Blog

  • 10 Mar 2023 9:32 AM | Michel-Adrien Sheppard (Administrator)

    Le français suit plus bas.

    Legal research skills are considered a core competency of law graduates as identified by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada.  Law Library and legal information services are an important part of legal research skills training for law students.

    University libraries in Canada have been impacted by budgetary constraints. Some academic libraries have responded to external pressures by reorganizing library functions. The impacts of reorganization on law library services have not been studied yet.

    This study will survey University Librarians and management, law librarians and staff to identify current law library reporting structures, budgets, human resources, and services, and to identify and evaluate changes to services that occur because of reorganization. The survey includes questions about reorganization decision-making, consultation, implementation, and follow-up.

    Law Faculty members will also be surveyed, using qualitative questions to assess their use of library services. Use of library services prior to and after reorganization, as well as the level of faculty consultation in the reorganization decision-making process, will also be surveyed.

    This study is intended to identify law library services that support legal education. It will also identify and articulate the impact of library reorganization on law library services It is designed to identify library reorganization decision-making and associated drivers to ascertain whether such decisions are made in alignment with the requirements of law faculties, or for other reasons. 

    The goals of this survey include the following: 

    1. To gauge the importance of law library services in meeting the needs of law faculties.
    2. To articulate current standards and best practices for law library operations and services.
    3. To assess organizational decision making and its alignment with the core requirements of the faculties being served.

    To fulfill this, any librarian or staff member who works in a law library, law administrators and law faculty members will be asked to complete the survey. All law library employees will be invited to participate, regardless of whether the institution has engaged in reorganization or not, to allow for comparisons to be made.  The intention is to invite survey participants from around the globe, as academic law librarians are well-networked, and standards are shared among jurisdictions. 

    This study is intended to help identify and articulate the importance of law library services to legal education.  Additionally, it is designed to assess the impact of library reorganization on law library service to law faculties. Its findings could help to inform law library services, service standards and library reorganization planning in future.

    This survey may take 10 - 15 minutes of your time. We encourage you to forward this invitation to any law faculty members, employees or librarians who work in the law library in your organization as well. Retirees are invited to participate.

    This research has received clearance from the University of Windsor’s Research Ethics Board.

    The deadline for participation has been extended and will close on Wednesday March 15, 2023.

    Take the survey now.

    Annette Demers, University of Windsor, Faculty of Law

    Yemisi Dina, Osgoode Hall Law School

    Gian Medves, University of Toronto Law School

    La Fédération des ordres professionnels de juristes du Canada considère que la recherche juridique est une compétence clé que doivent acquérir les diplômés en droit. Les bibliothèques de droit et les services d’information juridique représentent un élément important de la formation en recherche juridique pour les étudiants en droit.  

    Les bibliothèques universitaires au Canada ont été touchées par des contraintes budgétaires. Certaines de ces bibliothèques ont réagi aux pressions externes en réorganisant les fonctions de la bibliothèque. Les impacts de la réorganisation sur les services des bibliothèques de droit n’ont pas encore été étudiés.  

    La présente étude vise à sonder les bibliothécaires en chef et la direction de même que les bibliothécaires de droit et le personnel afin de déterminer les structures hiérarchiques, les budgets, les ressources humaines et les services actuels dans les bibliothèques de droit ainsi que pour cerner et évaluer les changements apportés aux services en raison de la restructuration. Le sondage comprend des questions portant sur la prise de décisions, les consultations, la mise en œuvre et le suivi de la réorganisation.  

    Les membres du corps enseignant des facultés de droit seront également sondés à l’aide de questions qualitatives afin d’évaluer leur utilisation des services de bibliothèque. Le questionnaire permettra aussi de sonder l’utilisation des services de la bibliothèque avant et après la réorganisation de même que le niveau de consultation auprès de la faculté dans le cadre du processus de prise de décisions de la réorganisation.  

    Cette étude vise à identifier les services offerts par les bibliothèques de droit qui soutiennent les programmes d’enseignement en droit. Elle permettra aussi de déterminer et de préciser l’impact de la réorganisation des bibliothèques sur les services des bibliothèques de droit. Elle est conçue pour identifier la prise de décisions en matière de réorganisation des bibliothèques et les facteurs connexes afin de déterminer si ces décisions sont prises conformément aux exigences des facultés de droit ou pour d’autres raisons.   

