Introducing…Sola Babatunde as the September 2019 FCIL Member of the Month

sola

1. Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Nigeria where I also studied law. I later earned a LLM degree in Comparative and International Law from Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas.

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

It was fortuitous. I had the fortune of knowing very wonderful and kind-hearted law librarians at a time when my possible career direction was in a flux. First on the list is the former library director at the Underwood Law Library, SMU, the very kind Gail M. Daly.  She was very supportive of my career. The second was Greg Ivy who succeeded her. He has always been a source of inspiration to me. And I still regard him as my informal mentor. There was also the immense support and guidance I received from Professor Yvonne Chandler. In addition to these fabulous people I received tremendous encouragement from Femi Cadmus. Allen R. Moye of DePaul Law Library graciously served as my mentor in midwifing my career as a law librarian. Mr. Moye helped me to find my feet in law librarianship. Yes, I selected law librarianship (and I am glad I did) probably because of the indirect influences of all these wonderful people who believed in me. In a sense, I am following in their footsteps. And every step of the way, it has been an exciting professional journey!

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

My view of law has always been cosmopolitan. First off, I hold a law degree from Nigeria. Nigerian law is a smorgasbord of British common law and traditional law and customs.  Second, my areas of legal specialization are: Comparative Conflict of Laws, Comparative Constitutional Laws,   Comparative Criminal Law and Procedure, and, Law of the Sea. My interest in comparative and international law is the offshoot of my legal training.

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

Liberty University School of Law. This is my seventh year at Liberty Law!

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

My native tongue is Yoruba, a language widely spoken in the southwestern part of Nigeria but the mode of instruction in schools (in Nigeria) is English.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

Successfully managed my department’s transition to a new Integrated Library System (ILS).

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

I will always cherish banana split ice cream.

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

I am an acute introvert. No, I am not blessed with either the ability to dance or sing even if I wanted to. I will rather curl up in a quiet place with a nice literary work.

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

To play the keyboard.

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

Absolutely that will be coffee.

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

I hold the degree of Master of Divinity with focus on Pastoral Counseling.

AALL 2019 Recap: FCIL-SIS Schaffer Grant Presentation – African Law for Everyone: AfricanLII and Laws.Africa

By: Loren Turner

Mariya

On Monday, July 15, 2019, the 2019 FCIL-SIS Schaffer Grant recipient, Mariya Badeva-Bright, who leads the AfricanLII project at the University of Cape Town, South Africa (and recently co-founded Laws.Africa, a legislative commons), delivered a fantastic presentation titled “African Law for Everyone: AfricanLII and Laws.Africa.” Mariya’s presentation was a summary of her motivations and processes for gathering and digitizing African law as well as a “call to action” to law librarians worldwide for help in making African law accessible to all.

African Law for Everyone: AfricanLII and Laws.Africa

Mariya began her presentation by stating that there is no reliable, consistent, and up-to-date access to the law in many African countries – free or not.  Mariya provided several reasons for the lack of access to legal information: indifference of commercial publishers; lack of funds and skills on the local levels; poor record keeping; and low level corruption. She argued that there can be no justice without access to legal information.  When the law is not available freely and easily, judges cannot determine precedent; rich litigants have an unfair advantage.  As support, Mariya shared visual images of legislative texts in which pages were literally cut out, edited by hand, and then reinserted.  The reality, Mariya said, is that lots of African law is in such condition and this format frustrates access to justice.

Mariya explained that the AfricanLII and the Laws.Africa projects are about building an open infrastructure of African legal information with opportunity for sophisticated searches. They have to be open to anyone and offer speed, efficiency, services, growth and development.

AfricanLII was founded in 2010 to promote the role of LIIs in Africa. It now offers a federated search of over 250k documents of African legal information. Additionally, in response to user demand, it has begun to create case indices, including the Human Rights Law Index and the Commercial Law Index. It also provides a current awareness newsletter that started out as a service for judges but has expanded to anyone interested in following legal developments in African law (subscribe at the bottom of this page). Most recently, AfricanLII launched a citator service, available in beta format. It is the first visual citator in the access to law movement, but what is more remarkable is that it creates a citator service for cases that were never published in law reports and, therefore, don’t have citations!  The AfricanLII database sees about 400,000 unique users per month, 90% of which are within Africa.  Users are primarily from the justice sector (lawyers, judges, paralegals, magistrates, law students, government workers, etc.) but there is an increase in “average joes” accessing the database.

