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.

AALL 2015 Recap: European Union Information Workshop

By Alyson Drake

EU InfoI was lucky enough to attend AALL 2015’s preconference workshop on EU Information, along with the rest of a sold out crowd. Our speaker was Ian Thomson, who serves as both the Director of the European Documentation Centre at Cardiff University and the Executive Editor of European Sources Online. While not a complete EU novice, I learned about a host of new (to me) resources beyond EUR-Lex that will be a huge aid next time I teach our International and Foreign Legal Research course or have patrons come with EU questions.

Rather than give a summary of the topics discussed, I thought I would highlight ten resources I didn’t previously know about that will be helpful to those out there researching European Union-related issues.

1.  ECLAS (European Commission Libraries Catalogue)

ECLAS is a major bibliographic index to help researchers find EU publications, treatises, journal articles and more on topics of interest to the EU. ECLAS provides hyperlinks to full text if freely available.

ECLAS

2.  Registers of Documents

The Registers of Documents from European Union institutions are a fantastic research tool for finding unpublished EU information not available in other EU-focused search engines and databases. Each of the registers includes documents relating to its activities, as well as official documents sent to it by other institutions and EU member states. The three main bodies of the EU, the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Council of the European Union each have their own register.

3.  European eJustice Portal

Use European eJustice Portal to find links to information aimed at many different audiences (citizens, businesses, legal practitioners, and judges). Among other resources, researchers can find EU member state legislation and case law, as well as information on the legal processes in each EU member country.

ejustice4.  European External Action Service

Use the EEAS to find summaries of and information on the European Union’s relations with every country.

5.  IATE: Interactive Terminology for Europe database

IATE is the official database for interpreters of the EU. Researchers can enter an important term for their research and find the translation in over 20 languages.

iate6.  European Parliamentary Research Service

The EPRS, the European Parliament’s internal research department, provides the European Parliament with analysis and research on policy issues important to the European Union, in the form of briefings on current topics.

7.  IPEX (InterParliamentary EU Information Exchange)

IPEX provides access to reports from national parliaments concerning EU legislative proposals and initiatives.

8.  Dec.Nat—National Decisions

Dec.Nat helps researchers find court decisions from the national courts of member states concerning issues related to EU law.

9.  Euro|topics

Euro|topics translates articles from EU member country sources from their original language into German, English, and French. It provides an interesting way to get into the mindsets of media in other countries. Their “Main Focus” section gives articles on one hot topic of the day and then provides a list other news items of note.

eurotopics10.  Europe on the Internet

For more help finding useful websites and databases for information on the European Union, see Thomson’s own Europe on the Internet. It’s incredibly comprehensive and covers a great deal of what attendees were shown at the workshop.