Recap: Jurisdictions Interest Groups Joint Meeting

By Alyson Drake

This year’s Jurisdictions Interest Groups Joint Meeting was a fantastic opportunity to hear from our FCIL-SIS colleagues on interesting topics and interest group projects.

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jenJennifer Allison from the European Law Interest Group kicked off the meeting with an informative discussion of recent changes to German asylum law.  First, Jennifer explained that asylum for the politically persecuted is a constitutional right in Germany, under Grundgesetz article 16a.  She highlighted three 2016 laws related to German asylum law:

  • The Data Exchange Improvement Act, aimed at improving procedures for the exchange of data between government groups and other entities dealing with refugees;
  • The Act Introducing an Accelerated Asylum Procedure, which explains how accelerated asylum procedure will work for those cases where a fraudulent application for asylum is expected or where there’s a potential risk to the safety of the country by an applicant; and
  • The Act Simplifying Expulsion of Foreign Criminals and the Broadened Suspension of Refugee Recognition for Criminal Asylum Applicant, which amends earlier asylum laws.

She also discussed the Integration Act, the latest asylum legislation, which has yet to come into force and encourages asylum seekers and grantees to participate in training programs to help integrate them into German culture.

german law guideJennifer also provided a handout with various German law sources and other helpful sources, which can be found on her German Law Research Guide; it includes a section on German asylum law.  She also highly recommended following Jenny Gesley, who is the German Law Specialist at the Library of Congress, on Twitter for updates relating to German law.  One other resource she highly recommended is the Linguee German-English Dictionary, which gives good examples of legal terminology in context.

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Next up were Juice Lee and Steven Alexander de Costa, speaking on behalf of the Latin America Interest Group.  They presented the IG’s progress on the “Guide to Legal Research on Cuba.”  The guide will include information on Cuba’s history and Cuban law.  It will also include both Spanish and English language resources. The expected completion date of the guide is September 1st, 2016, and the group is still deciding on where to publish the guide after completion.

Steven discussed a little about his experiences working on the legal history portion of the guide.  He explained that the project was unique because materials relating to Cuba’s legal history weren’t widely available, particularly in English.  He noted that he learned some interesting facts about Cuba’s legal history, including that the modern history of Cuba began with the 1959 revolution, and that the legal system entwines both civil and socialist law, as well as some common law.  Interestingly, Cuban law still owes a lot to Spanish civil codes.

cuban lawIn the discussion that followed the update, it was noted that LLMC is currently working on digitizing approximately 200 Cuban materials, and that the National Library of Cuba has joined to cause and is helping find rare titles and more materials.  Teresa Miguel-Stearns also briefly discussed her recent trip to Cuba.

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The third speaker was Yemisi Dina from the Africa Interest Group, updating the group on completing phase one of her the South Western Nigeria digitization project.  One recent development is that she’s created a blog, digesting cases before customary courts in two cities in South Western Nigeria.

Yemisi shared several observations with the group:

  • yemisiCustomary law has a future in the legal system of Nigeria and other African countries. Customary courts are disorganized, but the government is interested. Yemisi noted that the government put a structure together for her to visit.
  • The resolution process is open to everyone, not just certain demographic groups. Yemisi observed that educated people are using the customary courts to resolve their disputes.
  • The majority of issues before the customary courts are divorce; rent; and child custody. Yemisi mentioned that land disputes used to be before the courts a great deal, but that those disputes have died down.
  • The courts face several challenges, including financial issues, as they are not funded by the government; limited resources, such as courts having only one staff person working at the court; and a lack of technology.

Yemisi welcomes comments about and suggestions for her project.

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perkinsFinally, Steven Perkins from the Indigenous Peoples Interest Group gave an interesting talk on some of the issues regarding DNA testing of Indigenous Peoples.

First, Steven discussed some of the different types of DNA testing that can take place, including the testing that can be done to determine the ethnic groups from which a person gets their DNA.  Next, Steven provided a brief history of the relationship between scientists and Native American tribes, namely that scientists have been analyzing tribe blood over the last 50 years, but that some challenges arose in how scientists were using their samples.  Scientists conducted research beyond the scope of what they told the tribes would be done, gave samples out to other scientists, and moved around the blood samples to different schools.  As such, the tribe had to set some boundaries and recollect the blood that had been passed around.  As such, tribes have created a guide to decide how to approach these situations.  The guide is found on the National Congress of American Indians website.  Most notably, the tribes keep the data and keep custody of the samples, and have procedures for determining whether a person is part of a particular tribe.

