Author Archives: Kumar Jayasuriya

One More Item Before Graduation – Library Books Due By May 14th

Dear Graduates,

On behalf of the entire law library staff: Congratulations!  We hope you have had a fantastic and enriching experience here. It has been rewarding to work with all of you.

Please add one more item to your list of things to do to prepare for graduation.

Please return your library books as soon as possible. As of April 26th a TEMPORARY charge of $120 has been placed with Student Accounts for each item still checked out by a graduating student. Those who have unpaid accounts on graduation day will not receive either their transcript or diploma during the commencement ceremony.

How to remove a fine:

Simply return the item. Once you return all of your library materials, we will remove those charges. Credits will be issued as the books are returned.

Please make every effort to return your books by noon on May 14. This will give both the Library and the Student Accounts department ample time to clear your records with the Registrar and ensure that you receive both your final transcript and diploma at the graduation ceremony.

We invite you to stop by either the Wolff or Williams circulation desk to see if you have any outstanding library books to return. You may also check your Library Account online by logging in with NetID at

If you do not return all items by May 14, you will have to take a few more steps — but don’t worry. 

If you need your library materials after May 14 to complete a paper or take an exam, simply see the staff of either the Wolff or Williams Libraries. We can work with you and the registrar’s office so that you won’t have outstanding library fines on graduation day.

How do you remove library holds on your record after May 14?

Simply return the items. Once all books are returned, the library will promptly remove all charges.

Once again the library applauds your accomplishments.  We look forward to your future visits as returning graduates.

The Ethics of Big Data as Seen through the Gun Map

The balance of privacy and the public need for information will be a major theme of the library’s January 30 symposium, Big Data and Big Challenges for Law and Legal Information

Privacy and data is now entwined in the national discussion about gun control.  Many people have seen the interactive map posted on website of the Journal News identifying the names and addresses of all gun owners in New York’s Westchester and Rockland counties. In light of the mass murder in Newtown, Connecticut, the newspaper created the map using names of addresses listed in the New York public records.  Designed to inform readers about the prevalence of gun ownership in their neighborhood, the newspaper’s maps have disturbed gun owners who feel the website violated their privacy rights and leaves them vulnerable to attack.

Jeff Sonderman of the website recently wrote an article to further the discussion of journalistic ethics when working with big datasets.  Titled Programmers Explain How to Turn Data into Journalism & Why that Matters, Sonderman’s piece ends with a list of considerations people should contemplate before posting personal data.  Below is a very simplified summary of his factors.

  1. Do you have a reason for publishing the data, or are you doing it “because we can”?

  2. Have you considered reasons why not to publish it?:

    1. Who could be harmed

    2. Is the data accurate

    3. Is it relevant to the story

  3. Are you presenting the data in a way that maximizes the benefit and minimizes the harm?

The library invites you to participate in the discussion about big data by watching the symposium live online on Wednesday, January 30.

Big Data and Health Care: Prof. Kathy Zeiler to talk about the National Practitioner’s Data Bank

During the law library’s Jan. 30 conference on Big Data, Professor Kathy Zeiler of the Georgetown law faculty will be presenting on issues connected to the use of big data. One of her topics has been in the news this month.

A recent Johns Hopkins study used government data sets to evaluate the number of medical malpractice claims that have resulted from egregious surgical negligence.  This work could only have been done because of a controversial collection of nearly 10,000 malpractice claims housed in the National Practitioners Data Bank (NPBD).  

Created by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, the NPDB is a confidential system that compiles malpractice payouts, hospital discipline and regulatory sanctions against doctors and other health professionals. Prof. Zeiler will discuss why the government temporarily restricted public access to the NPBD in order to protect the privacy interest of the malpractice defendants.  

This is just one way in which the library’s conference will examine the legal and information-policy factors which society should consider when using data to further the public good.  

Please join us on January 30 for the conference Big Data and Big Challenges for Law and Legal Information.

Big Data and Health Care: Prof. Carole Roan Gresenz on Research and Policy

On January 30 the Law Library will host a symposium on the legal issues connected with big data collection, usage, and preservation. The library is blogging about the topic of the conference in anticipation of the event. Today we highlight the work of one of the conference presenters, Carole Roan Gresenz, an economist and professor at the Georgetown School of Nursing & Health Studies.

Dr. Gresenz recently co-authored a report which used a range of data sets to assess cancer related outcomes in the District of Columbia. Entitled “Monitoring Cancer Outcomes Across the Continuum,” her work synthesizes and analyzes available data to document the capacity of the D.C. health care delivery system to provide cancer prevention and treatment services to those who are publicly insured.

The report also highlights gaps in data availability that limit understanding of cancer outcomes among District residents.  On Jan. 30 she will talk about data challenges for assessing health and health care in local communities and what the future of big data holds for better understanding and monitoring  community health.