    Les objectifs de ce sondage sont les suivants:   

    1. Mesurer l’importance des services des bibliothèques de droit pour répondre aux besoins des facultés de droit; 
    2. Établir les normes et les meilleures pratiques actuelles en matière de fonctionnement et de services des bibliothèques de droit; 
    3. Évaluer la prise de décision organisationnelle et sa pertinence par rapport aux exigences fondamentales des facultés desservies.  

    Pour parvenir à ces objectifs, nous inviterons les bibliothécaires et le personnel des bibliothèques de droit ainsi que les administrateurs et les membres du corps enseignant des facultés de droit à remplir le sondage. Tous les employés des bibliothèques de droit seront invités à participer, que l’établissement se soit engagé dans une réorganisation ou non, afin de pouvoir établir des comparaisons. Nous souhaitons inviter des participantes au sondage de partout dans le monde puisque les bibliothécaires de droit en milieu universitaire ont des réseaux très bien établis et que les normes sont partagées entre les divers établissements.  

    Cette étude a pour but d’aider à déterminer et à mettre en lumière l’importance des services offerts par les bibliothèques de droit à l’égard des programmes d’enseignement en droit. Elle vise aussi à évaluer l’impact de la réorganisation des bibliothèques sur les services offerts par les bibliothèques de droit auprès des facultés de droit. Les résultats pourraient contribuer à éclairer les services des bibliothèques de droit, les normes de service et la planification de la réorganisation des bibliothèques à venir. 

    Vous aurez besoin d’environ 10 à 15 minutes pour remplir le sondage. Nous vous prions de transmettre cette invitation aux professeurs de droit, employés et aux bibliothécaires qui travaillent à la bibliothèque de droit de votre établissement. Les retraités sont invités à participer. 

    Cette recherche a été approuvée par le comité d’éthique de la recherche de l’Université de Windsor. 

    La date limite de participation a été prolongée et se terminera le mercredi 15 mars 2023.

    Répondez au sondage maintenant.

    Annette Demers, Faculté de droit, Université de Windsor

    Yemisi Dina, Osgoode Hall Law School

    Gian Medves, Faculté de droit, Université de Toronto


  • 05 Mar 2023 10:27 AM | Michel-Adrien Sheppard (Administrator)

    The Copyright Committee and the Private Law Library Special Interest Group met February 13 to discuss the issues private law firms have when dealing with copyright.

    A number of academic librarians also joined the discussion, which provided a wonderful overview of how having a copyright or access librarian can often save the day!

    The main concerns from the law firms were how to deal with requests for copies of more than 10% of a text, and how to deal with scanning conference proceedings for access in-firm when managing space constraints.

    With more questions than answers at the end of the session, it was determined that additional meetings of the two groups would be helpful.

    We asked for, and received, a volunteer from each group to work on creating follow up sessions.

    Please see the respective Basecamp sites for the Copyright Committee or the PLL-SIG for the full report from this meeting, and future meetings will be announced on the CALL-L listserv.

    People interested in joining a Basecamp site should contact the CALL National Office.

    Marnie Bailey, Manager, Knowledge Services, Fasken


  • 21 Feb 2023 2:45 PM | Michel-Adrien Sheppard (Administrator)

    Le texte français suit.

    The Salary Survey is used to determine employment remuneration received by members of the Toronto Association of Law Libraries and CALL/ACBD. 

    The findings of this survey will serve as a benchmark of members’ employment compensation during this period. By completing this survey, members will have access to current and relevant compensation data.

    Information on salary and benefits is instrumental in helping both employees and employers, including individuals seeking employment and organizations trying to set a competitive salary.

    The survey should take approximately 15 minutes to complete. Please note that responses will be anonymous and confidential, and the tabulated results will be available later in 2023.

    The survey will remain open until February 27, 2023.

    Participation Bonus! Participants have the option of entering a draw for ten $25 gift certificates from giftcards.ca.

    To enter the draw, you will be prompted to provide your email address via a link to a second survey. This will ensure that your contact information is not linked to your other responses.

    Please go to the following web address to respond to the survey:

    https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2GT6YYR

    If you have any questions, please contact the Committee Chair, Erica Friesen (e-mail: erica.friesen AT queensu.ca).

