Call for Bloggers: IALL and Law Via the Internet Conferences

DipLawMatic Dialogues is going on the road again!  We’re hoping that attendees of IALL’s upcoming conference in Atlanta and of the Law Via the Internet Conference at Rutgers Law School will be willing to blog for us.  Please email Alyson Drake if you are willing to blog for one or more session.

Law Via the Internet Conference

We’re happy to have posts on any sessions that attendees want to blog about, but there are a number that jumped out at us as being interesting for the FCIL-SIS community.  You can find the full list of sessions here.

Friday, October 20th:

  • 1:30-2:30pm: Anticipating the “Right to be Forgotten”: Initiatives by Kenya Law on the Implication of the Right on Open Access to Information
  • 3:00-4:30pm:  Equal Access to Law Reports in a New Publishing Commons: 3 Case Studies from Australia
  • 3:00-4:30pm:  New Standards for Case Law Publishing: the ‘Signed by AustLII’ Format
  • 3:00-4:30pm:  Modernization of Indian Judiciary with a Goal to Reduce Backlog of Court Cases

Saturday, October 21st:

  • 10:30-11:30am: Conducting a Citation and Semantic Network Analysis of International Criminal Law Decisions
  • 10:30-11:30am: Sustainability of Open Access to Law Initiatives: “The African Law e-Library”
  • 1:00-2:00pm: #Law2Go: Digital Tool for Facilitating Free Access to Human Rights Law and Legal Services in Nigeria
  • 1:00-2:00pm: Mission Impossible? Perfecting Free Access to Case Law in England and Wales
  • 1:00-2:00pm: Jurisdiction Identifiers for Managing Multinational Resources
  • 2:30-3:30pm: Strengthening the Kenyan Judicial System Through the CaseBack Service
  • 4:00-5:00pm: Digital India: Auditing Justice Via Internet


iallLogoIALL 36th Annual Course on International Law and Legal Information

Listed below are a few of the programs that jumped out at us as being interesting for the FCIL-SIS community, but if you’re attending another session, we’d love to have you blog for us.  You can find the full list of sessions here.

Sunday, October 22nd:

  • Pre-Conference Workshop: Well, Isn’t that Special? A How-To Workshop on Creating and Using Archives and Special Collections in a Legal Research Context

Monday, October 23rd:

  • 11:15-12:00pm:  Profit-Seeking Courts and the Criminalization of Poverty

Tuesday, October 24:

  • 9:30-10:15am: Global and Local Challenges to Refugee Protection
  • 10:15-11:00am: CDC: From AIDS to Zika: Access to Health Care as a Human Right
  • 11:30-12:15pm: Community Engagement through the Right of Access to Information: Assuring Inclusion of Marginalized Populations

Wednesday, October 25:

  • 10:15-11:00am: The United States and Security Governance
  • 2:00-3:00pm:  Information Literacy in a False/Fake News World

IFLA WLIC 2017 Conference Recap

By Charles Bjork

Conference Venue - Centennial Hall Grounds

Conference Venue: Centennial Hall Grounds

The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) held its 83rd World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) in Wrocław, Poland, from August 19-25, 2017.  What follows are my reflections on the conference as a first-time attendee.  I’ll have more to say about Wrocław as a travel destination in a future blog post.

Three things set the IFLA WLIC apart from other library conferences.  The first is its size.  It’s not in the same league as the American Library Association’s annual meeting, but it is much larger than any other library conference that I’ve attended.  As with other conferences, attendance varies from year to year, depending on the venue.  This year there were 3,300 librarians at the conference – roughly 50 percent more than the number who attended the annual meeting of the American Association of Law Libraries in Austin.

The second notable feature of the IFLA conference is its geographic, ethnic, and linguistic diversity.  This was not my first international library conference.  I attended the annual meeting of the International Association of Law Libraries (IALL) in Buenos Aires in 2014 and in Oxford in 2016.  Although I thoroughly enjoyed the IALL conferences, librarians from English-speaking jurisdictions in the developed world accounted for a disproportionate share of the attendees, with most of the rest coming from Western Europe and only a smattering of librarians from elsewhere in the world.

