An Effort to Upgrade a Court Archive System to Free and Easy

Americans have grown accustomed to finding just about anything they want online fast, and free. But for those searching for federal court decisions, briefs and other legal papers, there is no Google.

Instead, there is Pacer, the government-run Public Access to Court Electronic Records system designed in the bygone days of screechy telephone modems. Cumbersome, arcane and not free, it is everything that Google is not.

Recently, however, a small group of dedicated open-government activists teamed up to push the court records system into the 21st century — by simply grabbing enormous chunks of the database and giving the documents away, to the great annoyance of the government.

Full article here.


-Please forward to our library board...

Please improve our public library so that our library leadership doesn't attempt to charge for library reference desk services, see also the John Schwartz article at

On 2/14/09, Susan Flannery sflannery at wrote:
        > from Susan Flannery sflannery at
        > cc Bertha Chandler bchandler at
        > Karen Brown kbrown at
        > Mark Freed mfreed at
        > date Feb 14, 2009 10:00 AM
        > subject request for documents
        > mailed-by
        > I am in receipt of your request for "any and all documents available in electronic format prepared by and for our reference desk department and with respect to our Reference desk department policies and practices including our Reference Desk Department manuals, notices, memoranda, training materials, supervisory materials, et al".
        > The Policy and procedure Manual of the Cambridge Public Library is available at the public desks of all of our locations. All of our policies, including reference policies, are included in that manual. You may ask for it at any of our locations.

Tried Pearl Street, Central Square Cambridge Public Library Reference Desk didn't know about the manual !

        > Regarding your additional request for memoranda, etc. you have not specified a time period

1-14 February 2009

        > so the search for this material would be exhaustive. In any event there would be a charge for staff time to search for and compile such documents. The Associate Librarian for reference Services would be the only person qualified to conduct this research. The hourly charge would be $36.00. It is possible that members of the Information Technology Department may need to be involved if you are looking for inactive documents. Once you are able to give me a scope for the documents you are seeking I will be better able to give you a cost estimate for the search.
        > Susan M. Flannery
        > Director of Libraries
        > Cambridge Public Library
        > 359 Broadway
        > Cambridge MA 02139
        > tel 617 349-4032
        > fax 617 349-4164

All I can say is: oh wow. I'd like to put the zak in charge of a library whose mission is to serve the community while staying within budget, and see how this sort of open-ended request is handled. To put it in plain words, it's easy to wish for an ideal world where every desire is met, let's see you make it happen in the world we live in.

What is the mission?...

That argument deflects, delays, denies access to library materials, library services, see also

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