Luxembourgeois Echoes… (part one)

As IALL members well know, each year the organization bestows a number of generous bursaries, which enable colleagues from various jurisdictions to participate in the Annual Course. Each bursary winner who attended the most recent Annual Course in Luxembourg has kindly agreed to share with us what most captured their attention.

For the sake of convenience, the reflections have been divided into two discrete blog entries. Below is the first part.  

I was very fortunate to be one of the recipients of IALL’s 2018 bursaries. I only entered the law librarianship field two years ago—in Singapore, which is a small country with a small community of law librarians. I am still familiarizing myself with the profession, and I considered the IALL Annual Course to be an opportunity to learn what other law librarians are doing in their home institutions.

The four-day conference was packed with presentations on various topics, including contemporary issues in the legal field and Luxembourg’s legal system. I think this is something that surprised me about a librarianship conference; that is, most of the presentations did not focus on librarianship, but rather on the local jurisdiction. I appreciate this as I think that law librarians serve patrons better if they know something about the jurisdiction in which they are working.

Some of the presentations that I thought were particularly interesting were “Traditional Cultural Expressions and International Intellectual Property Law” (Dr. Lily Martinet) and “Robot Law” (Ms. Mady Delvaux-Stehres). What also fascinated me was the role of language in Luxembourg’s legal system—Luxembourg being a country with four common languages spoken by most citizens.

I think the most valuable thing about attending the course, though, was the connections I made. I met many wonderful people who are eager to learn and share, and this reminded me of what I enjoy most about the law librarianship profession. I am very grateful to IALL for giving me this opportunity, and I value everything I learned from this experience.

Yee Xin Chai

Research Librarian, Singapore Management University

Every year that I attend the IALL conference, I’m always impressed by the quality of the speakers and the beautiful buildings. This year was no different. Without going into too much detail, let me just share what were the highlights for me.

I have been reading about robots since I was a child in Trinidad and Tobago, specifically learning about Isaac Asimov’s three (and then four) laws of robotics. Ms. Juja Chakarova’s “Pre-Conference Workshop on Library Innovation & Robot Usage” was very interesting and gave me the feeling that I was living inside one of my science fiction books. How exciting to see that, within my lifetime, the robots from my stories have now taken their place, assisting us in running the library. For now, they seem to be doing fairly basic tasks, such as shelf-reading, locating missing books, and providing basic help to patrons looking for materials.

The separate talk on robot law by Ms. Mady Delvaux-Stehres (a Luxembourgish member of the EU Parliament) surprisingly drew on the philosophy of robot law that was articulated in the science fiction tomes of my youth. It’s fascinating that legislators are thinking, not just in terms of how to protect people physically from robots with superior strength, but also how to protect our information and support the people who will necessarily need to transition to different jobs when theirs are inevitably taken over by robots.

All of the conference speakers were very knowledgeable, but a few were particularly inspirational for me. Other than Ms. Chakarova and her robot, the two speakers that had the biggest impacts on me were Dr. Monique Kieffer and Ms. Eleanor Sharpston. Dr. Kieffer gave a presentation on the “Missions and the New Building of the National Library,” and Ms. Sharpston spoke at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on “The Role of the CJEU regarding AFSJ (AFSJ = area of freedom, security, and justice).”

It can be easy to become jaded about being a librarian, particularly in the era of more for less, with many of us facing budget cuts. So hearing Dr. Kieffer tell us about the carefully designed new building for Luxembourg’s National Library was inspirational. It was a good reminder that library management work can have creative aspects, and that librarians really can meet the needs and exceed the expectations of the public if they are given sufficient financial and political support.

Ms. Eleanor Sharpston, an advocate general at the CJEU, was a clever and captivating speaker. Taking into consideration the interests and backgrounds of her audience, she delivered a perfect presentation to a room full of exhausted and jet-lagged librarians. Using her charismatic storytelling skills, she explained her role at the CJEU by describing the kind of research she does and why. Ms. Sharpston is advanced enough in her career that she directs the research of the référendaires assigned to her. Because of her mindboggling depth and breadth of experience, she’s able to give the référendaires starting points for research based on cases that she remembers. She explained that sometimes she has to be creative to locate the relevant information as there are language and legal procedural barriers. Ultimately, Ms. Sharpston’s role in the Court is that of an independent judge who teases legal issues out of pleadings,

Many thanks to the IALL Board, all of the conference speakers, and Ms. Juja Chakarova and the Local Planning Committee, for organizing this conference. I’m so pleased that I was able to attend.

Catherine Deane

Research Specialist, Shearman & Sterling, USA

I am grateful for the IALL bursary I received to attend the IALL Annual Course in Luxembourg. The Local Planning Committee put together a great program, and the Grand Duchy itself contributed beautiful scenery and architecture, and (mostly) beautiful weather.

The programs on Monday, October 1, 2018, included professors from the University of Luxembourg and local attorneys. One of the professors was Dean Professor André Prüm, who spoke about banking law. Luxembourg is an important center for financial services and an innovator in fintech, renminbi business, Islamic finance, and sustainable finance, and it is the second largest financial services exporter in the European Union after the United Kingdom. Since Luxembourg is an entry point for the EU market, even Swiss banks use Luxembourg for financial services. Professor Prüm explained that, although Luxembourg has a reputation for banking discretion vis-à-vis its wealthy clients, Luxembourg is now one hundred percent compliant with international transparency standards, and its private banking is still prized by “sophisticated high-net-worth individuals” for its high service levels and security.

The following day, the Local Planning Committee recruited from the deep bench of directors and research fellows at the Max Planck Institute Luxembourg. For example, I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Lily Martinet, a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute, who spoke on the topic of “Traditional Cultural Expressions and International Intellectual Property Law.” Her program included a discussion on the issues related to commercial cultural appropriation; that is, instances where someone can use a culture’s traditional symbols and art without having to share the benefits or acknowledge the origins of the borrowed designs—even claiming intellectual property rights in the appropriated material.

Another conference presentation that I enjoyed was “From Upper Silesia to Luxembourg? A Forgotten Chapter in the History of European Legal Integration,” offered by Dr. Michel Erpelding, another Senior Research Fellow at the Institute. Dr. Erpelding spoke on the innovative commission set up to address conflicts between Polish and German residents of partitioned Upper Silesia after World War I. He also described the contributions of Jean Monnet and Felix Calonder to protecting minority rights there and ensuring the free movement of workers and goods. Upper Silesia served as a pre-EU experiment in supranational integration until the treaty provisions expired, and the Nazis took control of Poland. My notes from this lecture are now included with materials I am collecting for a 2019 display on the Treaty of Versailles and the aftermath of World War I.

Amy Flick

Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Librarian, Emory University, USA

This Blog contains entries by members of the International Association of Law Libraries on issues germane to the Association’s areas of focus. Views expressed in an individual entry only represent the views of the author.