Cool Tools 2019 Spotlight: Boomerang

In this post, Kristina Alayan talks about the features of the Cool Tool she demoed at the 2019 AALL Annual Meeting. Questions? Contact her at kristina.alayan@law.howard.edu

Do you suffer from inbox (zero) envy?  Do you use your inbox as an (ineffective) to-do list?  If you have attempted and failed to engage in sustainable email management practices, there is a tool that you may want to consider integrating into your suite of productivity tools.  Inbox Pause, or Boomerang, is compatible with both Outlook and Gmail.  Like many productivity tools, there is a freely available version with reduced/basic features and a more robust version for those who are willing and able to pay for them.

The features I use the most are response tracking, recurring emails, return this message, and Inbox Pause advanced.  The response tracking feature allows you to tag an email that will require follow up if you don’t get a response.  The email will return to your inbox on the day/time you’ve selected to remind you the loop needs to be closed, but only if you don’t get a response.  You can pick the exact date/time you’d like the email returned or use one of the preprogrammed options (e.g., tomorrow morning, one week from now).

The recurring email feature is great if there is a (typically tedious, but necessary) reminder that you need to send out.  For some folks, it might be to their staff/students to enter their timesheets.  Like a recurring item in your calendar, you set the parameters once and once it’s saved the email will go out like clockwork (e.g., first of the month, every Monday at 3 pm).  I have found that I like to add myself as a BCC to those emails as a helpful reminder to myself that the communication has gone out.

Return this message allows you to return a message to your inbox when you know you’d like to deal with it.  Maybe there’s a meeting at the end of the week that you need to attend before you can answer the email.  You can respond letting them know, and schedule the email to return to your inbox at the date/time of your choosing.  An additional feature that I’ve been using more regularly allows you to add an internal note to the email when it’s “boomeranged” back to you with any reminders or additional information you need to respond to the email appropriately.

The Inbox Pause feature allows you to manage the flow of emails to your inbox.  Unlike working in your email offline, which most email clients offer, the advanced features of Inbox Pause allow users to identify specifically what time(s) of day email should enter their inbox as well as exceptions.  For example, I have mine scheduled to release emails first thing in the morning, mid-day, and before 5 pm.  I’ve created exceptions so that any emails from my boss as well as emails with certain words (e.g., “urgent) are always delivered immediately.  During the “inbox pause” window, your emails are held temporarily in a folder called “Inbox-Paused.”  The folder isn’t hidden, so you can access it at any time if you want to look for a specific response without going through the trouble of adjusting your features.

The Boomerang customer service feature is responsive and friendly.  When I had an issue, they were quick to resolve it.  The only downside I’ve encountered so far with the Inbox Pause feature is that you can’t adjust it by day or date.  For example, some folks might want their inbox paused while they’re out of the office (e.g., weekends, vacation).  I’ve submitted a request to their team to consider adding this to their options, so we’ll see if they’re able to make those changes in the near future.  Because I currently pay for premium access, some of the tools I described might be restricted or some features may not be available.  For example, the return message option is capped for non-subscribers and unlimited for subscribers.  For academic subscribers, there is a discount and you can trial the premium service to test drive it before committing.

For more information:

The Flavor of Open Access Over Rice: Tech Transforms & Transmutes Ed

A few weeks back our law library decided to use a cookie cake tabling event to raise awareness for Open Access (OA) Week and distribute info about OA publishing and our university’s grant opportunity for creating OA educational materials. What we thought would be a simple request from the nearby bakery turned into a giant mess as we were countlessly argued with about the copyright status of the OA open lock logo. Frustration and in hindsight total hilarity ensued. One thing was clear though: we still have a LONG way to go in understanding and translating what OA is.

Not long after that my family sat down to watch an early Ozu film: The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice. Although the film’s focus is on the differing attitudes of two generations and arranged marriage, the overarching clash between tradition and modernity is more applicable to OA than one might think. When you talk to people about OA, particularly educational platforms and resources (like textbooks) it can be a polarizing conversation. There is often a complete disconnect where no amount of explanation can resolve the issue – as was evidenced by our repeated conversations with bakery employees and a string of managers. Every logo has a copyright, right?! It doesn’t matter if it is the OA logo.