Please register to join us on Wednesday, January 30 to learn more from her and other distinguished panelists and speakers from a variety of disciplines.

An excerpt from pages vii – viii of Professor Gresenz’s report:

Perhaps as notable and important as the key findings summarized above are the gaps in available information regarding key elements of the cancer continuum. In what follows, we highlight important opportunities for data collection and analysis, noting the scarcity of information for describing outcomes for certain population subgroups, as well as current limitations of data for tracking historical and future trends in outcomes.

(1) More needs to be known about cancer treatment patterns and quality in the District.
More comprehensive data on treatment is needed to assess (a) the full range of treatment received by patients, (b) the degree to which treatment is in accordance with standards for quality of cancer care, and (c) variation in treatment patterns over time and across subgroups of interest.

(2) Regular, continued monitoring and timely reporting of cancer-related outcomes among District residents are essential, as is assuring validity and comprehensiveness of cancer registry data in the District.
Routine, consistent, and timely reporting of cancer-related outcomes in the District is essential to guide the efforts of government and nongovernmental entities working to reduce the burden of cancer in the District.

(3) Supplementary data would provide a more robust understanding of potential barriers to cancer screening.
Self-reports of cancer screening are subject to recall bias, as survey respondents, especially those who are black and Hispanic, tend to overreport screening (Rauscher, Johnson, et al., 2008). Therefore, it would be useful to supplement BRFSS data by exploring rates of screening developed from other data sources, such as claims data, and gleaning information from patient navigators in the Citywide Patient Navigation Network to identify barriers to screening among vulnerable populations.

(4) Opportunities exist to learn more about patient experiences across the continuum.
Although measuring patients’ experiences with cancer care is a critical component of overall quality assessment, to our knowledge, no systematically collected surveys are conducted with cancer patients in the District regarding their experiences with cancer care at any stage of the continuum. Administration of surveys of experiences with cancer treatment, survivorship, and end-of-life care could inform quality improvement or consumer choices between cancer treatment facilities.

(5) More information is needed on awareness and knowledge of cancer prevention and control among District residents.
Little empirical data are available regarding the degree to which District residents—overall, or by relevant geographic or sociodemographic subgroups—are aware of cancer risks, protective factors, or the benefits of early detection. The National Cancer Institute’s Health Information National Trends Survey surveys a nationally representative sample of American adults biennially regarding cancer awareness and communication and may present opportunities for identification of gaps in awareness and knowledge in the District.

(6) More attention needs to be given to understanding the regional burden of disease, patient flows across geographic borders, and regional capacity for cancer care.
Many cancers treated in the District are among non-District residents, suggesting the need for exploration of the key drivers of care-seeking across District boundaries and an assessment of health care capacity that encompasses the District and surrounding counties.

Big Data at the Crossroads of Art History and Privacy

On January 30th the law library will host a conference entitled Big Data and Big Challenges for Law and Legal Information.  By bringing together academics, governmental staff, policy advocates, and librarians, the day-long program will examine how to use data for the public good while protecting personal privacy. 

This is the first in a series of blog postings on the topic of big data.

Jer Thorp is an artist in residence at NYTLabs and is an adjunct professor in New York University’s ITP program. He is also the co-founder of the Office For Creative Research

In an interview with Lauren Drell and in the embedded video below, Thorp demonstrates how designers can use data to create beautiful and meaningful tools for historians and anthropologists to study society.

His projects create poignant narratives specifically by using data which is intentionally personal and yet publicly available.  In his video, Thorp offers an especially thought-provoking statement about the crossroads of art, history, data, and by implication, privacy.


Big Data and Big Challenges for Law and Legal Information

Georgetown Law Library – A Symposium in Celebration of 125 Years

Monday, October 29, 2012 (8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.)
Georgetown University Law Center – Gewirz 12th Floor

Law Library 125th Logo“Big data” is a term perhaps too narrow for the topic: the size of data sets is not the key to big data issues. Rather, society is changing because of our growing ability to discover meaning by connecting points of information electronically, across multiple, often unrelated, sources. When thinking of quantitative decision making, big data may include “small data,” but lots of it.

This conference will examine the public good and collective harms that follow from the large-scale aggregation of information from public and private sources. During the course of the day, panelists will also examine how scholars, researchers, and information professionals manage very large or complex data sets to distill meaning and develop public policy.

If you’d like to attend the symposium, please register here to reserve a place as attendance is limited. You may also view the symposium agenda online.

Mobile Apps for Legal Research

The Georgetown Law Librarians regularly evaluate mobile applications related to legal research activities. To date, only a few native mobile applications exist specifically to perform legal research. However, enough good apps exist to give us an insight into the types of applications and services we might expect in the coming years. Here, we present a few insights into mobile applications for legal research.

