Tuesday, September 20, 2011

BCLD Returns: Law Librarians Continue to Play Role

In the legal research community, we're used to resources going in and out of publication. And it sometimes seems like the most useful resources are the ones that often get discontinued. It's a rare day when one of those publications is not only revived, but evolves to become an improved product. Today might be one of those days, as one of Stem's clients Quickscribe announces the relaunch one of BC’s most treasured legislative research tools.

The British Columbia Legislative Digest: A Brief History

The British Columbia Legislative Digest (BCLD) was conceived of in 1979 by librarians at the BC Courthouse Library, now Courthouse Libraries BC, who needed a timely way of tracking changes to provincial legislation. They developed a tool that allowed the user, at a glance, to determine who introduced a bill, what stage it was at, whether it would have consequential amendments, and when and how it would come into force. Library staff issued weekly updates that subscribers would incorporate into their BCLD binders so that they always had the most current information. It must be noted, pre-dating the age of the Internet, this was no small undertaking.

Soon the BCLD, well-thumbed in its signature burgundy binders, could be found in libraries and law offices across the province. Over the next 30 years it would become an invaluable source for anyone responsible for monitoring or researching current laws, or conducting historical legislative research in British Columbia. The Canadian Legislative Index (CLI), the BCLD's federal counterpart, was equally well-used.

But by 2010, the legal information landscape had changed drastically. More information than ever was available online, and the cost to publish the still paper-based BCLD and the CLI collections had become difficult to justify. In light of this, and the growing demand for staff time on more public-facing digital initiatives, the Courthouse Libraries made a change to their strategic direction. The resulting, and very difficult, decision was made to discontinue both titles.

The fallout would soon come from legal researchers across B.C., including many members of the Vancouver Association of Law Libraries (VALL), who were disappointed with the decision. Nimble as ever, law librarians made do by piecing together information from various alternative sources, but the ease of use and trusted, comprehensive data the BCLD offered were sorely missed.

A Second Chance

Enter Quickscribe, the Victoria-based provider of hardcopy and electronic legislative information, which has developed a number of innovative products throughout its 25 years of business. Seeing an opportunity to revive and integrate the BCLD within his web-based legislative service, Quickscribe president Mike Pasta reached out to Courthouse Libraries BC with his proposal. The response went beyond expectations. He not only received the Library’s blessing to redevelop the product, but found integral group of supporters who would help guide the BCLD towards digitalization.

Over the coming months, support of the BCLD project continued to grow. In August, Mike Pasta appointed an Advisory Group of experienced law librarians, including several former BCLD caretakers, to help consult on the integration. Members of this support group, including Thea Schmidt (Borden Ladner Gervais LLP), Ana Rosa Blue (WorksafeBC), Gillian Crabtree (Edwards, Kenny & Bray LLP), and Tracey McLean, Alex McNeur, and Kat Siddle (all of Courthouse Libraries BC), continue to advise on the BCLD’s ongoing digital direction, and help ensure it remains a comprehensive and relevant research tool. Needless to say, Quickscribe is extremely grateful for the advice it has received.

The New BCLD

The new BCLD is now being relaunched as a digital product available to subscribers of Quickscribe Online. It offers a weekly Digest (similar to the Highlights, Proclamations and Regulations sections of the print edition), a dynamic "status checker", and a hyperlinked progress of bills chart that provides an overview of the year's legislative activity and chapter/bill concordance.

The BCLD also offers an email alert service for tracking bills as they progress from first reading though Royal Assent and into law. A subscriber can sign up for customized alerts that include all legislative changes; changes to topical groups of legislation; or changes to selected bills, acts, or regulations. Subscribers may also create multiple email alerts for the benefit of groups or individuals within their organization.

Ultimately, the goal of the new BCLD is to honour the spirit of its predecessor publication, while establishing itself as a new, invaluable tool for legislative monitoring and research in British Columbia.

To see the British Columbia Legislative Digest in action, see the video tour posted on the Quickscribe website. For those interested in having a look at this new resource, Quickscribe is currently offering a two-month, no-obligation free trial just in time for the upcoming legislative session.


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