As with most things in this world, technology is the catalyst for change. We cannot slow down the advances in technology. Our modern tech is transforming our traditional means of education including the methods and the materials. With the rise of terms “learning object” in 1994 (Wayne Hodgins), and “open content” in 1998 (David Wiley) education has been transforming before our very eyes. Some of us have just tried hard to keep our eyes closed… like the couple in the film they were content lying to one another – but of course they were not actually happy.

We haven’t been happy with the rising costs of educational materials for a long time.

Transforming: A Short History of Open Educational Resources

In 2001 MIT’s OpenCourseWare (OCW) project aimed at putting their entire course catalog online. Partnering with Wiley at Utah State University, MIT’s OCW utilizes self-organized communities of interest to set up a distributed peer support network. This is often credited as the start of the OER movement as shortly after in 2002 the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) presents a Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Ed. That same year the initial release of Creative Commons (CC) licenses emerges. These CC licenses are the most popular and widely used open licenses for open educational materials.

To be clear, an open educational resource is a publicly accessible material that any user can use, re-use, improve and redistribute. The creation of these resources is usually motivated by an underlying desire to change or improve our existing paradigm of education. Of course there is a ton of business and by extension money perpetuating the existing paradigm which includes traditional publishers, licenses and their products (like textbooks). Some obvious concerns with increasing OA and OER include quality and reliability of resources, as well as the access divide when it comes to supported devices, software and internet connections. OER allows for the potential for more access, but does not guarantee it. Even when the educational resources are completely free for the user, does the user have the necessary technology resources to access it?

Educational resources should be both quality and affordable – dare we suggest free?

Transmuting: A Future of Open Access Textbooks

This is where the platforms enter the playing field. Over the summer I attended an excellent session at CALICon titled Leveraging E-Resources for Affordable Course Materials. The presenters made an excellent case for lowering law students’ economic burdens (something most of our institutions are aiming for) by leveraging existing e-resources. They shared a nice selection of tools for identifying or producing cheaper (if not free) course materials, including a glimpse of their own spreadsheets for identifying comparable cheaper or free texts their school faculty had required in their courses.

One of the simplest strategies they suggested for encouraging faculty to create their own materials (including textbooks) was to use a blog platform. Is there anything a good-ol’ blog can’t do?! It seems too simple to be effective, but essentially the professor would make a blog entry as the course progressed, including their own content as text in the post and linking to freely available articles, media and other resources where appropriate. In the end they had a solid accessible “book” that they could go back into and edit or update as needed. The session also talked heavily about CALI’s eLangdell (no surprise there, it was CALICon afterall!). I followed this rabbit hole of CALI’s commitment to increasing access via computers to a 2012 article (you should read, or re-read if it has been a while) by John Mayer on saving students $150 million.

In addition to reviewing this session (the full video is available for streaming online), here is a list of resources including collections of open textbooks and platforms for creating or submitting open textbooks:

  • CALI’s eLangdell – Press publishes free, open eBooks for legal education.
  • Open Textbook Library – Includes a nice selection of open textbooks, browse by subject and Submit page.
  • OpenStax – Search by subject, completely free books platform and offers a nice app.
  • Open Access Textbooks – Includes info on choosing a license and model for successful OA texts.
  • OER License Generator – An interactive tool to use for when you want to combine multiple open resources with your own work, and then license your work for others to freely use.
  • Model for Success – A 2012 draft model for Open Access Textbooks with a section on software tools.
  • OER Commons – A Public Digital Library of OER for exploring, creating and collaborating to improve ed.
  • LibreTexts – Open textbooks that are freely available to download, edit, and share initiated by UC Davis.
  • OpenEd – Includes more than 300 titles with a browse by subject and links to create open textbooks.
  • Open Textbook Store – A source for ready-to-adopt open textbooks (this is not a publisher).
  • OASIS – Openly Available Sources Integrated Search tool for making the discovery of content easier (search by public domain books, videos, podcasts, learning objects, textbooks, course materials, and interactive simulations).
  • MERLOT – Access to curated online learning and support materials including content creation tools.
  • MOM – Mason OER Metafinder is a real-time advanced search tool for federated OER content.
  • Teaching Commons – High-quality open educational resources from leading colleges and universities, curated by librarians and their institutions.
  • PDXOpen – An open access textbook publishing initiative to support Portland State faculty developing open access textbooks.
  • ScholarWorks@GVSU – OER at Grand Valley State University including teaching tools, textbooks and a libguide.
  • USF Scholar Commons Textbooks – Authors of a higher education textbooks can contribute your open access textbook. They accept all higher education open access textbooks regardless of author affiliation.

