The increasingly global nature of legal education, scholarship and practice suggests that all legal information professionals should add a good working knowledge of foreign and international law resources to their portfolios. For those of us without easy access to extensive print collections of foreign and international law, the good news is that the Web offers an astounding variety, including research guides, primary sources, and official documents and reports.
But how does the non-specialist stay up-to-date on the newest resources? Many of the online research guides include nice surveys of current awareness resources for researchers, e.g., print and electronic periodical literature and news sources, but are typically revised too infrequently to serve as finding aids for fledgling Web-based resources. Search engines, while growing smarter and bigger by the week, reach less than half of the Web.1
Here then are a few ideas for finding free, Web-based resources for the non-specialist who wants to learn more about the world on the Web.
Check with the Experts
Listservs, or electronic mailing lists, have long been one of the librarian’s best weapons in the struggle to stay current. Lyonette Louis-Jacques’s International Law-Related Lists is a useful guide to the dozens available in this area and provides subscription information for them as well as a nice selection of e-journals and newsletters. INT-LAW, the International and Foreign Law Librarians list, is especially worthwhile with tips on where to find hot documents and general advice about methods of international legal research. To avoid the dreaded inbox deluge, subscribe to the digest version (one message a day); browse the archive; or visit Big Ear: Current Legal Resources on the Net, a weekly collection of new-site announcements gleaned from several law-related lists, including INT-LAW.
See What’s New on the Meta-sites
Many directories, or meta-sites, now feature “What’s New?” pages or sections to help the visitor quickly find their most recent “acquisitions.” One way to get a quick sense of trends around the globe is to visit directories aimed at different audiences as well as those devoted to different subject areas. Here are a few that are maintained by librarians and other subject specialists, updated at least weekly, and regularly highlight fledgling sites of international interest.
SOSIG [Social Science Information Gateway]: What’s New – SOSIG, an “Internet catalogue,” is intended for the academic and research community. Its records, selected and annotated by British librarians, “point to resources from any country, written in any European language, with a particular emphasis on European resources.” One recent addition: British Legal History: Selected Links on the Web.
DutchESS [Dutch Electronic Subject Service]: New Resources – This multi-subject gateway was developed by the National Library of the Netherlands. A new link: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Denmark, Biographies and Companies.
University of Michigan Documents Center:Government Resources on the Web:What’s New – A librarian favorite, the Document Center site is one of the Web’s premier resources. A new link: United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute.
direct search: Recent Additions to the Collections – Compiled by Gary Price, a librarian at George Washington University Library, direct search is intended as a guide to the many resources largely inaccessible with general search engines, the “Invisible Web.” Foreign governments and international and non-governmental organizations are well covered in a separate section. Recently added: GenderStats (World Bank).
Digital Librarian: A Librarian’s Choice of the Best of the Web and the Librarians’ Index to the Internet are subject directories intended for public libraries’ users, but included here because they often reference new resources of value to the more serious researcher. New links: Every Mail (multilingual Web-based e-mail that allows users to compose/receive e-mail in thirty-four languages) and WWW Hmong Homepage, “a collection of resources relating to Hmong history, culture, language, and current events.”
But what about the directories devoted specifically to international and foreign law resources? It appears that, at this point, the most comprehensive and frequently updated ones, like The WWW Virtual Library: International Affairs Resources and Washlaw’s ForInt-Law, do not have new-links pages.
If there’s “What’s New?” page on a favorite site, try using a Web monitoring services like javElink, Mind-It, and The Informant to create the same effect. Sometimes called URL minders, these customizable agents watch specified pages for revisions and send out e-mail notices when they occur.2 To see javElink in action, visit Daily Diffs. Daily Diffs is itself a good tool for watching international law on the Web; its random results can be quite informative. The “global commerce and news” pages which it monitors include those of many international organizations, including the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, and foreign governments.
Read the Web Site Evaluators
Web site evaluators, usually available via e-mail subscription, offer a more selective, more thoughtful approach than those above. The fantastic growth of the Web makes this a tough job and many have ceased publication. Following are a few who have stayed the course and continue to provide useful reviews year after year. Let’s all hope operations at the Internet Scout Project won’t be interrupted by the loss of National Science Foundation funding this spring!3
Scout Report – In addition to the indispensable, weekly Report, be sure to review its two, biweekly spin-offs, the Scout Report for Social Sciences and the Scout Report for Business and Economics. Each features a current awareness section and maintains a separate “current awareness metapage” that serves as a more static updating tool for things like working papers (e.g., those of the Harvard Law School Jean Monnet Chair); public policy briefs; journal abstracts and tables of contents; conference proceedings; calls for papers; and academic publisher announcements. Other good sources of current gray literature related to international law are SSRN’s Legal Scholarship Network, International Law and Trade Abstracts and Columbia International Affairs Online.
InSITE – The Cornell Law Library’s excellent current awareness service always includes at least one significant new international resource in its bi-weekly issues.
Internet Resources Newsletter – Sometimes a bit unwieldy (the dozens of new sites in each monthly issue arranged alphabetically), but this monthly publication from the UK, which like the Scout Report covers all topics, is still one of the best current awareness tools on the ‘net.
Surf the Current Awareness Directories
If there’s time to explore, try these sites to find additional current awareness aids – dozens of Web awards, product reviews, technology developments, library news, weblogs, and other librarian resources on the Web.4
3. See George Robinson, Web Search Group Loses Grant, N.Y. Times, November 11, 1999, at G4. < back to text>
4. See also The National University of Singapore’s Staying Current; The Library Web Manager’s Reference Center: Current Awareness Resources; and the Internet Public Library’s Especially for Librarians: Latest News. < back to text>