Ask an International Law Librarian

Have you ever had a difficult foreign, comparative, and international law (FCIL) question and didn’t know who to ask for help, where to begin to look, what resources to use? After consulting local resources first, including your nearest FCIL librarian, you can check GlobaLex legal research guides, contact FCIL specialists on the INT-LAW listserv, or consult with country/subject experts listed in the AALL FCIL-SIS Jumpstart directory and guide. And you can use “Ask a Librarian” services for reaching international legal information specialists such as Ask DAG, Ask a Law Librarian (of Congress) – and Chatbot?!, and Ask a (Peace Palace) Librarian.[1]


The INT-LAW International Law Librarians List

INT-LAW is a Google Group with about 800 members from all over the world. It has public archives so you can view the messages posted. Anyone can subscribe.[2] Here are the instructions and URLs:


Jumpstart Your Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Research

Jumpstart is a resource compiled and maintained by the Electronic Research Interest Group of the American Association of Law Libraries Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Special Interest Section (FCIL-SIS). Jumpstart is a guide to getting started on researching FCIL topics for experienced legal information professionals or beginners. It is also a directory (peer-to-peer, librarian-to-librarian) with contacts information for finding specialists by Jurisdiction/Region, FCIL Topic, and Language.

Here is a section of the Jumpstart tool:

  • English Translations Lyonette Louis-Jacques
  • European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) Stéphane Cottin, Lesley Dingle, Kristina Alayan
  • European Union Montse Adam, Ann Burnett, Alison Shea
  • Foreign Intellectual Property Law Jonathan Franklin, Gabriela Femenia
  • Foreign Law Marci Hoffman, Jean Wenger, Catherine Deane, Kristina Alayan
  • Foreign Legal History Gabriela Femenia
  • France Stéphane Cottin, Kristina Alayan
  • French (language) Jootaek (Juice) Lee
  • German (language) Jennifer Allison.


Ask DAG and find answers about the United Nations and the library resources!

Ask DAG is a public service of the United Nations Dag Hammarskjöld Library. It has two main components – it is a database and a UN Library “Ask a Librarian” service.

Ask DAG is a database of answers to over 900 Frequently-Asked-Questions (FAQs) about the UN, its documents, publications, and library resources: 693 in English, 97 in French, and 144 in Spanish. You can browse by all the questions and answers and sort them by relevancy or reverse chronological order. You can browse by subjects such as “Human Rights”, “Resolutions”, “Treaties”. You can type in your question or keyword in a search box. You can view Ask DAG in French, Spanish, or English.

For example, here are some frequently asked questions about UN treaties. Click on the FAQs for Ask DAG answers:

The second feature of Ask DAG is that it is also an “Ask a (UN) Librarian” service. If you don’t find an answer to your question in the Ask DAG database, there’s a form for you to submit your question to a UN librarian.


“Ask a Librarian” Services

After doing research on your own, and consulting locally, if you come up short, you can try using “Ask a Librarian” online services at FCIL-specialized institutions. The Peace Palace Library , which has strong collections and staff with subject expertise in international law and international relations has an “Ask a Librarian” service. The Law Library of Congress has an “Ask a Librarian” service and a Chatbot (!) where you can post questions to their Foreign Law Specialists. These specialists also present at conferences, so there are opportunities to ask them questions in person as well. At one AALL conference, they presented on “Features of Parliamentary Websites” worldwide, they mentioned that the Deutscher Bundestag has a virtual eagle “virtual assistant” that you can chat with, so look out for information services from related institutions when seeking answers to FCIL questions.


Legal information professionals who are specialists in foreign, comparative, and international law can help you answer difficult questions and navigate complicated research. You can find them via listservs, research guides, directories, from word-of-mouth, at conferences, in association special interest groups, and via “Ask a Librarian”. Post a question. Make a phone call. Chat. Ask an FCIL librarian for help. You won’t regret it. International law librarians will help you find the answers you need or help you figure out how to get them.


[1] GlobaLex:

See also Janet Kearney & Michelle Penn, “Go-To Resources for the Non-FCIL Librarian,” DipLawMatic Dialogues Blog, Feburary 13, 2019

The embedded video was created by Mary Rumsey, former FCIL librarian at the University of Minnesota Law Library: “My Rules for Using Law Library Reference,”November 10, 2011, <>. See also her other animated Xtranormal video on international legal research, “IMC research” at Some Language. Robot librarians to help with FCIL research in the future?

[2] There are a few other good email lists to subscribe to to ask questions of international law librarians including the IALLmembers listserv.


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