need help staying away from distracting websites, saving articles for later, or remembering passwords, there is an extension out there that can help.

DACA Legal Clinics and Resources

On Sept. 5, 2017, the Trump Administration announced that it would be ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as of March 5, 2018.

Current DACA beneficiaries whose benefits expire between Sept. 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 are eligible to apply for renewal. The deadline for renewal is October 5, 2017. 

We want to inform you of upcoming free legal clinics throughout the greater Seattle community to assist with renewal applications, legal consultations and information on next steps and options for DACA beneficiaries:

Monday, September 18th, at 5pm
Cleveland High School: DACA information session, specifically for teachers & educators
5511 15th Ave S
Seattle, WA 98108

Sponsored by: Colectiva, NWIRP & WDC
More info here.

Thursday, September 21st, at 5 pm (call to make an appointment: 1-855-313-7326)
Perkins Coie
1201 3rd Avenue, Suite 4900
Seattle, WA 98101
Sponsored By: Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP)

Friday, September 22nd, at 3pm (call to make an appointment: (206) 721-8458)
ReWA (Main Office)
4008 Martin Luther King Jr Way S
Seattle, WA 98108

Sponsored By: ReWA
More info here.

Friday, September 22nd, at 6pm
Everett Community College, Jackson Conference Center
2000 Tower St
Everett, WA 98201

Sponsored By: AILA, Colectiva, IPJC, NWIRP & WDC
More info here.

Sunday, Sept. 24, at 10 a.m.
South Seattle College – Georgetown Campus
6737 Corson Ave. S.
Seattle, WA 98108
Sponsored By: South Park Information and Resource Center, Washington Dream Coalition, Colectiva Legal del Pueblo, Catholic Immigration Legal Services, Refugee Women’s Alliance, St. James Immigrant Assistance
More info here.

Tuesday, September 26th, at 4 pm (call to make an appointment: 1-855-313-7326)
Microsoft Building 34
3720 159th Ave NE
Redmond, WA 98052
Sponsored By: Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP)

Friday, September 29th, at 3 pm (call to make an appointment: (206) 721-8458)
ReWA (Main Office)
4008 Martin Luther King Jr Way S
Seattle, WA 98108

Sponsored By: ReWA
More info here.

You will need to bring the following to the clinics:

  • A Copy of your previously filed DACA application(s) that you submitted to USCIS and mail you have received from USCIS
  • Copy of work permit or copy of I-765 approval notice (greenish paper)
  • $495 money order addressed to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for filing fee
  • 2 passport pictures (2 inches by 2 inches)
  • 2 photo IDs
  • Social Security Number

If you are unable to make to one of these clinics, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project is also hosting several free community forums regarding the end of the DACA program where community members will be given an opportunity to briefly meet with an attorney to discuss their options. You can find a list of these forums at this link.

The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and the City of Seattle also have DACA webpages with current information, resources and listings of free legal clinics.

City of Seattle, King County Announce Immigration & Refugee Legal Defense Fund Awardees

This article was originally published in The Seattle Medium on August 30, 2017. You can read the original version here.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine recently announced the community organizations that have been selected to use $1.5 million in funding, granted as part of the Legal Defense Fund, to provide legal aid to vulnerable immigrants and refugees.

Earlier this year, both the City and County passed legislation authorizing these funds for legal defense and community navigation services, as President Donald Trump threatened immigrant and refugee communities through both his inflammatory rhetoric and unconstitutional executive orders.

Funding was provided to organizations for the following services:

  • Direct Legal Representation – awarded to organizations that have an attorney on staff who is able to provide direct legal representation for low-income immigrants and refugees living in King County or working in Seattle who are in detention, facing removal, or in danger of losing their immigration status.
  • Community Navigation Services – awarded to organizations that can provide guidance and referrals for low-income immigrants and refugees living in King County or working in Seattle who are in detention, facing removal, or in danger of losing their immigration status.

“We are sending a clear, united message to the rest of the country – and to the world – that King County remains an inclusive community where all are welcome to build a better future,” said Executive Constantine. “The funding we announce today will help our partner organizations defend the human rights of more immigrants and refugees who contribute to the prosperity and vibrancy of our region.”