    Thank you for your participation!

    The TALL – CALL/ACBD Salary Survey Committee

    Ce sondage sur les salaires vise à déterminer le salaire gagné par les membres de la Toronto Association of Law Libraries et de l'ACBD.

    Les résultats du sondage serviront d’outil de référence quant à la rémunération de ces membres pendant cette période. En remplissant ce sondage, les membres auront accès à des données récentes et pertinentes sur les salaires.

    Les renseignements sur les salaires et les avantages sociaux contribuent à aider les employés et les employeurs, notamment les personnes à la recherche d’un emploi et les organisations qui veulent offrir des salaires concurrentiels.

    Il vous faudra environ 15 minutes pour répondre aux questions. Veuillez noter que vos réponses demeureront anonymes et confidentielles et que les résultats compilés seront disponibles plus tard en 2023.

    Le sondage sera ouvert jusqu’au 27 février 2023.

    Prix en guise de remerciement! Tous les répondants au sondage peuvent s’inscrire au concours pour gagner l’une des dix cartes-cadeaux de 25 $ échangeables chez giftcards.ca

    Pour vous inscrire au concours, vous serez invité à fournir votre adresse de courriel par le biais d’un lien vers un deuxième questionnaire. Cette démarche permet de garantir que vos coordonnées ne seront pas liées à vos autres réponses.

    Veuillez vous rendre à l’adresse Web suivante pour répondre au sondage :

    https://fr.surveymonkey.com/r/SDMD2HY

    Pour toute question, n’hésitez pas à contacter la présidente du comité, Erica Friesen (courriel: erica.friesen AT queensu.ca).

    Merci de votre participation!

    Comité du Sondage sur les salaires de TALL et de l'ACBD

  • 27 Jan 2023 11:49 AM | Michel-Adrien Sheppard (Administrator)

    The Diversity, Inclusion & Decolonization Committee (DIDC) just held its winter meeting to update members on our activities. If anyone is interested in joining, let us know – this is a great opportunity to share and learn from one another in a safe and friendly environment. 

    Notably, the Diversity Survey has been completed. The survey is designed to measure the diversity of our profession in Canada and to get an idea of what CALL/ACBD can do to better support all of its members.

    DIDC members have tested it out and sent us feedback; the survey subcommittee will make the necessary adjustments and then seek approval from the Executive. Next steps are to get it translated and then sent out!

    We have submitted a number of proposals for the next CALL/ACBD Conference, including sessions on land acknowledgments and pronouns, a keynote session by a notable Indigenous leader, as well as a Blanket Exercise. Hopefully some of these will be picked up by the Conference Planning Committee!

    We are also assisting in organizing a webinar for this spring related to Nadine Hoffman’s ongoing work on Indigenous subject headings.

    The Glossary of Terms update: definitions from different sources have been accumulated. This bank of definitions is intended for the work of DIDC and CALL/ACBD to help everyone better understand unfamiliar EDI terms, and to work with a shared understanding of those terms.

    Next steps include drafting definitions specific for CALL/ACBD. If anyone is interested in helping us with this, please let us know! 

    DIDC is still looking for a new Co-Chair. It’s a great way to get involved and meet other legal information professionals across the country. Please contact Vicki Jay Leung (vicki.jayleung@uwindsor.ca) or Andrea Black (andrea.black@dentons.com) for information or to express your interest.

  • 12 Jan 2023 3:41 PM | Michel-Adrien Sheppard (Administrator)

    Le français suit plus bas.

    The website Librarianship.ca has published a 2022 Honour Roll listing all the members of the Canadian librarianship community who were recognized with awards last year for their contributions to the profession.

    A few CALL members made the list:

    • Yemisi Dina (York University): Daniel L. Wade Outstanding Service Award, American Association of Law Libraries - Foreign, Comparative and International Law Special Interest Section
    • Sooin Kim (University of Toronto): Arbor Award, University of Toronto
    • Anne C. Matthewman (Dalhousie University): AALL Hall of Fame Award, American Association of Law Libraries
    • Shaunna Mireau (Alexsei; ex-CALL President): Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee Medal, Government of Alberta
    • Hannah Steeves (Dalhousie University): Nancy McCormack Emerging Leader Award, Canadian Association of Law Libraries
    Congratulations!
    Les site web Librarianship.ca a publié un tableau d'honneur de l'année 2022 incluant tous les membres de la communauté des bibliothécaires au Canada dont les contributions à la profession ont été reconnues l'année dernière par différents prix.

