Joint Studies Institute
By Edward T. Hart, Acquisitions/Government Documents Librarian, New England School of Law

Since 1998, there have been three Joint Studies Institutes (JSI) at which law librarians from around the world have met to learn more about the study, practice, and institutions of law in the host country. The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), British and Irish Association of Law Libraries (BIALL), and the Canadian Association of Law Libraries/Association Canadienne des Bibiotheques de Droit (CALL/ACBD) sponsor these institutes. The Australian Law Librarians Group (ALLG) joined the first three to be a sponsor of the third JSI. The first JSI was hosted by BIALL and was held in Cambridge, United Kingdom in 1998. The second JSI was hosted by AALL and was held at Yale University in 2000. The third JSI was recently held this year and was hosted by CALL/ACBD at the Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia.

The intent of the institutes is to present the legal heritage and traditions of the host country during an intense, but informal, series of sessions. The institutes have ideally taken placed in a desirable venue that encourages a colligate atmosphere for the attendees. The JSIs have also been planned so that attending them would allow international attendees to easily attend the host association's annual meeting which are typically close in time and location of the JSI. This provides what is often a once-in-a-lifetime chance to attend another country's law libraries annual conference.

The Third Joint Studies Institute was recently held May 22-25 and was entitled "Canadian Focus: Global View." Over the four days of the institute, eleven sessions were held during which leading academicians, law librarians, and practitioners gave presentations on some topic of Canadian law which was followed by a discussion by the attendees. It is these discussions that are critical to the JSI concept. These discussions allow the delegates from around the world to explore the differences between the represented legal systems and, just as important, for everyone to point out the similarities of the common law tradition shared by many of the attendees that cross national borders. One example was the presentation given by Denis Le May, a law librarian at the University of Laval and a past president of CALL/ACBD. His presentation was titled "Common Law and Civil Law: Canada's Traditions and Methods" which explained how Canada handles the dual common and civil law systems. During his presentation and the discussion that followed, the librarians from other countries sought to understand the give and take of dual legal systems of Canada and how the national legal institutions must meet the challenges of this dual system to protect the integrity of the legal framework.

Another part of JSI is the opportunity to meet and network with law librarians and other legal professionals from around the world. Several social gatherings during the course of the institute provide the attendees with the opportunity to continue discussions while also sharing their views and experiences. It was during such a social occasion at the most recent JSI that a discussion started between law librarians from Australia, Britain, and the United States about what a global grasp LexisNexis and Thomson have on legal publishing.

For an American attendee it was interesting to see and learn the influences that the United States has on Canada and Canadians. One Canadian academician noted Canadians only watch their national television for news and weather, but they were more likely to watch American television for entertainment.

The next Joint Studies Institute is being planned for September 2004 in or near Sydney, Australia. If you have any desire to learn more about the legal heritage and traditions of Australia and how they compare to other countries, this will be the best avenue for learning.


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