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12 July 2016 | Milagros Santos-Ong, Vice-President | Philippine Group of Law Librarians

Philippine Group of Law Librarians working for the rule of law and for law libraries

The Philippine Group of Law Librarians, Inc. (PGLL) was established in 1981 with the primary purpose of working for the interest of law librarians, law libraries and maintaining the highest standards for law librarianship. Since its establishment, the PGLL has consistently been working to meet this primary purpose through seminars and congresses, fellowships/scholarships, and cooperative activities among law librarians and law libraries.

International linkages were made by attending international seminars and participating as resource speakers (American Association of Law Librarians, Australian Association of Law Librarians, CONSAL, and Internet Librarian). Through these linkages, the article entitled, “Philippine Legal Research”, was published online. This is also the time I met Mirela Roznovschi of the New York University Hausar Global Law School Program, Globalex, at the American Association of Law Librarians (AALL) Convention in Boston in 2004.

“This outreach has shown that different people and cultures (Burmese, Filipino, Australian, Malaysian), and different occupations or professions (professors, lawyers, librarians and students) can work effectively and harmoniously towards a specific goal.”

After 36 years, the PGLL decided to venture into a new international linkage. “Advancing Together” best describes how PGLL and LexisNexis started this new linkage, through a study tour to law libraries in Malaysia. In this study tour, LexisNexis assisted PGLL to contact and coordinate with the libraries visited.

It was after this that Nicholas Koo, a friend of Filipino law librarians, introduced Head of Market Development Gaythri Raman to its next international project, the outreach in Yangon Law Library in Myanmar. PGLL shared the plight of the Yangon University Law School which, after being severely damaged due to Typhoon Nargis, received boxes full of donated books from international publishers such as Oxford University Press, but did not have the resources to unpack, arrange and utilise the books.

The Law School could not afford to employ a librarian and therefore law professors organised the library during their spare time. The books were arranged by subject in cabinets, and students could borrow books through the professors.

I told Gaythri that I would volunteer to help once I retired. However when PGLL President Nora Rey heard, she suggested PGLL help out immediately. PGLL’s Myanmar outreach was held at the Yangon University Law Library from February 16-18, 2016. The volunteer PGLL outreach team was composed of seven PGLL incumbent officers and members including myself, Nora Rey (PGLL President), Vivia Lirio (Secretary), Maria Luisa Madlangbayan (Auditor), advisers Emma Rey and Helen de Castro, and member Edeliza Gallo.

L-R: Donations of books from international publishers and libraries after Typhoon Nargis unopened and unused; Implementation of simple catalogue system; Yangon University Law Library following PGLL’s help.

The PGLL volunteer team was willing to pay its own way to contribute to this worthy cause. When searching for flights and accommodation, the team reached out to Veronica Rios, who heads the Rule of Law program for LexisNexis. To our surprise she said LexisNexis, in support of the work to be done, would sponsor theaccommodation, food and transport to and from Yangon University for our entire trip. To our even bigger surprise, in appreciation for our contribution LexisNexis funded sightseeing for PGLL so we could explore more of Myanmar.

Once more, PGLL would like to extend heartfelt gratitude to LexisNexis for all their support - we particularly thank and commend all the help provided to us by Head, Rule of Law & Emerging Markets Veronica Rios, who represented LexisNexis throughout the completion of the outreach project in Yangon. Veronica was with us the whole time, encoding, sorting and classifying thousands of books.

When we arrived on the first day of the outreach tour, we were introduced to the Head of the Law Department, Dr Khin Mar Yee who provided an overview of the status of the law library, and some history as to how the library had been operating, and the situation that left donated books in their boxes unable to be accessed by students.

Our challenge was to understand the library’s needs and devise a simple workable library system including organisation and cataloguing. The PGLL team consulted with the Law Faculty to understand the best way to classify their law books. Books were classified under the topics of: 1) Domestic Laws consisting of Civil Law, Criminal Law, Labor, Procedure and Taxation, 2) Commercial Law 3) International Law and 4) Maritime Law. As we were under time pressure to create a new classification and catalogue system, PGLL implemented a colour-coded classification system (using coloured stickers) to ensure ease of identification. The team created a simple catalogue with details of each book, enabling users to search by author, title, subject and donor. At the close of our project, the Law Faculty received a simple manual and the electronic catalogue was formally handed over.

Given more time and access to supplies, we could have done more. We would have loved to have included labels and book cards for each title, along with document boxes for different articles and files. However, we made use of what we had on hand. This outreach has shown that different people and cultures (Burmese, Filipino, Australian, Malaysian), and different occupations or professions (professors, lawyers, librarians and students) can work effectively and harmoniously towards a specific goal.

The work was physically taxing, especially for some of our senior members, such as a retiring librarian like me. We also worked in challenging conditions. The library was hot, with no working fan or air conditioning and no time to even use hand fans as we worked. There was no cold water to quench our thirst in the heat either. Yet all of the challenges were immediately forgotten when we saw the smiling faces of the students and faculty members of the Yangon Law School.