For this part of the discussion, I want to outline my approach to finding GL, which I hope will make a little more concrete what I mean when I talk about the semi-archival quality of GL.
Some of this goes back to the creation of the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, which came out of a CBA effort, the final report of which is a fine example of GL.
Recommendation 52 advocates setting up the Forum, in part to “[collect] in a systematic way information relating the system for administering civil justice” (p.78), which basically turns out to me a mix of GL and published documents, but the most current and interesting stuff is generally the GL.
The Implementation Committee knew that collecting the material would be difficult, so they arranged for the establishment of one ‘key contact’ in each department of justice. These individuals have undertaken to monitor their jurisdictions for interesting developments in the field, and to notify the Forum.
In addition, I monitor the relevant legal institutions across Canada for new initiatives and documents. Many of the organizations I monitor are small enough that a visit to their website and a glance at the publications page will let me know whether anything is new. Believe me, I have done my bit to promote RSS in the civil justice world, in the hopes of reducing my surfing duties.
Still, not everything a Law Foundation, for instance, supports is published on its website. To identify whether there are interesting projects underway, I have found the annual report to be of great use. Anything a foundation funded will be mentioned, and with some searching or a few phone calls, I should be able to find out if there was a report, and track it down.
With larger institutions, the work is more interesting. I need to know how court services are arranged, not just where their website is, so I can look for new pilot projects at the right level of government.
In the bigger picture, it has been useful for me to be aware of the relationships between the government and the courts (appointments, funding), and between the government and the profession. For instance, I’ve found that government will alert the profession of new activities in local bar association meetings, so the minutes of those meeting can be a good source, but they are not available at the websites (you have to have an inside source).
In short, there is an element of knowing about the structure and purposes of institutions, the relations between institutions, which makes finding GL possible for me. For me, this points to the archival quality of GL that I’ve mentioned before. I don’t think GL is entirely archival, since a lot of it is written especially for an outside audience, so it can’t be considered as unselfconscious as most archival sources. The close connection betwen the institution and GL is what makes authenticating it on archival princples possible, as we’ll see in tomorrow’s posts.