The goal of this post is to highlight the foreign, comparative, and international law collection at Maloney Library, the Fordham Law School library. When DipLawMatic Dialogues editors Alyson Drake and Susan Gualtier first proposed this post, I was a “generic” reference librarian. After telling my supervisors about the blog post and reaffirming my interest in collection development and FCIL, I had the opportunity to become the Foreign & International Law Librarian. So this post is actually very special to me, and I’m going to use it to explore what I’ve learned so far about our collection and the intricacies of development. There are other useful posts on first time FCIL collection development on the blog, most recently Sara Reis in New FCIL Librarian Series: Collection Development and Electronic Resources.
Like many law schools, what we collect in FCIL is a product of a long history of collection practices, both known and unknown. Fordham has a large collection of materials from several African countries, now mostly online. This is primarily because our former FCIL librarian, whom many in the community know, is from Ghana, and the law school also has a summer program in Ghana associated with our clinic. From there, I assume it was an easy step to collect in other African countries, both for our patrons and as part of the Northeast Foreign Law Librarians Cooperative Group (which is deserving of its own post). Ghana and South Africa make up the majority of our African collection.
We collect some materials in print but also have African law databases. Of particular note are LawAfrica and LexisNexis Africa. Between those two, we have some form of online access to materials from South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.
Deciding what to collect and in what format is an ongoing battle for libraries. I think we have so many databases because of the interest and excitement towards streamlining our collections online. What’s most interesting to me is the reminder that online access does not always ensure actual access. Although I said we have a large collection in Ghana law, we currently seem to be unable to access those materials on our LexisNexis Africa subscription and have struggled to receive customer support. For something we want guaranteed access to, we may now be swinging back towards the print.
But for focuses like study abroad programs, it raises another issue we’ve been considering recently: given the Fordham summer program in Ireland and Northern Ireland, should we have a preference for eBooks? After all, how useful are the materials for the students if they only discover they need access while interning in an Irish company? This, in turn, raises another question: what about faculty, like the ones we still ILL print copies of books for because we only have them in electronic format? Keeping up with faculty research and teaching, plus format preferences, is another challenge.
For our large Irish law collection, we have many monographs in print, and case law access online (primarily via the Making of Modern Law and JustisOne). This pattern holds true in our Ghana collection. Because of the difficulty in opening access to some subscription resources, despite our large online collection, when I searched the catalog for KRX (the Library of Congress classification for Ghana), the library only has 50 resources. Of those, the primary sources are so dated they live in off-site storage. (But with all things being relative, is 50 a lot for a single jurisdiction?) For a very interesting discussion on online collection for FCIL materials, see the recent post by Jessica Pierucci, New FCIL Librarian Series: Collection Development in 2018.
As we enter this period of transition and evaluate what we collect and why, maybe by next summer this post will be completely revised. What I’ve really learned so far is that, despite all the practical considerations, FCIL collection development seems more of an art than an information science.