Library Newsletter Autumn 2007

Newsletter Archive September 2007

Melinda Renner , of the University of New Brunswick in Canada, gave two lively presentations to IALS Library staff in June, while she was at IALS as NELLCO International Fellow. She is pictured here at one of her talks, with some members of Library staff.

Welcome to the October issue of IALS Library News! The news is intended for the information of law schools and academic law libraries, so please pass on the link to your law school colleagues and research students.
This month, we include accounts of NELLCO Fellowships from both Lesley Young and Melinda Renner, Jules Winterton reports on his visit to South Africa in August, and Lindsey Caffin gives us a behind-the-scenes view of the development of the new IALS website.

Finally, we include some brief news items to tell you about new electronic resources and new content on the IALS website





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BAILII's value recognised

The value of the British and Irish Legal Information Institute , based at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, is increasingly being recognised - see this leader from The Guardian of 3rd September 2007, In praise of free law . BAILII is praised warmly for its track record since 1999 in helping to provide universal access to common law.

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Fellowships at Yale Law Library and at IALS

Visit to Yale Law Library, May 2007

by Lesley Young, Information Resources Manager at IALS


Since July 2006 the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Library has been an international affiliate member of NELLCO, a major consortium of law libraries based in the United States. There are 93 full and affiliate members including Columbia, Harvard and Yale Law School Libraries and seven international affiliates. The latter is a new category of membership which is being piloted for 2 years and comprises three affiliates from the UK: IALS; the Bodleian Law Library, University of Oxford; and the Squire Law Library, University of Cambridge; and four from Canada: Dalhousie and York Universities and the Universities of New Brunswick and Victoria.

Among the many benefits of membership is the international fellows' programme which provides an opportunity for librarians to visit a NELLCO library in a different country to experience law librarianship within the context of a different common law system. Under the scheme, this summer the IALS library hosted a visit from Mel Renner, the Public Services and Reference librarian at the Gerard V La Forest Law Library of the University of New Brunswick. At the beginning of May, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity of spending two weeks at the Lillian Goldman Law Library at Yale Law School.

Yale Law School Library

Each fellow outlined their areas of particular interest before arrival so that the host library could arrange a programme of meetings with relevant staff and also visits to nearby libraries. My role as Information Resources Manager at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Library means that I had a fairly wide range of interests which Yale managed to accommodate. I wanted to look at how the whole process of selecting, acquiring and making print and electronic resources available, was organised. I had long talks with the serials, cataloguing and acquisitions librarians as well as several people from the reference and collections team to find out how they carried out their work and to compare how we are all tackling similar issues.

IALS is planning to extend its library so I was interested in seeing what Yale had achieved during its major four-year renovation. The remodelled main law reading room is a wonderful example of how light and a sense of space can be introduced to create a welcoming study room. In the main library I also saw the results of a very different project which turned a courtyard into a modern music library and popular study area. I was also able to indulge my interest in rare books and was not only able to talk about practical aspects of caring for them with the Law Library's rare books librarian but also to one of the librarians at the architecturally amazing Beinecke, Yale University's Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

The Law Library also arranged for me to visit other Yale University libraries so that I could get a picture of how the separately housed and managed law library fitted in with them. At the Sterling Memorial Library, Yale's main library, I saw the enormous technical services set up and the tower which contains the stacks and offices and even a case of Babylonian artefacts. The Yale Shelving Facility was of particular interest to me as the person responsible for managing the growth of IALS' collections in a building that was declared officially full several years ago. While IALS is occasionally able to send some carefully selected little used serials to off-site storage in the University of London's purpose-built Depository Library in Egham, both the Law Library and Yale's main Library (and Harvard Law Library as I later discovered) are able to send large amounts of material to off-site storage more or less continuously, allowing both libraries to maintain a steady state print collection on-site.

