Library Newsletter Summer 2007

Newsletter Archive June 2007

Doors open on the new library lift at IALS! Aileen Cook tests it out. See below for a report on the new lift, by David Gee.

Welcome to the new online newsletter from the Library of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies! The news will be sent 3 times a year (June, September and January) to law schools and law librarians. We aim to offer a short news update on IALS Library and associated services. Please feel free to pass on the link to your colleagues and research students. We welcome enquiries and visits from legal researchers based in universities in the UK and overseas. The news is compiled by Gerard Power, Access Librarian at IALS.
In this issue, Hester Swift outlines her new role as the Foreign and International Law Librarian at IALS.  Heather Memess describes a recent Intute event, and Cynthia Fellows gives an update on developments at BAILII.  

We also have a short report from research student Ginevra Peruginelli, and an article from Holger Knudsen on his recent visit to IALS Library.



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Foreign and International Law Librarian

Hester Swift outlines her role .

I joined IALS Library in February 2007 as Foreign and International Law Librarian and am busy learning the ropes. Before I came here, I was European Union Librarian at the Law Society of England and Wales for about five years, having started my career at HM Treasury and Cabinet Office Library.

The role of Foreign and International Law Librarian - a new post at the Institute - encompasses reference assistance for researchers in the fields of foreign and international law, development of the Library's foreign and international law collections and research support for IALS staff and doctoral students.

Foreign and International Law Librarians are something of a rare breed. As a new one, I am very fortunate to be gaining advice from an expert, Prof. Dr. Holger Knudsen, Library Director at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law in Hamburg, who visited IALS during April. I will also be liaising with my counterparts at the Bodleian Law Library in Oxford and Squire Law Library in Cambridge; I have just visited both libraries during June. Further opportunities to learn from other members of the profession are in prospect towards the end of the year, when I am to attend the 26th Annual Course on International Law Librarianship, which is being held by the International Association of Law Libraries in Mumbai under the Presidency of IALS Librarian, Jules Winterton.

A key part of my work, together with the rest of the Academic Services team, is to produce research guides and other practical resources for readers. A guide to European Union research is in progress and will be published on the website later this year; I will also be writing a guide to Council of Europe research and updating some of the existing guides. In the same vein, I have recently participated in a team effort to provide introductions to the Library's online resources for the Electronic Law Library web pages.

Regarding collection development, I have just finished a review of the Library's French monographs and will shortly be ordering new stock in this area. Similar reviews of materials from other jurisdictions are planned, to complement the usual ongoing programme of acquisitions.

I am responsible for liaising with doctoral researchers based at the Institute, as well as the academic staff and visiting fellows. This could involve anything from giving tours to providing tailored legal research training.

User education is another aspect of my role. I will be involved with the Library's training programmes in the use of electronic resources and am responsible for contributing information about foreign and international law websites to the national Intute Law gateway. I train fellow librarians as well: during my first two months at the Institute I gave a presentation for the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians on using the internet for treaty research and delivered a European Union training session for librarians from the Institute itself and elsewhere.

Now that I have completed my first three months in the job, I look forward to developing my experience in the future and learning more about the needs of researchers in foreign and international law. If you have any questions or suggestions, send me an email:

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Intute Law Gateway

by Heather Memess, Intute Law Project Officer

The IALS Library continues to work on the Intute: Law Gateway in partnership with the University of Bristol Law Library. Intute is a free online service providing access to the very best web resources for education and research. Intute: Law contains links to hand picked, high quality legal resources including primary materials (legislation, case law), secondary sources (journals, books), government websites, organisations, databases, academic sites and resource guides.

In March 2007 IALS hosted an Intute seminar on the Internet for Law. This was a free, one day event aimed at university or college staff interested in improving their use of the internet for research and in teaching internet research skills to students. The seminar was organised by Intute: Social Sciences staff from the University of Bristol. The morning sessions focused on some of the UK's leading internet services for law - Intute: Law, the British and Irish Legal Information Institute ( BAILII ), the Foreign Law Guide, FLAG , and the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations . Steve Whittle (IALS Library) gave an introduction to finding the best web resources for legal education and research using Intute: Law. Joe Ury (Executive Director of BAILII) gave a talk on using BAILII to find primary legal materials on the web and on BAILII's Open Law Project . Dr Peter Clinch from Cardiff University, Law Library talked about FLAG and the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations.