    Il y a plusieurs membres de l'ACBD qui figurent sur la liste:

    • Yemisi Dina (Unversité York, Toronto): Daniel L. Wade Outstanding Service Award, American Association of Law Libraries Foreign, Comparative and International Law Special Interest Section
    • Sooin Kim (Université de Toronto): Arbor Award, University of Toronto
    • Anne C. Matthewman (Université Dalhousie, Halifax): AALL Hall of Fame Award, American Association of Law Libraries
    • Shaunna Mireau (Alexsei; ancienne présidente de l'ACBD): Médaille du jubilé de platine de la Reine Elizabeth II, Gouvernement de l'Alberta
    • Hannah Steeves (Université Dalhousie, Halifax): Prix Nancy McCormack pour leader émergent, Association canadienne des bibliothèques de droit

    Félicitations à toutes les lauréates!
  • 12 Dec 2022 8:07 PM | Michel-Adrien Sheppard (Administrator)

    The team at Stem Legal,a firm of web strategists for the legal profession, is seeking nominations for the 2022 annual Clawbies awards, which celebrate the best of Canadian online legal content!

    "Each year, we ask colleagues in the Canadian legal community to share their favourite blogs, social media accounts, podcasts, newsletters and more, and every year they deliver. Every year, we delight in seeing the genuine admiration and appreciation that authors and readers have for each other. And every year, we discover new publications and are honoured to help boost their profiles, just as we add more lions of Canadian legal commentary to our Clawbies Hall of Fame."

    People can submit up to 3 nominations for what they consider the best Canadian podcasts, legal Twitter accounts, Youtube channels, blogs, or other open access publications or projects.

    Nominations ca be made via blog post or tweets (using the hashtag #clawbies2022). 

    A complete list of all past winners is available. There have been numerous winners from the legal research and law librarian community (including a few CALL members).

    But hurry up. You have until end of day Friday, Dec 16 to send your nominations.

    Winners are announced on New Year’s Eve.

  • 21 Nov 2022 3:51 PM | Michel-Adrien Sheppard (Administrator)

    The Canadian Law Library Review/Revue Canadienne des bibliothèques de droit (CLLR) is currently welcoming article submissions from members of the legal community.

    The CLLR is the official publication of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries. It is an open access, online journal published three times per year. Articles typically range from 2,000-4,000 words.

    Prior to publication, all submissions are subject to review and editing by members of the Editorial Board or independent subject specialists; the final decision to publish rests with the Editorial Board. Independent peer review is possible if requested by the author. Please view the CLLR style guide for guidance on how to format a feature article for submission.

    To submit an article, or for questions or clarifications, please contact Features Editors Andrea Black and Erica Friesen.

    [This call for articles originally appeared on Slaw.ca on November 8, 2022]

  • 17 Oct 2022 4:31 PM | Michel-Adrien Sheppard (Administrator)
    CALL member Erica Friesen, Research and Instruction Librarian & Online Learning Specialist at the Lederman Law Library at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario recently wrote an article on "Thoughts on the New Lexis+ Brief Analysis Tool: For Law Students and Novice Researchers". It originally appeared on Slaw.ca on September 28, 2022.

    It is republished here with permission of the author.

    New academic year; new legal research tools. Something new always comes out right as another cohort of students is gearing up to begin their law degree. And, as with many new product launches these days, “artificial intelligence” is often a prominently displayed term with accompanying materials. As legal publishers continue to launch AI-driven research tools in Canada, what do students and other novice researchers need to know to be prepared for their first forays into legal research?

    Lexis recently launched the latest version of their legal research platform, Lexis+ Canada, for Canadian law schools. It features significant updates that employ artificial intelligence, including a “Brief Analysis” tool in line with similar products offered by Westlaw Edge (on the US platform) and vLex (already available in Canada). According to Lexis+, this tool helps researchers “expedite completion of briefs and other legal documents.” Once your document is uploaded, it spits out a report including the following categories: 1) recommended cases, 2) cases and legislation cited in your document, 3) jurisdiction, and 4) extracted and recommended concepts.

