To: [email protected]
Date: Tue, 1 Jun 1999 12:38:16 -0500
Subject: US House of Representatives Internet Law Library and successors
Recently, the United States House of Representatives removed the contents of the Internet Law Library, a site that provided links to a large number of topics of legal issues for American (federal and state) and foreign laws. At least eleven sites have posted the material from that site on their own servers. Following the suggestion of Elliot Chabot -- the person who created the original Internet Law Library -- maintaining the links and expanding the contents as a group, a committee formed that will help provide updated links to the various representations of the material.
The model we are adopting is a "data factory." We seek to provide a conduit for people to work collectively on maintaining portions of the page. The updated links and new material is posted to a central location and disseminated for anyone to use. Additionally, the newly identified links are available separately for those that wish to add new material to their own pages.
In a lot of ways, this model is the way the Internet used to be -- without the need to have lessons in Unix to get started. The project will create a web page with the data, but the links themselves can be presented in any number of ways as the users establish their own representations of the material. Collaboration is a key to the success of this project. Technology will minimize the painful part of the administration. Free access to information is part of the core of every librarian I have ever met. This resource is a tool that can help many across the country and across the globe to have free and easy access to information. As much as it helps others, this resource will also help ourselves when we draw from the products of the data factory.
I like to hearken to the model of the Linux community. The motive: Pooling the efforts of specialists to make a product that can help everyone. Other representations of the data will be able to be kept current. Many representations will probably emerge with their own look and feel. As a committee, we embrace the diversity that will emerge as people seek to support their own constituencies. Innovations that improve the product may be incorporated into the pages emerging directly from the project.
There are a lot of web-based materials that have stronger areas than the former Internet Law Library. Our goal is to provide a link for people, particularly in underserved areas, to find their way to the strengths of the efforts of many people. My work in isolation increases in value exponentially when it is linked to the efforts of many.
The form to click on to volunteer for a subject area or areas is at:
The sites that have the information are:
http://www.law.com/ (different format from others)
For those interested in participating in the mechanics of the project, the following committees are forming up:
Technical Subcommittee (site design & development)
Includes on subcom the people who are hosting and using the data Database design
Coordinates the data factory/repository
Relations Subcommittee (to solicit volunteers and act as a point of contact for volunteers)
Also maintains public announcements, acts as a voice to the group
Assignment Subcommittee (to decide how the library's existing content should be assigned)
Coordinates the volunteers after solicited
Page coordinators/editors/committees report to the assignment committee (might need another layer to keep the volume managable)
Content Subcommittee (to establish parameters for how volunteers use their assigned content)
Look and feel to make sure the pages are similar internally
Initial rollout of "prime" site with design
Oversight Subcommittee (to direct the future of library and address unforeseen issues as they develop).
Where voices of stakeholders on where the Internet Law Library should be going can be expressed, discussed and put to the general board.
There are several issues that are still in the process of being worked out, most of which are more mechanical than anything else. We are ironing out the relationships that are necessary to fulfil this process. By the time the group is ready to receive the links, the issues will be worked out. Among the top of the items we are discussing is how to protect the property rights of others and ensure that participants don't mine other's work. We have ideas of some ways to insure that everyone's rights are protected. By the time of the rollout, those issues will be worked out.
Thank you for your time in reading this message and in thinking about areas where you can contribute to a collaborative effort.