Sue Pettit talking at the Internet for Law seminar

There was a hands on session where delegates had the opportunity to try out these services with the speakers on hand to help out with any queries. The afternoon sessions focused on the teaching of internet research skills. Emma Place (Intute Training Manager) talked about the importance of teaching Internet research skills and suggested some useful resources to use. Sue Petitt (University of Bristol, Law Library) provided guidance to the training materials on Inute including the Virtual Training Suite which is freely available on Intute and the Internet Detective ( Cathie Jackson (Cardiff University, Law Library) talked about information literacy for law and highlighted Cardiff's Information Literacy Resource Bank and a tutorial on Citing the Law.

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Reviewing the IALS Collections

Holger Knudsen is Librarian of the Max Planck Institute for Foreign Private Law and Private International Law in Hamburg, Germany, which is one of the leading European law libraries. He visited the IALS Library during April as a consultant to review its foreign language law collections.

Holger has previously worked in Cologne, Florence, Boston, Lausanne, and Bonn. He teaches library law at the Technical University in Leipzig. In addition to his professional activities in the German Librarians' Association, he was President of the International Association of Law Libraries and he is currently the Chairman of the Law Libraries Section of the International Federation of Library Associations. Holger has worked as an advisor in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, and Malta.

Holger is particularly interested in all questions and problems related to collection building.

Holger writes:

I have had the privilege of visiting the library of the IALS on several occasions, dating back as far as 1979, and so I enjoyed the opportunity of meeting both Willi Steiner and Muriel Anderson, the former Librarians. I have now received an invitation from my friend and colleague, Jules Winterton, to assess the collections of the non-English speaking countries, particularly among the EU member states, and make any recommendations for improvement which might be needed.

The library's invincible strength is its outstanding collection of legal materials in the English language which makes it a giant in the field. There are, arguably, only two or three American libraries which might have an even larger collection of legal materials in the English language. While the library's holdings of foreign language legal materials are the best in the United Kingdom, it is true that with the ever growing importance of European law and of cross border legal relations a library of this magnitude must ensure it is providing collections that correspond to its importance.

Collection building entails (apart from providing the necessary funds) two prerequisites: the existence of a title must be known and it must then be acquired. The first step is often easier than the second step! Law is - unlike most fields of science - a genuinely national affair and this is reflected in both the means of advertising new publications and in the structure and quality of the local book market. I intend to make recommendations, country by country, on how to identify sources of information and on how to establish contacts with booksellers or the like in or for the countries concerned.

There are two aspects of collection building which I find particularly important: the relationship of primary materials and secondary materials, and the relationship between authenticity (original materials) and accessibility (translations). Since the Common Law System differs from the Civil Law system and since the balance in the IALS library favours materials from English language jurisdictions, I intend to discuss the two issues with collection development staff here at the Institute.

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BAILII and the Open Law Project

by Cynthia Fellows, BAILII Open Law Project

In February 2007, through the JISC funded Open Law Project , BAILII launched a new interface and the feedback is encouraging. The new BAILII offers search pages specifically for type of material: case law, legislation and other (secondary sources). The case law page is used the most - it offers searching by citation, case name and keywords. Now all search results on BAILII can be sorted by date, jurisdiction, title or relevance. Search terms are highlighted by default, but the documents can be displayed without the highlighting for printing/downloading. BAILII also offers A-Z title browse lists.

Also through the Open Law Project, BAILII is digitising the older judgments that have been identified as Leading Cases in 16 subject areas. In addition, BAILII has 212 older Law Commission Reports and 158 older Consultation Papers in PDF, searchable by title, which are being converted for full text searching. . It is easy to create hyperlinks to any document on BAILII - even to specific paragraphs within documents

All feedback received during the website revision and Leading Cases project have been vitally important to the success of BAILII's efforts to become a more robust and user friendly resource. BAILII continues to welcome comments and suggestions through the feedback form and will continue to implement improvements as time and resources allow. 

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Cross-language Retrieval of Legal Information: issues and perspectives

PhD research study by Ginevra Peruginelli

Internationalisation and increasing globalization of market economy and social patterns of life have created a situation where the need for legal information from foreign countries and from different legal systems is greater than ever before. This requirement is not new, but it is now becoming more and more crucial and hard to meet under the pressure of the rapid and complex cross-border transactions occurring between people of different legal cultures and languages.