In November 2016, Murray responded to the federal administration’s anti-immigrant actions by passing his Welcoming City Executive Order, which reinforced the City’s already existing policy that employees do not ask about citizenship status and serve all residents regardless of immigration status. The order also mandated funding for peer support groups and counseling for immigrant and refugee middle and high school youth, legal assistance for immigrant families with children in Seattle Public Schools, and a comprehensive public awareness effort around reporting discriminatory harassment.

In March of this year, Councilmembers M. Lorena González and Tim Burgess joined with Mayor Murray in announcing their intent to pass legislation creating the fund. Seattle joins Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Chicago as cities that have created programs to fund legal defense and other immigrant legal services. Unlike in criminal trials, individuals do not have a right to legal representation in immigration proceedings. However, studies have shown that people who were represented in U.S. immigration court were up to ten times more likely to obtain relief.

Over the course of two weeks, a panel comprised of members from the immigrant and refugee legal defense community, King County staff, and City of Seattle staff reviewed both written applications and oral presentations. Out of ten applications, five received awards. The award recipients for direct legal representation are Kids in Need of Defense, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, and Colectiva Legal del Pueblo; and for community navigation services are the Filipino Community of Seattle, South Park Information and Referral Center, and the West African Community Council.

“I signed legislation in April establishing a $1 million-dollar immigrant Legal Defense Fund because immigrants are being targeted by a presidential administration that has embraced White Nationalism,” said Murray. “Today, with additional money from our partners at King County, we are awarding those defense fund dollars to community organizations like the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Kids in Need of Defense, and West African Community Council, because they advocate for immigrants every day in what’s now a larger fight to preserve core American principles of Democracy.”

The City now begins negotiating the contracts detailing each of the grantees’ scope of work. The grantee organizations are expected to start offering services under the Legal Defense Fund after September 30.

ELAP Family Law Fellowship Program Now Accepting Applications

The Eastside Legal Assistance Program (ELAP) Fellowship Program is currently accepting applications for its 2017 – 2018 Family Law Fellowship Program. ELAP’s work centers around providing free, high quality, civil legal services to low-income residents of East King County, and domestic violence legal aid to residents throughout King County.

ELAP Family Law Fellowship (2017-2018):

  • It is a year long program that focuses on training new attorneys on Family Law and Domestic violence.
  • Access to mentorship and training in Family Law, Domestic Violence, motions practice and pre-trial/trial preparation.
  • ELAP provides liability insurance and office space.
  • Fellow’s give back by committing to 600 volunteer hours over the course of the program year.
  • Orientation starts November 6, 2017
  • Application deadline on October 13, 2017

For more information, please refer to this brochure, ELAP Fellowship Program 2017, or visit ELAP’s website at http://www.elap.org/about/elap-family-law-fellowship/.

New Law Helps Property Owners Remove Squatters

On May 10, 2017, Governor Inslee signed a new law, which will allow property owners in certain circumstances to have squatters removed from their property by law enforcement immediately, rather than having to navigate the lengthy eviction process.

SB 5388, which passed with unanimous, bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, took effect July 23, 2017.

Specifically, the law allows property owners to file a declaration that a trespasser – not a tenant – is on their property. This allows law enforcement to remove the person immediately, unless that person can prove they were a legal tenant within the past 12 months.

A property owner, or their agent, may initiate a law enforcement investigation and request the removal of an unauthorized person or persons. They must declare:

  • They are the owner of the premises
  • The individuals entered and remain illegally on the property
  • That the individual(s) were not a tenant at the property in the past 12 months
  • The individual(s) were not authorized to enter or remain on the property
  • That they have demanded that the unauthorized individual(s) vacate the property, but the individual(s) failed to do so

You can download a free copy of the Request to Remove Trespasser form here.

Any false declarations made by an owner or their agent under this law may bring a cause of action against them for false swearing or for making a false or misleading statement to a public servant, both of which are gross misdemeanors, and the declarant may be held liable for actual damages, costs, and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

Law enforcement must provide the individual(s) with a reasonable opportunity to secure and present any credible evidence, which the officer must consider, showing that the person or persons are tenants, legal occupants, or the guests or invitees of tenants or legal occupants.