Conference Venue - Centennial Hall Entrance

Conference Venue: Centennial Hall Entrance


The IFLA conference, by contrast, included librarians from 122 countries on every continent.  Developed countries were over-represented, but less so than at the IALL conferences I’ve attended.  Only ten percent of the librarians were from the United States.  This was my first conference where the majority of the attendees were not native English speakers.  That made it feel like a truly international gathering.

The third thing that sets the IFLA conference apart is its length — seven full days.  The conference got underway on Saturday, August 19, with a series of business meetings for IFLA’s sections (including the Law Libraries Section) and interest groups.  Caucuses for regional, national, and language groups also held meetings on Saturday.  Substantive programming began on Sunday, August 20, and continued through Thursday, August 24.  The final day of the conference was devoted to library tours, both within Wrocław and in other cities and towns throughout southwest and south central Poland.

I attended the Newcomer’s Session, which took place early on Sunday morning, immediately prior to the Opening Session.   It included an introduction to IFLA by its outgoing president, Donna Scheeder; remarks from the president-elect, Gloria Pérez Salmerón; an overview of the conference and how to get the most out of it; as well as an opportunity to get acquainted with other newbies.

Opening Session - MC Introducing Wroclaw's History

MC Introduces Wroclaw’s History

The Opening Session featured a keynote address by British historian Richard Butterwick-Pawlikowski entitled Where Were You Going, Poland, When You Were So Rudely Interrupted?  In addition to introducing the audience to some of the recurring themes and continuities in Poland’s tumultuous history, the address also offered insights into the country’s transition to democracy since the fall of the communist regime in 1989.

Opening Session - Closing Number
Closing Number of the Opening Session


I knew from speaking with one of my Georgetown colleagues, who attended last year’s IFLA conference in Columbus, that the Opening Session would conclude with an entertainment segment showcasing the host city.  Even so, I was not entirely prepared for the ensuing 30-minute Broadway-style extravaganza, which employed a combination of interpretive dance and acrobatics to illustrate Wrocław’s thousand-year history.  Of all the library conferences I’ve attended, this one’s opening session definitely had the best production values!

Once the substantive programming got underway, I focused my attention on sessions that were sponsored in whole or in part by IFLA’s Law Libraries Section.  These included a session addressing the Challenges for Legal Research and Methodology in Post-Communist Eastern Europe, as well as a session on Optimizing Subject Access to Legal Materials.  The latter featured an informative presentation on EuroVoc, a multilingual controlled vocabulary developed by the Publications Office of the European Union (paper available for download here).

Program Slide - Optimizing Subjerct Acess to Legal Resources - EuroVoc - Multilingual Controlled Vocabulary
Program Slide: Optimizing Subject Access to Legal Resources, EuroVoc, Multilingual Controlled Vocabulary


Program Slide - Finding EU Documents - Perspectives From a Research Library

Program Slide: Finding EU Documents

At a session sponsored by the Government Information Section, I learned about Global Online Access to Legal Information (GOALI), a new initiative that is working with commercial publishers to provide free or low cost access to legal materials in developing countries.  GOALI is spearheaded by the International Labour Organization in partnership with Yale Law Library and Cornell Law Library.  Access will be provided on an institutional basis to law schools, courts, government agencies, law libraries, and local NGOs operating in selected jurisdictions.  GOALI’s online platform is expected to launch in February of 2018.

I particularly enjoyed a session on Transparency, Openness, and Engagement sponsored by the Parliamentary Libraries Section.  It included a presentation on a data visualization tool for public finances developed by librarians at the Chilean National Congress.  Another presentation described REDIPAL, an open platform for exchanging information about legislation pending in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Mexico’s national legislature.  These presentations were followed by break-out sessions during which each presenter met with members of the audience for a more in-depth discussion.

Program Slide - Chilean Budget Data Visualization Tool

Program Slide: Chilean Budget Data Visualization Tool

I also attended the business meeting of IFLA’s Law Libraries Section, which provided me with a better understanding of what it does and how it operates.  One of the highlights of the business meeting was a report on two very successful workshops on open access to legal information that were co-sponsored by IFLA.  The workshops took place in Kampala, Uganda, in December of 2016, and in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, in May of 2017.  Plans for a third workshop to be held elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa in 2018 already are underway.

