Collection Development Policies and Other Basic Tools for Building A Foreign and International Law Collection[1]


By Barbara H. Garavaglia


Barbara H. Garavaglia is Head of Reference at the University of Michigan Law Library.


Published March 2007
Read the update!


Table of Contents

I. Collection Development Policies and Other Basic Tools for Building a Foreign and International Law Collection

A. Introduction

B. Basic Tools Overview

C. Collection Development Policies in General

D. Organization and Content of FCIL Collection Development Policies

1. Overview

2. Foreign Law

3. International Law and International Organizations

4. Supranational Organizations

5. Religious Legal Systems

E. Collection Depth Indicators in two representative examples of FCIL Collection Development Policies

F. Conclusion

II. Sample Memos and Templates for FCIL Collection Development from the University of Michigan Law Library

A. Sample 1 – Civil Law (Mexico)

B. Sample 2 – Common Law (United States)

C. Sample 3 – International Organization

D. Sample 4 – Template for Individual Country Review Memo

III. Bibliography of Selected Resources for Foreign, Comparative and International Law Collection Development


I. Collection Development Policies and Other Basic Tools for Building Foreign and International Law Collections

A. Introduction

The importance of a basic understanding of foreign, comparative and international law (FCIL) research has long been recognized by the law library community.  As the legal profession, and consequently legal education broadened in scope to include international and foreign law components, law librarians were at the forefront in developing the knowledge and skills needed to meet the legal information needs of library users in a legal climate increasingly affected by or directly involved with foreign and/or international law.  Numerous articles, research guides and foreign and international law portals and websites have been created and maintained by law librarians with expertise in researching the laws of foreign jurisdictions and/or international law. These tools have helped to make foreign and international legal research accessible to researchers, librarians, lawyers and law students who are unfamiliar with foreign and international law resources and research techniques.


As the demand for foreign and international law research resources has increased, the related need for librarians in academic and law firm libraries to learn the basics of foreign and international law collection development has become more urgent.  Law librarians are expected to build collections to support foreign and international legal research and new transnational law curricula in law schools even if they have not specialized in FCIL work.[2]  The need for FCIL collection development training has been recognized in law library literature[3] and in programs offered during American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) and regional annual meetings.[4]


The knowledge and skills required to work on FCIL collection development are the same whether you are a U.S. law librarian working with foreign legal materials or you are a law librarian from outside the U.S. for whom the law of the U.S. and other jurisdictions is foreign law.  Collection development work draws upon your legal research skills, your ability to organize your thinking and your work into systematic steps, your ability to exercise judgment in assessing the value of sources (as you must do when performing research) and your ability to articulate the rationale behind your choices to provide a framework for future decision-making.  As with the other work we do in law librarianship, it is not a rote process – analytical skill and sound judgment are both critical.  Foreign, comparative and international law collection development work also requires a willingness to work with (or cope with) the unfamiliar, e.g., foreign languages, different legal systems, the complex publication patterns of international organizations.


Fortunately, the basic tools needed for developing foreign and/or international law collections are more accessible and available than ever before.  So, even if you are new to collection development, or experienced with collection development for your home jurisdiction but unfamiliar with FCIL collection development, you do not need to start from scratch.  What are these tools and where can you find them?


B. Basic Tools Overview


The basic tools for building, maintaining and/or refining a foreign, comparative or international law collection are:

1.     The Collection Development Policy, your blueprint or “architectural drawing” for “building” your FCIL collection.

2.     A basic understanding of different types of legal systems and the content and scope of international law and international organizations:

a.     Types of legal systems include civil law systems; common law systems; religious legal systems (Canon law, Islamic law, Jewish law, Roman law, etc.); “mixed” systems (based on common law or civil law models and influenced or affected by custom, religious law, etc.);

b.     International law covers a range of systems and international organizations, including public international law, private international law (sometimes covered under foreign and comparative law); major international law subject areas, e.g., human rights and international trade; the documents and workings of international organizations, e.g., the United Nations and the World Trade Organization; and supranational organizations, i.e., the European Union.

3.     Knowledge of the structure of the legal system of the jurisdiction/s of interest, the system of public international law and its sources of law, and the structure, organization, powers and legal context in which an international organization operates.

4.     Once you learn about the structure of the legal system in question, you will need information about what is published and in what form for the jurisdiction, international organization or area of international law, for example, important sources of primary law, finding aids and secondary sources such as books and journals.  In other words, you must find out how and where the law is published, analyzed and discussed.

FCIL research guides (see Bibliography of Selected Resources infra at p. 28) are excellent starting points for obtaining this information, and in many cases will provide a solid foundation for the development of a core collection list for different areas of your law library’s FCIL collection.[5]

5.     A basic understanding of the hierarchy of authority between the different sources of law in the jurisdiction or international body, including the role of secondary sources.  In other words, you need knowledge of how legal research is done in the jurisdiction or legal system or with respect to a body of international law or an international organization.

This is important because it will influence your choices about what to collect to support different levels of research for different jurisdictions.  For example, in civil law jurisdictions, legislation is mandatory authority, but judicial opinions are considered persuasive authority because they are decided on an individual basis and the principle of stare decisis is not applied as it is in common law jurisdictions.  “Doctrine” (treatises, monographs on specific topics, journal articles) also has persuasive authority in civil law jurisdictions and a respected treatise is often considered more persuasive that a judicial opinion.  This difference in the legal authority accorded to court opinions in civil law and common law legal systems has resulted in a difference in how court opinions are published in the different systems.  The publication of court opinions may be less systematic and comprehensive in civil law jurisdictions, and court opinions are often found in journals rather than court reports.  This difference in how cases are published will affect what types and levels of court opinions you decide to include in your foreign law collection and how you will collect them for civil law countries.  Similarly, if you are a law librarian in a civil law jurisdiction beginning to develop a collection for a common law jurisdiction, e.g., the U.S., you will need to recognize the importance of collecting or providing access to the huge volume of systematically and comprehensively published judicial opinions published by the U.S. federal and state court systems because court opinions are mandatory authority within the jurisdictional authority of the different courts.

6.     Knowledge of the legal terminology used in a jurisdiction or area of international law and how areas of law (legal subjects) are categorized in the jurisdiction.  This is especially important when the terminology varies from what you are accustomed to in the legal system most familiar to you.  For example, learning which subjects are categorized as public and private law in civil law jurisdictions will help you when you are searching for books on a topic for a civil law jurisdiction, when you are reviewing book ads and book slips and when you are establishing subject parameters for an approval plan.  Learning the broad topics into which American, British and other common law jurisdictions categorize areas of law will similarly assist law librarians from other countries and legal systems.  This type of information is typically available in legal research guides or books for law students on the fundamentals of legal research for their jurisdiction.

7.     Dictionaries – bilingual general dictionaries for the language of the jurisdiction, and more importantly, bi-lingual legal dictionaries to provide some access to the language of the law of the jurisdiction.