In this context my Phd research study focuses on how retrieval systems to multilingual legal information can facilitate the access to legal knowledge across different languages and legal systems. As such, this research has close ties with comparative law, information retrieval, linguistics and translation theory. 
In particular the study aims at: a) identifying methods and technical approaches for the implementation of systems and tools for sharing legal knowledge in a multicultural environment; b) analyzing actual trends in multilingual legal information access services; c) verifying to what extent legal experts consider cross language information retrieval (CLIR) of legal material capable to reach the sharing of legal knowledge across legal languages. 

It is no doubt that the exchange of information is largely dependent on language; if we consider the language of the law, such language's properties have a major impact on the exchange of legal information. This research tries to elaborate on that, analyzing work done in the field and exploring methodological and practical approaches in developing cross-language legal information systems. To that purpose a literature review is carried out, reflections are prepared based on the current debate on major themes concerning the exchange of legal knowledge, standardization of legal language, legal translation. Furthermore, an analysis of several projects and information systems is conducted, focusing on issues of cross-language retrieval of legal information and a case study is carried out based on critical opinions of legal specialists and scholars operating at the European University Institute in Florence on multilingual legal information retrieval systems.

In this study access to legal information across languages is intended as the functionality allowing the retrieval, through the use of information systems, of meaningful legal material beyond the barriers of languages and legal systems' differences. The difficult task to effectively access multilingual legal material through information retrieval systems is definitively to match and weight legal terms across languages. This generally implies translating from the language of the query to that of the material to be found or viceversa, and address the problem of word disambiguation which is greatly increased when mapping over legal languages.

The main components of a cross language retrieval system, covering technical and linguistic aspects, can be identified in multilingual resources, machine translation, multilingual information retrieval, multilingual information extraction and summarization, and user evaluation and studies. In this context, multilingual resources include corpora (parallel and comparable, useful to generate translations) lexicons, and ontology, which can be defined as an inventory of concepts organized in some internal structuring principle, which serves to categorize and organize information.

This study will show that much progress has been made in research work and in related applications, but cross-language retrieval to legal information is still in the experimental stage. A major topic which will be addressed concerns legal users' needs in a multilingual world, in order to contribute to the understanding of the their requirements and to the development of tools and systems for the exchange of legal information. 

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New Lift at the IALS Library

A major refurbishment of the IALS Library Lift has been completed successfully and our new modern lift is now in service.

The three month refurbishment project, funded by the University of London, involved a full-scale replacement of all the lift equipment, car, winding gear and electronics. In addition new lift panel buttons, floor call buttons and a car "floor announcer" were introduced to make the new lift compliant with current disability access standards.

During the project, the lift was not available and floor L2 was closed to the public. To ensure continued access to material during the refurbishment, floor L2 books in heavy demand were re-located temporarily to the 4th floor and the public computers were moved to the other library reading rooms. We also offered a regular book fetching service for the remaining material on floor L2 and facilitated access to either the 3rd floor or 2nd floor for any reader with limited mobility. Now that the project is completed the floor L2 books, which were temporarily moved to the 4th floor, have been returned to their usual locations on floor L2.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our users for their patience and understanding during the three months of the refurbishment. Thankfully we now have a modern new reliable lift, which should last us another 30 years.

David Gee, Deputy Librarian, IALS

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2007 sees the bicentenary of the Act of Parliament to abolish the British Slave Trade. The Senate House Library , University of London, has organised an exhibition on the theme of slavery, abolition and emancipation, which will be on display in that library until the end of June.

Here are two anniversaries this year, as illustrated by older books in the IALS collections: one date that you may not know about, the other has definitely been in the news!

John Gray (1807 - 1875) was born 200 years ago in Scotland. He began his legal career in London and was appointed a QC in 1863, as the Oxford DNB tells us. IALS Library has 3 of his works, including this 1869 edition of the Country Attorney's Practice. This was the ninth edition, and was first published in 1836, so it must have been a popular work.

This work, by Sir James Stewart (1635-1713), the eminent Scottish judge, was published 300 years ago, in 1707 in Edinburgh. As can be seen from the title page, it includes the "Act Ratifying and Approving the Treaty of Union of the Two Kingdoms", which came into force on 1st May 1707.

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Page last updated: 27th January 2016