When the AfricanLII project began, there was a conscious choice to focus on gathering and digitizing cases rather than legislation.  Cases have their own value, but outdated legislation has little value.  The creators of AfricanLII had concerns about the future credibility of their project if they uploaded outdated legislation.  Plus, the reality is that in most African countries, there is no free source of consolidated, up-to-date legislation.

The Laws.Africa project developed to address the lack of freely available access to African legislation. The creators of the Laws.Africa project surveyed other country’s attempts at making legislation current and freely accessible.  They decided that the UK’s legislation.gov.uk was the model “golden” standard outside of Africa because of its rich interface and up-to-date, authoritative corpus.  Within Africa, the “golden” standards were Kenya law, an authoritative source of Kenyan legislation, and OpenBylaws.org.za, which focuses on improving access to South African by-laws.

Laws.Africa is an open source, cloud platform for efficient cost-effective consolidation and publication of African legislation.  It aims to crowdsource an open digital archive of African gazettes and use technology (in particular, Akoma Ntoso, a non-proprietary, XML markup standard for legislative documents) to consolidate legislation. In terms of processes: once a gazette is uploaded onto the Laws.Africa platform, a group of contributors (law students and law library students) extract individual Acts and identify changes to the Act over time.  A small group of reviewers check the work of the contributors (there is a two-step review process). After review, the consolidated legislation becomes available in a variety of formats.

The Laws.Africa project has already acquired and uploaded over 13,000 national gazettes.  These gazettes are available in .pdf versions through a linked sister site called Gazettes.Africa.  But, it takes a village to make a complete collection!  Unfortunately, Mariya explained, the law of Africa is not in Africa.  Instead, many African gazettes, especially historical ones, are located in libraries outside of Africa.  To continue building the collection of African gazettes and legislation on the Laws.Africa portal, Mariya and her colleagues need law librarians and digitizers in the U.S. and U.K. to donate their African gazettes to the project.  Mariya believes that crowdsourcing these gazettes is the best way to reach the goal of a complete collection.

Mariya concluded her presentation with an appeal: Join our community! Donate your gazettes!  Spread the word about the AfricanLII and Laws.Africa projects!  She received a great round of applause.

For a video of Mariya’s FCIL-SIS Schaffer Grant presentation, as given at Yale Law Library subsequent to the 2019 AALL Annual Meeting, follow this link.

Introducing…Lesley Dingle as the August 2019 FCIL Member of the Month

2019.08 Lesley

1. Where did you grow up?

I was born in Mutare Zimbabwe but grew up in the small remote town of George, Western Cape, South Africa.

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

I trained to be a teacher and librarian, and then trained as a lawyer. I was ultimately able to combine these interests.

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

In 1997 when I was appointed to the Squire Law Library at Cambridge, having previously managed the Law Library at City University, London. I came to the Squire Library having trained in a foreign jurisdiction (mixed Roman Dutch and Common Law), and therefore had a foreign, international perspective.

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

University of Cambridge. 22 years

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

Afrikaans, Flemish. Working knowledge of German and French.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

Founding and developing the Cambridge Eminent Scholars Archive. During this time I’ve had the privilege of interviewing many international lawyers/jurists.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

White bread and jam

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

Cheikh  Lô with Youssou N’Dour – Set

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

To be able to play the violin well.

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

Some form of exercise.  Swimming, cycling or walking.

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

I greatly value my ties with colleagues world-wide. I have made wonderful friends through FCIL activities, both home and abroad.   Similarly, my research in the course of compiling the ESA has brought home to me the variety of adversities and amazing contingencies that direct the course of most people’s careers.

 

Introducing…Abby Dos Santos as the June 2019 FCIL Member of the Month

dos santos

1. Where did you grow up? 

I was born and raised in Washington, D.C.

