Building a Transsystemic Law Library Collection

Building a Transsystemic Law Library Collection

Maryvon Côté
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1897-8.ch019
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The Faculty of Law of McGill University decided to take an unprecedented step in 1999 in replacing the approach of training to undergraduate law students with the creation of a new legal education curriculum referred to as “transsystemic legal education.” This unique program, geared towards all undergraduate McGill Law students, consists of learning two legal systems, including civil and common law in a comparative and interdisciplinary approach. This article discusses how the law library at McGill had to break from a traditional approach of building a law library collection regarding the practice of Canadian law to acquire the scholarly material needed by professors and students. This meant a complete rethinking of the collection development profile with an increased focus on multilingual legal material from Europe and other legal jurisdictions worldwide, and could only be done with a good collaboration between the library and the faculty members.
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In 1999, the Faculty of Law of McGill University decided to take an unprecedented step in North American legal education, replacing the unique national program of separate common law and civil law education with the implementation of a transsystemic approach to teaching law. In other words as the author will explain, the Law School curriculum as a whole “consciously integrate[s] civil and common law perspectives, domestic and international perspectives, the perspectives of state law and of non-state legal systems, and legal perspectives with those of other disciplines” in both of Canada’s official languages (Arthurs, 2009, p. 636). Founded in 1848, the Faculty of Law of McGill University is one of the oldest academic institutions in Canada located in the bilingual city of Montréal, Québec. The Faculty of Law has always been characterized by its teaching and its scholarly activity at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the area of civil law, comparative law, constitutional law, international law and human rights, and air and space law. This new program of transsystemic legal education, which embraces the mixed legal roots and the bilingual nature of the Province of Quebec, is also known as the McGill Program. The unique worldwide McGill Program of transsystemic legal education has been described by some jurists as “one of the most unusual curriculum experiments in the annals of legal education” (Arthurs, 2005, p. 709) and as among the most important developments in legal education in the last century (Strauss, 2006).

This chapter will look at the unequalled transformation of collection development in an academic law library that is necessary when a faculty decides to change the structure of undergraduate legal education. This will include an explanation of the concept of mixed legal jurisdictions and the reasons behind a law school decision in the creation of a transsystemic legal education curriculum. In addition, the author will illustrate the impact of this new program on the student’s legal education and enumerate the challenges of transforming a library collection development policy, its services, and the challenges facing the library that serves its clients in the Faculty of Law.

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