If it is determined by law enforcement that the individual(s) are on the property illegally, they may then proceed with removing them from the premises, with or without an arrest being made, and order them to remain off the premises or be subject to arrest for criminal trespass.

Read the Official Press Release here.

The Library Welcomes Two New Board of Trustees Members

The Public Law Library of King County would like to welcome its two newest Board of Trustees members: The Honorable Susan Amini and Miriam R. Gordon, Esq.

Judge Susan Amini was appointed to the King County Superior Court bench on May 2, 2013, by Governor Jay Inslee. Judge Amini was born in Iran and developed a love for the American legal system early in life. Judge Amini is the first judge of Middle Eastern descent in Washington State history. A graduate of the University Of Maryland School Of Law, Judge Amini began her legal career as a public defender for Associated Counsel for the Accused in south King County. Four years later, in 1994, she opened her own law practice in downtown Bellevue, focusing first on criminal defense but later expanding into family and immigration law. She represented clients from over fifty countries in matters ranging from complex dissolution and custody disputes to asylum and Violence Against Women Act petitions. In 1994, Judge Amini also began serving as a Pro Tem Judge in King County.

In addition to her legal career, Judge Amini has served as a Hearing Officer for the Washington State Bar Association and as a trustee of the King County Bar Association. She also has served as a trustee of the Overlake Hospital Foundation, as a Human Services Commissioner for the city of Bellevue, and as a Rotarian. In 2010, she was honored by Northwest Asian Magazine as a Woman of Color Empowered.

Miriam R. Gordon is an Associate Attorney at Lasher Holzapfel Sperry & Ebberson. Specializing in Family Law, Ms. Gordon’s practice emphasizes marital dissolutions, property division, maintenance, parenting plans, child support, and post-dissolution issues. Ms. Gordon received her B.A. in 2008 from Brown University and her J.D. in 2013 from the University Of Washington School Of Law. In addition to her legal practice, Ms. Gordon is a member of the King County Bar Association and a Young Lawyer Division Volunteer.

New Library Catalog!

We have migrated to a new, more user-friendly library catalog! Check it out here.

New features include:

  • Mobile Friendly: A responsive mobile-friendly interface, so you can use the catalog on your smart phone.
  • Two-Week Loan Period for Book Checkouts: We have also changed our loan periods – books are now checked out, automatically, for two weeks, with no renewals. Instead of checking out a book for one-week and then having to call to renew the book, subscribers now check out books for two weeks at a time.
  • List of New Titles: Are you interested in the newest titles the library has to offer? Every month, the library will update its list of New Titles on the Catalog homepage with the most recent acquisitions, keeping you up-to-date on the law.
  • Purchase Suggestions: Not finding the book that you want or need? You can now make purchase suggestions to the library, letting us know what you would like us to include in our collection. If a suggested book is popular or highly relevant to the majority of our subscribers, we will take it into consideration when completing our acquisitions process.

Are you having trouble using our new catalog? Do you have questions about the services we offer? Feel free to call and speak with a librarian: (206) 477-1305.

New Art at the Library

The Public Law Library of King County has added new pieces to its art display, thanks to the generosity of the staff at 4 Culture.

4 Culture is the cultural services agency for King County, Washington. 4 Culture is committed to making our region stronger by supporting citizens and groups who preserve our shared heritage and creating arts and cultural opportunities for residents and visitors.

Through the generosity of the staff at 4 Culture, the law library is able to hand select and temporarily display artwork from King County artists that reflect our mission and values. Next time you visit the Public Law Library of King County, take a walk through the library and explore the new artwork, which includes this piece by Zack Bent.

© Zack Bent, 2006. Image courtesy of 4Culture.

ZACK BENT

Preaching to the Choir, 2006

Archival inkjet print

24 x 30 inches

The simple act of removing the title from the spine of a book gives new meaning to what remains. Part of the series entitled Answers to the Universe, Zack Bent’s photograph is a view into the complicated intersection of text and meaning. He changes the context and intended purpose of children’s science books, pushing them into the realm of grownup inquiry. Compare the title of the book to the title of the artwork.

