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FCIL Newsletter, October 1998
v. 13, no. 1

Report of the Electronic Issues Working Group
July 1997, Baltimore
Submitted by: Marylin J. Raisch

As usual for the past few years that this interest group has met, a lively discussion took place among the attendees, who represented the major research libraries and some overseas institutions as well. The suggested topics for discussion which emerged ranged across the following areas:

  • CD-ROMs as indexing and archival tools, problems and prospects
  • Subscription and fee-for-use databases, especially via the Web
  • Home Page creation

Several attendees talked about the use of the Web in their work and the projects underway at their several institutions. Many talked of how to manage the vast amount of information about sites. Bill McCloy of the University of Washington indicated the he felt the Asian law Web world was really mushrooming; it is very hard to keep up with the explosion of information. Lucia Diamond of Boalt Hall, Berkeley, indicated that she had hired a computer medievalist, although windows and new software had made many Web-related tasks easier, such as bookmarking and home page creation. Maria Smolka-Day of Biddle Law Library of the University of Pennsylvania announced that the bibliography of English language materials on Ukrainian law by Marta Tarnowsky would be on their home page by September, 1997. Lyonette Louis-Jacques of the University of Chicago spoke of Webmasters and of the new possibilities to make Web home pages for oneself so that links are always available and do not just sit on a machine, as do bookmarks.

There was some discussion of the FCIL page and links to foreign sites. Bill McCloy pointed out that some regional sites are not as well linked as others from various major sites, particularly those for Africa and Asia. Lyo Louis-Jacques commented on the good work done by the Asian-American Law Librarians' Group on their page. Almost everyone agreed that overall, the explosion of pages and organizing one's own work was like creating a whole new job for oneself, and in some cases for a consultant. Ken Rudolf of Yale talked of the need for continual updating of Web material as successive "editions."

With regard to CD-ROMs and fee-based databases, many people agreed that several products had formatting and printing problems, such as the UN Optical Disk System and the UN Readex index. It was mentioned that the World Treaty Index, ed. Peter Rhone, may become a CD-ROM product. To some extent there was a feeling that electronic alternatives had been oversold for archiving purposes, so that library planners might believe that no more space was needed for books. However, Barbara Tearle of the Bodleian Law Library, Oxford, UK, pointed out the new space needed for consultation of electronic sources, such as for laptops, etc. Everyone agreed that CD-ROMs were a problem for end-users, but may be necessary for archival purposes. There was general dismay that some sources may no longer exist in print. Lyo Louis- Jacques pointed out that we as librarians need to tell publishers why we want certain titles continued in print.

At the conclusion of the talks, all attendees felt that these discussions are useful, and that the world of electronic information may become somewhat easier to manage but that in the meantime, information technology was requiring almost the same amount of attention from foreign and international librarians as in any other branch of the profession. Contrary to reality, the increasing expectation of users is that the information they need is "all online or on the Web!"

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