8.     Information about how to access and/or acquire access to or ownership of primary law and/or secondary sources about the law of the jurisdiction or body of international law.  For example, important publishers for a jurisdiction or international organization; important vendors for a jurisdiction or international organization; different methods of obtaining material, e.g., individual orders, approval plans, blanket orders, etc.; methods of finding out about what is available, e.g., book ads, book slips, publisher catalogs and websites, book reviews, new title announcements, bibliographic utilities (e.g., WorldCat), on-line catalogs of law libraries with existing foreign, religious or international law collections, research guides, bibliographies, e-mail alerts, listservs, blogs, etc.

9.     People: Whether you are drafting or revising a collection development policy or making decisions about what to add or weed from your collection, people are one of your most important resources.  What people?

a.     FCIL librarians who are experts in FCIL collection development share their knowledge and help with collection development (and research) questions through their participation in the FCIL collection development blog and/or the FCIL-SIS Discussion Forum (for FCIL-SIS members; or by direct contact.  The law librarians who are members of the International Association of Law Libraries (IALL) are also an excellent source of information on legal publications for their home and other jurisdictions; see for information about becoming a member of IALL and participating in the IALL member listserv.

b.     Law faculty[6], especially members of the faculty who are experts and involved in international and/or foreign law scholarship and teaching.

c.     LLM and SJD students from foreign law jurisdictions are often very willing to work with you on collection development questions relating to their home countries, to help you with translations of the language of the law, and to help you understand important areas of law for their jurisdictions.


C. Collection Development Policies in General


The blueprint for building any library collection, whether tangible or virtual, is a collection development policy.  Collection development policies are written statements of goals and evaluative parameters to guide decision-making in selecting material for addition to a library collection; they are crucial to well thought out, consistent and usable collections.  While collection development policies may specifically dictate some decisions (we purchase X type of material, we do not purchase Y type of material), they also leave a great deal of room for the application of educated professional judgment in building a collection.


Most academic law libraries have written collection development policies.[7]  If your library’s policy already includes a section on foreign, comparative and/or international law, you are ahead of the game, even if the policy requires revision or updating to reflect the current state of FCIL publishing or to make it more usable.  If the policy does not include a section on foreign or international law, your first challenge will be to draft such a policy as an addendum to your existing collection development policy or as a separate document.  Thankfully, there is no need to reinvent the wheel – many academic law library collection development polices include FCIL sections,[8] and many are available on the web in the Academic Law Libraries-SIS Collection Development website and in the “Law Library Collection Development Policies: Policy Documents and Resources” website[9].


Before you embark on a project to draft or revise collection development policies for foreign and/or international law, you should prepare yourself by:



D. Organization and Content of FCIL Collection Development Policies

1. Overview


Law libraries organize their collection development policies in a variety of ways, depending on their approach to collection development and the size, breadth, depth, and sometimes age, of their collections.  Since collection development policies are designed to provide a blueprint for ongoing work, tailoring the policy to your library’s needs and work methodology is important.  An added benefit of taking the preliminary step of reviewing other FCIL collection development policies is that your review of other FCIL policies will also help you identify an organizational style that best meets the needs of your library, even though the policy you like best will likely require modification to achieve the best fit.


Although there are variations in organization, style and wording, law library collection development policies in general share certain common features, even if they do not use identical organizational categories.


Typical components of collection development policies include:


2. Foreign Law


Foreign law sections of collection development policies are typically organized by


Both arrangements for foreign law are then usually further subdivided by type of publication, for example,


Subject based policy components are sometimes, but not always common to both civil law and common law components of a policy, or to all included jurisdictions.  This depends on how the law library has customized its collection depth indicators. For example, libraries that only apply the indicators to subjects may share subject lists across jurisdictions and legal systems, but law libraries that have revised the indicator levels to cover both primary and secondary material may have separate indicator level definitions for common law jurisdictions, civil law jurisdictions and international law.


3. International Law and International Organizations


International law sections of polices may be divided into two broad categories as illustrated below:

·      Public International law may be subdivided by type of publication, and/or area of international law, and/or subject, for example,

o   Treaties, judicial and other adjudicative opinions 

o   Sources of customary international law

o   Human rights

o   International trade

o   Other secondary materials organized by subjects to which “collection intensity levels have been applied.

·      International Organizations policy sections are usually divided into separate sections to take into account their different structures and variant methods and systems of publishing their “primary materials” (documents), e.g., United Nations, World Trade Organization, International Chamber of Commerce, etc.

Policy sections on secondary materials about the work of international organizations may be subdivided by type of publication and subject, often with collection depth indicators applied.


4. Supranational Organizations


Supranational organizations, i.e., the European Union, will also typically be covered in a separate section of a policy, then subdivided by type of publication (primary and secondary) and further subdivided the way foreign law sections are subdivided, with collection intensity levels assigned to subjects.


5. Religious Legal Systems


Religious legal systems are usually also divided into discrete policy sections because of the variations in the sources of law and publication patterns between systems.  Common religious law systems typically found in FCIL collection development policies include Canon law, Islamic law, Jewish law, Roman law.  Each section is further subdivided as foreign law sections are subdivided, with collection intensity levels assigned to subjects.


E. Collection Depth Indicators in Collection Development Policies:  Two Representative Examples


An important and useful tool for FCIL collection development work is the previously noted concept of “collection depth indicators” or “collection intensity levels.”  Establishing collection depth indicators within your FCIL collection development policy is strongly recommended because using collecting levels will increase the efficiency of your FCIL selection work and the usability of your FCIL collection development policy.  The presence of established collection depth indicators in your FCIL collection development policy will also be invaluable when you are setting up approval plans in which you must indicate desired collecting levels by subject. 


Two representative examples of collection depth indicators seen in law library FCIL policies are:


Example 1Indicator levels that are designed and defined to apply only to secondary law materials, typically assigned to subject lists within a collection development policy.  A list of indicators and definitions using this model from the University of Michigan Law Library Collection Development Policy[17] appears below.  Note that these indicators are applied to a list of subjects for which the library collects secondary materials at the assigned level.  It is also worth noting that a law library that uses this type of collecting level will of necessity have to address the collecting of primary material in a different way, for example using the subdivisions for types of primary material by country as described on p.7. This may result in a more complicated policy structure than found in policies that use Example 2 described later.


Level 5 Comprehensive

Goal: To support the highest level of faculty research in both a current and historical framework.

Current Sources:  To achieve the aim of this level, an exhaustive collection, we collect all current monographs, serials, and reference tools within scope that support scholarly research.


Historical Sources:  Older materials are collected if critical for historical research.


Translations:  We will acquire English, or Romance or Germanic language if English is unavailable, translations of vernacular works in the collection if they substantially enhance the collection.


Level 4 Research

Goal: To support faculty and graduate law student instruction and research on the topic, including research for dissertations, graduate papers, and independent scholarly research and writing.


