A New Electronic Resource for International Law
Submitted By Kelly Vinopal
As in previous years during the ASIL Annual Meeting, the American Society of International Law organized a program for international law librarians to discuss issues regarding international law resources. This year, EISIL - Electronic Information System of International Law was previewed with a discussion of possible research and teaching applications.
History and Development of EISIL
Sponsored by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, EISIL is a web-based database that covers the entire field of international law directing researchers to the best sources on the web for primary documents, web sites, and research guides and provides value added information such as descriptions of content, coverage, and authoritative legal citations. Charlotte Ku, Executive Director of American Society of International Law, conveyed the Society’s commitment to developing and maintaining a resource that would benefit both newer and experienced researchers of international law information.
During the early development of EISIL in 2000, workshops on planning and technical issues were held with representatives from publishers and producers of print and electronic scholarly journals and gateways, international organizations and institutes, international law librarians, and information professionals. EISIL Project Managers, Jill Watson and Marci Hoffman, created the database structures, selection guidelines, scope, and standards. Northern Lights Internet Solutions, a database designer in Canada, worked with surveying audiences that generally mirror the typical ASIL member: persons who practice, teach, and study international law and relations.
The initial EISIL screen provides an overview of international law consisting of 13 categories, with sub-categories appearing underneath each category. Information in categories under development may still be accessed.
Human Rights section, created by Marci Hoffman, was the first category developed
for the database. Jean Wenger, Anne Burnett, and Gail Partin were recruited
as authors for the economic, environmental, and criminal law sections respectively.
Some basic sources were also added to the International Law in General section.
This work was completed for a “Preview”, in June 2003, which was
publicized on various listservs.
Six sections are currently in process: Settlement of Disputes, which is being authored by Ruth Teitelbaum, the Society’s International Legal Materials and International Law In Brief editor, International Organizations, spearheaded by Marci together with Professor Rick Kirgis of Washington & Lee, and Kelly Vinopal is taking over the development of the International Law in General section. Three new authors, Louise Tsang, Mary Rumsey, and Krista Lindhard are working on, respectively, the Private International Law, Air, Space and Water, and the Use of Force sections.
EISIL’s navigation allows researchers to browse or perform simple and advanced searches. Search results may be viewed with or without the more detailed annotated descriptions. A “save record” function is available so research results can be downloaded or sent electronically.
Possibly the most distinctive feature of EISIL as different from other web-based resources is the addition of records containing more detailed description and other valuable pieces of information. Once a particular primary document or web site is selected for inclusion in the database, the author also prepares a narrative description of the document, web site, or research guide. The author also identifies and includes proper citation information for primary documents from authoritative sources, provides a list of useful keywords, and provides relevant date information that may be of use to the researcher.
Applications for Research and Teaching
The EISIL database has many applications for research and teaching activities. And, for libraries that do not have extensive international law collections or want to supplement their current collection, EISIL is an excellent source for identifying and accessing materials in a specific area of international law.
Gail Partin at Dickinson School of Law, Pennsylvania State University noted that reference librarians will be better prepared in handling cite-checking questions since EISIL provides citations to major print publications. One record might include references to UNTS, UST, and ILM. Records in connection with treaty documents also provide links to treaty status information, saving researchers another step in the research process.
Another application of EISIL in academic law school libraries is its use for specialized and general journal publications and teaching seminars. Publications or courses that primarily focus on environmental, economic, comparative, or even general law might include some lecture on international law issues. A handout, Research Guide, or Bibliography can easily be constructed using various categories and search results found on EISIL.
In servicing practitioners,
judges, government employees, and non-lawyers in a county public library, Jean
Wenger of Cook County Law Library in Chicago discussed how researchers like
using EISIL because of its “ease of use.” Basic or advanced searches
can easily be conducted using various key terms or dates. Researchers can also
browse the database by individual category.
For continuing legal education, institutions might offer a one-hour session on international research featuring EISIL. Simulated searches on a topic area could be used in class exercises. As in academic libraries, EISIL can easily be integrated as part of an International/Foreign Legal Research course or Lunch & Learn Brown Bags.
Learning institutions and practitioner libraries may also include EISIL on their international law research web pages or as a “New Research Source” placed on the organization’s or firm’s intranet. In addition to accessing the institution’s resources, the EISIL link gives researchers quick access to a centralized source of international law web resources.
EISIL - Fall 2004
The EISIL database
is continually being revised and updated by the authors. Categories on States
and Groups of States, Individuals and Groups, and Communications and Transport
will be completed in Fall 2004. It is the goal of ASIL to support the research
and information needs of both the international law expert and novice researcher.
For your next international law research question or request, EISIL