CALL and the Index to Canadian Legal Literature

The 2012 Conference in Toronto will mark the 50th annual meeting of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries and provide an occasion to highlight many of the accomplishments of the association and its members over the decades since its creation. One of many accomplishment worthy of note is the Index to Canadian Legal Literature for which CALL provided both the inspiration and the support required to create a Canadian publication that met international indexing standards.

The Proposal for a New Index

In December 1983, The Canadian Law Information Council and The Canadian Association of Law Libraries developed a proposal to create a vehicle for “fast, accurate and comprehensive access to Canadian law or law related periodical and monographic literature.” At the time, there was a high level of dissatisfaction with the existing indexes and CLIC and CALL together sought to remedy their “deficiencies”. The Proposal included a series of Access Standards that were considered to be of “prime importance” in indexing secondary legal literature – Subject Arrangement, Access Fields, Coverage, Language, Format of Citation, Format of Publication, and Freqeuncy of Publication.

The Proposal was circulated to the commercial publishers in the spring of 1984. Meetings between the publishers and representatives of CALL (Balfour Halevy) and CLIC (Lorna Rees Potter) were held at which possible ways of collaborating were explored. Coincidentally, The Carswell Company Limited recognized that the Canadian Abridgment Index to Canadian Legal Literature was not up to the standard expected by the legal research community and was exploring ways to restructure the publication to meet the same need that the Proposal was intended to fill. For Carswell, the CLIC/CALL Proposal was a godsend in that it offered a blueprint as to how Carswell should proceed.

The Response to the Proposal

Initially, both CLIC and CALL favoured the creation of a New Index using government funding to get it up and running. In the Proposal, content generation would be the responsibility of CLIC and CALL, while the role of the publisher would be limited to producing a hard and digital copy of the data.

This concept was not well received by the commercial publishers who questioned the viability of the Index when government funding ran out. As an alternative, Carswell proposed to work with CLIC and CALL to revamp Carswell’s existing publications to achieve the same result, but on a commercial basis.

There was no response to the Carswell offer. Unknown to Carswell, CLIC and CALL, convinced that their approach was best, were proceeding to apply for government funding. Armed with the blueprint, Carswell moved forward and implemented the Proposal using Canadian Currrent Law and the Canadian Abridgment.

Carswell Moves Forward

For Carswell, the first step was to hire credible and competent indexers. Two professional librarians were chosen – Louis Mirando and Enid Lesser. They were exceptional choices. To Louis fell the task of compiling the master list subject headings and cross references that were to be used in the publication while Enid focussed on indexing. Their backgrounds and obvious competence gave the project instant credibility.

The key features of the Index they produced closely followed the blueprint contained in the CLIC/CALL Proposal:

Subject Arrangements – The Index used as its subject authority the Library of Congress Subject Headings/Repertoire de vedettes matiere (Universite Laval), as modified for use in Canadian law libraries by the Canadian Subject Headings (National Library of Canada)/Repertoire de vedettes-matiere canadiennes (Bliblitheque national du Canada).

Access Fields – Access to the entries contained in the Index were accessible by a word or phrase that describes a particular subject or the last name of a person, the name of the author, a book review, a case name, and a statute name.

Coverage – The coverage of the Index included all published Canadian books, articles, and sound recordings on law or law related subjects, government documents, case comments and annotations that are capable of being systematically gathered and indexed.

Language – The Index was a bilingual publication. French language entries appeared under French language headings and English language headings in alphabetical order, while cross references linked the terms used in one language to the terms used in the other language.

Format of Citation – Wherever possible, the official or generally accepted citation was used. Information provided in the body of the citation, used in conjunction with the Table of Periodical Abbreviations, was complete enough to permit the retrieval of all of the items contained in the Index.

Format of Publication – The Index was published in two formats – as part of the Canadian Abridgment Research System and as a separate Library Edition – with frequent updates through Canadian Current Law. Plans were developed to make the database available on a nationally available carrier and by means of microfilm. The value of proceeding this way was clear in that it immediately made the publication widely available and put the Index on a strong commercial footing from the date of publication.

Frequency of Publication – In both formats, the Index appeared quarterly. Commencing with the 1985, the Index was cumulated annually. In addition, all items were indexed twice a month in Canadian Current Law, where each book, article, government document, case comment and annotation was listed under its Library of Congress heading.

