By JANICE HYDE
With representatives from 20 member nations, the 13th annual meeting of Global Legal Information Network (GLIN), held at the Library Sept. 5–8, was the largest assemblage of partners to date.
GLIN is a database of laws, regulations, judicial decisions and other complementary legal sources contributed by government agencies and international organizations. The site is accessible at www.glin.gov.
"GLIN will promote transparency of laws of the participating jurisdictions and thus will create the atmosphere of understanding among nations that is the key to the peace and prosperity of all countries," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.
Law Librarian of Congress Rubens Medina encouraged GLIN members to "feel proud of what our cooperation has accomplished and … recognize that GLIN is a model of the mutual benefits that flow from government agencies working together productively."
The annual meeting serves as an opportunity for members to share with each other the accomplishments of their respective GLIN stations over the past year. GLIN directors reported on their efforts to publicize the database and provide instruction in its use through workshops, seminars and training programs for legislators, legislative staff, government officials and officers of the court. Several directors reported on their efforts to reach out to other institutions or subnational government agencies to obtain additional legal information to include in GLIN. For example, Uruguay reported on its work with the municipality of Montevideo, a district that enacts more legislation than the national legislature, with the goal of providing access to its municipal legislation through GLIN. Similarly, GLIN Paraguay mentioned its ongoing discussions with the supreme court of that nation with the aim of including its judicial decisions in the database in the near future.
Underscoring the importance of the GLIN database as a legal information source, several member nations described how GLIN makes accessible information that is not available elsewhere. According to the representative from MERCOSUR (the "Southern Market" economic union, including the countries of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay), GLIN is the "most complete" database in existence for the legal instruments of MERCOSUR. The representative from the United Nations stated that GLIN is "the only publicly available index" for the decisions published in its "Juridical Yearbook."
A preview of future technical enhancements and improvements was presented to GLIN Directors by Advanced Technology Systems (ATS), the company contracted to design and implement a five-year technical upgrade. ATS provided a glimpse of new features that will be rolled out in the next six months. Stating that "GLIN is a victim of its own success," ATS displayed a chart indicating a major increase in the number of laws being added to the database over the past year. This increase has necessitated the addition of new hardware this fall to ensure continuous system availability. Other new features soon to be available include a streamlined form for contributing information to the database, a more "jurisdiction-specific" method to manage relationships between legal instruments, and an innovative way to handle legal codes that will link new amendments to specific sections of the code so that legal researchers can better gauge the context and impact of such amendments.
Meeting attendees were also briefed on the activities of the GLIN Foundation. Founded in 2001 to support the goals of the GLIN Network, the Foundation recently elected a Board of Trustees. The Board is attempting to recruit a group of "founding members" to support members' needs, such as the acquisition of new equipment and travel costs. Joseph Pelton, president of the Board of Trustees, described the formation of an advisory board of well-known figures in the legal community to raise the visibility of the Foundation and briefed attendees on plans for a gala to be held in spring 2007.
As part of its annual business meeting, GLIN members voted to expand the size of the Executive Council from five to seven members in recognition of the growth of the Network. Two new Executive Councilors, representing the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uruguay, were elected to fill the new vacancies.
It is a tradition to recognize new members at the annual GLIN Directors' meeting. The Charter, which defines the cooperative working relationship among GLIN members and signals formal accession into the Network, recently was signed by Saleh A. Al-Malik, GLIN Director from Saudi Arabia, and Katherine Kirkwood, GLIN Director from Canada. Al-Malik is Secretary General of the Majlis Ash Shura. Kirkwood is director of the Law and Government Division in Canada's Library of Parliament.
Two GLIN Members, Brazil and MERCOSUR, chose the Directors' Meeting as the venue for signing a memorandum of understanding through which the Brazilian GLIN team pledged to provide Portuguese language summaries for the legal instruments of MERCOSUR. This effort supports the recent addition of a 13-language interface to the GLIN database.
At the closing dinner, Ann Salladin, senior counsel for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, described to the audience how many aspects of her work require access to legal information from various countries and noted how useful a tool GLIN is in offering such access. The dinner concluded with the presentation of the GLIN Model Station award, given to a GLIN member that has adhered to all GLIN standards for currency and data quality and has engaged in additional efforts on behalf of the Network, such as promotional work or training. This year's recipient was the Democratic Republic of Congo. Director of its GLIN office Maurice Nyamugabo Mpova accepted the award on behalf of his nation's GLIN team.
Since its inception in 1991 by the Law Library of Congress, GLIN has grown from 2 founding members—Mexico and Brazil—to 30 member nations and international organizations representing Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. Initially, GLIN included statutory materials such as constitutions, laws and regulations. It now incorporates additional types of legal information such as judicial decisions, legislative records and legal literature.
The database is accessible in 13 different languages and provides multilingual search capabilities. Member nations contribute the official full texts of published documents to the database in their original language. Each document is accompanied by a summary in English and subject terms selected from the multilingual index to GLIN. Documents on the GLIN database are open to the public, with the exception of the full text of laws of some countries that are not in the public domain; those texts are accessible to member nations.
Janice Hyde is a program officer in the Law Library of Congress.