Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Metadata: Not a dinosaur. Or a Transformer. Though, it could be.

One of the big deal spilling of ink issues over the past 25 years in legal librarians is on the topic of West’s Digests and Key Number system, and how those systems have influenced legal research, and, arguably, to a lesser extent how lawyers think about the law. The question of if the free-text system of computer-assisted legal research allows for a deeper, more interpretive research. It can get intense. Part of the big deal is that lawyers don’t use the digests anymore, really, only legal librarians do – and even that can be questioned. I, personally am of the mindset that if West is paying someone to put keep their eye on an opinion, that person could be adding more useful data than simply a rephrasing of a key legal issue. By data, I actually mean metadata (because I am in library school, and we like metadata in these parts). With additional metadata, we could extend the opinion by wrapping the entire order, parts, paragraphs, sentences, or words with tags that could assist in locating the opinion (via queries, search, linking, etc.) and giving greater context for it in a way that enhances the Key Number classification, but avoids the debate of whether and to what extent the “literary warrant of the Key Number System” should be expanded

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