Two Indexes or Just One

On May 21, 1986, the Index to Canadian Legal Literature was officially relaunched by Carswell. Copies of the publication were circulated to the members of CLIC, at the very moment that CLIC and CALL were preparing to announce that government funding had been obtained for the creation of a New Index.

What would happen next? Carswell had a product in the market that would be duplicated if CLIC and CALL decided to proceed with a New Index. The only real difference between the revamped Index to Canadian Legal Literature and the New Index proposed by CLIC/CALL was the use of existing commercial publications as the vehicle for achieving the desired result. In the circumstances, it was clear that there was no longer any In any need for another Index.

It was a tense moment in Carswell’s relationship with CLIC and CALL. Much effort had been put in developing the Proposal and in obtaining funding for a New Index. To resolve the matter, Carswell invited CLIC and CALL to appoint an advisory users group to assist in making policy decisions with regard to the Index. In its invitation, Carswell suggested that CLIC and CALL recognize that their objective had been achieved – “fast, accurate and comprehensive access to Canadian law or law related periodical and monographic literature” – and that CLIC and CALL could work with Carswell to help make the Index even better.

Lois Dyer, the Executive Director of CLIC, responded by offering to broker an agreement between Carswell and CALL. The proposed agreement would provide for the creation of a CALL appointed Editorial Advisory Board and ensure access to the Index through Quicklaw. In addition, CALL would build a national network of research librarians that would gather local materials for indexing that might otherwise be overlooked. Carswell quickly agreed and a deal was signed.

CALL at 50

The role CALL played in the creation of the Index to Canadian Legal Literature was a turning point in the history of legal publishing in Canada. CALL had become a key player in determining how legal information would be delivered in Canada. CALL not only provided the inspiration and the blueprint for a commercial legal publisher to create a publication that met user needs and international standards, CALL also created an Editorial Advisory Board that served as the prototype for the board that was subsequently created for all of the components of the Canadian Abridgment.

Gary P. Rodrigues was Executive Editor of The Carswell Company at the time that Index to Canadian Legal Literature was launched.


Extract from the Proposal of The Canadian Law Information Council and The Canadian Association of Law Libraries Joint Committee on Secondary Legal Literature Indexing dated December 1983.

Coverage must include all Canadian law or law related periodicals, monographs and government documents. This coverage would include periodicals being indexed in the Index to Canadian Legal Periodicals:
a) articles in newsletters and bulletins circulated by regulatory agencies, government departments, associations and institutes,
b) selected Commonwealth publications, with particular emphasis on Canadian articles,
c) essays on Canadian law,
d) dissertations and theses,
e) book reviews of Canadian materials,
f) articles and case commentary in journals, loose-leaf services and subject law reports,
g) law reform commission publications,
h) law related articles in Canadian political science, history, sociology, economics, communications, etc. journals,
i) law related articles in non-law publications such as Saturday Night, Macleans, Canadian Weekend, Chatelaine, etc.
j) public legal education publications and continuing legal education publications,
k) public legal education and information publications such as: CLIC’s Legal Materials Newsletter, SLEP Newsletter, Resource News, Legal Review, LTQ.

Access should be through:
– subject
– author
– case name
– statute name

– Continuous cumulations available through a database on a nationally available carrier.
– Monthly paper copy with quarterly cumulation.

While it would be preferable to have all of the information available in both official languages, financial considerations preclude this possibility. At the very least, all subject headings should be bilingual with a list of cross references in both languages available in each issue. Citation would be in the language of the publication.

Use of Library of Congress Subject Headings as modified for use in Canadian law libraries. Information in the body of the citation should be complete enough to be able to retrieve the item. Standard monograph or periodical indexing bibliographic citation will suffice.

The publication or database should be reasonably frequently updated and cumulated. If in machine readable form, use of continuous cumulation should be available through a computer database on a national carrier.
Monthly paper copy with quarterly ad annual cumulations should be available.
A microfilm copy should also be available.
In order to meet the demand for speedy retrieval, information should be available through the computer databse no more than one month from te publication date of the material being indexed. This would be regarded as the absolute outer limit of acceptable service.
Given the currency of the computerized database, publication of the monthly paper copy should not face inordinate delay in transmitting the index to subscribers. The vagaries of the Canadian postal system and printing notwithstanding, 1 1/2 months would be regarded as the outer acceptable limit of publication.
Microfilm could either be available with he annual cumulation or, if enough subscribers could be found to make it financially possible, with each monthly paper copy.

The publication should be within the price range of the present indexes.


  1. Gary, do we still have CALL members on the ICLL Board?