by Amber Lee Smith
Los Angeles County Law Library
On September 29, 1996, almost forty law librarians representing institutions from nine countries gathered in Vancouver, British Columbia, to attend the Fifteenth Annual Course on International Law Librarianship of the International Association of Law Libraries. In keeping with the topic of the course, "Law and the Pacific Rim Countries," there were presentations on the future of Asia in the Pacific Rim, Hong Kong and the Rule of Law, Research Materials on Chinese Law, Developments in Vietnam, Singapore, and the Influence of Asia in the Resolution of Transnational Business Disputes. In keeping with IALL's practice of including sessions on law and law librarianship in the host country, there was a presentation on Canadian constitutional law and a panel discussion of the problems facing Canadian law libraries and various cooperative solutions which librarians are using to solve these problems. There was far too much information to describe here, but these were some of the presentation highlights.
The increasing global significance of the Pacific Rim was discussed in the opening session, a presentation by Dr. Terrance McGee, professor of geography and director of the Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia. Dr. McGee, who illustrated his remarks with projections of maps and charts, defined what is generally meant by the Asia Pacific region and the factors which make its growth significant not only for the world economy, but also for diplomacy and international relations. Professor Diana Lary of the history department of the University of British Columbia, outlined the problems facing Hong Kong when it reverts to China in July of this year and pointed out that many of these problems stem from the very different ways in which attitudes toward the rule of law has evolved in Hong Kong and the People's Republic of China.
Three of the presentations were particularly informative about the problems facing legal researchers. Pittman Potter, professor of law at the University of British Columbia and director of the Center for Asian Legal Studies, spoke about research materials on Chinese law. He emphasized that with Chinese legal research finding the text of the law is only a starting point because the real key is the regulations. These are very difficult to get even in China and pose enormous obstacles to researchers who do not read Chinese because they are rarely translated. Professor Bill Neilson, director of the Center for Asia Pacific Initiatives at the Unversity of Victoria, explained similar problems facing researchers in Vietnam, where in addition to the ordinance which declares the framework of the law, one also needs to find the decrees of the implementing ministry with responsibility for the law, and implementing instructions. Professor Steven Saltzman of the Unversity of British Columbia discussed the Japanese legal system and made particular mention of the problems of translation of Japanese laws. He stated that the EHS translations, used in many law libraries because of the breadth of their coverage, are unreliable and inaccurate and suggested that if there is a choice between using an EHS translation and a translation from Kitagawa, the latter would be preferable. Even between countries with a common language, there are translation problems caused both by conceptual difficulties and by carelessness. Professor Potter gave the example of the different connotations of the term for contract in the People's Republic of ChinaŚcoming together of parties and commonalityŚand in the Republic of ChinaŚresponsibility of parties and what is being given up.
The course participants were also given opportunities to become a little acquainted with Vancouver and its environs. There were tours of the new Vancouver Public Library and the law school library at the University of British Columbia and a visit to the Museum of Anthropology with its marvelous collection of carvings. The session on resolution of transnational business disputes was held in Whistler, a ski resort about two hours outside Vancouver, and the closing banquet began and ended with a SeaBus ride across Vancouver Bay.
If you have not attended an IALL course, I recommend them highly. The sessions are always informative, and as a bonus they are smaller and there are more opportunities to interact with speakers and other participants. The 1997 course is on international human rights at Lund University in Sweden which will be held the last week in August, just before the IFLA meeting in Copenhagen. The 1998 course is on international efforts at unification of law and will be held in Rome.
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