At the end of the film The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice the two primary characters sit down to dinner. The wife, who throughout the film had badgered her husband for mixing his tea in with his rice because it just wasn’t proper, finally tries it herself. She has a moment of realization – it goes beyond this petty matter of the right way to eat your rice. She tells him she finally understands, and he says it is OK. Perhaps we’ll someday reach this moment with OA and our educational materials and methods…that moment where a burden is lifted! Until that day comes, I encourage you to have more conversations with your colleagues about OA and OER. Just yesterday a survey invitation was shared via the Academic Law Libraries SIS. Taking part in this survey is just one small way we can help paint a better picture of OER in legal academia. Here’s the anonymous link to the survey with a deadline of Nov. 22nd: http://lsu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_eu4h4zRvUDk9kot

Open Educational Resources Study

This study consists of a survey to determine if faculty at law institutions are publishing open educational resources or using those created by others to offset the high cost of textbooks and casebooks. To participate in this study you must meet the requirements of both the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Respondents must be employed at a law institution within the United States. There is no risk in being involved in this study as respondents will be anonymous. Subjects may choose not to participate or to withdraw from the study at any time. By continuing this survey, you are giving consent to participate in this study. If you have any questions please reach out to Kayla Reed at kreed25@lsu.edu or Karen Shephard at shephard@pitt.edu.

 This study has been approved by the LSU IRB. For questions concerning participant rights, please contact the IRB Chair, Dr. Dennis Landin, 578-8692, or irb@lsu.edu.

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Look at that! Finding images on the web that you can actually use

The landscape in the Trello looked great, but where on Earth was it?  This video shows how I used Google Image Search to find out.  I also talk about Google Image Search tools, finding free images in Unsplash, searching for icons in The Noun Project, and how to easily add images and icons to Google Slides.

 

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CS-SIS Member Joe Lawson and the Harris County Law Library Offer Free On-Demand Legal Tech Resources

Joe Lawson, a member of CS-SIS, is the Deputy Director of the Harris County Law Library in Houston,Texas. For some time the Harris County Law Library has been offering recorded CLE programs and handouts via links to YouTube on its website. Most recently, the Harris County Law Library hosted a presentation by Casey Flaherty entitled Legal Tech is not optional.  If you are interested in offering legal tech programs at your law library, Joe would be a great resource to contact to discuss the challenges associated with coordinating such a course of offerings.

Save Time with Gmail Templates

If you’re a Gmail user, whether it’s at work or home, consider creating Templates to save time on commonly sent emails. Rather than saving those frequently sent emails in a draft folder, then copying and pasting the text from the draft to the email you want to send, the Templates feature allows you to create and save those frequently sent emails in a few easy steps.

First, make sure Templates are enabled in your Gmail settings. Select the gear icon on the top, right-hand side of the screen, then select Advanced, then choose Enable. You’ll need to save your changes at the bottom of the page. Screenshot of how to enable templates in GmailNext, click on Compose and then draft your email. Instead of clicking send or leaving the email in draft mode, select the More Options button (next to the delete icon) at the bottom of the compose window. Choose Templates, then “Save draft as template.” You’ll be prompted to either overwrite an existing template or save a new one.

Gmail template options
Finally, the next time you need to send this email, click on the Compose button, then select the More Options button (reminder: it’s next to the delete icon), then choose the template from the list under “Insert Template.” You can either send the email as-is or make edits as needed.

What are your favorite time-saving hacks? CS-ers would love to know! Send me an email to be included in a future blog post or comment below.

How Does LexisNexis’s Courtlink Compare to Bloomberg Law’s Dockets?

This post compares the functionality of Lexis’s Courtlink with that of Dockets on Bloomberg Law. When I was asked to write about this topic, it happened that I had just been asked to look for a brief related to a current Supreme Court case—United States v. Sineneng-Smith, No. 19-67 (U.S. filed July 12, 2019), so this seemed like a good place to start.

Round One: Searching for a Known Federal Docket
To begin, I logged into Lexis Advance and navigated to Courtlink through the product switcher menu.

