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.

Introducing…Sarah Jaramillo as the February 2017 FCIL Librarian of the Month

1.  Wsarah-jaramillohere did you grow up?

I grew up in Southern California and the Dallas area, and have lived in many places since then.

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

As fortune would have it, I stumbled upon law librarianship when I found myself living in Bloomington, Indiana in 2002. I recently graduated from college and was looking for a job. I found one at the Indiana University School of Law Library as a serials and bindery clerk. From that point on, I’ve been working in law libraries in various capacities. I saw what the reference librarians did at the law library at IU, and I found what they did very interesting and, more importantly, could see myself doing it in the long term. I applied for the joint law and library science program at IU and became a professional law librarian in 2008 at Rutgers-Newark School of Law Library.

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

I’ve had an interest in foreign, comparative and international law ever since I went to law school. I am one of those people who think all legal subjects could have a FCIL hook at some point. In all honesty, though, I found FCIL legal research intimidating, but I started picking it up over the years. My knowledge of foreign, comparative, and international law became more comprehensive when I because the tax research specialist at Fordham Law Library in 2011. As the tax specialist, I needed to have an in-depth knowledge of how to research international and foreign tax law. In January 2016, I started my position as one of the two reference librarians for international and foreign law at New York University School of Law. I love that I now have an official excuse to completely immerse myself in foreign and international law.

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

My current employer is New York University School of Law. I started there as a reference librarian for international and foreign law in January 2016.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

I have basic reading knowledge of Spanish and French. I’m aiming for that knowledge to become more advanced in the course of my employment at NYU.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

My most significant professional achievements came during my work with the Social Responsibilities SIS (SR-SIS). In 2010/11 and 2011/12, I ran the SR-SIS’s annual book drive. In 2012/13, I was the vice-chair/chair-elect of the SR-SIS. That year, we worked with Emily Feltren in AALL Government Relations to protest and formally comment on New York state’s gutting of some prison libraries. As chair in 2013/14, the SR-SIS lobbied AALL to formally support the passage of San Antonio’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance and led the charge to amend AALL’s antidiscrimination bylaws provision to include protection on the basis of gender identity.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Any baked good really.

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

There are so many. The first one to come to mind is “Crazy in Love” by Beyonce, but I could list so many others from various genres and time periods. I love music!

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

Well, this is certainly an open-ended question. I assume you don’t mean superpowers, so I’ll stay more grounded in my answers. In terms of general skills, I wish I knew how to model risk using Matlab or Python. In terms of law librarian skills, I wish I instantaneously knew the nuts and bolts of the law of international trade.

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

Conversation with friends or family.

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

I’m looking forward to getting to know the FCIL community in AALL better. Cheers!

Introducing…Dennis Kim-Prieto as the January 2017 FCIL Librarian of the Month

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1.Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Tempe, Arizona, attended the University of Arizona for my B.A., and then went to the University of Iowa for my Master’s degree in creative writing.  I then also spent time in Central America, South Korea, and San Francisco before returning to the Iowa College of Law.  I took my library degree from the mighty GSLIS at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and we moved out to New Jersey shortly thereafter.

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

In law school, half of the students and the faculty were miserable, largely because they weren’t in (or weren’t going to live in) Chicago.  The law librarians, however?  They were helpful and cheerful and seemed quite happy with their lives.  I saw that and thought, ‘Wow, that’s what I want to be when I grow up!’

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

When I first started interviewing for law librarian positions, I kept getting asked if I was interested in FCIL work.  After I fielded that question about three times, I thought that it might be worth looking into.  I’ve been very happy with what I’ve found in the FCIL community, and with the work I do bringing awareness about these materials to students.

