We had many exciting developments in the foreign, comparative, and international law (FCIL) e-resource landscape in recent years. The newest one was the launching of the United Nations iLibrary in February 2016. It’s described as “the first comprehensive global search, discovery, and viewing source for digital content created by the United Nations.” I’m still waiting to explore the iLibrary fully and have some many questions about it. The OECD also has an iLibrary – will the UN one serve the same purpose? How will the UN iLibrary play with the UN’s Official Document System (ODS), the UNBISnet UN catalog, and UN-I-QUE? When would you consult the iLibrary versus the ODS or UNBISnet? Sometimes when we get new research toys, it’s hard to tell which ones to play with first!
New Free E-Resources
Before the big UN iLibrary news, we got access to a variety of wonderful new, free online resources – the Law Library of Congress’ Indigenous Law Portal (covering North America – the U.S., Canada, and Mexico); the Global Health and Human Rights Database (including national constitutions and court cases); the Inter-American Court of Human Rights Database; Constitute: The World’s Constitutions to Read, Search, and Compare; U.S. Treaties (via Congress.gov); T.M.C. Asser’s International Crimes Database; the China Guiding Cases Project; and the African Law Library. Utrecht/Netherlands’ SIM database was reborn as the OHCHR Human Rights Case Law Database.
And my institution launched its legal scholarship repository, Chicago Unbound. Researchers worldwide now have access to the full run of the Chicago Journal of International Law and other foreign and international law-related articles therein. Chicago Unbound is part of the broader Digital Law Commons. It helps fill a gap in Internet access to free, open access law scholarship
New Commercial E-Resources
New subscription databases included: Global-Regulation; Law in Eastern Europe, World Treaty Library, Religion and the Law, Women and the Law, plus new oral histories of FCIL librarians (via HeinOnline); Cambridge Law Reports (containing the International Law Reports and ICSID Reports online); Oxford Historical Treaties; and the Oxford Legal Research Library (with collections on international commercial arbitration, international commercial law, financial and banking law, and private international law).
Some research platforms rebranded. Westlaw Next went back to being Westlaw, and, in the U.S., gave academics access again to Practical Law/PLC Global. (And, in the future, Lexis Advance will no longer have a doorway to Lexis.com’s foreign and international law content, because Lexis.com will be inaccessible to academic accounts – hopefully, its FCIL content will be migrated to Lexis Advance in 2017).
Keeping Up with New Developments
In terms of current awareness, the Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Special Interest Section (FCIL-SIS) of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) started the DipLawMatic Dialogues blog and Twitter account. Via @diplawmatic, you can read about new resources, reports on international law librarian conferences, profiles of foreign and international law librarians, and forthcoming events. Oxford University Press’ Public International Law platform has links on hot topics and free articles from time to time in response to breaking international legal news.
The In Custodia Legis blog has started posting FALQs – Frequently Asked Legal Questions – on foreign and international law issues of current interest. For example, after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Nicolas Boring, the Foreign Law Specialist at the Law Library of Congress for France and French-speaking countries, wrote an FALQ on freedom of speech in France.
Dead, Dying, or Mostly Dead
Unfortunately, some resources died over the past couple of year or seem to be mostly dead. One major one is the World Health Organization’s International Digest of Health Legislation. The IDHL may be nearing a decade showing this message when you get to its page:
“The service you were trying to reach is temporarily down.”
Bloomberg BNA’s Global Law Watch, which was a great free e-alert service, just stopped coming one day. Its webpage is 404, gone, disappeared, and I don’t know why.
The Refugee Case-Law Database, which used to be at the University of Michigan website, is gone.
GLIN, the Global Legal Information Network, seems mostly dead? It was shut down by the U.S. in 2012 for budget reasons, but there was hope that some other country would continue it. Parts of it live on at the Law Library of Congress website, and in bits and pieces at non-U.S. government websites.
As I mentioned above, Lexis.com will be dead to U.S. academic accounts at the end of 2016.
But not all the news is negative. I discovered the UN Library’s Ask DAG! service this past year and it’s been so informative and useful! It’s part FAQ database and Ask-A-Librarian service.If you don’t find an answer in the database, you can Ask a UN Librarian! And the @UNLibrary posts links to some of the frequently-asked-questions and answers thereto on Twitter regularly. The UN Library also has LibGuides (as does NATO’s library).
The IALL listserv recently became public so you can subscribe to it without being a member of the International Association of Law Libraries. So it’s another resources for asking a law librarian anywhere in the world questions about how to find FCIL resources. It’s to be useful sparingly and carefully, but it’s a handy resource to have.
Wonderful colleagues continue to publish FCIL research guides and tutorials, and bibliographies, and share information about them directly, via Twitter, or via the INT-LAW and IALLmembers listservs. .
For example, I found out from French colleagues about LERIS, Luxembourg’s legal bibliographic database, and the historical French law treasures in the Gallica digital library. German colleagues introduced me to the Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog. The KVK is like a super/meta-catalog bigger than WorldCat!.
Jennifer Allison has a great Germany legal research LibGuide. The AALL/Brill Foreign Law Guide is newly updated by a team of FCIL librarians led by Marci Hoffman. Ditto with the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals. GlobaLex foreign legal research guides are regularly updated under the new Mirela Roznovschi/Lucie Olejnikova editorial combo. Catherine Deane has a new treaty research tutorial. The FCIL-SIS Electronic Research Interest Group is updating the Jumpstart guide list of FCIL experts and generalists willing to help other librarians with foreign, comparative, and international legal research questions. The CRL-LLMC Global Law Partnership promises continue to yield new, useful foreign, comparative, and international law resources. After the very successful Haiti project, I have high hopes for the Cuba one. And for the official gazettes digitization project.
Finally, we had occasion to use the Law Library of Congress’ Ask-a-Librarian service for several difficult foreign legal research questions, and they were very helpful!
Future FCIL E-Resource Developments?
We’ve had so many wonderful new resources for FCIL research in recent years that I’m optimistic that the trend will continue. Despite losing access to some FCIL resources, I expect new ones to be developed to meet our present and future foreign, comparative, and international legal our research needs. The future looks bright!