 

If you are interested in viewing more local art, Gallery 4Culture presents monthly exhibitions featuring the work of artists residing in King County who do not have gallery representation. E4C, 4Culture’s storefront gallery, presents commissioned or existing digital artwork and 4Culture programming on four monitors with exterior speakers. Artwork for both galleries is selected annually through a jury process.

ADDRESS: 101 Prefontaine Place South, Seattle, Washington, 98104

How Libraries Became Public

Written by Barbara Fister. You can read the original version of this article here.

Of all of our cultural institutions, the public library is remarkable. There are few tax-supported services that are used by people of all ages, classes, races, and religions. I can’t think of any public institutions (except perhaps parks) that are as well-loved and widely used as libraries. Nobody has suggested that tax dollars be used for vouchers to support the development of private libraries or that we shouldn’t trust those “government” libraries. Even though the recession following the 2008 crash has led to reduced staff and hours in American libraries, threats of closure are generally met with vigorous community resistance. Visits and check-outs are up significantly over the past ten years, though it has decreased a bit in recent years. Reduced funding seems to be a factor, though the high point was 2009; library use parallels unemployment figures – low unemployment often means fewer people use public libraries. A for-profit company that claims to run libraries more cheaply than local governments currently has contracts to manage only sixteen of over 9,000 public library systems in the U.S. Few public institutions have been so impervious to privatization.

I find it intriguing that the American public library grew out of an era that has many similarities to this one – the last quarter of the 19th century, when large corporations owned by the super-rich had gained the power to shape society and fundamentally change the lives of ordinary people. It was also a time of new communication technologies, novel industrial processes, and data-driven management methods that treated workers as interchangeable cogs in a Tayloristic, efficient machine. Stuff got cheaper and more abundant, but wages fell and employment was precarious, with mass layoffs common. The financial sector was behaving badly, too, leading to cyclical panics and depressions. The gap between rich and poor grew, with unprecedented levels of wealth concentrated among a tiny percentage of the population. It all sounds strangely familiar.

The changes weren’t all economic. A wave of immigration, largely from southern and eastern Europe and from the Far East before the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, changed national demographics. Teddy Roosevelt warned of “race suicide,” urging white protestant women to reproduce at the same rate as other groups to make America Anglo-Saxon again. The hard-won rights of emancipated African Americans were systematically rolled back through voter suppression, widespread acts of terror, and the enactment of Jim Crow laws. Indigenous people faced broken treaties, seized land, military suppression, and forced assimilation.

How interesting that it was during this turbulent time of change when the grand idea of the American public library – a publicly-supported cultural institution that would be open to all members of the community for their enjoyment and education – emerged.

Like so many grand social projects dreamed up by our current tech billionaires, the first great public libraries were started by the Bill Gates and Koch brothers of their day. The architecture of these libraries emphasized that culture was the province of the elite, palaces guarded by lions and approached up flights of stairs. These impressive institutions were supposed to provide immigrants with a carefully curated introduction to the treasures of Western civilization, but the masses had their own ideas; they filled newspaper reading rooms and skirmished with librarians over adding popular literature to the canonical collection of uplifting literature. (Long story short: they won).

NYPL

But even these early palaces of culture had one distinguishing feature: they were designed to be free and public (though in the Jim Crow south, “the public” didn’t include African Americans, who were excluded from the libraries their taxes helped pay for until the civil rights era). Joshua Bates, a financier whose funds kick-started the Boston Public library, had three conditions for his gift: the library building should be an ornament to the city; it should include a large reading room with tables that could seat up to 150 people; and “it shall be perfectly free to all, with no other restrictions than may be necessary for the preservation of the books.”

These palatial libraries were ambiguously democratic. Though “free to all” might be inscribed over the doorway, their policies were often conservative, with ungenerous opening hours that discouraged workers with limited free time, closed stacks to prevent unsupervised browsing, and architectural hints that culture was a purifying pursuit, consistent with the City Beautiful movement which proposed serene and classical beauty as the cure for urban problems. Yet they were popular, and they laid the groundwork for a durable expectation that communities would have free public libraries. Toward the end of the 19th century, another vision for public libraries emerged, championed by women in towns across the country and boosted by another industrialist with a philanthropic bent. But that’s another story for another blog post.