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

I work at the Rutgers School of Law.  I’ve been here for 11 years.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

I speak Spanish, and a little bit of Korean, French, Catalan, Portuguese, and Italian.  But Spanish and then Korean are my stronger languages.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

I’d have to say that the highlight of my career was presenting my work on bilingual legal dictionaries with Coen van Laer from Maastricht University, at the IALL Annual Course in the Hague, Netherlands, during the fall of 2010. That was an incredible thrill to participate in one of the leading events in our field, and the location was completely breathtaking.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Dark chocolate oranges.  I cannot resist them.  Especially when paired with a nice Malbec.

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

Oh, there are so many.  Right now it’s the song “Hein?” by Tom Zé.  FYI, this song has NOTHING to do with HeinOnline.  Ask me this question in twenty minutes or so, and I’ll be sure to give you a different answer.

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

I wish I knew analysis of variance.  But I was too lazy to get a Ph.D.  I also wish I knew more about coding.  I may take steps to remedy that one.

10. Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you do not go a day without?

I try to do the NYT crossword puzzle every weekday.  I take a rest on Saturdays and Sundays.

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

We have two children at home, Jenara and Gonzalo, and they are delightful young people.  My oldest, Levi, is a student at the University of Arizona. I hope to return to Tucson to visit him some time soon.

Introducing…Jim Hart as the December 2016 FCIL Librarian of the Month

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1. Where did you grow up?

Peoria, Illinois

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

I selected librarianship after deciding not to continue pursuing a PhD in classics.  Latin and Greek were OK, but adding French and German to them as research tools was too much.

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

I was already a law librarian and had worked for one faculty member whose expertise was English legal history and helped Human Rights Quarterly cite checkers.  So I knew that this was a whole area of law and legal research to me.  Since classical scholarship and Roman law were related to Europe culture, I started reading in the field and liked it.

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

The University of Cincinnati.  I have worked at the University since 1982 and the law library since 1989.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

I don’t speak Latin (I have a friend who can), but I can still read it.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

Probably my article on the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Without a doubt, vanilla ice cream!

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

Take your pick.  Any of the Beach Boys, the early Beatles, Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing,” and a few others.

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

To be able to draw, to be able work with wood, to speak Russian, to understand economics, and to write gracefully.

10. Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you do not go a day without? Meditation and coffee

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

Not unless we could have a two way conversation.

Introducing…Alyson Drake as the November 2016 FCIL Librarian of the Month

1. Where did you grow up?alysondrake1

Elmira, NY, a small city in upstate New York.  Looking back, I always wanted to escape, but now that I live so far away from home, I long to get back there to see my family, especially in the fall, when the hills are all lit up in oranges and reds.

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

I began working in libraries through work study as a freshman in college and never left—I just always felt comfortable surrounded by books.  After going to gets my M.L.I.S., I decided to go to law school, because I wanted to specialize in a subject that I would find interesting.  As a philosophy and history major in college, law seemed like a good fit.

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

I’ve always been interested in other cultures.  As a history major, I focused on the classical world and have always been its fascinated by its norms.  Studying abroad in Greece only increased my interest in other countries and so once I was in law school, my interests leaned strongly toward international law.  I was lucky enough to serve as a research assistant to one of my international law professors at William & Mary.  She focused on international criminal law and I became hooked.  Because of my background in international research from law school, international legal research questions started coming my way almost as soon as I began working as a reference librarian.

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

I worked at Texas Tech University School of Law.  I started here in January of 2016, so I’m still relatively new here.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

Speak?  No.  I read Ancient Greek and Latin, and can pick my way through some Italian and Spanish, thanks to the Latin background.  I took a little French and some Modern Greek in college, but they’ve fallen to the wayside due to lack of use.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

Probably the recent scholarship I’ve been working on.  My first (post-law school) scholarly publication is coming out in the next issue of Law Library Journal.  I also just completed an update for a Globalex article and had a second article accepted by a law review.  That being said, I think the best is yet to come—and I’m particularly excited to be the Vice Chair/Chair-Elect of RIPS-SIS this year, especially as we are starting work on an exciting initiative with other SISes (including FCIL-SIS) to bring instruction to law librarians on how to be better teachers!

