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How we celebrated Open Access Day

October 21, 2008

oaday_header.jpgDid you know that October 14 was Open Access Day?  No?  That’s ok, because Ed Greenlee and I didn’t either until we were asked by Shawn Martin, Head of Scholarly Communication at Van Pelt library, to commemorate the event by giving a talk to the librarians on examples of Open Access in legal research and scholarship.  While the presentation was geared towards our library colleagues, we provided links to some important legal research tools that are available free of charge on the Internet.  They include:

Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute.  The Legal Information Institute is a web portal to a large number of free web sites containing primary legal materials: case opinions, statutes, and administrative materials.
THOMAS.  The THOMAS site is maintained by the Federal Government and offers a wide range of legislative materials, from various versions of bills, to selected hearing transcripts and legislative history summaries along with hot links to key documents.
The Directory of Open Access Law Journals.  This site provides a list of institutions participating in the Open Access Law Program.

“Wikibooks” and virtual casebooks.  Wikibooks is an open source for a wide range of texts. At the present they offer a limited number of books in the area of law but Wikibooks will be a growing resource for open access legal texts.

Wex.  Wex is like Wikipedia but for legal information: it attempts to provide a community-edited legal encylopedia and dictionary.

eLangdell.  eLangell is an open source project of CALI (Computer Assisted Legal Instruction) program and the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School. Just initiated in June of this year, it will offer a variety of materials including multimedia course materials and case books.  Part of the Sunlight Foundation’s suite of free government information databases, is an innovative example of bringing Web 2.0 tools like blogging, RSS feeds, and social bookmarking to the public policy arena.

As our presentation demonstrated, there are a great many resources for legal research out there that aren’t named Westlaw or Lexis-Nexis.  And they are doing some innovative things in the way that legal information is presented online.  None of this would be possible without the Open Access movement’s committment to unfettered access to, and use of, information resources.