GOALI helps librarians and researchers “to know our rights and respect the rights of others”

Published: Tuesday 5th March 2019
Category: Blog

By Edit Horváth, User and Outreach Librarian, International Labour Organization

Exactly one year ago, we launched GOALI to provide developing countries with access to academic legal content and training. For the first anniversary, we asked our users why legal information is important for them and how we can improve the portal.

Launched on 6 March 2018, GOALI (Global Online Access to Legal Information) is the newest programme in the Research4Life partnership . It offers online access to academic legal content and training for research, public and not-for profit institutions in developing countries.

After one year of operation, our team launched a feedback survey  in order to better understand what our users need. More than 77 users from about 20 low- and middle-income countries shared their experiences. Half of them were librarians, 26 percent researchers, and almost 10 percent work as government officials. This confirms that librarians play a key role in promoting access to high-quality research and scientific resources. One third of the most devoted users work in universities, followed by research institutes and government offices.

Librarians often face a lack of access to legal information. “My university has got a law school, however subscription fees to law databases are very high. Therefore, GOALI helps to fill this gap,” writes Caroline Kobusingye from Makerere University Library in Uganda.

Legal information “is very important as it supports teaching, research and learning in academic institutions offering legal and related programmes.”, said Diana Mawindo from the Polytechnic University of Malawi. “GOALI gives full-text access to publications to which we do not have access most of the time.”

Our users often mention how convenient it is to serve distant customers through access to electronic resources: “Since I normally use e-books, helping a lecturer or student from a distance is always possible for me. Once I am called upon, I just download and e-mail it,” mentioned Elizabeth Naigaga Kasedde, librarian at Busoga University, Uganda.

Emmy Medard Muhumuza from Busitema University, Uganda, highlighted: “Most disciplines have a legal aspect and therefore GOALI is useful to all institutions. It has also content other than legal.”

Another important aspect is copyright issues and intellectual property rights, which are crucial for researchers. “As a research administrator, legal information will help me to assist researchers on grant writing, IP issues, grant management and entrepreneurial activities of the University,” said Grace O. Tayo from Babcock University, Nigeria.

Pascal Soubeiga, a librarian from Burkina Faso, was one of several respondents who emphasized that “legal information is important to know our rights but also to respect the rights of others.” He continued: “GOALI is also a tool for sharing experiences in law, economics and management. A student told me that she learned more with GOALI than at her university classes because of a lack of documents in the libraries.”

Government officers, on the other hand, mention that having access to legal information facilitates policy making. “Last year, I developed the intellectual property and technology transfer policy of the National System of Science and Technology [of Guatemala],” wrote Erick Velásquez, Director of Generation and Transfer of Knowledge at the Secretaría Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología in Guatemala. “I used legal texts and journals that I found in GOALI to draft it. It helped me to have a broader view and to develop a better policy. “

How we can improve GOALI

In the survey, we also asked our users what we can do to make GOALI even more useful. They noted that they often need to access case law, law reports and statutes from Commonwealth countries, in addition to major legal databases and local content, such as articles from Africa. Prince Jacon Igwe from Nnamdi Azikiwe Library (Nigeria) suggested: “Look at local books and publications with relatable examples that can actually add something to the lives of those living in the grassroots.”

Finally, users often ask to have information on social sciences or specific disciplines such as psychology. Some users also requested further training opportunities.

“Every month around 1,000 users log in to GOALI and I am very happy to hear that they use legal information to inform their legal research and studies, but also use resources from other disciplines such as environmental studies, management or psychology,” said GOALI programme manager, Richelle Van Snellenberg. “Our partners in the Lillian Goldman Law Library at Yale Law School work hard to approach publishers who can offer more primary legal resources or access to legal databases.”

In addition, several free access databases  have been added to the GOALI portal, like NATLEX , the ILO database of national labour and social security legislation, and the African Law Library and African Journals OnLine (AJOL) , the world’s largest online library of scholarly journals published in Africa.

“As we continue to add content, we recognize that we need to inform our customers about these new resources,” added Richelle. Therefore, colleagues from Cornell Law School Library facilitated the first GOALI training in January 2019 in Johannesburg. “We hope that we will be able to run more sessions soon. We work closely with our Research4Life partners to develop common online training modules for all Research4Life programmes, including GOALI.”