"Nota Bene" means "note this well" or "take particular notice." We at the O'Quinn Law Library will be posting tips on legal research techniques and resources, developments in the world of legal information, happenings at the Law Library, and legal news reports that deserve your particular attention. We look forward to sharing our thoughts and findings and to hearing from you.

N.B: Make a note to visit "Nota Bene" regularly.

-Spencer L. Simons, former Director, O'Quinn Law Library and Associate Professor of Law

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Collective Bargaining Agreements Research (with a Digression)

News reports of the last few weeks have been primarily focused on two areas: the turmoil in the Middle East (for once, and thankfully, not referring to the ongoing Isreali-Palestinian conflict) and collective bargaining agreements (or CBAs). And the latter is not only referring to the political conflict that is taking place in midwestern American states such as Wisconsin and Ohio, but even sports reports are filled with references to the ongoing negotiations between the National Football League (NFL) and the NFL Player's Association, or fears that the National Basketball Association will suffer a lockout because of a failure to reach agreement on a new CBA.

All of these reports got me searching the Internet to see what kind of resources were available so I'd be ready when the inevitable patron comes to the Reference Desk asking about CBAs. My searches led me to a wonderful guide from Cornell University called Labor Unions and the Internet. Designed using the LibGuides platform, this guide contains a profusion of tabs, including tabs dedicated to General Web Research, Industry and Economic Research, Legal Research, and several subtopics, including CBAs. Each tab consists of lists of links to sources with brief descriptions of the sources. Overall, I was impressed with how this guide was organized and with the quality of the links available.

(Now for my digression.)

There was, however, one thing I have an issue with: On the General Web Research tab, the second to last item was a link to Wikipedia. Thankfully, the description under the link contained the following disclaimer: "Use Wikipedia wisely to get an overview of a topic and links to authoritative sources. Beware of entries that could reflect author-biases and of entries that lack proper citation." But, ultimately, I personally would like to see this link removed from future versions of this guide. I have two reasons for my position.

First, a guide of this nature should be intended to guide patrons to helpful (preferably authoritative) sources that they may not be aware of or that may be difficult to locate. At this point in time, it's hard to imagine that anyone, even the most destitute of patrons, would be unaware of Wikipedia; and for the very few who are, I'm sure the reference librarian would be able to suggest it, if appropriate . . . which dovetails nicely into my second reason: I've always been of the opinion that one of a librarian's duties is to help patrons make the right decisions about which resources to use when given the opportunity. Yet, this guide merely shows the patron the entrance to Wikipedia armed with just a disclaimer and a hope that they'll stumble on quality articles. If you're going to include Wikipedia in a guide like this, then you should take the time to identify the appropriate articles that are neutrally written and contain proper citations. Otherwise, have you really helped any patrons who take that path?

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