IALL Visits the Library of the German Bundestag

By Teresa Miguel-Stearns

On Thursday, September 24, about 100 of us visited the beautiful Library of the German Bundestag (Federal Parliament). The Parliament’s original library was completely destroyed in World War II. Housed in a new building across the River Spree from Parliament, the Library is merely one section of Parliament’s larger Research and Documentation Services, which has four departments:

  1. Library
  2. Archive
  3. Parliamentary Documentation
  4. Press Documentation

Our visit focused on the Library. The Library’s website is available in German, English, French and Arabic. The Library is responsible for cataloging and indexing printed material and electronic media as well as document delivery and distribution of information. The Library oversees the open-access catalogue, the lending and reading room, information and reference services, publications, and digital resources.

The Library has 85 employees, many of whom are part-time. They are spread among the four sections of the library. Two sections combine to cover acquisitions, publications, and special collections. One section is responsible for cataloging, indexing, and collection building. A final section provides lending and reference services.

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Holdings:

The Library has 1.4 million volumes and acquires 15,000 new items annually. It subscribes to 8,000 periodicals, mostly in print; 6,000 of which are official gazettes, yearbooks, and other official government publications from other European nations. The collection consists of about 20% monographs, 20% periodicals, and 40-50% electronic services. The Library collects heavily in law, economics, social sciences, parliaments, political science, and statistics. The Library’s budget is about $1.5 million.

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Acquisitions:

Of the 80,000 new titles published in Germany annually, about 50% are fiction.

The Library reviews a weekly bibliography from the German national library (available online, free) which aids is selection. The Library purchases a large number of international publications from international agencies and IGOs such as the OECD, FAO, UN, EU. As mentioned, the Library also purchases many foreign parliamentary publications, including gazettes and statistics, mostly from European countries and the US, and mostly in English. The Library has some reciprocal arrangements for the exchange of materials rather than purchase. The Library also seeks to purchase gray literature from NGOs, trade unions, political parties, academic societies, citizen political groups, and the like. The vast majority of material acquired is in German, plus some English and French, too. The Library previously had a small collection of Russian-language materials but it was so infrequently used that the Library donated it to another library that could use it.

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Catalogue:

The Catalogue covers the holdings of the entire Library. It also contains item records for over 800,000 articles from various journals it holds. The item records link to the full-text.

Services:

The Library serves 4500 persons in Parliament and provides limited services to many more. The Library is not open to general public but grants access to scholars for 10-day periods.

The Library operates on the principle that it provides non-partisan, equal access of all material to all its patrons. When a patron is in the Library, it takes less than 30 minutes to retrieve an item from the closed stacks. The open stacks in the multiple floors of the library contain 20,000 volumes and 1,000 journals. There are 60 individual desks for reading and 30 personal computing workstations. When a patron requests a title that the Library does not own, the Library is generally able to put it in the patron’s hands in 2-3 days.

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Information and Reference Services:

The Library receives over 600 in-depth inquiries annually. It offers advice to Library users, and answers inquiries via telephone, email and web-form. The librarians prepare bibliographies on specific topics, compile lists of materials, share information about new acquisitions, prepare displays on topical issues, and give guided tours.

Internal Publications:

The Librarians publish, both in print and electronically (internet and intranet), documents such as a monthly list of new books and recently-published articles, short abstracts with annotations of new books, bibliographies on specific topics when a new committee is established in Parliament, and literature lists. Literature lists correspond to hot topics in Parliament; examples include Germany 25 years of reunification, health care, and nutrition.

In sum, the Library of the German Bundestag provides tremendous services to its patrons, has a comprehensive and heavily-used collection, and sits in a beautiful, open, airy space. It was a pleasure to visit and learn about this impressive Library.

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IALL Recap: Opening Night!

By Susan Gualtier

open2Hello, FCIL-SIS members!  Our IALL conference bloggers have had some very long conference days here in Berlin, but are excited to start bringing you some recaps now that the dust is settling and we being to return to the U.S.

open3The 34th Annual Course on International Law and Legal Information, Within and In Between: German Legal Tradition in Times of Internationalization and Beyond, kicked off on Sunday night at the Microsoft Atrium with welcome addresses from IALL President, Jeroen Vervliet, and President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Hermann Parzinger.  Professor Dr. Thomas Duve then spoke on Transnationalisation of Law and Legal Scholarship: Intellectual and Institutional Challenges.

open4Following the opening remarks, the delegates were treated to a performance by the Berlin Fire Department’s Brass Band and a cocktail reception in the Atrium’s Digital Eatery.  On the way out, few could resist a little souvenir shopping at the nearby Ampelmann shop, featuring the green and red symbols shown on pedestrian signals in the former East Germany, which have since attained cult status as one of the few features of communist East Germany to have survived the German reunification.

Each day since the opening event has been packed with educational programming on German legal issues, as well as social and cultural events courtesy of this year’s local planning committee.  Though we have had a full week so far, we look forward to recapping individual programs and events over the course of the next several weeks.

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Join the FCIL-SIS Electronic Research Interest Group!

Join the FCIL-SIS Electronic Research Interest Group! Make a valuable contribution to the profession and enhance your reputation!

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The Electronic Research Interest Group meets to discuss both the web presence of the group and also new developments in technology or databases.  (FCIL Newsletter 2011)  This year’s tasks will include updating some of the items on the FCIL website like Lyonette Louis Jacques & Mary Rumsey’s Jumpstart Your Foreign, Comparative, and International Research and increasing the number of contributions to the Teaching FCIL Syllabi and Course Material Database.  Some of our past efforts included:

  1. Exchanging information about FCIL-related commercial databases and other electronic resources;
  2. FCIL-related digitization projects;
  3. The revival of the FCIL blog, which became DipLawMatic Dialogues; and
  4. China’s RC Supreme People’s Court’s creation of a repository of their cases in English.

