Several members of the FCIL SIS joined 3500+ librarian colleagues in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, this past August 24-30 for the World Library and Information Congress (WLIC), the annual conference of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). IFLA’s Law Libraries Section sponsored two educational programs during the WLIC. In this post, we provide detailed accounts of these two programs, which focused on the importance that access to, and an understanding of the law, plays in times of crisis as well as in everyday life.
For a report from the overall WLIC conference, including details of the Law Libraries Section’s business meetings, please see the October issue of the FCIL SIS newsletter.
Program: The Role of Government and Law Libraries in Times of Crisis and Turmoil
FCIS SIS member Heather Casey chaired a program featuring speakers from three different libraries providing examples of different roles played by government and law libraries in responding to crises, access to justice initiatives, and social advocacy projects.
- Jane Sanchez, Law Librarian of Congress presented on the actions that the Law Library of Congress has taken to promote peace, democracy, and the rule of law in countries in turmoil, either from war or natural disaster. In addition to donating books and helping to reconstruct a legal research collection, the LLoC has facilitated virtual repatriation of legal materials by digitizing countries’ law holdings at Library of Congress. Recent efforts have involved legal materials in war-torn Afghanistan, in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, and with the State Attorney’s Office of Puerto Rico after hurricanes Irma and Maria.
- AALL member, Dr. Yolanda Jones, Director, Florida A&M (FAMU) College of Law Library, discussed her paper titled “The Special Access to Justice Mission of an HBCU” and illustrated the response of an academic law library at a Historically Black College or University in the United States to provide access to law and justice services to under-served communities. In addition to serving the FAMU Law School community, Dr. Jones’ library serves as the county library, and 50% of their reference desk traffic comes from members of the public and local attorneys.
- Edita Bačić, Faculty of Law, at the University of Split in Croatia, reflected on the role of librarians as social and political forces in a presentation titled “Neutrality Versus Proactivity in Libraries during Turbulent Times.” She shared her experiences as a librarian advocating for improvement of social conditions in Croatia. Ms. Bačić asserted that human rights, the right to information, and the need for social inclusion are the bases of modern social movements in achieving social justice, and that librarians need to be an active force proactively involved in the life of their community. She maintained that librarianship is no longer limited to professional responsibility in relation to the library users and that there is a responsibility for development of the entire community.
Program: Legal Capability: Law as a Life Skill
Chaired and moderated by Law Libraries Section Standing Committee Chair Sonia Poulin of the Justice Education Society, Vancouver, British Columbia, this program discussed two initiatives, one in Canada and one in the United States, that seek to enable youth and adults to acquire “legal capability,” described as the knowledge, understanding and life skills necessary to engage with the law in everyday issues carrying legal implications. Speakers Dave Nolette and Marc Legacy from the Justice Education Society provided an overview of the types of skills and behaviors their organization helps build in the K-12 curriculum and via web services. The goal is for their clients to learn about the law, to recognize and diagnose legal problems, and to gain the competencies necessary to identify risks, address and resolve conflicts, communicate, negotiate, and think critically about issues.
Speaker Bonnie Rose Hough, Principal Managing Attorney for the Center for Families, Children & the Courts of the Judicial Council of California, oversees the California court system’s Access to Justice, Self Help, Family Law, Domestic Violence, and Tribal/State programs. Via video, Ms. Hough shared statistics about the large percentage of litigants in the California courts who do not have legal representation, and she described the California courts’ self-help system, which provides thousands of legal documents and forms, many translated into Spanish (and some in Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese), to assist unrepresented litigants.
At next year’s WLIC in Athens, Greece, the Law Libraries Section will again sponsor two programs. We hope to see you there!