Courtlink’s front page has a drop-down menu to select whether to search for Dockets, Court Documents, or both. Another drop-down menu allows the user to limit jurisdiction. The page also allows the user to enter search terms in docket-related fields. Docket fields on Courtlink include Docket Number, Litigants, Attorney, Law Firm, Judge, Date Filed, and Case Status. Additionally, contextual fields appear when the jurisdictional settings change.

Since I had a docket number for the case, I thought the easiest way to search would be to enter “19-67” in the Docket Number field and search in Dockets.

Screenshot of Lexis Courtlink

This search returned 706 dockets. I saw the case I was looking for listed as #3 on the returned list. The Courtlink interface provides a list of filters on the left that function in the same manner as those on Lexis Advance. These filters include the pre-search filters, (i.e., Jurisdiction, Date, and Case Status) as well as some additional filters, including; Practice Area, Keywords, Litigation Area, Case Type, etc. If you are familiar with the Nature of Suit codes used in PACER, you will have to apply a federal jurisdictional filter to make the Nature of Suit filter visible (https://www.pacer.gov/documents/natsuit.pdf). Selecting federal jurisdiction also opens several other contextual fields related to specific federal courts and case types. Selecting a state filter will also open contextual fields related to that state’s courts plus related federal courts.

Lexis Courtlink results
To compare, I logged into Bloomberg Law and selected Dockets from the dashboard. Bloomberg’s search page includes the same options for limiting a search as Courtlink. Rather than using contextual fields, Bloomberg hides some of the search fields in expanding menus. If you are searching within documents, Bloomberg also includes Docket Key for a limited number of U.S. District Courts. (Specific coverage for Docket Key is available here: https://help.bloomberglaw.com/docs/blh-040-dockets.html) Docket Key permits the user to limit the search to certain types of documents (complaint, brief, etc.). Although contextual, the Docket Key field is still visible to the user when unavailable. To duplicate the search on Courtlink, we’ll search only dockets and put 19-67 in the Docket # field.

Bloomberg docket search

Bloomberg returned 458 results. On the left, Bloomberg includes filters for jurisdictions, courts, federal Nature of Suit numbers, Bankruptcy chapters, and dates. Since the case I was looking for was not within the first ten results on the list, I applied the U.S. Supreme Court filter. After, there was only one item on the list, United States v. Sineneng-Smith.

Bloomberg docket results list

I quickly found the docket for United States v. Sineneng-Smith using both systems. I prefer Bloomberg’s approach to fields and filters. When reviewing the pre-search screen initially, I could not tell that Courtlink included a means to filter by Nature of Suit codes, and I had to experiment with jurisdictional filters to make it appear. On post-search filtering, while Courtlink had several subject-area filters which could serve a similar purpose as Nature of Suit, as with pre-search filtering, the Nature of Suit filter only appears when federal jurisdiction is selected.

Round Two: The Docket Sheets
Having found United States v. Sineneng-Smith, I opened the docket sheet in both systems.

Both systems include information about filing dates, litigants, attorneys, when the docket sheet was last updated in the system, information about the case in the lower court, and each docket entry includes the date and text describing what occurred. Beyond this, the coverage differs.

Bloomberg and Courtlink docket sheets
For this docket, on Bloomberg, there are about twice as many entries on the docket sheet. Most of the additional entries represent separate documents for the same act (Main Document, Proof of Service, Certificates). The Courtlink version did not have links to related documents at all. In a few cases, items are present on the Bloomberg version that are completely absent from Courtlink. This discrepancy is because Bloomberg’s version was last updated today while the Courtlink version was last updated nineteen days ago; at present, there is no way to update the docket on Courtlink.

Comparing Bloomberg and Courtlink docket sheets

After seeing a docket sheet on Courtlink with no linked documents, I went back to the search page, changed my filter to search for only documents, and searched for Sineneng-Smith. This search returned 214 results. Adding the U.S. Supreme Court filter reduced the number of documents to four. The list included two briefs and two petitions for writ of certiorari. Strangely, the briefs included a document not associated with a docket sheet entry.

I asked my Lexis representative whether there were supposed to be related documents linked to dockets within Courtlink. She responded that since Courtlink is a new addition to the Lexis Advance platform, not all Courtlink documents have been fully integrated. She speculated all dockets would eventually be linked to documents. She also sent me a different example showing a docket with linked documents, Trump v. Clifford, 2:18cv2217, (C.D. Cal., filed Mar. 16, 2018). I accessed this docket in both systems to continue comparing features.

