By JANICE HYDE
With representatives from 20 member nations, the 14th Annual Global Legal Information Network (GLIN) Directors’ Meeting, held at the Library of Congress Sept. 4–7, focused on past achievements and future plans for the network.
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.
“I commend your efforts to reach across the divisions between nations through the exchange of information,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington in his opening remarks. “Our languages are separate and our legal systems may differ…but through collaborative undertakings such as GLIN we can come to understand common elements of our legal traditions and build a more harmonious future.”
Law Librarian of Congress Rubens Medina echoed those sentiments. “We live in the same world and we share both the benefits and responsibilities of our mutual company. The future of GLIN rests on the shoulders of each and every one of us.”
The annual meeting serves as an opportunity for members to share the accomplishments of their respective GLIN stations over the past year. This year, some members discussed projects to expand the content of the GLIN database. The director of GLIN in Paraguay noted that her team’s work to include in GLIN laws that have been passed by the legislature but never published in the official gazette. As a result, citizens of Paraguay as well as global users of GLIN now have access to these legal texts. The reports from Canada, the United States and Uruguay each noted efforts to include retrospective laws to enable more complete as well as historical legal research.
Newer members learn from the experiences of long-standing members. For example, the representative from Mali, which recently joined GLIN, came away with many new promotional ideas. The Democratic Republic of Congo described how it advertises GLIN through its provincial official publication offices, and Saudi Arabia explained how it had produced orientation leaflets, set up an intranet and done outreach to universities and the public. Ecuador mentioned its radio and newspaper campaign to inform its citizens about GLIN.
The value of the GLIN network as a resource for members was a recurring theme at this year’s meeting. The legal librarian from the United Nations described how she located in GLIN the ratifying instrument for a treaty between Germany and Uruguay, but could not find the text of the treaty itself. By contacting the GLIN station in Uruguay, she was able to obtain the treaty text and respond to the patron’s request. Members of GLIN were urged to respond to requests from other members to supplement the information found in the GLIN database.
Attendees also learned about technical enhancements to the GLIN system during the past year. These enhancements included an infrastructure upgrade in December 2006 that both increased the data capacity of the system and improved overall reliability, and the addition of several new features in the May 2007 release. The descriptive metadata records in GLIN are now searchable on the Internet (by search engines such as Google and Yahoo!). This capability resulted in a major spike in the number of visits to GLIN, with a 200 percent increase in visits registered on the final day of May 2007 compared to the number on May 1. Lastly, the capability to authenticate users based on computer addresses rather than passwords has facilitated access to previously restricted resources. The United Nations reported that it has implemented this feature to allow patrons of its libraries and research centers to access GLIN more easily.
Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of the American Society of International Law, delivered the keynote address at the closing event. She highlighted the three ways that she sees the law evolving and the critical role that GLIN can play in that process.
“It’s what I like to call ‘the GLIN effect,’” she said.
The first trend she noted was the integration and hybridization of law, along with globalization, which has led to an abundance of “legal borrowing” by those seeking to draft legislation. By putting a wide range of laws into the hands of local reformers, GLIN can assist those who previously had to rely on international legal experts.
“This is a recipe for effective legal reform, the development of hybrid solutions that work, and GLIN is a key ingredient,” said Andersen.
The second area was the internationalization of law. While this trend has several facets, Andersen feels that GLIN can assist by providing information on how different nations implement international treaties and agreements.
Third, Andersen said that GLIN can help support efforts aimed at the democratization of law. By making laws publicly accessible, she believes that GLIN can help citizens participate “in the making, implementation and enforcement of the law.”
Andersen urged GLIN members “to continue their ambitious endeavor” so that the GLIN effect can continue to be a powerful tool in shaping the evolving field of law.
The evening concluded with the presentation of GLIN Model Station awards, which are given to GLIN members that have distinguished themselves through adherence to GLIN standards for timeliness and data quality. This year’s awards went to Paraguay and Mexico.
Janice Hyde is a program officer in the Law Library.