Free Scholarship: Developing a National Legal Scholarship Library
Law via Internet Conference, Jersey, September 2013
Posted: 18 Sep 2013 Last revised: 26 Apr 2016
Date Written: September 16, 2013
[The updated and completed version of this paper is now at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2769704 so the PDF previously attached to this abstract has now been removed. Please see the new version.]
This article considers how a country's legal scholarship can become a major resource on a free access legal information institute (LII), and the relationship of such a national facility to global legal scholarship facilities such as SSRN's Legal Scholarship Network (LSN) and Google Scholar. It commences with an analysis of the attractions of those global services to authors and users, and by comparison what advantages a nationally-focused scholarship facility can provide. The initial conclusion is that a combination of the two could be the most desirable result for both users and authors. 'Open content' is distinguished from 'free access,' and it is argued that the latter is more important than the former to the public interest in access to scholarship.
AustLII's development since 2008 of the 'Australasian Legal Scholarship Library' is explained. The current version (Stage 1) includes about 55,000 searchable items of free access Australasian legal scholarship in 93 databases (over 100 if law reform databases are counted). The Library includes law journals (most back to their first issues); law school research repositories; judicial scholarship; law texts from open content publishers; and law thesis abstracts. It may be the Internet's second largest national free access collection of legal scholarship, after the US collection in the SSRN/LSN). It also includes the LawCite citator, which automatically tracks citation of scholarship in the case law on AustLII and on all LIIs with which AustLII cooperates.
From 2013-14 the Library is to be expanded (Stage 2) to at least 100,000 searchable items, and improved technically, with research infrastructure funding from the Australian Research Council. In addition to expansion of existing categories, digitised historical law texts and law reform reports are being added. The article considers how the Library Stage 2 must be re-conceptualised in light of what is provided by global legal scholarship services, and the ongoing relationship with such services which is desirable in the interests of its authors and users. Matters discussed include approaches to permissions, collaboration with commercial publishers and other repositories, and proposed technical enhancements such as 'AustLII authors pages', metrics (citation and usage) for each item of scholarship, and for each law journal, improved feedback mechanisms to authors and readers, and similarity-based searching.
The article concludes with an assessment of the factors in the Australian context that have been most conducive to the Library’s development so far. While not all of these may be replicated elsewhere (eg numerous law-school-published journals; research infrastructure funding), most elements are not jurisdiction-specific (or have analogs), and therefore may be of broader relevance.
Keywords: Australia, AustLII, free access to law, open content, scholarship
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