Current Sources:  To provide a strong foundation for current and future research needs, we collect all basic reference works, a wide selection of monographs, an extensive collection of journals, and a complete set of secondary source finding aids that support scholarly research.


Historical Sources:  Older materials may be acquired if critical for historical research.


Translations:  We will acquire English translations of major vernacular works in the collection.


Level 3 Instructional Support

Goal:  To support instruction and basic research, but not necessarily adequate for intensive scholarly research.


Current Sources:  To provide instructional support, we collect high-quality scholarly monographs, a strong selection of journals, and secondary source finding aids.


Historical Sources:  There is a presumption against acquiring historical materials.


Translations:  We will acquire English translations of major vernacular works in the collection only if the language is neither a Romance nor a Germanic language.


Level 2 Basic Information

Goal:  To aid readers' immediate understanding of a subject and to introduce readers to the subject and the other available sources on that subject.


Current Sources:  To meet this goal, we collect a limited number of major high-quality scholarly monographs and journals, supplemented by secondary source finding aids.


Historical Sources:  There is a strong presumption against acquiring historical materials.


Translations:  We prefer works in English for accessibility, but will select in the vernacular to collect the major works.


Level 1 Minimal

Goal:  Not to collect works in this subject area unless specifically requested by the faculty to support the curriculum or to substantially enhance the collection.


Current Sources:  When required for curricular support, we will collect the title requested or a similar work that meets the curricular goals.  In all other cases we will collect individual comprehensive scholarly treatises on the topic.


Historical Sources:  There is a very strong presumption against acquiring historical materials.


Translation:  We will select the language based on the needs of the faculty member and students requesting and using the work.


Example of application of collecting levels to subjects for civil law countries from the University of Michigan Law Library Collection Development Policy:


Excerpt from Topic List Arranged Alphabetically

Accounting & the Law [1]

Administrative Law [3]

Admiralty (Int'l Sel.)

Agency Law [2]

Agriculture Law [1]

Air and Space Law (Int'l Sel.)


Alternative Dispute Res. [3]

Art Law [2]

Banking Law [3]

Bankruptcy Law [3]

Canon Law [4]

Children and the Law [3]



Example 2A second representative model of collection depth indicator is customized to apply to both primary and secondary legal materials.  Libraries that use this model in their policies, including Duke University Law Library and the University of Minnesota Law Library, have different definitions for levels to be applied to civil law countries and common law countries and/or international law materials.  A list of indicators and definitions using this model from the Duke University Law Library Collection Development Policy for Foreign Law[18] appears below. Note that these indicators are applied to a list of countries for which the library collects primary and secondary materials at the assigned levels.  Libraries that use this model may have easier to follow, less complicated policies than libraries that use model 1, but libraries using model 2 may choose to establish separate definitional levels for different types of legal systems and for international law because the primary sources may differ too much for common definitions to be applied.


 “The description of the current collecting level for a jurisdiction does not include materials that are available in collective works covering many countries, such as Constitutions of the Countries of the World or Commercial Laws of the World, or in periodicals such as Commonwealth Law Bulletin.


0 - Out of Scope:

The Library does not collect any materials for this jurisdiction.


1 - Minimal:

A rudimentary collection of works about a jurisdiction, designed to give an overview of that jurisdiction's legal system. It includes general works and works on major subject areas (e.g. constitutional law)

in English.


Primary Materials: The Library does not collect codes or court reports.


Secondary Materials: The Library collects English language general works, and a limited number of works in English on major subject areas (e.g. business law).


2 - Basic Information:

A collection of materials that serves to describe and define the legal system of a jurisdiction, and to indicate the varieties of information available elsewhere. It includes general works and works on selected subject areas in English and major European languages. It may also include dictionaries, encyclopedias, selected editions of important works, historical surveys, bibliographies, handbooks, and a few major periodicals, in the minimum number that will serve the purpose. A basic information collection is not sufficiently intensive to support any advanced undergraduate or graduate courses or independent study. The Library relies on other libraries for more specialized materials.


Primary Materials: The Library collects selected codes or collections of statutes based on subject. The Library collects court reports from the highest court in common law jurisdictions. Codes and court reports should be as current as possible.


Secondary Materials: The Library does not collect any court reports for civil law jurisdictions. The Library collects selected English translations of codes based on subject. The Library collect s general works on the legal system as well as works on major subject areas, such as contracts, business law, etc. The Library collects secondary works in English and major European languages.


3 - Instructional Support:

A collection that is adequate to support most graduate instruction, or sustained independent study; that is, adequate to maintain knowledge of the legal system of a jurisdiction required for limited or generalized purposes of less than research intensity. It includes most primary sources, a wide range of basic monographs, complete collections of the works of more important writers, selections from the works of secondary writers, a selection of representative specialized journals, reference tools, and fundamental bibliographic apparatus. Practitioners' guides and loose-leaf services, unless essential to a subject area, will not be purchased. Expensive monographs and serials are collected very selectively.


Primary Materials: The Library collects major codes or collections of statutes based on subject. The Library collects court reports from the highest court, and selected reports from lower courts in common law jurisdictions.


Secondary Materials: The Library collects selected court reports from civil law jurisdictions. The Library buys English translations of codes and court reports. The Library collects works in English and the vernacular on the legal system in general and on selected specialized subjects.


4 - Research:

A collection that includes the major published source materials about the legal system of a jurisdiction required for dissertations and independent research. It is intended to include most primary sources, important reference works, a wide selection of specialized monographs, as well as a very extensive collection of journals and major indexing and abstracting services in the field. Only the most important loose-leaf services or other materials requiring frequent supplementation will be purchased. Practitioners' guides, unless essential to a subject area, will not be purchased. Expensive monographs and serials are collected selectively.


Primary Materials: The Library collects most codes or collections of statutes for both civil law and common law jurisdictions, and collects most court reports in common law countries.


Secondary Materials: The Library collects most court reports in civil law countries. The Library collects English translations of codes and court reports. The Library collects works in English and the vernacular on the legal system in general and on wide variety of specialized subjects.


5 - Comprehensive:

A collection in which a library endeavors, so far as is reasonably possible, to include all significant works of recorded knowledge (including manuscripts, dissertations, etc.) about a legal system, in all applicable languages. This level of collection intensity is one that maintains a "special collection;" the aim, if not the achievement, is exhaustiveness. Reserved for jurisdictions for which the Library has or seeks to have historically extensive collections.


Primary Materials: The Library collects all codes or collections of statutes, and all court reports in common law jurisdictions.