Yale also arranged for me to spend the day at the Harvard Law School Library. Thanks to their wonderful organisational skills I was able to visit several parts of the library, speak to a number of people and have lunch, all in the space of a few hours. This provided me with a chance to compare what I had discovered in New Haven with what was happening in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In addition to exploring the world of the law library, with the expert help and knowledge of one of the reference librarians, I was also able to sample other activities that are on offer on the Yale campus: a lecture by Lani Guinier, Yale Law School graduate and currently a law professor at Harvard; a trombone concert in the Beinecke Library; an a capella concert in one of the lecture theatres by a group named Habeas Corpus who had composed a piece about the Law Library reference team; and an end of term barbecue. During many lunches, I was also introduced to the favourite eating places of several members of staff

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Yale I am very grateful to all the staff who took the time to organise my trip and looked after me so well during my intensive 2 week stay.

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IALS Library hosts International Fellow

by Melinda Renner

Hi. I'm Melinda Renner, Reference/Public Services Librarian since 1994 at the Gerard V. La Forest Law Library, University of New Brunswick in Canada. Folks at IALS reading this article will remember that I visited the IALS Library this past summer as a NELLCO Inaugural International Fellow.

NELLCO, the New England Law Library Consortium, began this fellowship program in 2007 by awarding six fellowships to two Canadian, two U.S. and two U.K. librarians, respectively. As you may know, the fellowships support visits of the six librarian fellows to hosting law libraries in the other countries through financial grants, programming assistance, and the obtaining of willing hosts like IALS. The goal of the fellowships is to facilitate scholarly exchange among the law librarians of common-law countries and to foster more international cooperation and resource sharing.

I chose to visit IALS because, as I stated it in my application, I can think of no better place on earth where I can see the breadth of international legal materials coupled with the depth of knowledge about international law that a library staff brings to its institution. I must say that these lofty expectations were met and surpassed during my visit to you!

Meeting with IALS Library senior management, I explored the relationships between the library and University of London affiliated institutions and among the many law libraries in the London area and beyond. I learned about your collection development policies that continuously reflect the changing needs of the faculty and students whom you serve. I heard about the differences between your commercial document delivery scheme and similar services our library provides for our practicing bar. I learned about how legal research strategies are taught to students who use your library and about the numerous public online resources that you have developed and continue to enrich, such as the Current Legal Research Topics Database and INTUTE.

And, from your IT staff, I learned about your library's digital initiatives, the integrated library system that you share with other University of London sectors, and some issues surrounding the licensing and management of the numerous online legal resources that you offer.

I was not just taking in information, however. I made two presentations to your wonderful staff (all of whom managed to stay awake!), taking a light-hearted approach to programs and initiatives going on back home in Canada. One presentation looked at the Canadian law scene, including the education and training of Canadian lawyers, cooperative efforts among Canadian law libraries, and how I approach teaching legal research skills to our students. My second presentation addressed some of my personal favourite online legal resources that IALS might consider acquiring and also several interesting projects at our library to digitize and host some unique legal materials of national interest.

The IALS staff arranged for me to visit some nearby law collections, including the Lincoln's Inn Library, the London School of Economics, and the British Library's law department. Further afield, I travelled to the Squire Law Library at Cambridge and the Bodleian Library at Oxford. During all visits, local librarian hosts greeted me with warm enthusiasm, a tour, and introductions to their staff.

I topped off my visit by attending, with Laura Griffiths, the 2007 BIALL Study Conference in Sheffield, where, in spite of the dangerously heavy rainfall, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting law librarians from across the country and participating in the educational programme. I extend to everyone at IALS a huge THANKS for all their kindness during my stay with you! I really learned a lot and met a huge number of new professional colleagues along the way.