Narrowly-Focused Tasks Make an App Easy to Use

The hallmark of most native mobile apps is quick information access. Apps can best answer simple research questions or verify laws quickly. Also, if these needs are recurring, an app can be very helpful.


Fastcase screen shotFastCase provides a legal research application that lets you search federal and state case law from their servers without charge. They provide an iPhone and iPad version of the application, and both are free after creating an account. FastCase makes their money by selling access to their databases through individual subscriptions as well as bulk deals with bar associations. The mobile app describes the FastCase website and its additional features, but there is no upgrade path from one to the other.

LexisNexis Get Cases and Shepardize

Lexis Get a Case AppThe name no longer does justice to this app that allows researchers to find and update all U.S. statutes and cases available through Lexis.

Statutes include all of the annotations found through the Lexis website. For example the USC code sections includes case annotations and citations to related administrative law.

A further advantage of this app is that it contains Lexis annotations to all federal and state cases. Covering all cases available in the Lexis database, the app provides relevant value-added Lexis features such as case briefs, headnotes, and summaries of the case written by legal experts.

With a found case or statute this app provides an overview of the item’s subsequent legal treatment through Shepard’s. A researcher may also use Shepard’s to discover newer cases which distinguish the known case based upon the facts of the case.

A Great App Might Not be An App at All


Westlaw mobileSo far, the ThomsonReuters strategy seems to be to develop Westlaw products so content is web-friendly instead of creating apps for specific devices. The main focus is on optimizing the WestlawNext platform, and the mobile applications page about WestlawNext touts flexible display for multiple mobile device types, including the iPhone. The result is app-like in features and usability, but it is accessed through a browser, such as Safari. The WestlawNext mobile site is fully-featured and simplifies finding Westlaw content. Because you must use your Westlaw password to access the site, it lets you access folders saved on WestlawNext, your favorites and any recent research activity.

There is one device-specific app for WestlawNext, created for the iPad, described on this page from ThomsonReuters.

Downloading Westlaw Document to a Kindle

Westlaw Next to KindleAs we noted back in December, WestlawNext allows users to download individual documents or groups of documents to a Kindle device. Before doing so, however, you need to add WestlawNext to your Kindle’s Approved E-mail List. Simply access the "Your Account" section of and select "Manage Your Kindle"; from the Digital Content options. From that page, add "westlawnext@westlawnext" (no quotes) to your "Approved E-Mail List." Also, be sure to note your "Kindle E-mail Address" located near the top of the page, as you will need to enter it on WestlawNext in order to download to your Kindle.

Note that there is no fee for documents received wirelessly on a Kindle. If received via 3G, however, a nominal fee will apply (15 cents per megabyte for users living in the U.S.).

Iinformation on transferring, downloading & sending files to a Kindle is available on the Amazon website.

Government Apps May Provide More than Legal Research

IRS2Go from the Internal Revenue Service

IRS app - IRS2GoAs we noted in a January blog post, the Internal Revenue Service announced that a new mobile app has been released and is now available for your iPhone, iTouch or Android. Known as IRS2Go, this official IRS app will provide daily tax tips and updates for tax planning and preparation purposes.

Additionally, you’ll be able to check your refund status for the 2010 Tax Year. As usual, the app is available by visiting the iTunes app store or the Android Marketplace.

For additional tax research needs, make use of the Library’s Federal Tax Research Guide which explains how and where to find tax documentation.

More than thirty device-specific apps are available from the federal government, found in the USA.Gov Apps Directory. For instance, on this site, you’ll find a White House iPhone app, an Android app for Product Recalls,

Course Readings for the First Day of Class and Other Course Materials

Want to find readings for your Spring 2011 courses? Need to learn how to find your course management software, be it TWEN or Georgetown Law’s own Courseware? Looking for past exams? Need help researching a topic or finding a good hornbook?

The Library has created a list of links for all of the course materials available online and in the law library, as well as the library’s specialized research tools. The list is available below and on the Library’s Student page.

Here are a few selected links for the start of the semester.

Course Management Systems

Georgetown Law faculty may use one of two types of course management web-based software. Below are links for both:

Course Materials from the Library

Research Support
Below are a few of the specialized research tools the law library has created to help you succeed in your courses and other scholarly pursuits.

Give Us Your Feedback About the Trial Food Policy

Snacks in the CanteenAs the trial food policy is underway, the library will take the next few days to blog about your experiences.

Please feel free to send us your comments or questions through our suggestion form below, and we will group them into general categories and respond through the library’s Feedback Blog.
Your input is greatly appreciated and will provide us with necessary information we can use during our evaluation after the trial’s end.

Best of luck with your finals.