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

When I was in law school, I started working in the law library because I loved spending time in the library and learning from the librarians.  After law school, I worked closely with my firm’s law librarian.  I loved researching and the process of finding the answer, more than the answer itself.  The law librarian at the firm encouraged me to pursue a career in law librarianship, and I did!

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

I have an undergraduate degree in international relations, and thought I would work in international development.  But I found a love for the law while working as an International Program Specialist for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP)—providing technical assistance programs to foreign governments on topics related to international legal reform.  I further developed my interest in FCIL topics while working at Georgetown’s Wolff International & Comparative Law Library during library school and after graduating.

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

I currently work as the Reference Librarian at Caplin & Drysdale, in Washington, D.C.  I’ve been at Caplin & Drysdale for five years.  The firm primarily works in tax law and bankruptcy litigation, so I still use my FCIL knowledge when helping our attorneys find resources on tax treaties and other international tax issues.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

My family is originally from Brazil, so I speak fluent Portuguese.  I’m also fluent in Spanish.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

Redirecting my professional path to law librarianship and graduating from library school.  I’m very proud of graduating from law school, but as soon as I made the change to law librarianship, I knew it was the best decision for my professional career and thus has been the most significant so far.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

BBQ

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

Any Brazilian music

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

Speed reading

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

My phone (unfortunately)

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

I lived in Minnesota for college and law school, but came back to D.C. for library school.  I’m not sure how, but people tell me I still have a bit of a Minnesota accent.  So I’m probably one of the only native Washingtonians with a Minnesota accent!

Introducing…Erin Gow as the May 2019 FCIL Member of the Month

erin gow1. Where did you grow up?

Richmond, Kentucky.

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

Did I select it?? I certainly didn’t mean to – it just sort of … happened.

The final requirement for my library degree at the University of Brighton (they no longer offer this course) was a dissertation based on a research project at a host library. Middle Temple Library,  a law library in London, was looking for someone to research their users’ training needs, and since I had a background in education I thought this sounded interesting. I ended up learning A LOT about legal research, and enjoying it more than I expected to. Just before graduation a related law library, Gray’s Inn Library, had an opening in their graduate trainee program, which was designed for library graduates without any legal experience. I applied and was hired, and once again I ended up learning A LOT about British law and legal systems, and really enjoying the experience. When they invited me to stay on for a second year, I was delighted, and then when a job opened up back at Middle Temple Library, where I had done my dissertation research, I immediately knew I wanted to apply. I became a law librarian because of a string of opportunities, some first class training and support from amazing law librarians, and the fact that I ended up enjoying the work a lot more than I ever expected to!

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

Gray’s Inn Library had a specialist collection of international law, but as an American working in British libraries all the law was foreign to me! It was really becoming the European Librarian at Middle Temple Library that made me realize how much I enjoyed FCIL work specifically though. I loved learning about the intricacies of the EU and the challenge of finding foreign legal materials from across Europe.

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

I have worked at the University of Louisville Law Library for nearly 3 years (in March!).

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

Not really. I took several years of Spanish in high school and at college, and started to work on developing a reading knowledge of French and German while working at Middle Temple, but I simply don’t use any of this enough to have retained very much.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

Probably just the reality of being the European Librarian at Middle Temple Library for a little while. It’s an incredibly cool library and I really respect the librarians and library users at all the Inns of Court, so it felt like an achievement just to be hired there. In retrospect I also realize how much the job as a whole pushed me to develop a whole range of new professional skills and confidence, in a way that I didn’t even recognize as I was just getting up and doing the work to the best of my ability each day.

On the other hand, presenting at the British and Irish Association of Law Libraries annual conference in 2014 felt like a significant professional achievement at the time. It was fun to be aware of actually doing something significant (for me at any rate!), but also kind of intimidating.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Macaroni and cheese. I’ll eat it as a side dish or a main, homemade or from a box, fresh or frozen.

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

Honestly, I ‘m not really a dancer or a singer – see below.

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

I have always wanted to be able to play some sort of musical instrument or sing well. Unfortunately, I lack any sense of rhythm and can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

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

Orange juice – it’s my coffee.

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

I’m the current chair of the European Law Interest Group and would love to hear from anyone who would like to get involved with the group or share an idea for a project!