    While I do not intend to comment on the utility of this tool for practitioners, I have no doubt that students beginning law school or working in summer or articling positions are bound to encounter this new feature sooner or later. When you do, you may have questions: should I be using this tool? How or how not? The landing page for this tool in Lexis+ contains no information on how this tool works and the Lexis+ Canada “Help” database so far contains minimal documentation. Confusion or uncertainty is understandable with such opacity.

    To gain some insight, let’s run an experiment: take two case comments written by different authors on the same Supreme Court case from 2004.[1] An older decision means that we should retrieve an abundance of recommendations from the intervening 18 years. Both comments include an overview of the area of law at the time of this decision as well as an analysis of how this particular decision would change the area of law. Once Lexis analyzed these documents, I exported the resulting report and compared the results for each comment.

    Here are the two documents, in case you’d like to run the experiment yourself:

    Comment A: Teresa Scassa, “Recalibrating Copyright Law?: A Comment on the Supreme Court of Canada’s Decision in CCH Canadian Limited et al. v. Law Society of Upper Canada”, Case Comment, (2004) 3:2 CJLT 89.

    Comment B: WL Hayhurst, “The Canadian Supreme Court on Copyright: CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada”, Case Comment, (2004-2005) 41 Can Bus LJ 134.

    Recommended Cases

    “Recommendations” is the section of the Brief Analysis report that lists additional case law for you to consider adding to your legal document. Brief Analysis recommended 58 unique cases in total between Comment A and Comment B. However, only 10 of those cases were the same between the two documents (after adjusting for “recommended” cases that were actually cited in the other document). See Figure 1.

    Key takeaway: Legal research and writing is an art, not a science. AI-driven tools like these run on the material that you upload, so you can expect substantially different results depending on the quality of analysis and the decisions you made in producing the original document. This does not mean that there is no value in using the tool, but you cannot expect it to help you build something from nothing. Recommendations are based on the content in the document, so if the content in the original document is not already strong, you may find yourself headed down the wrong path. Garbage in; garbage out as they say.

    Extracted Concepts

    Lexis currently provides almost no information on what is meant by “extracted concepts” using Brief Analysis. But it sure looks cool to upload your document and instantly see a list of legal topics associated with your writing.

    Here, too, there is substantial difference between the two documents. Comment A and Comment B had an overlap of 18 common extracted concepts. Comment A had an additional 22 unique extracted concepts while Comment B had an additional 21 unique extracted concepts. See Figure 2 for this data.

    The utility of these concepts is highly variable. One illuminating instance is that Brief Analysis believed that “et al” was a relevant legal concept to Comment B. Does this simply mean that the phrase “et al” appears many times in the document?

    Key Takeaway: For novice researchers, this tool has limited utility if used in isolation. While an experienced practitioner may quickly be able to understand which extracted concepts are relevant, it is unlikely that a novice researcher will have the necessary context to make these determinations with such little transparency provided by the tool itself.

    For example, Brief Analysis extracted “strike” as a relevant concept for Comment B. While “strike” may indeed seem like a potentially important legal concept, it seems to have been picked up here because of an emphasis on “striking a balance” between the rights of authors and the rights of the public. Brief Analysis allows you to edit and reconfigure these concepts on your results page, but novice researchers will need to put in additional research outside of the tool to familiarize themselves with these concepts before they can properly make these assessments.

    Cited in Your Document

    This part of the report identifies caselaw and legislation that is already cited in your document. Presumably the intention is to warn you of potential negative history or treatment via the QuickCITE signals that the report pulls into the document as a visual representation.

    Brief Analysis was fairly accurate in identifying Canadian case citations in the two documents, but still missed a number of Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal decisions, as well as decisions that were cited as part of a case history. Interestingly, only one Canadian legislation citation was correctly identified as legislation; others were identified as caselaw or not identified at all. Almost no foreign or international citations were correctly identified (legislation, case law, treaties, etc). See Figure 3 for a breakdown of how many citations were correctly identified versus missed.

    Key Takeaway: Like any other research platform, AI-driven tools are limited based on the data that serves as their input. If Brief Analysis only runs on Lexis’ Canadian content, then it won’t pick up US or UK citations as part of its analysis. This is a limitation to be aware of in the context of its other features too. None of the recommended caselaw or legislation was foreign or international either, but I might not have noticed this if I hadn’t critically assessed this part of the report. Again, familiarity with an area of law is necessary to use the tool properly and know if it is relevant to go to sources beyond Canadian law for your particular research question.