Secondary Materials: The Library collects all court reports in civil law jurisdictions, all translations of codes and court reports, and works in any language on all aspects of the legal system.”[19]


Example of application of collecting levels to countries from the Duke University Law Library Collection Development Policy for Foreign Law:


Excerpt of List Arranged by Region and Country


1996 Levels

Recommended Levels






Burkina Faso

Central African Republic































F. Conclusion


It is hoped that this basic introduction to the basic tools of FCIL collection development will help you get started in FCIL work or give you ideas for revising your current FCIL collection development policies.  While the descriptions of collection development policy structures does not cover all existing and possible arrangements, your reviews of the collection development polices of other law libraries and your review of the research and collection development resources listed in Bibliography of Selected Resources should provide enough variation in style and organization that you will be able to find a policy structure that will work best to achieve your law library’s FCIL collection development aspirations. 


Although not all collection development policies were reviewed in preparation for this program, because of time limitations, the following list identifies some schools whose policies include some FCIL coverage, no matter how minimal.  Those policies that use collection depth indicators are indicated with asterisks.  Note that sometimes a minimal level of description is all you need, especially if you are developing a small or limited collection.  FCIL librarians from non-U.S. law libraries for whom U.S. law is foreign law will find a host of policies on American law for libraries of different sizes in the AALL Academic Law Libraries SIS Collection Development website cited in the bibliography.


Albany Law School Schaffer Law Library

*Arizona State University Law Library

*Ave Maria School of Law Library

*Baylor University School of Law Library

*Boston University Law Library

*Brooklyn Law School Library

*Cornell Law Library

*D’Angelo Law Library, University of Chicago

*Duke University Law Library

*Georgetown University Law Library

*UCLA Law Library

*University of Michigan Law Library

*University of Minnesota Law Library

University of New Mexico Law Library

*Lillian Goldman Law Library Yale Law School


II. Sample Memos and Templates for FCIL Collection Development from the University of Michigan Law Library

Sample 1:  Excerpts from collection development policy memo for individual civil law country (Mexico)[20]


Note:  this type of memo supplements the overall Collection Development Policy of the University of Michigan Law Library.  To develop this supplementary policy for the Law Library’s collection of legal materials for Mexico, the selector reviewed:  1. Legal research guides for Mexico; 2. the content and condition of the law library’s existing collection for Mexico; 3. the collections of Mexican legal materials held by peer law libraries (this review was done by searching the on-line catalogs of peer law libraries, WorldCat and RLIN); 4.  what has been published and what is available in terms of Mexican legal publications.  The selector made recommendations about what should be added to the Law Library’s collection for Mexico in an ongoing way based on the parameters of the Collection Development Policy and the information she gathered in her collection review.  Separate country selection memos of this kind are not incorporated into the overall collection development policy to avoid making it unwieldy with this level of detail.  These memos are filed in what we call our “Selection Policy” collection and are indexed in an Access database.


A. Background

Mexico is a civil law jurisdiction.  Session laws are published first in the official gazette, then codified in commercially published codes, or published individually or in subject compilations.  Mexico does not follow the principle of stare decisis, but the Mexican Supreme Court does produce a limited body of binding case law known as jurisprudencia, which is also published commercially.  The official language for publication of Mexican legal materials is Spanish.


The Law Library’s collection for Mexico, although historically quite complete, shows evidence of some neglect during the past ten years.  There was a flurry of secondary source collection in 1996 and 1997; few secondary sources were selected during the prior six years and virtually no secondary sources have been selected since that time.  All primary materials to which we do not have a standing order (i.e., codes and individually published laws) are from five to 20 years out of date.  All primary materials to which we have a standing order (i.e., official gazette and treaties) are current, with the exception of the Mexico treaty series, which has been sent for claiming.


In working through the Mexico collection, the selector focused on making the collection current, rather than on filling gaps.  1998 was used as a general cutoff date for secondary source materials; working from publishers’ and vendors’ websites, the selector was able to confirm that sources from this time period were in fact currently available.  However, when she ordered new materials she requested that the latest edition of each older imprint be ordered.  


B. Summary of Major Recommendations

·       Periodical literature: Continue current subscriptions to Mexican law journals.  Collect any new law journals that are of high quality, published by a reliable publisher, and/or indexed in IFLP.

·       Secondary materials in English or English translation: Continue collecting high quality, scholarly secondary sources in English or English translation.

·       Legal dictionaries: Continue collecting high quality, scholarly Mexican legal dictionaries.

·       Electronic resources: Once e-policy is in place, consider collection of in-scope electronic resources.

·       Collection at sub-federal level: Continue current policy of not collecting at the sub-federal level.


General Recommendations

As discussed in detail below, Mexico’s legal publishing behavior tends toward one of two extremes:  On the one hand, Mexican legal publishers seem to delight in issuing annual “new editions” of some sources, such as major codifications, whether or not any change in the legislation has occurred; these “new editions” are thus, essentially, reprints.  On the other hand, some sources, such as annotations of codes and primary source finding aids are published only sporadically.


In view of these two opposite behaviors, the general recommendation for a collection development policy for Mexico is twofold:  We should select Mexican materials in due course as slips and book ads arrive, being wary of “new edition reprints;” we should also systematically review and update the Mexican collection on a five-year cycle.  In this way, we will avoid cluttering our shelves with too many “reprint” volumes; at the same time, since Mexican legislation does not often change significantly (see discussion below), a five-year collecting cycle should generally capture all key transformations of Mexican law.  Concurrently, selection of materials in due course will provide our collection with new sources and true updates of owned sources, as they are published.  In this way, I believe we will be able to maintain the currency and completeness necessary for a research-level collection of Mexican legal materials.  These generalized notions of due course selection and a five-year collecting cycle are included in the specific collection recommendations set forth below.[21]


Primary Federal Materials

§  Pursuant to our general collection development policy, we rely on the Constitutions of the World as our primary method of collecting the text of constitutions in the vernacular and English translation.  We also collect scholarly annotated versions of constitutions, as available.  The Mexican constitution is published in the Constitutions of the World, both in Spanish and English translation.

§  Continue to rely on Constitutions of the World.

§  Collect scholarly annotations of the Mexican constitution, as available.

§  Systematically update and search for additional in-scope annotations every five years, beginning with 2000.


There are no official publications of Mexican codes.  The universally accepted “standard” editions of the codes are those published by Porrua Hermanos.  These appear in a new edition every year, regardless of whether any changes in legislation have taken place.  Thus, many “new” editions of Mexican codes are, essentially, reprints. 


Our collection development policy currently states that “important codes” for major countries such as Mexico are updated every two years; “lesser codes” are updated every five years.  This has not occurred, as the codes are anywhere from five to 20 years out of date.  I do not believe that it is necessary to collect new editions of “important” Mexican codes every other year in order to maintain a research-level collection of Mexican materials.


§  Review of the codes indicates that they are not significantly amended more frequently than every eight to 10 years; indeed, the Criminal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure have not been significantly amended since 1931!

§  All laws are published in the Diario oficial, which we will continue to collect because it is the only complete publication of session laws (see “Official Gazette,” below).  Therefore, even if we do not frequently update our codes, we will not be missing any new laws or amendments to existing laws.