Introducing…Heather Casey as the March 2019 FCIL Member of the Month

heather casey

1. Where did you grow up?

We lived in a lot of places but mainly Virginia and Ohio. I’ve also lived in Utah, Nevada, France, Louisiana, and Rhode Island (one of those is not like the others…).

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

I’d gotten my library degree before I went to law school and always thought of law librarianship as something fun to do in retirement. But then the financial crisis of 2008 hit just as I was about to graduate from law school and all these visions I’d had of driving away from graduation in a Mercedes while lighting a cigar with a $100 bill went up in smoke. Suddenly, law librarianship wasn’t something to amuse myself with in old age, but the only viable career path. I have no regrets with how things have worked out. I don’t even like cigars anyway.

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

Having lived abroad for a couple of years in my early 20s, I had an appreciation for the differences between how societies handled basic rights like healthcare and immigration long before law school was even an idea in my mind. Thus, once I finally attended law school, it was with an eye to taking classes on international and foreign laws when they were available.

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

I’m at Georgetown and have been here for almost 6 years. 

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

I butcher French with a savagery that brings tears to French speakers’ eyes (I just pretend they’re tears of joy). Other languages I can mangle include Spanish and Italian.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

I’m quite proud of the workshops in Africa that I’ve participated in with Sonia Poulin and others. We’ve worked to strengthen the law library network there, both among anglophones and francophones and it’s one of the things I’m most grateful to have been a part of. I’ve made lasting friendships and feel like I understand the challenges and successes of librarians there in a way I wouldn’t otherwise comprehend. It’s been incredible to realize how many similarities we, as law librarians, share, regardless of our jurisdiction. We all want to accomplish the same goals – provide access to legal information for our patrons in a way that helps patrons better understand the materials they need.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Pretty sure we don’t have enough room for all my food indulgences. It suffices that I didn’t get my ample figure from saying no to a second serving or twelve.

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

This depends on my mood. How shameful is it if I admit I still enjoy Despacito from time to time? That shameful? Oh okay.

9. What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)? Time travel would be nice. A faster metabolism…wait, am I supposed to be talking about skills and abilities I can actually acquire?

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

I have to make the bed every morning. My day is ruined if I know the bed is messy and unmade. When I travel and my husband stays home, I know he isn’t making the bed but that’s okay because I make the bed at the hotel I’m in and ignore the fact that he’s reliving his glory days in college at home (because I know he’ll have it all cleaned up before I return). It’s just a weird quirk – like my mind isn’t organized if my living space isn’t.

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

I think I’ve said enough to give you all fodder for humiliation. 

Introducing…Joan Sherer as the January 2019 FCIL Member of the Month

01.19 Joan Sherer

1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Kresgeville, PA. It is a very small village about 30 miles north of Allentown.

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

A family friend, who just happened to be the secretary at my high school’s library, suggested I consider librarianship.

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

It wasn’t until I started at the State Department that I really delved into it.

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

I work for the Department of State and I’ve been here 20 years.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

Not really. I had Spanish in high school and college, but my knowledge of the language is rusty.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

I think landing the position of Law Librarian at the State Department. This has been a wonderful experience and I feel fortunate to serve the Department in this very small capacity. It still amazes me when I get research requests from our embassies all over the world.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

While I hate to admit it, but it’s peanut M&Ms. I just love them.

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

I have two, Happy by Pharrell and September, by Earth, Wind & Fire. As I was driving home last night and Happy came on the radio. While I couldn’t get up and dance, I did sing along.

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

I admit I am a mediocre cook. I would love to be able to have the skills of a gourmet chef.

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

I would be lost without a good book to read. I have a never ending reading list of both fiction and nonfiction books that I hope to read one day.

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

This is a good venue to announce that I am retiring on December 31st.  In fact, if you are reading this after that date I am already retired. As much as I love my job, it is time to move on to other things. I’m looking forward to moving back to Pennsylvania next summer and spending more time with friends and family. Incidentally, it may take several months until my position is posted, but if you are interested in a federal government position working with a stellar group of librarians, check usajobs.gov in the coming months.