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FCIL Newsletter
vol. 13, no. 3: May 1999

The American Society of International Law Annual Meeting
Thematic Dinner Program "International E-Pubs: Evaluating,
Cataloging, Using, Archiving

Jean Davis
Reference Librarian and Adjunct Professor
Brooklyn Law School

On Thursday, March 25, 1999, M. Kathleen Price, Director of the Law Library and Professor of Law, New York University School of Law Library, and Jill Watson, Director of Library and Information Services, The American Society of International Law ("ASIL"), led a provocative discussion on international electronic publications. Professor Price noted that the American Journal of International Law ("AJIL") is the only legal journal included in JSTOR, a database of well-known scholarly journals in fields such as mathematics, history, and political science. By establishing an archiving arrangement (currently, 1907-1995 AJIL materials are available) with JSTOR, ASIL is setting a positive example. Professor Price and Director Watson emphasized that information professionals and other researchers cannot rely on LEXIS-NEXIS and WESTLAW databases as official archives for legal journals. The LEXIS-NEXIS and WESTLAW standards for legal journal availability are not comprehensive. Also, journals available today may not be accessible tomorrow through these vendors.

Professor Price explained that William S. Hein & Co., Inc. is developing a prototype for complete backfiles of all journals (to which Hein can secure the rights) in the Index to Legal Periodicals and Books. To enhance word-in-text searching of the journal data, Hein will do bitmapping plus "dirty ocr." Hein hopes to contract with George Washington University, which has already begun indexing the journal data by author, title, and subject. Interested persons may contact Daniel Rosati of Hein, 1 (800) 828-7571, for a free trial. Hein would like feedback regarding 1) which journals are most important to researchers and 2) whether recent or old articles would be more likely to be used, given some preexisting availability of data through services such as LEXIS-NEXIS and WESTLAW.

The program leaders and attendees noted that there are a few examples of true international law-related electronic journals. Yale Law School publishes the electronic Yale Human Rights & Development Law Journal. The web page for this journal, http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/lawschool/pubsfp.htm, includes the helpful instructions "How To Read Our Articles Online" and "How To Cite and Link to Our Articles." Each article in a particular issue receives a number on the "Contents" page, and the Editorial Board instructs researchers to cite to particular paragraphs of an article. The staff also is publishing print volumes of this journal. Additionally, Duke University School of Law has mounted all of its journals in electronic format, including the Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law (see http://www.law.duke.edu/journals/djcil/).

Those present defined key issues regarding international electronic journals: pricing, licensing, cataloging versus not cataloging on the World Wide Web, archiving, customizing, determining the future of the traditional print law school journal, and establishing faculty "peer reviewed" legal publications. Director Watson then asked attendees to consider: How long will the current form of HTML last? Will old files in HTML slip away if a new format replaces HTML?

As explained by Professor Price, the Research Libraries Group ("RLG") has decided that digitizing everything (such as all laws of a foreign country) is too expensive. RLG participants such as New York University and the University of Pennsylvania plan to digitize indexes and to continue to microform text. New York University has purchased digitization on demand equipment from Canon to deliver microform as electronic files or in paper copy.

Marylin Raisch, International, Comparative, and Foreign Law Librarian, Arthur W. Diamond Law Library, Columbia Law School, noted that her institution electronically archives human and constitutional rights materials. Refer to the documents available at the Human & Constitutional Rights Web Site http://www.hrcr.org/docs/index.html.

Radu Popa, Associate Director for Global Library Services and International Law Librarian, New York University School of Law Library, pointed out that as long as an electronic resource is not paginated in the same manner as its print equivalent, and The Bluebook discourages citation to Internet sources, law professors and students will still ask librarians for print sources. Others supported him, noting the language of current Bluebook Rule 17.3.3: "citation to Internet sources is discouraged unless the materials are unavailable in printed form or are difficult to obtain in their original form." Associate Director Popa also reminded participants that there are still some print publications, such as the Netherlands International Law Review (which includes status information on many private international law treaties), that provide data which is not yet fully available through World Wide Web sites.

John Gamble, Professor of Political Science, The Pennsylvania State University, said that faculty members still need to publish in print reviews and journals for promotion and tenure. Others commented that law faculties, unlike astronomers, have not yet embraced the concept of an e-article that might change form as others responded to the article. Many agreed that if the next edition of The Bluebook deals with electronic publications in a more detailed, positive manner, a greater number of legal scholars will cite to electronic data.

Participants learned that ASIL's currently free, valuable electronic publication, International Law in Brief, might soon become a fee-based product. Professor Gamble led the discussion of how much readers would be willing to pay for this current awareness source that links to World Wide Web primary data. He asked whether those who use this source value the editorial commentary or primarily regard the electronic publication as an "events and documents alert" service. Please share your views regarding the content of, and pricing for, International Law in Brief with ASIL.

Author's Comments:

Those interested in electronic publications should note that at the 1999 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Law Libraries 1) the FCIL-SIS Electronic Issues Working Group will meet on Sunday, July 18th at 8:00 am, and 2) "At the Crossroads in the Age of Electronic Publishing: The Potential Impact of Electronic Publishing on Law Libraries, Legal Education, and Legal Scholarship" (Program A-2) will occur on Sunday, July 18th at 10 am.

The existence of Dynamic HTML should not preclude browsers from reading lower levels of HTML.

ASIL is offering individual ASIL members World Wide Web access to the AJIL (1907-1995) in JSTOR for a low fee. The introductory 6-month offer costs $15.00. ASIL members may telephone 1 (202) 939-6000 for further information.

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