By JANICE HYDE
The 16th Annual Meeting of Directors of the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN) was held at the Library from Sept. 1-3, 2009. Representatives from 20 different governments assembled to discuss initiatives undertaken over the past year and to plan for the future development of the database and the network.
In addition to directors from current member jurisdictions, this year’s meeting was attended by observers from potential GLIN member nations including the People’s Republic of China and Uganda.
“GLIN has grown and thrived admirably in the years that you have been working and meeting together,” said Jo Ann Jenkins, the Library’s chief operating officer, in her welcoming remarks. “By working in concert, you have created a dynamic resource for research and understanding across legal cultures and language barriers.”
Roberta Shaffer, who began her tenure as Law Librarian of Congress the day before the meeting, reminded the participants that the three hallmarks of law—authoritative, accurate and authentic—are also the hallmarks of GLIN.
GLIN directors reported on the status of their respective GLIN stations and highlighted new initiatives. The presentations revealed a range of activities intended to expand the legal information content of the database.
The director of GLIN Costa Rica reported on her success in negotiating agreements with various institutions including the Supreme Court, the Technical Services Department of the Legislative Assembly and the University of Costa Rica Law School. These “affiliate GLIN stations” have, respectively, started to contribute Supreme Court decisions, legislative records and law journal articles to the GLIN database, thereby providing more comprehensive coverage of Costa Rican legal materials.
The director of GLIN Uruguay reported on work to incorporate sub-national information into the database. Over the past year, the 19 different regional departments of Uruguay (representing urban, suburban and rural areas of the country), began submitting their laws to the GLIN database, providing the citizens of Uruguay, and all GLIN users, with one centralized source for both national and sub-national law. The participation of those departments in the GLIN effort has led some to develop better legal publishing practices.
The report from the United Kingdom described the successful collaboration between GLIN and the Office of Public Sector Information, which encourage re-use of legislative materials. As a result of a one-time, bulk transfer of information, GLIN now includes Acts of Parliament dating back to 1988 and associated explanatory notes since 2000. A web-services tool allows continuous updating of the information in the GLIN database. The lessons learned from work with the U.K. will help GLIN apply similar techniques for automated ingestion and update to incorporate the legal materials of other jurisdictions in the future.
Promoting knowledge and use of GLIN among legislators was a theme touched upon by several members. The director of GLIN Mexico described a monthly online bulletin she developed for members of the Chamber of Deputies (lower house) of the Mexican Congress that includes sample summaries of laws from various GLIN jurisdictions on topics of current legislative interest such as election law and freedom of speech. She was pleased to share the contents of a letter of thanks received from a member of the Mexican Congress for this effort.
Both Mexico and El Salvador are making use of closed circuit television available for members of their legislatures to offer “GLIN spots” that fill the spaces between broadcasts of legislative sessions.
In Saudi Arabia, a brochure has been produced that has been circulated to members of the Shura Council (legislature) and a link to GLIN has been added to the Shura Council’s intranet.
The directors of GLIN Paraguay and GLIN Taiwan reported on interactive workshops and instructional programs provided to legislators and legislative staff to promote the use of GLIN.
Dan Chirita, the director from GLIN Romania, who also serves as the chair of the GLIN Technical Committee, gave a presentation focusing on making GLIN accessible through mobile devices such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) and cellular telephones. Although much of the GLIN interface and content is currently available through mobile devices, Chirita explained that the adoption of certain standards and best practices can facilitate such access and make it more user-friendly. He provided examples from their experience creating mobile access to the website of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of Romania. While most documents can be provided via mobile devices, they found that it was not currently advisable to offer photographs, videos, or links to external websites. The issue of mobile access to GLIN will be further discussed and refined by the GLIN Technical Committee for consideration by the members.
Marie Doudou Kolomeni, GLIN director from Cameroon, signed the charter signaling that jurisdiction’s formal accession into the GLIN network.
Several awards were presented to recognize special achievements and ongoing excellence and special achievements. A Special Achievement Award was given to Costa Rica in recognition of its inclusion of all four categories of legal materials GLIN. Sandra Sawicki received the 2009 Outstanding Service Award for working on a special project to improve the GLIN thesaurus.
GLIN stations in Argentina, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico, Paraguay, Taiwan and Uruguay earned Exemplary Performance Awards. This award is given to previous recipients of the GLIN Model Station award who continue to maintain all standards for timeliness and quality of information contributed to the database.
The 2009 GLIN Model Station award was presented to GLIN Kuwait.
Janice Hyde is a program officer in the Law Library of Congress.