European Law


European Law Interest Group

In 2013, the CIS and Eastern European Interest Group changed its name to European Law Interest Group extending its interest and scope to include the entire Europe. All interested in issues surrounding collection development, access to legal materials (print or digital), legal research, or programming related to Europe, European Union, Eastern Europe, Russia, former Soviet Republics, are invited to attend this year's IG meeting on Sunday, July 13, 2014 at 7:00 AM in Marriott Rivercenter-Salon C as part of the FCIL-SIS Subject Groups meetings. Please contact Lucie Olejnikova with any ideas, suggestions, comments, or agenda items that would help to re-ignite this group and its work that is much needed!

Further, anyone interested in joining the project launched in 2012 to map the current holdings of legal materials from Eastern Europe and former Soviet bloc countries, is encouraged to contact Lucie Olejnikova at or Gabriela Femenia at

I hope to see you in San Antonio!

Lucie Olejnikova, Chair 

The History and Development of European Law Interest Group

by Lucie Olejnikova

Shortly after the FCIL-SIS was formed in 1985, Dan Wade, the 1988 Chair, shared his vision of creating working groups that would meet and focus around selected topics. Aside the already existing Latin American Law working group, he envisioned the birth of African Law Working Group and Soviet Law Working Group that would focus on collection development, acquisition, and dissemination of legal materials pertaining to the respective geographical areas. By 1989, the Soviet Law Working Group was officially formed and lead by Blanka Kudej.

At the 1989 AALL Annual Meeting, the Soviet Law WG met, attended by Columbia, Cook County, Harvard, Michigan, NYU, Penn, Vanderbilt, and Yale, all reporting a strong commitment to collection of legal resources in the Soviet and Eastern European regions. Regular meetings of this group were held at AALL for years to come. In 1990, under the leadership of Marilyn Raisch, then chair of this WG, the attendees began discussing the changes occurring in Soviet and Eastern Europe societies where transitions from state controlled, socialist economies to various forms of free-market economies was evident. The excitement stemming from these changes ran high while ability to systematically collect, catalog and disseminate reliable and current legal information appeared almost impossible.

In 1991, the Soviet Law working group met and expressed the need for a new name in light of the political changes. At the 1991 AALL conference, the IALL focused its programming on changing European Laws informing that political turmoil in number of European countries has led to significant changes in legal publishing, dissemination of information, and collection development.

At the 1992 meeting, the working group proposed a change name from Soviet Law WG to Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and East European Law Working Group. Members, including Amber Lee and Marilyn Raisch, highlighted the irreversible impact of new political developments in Russia and Eastern Europe on obtaining reliable legal sources. The uncertain future of some newly formed republics presented a difficulty in making collection development decisions. The suggested approach at this time was to divide the resources into pre-Soviet and post-Soviet era categories.

By 1993, the group has changed its name again to reflect the most recent political settings: Russian / CIS / East European Law Working Group. Under the leadership of Marilyn Raisch, the group recognized the need to obtain reliable English translations of newly enacted laws by the young democracies created across Europe. Cataloging of resources, collection development, and online and electronic access to these resources remained problematic. The traditional institutions, including Harvard, Yale, and Library of Congress, continued to collect resources from these regions.

In 1994, the members of the CIS and East European Law Working Group, including Jeanne Rehberg and Radu Popa, carried forward the mandate of this group. The challenges in collection development and acquisition of reliable legal materials remained; nevertheless, the Library of Congress continued to do the best and kept acquiring materials from these regions. Members of the working group identified Kazakhstan, Latvia, Estonia, and Poland as examples of complicated collection development efforts. The group continued to grow and make a difference by bringing awareness to the FCIL and AALL membership. In 1996, as reported by Jonathan Franklin, the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN) focused its efforts on the former Soviet republics and Eastern Europe to address the political changes.

In 1997, the working group, under the leadership of Radu Popa, welcomed two Armenian faculty members from Yerevan who presented on the legal publishing, dissemination, and collection of legal materials in Armenia. Library of Congress reported the challenges with cataloging Armenian legal materials. Members agreed that of particular challenge is collection development in the areas of former Soviet Union, Georgia, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine. Although the GLIN project was well on its way, the lack of reliable English translations remained a sore reality.

In 1998, under the leadership of Tracy Thompson, the CIS and Eastern European Law WG reported on the difficulty of dissemination of information by Eastern European governments and proposed a translation project of major Eastern European decisions. The members were aware of the formation of CEELI (Central and Eastern European Law Institute) located in Prague, Czech Republic, whose mission has been “to develop an international, professional community of reformers committed to the rule of law.”

After the 1999 AALL meeting, Marta Kiszely reported on behalf of the working group that difficulty in collection development and acquisition remains. The members also recognized the obvious lack of secondary sources from the newly formed democracies and the difficulty in updating legislation in these regions. The group continued to work together to conquer the challenges posed by the sudden political changes and in 2001, the group sponsored a program welcoming speakers. By 2003, as Mary Strouse reported, many institutions in attempt to deal with the difficulty to obtain reliable legal sources launched various projects but the lack of communication and cooperation among those institutions significantly diminished the effectiveness and impact of these projects.

Since 2004, the CIS and Eastern European Interest Group held regular meetings and recognized the need for better cooperation and organization to aid the challenges in collection development decision making, access to legal materials in English, and understanding of legal research in these regions. The group envisioned inviting various speakers to fill that void. All members, including Kevin Gray, Radu Popa, Mirela Roznovschi, and Maria Smolka-Day, have continued to cooperate on solving the identified challenges. Annual meetings were kept to discuss potential approaches.

In 2010, as reported by Joan Policastri, the Library of Congress has begun using Central Europe in its terminology. Many States began to explore technologies to digitize their legal resources, such as Latvia that began digitization of its session laws. In 2011, as reported by Sergio Stone, Penn informed that it plans to continue to build its Polish and Ukrainian collections and Catholic University described their teaching summer program in Krakow.

In 2012, Lucie Olejnikova and Gabriela Femenia introduced a project inviting librarians to share information about their libraries’ current and/or historical holdings of legal materials from Eastern Europe and former Soviet bloc countries. The hope of this project is to gain an idea about which libraries hold and/or collect which materials from which regions. The currently participating universities include Denver University, Penn, Yale, U. of Miami, NYU, Stanford Law, Catholic University, Harvard, Rutgers, and Duke. The currently mentioned countries include Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.