Nontraditional Indexes to Law Journal Articles

Users sometimes want to find law journal articles on a particular subject. Other users know the title of the article they need, but they don’t know what law journal published the article. And sometimes users want to find all the articles an author has published, when the author has published articles in many journals and even in a variety of languages. They can consult standard journal indexes, but other, nontraditional indexes such as the OPACs and databases described below can be useful for more comprehensive and/or up-to-date searches.

The Peace Palace Library at the Hague, the Netherlands, has made its catalog available online. The library has a rich collection of materials in multiple languages on international law and international relations, but the catalog includes journal articles on comparative constitutional law and other topics as well. Users can sign up to receive weekly e-alerts of new journal articles on topics of interest. The Peace Palace Library won the 2005 IALL Website Award. The International Association of Law Libraries noted that the Peace Palace Library “offers value-added service to its users with up-to-date, customizable alerts based on a very broad international law collection, and is aimed at both law librarians and end users.”

Law libraries for several international agencies have catalogs which index journal content. The United Nations libraries in New York and Geneva both have catalogs that enable searches limited by journal article type: Dag Hammarskjöld Library’s UNBISNET and UNOG Catalog. The Vienna-based UNCITRAL has a Geneva-based catalog (and bibliography) that includes journal articles on international trade law topics in all languages, but mostly in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, and Chinese. The JOLIS library catalog indexes the journal articles in the collections of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund (IMF) law libraries. WIPO’s library catalog indexes articles from the European Intellectual Property Review, Managing Intellectual Property, International Review of Intellectual Property and Competition Law (IIC), the Journal of World Intellectual Property, etc. Other catalogs in the UN library system similarly include law journal articles. As for other IGO libraries, users can find articles on European Union law in the European Commission Libraries Catalogue, ECLAS. The European Court of Human Rights also makes its library catalog available online, and the catalog indexes individual law journal articles by author, title, subject and keywords. 

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Major research libraries also have enhanced catalogs. The Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law’s OPAC includes articles from 1996 to date. Its holdings (and those of the Max Planck Institutes for international and foreign private law, criminal law, and social law) are searchable via the Max Planck Virtual Library. The GVK Union Catalogue includes article holdings for over 400 libraries participating in the Common Library Network (GBV) in seven German Länder (Northern Germany). The BVB catalog searches over 100 Bavarian libraries. The Bavarian State Library has an articles e-alert service. I subscribe to e-alerts on European legal history. The form for subscribing is here. Users can search the Baden-Württemberg SWB Online-Katalog (Southwest German libraries) for German-language law journal articles or “Aufsätze.” The Western Switzerland libraries’ RERO union catalog indexes articles in German, French, English, and Italian from over 170 law journals. This includes journal holdings of the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law in Lausanne.

Besides these unique library catalogs, selected online bibliographies and databases index law journal articles. The SSRN Legal Scholarship Network is increasingly adding more foreign law journal article abstracts. Google Scholar includes some full texts, but as yet it does not provide broad coverage for foreign-language legal periodicals. Melbourne Law School’s Asian Law Online is the first and only online bibliographic database of Asian law materials in the world…[o]ffered to the public as a free service to assist students, scholars and practitioners of Asian legal systems.” It has citations to English-language articles for China, Japan, South Korea, and other jurisdictions.

There are also the Quebec Bar Association’s library catalog (French and English), Dialnet (Spain; not exclusively a law database), Index to Legal Periodicals in Israel (Bar-Ilan University Faculty of Law Library; index to law-related articles in Hebrew and in English in Israeli periodicals from 1970 to present; to access, choose English-language interface, then drop-down the menu to selected the ILPI), Dottrina Giuridica (DoGI) (DEMO version; limited searching of Italian legal periodical literature). The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) indexes and includes full texts of over 100 law-related scholarly e-journals. Some resources are very specialized. For instance, Aberystwyth University has created a Bibliography of British and Irish Legal History (1977-2006). And some journals make their tables of contents available at their websites. Journal ToCs are also compiled in databases such as Washington & Lee’s Current Law Journal Content (covers English-language journals from 2005-2011; slated to cease after May 15, 2011) and New York University’s European Integration Current Contents

Most of these search tools do not clearly indicate how far back indexing of journal articles go. Frequency of updating varies. The different languages, varied interfaces, and unfamiliar search mechanisms might confuse users, while some search mechanisms do not permit more useful searches for combined terms. The catalogs may be unavailable for maintenance at different times based on their geographic locations. However, these indexes sometimes are more current than the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals, and sometimes cover journals not indexed by the IFLP and other subscription databases and print law journal indexes. As of the date of this post, the publishers of these databases have made them available for free on the web. And the databases enable discovery of legal scholarship outside one’s national borders. Users may find these databases helpful for cite-checking, for generating more complete resource lists, for identifying the international influence of law faculties, and for a myriad other purposes.

Users may have difficulty integrating these free resources into their searches for law journal articles on their specific research topics. Simple links will not do. Researchers cannot now use a single search to find resources indexed by all of these tools. I don’t think that resource discovery services, like EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS), Serials Solutions Summon, OCLC WorldCat Local, ExLibris Primo Central, are integrating into their databases these freely-accessible journal indexes and bibliographies. The Karlsruhe Virtual Catalog does provide for cross-searching of library catalogs worldwide, but does not enable searchers to limit searches to journal articles as far as I can tell. Enhanced catalogs and databases are here, providing users with improved journal article search experiences today. Librarians have the challenge of helping researchers find, and determine when and whether to use these tools. 

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