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News from South Africa

The Librarian of the Institute, Jules Winterton, gave a presentation to members of the Organisation of South African Law Libraries in Johannesburg on Friday 17th August, 2007. The presentation was entitled 'Legal Information on the Web - can we trust the official version?' It drew on the valuable recent work of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), which published a detailed report on its research in March 2007: 'State by State Report on authentication of Online Legal Resources'. The research found that printed versions of primary legal resources in the USA are being replaced by electronic publications as the official version, but the investment has not been made to ensure that these electronic publications are properly authenticated and that permanent public access has been ensured. The AALL has adopted a set of Principles and Core Values Concerning Public Information on Government Web Sites covering: Accessibility, Official Status, Reliability including authenticity, Comprehensiveness, and Preservation including permanent public access. Each of these topics involves a series of guidelines designed to assist public bodies in making the successful transition to electronic publication without loss of reliability of the information and the trust of legal researchers. Winterton reported on these developments in detail and applied the criteria to the Statute Law Database and to EU legislation, for which adequacy of publication is a topical issue. (See 'The binding force of Babel: the enforcement of EC law unpublished in the languages of the new member states' by Michal Bobek, 2007, available at and forthcoming in vol.9 (2006-07) Cambridge Yearbook of European Legal Studies). The event was sponsored by Westlaw International and by Academic Marketing Services Pty.

The Librarian attended the World Congress of the International Federation of Library Associations in Durban, representing the International Association of Law Libraries (IALL) of which he is President. He was elected to the Standing Committee of the Law Libraries Section of IFLA which serves colleagues who have an element of law in their library work and have a chance to travel to IFLA meetings but who cannot attend the IALL's law librarianship conference.

IALL Board members helped the Section to organise a law library event on Sunday 19th August, chaired by Amanda Barratt of the University of Cape Town Law Library under the title "Open Access Law, Free Legal Information, Democracy, and Human Rights". Amanda Barratt gave an Introduction to the issues: how open access legal information can promote democracy, the rule of law, and protection of human rights'. The panel included: Merle Ruff of the Southern African Legal Information Institute and Sheryl Luthuli of the South African Constitutional Court Library who spoke on 'Open access legal sources in Southern and Eastern Africa: A Case Study.' Professor Richard Danner of Duke University School of Law talked about "The importance of open access secondary sources". Cecilie Butenschoen Mariri, of the Southern and Eastern Regional Centre for Women's Law, Harare, Zimbabwe spoke on 'The dung beetle effect: taking law to the people in southern and eastern Africa, with an emphasis on Zimbabwe. It is hoped that the papers might be published in the IALL's journal, the International Journal of Legal Information .

The Librarian also met with the staff of the Southern African Legal Information Institute (SAFLII), based at the South African Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, to discuss issues in common with the British and Irish Legal Information Institute based at IALS. The issues which arose included the framework for developing further the underlying software of the 'legal information institutes' into true open source software, the issue of data protection and privacy in relation to personal data in judgments and the anonymisation of that data, as well as the operational detail of the sourcing and format of judgments received from the courts. There was also some discussion of the digitisation of leading judgments from the past in the context of BAILII's successful OpenLaw project. SAFLII now has legal materials from various countries in Southern and Eastern Africa as well as from South Africa.

Jules Winterton, Associate Director and Librarian, IALS

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New website for the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies

by Lindsey Caffin

The newly redesigned IALS website was launched at the end of June 2007. The new site incorporates a new interface and colour scheme that was designed in-house by IALS Library staff. The redesign was necessary in order to comply with accessibility legislation and generally to revamp the former site.

The Techie Bit

The first prototype designs were hard-coded then redesigned using Adobe's Dreamweaver software. This allowed us to create a number of designs and be more specific in placing objects and columns on the page. The new site uses a combination of XHTML for all static pages and ASP Active Server Pages for the new dynamic sections in the website. We've tried to keep reliance on Javascript down to a minimum to make accessibility easier.

For accessibility, we used a number of free software modules available from the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) website. These tools proved to be extremely useful, especially in the earlier stages when our prototype was intranet only, and therefore could not be checked by online accessibility checkers. As a result our new site conforms to WAI-A (first level) on all pages and to WAI-AA (2nd level) on over 95% of the site.

