At the awards luncheon at the recent CALL conference (Canadian Association of Law Libraries) in Windsor, ON, the Hugh Lawford Award for Excellence in Legal Publishing was presented to the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society Library & Information Services for their Nova Scotia Annotated Civil Procedure Rules service. CALL’s decision to present this award to this organization for this product is significant for two reasons: First, it justly recognizes an innovative and extremely useful new legal publication; second, and perhaps more important, it has been awarded by librarians to librarians for their publishing activity. As we move deeper into the digital information age and more sophisticated means of production become more readily available to information consumers, we will see more publishing by librarians. In my opinion, it is one of the competencies we will increasingly and reasonably expect from law librarians in the future. I am especially pleased and proud that our Nova Scotia colleagues, in addition to their progressive professionalism, have at the same time solidified Canada’s leading role as a provider of quality free-access legal information products.
Don’t get me wrong! It is neither the free-access nature of the product nor the giving of this award to librarians (of all people!) that I find so compelling. My colleagues in Nova Scotia deserve this award on the merits. At the development stage and in taking their product to market, they have proved themselves masters of the publisher’s craft. How? They have addressed themselves to a market they know well (Nova Scotia’s practicing bar, law students and the general public, especially self-represented litigants) and they have identified a definite information need (a free-access resource to interpreting and understanding the new Civil Procedure Rules). The content draws heavily on and repurposes work and information already produced in the regular course of business, so that on-going production costs are minimized. In addition to CLE materials (the “Educational Notes”), Annotated CPR uses for its annotations digests of cases evaluated, selected and prepared by a roster of volunteer lawyers and published first in the Nova Scotia Law News and then in the Nova Scotia Case Law Service. Finally, their timing was impeccable (the coming into force of the new rules in early 2009); and when the product was launched, they even provided training for lawyers across the province.
It is obvious that the librarians at the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society know their customers, understand their information needs and are well-acquainted with the information they’re working with. The Annotated CPR is content-rich, providing context-specific access to educational notes, forms and annotations for each sub-section. It is equipped with an excellent hypertext-linked index to the rules and forms and a Table of Concordance to the old rules. This mix of primary (both regulatory and judicial) and secondary (both CLE and commentary) materials is a perfect illustration of what John Palfrey, director of the Harvard law Library, in his recent article “Cornerstones of Law Libraries for an Era of Digital-Plus”, 102 Law Libr J 171 (2010), describes as the new “legal information ecosystem”.
The Annotated CPR was developed in consultation with LexUM, with funding provided by the Law Foundation of Nova Scotia for development and ongoing costs as well as the training initiatives. It is built on LexUM’s LexActo platform for building and managing annotated legislation. Everything – rules, educational notes, annotations, forms, index – is full-text searchable using LexUM’s ELIISA search engine. All references within any text are linked to the full text of statutes and legislation in the CanLII databases.
The Annotated CPR further provides three outstanding features that I think especially illustrate the depth of perception and understanding of materials, resources and clients that are evident in this product. First, using an application called LexPress, developed for them by LexUM, the librarians are able automatically to generate and link fresh PDF versions of each section of the rules each time they are updated. Producing an analog version from the digital original is a nice twist on other products which were not born digital but digitized from print. Second, they track all amendments to the rules, with an annotation from the end of any amended rule to the official Royal Gazette text of the amendment. Finally, they are in the process of developing RSS feeds for sending new rule annotations to subscribers. I wonder if this latter enhancement mightn’t provide a model for our law societies and commercial law publishers of a possible digital alternative to the printed topical law reporter.
The librarians at the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society are to be commended on their achievement and CALL is to be applauded for recognizing and rewarding it. I hope all of us can recognize the significance of this award for the changes it presages in law librarianship, law publishing and legal information.