Tag Archives: Book Review

A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage and the Quest for the Color of Desire

happy hands and heart

Valentine’s Day has passed, but many of us are still contending with piles of ribbons, tissue paper, envelopes and confetti in various hues of rose, crimson and scarlet.  We equate these shades with Valentine’s Day, but the symbolism and analogies associated with these colors go beyond that single holiday.  Red epitomizes passion, desire, romance, danger and energy.  Frequently adjectives such as “blood”, “ruby” or “wine” further enhance the description of this color.  We probably don’t give it a second thought, but there was a time when the elusive, brilliant red was worth a king’s fortune.

Amy Butler Greenfield relates the history of the dyer’s quest for this color in A Perfect Red.  The majority of the book recounts Spain’s attempt to monopolize the production of the this vibrant red from the time Cortes invaded Mexico and his men discovered the source – the tiny cochineal insect living on the prickly pear cactus. The female insect produced an acid which not only irritated predators but was also a brilliant dye.  Soon Spain dominated the production of the red dye and guarded the secret of the cochineal. As other countries began to covet the hue, a complex web of espionage developed, including both colonial exploration and exploitation.

Greenfield intersperses her narrative with fascinating anecdotes and facts related to the color red. For example, there were rules regarding wearing the color red.  In some cultures, only royalty had the right (and could afford) to wear red.  Montezuma not only seized this right, but also demanded that his subjects pay a tax in pounds of cochineal.  Mary, Queen of Scots, was clothed in black on the day of her execution. Yet, she used the color to make her statement, removing her dress to reveal a red petticoat.  This was the symbol of Catholic martyrdom!

Eventually, synthetic dyes were perfected and the labor-intensive cultivation of plant and animal dyes subsided.  Historians and chemists may be the target audience for this volume, but this fascinating account has something to interest everyone.

~Susan Catterall~

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Praise for Procrastination


If you’re the type who stalls, delays, drags your feet or becomes paralyzed at the thought of turning in sub-standard work and, consequently, has been shamed into being called a procrastinator, take heart. You’ve been redeemed.  John Perry, in his book, The Art of Procrastination, A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging and Postponing has cast a positive light on the subject. Perry promotes the theory that procrastinators actually accomplish many tasks and has subtitled the book: Or, Getting Things Done by Putting Them Off.

This is a book which should appeal to all of us within the legal profession.  Our calling is comprised of proficient procrastinators.  This isn’t to say that we’re lazy; rather we’re perfectionists and strategists who are adept at juggling shifting priorities. Litigators are the prime example. A litigator will diligently prepare a case for trial, yet simultaneously plan a thoughtful settlement agreement. Sometimes this works and at other times it leads to late hours, additional staff and much coffee consumption. In an environment where litigators find themselves facing each on a regular basis, preparation becomes a well-calculated game of chicken.

Trial preparation aside, our profession is also comprised of individuals who are such perfectionists that they are reluctant to start any project, especially a project with a “fuzzy” deadline because they don’t want to start anything that doesn’t represent their best efforts. As we fret, worry and deny “that” project, we set about accomplishing many other projects, most which have firm deadlines, are routine but necessary, or which don’t so intimidate us that we become incapacitated.  Perry explains how avoiding the big “to do” task encourages us, through avoidance, to accomplish countless other tasks.  In fact, procrastination is both an art and a science.

I first heard about The Art of Procrastination when I attended a library conference in early 2012.  I was captivated as the speaker discussed Perry’s book. As he ticked off a litany of topics (i.e., making lists, structured procrastination, perfectionism, etc.), I felt as if he was reading my mind.  I could barely wait to order Perry’s book and had it rushed to me.  I dove right into it and managed to work into many conversations that I was reading this book and that I would recommend it to anyone.  I went to the CSL librarian who coordinates this blog and told her that I wanted to write about this book and how so many could identify with the subject.

As I said, that was over two years ago and I am still on page 32 of a 92 page book.  My librarian colleague has stopped asking me when I will have the procrastination article finished and has, instead, praised me for the other blog articles I’ve written, the research guides I’ve created and the other collaborations we have completed.  Never-the-less, I can only dodge my commitments for so long.  Besides, I want others who may share the shame of procrastination to understand that it is no longer something of which to be embarrassed.

I encourage you to read the book.  But don’t expect me to ask if you have read it.  Sorry.  I’ve already heard it: ”I meant to, but I haven’t gotten around to it.”

~Susan Catterall~

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Copyright Questions and Answers for Information Professionals: From the Columns of Against the Grain – A Book Review


For many information professionals, copyright fascinates and confounds. Copyright is glossed over in many classes, and librarians struggle to find clear answers to questions that arise in their practice. In the early days of a career, it is easy to blame youth for your befuddlement, but as years pass it becomes more and more difficult to plead ignorance. I have turned to a number of resources, including books, seminars, and massive online open courses, but all have skimmed over practical issues. For many librarians, copyright is simply a hurdle, not a concept to be lingered over, and swift resolutions to imperative questions are invaluable. Copyright Questions and Answers for Information Professionals: From the Columns of Against the Grain by Laura N. Gasaway goes a long way in fulfilling that need.