Another highlight of the business meeting was a report on the adoption of a Statement on Government Provision of Public Legal Information in the Digital Age by the IFLA Governing Board in December of 2016.  The statement, which includes provisions on authentication and digital preservation for long-term access, was drafted by members of the Standing Committee of the Law Libraries Section.  Its formal adoption by IFLA’s Governing Board marked the culmination of a long-term project that helped to raise the profile of the Law Libraries Section.

Program Slide - Global Online Access to Legal Information (GOALI)To broaden my horizons, I attended several sessions that had nothing to with legal information.  Among the most memorable was a session on Libraries in Times of Crisis, which featured a heartbreaking presentation that documented the deliberate targeting and destruction of libraries and archives during the civil war in Somalia.  Another session on Information Inequality stood out for a presentation on linguistic minorities, who often struggle to access information online, where English and a handful of other widely spoken languages predominate.  For a librarian who often assists faculty and students trying to find reliable English translations of foreign laws, this presentation brought a welcome change of perspective.

One of the most important benefits of attending the IFLA conference was the opportunity to network with other librarians, particularly those from other countries and institutions outside the U.S.  I was especially pleased to meet librarians from the House of Commons Library and the European Parliament Library, since many of the faculty and students that I work with are interested in writing about Britain’s impending withdrawal from the European Union.

It would have been difficult to navigate a conference as large as IFLA without advice from veterans.  Sally Holterhoff and Teresa Miguel-Sterns were especially helpful to me in this respect.  I also would like to extend my thanks to Sonia Poulin, the chair of the Standing Committee of IFLA’s Law Libraries Section, for her welcoming spirit and for making sure that I had someone to join me for dinner each evening.

I encourage any librarian who works with foreign and international legal materials to consider attending the IFLA conference, particularly if it is being held in a jurisdiction that is of interest to you or to a faculty member with whom you work.  Next year’s conference will take place in Kuala Lumpur.

Conference Venue - Fountains at the Wroclaw Congress Center

Fountains at the Wroclaw Congress Center


AALL 2017 Recap: Global Energy Law: Perspectives from North America and Africa

By Susan Gualtier

Energy Law Program.jpgOn Sunday, July 16, I attended the Global Energy Law program curated by Yemisi Dina and featuring guest speaker Emeka Duruigbo.  Professor Duruigbo is an internationally recognized Energy Law, Business Law, and Economic Law scholar and has taught at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University since 2006.  He has made a number of media appearances and was featured in the documentary film, Crude Impact, which explores our global dependency on fossil fuel energy and examines the future implications of “peak oil.”  He is licensed to practice law in Nigeria and California.

Professor Duruigbo began the program with a few statistics, followed by an overview of the geology of petroleum drilling and of the petroleum industry for those of us unfamiliar with the processes.  Energy use evolves over time, with oil and gas dominating modern energy use.  Texas is considered the energy capital of the world, encompassing not only oil and gas, but also wind and solar energy.  Professor Duruigbo predicts that by 2040, oil, gas, and coal will still make up approximately 80% of the world’s energy demands, with gas usage growing the most over the next several decades.  The use of nuclear energy and renewables will also grow, while the use of wood, dung, and other biomass will decline slightly.

Crude oil and natural gas occur naturally in rock formations and can be drilled either horizontally or vertically.   The oil and gas industry consists of upstream, downstream, and midstream components. The largest and most lucrative oil and gas companies are engaged in upstream activities, which include exploration, field development, and production operations (referred to as “E&P.”)  E&P companies in turn hire midstream companies – those engaged in the transportation, processing, storage, and distribution of fuels – to drill their wells and to maintain and service them afterward. Downstream companies are those engaged in manufacturing, wholesale, and marketing.  The industry also includes companies providing supporting services to the upstream, midstream, and downstream operations.