This response to turbulent social stress would be unimaginable today. President Trump’s proposed budget completely defunds the Institute of Museum and Library Services and cuts LSTA grants to local libraries. Our new FCC commissioner has cut out a program that made internet access affordable for resource-poor schools and libraries, rolled back privacy protections so ISPs can get into the targeted advertising game, and now is attacking net neutrality rules so that our telecoms will be able to favor their content and limit access to competitors’ – or to sites that aren’t run by deep-pocket corporations.

County law libraries in Washington State, like the Public Law Library of King County, are open to the public but in fact receive no public tax dollars.  Unlike general public libraries, we lack the ability to levy taxes and instead rely almost entirely on fees assessed on paid civil filings in Superior and District court.   If you file a civil case in one of these courts and pay the filing fee, the law library in your county receives a very small portion of that fee.  If you use your county law library for some reason but don’t need to file a case, or do file a case but ask the court to waive your filing fee, you don’t pay anything for the law library’s services.

What made the vision of “free to all” so attractive in the late 19th century? Why now do we have to pay for “free” information services with our privacy and, ultimately, our freedom? And, given this dismal state of affairs, why do free public libraries persist?

(CC-licensed image of New York Public Library courtesy of ktbuffy.)

Librarians March for Science

On Earth Day, April 22, 2017, researchers, educators, students, and citizen scientists all over the world will take to the streets in celebration of science. The March for Science is an international, nonpartisan event organized to “champion robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity.” The movement has attracted broad support from over 60 partner organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Sigma Xi, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. The ACRL Board of Directors voted to partner with the March for Science and encourages ACRL members to attend.

The main event will be held in Washington D.C. at 10 a.m. with a teach-in and rally on the National Mall, followed by a march through the streets of DC. More than 400 satellite marches have also been organized in all 50 states, 40 countries, and across 6 continents.

Librarians will be well-represented at the march in D.C. and the satellite marches, to express their support for open scientific communication and evidence-based decision making.

When asked why they intend to march, these librarians responded:

“Stifling open communication of science limits the public’s right to know, with serious consequences for poor policy making and uninformed decisions regarding research funding, negligent enforcement of environmental regulations (or outright loss of environmental oversight), and nearly every aspect of everyday living. From the technology of the internet to basic agricultural practices, poor management of the science enterprise will adversely affect health and wellness, nutrition, education, the environment, innovation, job creation and production, and creativity, to name just a few areas of influence.” – Alison Ricker, Oberlin College

“I think evidence-based decision making is vitally important to democracy so any attempt to undermine science also attempts to undermine at least part of the foundations of democracy.”- John Dupuis, York University

“I’m a former scientists turned librarian, and I strongly believe that science literacy goes hand in hand with information literacy. The rise of people who refute facts – or believe in alternative facts – is distressing to me, as I believe we as a society can never reach our full potential without accepting certain basic, proven concepts.” – Maggie Savidakis-Dunn, Shippensburg University

“All information is not created equal – ignorance is not as good as knowledge, and “alt-facts” are not as good as facts. We have a responsibility as librarians to advocate for the truth and for the uncensored distribution of scientific data and communication.” – Emma Oxford, James Madison University

“I’m a science librarian. Scientific information and resources are put through a gauntlet of peer-review, and to say that such scientific studies cannot be trusted after going through that process is willful ignorance. As managers of information, we have to come together with scientists and clearly assert that things CAN be known – facts about our universe CAN be established beyond reasonable doubt – if we use appropriate, collaborative, scientific methods for gathering and analyzing data.” – Camille Mathieu, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

“Because I believe that science represents the future of America, and I believe in the privilege of exercising my voice as a citizen and supporter of science.” – Rachel Borchardt, American University

Join your library colleagues and march to celebrate the impact of science in our lives. The March for Science in Seattle will begin the morning of April 22nd, at 10:00am. It will begin with a celebration of Science, featuring speakers and events at Cal Anderson Park in Capitol Hill. The March will commence at noon. The March for Science will end at the International Fountain, north of the Seattle Center. Start to finish time will vary, but expect the journey to take around 60 minutes. Learn more about the March for Science in Seattle here.