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Cheese.  Which is especially problematic as someone who is lactose intolerant.

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

Anything by Tom Petty.  It used to accompany all my trips back and forth to college.

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

I would like to be able to teleport anywhere in the world.  More realistically, I’d like to have better foreign language skills.

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

Puppy snuggles.

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

As the co-chair of the FCIL-SIS Publicity Committee, I love getting to hear about all the exciting initiatives that FCIL-SIS members are working on.  We’re always looking for new content for the blog, especially in the areas of technical services, collection development, and instruction.  Instruction is a particular passion of mine, and I’m hoping to start a monthly column sharing teaching ideas from FCIL members, so if you have any ideas, please contact me.

Introducing…Xiaomeng “Alex” Zhang as the October 2016 FCIL Librarian of the Month

alex-zhang1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Shenyang, a city in northeast of China. It was the capital of Manchuria Qing dynasty, the last dynasty of China and it was also occupied by Japanese for quite a few years during the World War II. As a result, Shenyang, today, has a diversity of history, culture and architectural styles.

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

As a philosophy and law major, I always enjoy critical thinking, researching, and writing. My advanced legal research class experience at the University of Kansas Law School and my later internship at the Law Library of Congress exposed me to the law librarianship field and made me realize that law librarianship is a perfect field that would not only allow me to continue to develop my critical thinking, legal research and writing skills, but also give me the opportunity to share my knowledge and expertise with others through teaching, research, and reference work.

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

I was extremely lucky to get to know many great mentors at the very early stage of my career: Jenny Selby (former Head of Reference and International Law Librarian at Michigan Law Library) introduced me to the profession. Barbara Garavaglia (current Director and former Assistant Director of Michigan Law Library) trained me and is still training me to become a better FCIL Librarian day by day. I started to learn about FCIL selection from Barbara and Jenny while I was still a student at the School of Information of the University of Michigan and I fell in love with and became attached to the area immediately.

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

University of Michigan Law Library. A bit over 7 years.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages? 

I work with materials in many different languages on a daily basis, but I do not speak any besides English and Chinese (which is actually my native tongue).

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

I would say the best is yet to come 🙂 But I feel VERY honored to become the vice chair and chair elect of FCIL-SIS this year and look forward to working with all of you to accomplish something significant!

7. What is your biggest food weakness? 

Thai food.

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

I am a big fan of K-pop (Korean Pop Music), so I would say Super Junior’s Sorry, Sorry.

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

I would like to improve my empirical research skills a bit if time allows. I would also like to learn Spanish.

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

My new watch 🙂

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

I enjoy reading, writing, and traveling.

Skipped the London Eye, Headed for the UK Supreme Court

By: Amy Flick & Julienne Grant

After IALL in Oxford, some of us seized the opportunity to take a few extra days to explore London. London is full of tourists, and sometimes the lines can be daunting, particularly at sites like the London Eye.  Tourists were not pounding at the doors of the UK Supreme Court, however, which made for a very pleasant visit.  Several of us opted for guided tours and also explored the excellent exhibition in the basement.

The UK Supreme Court has only existed since October 2009 per the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. Final judicial authority for the UK was previously vested in the Appellate Committee of The House of Lords, its members serving as judges known as Law Lords.  When the UK Supreme Court opened for business, the 12 Law Lords became the first sitting UK Supreme Court Justices. According to the Court’s website, the Court was “established to achieve a complete separation between the United Kingdom’s senior Judges and the Upper House of Parliament, emphasizing the independence of the Law Lords and increasing the transparency between Parliament and the courts.”

The UK Supreme Court is housed in the former Middlesex Guildhall, which sits on Parliament Square, across from the Houses of Parliament and next to Westminster Abbey. Constructed in 1913, the building once served as a Crown Court and was refurbished to house the new UK Supreme Court.  There are three courtrooms in the building with the first being the largest and most traditional in appearance. The second courtroom is sleek and modern, and its glass back wall is etched with an Eleanor Roosevelt quotation. Court 3 is used by the Judicial Committee of The Privy Council (JCPC).

