Making a Reality of Access to Legal Research to Deliver the SDGs: Interview with Latia Ward
19 September 2019
Limited access to research not only prevents people in many countries from contributing to the latest thinking and innovations, but also means that they cannot apply this knowledge in their own societies.
This is as true for legal research as it is in purely scientific fields, with the result that local legal scholars are less able to raise awareness of and use key instruments and concepts that could help improve lives. GOALI – Global Online Access to Legal Information – seeks to make progress.
To find out more, we interviewed Latia Ward. Latia is a Research Services Librarian and Diversity Fellow at Cornell University Law Library. She created the tutorials, exercises, and instructional video on how to use GOALI which are available at the International Labour Organization’s website. She may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tia_ward17.
1) What were the key motivations for the creation of GOALI?
Research4Life partners which include United Nations agencies such as the International Labour Organization, publishers such as those affiliated with the International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers, and academic institutions such as Cornell University and Yale University, formed the Global Online Access to Legal Information (GOALI) platform to close the knowledge gap between nations of wealth and nations of more modest means. GOALI aligns with Goal 16 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, “Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies.”
Through GOALI, Research4Life partners facilitate access to legal information for researchers in the Global South by providing the GOALI platform free of charge or at a low cost. In their paper entitled Global Online Access to Legal Information (GOALI) – A New Legal Training Resource for Developing Countries, Richelle Van Snellenberg, Unit Head of the ILO Library and Edit Horvàth, User and Outreach Officer of the ILO Library note that access to legal information online has increased in the last 20 years. In addition, Richelle and Edit cite legal professionals' need for legal information in order to participate in policy-making and promote the rule of law.
Specifically, they mention how an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development survey revealed that almost 40% of respondents had not heard of major international instruments relevant to anticorruption such as the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. GOALI aims to make information available so that legal professionals can be knowledgeable.
When legal professionals are knowledgeable, they can assist in closing the justice gap. Recently, I came across a report on access to justice by the World Justice Project (WJP). Over the course of 2017 and 2018, the World Justice Project surveyed people in 101 nations, including both developed and developing countries, and found that most people experiencing legal problems or access to justice issues seek advice from family members and friends.
Less than one third of respondents consulted lawyers. The WJP also found that less than one third of people recognized that their problem was a legal problem. This survey dealt with access to civil justice as opposed to criminal justice. While the survey results do not answer the question of why access to justice issues persist (with the exception of noting the percentage of people who said that they did not have the money necessary to solve the problem) or what lawyers can do to bridge the justice gap, the survey provides valuable information.
While GOALI is a service for institutionally affiliated lawyers, legal scholars, and researchers, and not the general public, the users of GOALI who are engaged in the provision of legal services can use the survey results to inform their provision of legal services and develop outreach methods to solve access to justice issues.
2) Could you explain your work regarding GOALI and why you are interested in GOALI?
Each one of the Research4Life Partners involved with GOALI has an assigned task. For example, the UN agencies focus on training, outreach, and technology for the platform. Publishers contribute databases, monographs, and journal articles. The academic partners also have a role to play. The Lillian Goldman Law Library at Yale Law School manages content selection and Cornell University Law Library of Cornell Law School focuses on end-user training.
As part of my work at Cornell University Law Library, I have created a tutorial video, tutorials (presentation slides with step-by-step instructions on how to use GOALI), and exercises for users of GOALI. I created the video, tutorials, and exercises in during the spring and early summer of 2018 (with additional updates to the video in July 2019). In my development of the user guides, I reviewed exercises and modules for the AGORA portal and created exercises and tutorials specific to GOALI.
I discuss this work in the blog post Creating Training Resources for GOALI which appears in the DipLawMatic Dialogues blog of the Foreign Comparative and International Law Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries. As I was creating the GOALI video, for which I provided the narration and demonstrations of research paths, I kept accessibility in mind, therefore, I included closed captions and on-screen text to indicate important features of the portal and to identify items.
Access to justice and access to information are areas of interest for me in my work as a librarian. I have spoken at national conferences on access to justice (I facilitated a round table discussion entitled “What Can Law Librarians Do To Facilitate Access to Justice?” at the American Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting and Conference in 2018 and presented “What Can Librarians Do To Facilitate Access to Justice?” at the Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction Conference in 2019). I see preparing resources on how to use GOALI for researchers as promoting access to information. Access to information is important because it can facilitate access to justice.
3) How many resources are available through GOALI?
I stay in contact via email with Richelle Van Snellenberg, Unit Head of the ILO Library and Edit Horvàth, User and Outreach Officer of the ILO Library, who are deeply involved with the promotion of GOALI and making its resources available to users. Edit has noted that GOALI provides access to 2,500 peer-reviewed journals, 12,000 academic books, and 35 additional information resources in the legal field. Leading academic publishers are represented among the resources. For example, the Oxford Legal Research Library (OLRL), a resource of Oxford University Press, is available for most registered institutions.
4) What other materials can you find there?
In addition to the journal articles, books, databases, and reference sources already mentioned, GOALI includes resources from the legal field as well as other fields within the social sciences. Open access resources such as African Journals Online (AJOL) and the ILO’s NATLEX database of national labor, social security, and human rights legislation are also available through GOALI. Both academic and professional publications are available through GOALI. With the exception of resources such as ILO’s NATLEX database and Google Scholar (to which GOALI provides hyperlinks), primary sources such as statutes and case law are not available through GOALI.
5) How do you see GOALI changing the work of libraries in beneficiary countries?
I see GOALI as making legal information more accessible for researchers in eligible countries. As Edit and Richelle have noted in their paper cited above, Legal Information Institutes have predominated in primarily industrialized and English-speaking nations. In addition to the open access legal information resources that libraries can share with their patrons, GOALI is another resource for libraries in eligible countries and this resource expands the access to legal information.
6) What plans are there to measure its impact?
Richelle has noted that GOALI logins can be measured and disaggregated by country and institution type and that feedback from GOALI users has been encouraging. She has stated that she wants to expand awareness of GOALI and may seek to review the impact of GOALI in the future.
7) How can a library find out if it can benefit from GOALI?
Researchers have access to GOALI through their institutions. Leaders of institutions should see if the country in which they are located is eligible for access to GOALI. Research4Life maintains a list of nations eligible for access.
8) How do you recommend that an eligible library can start?
9) How might it benefit people who aren’t affiliated with institutions?
People who are not affiliated with Research4Life eligible institutions do not have access to GOALI. However, information professionals who have an interest in making legal information more accessible may ask publishers that they know to contribute resources to GOALI and inform institutions in eligible nations about GOALI.
For additional ideas of how information professionals may be of service see Librarian Yuksel Serindag's GOALI Initiative presentation slides from the American Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting and Conference in July 2019.
10) What does GOALI mean for the effort towards full open access?
GOALI is a step forward in the effort towards full open access. Through GOALI, researchers in the Global South have access to peer-reviewed, scholarly articles, monographs, and databases to which they would not otherwise have access. There are two targets of UN Sustainable Development Goal 16 that specifically address the rule of law and information.
First, target 16.3 states “Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all.” GOALI aligns with target 16.3 because it is a resource available to a variety of nations and it facilitates knowledge of legal resources, such knowledge which in turn promotes equal access to justice.
Second, GOALI aligns with target 16.10 which states, “Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.” The GOALI portal actually provides links to many resources that are open access and available to the general public, however, organizing these resources in one place allows the user to browse additional resources of which the user may not have been aware. Information professionals who care about access to justice and access to information should promote the GOALI Portal and the information resources to which it provides access.