Gasaway, a recognized expert on copyright, has been wrangling with copyright problems for fifteen years now, answering questions from readers in a regular column in Against the Grain, the periodical offshoot of the Charleston Conferences. In her column, she addresses her audience of librarians, publishers, teachers, and authors, clearing the fog and replacing it with clear practicalities, one query at a time.

In her new offering, these questions and answers have been curated, updated, organized, and reassembled, giving readers access, in a single work, to Gasaway’s experience and expertise that was before scattered throughout her columns. Gasaway covers all the usual suspects, including fair use rights, library reserves, licensing, interlibrary loan, preservation, software, and digitization. Question-and-answer pairings are organized into topical chapters, and the book finishes with an emerging issues chapter providing current content on timely subjects such as HathiTrust and the first sale doctrine.

Each chapter features a brief introduction that provides context, but the value of the text lies in her answers to each questioner’s specific needs. While this idiosyncrasy does make the book poorly suited for cover-to-cover reading, it is perfect for quick reference. Other popular copyright texts use the question-and-answer format to show applications of broad concepts, but since the questions posed in this book are wide-ranging and true to life, it effectively provides applicable answers to specific questions. Unfortunately, this also means that when looking for concrete answers, there is no guarantee that guidance for a given question is present between the covers.

In this case, a comprehensive and exhaustive index holds the key to unlocking the precious wisdom inside this book. This is a weakness of the book. While a primarily question-and-answer format leads you to believe that this work would be well-suited for novices, specialized vocabulary or specific portions of the Copyright Acts are often indexed instead of the words used by the questioner. Underutilized cross references again hinder those without a strong knowledge base, and while excellent term definitions and clear, concise summaries of concepts are repeatedly provided throughout the text, the index does not easily lead a reader to them. Not having comprehensive keyword references may seem to avoid redundancy, but instead it limits usability. Readers will not be approaching this text with exact replicas of existing questions, but instead will need to glean their own answers through a careful reading of answers to similar inquires. Because the language of exact inquires is not carefully indexed, an e-book version of this work would be preferable, allowing readers to perform keyword searches and thus work with whatever vocabulary they have on hand.

While the index and other minor inconsistencies keep Gasaway’s content from shining as brightly as it should, Gasaway deserves great praise for her work’s greatest strength: her ability to strike a balance between handing out specific advice and teaching readers strategies to navigate the treacherous waters around best practices and general guidelines. Guidelines and fair use do not lend themselves to cut-and-dry answers, making many copyright texts full of generalizations. However, Gasaway brilliantly teaches her lessons through examples, focusing not only on the use of best practices, but also on the importance of careful risk assessment. She reminds readers that copyright is rarely a firm line, unfortunate though it seems. Instead, application of copyright law is often nebulous. Gasaway’s well-balanced advice guides readers in making their own choices, weighing their options, and choosing to overcome their copyright hurdles the way that is most appropriate for them. In this role, Gasaway is truly a master of her craft.

~Ashley Moye~

This book review first appeared in 106 Law Libr. J. 108-109 (2014).

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ALR Student’s Corner: Lee’s North Carolina Family Law and Its Value as a Secondary Resource

north carolina family law

Lee’s North Carolina Family Law (“Lee’s”) is a valuable secondary source for researching a family law issue.  Lee’s is a treatise bound in a grayish-green cover, organized into a three-volume set.  It can be found in the “Carolinas” section at the Charlotte School of Law Library with the Library of Congress call number KFN7494.L43 (using the search term “family law north carolina” in the Library’s catalog gets you here).

The library’s current copy of Lee’s is the Fifth Edition, published in 1993 by the Miche Company, in Charlottesville, Virginia.  However, Lee’s is kept up-to-date by yearly pocket parts that are located in the back of each volume, to ensure that the researcher has access to the most current rule of law and annotations.

The three-volume set is organized in such a way that pre-marriage – marriage – post marriage situations occur in reality, making it an easy source to navigate even without an advanced knowledge of the law.  Moreover, the volumes consistently flow from one to another, so that there is no confusion between Chapter or Section numbers within each volume.  For example, in the First Volume, there are five main Chapters, while the Second Volume starts with “Chapter 6” to continue the flow of the organization between the volumes.  Additionally, each volume contains a Summary Table of Contents that lists the topics covered throughout the volume by Chapter, as well as a detailed Table of Contents that separates information under each Chapter by Section that then further narrows to multiple Subsections.  The comprehensive Table of Contents provides an excellent tool to help researchers navigate through specific and relevant legal issues.