On both Courtlink and Bloomberg, this docket appears to have the same entries. Both systems appear to have links to all available documents. The one advantage I found that Courtlink has over Bloomberg is that it permits the user to sort the docket sheet by any column while Bloomberg only permits the user to reverse the order. On the other hand, advantages of Bloomberg include: allowing users to collapse parts of the docket screen, includes links to related opinions, has the ability to track dockets, and perhaps most importantly, has a big friendly update docket button. (In Courtlink’s help pages, I found directions for both tracking and updating dockets. The directions for tracking told me to click on the bell icon and the directions for updating told me to click on the Update Now button. Unfortunately, I saw neither the bell icon nor the Update Now button on either of the docket sheets I viewed.)

Bloomberg Update Docket feature

For docket sheet access, while I liked Courtlink’s ability to sort the docket by any column, it did not appear to have features like tracking or the ability to update a docket. Bloomberg’s docket sheet interface seemed to be put together better. Once Courtlink implements the features promised in its help pages, it will probably compare better.

Round Three: Searching Dockets
The first difference between the search interfaces is that on Courtlink, one is limited to keyword searching while searching Dockets & Documents. The only pre-search filter available is a jurisdictional filter called Within. If one selects Court Documents, a Date Filed filter is added and a Nature of Suit filter may appear if federal jurisdiction is selected. There does not appear to be additional search fields or filters available.

On Bloomberg, many more filters and fields are available pre-search. These are the same as described above.

Since the two do not compare exactly, I ran a comparison search in Court Documents on Courtlink and in Dockets and Documents on Bloomberg. I set both date filters to return items from within one year. I then ran the following search on both systems: “evolving standards of decency” AND “felony murder”. This search should return very recent dockets and documents involving Eighth Amendment arguments related to felony murder cases.

Courtlink returned 15 related documents and gave options to filter results by category (document type), jurisdiction, practice area, attorney, law firm, most cited statute, pre-selected keywords, judge, litigation area, and search within results. One can also create an alert based on the search. I made several attempts on different days to download the entire list using different formats and two different browsers; unfortunately, every one of these attempts failed to produce a file. (Alleged format options include pdfs, different word processors, and an Excel file that includes metadata for the documents on the list.) I was able to go into the individual documents on the list and download those.

At the bottom left of the list that Bloomberg returned, are two radio buttons marked Docket and Entries. Selecting Docket returns dockets that have your keywords contained within the dockets and associated documents that Bloomberg already has in its system (i.e., it does not extend the search to Pacer). For this search, Bloomberg returned 25 dockets. The Docket results have only the date as an option for post-search filtering, though there is an option for Edit Search that reopens the search page with your previously entered search. Selecting Entries returns dockets and associated documents within jurisdictions covered by Bloomberg’s Docket Key system. This search returned four items in Entries. The Entries results page includes filters for Jurisdictions, NoS, Filing Type, and Date. The two lists do not necessarily overlap one another, so you’ll want to review both lists when doing research.

The results list options on Bloomberg include Create Alert, CSV Results, and various list downloads (formats include, pdf, rtf/doc, and Excel). The Excel list download includes the same information displayed on the results screen. The CSV results are a little different. They include the same information as the results, but that information is broken down into different columns. It includes among other things party names, a link to the docket on Bloomberg, and attorney names. This format could be useful for doing empirical research on cases currently being litigated.

Since so many of the features on Courtlink do not yet appear to work, I would have to give Round Three to Bloomberg as well. I will be interested in seeing how the download features would work in Courtlink, in particular, the Excel file download, once they actually operate.

Written by CS-SIS Blog Committee member Artie Berns, Research & Emerging Technologies Librarian at Western New England University School of Law Library.

Book Review: Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown

 Many are familiar with Dr. Brené Brown’s* work – we’ve watched her viral TED talks here, here, or here.  Many have read her booksThe Gifts of Imperfection, Rising Strong, or Braving the Wilderness – but may not have thought much about how her ideas might be applied in a work setting. Enter Dare to Lead. This book takes Dr. Brown’s work on shame and vulnerability and applies her ideas to leading in organizations.

Is there any topic that anyone wants to talk about less at work than shame and vulnerability? Go ahead… I’ll wait. No? No. This is an incredibly difficult topic for many to engage with and one that Dr. Brown resisted herself. In the Prologue to Dare to Lead, Dr. Brown discusses the twin research aims of her work in organizational development and vulnerability and how she was very sure they would never intersect. But she found that they do meet because those of us in the work place who want to go deeper and do more need her help to learn how to become the leaders we want to see in the work world.