Moving on to the legal portion of the presentation, Professor Duruigbo focused primarily on the human rights and environmental issues arising from the oil and gas industry.  Problems in the U.S. appear to be largely environmental.  The U.S. currently accounts for about 18% of the world’s energy consumption, despite making up only 4.5% of the world’s population.  One of the primary concerns in the U.S. oil and gas industry right now is that of fracking, which is a process for making shale more permeable to allow for drilling, and which may damage water, cause earthquakes, or have other environmental implications. Horizontal drilling is also at issue, as it allows for drilling underneath residential areas without the necessity of drilling a well nearby.  The U.S. oil and gas industry is governed by federal and state statutes, agency regulations, common law (which dominates areas such as trespass, strict liability, nuisance, and negligence), international law, and soft law.

In Nigeria, by contrast, the industry is not well-regulated.  Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and is one of the largest oil and gas producers; however, despite its rich natural resources and successful oil and gas industry, poverty levels have not improved much over time. Natural disasters, gas flares, and human rights abuses are common, and there is little redress for the victims through the Nigerian court system.  This has led victims to seek alternative venues in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.  It has also exposed U.S. and Canadian companies to lawsuits arising out of their alleged role in human rights abuses abroad.  Professor Duruigbo believes that Nigeria and other developing countries need to better embrace a “culture of legality,” in which the law matters and there are consequences for disobedience.  He also believes that in countries that suffer from government corruption, it may be better for natural resources to be owned by private companies, as they are in the U.S.

Professor Duruigbo finished the presentation by stressing the need for international cooperation on environmental and human rights issues, as well as the need to develop alternative energy policies and sustainable development models.  Overall, this program was a helpful introduction to the oil and gas industry and the current legal issues surrounding it.

AALL 2017 Recap: Social Media Use in Law Libraries: Learn from Our Successes and Failures

By Caitlin Hunter

panel photoI began my current job fresh from an online course in social media for libraries and enthusiastic about all the possibilities. I carefully identified target patron groups, then crafted goals and selected appropriate platforms for each. I made detailed Twitter and Facebook schedules in Word, Google Calendars, and Excel. Today, the library’s Twitter has three posts in the past three months, none of them by me. The library’s Facebook is long gone, courtesy of marketing’s suggestion that the law school would be better served by a single, unified Facebook that was actually updated.

Accordingly, I was excited to learn from librarians who are making social media work. Mari Cheney (Digital Resources & Reference Librarian, Lewis and Clark Law School; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and Nickholas Harrell (Student Services & Outreach Librarian, University of Colorado Law School; Facebook, Twitter) are academic librarians who are personally responsible for updating their libraries’ social media accounts. Cathryn Bowie (State Law Librarian, State of Oregon Law Library; Facebook, Twitter, Blog) is a public law library director who guides and supports her library’s social media program.

They offered the following tips for social media success:

