Rubens Medina: Leading with a vision

Looking to create a digital library of international law, Medina found the need to teach and preach, recommending the creation of legal reference services that transcend political change.

Rubens Medina’s leadership in coordinating the Global Legal Information Network reflects his vision and global outlook. As the law librarian of Congress and GLIN’s director, Medina led the release of legal data from 45 jurisdictions worldwide in 2006.The release gives legal researchers access to 130,000 records on laws and related legal materials. It contains submissions from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.Legal analysts and other interested parties can now conduct searches in 13 languages. English, Spanish, French and Portuguese had been the only search languages available. However, last year, Medina expanded the list to include Arabic, traditional Chinese, German, Italian, Korean, Lithuanian, Romanian, Russian and Ukrainian.Sarah Holterhoff, president of the American Association of Law Libraries, said Medina is a “trailblazer in exploring the potential of digital libraries, especially in developing GLIN.” She said the multilanguage legal database “is uniquely important in the rapidly changing global economy because it provides timely and ready electronic access to valuable sources of foreign legal information.”Holterhoff also emphasized Medina’s role in making GLIN highly accessible, not only in international outreach but also in financial terms.“It is especially notable that under Medina’s leadership, most of the resources in GLIN are available to the public at no charge,” she said.Medina said other countries became interested in GLIN after seeing the Law Library of Congress in action. He said countries are familiar with the library’s work in supporting Congress and other government entities with information on worldwide laws.“We frequently get visitors,” Medina said. “When they see what we have been doing, they want to be a part of it.”That international interest is also the basis for cooperative work. Medina said his group can offer officials in other countries a combination of experience and specific methods of information processing. The officials offer legal information such as laws, regulations and legal interpretations. The dependence is mutual, Medina said.Getting countries interested in GLIN is the easy part. Maintaining the information flow between other countries and GLIN can be more difficult. Legal researchers in some countries are subject to the vagaries of the electoral process, Medina said. Changes in the executive branch might usher in a new crop of legal experts, so the GLIN education process may need to start again.“You have to go back and promote [GLIN] all over again,” Medina said.Retraining may be required, but Medina said GLIN is worth the extra effort.“It is a heavy-maintenance kind of work, but we do it gladly,” he said.Medina said he had not expected other governments to lack the stable cadre of legal analysts and researchers found in the United States. As a result, he has found the need to teach and preach, recommending the creation of legal reference services that transcend political change.That lesson is sinking in.“We have seen that the number of countries setting up such a unit is increasing,” Medina said. “They wanted to do what we are doing and that was a nice surprise.”
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