Dare to Lead is organized into four parts, but the main thrust of the book is in Part 1: Rumbling with Vulnerability. I’ll give you the good news and the bad news. The bad news: There are a lot of feelings involved. And talking. If you are a person who avoids uncomfortable discussions, this is going to be a rough ride. The good news: It is worth it. If you are willing to be vulnerable, you are going to develop a team that is willing to be honest because you’ve been honest with them. You won’t have yes-people afraid to tell you the truth.

The book goes on to discuss (more cursorily than the Rumbling with Vulnerability section) living into your values, braving trust, and learning to rise. Living into your values will ask you to determine what it is that really drives the bus for you. Why do you do what you do? Braving trust discusses how trust is built between team members. BRAVING is an acronym for the Braving Inventory – Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Nonjudgement and Generosity. Walking through this inventory helps teams know where the weak spots are in work relationships. And learning to rise encourages team members to know how to get back up after a failure. Daring to lead takes courage. It is easier to get back up if you’ve been taught how to fall.

I recently wrote on this blog about the future of people in libraries in a world that is increasing automated. Dr. Brown speaks to this on page 75:

“The hopeful news is there are some tasks that humans will always be able to do better than machines if we are willing to take off our armor and leverage our greatest and most unique asset – the human heart. Those of us willing to rumble with vulnerability, live into our values, build trust, and learn to reset will not be threatened by the rise of the machines, because we will be part of the rise of daring leaders.”

In all, this is tough, but great, work you’ll be doing. And you don’t have to do it alone. Dr. Brown has provided extensive, free resources on the book’s web page, including a workbook to go along with the book. If you are ready to think more deeply about this topic – to consider taking off your armor and becoming the real and authentic leader your organization needs you to be, consider attending the Annual Meeting of MAALL on Oct. 17-19 in St. Louis. Two (awesome!) law librarians, Resa Kerns and Cindy Shearrer, will be discussing the book at the conference in their Professional Reading without the Reading program. We’ll see you in the arena.

 

*I know that many are familiar with her work and know her as Brené. But I want to show respect for her academic work, so will continue to refer to her as Dr. Brown.

 

Looking for Feedback on Your Annual Meeting Program Proposal? Read This!

Calling all CS-SIS members!

Looking for feedback on your annual meeting program proposal? If so, please share it with Caroline Young at caroline.young.rutgers@gmail.com. It does not have to be fully fleshed out. Caroline will share it with the other members of the committee and they will provide feedback to help you with the process.

Remember: the deadline for Annual Meeting program proposals is fast approaching – October 1st! Links to more detailed information about the proposal process are here: https://www.aallnet.org/conference/resources/proposing-a-program.

CS-SIS Program Committee:
Caroline Young (Chair)
Benjamin Carlson
Jessica Pasquale
Tawnya Plumb (CS Immediate Past-Chair)
Amanda Watson (CS Vice-Chair)
Darla Jackson (CS Chair)

The Future of Security, Yesterday: All About Authentication, Authorization and More…

Access to library resources from the user’s perspective is getting simpler and easier at a rapid speed. Most librarians working with tech and computing services in some form or another are working to set up, maintain and improve the end-user experience by means of managing access at one or more levels at their institutions. No matter what your role is in any given organization, even if you are not primarily responsible, it is always helpful to have an understanding of the terminology so we can speak intelligently and help translate for others we work for and with.  At my own law library this is very much at the forefront of our minds with the University of Georgia pushing fast towards all departments rolling out Single Sign On, and for a couple of years now institutions across the state have been working to migrate resource authentication to more singular authentication models via OpenAthens. Finding myself in the midst of new and overlapping zones of information has been at times both exciting and overwhelming. Amidst it all I keep coming back to acronyms, definitions and other jargon which I am working to commit to memory. I hope this post can serve as a resource not just for myself but other CS members who find themselves in the middle of or responsible for resource access and management.