·       The Diario oficial runs quite current; as of March 5, 2001, we had received the complete January 2001 issues.

·       The Diario oficial does not have a cumulative index (each daily pamphlet has a table of contents).  Although both Reynolds & Flores and the bibliographic work by Avalos provide Diario oficial citations for legislation, the Mexican official gazette is not an exceptionally accessible source.

·       Mexican codes do not have indexes, either.  Instead, they have general tables of contents.

§  We do not have sufficient shelf space to add materials that do not necessarily enhance our collection, such as “code reprints.”

§  The complete Mexican legislation, updated regularly, is available online from an official government website.

§  Peer libraries have not developed any consistent pattern of updating codes.  Some (Harvard and University of Texas) update yearly.  Others (Boalt) update every two to three years.  Still others (Yale) update every six to eight years.  Further, not all codes are updated at the same time in any of these libraries.

§  Patron perceptions of currency must be addressed.  Even if no substantive changes in the law have taken place during a ten-year period, patrons tend to be skeptical if given a decade-old code and told, “nothing’s changed.”


§  Systematically update Mexican codes every five years, beginning with 2000.

§   Rely on the Diario oficial for interim legislation and amendments.

§  Retain all codes to support historical research and cite-checking.

§  This plan will “split the difference” between currency and necessity.  The plan will not give rise to a space crunch, as only about five new volumes will be added every five years.  The plan is not out of line with what is being done in peer libraries.  Further, a five-year old code does not “feel” significantly out of date; a regular update schedule will give patrons a sense of confidence in our collection and negate any impression that our codes are dated because we collect only haphazardly.


Despite its penchant for publishing “new editions” of codes and non-codified laws, Mexico publishes surprisingly few annotations and commentaries on codes and laws.  Our collection includes some commentaries on some laws; however, none is current.  We should collect current annotations and commentaries on laws, as available.


§  Annotations and commentaries typically provide an in-depth analysis of a law or code, which is important to researchers attempting to understand the law of a foreign jurisdiction.

§  Annotations and commentaries are published in Mexico for important laws only, and appear only to be published in new editions when there is a significant change in law or policy.

§  Overall, very few annotations and commentaries are published in Mexico.

§  Most annotations and commentaries are prepared by well-known scholars in the relevant field of law.


§  Collect high quality, scholarly annotations and commentaries for major laws (including codes), as available. 

§  Update all annotations and commentaries as available (but review this recommendation if it appears that certain annotations and commentaries are beginning to appear as “new edition reprints”).

§  Systematically update and search for additional in-scope annotations and commentaries every five years, beginning with 2000. 

§  Retain all annotations and commentaries to support historical research and cite-checking.

§  This plan will provide researchers with currently available versions of annotations and commentaries for major laws, which many may consider to be the most useful iteration of the law.  Since Mexico appears only to publish selected annotations and commentaries by well-known scholars, the plan should not result in an onslaught of marginal materials.


According to our collection development policy, we collect “session laws, preferably in microform.  We want the session laws for each country even if we also have an authoritative compilation.  We will collect official gazettes for statutes only if neither the session laws nor an authoritative compilation is available.”


In Mexico, the only publication of session laws, and the only “authoritative compilation” of laws, is the official gazette, Diario oficial.  The Diario oficial is not available in microform, nor is it available online free-of-charge.  (See “Electronic Resources,” below, for discussion of fee-based sources.)


§  Continue to collect the Diario oficial for session laws, as set forth in “Official Gazette,” below. 

§  Retain all volumes of the Diario oficial to support historical research and cite-checking.


There is no official reporter for Mexican court reports.  Since all but the lowest courts in Mexico, both state and federal, are courts of record, there has been an enormous body of “case law” created that is, in Tom Reynolds’ words, “quite beyond bibliographic control.”  It is also relatively unimportant, as the only group of cases with precedential significance is the jurisprudencia created by the Supreme Court and federal collegiate courts.  The resource generally considered the most authoritative and comprehensive source for Mexican jurisprudencia is the commercially published Semanario judicial de la Federacion.


The Law Library currently subscribes to the Semanario judicial de la Federacion.  We hold 1871-1959 and 1993-current in bound volumes; we hold 1959-1968 in microfilm.  We are lacking 1969-1992.  (None was published 1986-1987.)  [W]e should continue our current subscription to the Semanario judicial de la Federacion.


·       Recommendations: 

§  Continue our subscription to the Semanario judicial de la Federacion.

§  Rely on interlibrary loan for missing volumes. 

§  Systematically search every five years, beginning in 2000, for publication of the Semanario judicial de la Federacion in microform, to fill gaps.

§  Consider adding official online sources to our catalog, in order to fill gaps.

§  Retain all volumes of the Semanario judicial de la Federacion to support historical research and cite-checking.

§  This plan provides current and most historical jurisprudencia, which is the most important body of Mexican “case law.”  Since other libraries hold the volumes we lack, using interlibrary loan to bridge our approximately 12-year gap should be adequate.  In addition, patrons can be directed to online sources for materials from our gap period.


Secondary Sources

The collection development policy includes a list of secondary source topics and a “collecting strength” for each topic.  We collect secondary materials for foreign civil law jurisdictions based on those strengths.


·       Recommendations:

§  Continue collecting high quality, scholarly subject-specific secondary sources as available, in accordance with the collection strengths listed in the collection development policy.

§  Be very selective when determining whether to collect a new edition of an owned source.  If the new edition appears within only a year or two of the owned source, research the new edition carefully to determine whether it contains sufficient new material to truly enhance our collection.

§  Systematically update and search for additional in-scope subject-specific secondary sources every five years, starting with 2000.  This plan will ensure that new secondary sources are continually added to our collection, but are not updated to a new edition, when such an update would not add substantively to the collection.


§  We should select high quality, scholarly secondary sources in English or English translation whenever possible.  The Library currently owns (or has ordered) all of the in-scope English secondary materials of which I am aware.


Electronic Resources

Currently available electronic resources that we should consider include the following:


·       Subscription Sites

§  Global Legal Information Network (GLIN) (linked through Law Library homepage).  Provides access to virtually all Mexican legislation and regulation from 1996 to current.  Documents are full text scanned, in Spanish, from the Diario oficial, with English summary.  From 1975 to 1995 includes official citation to legislation with brief English summary only.  The GLIN database also includes primary source materials from other jurisdictions. 

§  National Law Center for Inter-American Free Trade <> A subscription database for Latin American legislation, including treaties and international agreements, and secondary materials, including Mexico.  Includes full text versions of sources in Spanish, and provides fee-based translation services.  Covers 23 Latin American countries.  Current fee for university subscription is $395 annually.

·       Free-of-charge Sites

§  InfoJus (Informacíon juridica)  <>  Maintained by the Universidad Nacional Autonomia de Mexico (UNAM).   A comprehensive legal resource on Mexican law; includes statutes, constitutions, regulations, Supreme Court case law, and other information.  In Spanish.