To volunteer contact James Hart at hartjw@uc.edu or 513-556-0160.

DipLawMatic Dialogues Is Heading to Berlin!

iall captureAs most of our readers are surely aware, this weekend marks the beginning of the International Association of Law Libraries 34th Annual Course on International Law and Legal Information!  This year’s conference takes place at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Berlin State Library), and the theme of the conference is “Within and in between: German Legal Tradition in Times of Internationalization and Beyond.”

The conference programming will “reflect Germany’s legal history and will characterize unique perspectives on international and domestic law issues as well as legal information items. Speakers at the sessions will include highly regarded German legal scholars, legal practitioners and law librarians.”  More information is available on the conference website.

If you are attending the conference and would like to contribute to our blog coverage, please contact Susan Gualtier at susan.gualtier@law.lsu.edu.

DipLawMatic Dialogues looks forward to bringing you conference coverage and photos throughout the next week!

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Book Review: Criminality and Criminal Justice in Contemporary Poland

ByCriminality and Criminal JusticeChristopher Galeczka

Konrad Buczkowski, et. al. Criminality and Criminal Justice in Contemporary Poland: Sociopolitical Perspectives (Ashgate Publishing, 2015). 208 p. Hardcover $112.46.

Criminality and Criminal Justice in Contemporary Poland is a collection of articles by professors, as well as one alumna, of the Institute for Law Studies at the Polish Academy of Sciences. The series of ten articles designated as chapters describe the philosophical views on crime and criminality of some of the authors, as well as other Polish authorities on the subject, and describe the historical and contemporary aspects of crime, the criminal justice system, and public perceptions of both in the country.

Poland is a country of significance to international and comparative legal scholars in being one of the largest countries in Central Europe, a region of nations characterized by long legacies of foreign rule, the more recent experience of a half-century of existence under Soviet-imposed Communism, and a still unfolding path of economic and political integration into pan-European institutions. As such, this work is of relevance not only to those interested in comparative criminal law, but also those interested in criminality across time and cultures, as well as the economic, social, political and cultural issues that arise in societies in transition from command to market economies and from authoritarian to liberal-democratic political systems.

Chapter 1, “Criminality Today and Tomorrow,” discusses historical and philosophical definitions of the concept of crime, as well as the ways in which crime is defined in the current Polish criminal code, with reference to defenses and mitigating circumstances (e.g., when certain acts are committed by juveniles or in self-defense), contained in the code.

Chapter 2, “The Status of Criminality in Poland since 1918”, narrates the history of Polish criminal legislation from independence through the communist era, to the present day, as well as describing rises and falls, and changed in criminal activity in the country with reference to available statistics, chiefly, the total number reported crimes and finalized convictions in a given period.

Chapter 3, “Social Change and Criminality: Mutual Relationships, Determinants, and Implications” treats the issue of social change and its effect on the level and nature of criminality. Kossowska describes the findings and conclusions of a number of criminologists concerning changes in criminal activity during several key periods of transition in 20th century Polish history, concluding with a discussion of the precipitous drop in ordinary criminal activity in many nations including in Poland, albeit delayed in comparison to elsewhere, and also with the advent of cybercrime and the unusual, un-marginalized nature of those who engage in it.

Chapter 4 examines the association between crime on one hand and socially excluded and economically marginalized groups on the other. Beginning with a discussion of the criminalization of the itinerant and unemployed in medieval Europe, the author examines how poverty and factors often accompanying poverty, such as feelings of alienation from society, alcoholism, family breakdown, living in marginalized areas often combine with opportunities to commit crime, leaving underprivileged people to be disproportionate perpetrators and victims of crime.  Chapter 5 continues by examining the difficulties faced by and failures of the Polish social welfare and public educational system in being able to effectively reduce social exclusion, and, by extension, criminal activity.

Chapter 6, “Justice and its Many Faces,” describes the views of many contemporary Polish writers on society’s proper response to those guilty of committing crimes.

Chapter 7 “Controlling Criminality” focuses on the Polish criminal justice system’s historical approaches to combating crime, with statistical data on numbers of crimes, convictions, and frequency with which various sanctions were imposed. Chapter 8 “Supervised Liberty,” focuses on one of the most frequently imposed of these sanctions, the suspended sentence, and comparing the philosophical justifications and practical success of this sanction with that of probation in the United States, United Kingdom, and similar systems elsewhere in Europe.

Chapters 9 “The Social Perception of Criminality,” and Chapter 10 “Criminality and the Media” combine to tell the story of public perception of crime and the role of the media in forming that perception, beginning with the late Communist era, typified by press censorship, and a relatively low level of certain criminal activity, and continuing on through the transition to democracy, characterized by a rise in criminal activity as well as the development of sensationalist media and a great rise in popular fear of crime. The story of a tabloid press fanning public fear of crime, as well as the sentiment of a criminal justice system that is ‘soft on crime’ despite its many punitive aspects would likely ring familiar to the ears of many American readers.

Many of the chapters of the book are written in a somewhat dense scholarly style. Citations are in APA format. The reader should note that citations to many of the graphical figures provided in the work are not provided with the figure, but rather are indicated within the text, where the particular figure is first mentioned. Sometimes chapters focus on providing numerous summaries of the opinions and findings of various other authors rather than rigorously promoting and supporting the authors own thesis.  The strength of these chapters, however, lie in providing a reader a good outline of Polish scholarship on crime and penology, and for this reason the book would fit well in an academic law library’s criminal law or comparative law collection.