By JANICE HYDE
What began in the Law Library more than 40 years ago as an in-house, manual card file for indexing foreign law is now an online database available not only to Congress, but to the public on Internet.
The database, which has had various names in the past as its scope evolved, is now known as the Global Legal Information Network, or GLIN. In May 1996 the Law Library moved to a full production status, meaning that the full text of laws of participating nations, their abstracts and the legal thesaurus is available to network members (i.e., the GLIN participating member countries). The public also now has access to abstracts of legal texts from the GLIN homepage at (http://www.glin.gov/).
Agency Cooperation. GLIN has attracted the attention of various agencies. In April a memorandum of understanding was signed by Dr. Billington and NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin in which, among other agreements, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center agreed to advise the Library about the use of satellite communication with country partners that lack or have poor Internet connections (see LC Information Bulletin, May 13). NASA also plans to help the Library design a prototype GLIN station for the future.
Congressional and other participants were able to see the progress resulting from the NASA-Library partnership at the second annual Advances in Digital Libraries Forum held in May at the Library of Congress. During the forum, sponsored in part by NASA and the Library, there was a GLIN exhibit and special demonstration of the usefulness of live satellite telecommunications connections in linking GLIN stations.
The World Bank has also been attracted to GLIN. Because legal reform is often critical to a country's ability to attract foreign investment and be competitive in the global economy, the World Bank has agreed to fund GLIN participation of interested countries where such funding could facilitate legal reform efforts.
An Expanding Network. GLIN teams from each member country, comprised of a lawyer and a technical specialist, travel to the Law Library to be trained in analyzing, processing, transmitting and retrieving legal information for the GLIN database. This year has been an especially active one for the training program.
Most recently, in early June the Law Library conducted an abbreviated training session for employees of the United Nations, the first organization to become a fully contributing GLIN member. The United Nations has a database of treaties in all official U.N. languages, and additional legal information that it is currently being evaluated for inclusion in GLIN. The United Nations agreed to participate in GLIN with the understanding that all U.N. member nations would have access to the database. This exposure has the potential to expand the membership of GLIN to include almost every nation, underscoring the truly global nature of this effort.
In February the Law Library held training sessions for GLIN team members from South Korea and in May for the Federal District of Mexico and Romania.
South Korea, the first Asian country to join the network, is also the first member nation to submit the full range of legal materials into the database. The GLIN file currently contains primarily statutory and regulatory material, but it will soon be expanded to include codes, constitutions, treaties, jurisprudence, parliamentary debates, scholarly articles and commentaries. The primary GLIN station in South Korea, the National Assembly Library, will contribute statutory material, and the two "associate" GLIN stations in South Korea will contribute other legal materials. The Korean Trust Fund provided support for the needs assessment visits and training.
The Law Library provided training in May for GLIN team members from Romania and the Federal District of Mexico. Romania, selected one team member from each chamber of its bicameral parliament, signaling its full commitment to GLIN.
Eventually, the GLIN database will include legal information from the subnational level as well as the national level, and the team from the Federal District of Mexico has provided the Law Library its first opportunity to work with partners who will make this possible.
The GLIN training sessions are mutually beneficial; the Law Library's GLIN team has received valuable advice and suggestions about the network from the highly qualified country member participants. The Law Library is now reviewing its training course to meet the needs of the increasingly sophisticated requirements of GLIN's trainees, and it looks forward to continuing mutually beneficial partnerships with additional countries.
Janice Hyde is GLIN program officer in the Law Library.