§  Mexican Law <> Maintained by Professor Jose A. Vargas of the University of San Diego School of Law.  “Guide to Electronic Resources for Mexican Law” provides a listing of websites from the U.S., Mexico, and international organizations, with critical comments about each.  In English.

§  Cámara de senadores  <>  The webpage of the Mexican Senate.  Provides much information about the Senate and the issues currently before it.  Iniciativas Presentadas section provides full text of bills formally submitted to the Senate.  In Spanish. 

§  Legislacion Federal de Mexico  <>  Full text of the entire Mexican federal legislation.  In Spanish.  Contains archived material.  Possible for homepage link and/or for catalog to bridge gaps in the Diario oficial.

§  Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nacion <>   The webpage of the Supreme Court of Mexico.  Consulta de Jurisprudencia y Tesis Aisladas desde 1917 section includes jurisprudencia and tesis from 1917 to current.  Updated monthly.  In Spanish.  Possible for homepage link and/or for catalog to bridge gaps in the Semanario judicial de la Federacion.     


Sample 2:  Collection development policy memo for individual common law country (United States)


1)     Federal Primary Material

a)     We maintain an extensive collection of federal primary material,

b)     We acquire all federal annotated Constitutions, statutes, and codes.

c)     Constitution We primarily rely on the United States Code, the privately published annotated codes, and the Library of Congress Constitution of the United States: Analysis and Interpretation for the text of the U.S. Constitution.

d)     Statutes

e)     Session Laws: We acquire the official Statutes at Large in paper and microfiche, as well as the bound unofficial United States Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN) for the text of federal session laws.  We rely on the official slip law version of Statutes at Large and the unofficial advance sheets to the United States Code Service and USCCAN for the text of new federal laws.

f)     Code:  We acquire the official United States Code in paper and microfiche.  We also acquire the privately published annotated codes in paper.  We maintain a collection of all superseded volumes of the official and unofficial versions of the United States Code.

g)     Legislative documents:

i)     We obtain all significant Congressional material for use in research on the legislative history of federal laws, including hearings, reports, committee prints, bills, and congressional debates.  We rely primarily on CIS microfiche for such legislative documents.  However, we also collect selected compiled legislative histories in paper for major legislation of interest to our faculty.  We subscribe to the Congressional Record in both paper and microfiche.  We rely on the GPO bills in microfiche for current bills, and the CIS microfiche for older bills.

h)    Court Opinions:

i)     We acquire sufficient reporters to cover all reported decisions of U.S. federal courts at all levels, both official and unofficial.

ii)   We acquire advance sheets for all reporters of federal opinions, but collect slip opinions only for the U.S. Supreme Court and all the federal Circuit Courts of Appeals.  We rely on Lexis, Westlaw, and the World Wide Web for the slip opinions of lower federal courts.

i)      Rules of Procedure and Evidence and Court Rules [We collect all; policy needs to be articulated.]

j)      Administrative regulations and decisions

i)     We acquire a collection of all federal regulations by subscribing to the Code of Federal Regulations and the Federal Register.

ii)   We maintain a collection of superseded regulations by acquiring and keeping all superseded volumes of the Code of Federal Regulations and the Federal Register in microfiche.

iii) We buy agency produced compilations of laws or regulations on a highly selective basis.

iv)  We also rely on topical looseleaf services in highly regulated areas, e.g., securities and taxation, for access to federal administrative regulations.

v)    We acquire, where available, the official decisions of all federal administrative tribunals.

vi)  We also rely on topical looseleaf services for the text of and indexing to such decisions, either when the official versions are not otherwise available, or to supplement the official publication when the looseleaf service provides more reliable, or timely, or superior intellectual access than the official version.

k)    We acquire documents of the Office of the President.

l)      Government studies, surveys, statistics, and other documents

i)     We collect all studies issued by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and similar bodies, and all court statistics.

ii)   We collect other reports, surveys, and studies issued by the federal government which meet our standards for acquiring secondary material.

m)   Indexes and Digests


i)     We buy indexes and digests needed to provide adequate intellectual access to our collection of U.S. documents and primary material.


2)    State Primary Material

a)     We maintain an expansive collection of state primary material, and we are a legislative depository for Michigan documents.  Territories are to be considered as states for all collection development purposes.

b)     We buy the annotated codes, official codes, and session laws of every state and territory.  We buy sufficient reporters to cover all reported court decisions.

c)     We buy all official state court reporters for intermediate and highest appellate courts of every state and territory.  We also buy all published official court reporters for the states’ lower and trial courts.

d)     We collect state level administrative regulations and codes only for the following states:  Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, California, and Texas [being reconsidered 2001 by KCB].

e)     We are a legislative depository library for the State of Michigan and we buy or receive on depository virtually all primary material for the state of Michigan, including bills, enrolled bills, legislative analyses, House and Senate journals, and published decisions of administrative tribunals.  We add substantive Michigan documents on subjects of interest to the collection.

f)     As a general rule, we obtain the proceedings of constitutional conventions of all states.

g)     We obtain the decisions of state administrative tribunals from a few selected states other than Michigan (New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, California and Texas?).  We will buy only those series of decisions that are of current interest within the law school.

h)    We buy substantive official reports, studies, and surveys, from any state in areas of interest or upon faculty advice or request.

i)      We collect official state documents and reports (for all states) on the following subjects:

j)      gender, racial and other bias in the courts;

i)     child support guidelines;

ii)   sentencing guidelines and issues, including civil commitment and “Megan’s Law;”

iii) assisted suicide/right to die;

iv)  courts and judges, in general;

v)    representation in the courts;

vi)  voting and election law – specifically dealing with discrimination, equality, and rights;

vii)Native American/Indian rights;

viii)       civil justice/tort reform;

k)    historical documents focused on state courts or attorneys general; and documents in areas of faculty interest or legal significance.

i)     For all of these areas, the reports should be substantive, should not be draft or summary reports, and should have a statewide focus.  We will collect more broadly for Michigan. 

ii)   Types of state documents that are not wanted for the collection include, but are not limited to:

(1)   hearings and reports;

(2)  reports and discussions of bills and proposed legislation;

(3)  guides for legislators and judges;

(4)  current awareness serials;

(5)  legislative rules; and,

(6)  documents with a county or city focus.

l)      We obtain court rules for all 50 states and territories; annotated court rules are preferred where available.