Site Design

The site design is based around the Institute's boxy building shape with its rectangular rooms and many windows. All photographs were taken at the IALS during the past year, including photos of staff, and students obligingly let us take pictures of them at work. In some cases the odd chocolate bar was offered as a bribe. Needless to say this approach always worked.

Site navigation was also redesigned with more emphasis placed on the breadcrumb trail to navigate through sections leaving the left hand menu free for jump links within web pages. We have also tried to make it easier to get to the individual sub-sections with each main section by giving them their own mini-home pages, Library Admissions and Library Subscription services being two newly revamped sections.

Colour Scheme

We were very lucky that the Institute has a distinctive colour scheme throughout the building and these colours are reflected in the design. The old maroon was replaced with a slate blue colour, reflecting doors and signage as the main site colour. The grey background found on many of the pages was added to enhance the font colour in order to make it easier to read. A larger font was also important to the new design to make it easier on the eyes and lessen any strain. Other website colours also appear in various guises throughout the building, from the light blue lino on the basement floors to the blue trimming found on the main staircase.

New Features

Our new site also has some new features. We have a new location map courtesy of Google and a searchable staff directory. These new features will hopefully make it easier to find information about the IALS. We've also added web favicons, the little pictures you see in the address bar of a website to reflect our links with both the School of Advanced Study and University of London Research Library Services.

Coming Attractions

Coming soon is a new text options feature that will allow site users to configure accessibility options such as font size and background colours; a dynamically generated list of serials; information on daily events at the IALS; a revamped Eagle-I service and a sleeker site search facility, along with other modifications suggested by staff and users.

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Spotlight on new electronic resources

by Gerard Power

The following three databases have recently been added to the IALS Electronic Law Library, and are available to academic researchers onsite:

  • International Law in Domestic Courts . This is a regularly updated collection of domestic cases in international law, from over 60 jurisdictions. The archive dates from 2000 and about 150 new cases are added each year. The service includes the full text of the judgment in the original language, with an English translation of the key points. Headnotes and commentary are also included for each case. The service offers a clear interface with good browse, search and print options.
  • IBFD Online . This subscription service is a gateway to cross-border tax information and is published by the International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation. IALS subscription to IBFD includes VAT in Europe, guides to taxation in individual countries for Europe, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and many tax treaties. Users can search the database or display the table of contents for the country or treaty they need. This service offers regularly updated content for many jurisdictions, and will be a good alternative to several loose-leaf volumes!
  • World Trade : this database provides access to many decisions and documents of the World Trade Organisation and its predecessor, the GATT, as well as extensive commentary and analysis of international trade law issues. The service provides a number of search and browse options, and is published by a company based in Florida in the U.S.

During the Autumn term for 2007, we will publish some quick guides to the new databases acquired on the Electronic Law Library to provide users with some basic orientation on their content and use.

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News in brief

SAS space

The IALS now has its own repository of scholarly and research materials available on the web. The repository was launched in December 2006 and has been growing ever since. It can be found in SAS Space, the digital repository for the School of Advanced Study, University of London, alongside digitised material of other institutes of the School. The School recognises the many advantages to scholars and researchers, both in UK and internationally, of such digital collections. Incidentally, you can find other repositories of legal research materials by doing a subject search in OpenDOAR, the Directory of Open Access Repositories.

New guide on European Union legal material

Hester Swift, Foreign and International Law Librarian at IALS, has written a guide to EU legal material, which can be found with other guides to jurisdictions on our website. Many of the guides were updated during the Summer, and by the end of 2007, they will all be revised and updated. Hester is currently working on a guide to the legal literature of the Council of Europe, which will be published on the IALS website shortly.

Academic Photocopying Service

Finally, we would like to remind you of the academic photocopying service offered by IALS Library, which is available to currently registered academic staff and students in the UK and the rest of the world. The Library also participates in the British Library Document Supply Service and handles requests for loans and photocopies of items from academic libraries.

News compiled and distributed by:

Gerard Power
Access Librarian
17 Russell Square
London WC1B 5DR
Phone: 020 7862 5790

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Page last updated: 27th January 2016