    Conclusion

    New tools like Lexis’ Brief Analysis may be aimed at experienced practitioners, but they are often rolled out first to law students and other less experienced legal researchers with minimal guidance or documentation on how to effectively use them. This experiment is intended to illustrate the potential pitfalls of a brief analysis tool like the one newly available on Lexis+ for law students. Only by using these tools with a critical eye can we truly get a sense for where such a product might fit in our legal research process. -- Erica Friesen, Research and Instruction Librarian & Online Learning Specialist, Lederman Law Library, Queen’s Law

    [1] CCH Canadian Ltd v Law Society of Upper Canada, 2004 SCC 13.

  • 23 Sep 2022 10:19 AM | Michel-Adrien Sheppard (Administrator)
    Le français suit plus bas.

    We all have a few tricks up our sleeve when it comes to performing legal research. We sometimes share them with clients. And sometimes, we like to use those tricks to hunt down seemingly impossible to find material and wow them. Because nothing is “impossible” for law librarians.

    The CALL blog has started a new regular series of research tips and tricks.

    Please share your favourite or coolest strategies with Michel-Adrien Sheppard to have them published on the CALL blog.

    Nous avons tous nos trucs favoris quand il s'agit de faire de la recherche juridique. Parfois, nous les partageons avec nos clients. Et parfois, nous aimons les épater en utilisant ces trucs et astuces pour mettre la main sur des informations apparemment impossibles à trouver. Car rien n’est « impossible » pour des bibliothécaires de droit.

    Le blogue de l'ACBD a lancé une nouvelle série sur les trucs et astuces de recherche.

    SVP partagez vos stratégies les plus intéressantes ou les plus « cool » avec Michel-Adrien Sheppard afin de les faire publier sur le blogue de CALL/ACBD.

    Today: Finding Standards (Susannah Tredwell, Manager of Library Services at DLA Piper (Canada) LLP, Vancouver). It originally appeared on Slaw.ca on August 31, 2022.

    It is republished here with permission of the author.

    Standards, which “establish accepted practices, technical requirements, and terminologies”, are often referenced by acts and regulations; in order to be able to properly interpret a piece of legislation you may need to see the standard it is referring to.

    Frequently the fastest and most efficient solution (if not the cheapest) is to buy the standard, either in print or electronic format. However, if you’re buying a digital version it is important to be aware of how the standard is licenced, e.g. in some cases the person who bought the standard is the only person who can use it. For Canadian standards, the Standards Council of Canada (confusingly — for law librarians at least — abbreviated SCC) is a useful place to start.

    Standards are frequently referred to by a number (e.g. “CSA Z1008:21”) where the first letters indicate who issued the standard (in this case the Canadian Standards Association), the middle numbers indicate the number of the standard, and the last number indicates the year of issue (i.e. 2021). Standards are frequently revised or replaced, so it is important to know which particular version of a standard you are looking for. Older standards can be more challenging to find.

    Your local public library may own some standards in print format so it is worthwhile checking with them.

    A number of Canadian standards are available for free; for example you can find the online collection of Codes Canada publications (including the National Building Code of Canada 2020, the National Plumbing Code of Canada 2020 and the National Fire Code of Canada 2020) at https://nrc-publications.canada.ca/eng/search/?q=NRCCode. Similarly the British Columbia Codes 2018 are available online at https://www.bccodes.ca/index.html.

  • 24 Aug 2022 9:21 AM | Michel-Adrien Sheppard (Administrator)

    CALL member Marcelo Rodriguez, the Foreign, Comparative and International Law Librarian at the University of Arizona Law School in Tucson, Arizona, recently wrote an article on "Researching Foreign and International Current Events". It originally appeared on Slaw.ca on August 16, 2022.

    It is republished here with permission of the author.