3)    Secondary Material

a)     We buy all significant monographs and treatises dealing with those subject areas in which we collect.  We are particularly interested in scholarly works of legal history, law reform, jurisprudence and empirical research.

b)     We buy practitioner-oriented material very selectively.

c)     We buy secondary material dealing with practice in the following states very selectively:  New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and California.  For Michigan we buy significant, practitioner-oriented, secondary material more broadly.

d)     We buy all law reviews published by American law schools.

e)     We do not buy textbooks, except those intended for law schools, or of significant use to our students.  We buy all "hornbooks" and nutshells.  We buy selected casebooks; e.g., those being used in a law class, or classic works.  We do not buy Gilbert's Outlines or similar publications.

f)     We buy digests and indexes necessary to locate information within our primary and secondary collections.

g)     Indian Nations:  Subject only to limits of cost or quality, we will buy all primary and secondary material relating to the legal status of Native Americans in the United States.   


Sample 3:  International Organization selection memo


Collection Development Policy for International Chamber of Commerce Publications

The Law Library selectively collects the publications of the International Chamber of Commerce.  Factors determining or affecting the decision to select include: 



Length of document (i.e., number of pages) is not a factor in selecting "primary" material.


I.  Material Acquired If/ When Published:



A. Decisions and arbitral awards of ICC bodies for the settlement of disputes


1.  Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce

2.  Standing Committee on Regulation of Contractual Relations

3.  International Council on Marketing Practice

4.  ICC Commission on Banking Technique and Practice

5.  Other and/or future arbitral bodies of the ICC


B.  Arbitration rules issued by the ICC or ICC committees


c.  Uniform or model rules or codes and/or regulations drafted/issued by the ICC relating to legal aspects of conducting business or to the conduct and self-regulation of marketing sectors. (e.g., ICC uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits)



A.  ICC monographs describing, analyzing or providing guidance on ICC arbitration practice and procedure.


b.  ICC treatises comprehensively treating legal aspects of international trade, taxation, banking, EC, GATT in international business


c.  Very conservatively selected ICC monographs relating to international trade or finance (i.e., purchase if faculty request and not available on campus or via ILL, and if faculty suggest that we should have in collection to support research or teaching.)


D.  ICC arbitration statistics (if any) describing quantitatively ICC dispute settlement activity.


II. Material NOT Collected

A.  Monographs, handbooks, journals, newsletters, pamphlets relating solely to business or finance (i.e., no discussion of legal aspects of business)


B.  Law-related monographs, handbooks, journals , newsletters, pamphlets designed to instruct business people or lawyers in legal aspects of business, international trade or finance, banking, taxation, etc. (i.e., "practitioner"-oriented works)


C.  Statistics (general business or international trade etc.)  


D. Sample 4:  Template for individual country review memo[22]




Collection Development Review for ___________



__________ is a civil law/common law/mixed jurisdiction.  The official language for publication of ______ legal materials is ________.



PRIMARY FEDERAL MATERIALS (list titles for each category and purchase recommendations):


Individually Published Laws:

Annotations and Commentaries:

Session Laws:

Official Gazette

Court Reports:


Primary Materials in English Translation:


SECONDARY MATERIALS (list titles for each category and purchase recommendations):


General Secondary Sources:

Subject-Specific Secondary Sources:

Periodical Literature:

Secondary Materials in English or English Translation:


ELECTRONIC RESOURCES (list websites/resources for each category and purchase recommendations):


Free web-based:









Sample 5:  Worksheet for individual country review[23]




Geographic Region:


Major Language/s of Legal Publications:


Type of legal system:


__ Civil Law

__ Common Law

__ Mixed system: __civil law __common law __ religious law (__________) __ Other:

                  __ Religious law:  __ Canon law __ Islamic Law __ Jewish law __ Roman law __ Other:


Location of current collection:


Completion date of country review:




Steps in the Review Process:

  1. Learn the Legal System

What is the nature of the country’s legal system?  What are the major historical events that influenced the development of the modern legal system?


Note:  much of this information is found in Reynolds and Flores Foreign Law: Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World and may also be found in foreign law research guides for individual foreign jurisdictions.


  1. Search Primary Materials

Using Reynolds and Flores, research guides and pathfinders, identify primary law sources and compare with your current holdings.  Identify gaps in collection and materials to be withdrawn.


Check for the following primary sources:

__ Constitution

__ Codes

__ Individually published laws

__ Annotations and commentaries

__ Session laws

__ Official gazette

__ Court reports

__ Treaties

__ Primary sources in English translation

__ Primary source finding aids

__ Administrative law

**__ Check that you hold Blue Book sources for citation

**__ Check that you hold what the country uses for citation

__ Sub-federal materials review (decide whether or not to collect at the sub-federal level for the country)


  1. Search for Electronic Sources

__ Consult Reynolds and Flores, research guides and the web for electronic sources of the country’s laws.  Identify sites the library might consider subscribing to and/or adding to the library webpage or to the on-line catalog.


  1. Search for Secondary Materials

Compare your existing collection to sources listed in Reynolds and Flores and/or other research guides, collections of other law libraries (found by searching on-line catalogs of other law libraries, RLIN/WorldCat), according to collection intensity levels listed for each subject to be searched.  Identify gaps in collection and any materials to be withdrawn.  Set a date cut-off for searching if it makes sense for the particular review.  Note that the collection intensity levels set for subjects may also be used to set up parameters of approval plans; some approval plan vendors may use LC subject headings, so you may want to use LC subject headings to set collection intensity levels for secondary legal materials.


Subjects collected at Level 5 (Comprehensive)

__ Comparative law

__ Conflict of laws (use conflict of laws--[subject]--[country]

__ Constitutional law (also search by constitutional history--)

__ Indigenous peoples (use indigenous peoples--; use also Indians)

__ Jurisprudence

__ Legal history (use law--[country]--history)


Subjects collected at Level 4 (Research)

__ Canon law

__ Civil rights

__ Commercial law

__ Copyright law (use copyright--)

__ Corporations law (use corporation law--)

__ Courts (use also judicial power--; judges--)

__ Criminal law

__ Customary law

__ Environmental law

__ Immigration law (for Mexico and Canada) (use emigration and immigration--; emigration and immigration law--; aliens--)

__ Islamic law

__ Jewish law

__ Labor law (use labor laws and legislation--)

__ Legal research (use also law--[country]--interpretation and construction)

__Restraint of trade (antitrust)

__Roman law

__Securities law (use securities--; use also stock exchange--laws and legislation--)

__Taxation (general) (use also taxation--[country]-- laws and legislation)

__Taxation (transnational)


Subjects collected at Level 3 (Instructional)


Subjects collected at Level 2 (Minimal) 


Subjects collected at Level 1 (virtually nothing) 


Journals and Dictionaries

__ Using IFLP, RLIN/WorldCat, peer library on-line catalogs, and research guides, identify major legal journals, serials and festschriften; compare to your collection.  Identify gaps and materials to be withdrawn.

__ Identify dictionaries, both legal and non-legal, to be added to the collection or withdrawn.


  1. Identify possible approval plan sources

__ Work with Acquisitions department to identify possible approval plan vendor for the jurisdiction and to gather information to assess feasibility and desirability of an approval plan for the jurisdiction’s legal materials.


