Features - Keeping Up with the World: Tips on Current Awareness

Kris Gilliland is the Associate Law Librarian for Public Services at Georgetown University Law Center’s Edward Bennett Williams Library.

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.

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

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

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Footnotes

1. See Search Engine Coverage Study Published, Search Engine Report, August 2, 1999; Chris Sherman, The Invisible Web, Web Search, About.com. [undated]. <back to text>

2. For more information on these products, see Gregg Notess, Internet Current Awareness, Online, March 1999. <back to text>

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>