Issues Interest Group
July 16, 2001. Marylin Raisch, (U. of Toronto), Chair. Those present included: Daniel Boyer (McGill), Edgardo Rotman (Miami), Tica Stanton (U. N. Carolina), Sania Battalova (Kirghiz Republic), John Wilson (UCLA), Pedro Padilla (U. Puerto Rico), Dan Wade (Yale), Jean Davis (Brooklyn), and Lyonette Louis-Jacques (Chicago).
In keeping with the practice of this group from year to year, no formal agenda was announced but several topics were suggested: availability of secondary sources on the web, electronic reference, and the role of FCIL-SIS in electronic information. (Last year, this was one of the FCIL-SIS suggested "goals" contributed by this group to the SIS, and it has indeed emerged formally as goal 1: "Explore and promote ways to disseminate and to effectively use electronic information in the areas of foreign, comparative and international law.")
Most of those in attendance seemed to favor some discussion of FCIL-SIS and its role in providing electronic information generally as well as to the association. To what extent should our membership be creating pathfinders and guides, our own content, to build the FCIL-SIS web site, or should the web site aim to provide mainly links to other sites? What if some of the non-academic portals and webzines, such as FindLaw and LLRX, become fee-based? These were some of the questions asked in an effort to discern a role for the FCIL-SIS web site. One suggestion was to make sure that members' guides were linked to the page to increase the richness of its content. Another ongoing project is the electronic list of FCIL-SIS librarians willing to answer questions in certain topic areas, which Michael McCarthy of New York Law School's library just updated for the section, and which is hosted by Oceana. All agreed that these are initiatives we should build on to maintain free and open space for contributions of high quality in the FCIL-SIS area on the web.
Distance learning and electronic reference are new initiatives that require evaluation. At least one librarian commented on a side-benefit of e-reference: when patrons, especially in international and foreign law, write down their questions, this forces them to spend time analyzing and clarifying the issues for themselves and for the librarian.
Electronic aids to collection development were discussed as well. Lyo agreed to help gather a list of publishers who send out titles for selection electronically so that we all know what collection aids might be available to which one can subscribe and submit a profile.
On a note of activism, the fragility of some of our electronic sources was brought home to us again as we reviewed the removal of the French database of legal materials from the Lexis service. With European materials well within their publishing umbrella, it would seem quite possible for a similar database to be brought into Lexis again. It was suggested that the FCIL-SIS leadership write formally to Lexis to suggest this, and another letter could come from this committee. Several letters from FCIL-SIS members and perhaps the larger AALL constituency would not be amiss either as a way to generate a wave of requests and gain more notice. It is worth noting that no single information provider, even within France, seems to have a product that is at once as convenient and accessible as was the Lexis database.
The Electronic Issues Interest Group thanks all who attended at the very early hour of 7 a.m., and our thanks to Jean Davis, past Chair, for her support and the coffee and bagels, which were the practical eye openers for our otherwise enlightening discussion. We invite all interested section members and others to join us next year at the annual meeting.