The Best “People” Resources

Do you have people you can rely to help you when you have an FCIL research question? If yes, great! If no, or even if yes, read on because I’m about to drop some knowledge about which “people resources” are the best and what they are. These resources are helpful if you are a foreign, comparative, and international law (FCIL) librarian or legal information professional or specialist or someone who works with FCIL materials or a generalist who gets FCIL-related questions re from time to time. You can start out small (one-on-one) or go big (listservs, conferences, twitchats, associations, interest groups, etc.).


Let’s start with a people resource that was revised and updated very recently – the Jumpstart Your Foreign, Comparative, and International Research guide. This free tool connects librarians/info pros who are researching a jurisdiction/country or FCIL topic to people who are willing to help them. The new Jumpstart list is a product of the Electronic Research Interest Group of the American Association of Law Libraries Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Special Interest Section (AALL FCIL-SIS):


How do you use the Jumpstart Guide and List of FCIL-SIS Specialists? Jumpstart begins with a narrative section on the main FCIL print, subscription and online resources such as GlobaLex to check before contacting people resources. It also suggests asking local librarians for help, checking with folks on listservs, looking at blog posts, joining FCIL interest groups, and building people networks via FCIL-related conferencing. After the narrative section is the list of people willing to help answer FCIL research questions interfiled by Jurisdiction/Region and by Topic. A list of people willing to help by Language is forthcoming. While this list including the names of specialists is public, the Appendix containing the specialists’ contact information is not. The Jumpstart Your FCIL Research Contacts List is password-protected and only available to AALL members. To access, click on Contact Information at the top of the page or on the Inside Jumpstart FCIL Contacts link on the right hand side. Despite their contact infos being members-only, you can use the specialists’ names for one-on-one, individual networking. These specialists know other specialists – they are people who know people who know people. So connecting with them expands your network of resources exponentially. It is wonderful that our colleagues are willing to share their expertise and knowledge with us! A very precious privilege.

Here is the first section of the Jumpstart Specialists by Jurisdiction/Region and Topic list:


Dan Wade originally started this FCIL-SIS peer-to-peer help network when he compiled a list of specialists for 1992 AALL annual meeting program, “Share the Word, Share the World: Foreign, Comparative and International Law for the Non-Expert”. It was published later in the February 1993 FCIL Newsletter at pages 19-28 as the “List of Foreign and International Law Librarians Who Have Expressed a Willingness to Help Non-Experts” or Survey of Resource People. The Survey had five sections:

  • Jurisdictional or Subject Expertise
  • Knowledge of Online or CD-ROM Databases in Foreign and International Law
  • Languages
  • Interests (No Expertise Claimed)
  • Names and Addresses

The list of FCIL librarians willing to help non-experts also appeared in 1994 as a chapter in Richard Danner and Marie-Louise Bernal’s Introduction to Foreign Legal Systems (an Oceana/AALL Institute publication). I updated this directory of people who are willing to help more than a decade later. I solicited not only helpful experts, but also generalists who are willing to help. I separated the list of people willing to help with Jurisdictions/Regions from those with FCIL Subject/Topic expertise. The list was published in the 2007 FCIL Newsletter as “Jumpstart You Foreign, Comparative, and International Legal Research: Use People Resources. Eventually, it became a staple at the FCIL-SIS home page (under the “Research” tab) and has been updated by me, then Mary Rumsey, and most recently the Electronic Research IG.

Besides the Jumpstart list, some other ways to identify FCIL specialists, contact them directly, and connect with them one on one is via the FCIL research tools. See if they’ve written a GlobaLex research guide, have authored a section of the Foreign Law Guide, have written a Law Library of Congress research report or legal research guide, a Global Legal Monitor news story, an In Custodia Legis blog post, a DipLawMatic Dialogues piece. Look for authors because they will be great sources of information on the FCIL topic you are researching or helping someone research. And they will want to share what they now. Try to connect to specialists you’ve identified via social media. If they’re on Twitter, Follow and engage with them. Ditto with LinkedIn and Facebook. Don’t stalk, but follow up on initial in-person or phone contacts via email or social media. Ditto with speakers at conferences – talk to them after their presentations and always have your business card ready. Connect, connect, connect!

Go Big

How do you broaden your network of people resources? Go big. The easiest way to identify FCIL specialists is to go where they are. In the U.S., many FCIL librarians are members of the AALL FCIL-SIS. Join AALL and become an FCIL-SIS member! The FCIL-SIS has an eCommunity for sharing information and updates. AALL has FCIL-related caucuses and some AALL chapters have FCIL interest groups. AALL also has FCIL-related programming. Other national law library associations may have specialized FCIL interest groups. Or could start IGs (CALL? BIALL? ALLA?). There is also the International Association of Law Libraries which has members with all types of foreign, comparative, and international expertise. The American Society of International Law (ASIL), the Canadian Council on International Law (CCIL)/Conseil canadien de droit international (CCDI), and other international law faculty and practitioner societies are also good sources for locating FCIL specialists. Joining them and attending their conferences helps you meet people resources that can be helpful to you. It costs of get to know FCIL experts via association membership, however. And it would be “just in case” people connections.

So, expand your people network with free resources. The INT-LAW listserv is the major one to join – it has about 800 subscribers from all over the world and is publicly archived. The IALLmembers listserv is now open to non-IALL members to post. IALL has over 400 members from over 50 countries, so is a powerful free people resource. You can also meet FCIL experts via Twitter chats – they tend to be more for general librarianship, but you can make international collections. If you’re new to Twitter, Lydia Craemer, @infointuitive, will be a great help for twitchats info. And you can also contact me via email or @lyolouisjacques.

Happy networking!

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