The 12 Justices sit on panels of five, seven, or nine, with five being the most common. Panels are assigned by the Court’s president, currently the Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury.  The Court is the final court of appeal for civil cases from all of the UK, and criminal cases from England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The Court hears around 100 cases a year with about a quarter being criminal, and the rest covering a broad range of topics. The 12 Justices also sit on the JCPC, although other Commonwealth judges may be invited to sit on those panels.  The JCPC docket runs about 50 to 60 cases per year.

Cases can take up to four years to wind through the UK lower courts, but can be expedited if they are time sensitive.  Cases are chosen for a hearing in the Supreme Court if they have an arguable point of law and/or a “general impact on society.” The Court operates from October through the end of July, spread over four terms.  Hearings average between one and five days in length.  One recent, and quite compelling case, involved a transgender individual. In that case, the plaintiff applied for her state retirement pension when she was 60, but was denied as she had not formally applied for a gender recognition certificate.  The Court had not yet decided the case when we were on site, but the judgment came down last week. The Court elected to defer the legal question to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). One assumes that the CJEU will be out of the picture completely once Brexit is implemented.

The Court’s Justices are selected in a process that is quite different from that in the U.S., which is highly politicized. To be eligible to serve on the Court, a candidate must have served at least 15 years as a “qualifying practitioner” or two years as a judge in the UK court system.  An independent panel of legal and non-legal experts vets and interviews candidates.  The Queen formally makes the appointment.  Mandatory retirement age is 75 for those Justices who were Law Lords, and 70 otherwise.  In the next couple of years, half of the Court will be retiring.  Currently, two Justices are Scottish, another is from Northern Ireland, and the Baroness Hale of Richmond is the only female Justice.  The current lack of diversity on the Court will seemingly be addressed with the forthcoming wave of retirements.

The Court’s elegant emblem includes the blue flax flower of Northern Ireland, England’s Tudor rose, Wales’ green leek leaves, and Scotland’s purple thistle. These symbols are intertwined with a Libra representing the scales of justice, and an Omega, which represents the Court as the final source of justice in the UK.  The Court’s colorful carpeting repeats the emblem and was designed by Sir Peter Blake, who also designed the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album cover.  The Court’s interior is functional, but also quite attractive; you can even rent out the place for a wedding, dinner, or other event. (Somehow it’s difficult to picture a wild wedding reception taking place here, but anything is possible.)

The Court employs eight Judicial Assistants (JAs)—one permanent, the others serve for one year.  The four Justices with the highest seniority have their own clerks, while the remaining eight share four JAs.  The Justices don’t wear traditional robes in the courtroom and sit on the same level as the parties’ legal teams.  The Court’s usher does wear a gown, and barristers have the option of wearing wigs and robes.  Barristers address the Justices as “Lord” and “Lady.”  Hearings are streamed live and remain on the Court’s web archive for a year.

The Court’s library is generally not open to the public, but we were allowed a visit, hosted very graciously by Head Librarian Paul Sandles (one of two librarians on staff).  The library spans two floors, and the walls have quotations (selected by the Justices) penned by a wide variety of authors ranging from Aristotle to Martin Luther King. The print collection is somewhat limited since most of the Law Lords’ book collection remained on site within the House of Lords. The library concentrates on basic texts on subjects covered in court, adding titles preemptively and as needed. There are some primary and secondary foreign materials. The library’s U.S. Reports set was donated by the U.S. Supreme Court after a visit by the U.S. Justices.

Although the Court tour does not offer the London Eye’s “view you’ll never forget,” it is nonetheless a worthwhile way to spend an afternoon.  In a jurisdiction that can lay claim to the Magna Carta (1215), it is fascinating to get a glimpse of a legal institution in its infancy.