    In my professional experience working as a law librarian in multiple types of institutions, most of the time a question about or related to a situation happening in a foreign country or at the international level comes primarily through one scenario: the researcher read about it in an online media outlet, newspaper, article, blog, tweet, etc. and wants to know more. Understanding, finding relevant sources and making sense of a rapidly (d)evolving and fast moving situation in a foreign country or internationally is an incredibly complicated and labor intensive type of research, no matter how much experience you have in the subject or country. To hopefully alleviate some of the pressure on these requests from researchers, I created a monthly series, called Through the FCIL Lens, shared in the blog of the Foreign, Comparative and International Law (FCIL) group within the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). In this monthly series, I strive to give readers a summary with all the known and relevant information on what’s currently happening, some analysis from experts, and most importantly for the researchers, I also include at least three academic articles which help connect the situation on the ground to larger conversations and trends.

    I’d like to think that my purpose and hard work behind the series were confirmed a few weeks ago when the dramatic current events in Sri Lanka made international headlines in major newspapers, magazines and social media. Given my obsession and unhealthy consumption of foreign and international news, I featured the increasingly deteriorating situation in Sri Lanka as one of the “hotspots” to observe back in April 2022. I’m not claiming any sort of superpower, nor advocating for others to compulsively follow international news. The point is that when you are tasked with researching and finding authoritative sources in order to understand an explosive current situation in a foreign country, 97% of the time, it is not a situation coming out of nowhere. Your job is to find the relevant resources to help you link the current situation on the ground to previously documented situations, people and trends.

    In this post, I will mention a few crucial steps that I take in order to come up with a successful research strategy. Similarly to what I do in my legal research classes, I’m not going to enumerate a list of websites and hope the researcher finds their way. If you do that, a lot of the time, they’re left with websites which are not updated, don’t work or with a list of broken links taking you nowhere. Therefore, I will talk briefly about the initial steps I take when building a research strategy that has worked for me and also the limitations to this type of research requests that we should all be aware of.

    First, your main goal should be to look for specific names of people, institutions, places, perhaps a specific case or legislation. You’re aiming to find one proper name (many, if you’re lucky!) and use it as your keyword to search for sources which will help you link the current situation to previous trends, events or any relevant information. In the case of the current crisis in Sri Lanka, one of the main characters is the recently deposed president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa. If you search for his name in both free sources and subscription-based databases, you will quickly find out lots of important information. For example, he belongs to a “political dynasty” which has taken control of the country for decades and also he was hailed as a “war hero” after his leading involvement in ending the country’s civil war in 2009. These two points are undoubtedly incredibly significant for any researcher to understand the current crisis and its importance to Sri Lankan people.

    Two things to keep in mind when working with foreign names is transliteration when using our Latin script and full names. Usually, when a person is not regularly featured in Western media outlets, there is a plethora of transliteration options and not one uniformed way to write a person’s name using the Latin script. Depending on how long and how often during and after the current event this person’s name is used, journalists, academics and experts might finally arrive at a consensus on how to spell a person’s name using Latin script. For example, I have seen Gotabaya, Gothabaya, G. Rajapaksa, Rajapaska, Rajapakse and many more. Another important point when it comes to names is the full names of these important players. As I said before, the Rajapaksa family is a political dynasty in Sri Lanka with numerous important people. Therefore, you might want to use someone’s full name in order to avoid any confusion. For example, Gotabaya’s full name is actually Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapksa. Using his full name will bring up specific information related to his involvement in previous historical events in the country. Again, you’re doing all these steps to help you connect the current situation with larger and older conversations and trends. These names and proper nouns will serve as your connectors with more relevant information.

    Overall, you have two major limitations when pursuing this type of research: not everything is translated into English and not everything is online. In my experience, this is the moment of truth. As a Foreign and International Law Librarian, I try to be as honest as possible with my users. Foreign and International Legal Research can be incredibly interesting and rewarding, but it also takes time and lots of extra steps. The current situation in Sri Lanka might be making its way into major Western and English speaking media outlets. However, for people in Sri Lanka, this is their pressing and tumultuous reality. Therefore, it’s fair to say that the overwhelming amount of information will be primarily in Sinhala and maybe Tamil, the two official languages of Sri Lanka. On top of that, a significant amount of primary sources might not be available online, due to lack of resources, but also to the current chaotic situation in the country. In these instances, you will need to get creative and find secondary sources as well as contacting experts which might be able to help you. I shared some related ideas in my previous post on Legal Research Without Official Diplomatic Relations.

    Good luck! Please feel free to add any steps you take yourself regarding this type of research in the comments section or contact me directly.


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