The treatise also contains a variety of other finding tools to help a researcher efficiently retrieve information.  Each volume contains an index that lists all the relevant terms within that volume and directs a researcher to the relevant sections within the book.  Furthermore, Lee’s contains two other valuable finding tools located in the back of each volume, a “Table of Cases” and “Table of Authorities.”  These contain lists of relevant cases, organized alphabetically, and a list of all the pertinent North Carolina statutes referenced within the treatise.

One of the most helpful finding tools within the treatise are the annotations at the bottom of almost every page, which direct the researcher to the legal authority (both primary and other secondary) for the rules of law discussed in the treatise.

The following illustration demonstrates how one can use Lee’s to help efficiently and effectively research an issue:

You have recently opened your own general law practice, and one of your first clients comes to you with questions regarding what options she has in her current marriage situation.  She separated from her husband and moved into her own apartment in March 2012, and although the couple tried to reconcile the relationship a few times since then (as late as this past February), she has decided that she is done with the marriage and wants a divorce.  After conducting the rest of the client interview, you assure her that you will be in touch shortly with answers, and immediately get to work.

Because you are only vaguely familiar with family law, you decide to start with Lee’s North Carolina Family Law because as a treatise it provides a general overview of the law, as well as a detailed Table of Contents to accurately guide you through the relevant information.  You decide to start in the Second Volume under “Chapter 7 – Absolute Divorce” because your client wants to divorce her husband.

family law table of contents

As you scroll through the very detailed Subsections listed below each Section in the Table of Contents, you come across “Divorce Based on Separation: Elements and Defenses” and decide to start there.  Under that Section, the Table of Contents further subdivides to such subtopics as “Residence” or “Resuming the Marital Relationship”.  These subtopics help a researcher narrow the legal issue.  After reading through the relevant sections pertaining to your client’s divorce situation, you are confident that you have completed all the necessary research to satisfy your client’s concerns.

The demonstration above shows the value of Lee’s North Carolina Family Law as a secondary resource in which to effectively and efficiently research a legal issue.  Because everyone does not have access to treatises, either in print or by subscription, free internet resources about family law, such as the Rosen Law Firm, are available for a general understanding of Family Law in North Carolina.

~ Brittany Tidd, Class of 2013 ~

Class Advisor – Cory M. Lenz, Esq.

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ALR Student’s Corner: Law Among Nations – An Introduction to Public International Law for New Researchers


Law Among Nations: An Introduction to Public International Law
Von Glahn, Gerhard and James Taulbee, Law Among Nations: An Introduction to Public International Law (Pearson Longman, 8th ed. 2007).

This treatise is located in print in the CSL Library. It can be found in the Treatise section of the library. After finding the call number (KZ3185.v6 2007) by using the online catalog, you follow the call number cards to the International Law shelf and find the book in the middle of the left side of the aisle.


Law Among Nations is a single volume that was published in 2007 (the 10th edition, published in 2012, is currently available at online booksellers). There is a Table of Contents, Index of Cases, Arbitral Awards and Advisory Opinions, and Index. These resources allow researchers to efficiently locate their topic and narrow down their research.  Law Among Nations provides an introduction and overview of major subject areas in international law.  Although not visible in the Table of Contents, the chapters are divided by sub-topic to provide structure and help guide researchers as they read.   Each chapter is followed by a list of  “Suggested Readings” that list academic articles as well as relevant authority.

Using the Treatise as a Secondary Source

To better understand how to use this resource, we will walk through a brief research exercise.  Imagine you are taking a course on international law. For one of your assignments, your professor asks you to examine a major current event in light of international law. You recall reading about the Arab Spring and Syria. You decide to research if the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has committed any war crimes in the on-going conflict.

After deciding to start with a secondary source to get an overview of war crimes, you locate Law Among Nations and check the table of contents for “war crimes” and notice Chapter 21 is titled “International Humanitarian Law: War Crimes.” You turn to the first page of the chapter (p. 628) and begin flipping through the pages.  There is a list of types of war crimes on page 633 that provides a broad research map for you to begin.  You continue skimming the chapter and notice there is a list of acts constituting war crimes on page 642 and decide to follow up with the sources listed.  The end of the chapter provides almost two pages of additional readings on war crimes that cite to academic articles, as well as United Nations Treaties and Protocols governing war crimes.


Law Among Nations is a helpful tool for researchers new to international law. It provides a general overview of major international law areas and sub-topics. The suggested reading lists are extremely helpful to guide the reader to more specific instruments of international law.  While the table of contents would be more helpful if it guided readers to more specific topics, the book is generally well-organized and the language is easy to follow.

 ~ Nadia Aziz, Class of 2013 ~

Class Advisor – Cory M. Lenz, Esq.

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