Unveiling ERIG’s New Project: Evaluating Popular and New FCIL Sources

By James Hart

Starting from this October, the FCIL Electronic Research Interest Group will publish its reviews of popular and new FCIL sources in a series titled “Resource Reviews” for the FCIL Newsletter. The series, at its first installment, will feature five popular sources and two relatively new sources. The popular sources are:

  • The Foreign Law Guide
  • Globalex
  • The United Nations Treaty Collection
  • HeinOnline’s World Constitutions Illustrated
  • HeinOnline’s World Treaty Library

The two relatively new sources are:

  • Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals Case Law Database
  • The Peace Palace Library, The Hague, Netherlands

This is an entirely new project. Its purpose is to promote some of the most authoritative, highly regarded, and comprehensive tools in foreign, comparative, and international legal research. As a continuing project, we also hope to explore and evaluate new resources as they come to our attention.

Each review is individually authored and the opinions expressed in the review are the author’s own. The reviews are intended for both FCIL and general law librarians. They give information that is particularly important to professional users.

Different librarians will have varying ideas of what tools belong in the current list. Indeed the Electronic Research Interest Group discussed a large number of excellent tools. Many shared comparable characteristics; some had incomparable characteristics; and some had a mixture. If your favorite tool is not here, it is not a reflection on that tool. The discussion resulted in substantial agreement on the choices that we have made and on a list of seven characteristics that we could use to ensure the consistency of our reviews, including:

  • How well-known is the source?
  • How accessible is it?
  • How authoritative is it?
  • How comprehensive is it, in terms of its contents?
  • How easy-to-use (user-friendly) is it?
  • How useful is it in terms of its ability to answer both common and rare (difficult-to-find) questions?
  • How current (up-to-date) is it?

The characteristics are broad enough to apply to different types of tools. But they serve their purpose. Please feel free to share your comments with us concerning either our choices or our list of characteristics. You can send your comments to Sherry Xin Chen at sherry.xin.chen@bc.edu.

Our definition of “new” is approximately two years old at most.  This definition is general and flexible. We will interpret it in relation to the broad field of FCIL research. New tools after all do not pop up in FCIL research on a daily basis. Although we have only two “new” tools now, we will expand this category in the future.

Finally let me give credit to those who made this project happen:

Catherine Deane
Yemisi Dina
Dennis Kim-Prieto
Steven Perkins
Sherry Xin Chen

Join The Electronic Resources IG at #AALL17

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By Jim Hart

We would like to invite you to our annual FCIL-SIS Electronic Resources Interest Group (ERIG) Meeting, which will be held at 7:45 – 8:45 a.m. on Sunday, July 16th, at Austin Convention Center Level 3, Room 8B.

The Electronic Resources IG provides information and support to librarians on online resources of foreign, comparative and international law research. Although most of the group’s work benefits FCIL librarians, this meeting is open to both those who are and those who are not FCIL members. Everyone is welcome! At the meeting, we will review what the group has done in the past year, gather your ideas about interesting projects for the future, and introduce you to the new Chair.

Please join us for a great networking opportunity and to catch up with old friends!

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.

EISIL Update

The Electronic Information System for International Law (EISIL), sponsored by the American Society of International Law (ASIL) experienced outages last week.  Upon request, Don Ford agreed to update the FCIL-SIS on his knowledge of EISIL’s status.

By: Don Ford

EISIL Update: In 2012, shortly after ASIL eliminated its librarian position, Barbara Bean (Michigan State University Law Library) and I volunteered to serve as EISIL’s general factota.  Barbara continued training EISIL editors and I continued accumulating potential new sources for EISIL.  However, since early 2013, ASIL has allowed no updating of EISIL because to do so might crash the EISIL system, which is superannuated.  This has caused the database to become seriously outdated, as no new content has been added, and existing content has not been updated.

Barbara and Don also tried to keep EISIL alive.  During the period 2012-2016 there were a number of discussions, both with Elizabeth Andersen, ASIL’s former Executive Director, and with Mark Agrast, ASIL’s current Executive Director, about migrating EISIL to a new platform.  In addition, repeated attempts were made to include EISIL within the broader framework of the ASIL website redesign project, to no avail.  This spring, Don and Barbara felt they had to recommend to ASIL that the database be suppressed until it can be properly updated.

An article on the history of EISIL and on the efforts to keep it alive will be published in the fall 2016 issue of the Informer, the electronic newsletter of ASIL’s International Legal Research Interest Group (ILRIG).  In the meantime, please let ASIL Executive Director Mark Agrast know your concerns.  He may be reached at magrast@asil.org.

 

IALL Recap: Legal Blogs as a Means to alter Scientific Communication Structures and Legal Research: Insights from Verfassungsblog’s Research Project

By Teresa Miguel-Stearns

Humbolt University Berlin, Faculty of Law

Humbolt University Berlin, Faculty of Law

Researcher Hannah Birkenkotter, of Humboldt University Berlin, gave a fascinating presentation on the various types of German legal blogs and their effects on German society. She acknowledged that she and her fellow researchers do not know exactly who is reading the blogs, and that although blogs are not yet firmly entrenched in the establishment, they are genre that provides a valuable space for experimentation and the exchange of ideas. Birkenkotter described two types of blogs:

  1. External alteration blogs: to spread ideas and alter scientific discussion
  2. Internal alteration blogs: to shake up academic institutions and structure

In 2009, legal journalist Maximillian Steinbeis, started blogging to report on constitutional law developments in Germany. The intended audience of Verfassungsblog is the general public and the desired outcome is to shape and affect policy. The blog is primarily in English in an effort to reach a broad audience. Although Steinbeis is the solo owner and moderator of this “external alteration” blog, he has a long list of guest contributors including several U.S. law professors.

Humboldt University Berlin, Main Campus

Humboldt University Berlin, Main Campus

Several years ago Andreas Palos, then a practicing attorney, started a popular international law blog. It was short and informative with a clear opinion. Palos is now a sitting judge on the Federal Constitution Court and, therefore, no longer maintains this solo blog, but at the time it was a primary means of sharing developments in international law with the public who would not otherwise have timely, in depth, and easy access to such developments.

Several popular blogs are group projects where there is a pre-publishing peer review process allowing for a less formal forum for publishing one’s scholarship. One such blog is a group of young researcher in German public law who run Junge Wissenschaft im Offentlichen Recht, an “internal alteration” blog. This blog provides ample opportunity for up-and-coming scholars to express their ideas and get feedback from their peers through posted comments and responses.

Some of the most popular legal blogs in Germany are the following:

In sum, blogs in Germany, though not as prolific as in the United States, provide an important tool for scholars and experts to share developments in the law, exchange novel ideas and receive instant feedback, and educate the public in a timely, open fashion. Not so different from DipLawMatics Dialogues!

Humboldt University of Berlin, Main Campus

Humboldt University of Berlin, Main Campus

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.