  1. Avoid Facebook. All three panelists have Facebooks but this was misleading. Both Cheney and Harrell said their biggest Facebook failure was not deleting Facebook. (I was pleased to learn that my library was ahead of the curve on this one.) Cheney described Facebook as “a failure I continue to update.” Generally, the panelists felt that Facebook was geared towards the personal, rather than the professional, and had limited reach because of Facebook’s pay-for-views policy. Unless a library has the budget and willingness to pay, only about 10% of the library’s followers will see each post they make.
  2. Twitter is a must-have.  All three panelists had Twitter and agreed that Twitter is a good fit for libraries. Law students and attorneys use Twitter to promote themselves professionally, rather than to share their personal life. This means more retweets of legal research tips and fewer awkward encounters with photos of students partying.twitter
  3. Consider blogs and Instagram, but skip Snapchat. Bowie’s library also maintained a blog and Cheney maintained an Instagram. Cheney had investigated the possibility of having a Snapchat but students advised her that Snapchat was even more personal and less professional than Facebook.
  4. Retweet, repost, reblog- especially from vendors and other university departments. My biggest struggle with social media is generating content. How do successful social media users generate original content day after day? The answer is they don’t. A key part of effective social media use is engaging with the social media community by reposting others’ content. All of the panelists drew from a long list of sources, including AALL’s KnowItALL, SLAW, Lawyerist, Above the Law, Tech Dirt, Real Lawyers have Blogs, Boing Boing, In Custodia Legalis, and blogs by Hein and other vendors. Many vendors will retweet you if you retweet or mention them, pushing library content out to a much broader audience than the library could reach on its own. Likewise, engaging with other departments within the law school or university helps the law library reach audiences they otherwise wouldn’t and posting new books encourages the authors and their fans to repost your content and follow you.
  5. Enlist help. Harrell said he couldn’t do it without the help of a co-worker who rounded up her own list of content each morning. Another co-worker had a master’s in poetry and pitched in by selecting legally themed poems that were a hit with followers. Cheney reported great success asking student workers with high follower counts to like or retweet library posts. An audience member reported that her library’s trick to push out Facebook content without paying for the privilege was to have the librarians like and reblog library posts using their own accounts.
  6. Automate with tools. Feedly streamlines browsing blog posts, while TweetDeck streamlines browsing Twitter mentions and hashtags. Repost automatically reposts others’ Instagram content with appropriate credit. HootSuite automatically reposts the library’s own content to all of the services the library uses, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
  7. Post what patrons like–but expect surprises.  Paradoxically, both big trends and highly local content are popular. Popular trendy content included Pokemon Go at the library, ProQuest’s guide to Supreme Court nominations, the Law of Library of Congress’ guide to Olympics law, and portraits of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Popular local content included a mariachi band celebrating graduation weekend outside the library, a post identifying the library floors where alumni could find their class pictures, oddball library lost and found items, and Bacon, the Lewis & Clark library’s bronze pig. Bowie observed that the courts were “not allowed to do fun things” but nevertheless found social media success by providing practical tips on topics their patrons cared about, like finding legislative histories, using PACER, and downloading and printing from library computers. However, don’t expect to accurately predict everything patrons will like. Students were shockingly uninterested in Cheney’s gift card give-away and I was surprised to learn that one of the Oregon Law Library’s most popular blog posts was about dictionaries.instagram wins
  8. Engage with students– cautiously. Both Harrell and Cheney followed, retweeted, and replied to students on Twitter. Cheney initially made the mistake of following students on Instagram, too, only to find her Instagram feed inundated with photos of partying students she would rather not have seen. Audience members suggested approaching these encounters as learning opportunities for students who, after all, would soon be expected by law firms to keep their public social media accounts clean of partying photos and controversial opinions.
  9. Have clear policies for dealing with questionable comments–especially if you work for the government. If the library uses a social media platform that allows public comments, eventually the library will receive hostile or inappropriate comments. Be prepared beforehand with clear policies on what can stay and what crosses the line. This is especially key for court libraries, which must take into account their patrons’ free speech rights before removing comments.
  10. Make social media part of your daily workflow–but don’t be an addict. All three librarians set aside half an hour to forty-five minutes when they first arrived at work to review blogs and repost content. For those of us who struggle to post regularly, making social media part of our daily workflow can help maintain the consistent posting schedule necessary to get and keep followers. What about those rare souls who have the opposite problem, like the self-described “social media addict” who asked for advice during question and answer? Harrell’s advice was succinct: Don’t be an addict. Review your feed, make your posts, and then move on to the rest of your day. As Bowie observed, social media comes second- the patron in front of you always comes first.

AALL 2017 Recap: Cuban Law and Legal Research: A Snapshot During the Deshielo

By Caitlin Hunter

PanelDuring this year’s AALL conference I enjoyed the opportunity to attend “Cuban Law and Legal Research,” a panel discussion by Jorge R. Piñon (Director, Latin America and Caribbean Energy Program, University of Texas at Austin), Julienne E. Grant (Reference Librarian/Foreign & International Research Specialist, Loyola University Chicago School of Law Library), Marisol Florén Romero (Assistant Director for Library Services & Foreign & International Law, Florida International University), and Teresa M. Miguel-Stearns (Law Librarian and Professor of Law, Yale Law School Lillian Goldman Library.) The three librarians explained the theoretical structure of Cuban law, which Piñon tempered with his own practical experiences on the ground promoting trade between Cuba and the U.S.

