Organizing and Participating in the “Open Access to Legal Knowledge in Africa” Workshop in Uganda

By Heather Casey

uganda2This past December, I had the privilege of traveling to Kampala, Uganda and assisting with a workshop on Open Access to legal knowledge in Africa. It was for law librarians in Anglophone Africa. The workshop was organized through the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), in cooperation with the International Association of Law Libraries (IALL). It was sponsored by IFLA, IALL, and HeinOnline.

I was one of several organizers – with me were Mark Engsberg (Emory University), Joe Hinger (St. John’s University), Caroline Ilako (Markerere University), Sonia Poulin (Alberta Law Libraries), and Bård Tuseth (University of Oslo). Over the course of several months, we worked to bring together a group of African law librarians that came from the following countries: Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and South Africa.

Our goals for the workshop were to empower participants to utilize the potential of open access legal sources in legal research. The workshop offered a method to build a network of law librarians across Africa in order to share knowledge and assist each other in solving practical legal research questions. Participation provided an overview of open access legal sources worldwide, the practical skills required to benefit from them, and an opportunity to establish contact with colleagues from different countries.

uganda1One essential component of the workshop was for every participant to give a presentation. Most were 5 minutes long and organizers spoke from 15 minutes to 45 minutes on various topics with Q&A sessions afterward. Our reasons behind having every participant give a presentation were several; first, it encouraged each participant to plan for the workshop and guaranteed active participation. Second, each participant shared information on the legal research environment in their jurisdiction, which allowed for other participants to learn more about jurisdictions outside their own. It also assisted with networking, as each presentation allowed participants to better acquaint themselves with one another. Getting up in front of their peers gave each participant a chance to exercise skills in public speaking that they may not have otherwise used over the course of the two-day workshop.

We also had three breakout sessions where participants were gathered into small groups to foster discussion. Organizers joined in at each group table to act as facilitators for the small group discussions. After 45 minutes to an hour of discussion, the entire workshop group would come together and people from each group would relay their group’s findings.

As organizers, we wanted to ensure that participants would continue to contribute to a network for African Law Librarians. To that end, we established several online forums after the workshop for participants and organizers to engage in virtual and practical collaboration with international colleagues. The forums included:

So far the email chain and WhatsApp groups have been very vibrant. Participants continue to reach out to one another to discuss resources and let one another know what is happening in their jurisdictions. The website has been good for exchanging slides from the workshop and members have discussed what they would like to further do with the website.

We are excited to see this group continue in its efforts to further the goals of the workshop and look forward to further collaboration with members of the workshop. The experience was unforgettable and one I personally was truly honored and humbled to take part in. It was also very enjoyable to visit Uganda and learn more about the vibrant culture there. I look forward to visiting again.

Introducing…Sarah Jaramillo as the February 2017 FCIL Librarian of the Month

1.  Wsarah-jaramillohere did you grow up?

I grew up in Southern California and the Dallas area, and have lived in many places since then.

2. Why did you select law librarianship as a career?

As fortune would have it, I stumbled upon law librarianship when I found myself living in Bloomington, Indiana in 2002. I recently graduated from college and was looking for a job. I found one at the Indiana University School of Law Library as a serials and bindery clerk. From that point on, I’ve been working in law libraries in various capacities. I saw what the reference librarians did at the law library at IU, and I found what they did very interesting and, more importantly, could see myself doing it in the long term. I applied for the joint law and library science program at IU and became a professional law librarian in 2008 at Rutgers-Newark School of Law Library.

3. When did you develop an interest in foreign, comparative, and international law?

I’ve had an interest in foreign, comparative and international law ever since I went to law school. I am one of those people who think all legal subjects could have a FCIL hook at some point. In all honesty, though, I found FCIL legal research intimidating, but I started picking it up over the years. My knowledge of foreign, comparative, and international law became more comprehensive when I because the tax research specialist at Fordham Law Library in 2011. As the tax specialist, I needed to have an in-depth knowledge of how to research international and foreign tax law. In January 2016, I started my position as one of the two reference librarians for international and foreign law at New York University School of Law. I love that I now have an official excuse to completely immerse myself in foreign and international law.

4. Who is your current employer? How long have you worked there?

My current employer is New York University School of Law. I started there as a reference librarian for international and foreign law in January 2016.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

I have basic reading knowledge of Spanish and French. I’m aiming for that knowledge to become more advanced in the course of my employment at NYU.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

My most significant professional achievements came during my work with the Social Responsibilities SIS (SR-SIS). In 2010/11 and 2011/12, I ran the SR-SIS’s annual book drive. In 2012/13, I was the vice-chair/chair-elect of the SR-SIS. That year, we worked with Emily Feltren in AALL Government Relations to protest and formally comment on New York state’s gutting of some prison libraries. As chair in 2013/14, the SR-SIS lobbied AALL to formally support the passage of San Antonio’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance and led the charge to amend AALL’s antidiscrimination bylaws provision to include protection on the basis of gender identity.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Any baked good really.

8. What song makes you want to get up and sing/dance?

There are so many. The first one to come to mind is “Crazy in Love” by Beyonce, but I could list so many others from various genres and time periods. I love music!

9. What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)?

Well, this is certainly an open-ended question. I assume you don’t mean superpowers, so I’ll stay more grounded in my answers. In terms of general skills, I wish I knew how to model risk using Matlab or Python. In terms of law librarian skills, I wish I instantaneously knew the nuts and bolts of the law of international trade.

10. Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you not go a day without?

Conversation with friends or family.

11. Anything else you would like to share with us?

I’m looking forward to getting to know the FCIL community in AALL better. Cheers!