  1. Draft policy for the country and establish a collection review schedule

__ Draft a detailed collection development policy for the country

__ Submit policy to the Collection Development Committee for approval

__ Select identified materials and send through for purchase

__ Establish a comprehensive collection review schedule for the country’s collection, e.g., 2 years, 5 years, etc.


Part III.  Bibliography of Selected Resources on Foreign, Comparative and International Law Collection Development

With contributions from Barbara Garavaglia, Marci Hoffman,

Heidi Kuehl, Lyonnette Louis-Jacques and Marilynn Raisch



NoteAsk colleagues in other law libraries for copies of their collection development policies if not found in one of the above two websites.



Workshop Handouts


Selected Articles on Collection Development and Related Topics


Book Reviews and New Title Alerts


Resources for Learning about the Legal Systems and Publications of Foreign Jurisdictions, International law and International organizations

Foreign and international law research guides are invaluable FCIL collection development tools; they are published in a variety of ways – as articles in traditional law or law librarianship journals, as individual articles and guides published on the web in FCIL websites, as individual monographs, or as multi-jurisdictional, multi-volume works.


In addition to describing the process of legal research for the covered jurisdiction/s or area/s of international law, most research guides include title and publication information about major primary and secondary sources and finding aids that are essential additions to FCIL research collections.  Because they so often identify the essential sources of foreign and international law, FCIL research guides also provide an informational foundation for the development of foreign and international “core collections” lists for the jurisdictions and areas of international law covered.  Some major resources include:




[1] This article is a revised version of a handout created for a program on “Developing Foreign, Comparative and International Law Collections: Sources, Strategies and Techniques” presented at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Law Libraries in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.

[2] For example, U.S. academic law libraries follow ABA Standards for Approved Law Schools, Standard  605 (c) which states that “a law library shall also provide a collection that, through ownership or reliable access, (1) meets the research needs of the law school's students, satisfies the demands of the law school curriculum, and facilitates the education of its students; (2) supports the teaching, scholarship, research and service interests of the faculty.“  (emphasis supplied)

[3] See, for example Betty Haugen, “The Impact of Globalization on Law Libraries,” Int’l J. Legal Information 33, no. 3 (2005): 471-8.

[4] FCIL collection development programs at past AALL annual meetings include “"Parlez-vous le droit?: Collecting Legal Materials in Foreign Languages, The Jeopardy Game” (AALL 2004 in Boston); "The International Law/International Relations Connection ­ Internationalizing Law Library Collections" (AALL 2002); “New Realities for Developing Global Collections: New Approaches and Cooperative Projects” (AALL 2001); “Building the Global Law Library” (AALL 1995).  The October 2003 Mid-America Association of Law Libraries annual meeting also included a program on “Developing Foreign, Comparative and International Law Collections.”

[5] “Core collections” lists are a useful tool to help you identify what is most essential for your collection and also to provide a shorthand way to describe what you want to collect for a foreign jurisdiction or international organization.  A core collection is “[a] collection representative of the basic information needs of a library's primary user group. . . . In academic libraries, selection is based on curriculum need, and collections are maintained to meet the research interests of students and faculty.”  ODLIS — Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science by Joan M. Reitz at

Interpretation 606-5 of the ABA Standards for Approved Law Schools lists a core collection for American law collections, but the ABA has not yet defined a core collection for FCIL collections.  This list may be useful to non-U.S. law librarians who want to develop a collection of U.S. legal materials.

[6] Academic law librarians in the U.S. and other countries confer with their law faculties or faculty library committees regarding collection development.  Note that Interpretation 606-6 from the ABA Standards for Approved Law Schools in the U.S. indicates that “The dean, faculty, and director of the law library should cooperate in formulation of the collection development plan.” See standards and interpretations relating to U.S. law library collections at

[7] Academic law libraries in the U.S. follow ABA Standard for Approved Law Schools 606 (c) which dictates that “A law library shall formulate and periodically update a written plan for development of the collection.”  Other countries may have similar rules relating to the law library component of legal education.

[8] See, for example, the illustrative list of law libraries with FCIL collection development policies on p. 13 of this handout.

[9] Edited by Alan Keely (last updated January 3, 2003).  Click on “Links to Library Collection Development Policies By Special Material Type” at bottom of page, then on “Foreign & International Resources.”

[10] University of Michigan Law Library Collection Development Policy (Last updated July 12, 2005), p. 7

[11] Lillian Goldman Library, Yale Law School Collection Development Policy, Preliminary ed. (2004), p. 3

[12] University of Michigan Law Library Collection Development Policy at p. 7-9.

[13] Id.

[14] See, for  example, Lillian Goldman Library, Yale Law School Collection Development Policy, Preliminary ed. (2004), p. 4; Cornell Law Library Collection Development Policy, p. 5.

[15] See Duke University Law Library, Collection Development Policy for Foreign Law (April 1999), Section II. Analysis and Recommendations at 

[16] “Collection depth indicators are numerical values that are used to describe a library’s collecting activity levels and goals.  They are used to characterize three different aspects of collection management . . . :  current collection level, acquisition commitment and collection goal.”  Columbia University Libraries Collection Development website, section on “Collection Depth Indicators” at  The collection depth indicators shown in this site were developed and revised by the Research Libraries Group, the Association of Research Libraries and WLN.  Most law libraries that use collection depth or intensity indicators have modified and customized them to make them useful for their own collections and practices.

[17] The foreign civil law section of the University of Michigan Law Library Collection Development Policy and the collection intensity levels found in this section of the policy were drafted by Jonathan Franklin during his tenure at the University of Michigan Law Library as the Foreign and Comparative Law reference librarian; this section of the policy was approved as drafted by the University of Michigan Law Library Collection Development Committee.

[19] Duke University Law Library Collection Development Policy for Foreign Law 

[20] Created by Beatrice Tice, Foreign and Comparative reference librarian at the University of Michigan Law Library 2000–2003.

[21] The selector created a ten-year “tickler file” to remind herself (or the then-current Foreign and Comparative Law Librarian) to do a systematic review of the Mexican collection, as set forth in these recommendations, in 2005.

[22] Created by Beatrice Tice, Foreign and Comparative reference librarian at the University of Michigan Law Library 2000 – 2003 to complete country by country collection reviews and recommendations; modified slightly for this handout.

[23] Created by Beatrice Tice, Foreign and Comparative reference librarian at the University of Michigan Law Library 2000 – 2003 to complete searching and research for country by country foreign collection reviews; modified slightly for this handout.

[24] Click on Subject browse, then on “Foreign Law” to find this list of foreign and international law research guides, power point presentations on foreign and international legal research, etc.

[25] “Research Guides: Foreign and Comparative Law,” Duke University Law Library website at

[26] Introduction to Guide to Law Online at

[27] Silke Sahl, Review of Legal Systems of the World in Int’l J. Legal Info. 31, no. 2 (2003): 411-14.

[28] Id.