Government StructureCuba is a civil law country and, more importantly, a socialist legality, where law is an instrument for moving society to socialism and communism. The basic government structure is established by the Constitution of 1976 and includes four branches:

  • The National Assembly of People’s Power, a legislative body that issues laws (leyes) and agreements (acuerdos) and is nominally Cuba’s highest authority;
  • The People’s Supreme Court, the highest judicial body;
  • The Office of the Attorney General, responsible for enforcing the laws; and
  • The Council of Ministers, an executive body that issues decrees (decretos) and is roughly analogous to the U.S. cabinet.

Except for the Council of Ministers, each branch has both provincial and municipal lower levels. Someone bringing a case would file it in a People’s Municipal Court, appeal to a People’s Provincial Court, and finally appeal to the People’s Supreme Court. Correspondingly, in addition to the national Office of the Attorney General, there are also Municipal and Provincial Attorney Generals. The legislative branch has not only Provincial and Municipal Assemblies, but also People’s Councils consisting of delegates elected down to the neighborhood level.

However, Piñon observed, you can rip up the formal chart and throw it out the window. Real power is actually held by much smaller groups. Within the People’s Supreme Court, only the smaller Governing Council issues binding decisions, in the form of instructions (instrucciones), agreements (acuerdos), and opinions (dictámenes.) Both the National Assembly and Council of Ministers also have smaller councils that are responsible for decision-making when they are not in session. The Council of State consists of 31 delegates from the National Assembly, issues decree-laws (decretos-leyes), and handles international treaties (tratados internacionales). The Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers consists of an unfixed number of ministers and issues resolutions (resoluciones). These smaller bodies wield considerable power because the National Assembly meets only two weeks a year and receives its marching orders from the Council of State when it does meet. Raúl Castro is the President of both the Council of State and the Council of Ministers. Regardless of the organizational chart, Castro and the Cuban Communist Party hold the real power.

Sources of LawCuban laws are difficult to find due to a lack of publishers and the government’s low commitment to transparency. There is no Lexis, Westlaw, or CLII Cuba. Government websites are here today, gone tomorrow and not necessarily accurate or intuitive to use. Cuba’s Gaceta Oficial posts Cuban laws in rar format, an old school competitor to the zip file that requires special software to decompress. The Gaceta includes codified Cuban law, but the codes aren’t up-to-date and there are differences even between the HTML and PDF versions posted on the Gaceta’s website. The problem is not restricted to online access. The government’s Instituto Cubano del Libro reviews all books and only authorizes a handful of publishers (e.g. ONBC) to print short runs that quickly sell out. During a recent book-buying trip to Cuba, Miguel-Stearns struggled to find something as simple as the current commercial code and spent hours waiting outside a bookstore while the Uruguayan publishers serving as intermediaries haggled for the handful of books available. Nevertheless, resources on Cuban law are expanding. For years the Supreme Court’s website was routinely down and nearly impossible to access, but following a recent reworking, it is now (usually) up and filled with useful information about the court and its rulings.  Other useful websites are the government-sponsored Granma and EcuRed; the independent Translating Cuba and Havana Times; and Cuba Trade Magazine, which focuses on the growing trade between the U.S. and Cuba.

Piñon believes that promoting trade between the U.S. and Cuba is key to both countries’ interests. Castro is now in his mid-eighties and has failed to identify a sufficiently charismatic, popular successor. Additionally, Cuba is heavily dependent on subsidies from Venezuela, which will end as soon as Maduro’s government falls. The imminent power vacuum could leave Cuba vulnerable to drug cartels. However, if the U.S. helps Cuba build a stable economy now, Americans and Cubans alike can benefit from the buying power of Cuban consumers and the contributions of the well-educated and entrepreneurial Cuban workforce. The Cuban government understands that it cannot continue to support hundreds of thousands of government workers once the Venezuelan subsidies end and is actively pushing both foreign investment and small businesses, such as B&Bs. For their part, American corporations are eager to access Cuban workers and markets and don’t care about the property the Cuban government seized from them decades ago. (Piñon quipped that most American companies would happily settle with Cuba for a dollar–and if Cuba does not have a dollar, they will reach into their pockets and give it the dollar.) The current re-freezing of Cuban relations has nothing to do with Cuba and everything to do with domestic U.S. politics. American politicians support the embargo because they fear losing support for their own policies from colleagues such as Marco Rubio, who in turn fear losing the votes of their Cuban exile constituents. It is up to us to counter this pressure and lobby the politicians who represent us to oppose the embargo.