Let’s start by deciphering the differences between Authorization and Authentication, and how they work together:

  • Authentication – this is the process of something or someone (a user) proving their identity to someone else (usually a system or resource).
  • Authorization – this is the process by which a system (usually a server) determines permission and grants access to something.
  • Why are the two coupled together? The two terms are used in the same sentence and sometimes even interchangeably depending on who you are speaking with because systems/servers need to have some concept of who is requesting access.
  • Authentication types required for authorization can vary widely depending on the security level(s) of systems and resources. The most common type of authentication is a username and password.  Other examples of authentication include ID cards, retina scans, voice recognition, and fingerprints.

As librarians we provide access to large collections of resources for our patrons. Patrons are of course users that have authorization to access items in the library. They may use their library card to check out physical items. In this scenario the card is the authentication that allows the library to authorize the individual to borrow the item. In the world of electronic resources our vast digital collections require the same authentication for authorization – but how do we manage that online?

Here is a small but hopefully handy set of acronyms to help you navigate this increasingly complicated terrain:

  • IAM – Identity and Access Management
  • AD – Active Directory
  • SSO – Single Sign On
  • FIM – Federated Identity Management
  • FID – Federated Identity
  • OAUTH – Open Authorization
  • >IDP – Identity Provider
  • CAS – Central Authentication Service
  • <LDP – Lightweight Directory Service
  • LDAP – Lightweight Directory Access Protocol
  • SAML – Security Assertion Markup Language

There are many, many more of course, but for the sake of this blog post these are the few that I have encountered most recently and am grasping at for our own resource transitions. A great resource for reading more about terminology is The Secret Security Wiki.

Essentially Single Sign On is exactly what it sounds like it would be: a simplification of the login authorization process by authenticating once. It also adds a safety layer by reducing the potential for error since different individual or duplicated logins are reduced to one. SSO is a type of organization access control that seems to be the standard solution. Sounds peachy, right? Of course – but as with anything easier on the surface, the background configuration is complex. For an overview of SSO pros and cons, I found this Data Protection Blog Resource quite helpful. Arguments aside, we’ve been dealt a hand we must deal with. Implementing SSO for our sites and other resources requires certain protocols in place to handle the back-and-forth between our users, the interface they authenticate through, and our resources which they are authorized to access.

A part of this SSO equation, federated entities (independently managed domains that have established a trusting relationship) allow stored identity provider credentials to connect to identity management systems. SAML is just one protocol which is the standard for AD federation services for logging users into a variety of applications based on sessions in a different context.

Across our university multi-factor authentication is also gaining momentum for double-checking user identity, usually by way of a personal device. Although the necessity for multi-factor authentication is not there (yet) for users and library resources, it is yet another layer available if the resource calls for further security measures.

As I am wrapping my own head around the various pieces of the authentication-authorization puzzle our department is currently deconstructing, building, and before all is said and done rebuilding again, I will no doubt return to this post myself. Are there other terms to add to this post? Are you a CS-SIS member dealing with these issues as well? Share your advice, expertise and other experiences in the comments below!

CS-SIS Members Participate in AALL Webinar

TRAINING LAW FACULTY TO TEACH LEGAL TECHNOLOGY: WHAT THEY NEED TO LEARN AND WHY is an AALL Webinar scheduled for Thursday, September 26, 2019 from 11am – 12pm US/Central.

This is the second offering of this useful program, which was previously targeted at an ALL-SIS audience.

Panelists for the Webinar include the following CS-SIS members:

Kenton Scott Brice
Director of Technology Innovation
University of Oklahoma Law Library

Emily M. Janoski-Haehlen
Associate Dean of Academic Affairs & Library Services & Director of the Law and Technology Program
University of Akron Law Library

Michael J. Robak
Library Director
University of St. Thomas

Stacey L. Rowland
Clinical Assistant Professor of Law, Assistant Director for Collection & Technology Services
University of North Carolina School of Law

DESCRIPTION

There no question technology has become the great disrupter for professional services providers (including lawyers). States have formally adopted model rules regarding technology competence for lawyers and the need for lawyers to learn how to leverage technology has continued to increase. Legal educators must give real consideration to the role of technology in the legal profession and sufficiently prepare law students to become competent lawyers able to practice law in today’s workplace. In this webinar, the presenters will describe the technology landscape and explain what law faculty need to learn about teaching legal tech in order to create technology capable lawyers.

Attendees will learn:
• how to develop technology learning objectives
• technology course assessment and how to develop an assessment protocol
• how to use certification programs to supplement curriculum efforts

If you are interested in the webinar, please register before September 23, 2019.

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