Thank you to all the speakers for presenting such a robust Jurisdictions IG meeting!

IALL Visits the Library of the German Bundestag

By Teresa Miguel-Stearns

On Thursday, September 24, about 100 of us visited the beautiful Library of the German Bundestag (Federal Parliament). The Parliament’s original library was completely destroyed in World War II. Housed in a new building across the River Spree from Parliament, the Library is merely one section of Parliament’s larger Research and Documentation Services, which has four departments:

  1. Library
  2. Archive
  3. Parliamentary Documentation
  4. Press Documentation

Our visit focused on the Library. The Library’s website is available in German, English, French and Arabic. The Library is responsible for cataloging and indexing printed material and electronic media as well as document delivery and distribution of information. The Library oversees the open-access catalogue, the lending and reading room, information and reference services, publications, and digital resources.

The Library has 85 employees, many of whom are part-time. They are spread among the four sections of the library. Two sections combine to cover acquisitions, publications, and special collections. One section is responsible for cataloging, indexing, and collection building. A final section provides lending and reference services.

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Holdings:

The Library has 1.4 million volumes and acquires 15,000 new items annually. It subscribes to 8,000 periodicals, mostly in print; 6,000 of which are official gazettes, yearbooks, and other official government publications from other European nations. The collection consists of about 20% monographs, 20% periodicals, and 40-50% electronic services. The Library collects heavily in law, economics, social sciences, parliaments, political science, and statistics. The Library’s budget is about $1.5 million.

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Acquisitions:

Of the 80,000 new titles published in Germany annually, about 50% are fiction.

The Library reviews a weekly bibliography from the German national library (available online, free) which aids is selection. The Library purchases a large number of international publications from international agencies and IGOs such as the OECD, FAO, UN, EU. As mentioned, the Library also purchases many foreign parliamentary publications, including gazettes and statistics, mostly from European countries and the US, and mostly in English. The Library has some reciprocal arrangements for the exchange of materials rather than purchase. The Library also seeks to purchase gray literature from NGOs, trade unions, political parties, academic societies, citizen political groups, and the like. The vast majority of material acquired is in German, plus some English and French, too. The Library previously had a small collection of Russian-language materials but it was so infrequently used that the Library donated it to another library that could use it.

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Catalogue:

The Catalogue covers the holdings of the entire Library. It also contains item records for over 800,000 articles from various journals it holds. The item records link to the full-text.

Services:

The Library serves 4500 persons in Parliament and provides limited services to many more. The Library is not open to general public but grants access to scholars for 10-day periods.

The Library operates on the principle that it provides non-partisan, equal access of all material to all its patrons. When a patron is in the Library, it takes less than 30 minutes to retrieve an item from the closed stacks. The open stacks in the multiple floors of the library contain 20,000 volumes and 1,000 journals. There are 60 individual desks for reading and 30 personal computing workstations. When a patron requests a title that the Library does not own, the Library is generally able to put it in the patron’s hands in 2-3 days.

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Information and Reference Services:

The Library receives over 600 in-depth inquiries annually. It offers advice to Library users, and answers inquiries via telephone, email and web-form. The librarians prepare bibliographies on specific topics, compile lists of materials, share information about new acquisitions, prepare displays on topical issues, and give guided tours.

Internal Publications:

The Librarians publish, both in print and electronically (internet and intranet), documents such as a monthly list of new books and recently-published articles, short abstracts with annotations of new books, bibliographies on specific topics when a new committee is established in Parliament, and literature lists. Literature lists correspond to hot topics in Parliament; examples include Germany 25 years of reunification, health care, and nutrition.

In sum, the Library of the German Bundestag provides tremendous services to its patrons, has a comprehensive and heavily-used collection, and sits in a beautiful, open, airy space. It was a pleasure to visit and learn about this impressive Library.

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