All of the speakers were passionate and knowledgeable about their subjects and I wished this had been a deep dive so I could have heard everything they had to share. Happily, however, the presenters have also extensively documented their work elsewhere, including on this blog. Grant’s detailed travelogue of the Latin American Law Interest Group’s trip to Cuba is a special highlight. The presenters also provided an extensive handout, documenting and expanding on their presentation. Finally, I’ll be keeping an eye out for the Latin American Law Interest Group’s full guide to Cuban law, forthcoming in the month’s issue of the International Journal of Legal Information.

AALL 2017 Recap: Schaffer Grant Recipient Presentation–I am the river, and the river is me

By Jessica Pierucci

On Monday afternoon, July 17, 2017, the 2017 Schaffer Grant recipient, Rosemarie Rogers, delivered a fascinating presentation titled “Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au” or “I am the river and the river is me” about the personhood of the Whanganui River. Rosemarie traveled to the AALL 2017 conference in Austin, Texas all the way from New Zealand, where she is an Information Services Adviser at the law firm of Buddle Findlay.

Rosemarie started by taking us back to 1840, when over 500 Māori chiefs and the British Crown signed the Treaty of Waitangi. The English and Māori versions of the treaty differed significantly, which created substantial disagreement over the meaning of the treaty.

This disagreement ultimately led to the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal in 1975 to settle treaty claims by the Māori arising from the actions of the British Crown. The tribunal initially had limited powers over claims arising before 1975, but its reach was extended in 1985 to historical claims that date back to 1840.

schaffer_riverslideThe dispute over the Whanganui River is one of those historical claims.

Before discussing the dispute over the river, Rosemarie shared two additional notable settlements coming out of the Waitangi Tribunal to provide context: the settlement of the Ngāi Tahu dispute and the settlement of the Te Urewera dispute.

First, the Ngāi Tahu dispute emerged from a complaint about land acquisition by the British Crown. In simple terms, the tribunal concluded that substantial compensation was required for the land and rights to significant sites were transferred as part of the settlement.

Second, the Te Urewera dispute arose over the status of a national park and is in many ways a precursor to the outcome of the Whanganui River dispute. The tribunal concluded that the, now former, national park, in Rosemarie’s words, “owns itself,” in that it is a legal entity. This vested the land in Te Urewera, granting personhood to Te Urewera.

These prior outcomes provide foundation for the tribunal’s conclusion that the Whanganui River is a legal person. This conclusion can be found in a settlement officially finalized through the passage of a bill by the New Zealand Parliament just a few months ago, in March 2017. Rosemarie shared the sad history of the Whanganui River explaining that it was used by the Māori for transport and food until the British Crown destroyed much of their ability to do so. Māori people brought this claim to right this wrong.

Now, as a result of the settlement, there is hope for the future of the river because, as a legal person and taonga (meaning ancestral treasure), the river has rights. The river will be appointed representatives to represent its interests.


Rosemarie Rogers gives her Schaffer Grant Presentation at the 2017 Annual Conference of the American Association of Law Librarians in Austin, TX.

During the Q&A, Rosemarie shared that this recent settlement has been covered by many major news organizations (NPR, The Guardian, BBC, and the New York Times, to name a few). She also entertained a lively discussion with attendees about the potential implications of personhood for the river. According to Rosemarie, the Whanguanui River is the first river to be legally declared a person, so many of the decision’s implications are not yet clear. That will be the next chapter in this river’s story. Maybe the topic of a future Schaffer Grant lecture? We’ll just have to wait and see.

You’re Invited to Join the FCIL-SIS Publicity Committee!

The FCIL-SIS Publicity Committee invites you to join us for our meeting in Austin this weekend!  We will meet during the FCIL-SIS Standing Committees Joint Meeting on Sunday, July 16, at 6:15pm–6:45pm in Hilton Room 402.

We’d love to hear your ideas for blog posts, social media, conference publicity, and anything else you have to offer!  If you’re interested in blogging or in working on one or more of our other publicity initiatives, come by and find out more!

We’ll see you there!