WebLaw was a free online collection of online Australian and International legal databases and resources. The resources were cataloged according to subject areas. It was a cooperative subject gateway to Internet resources for Australian law librarians and legal researchers created in 2002. It was a distributed cataloging system, based on a central database model. It offered an Australian focused list of legal resources on the internet.

Law librarians from the participating organisations assumed responsibility for a particular subject area or areas and provide annotated records for quality Internet legal resources in this area. An academic or practitioner with expertise in the subject was involved in peer assessment of the listings. The sites were checked and updated each month until the last resource were created, in october 2011. Quality control was assured because participating organisations adhered to common selection criteria and quality guidelines, as well as to the designated metadata schema.

From october 2011, WebLaw was no longer being updated closed on 1/10/2012. The reaseon is that, since its inception, Weblaw has been a cooperative venture. Many of its contributors were no longer able to commit staff time and resources to the gateway.

A Research Infrastructure Equipment and Facilities (RIEF) Grant from the Australian Research Council as well as significant contributions, both financial and in kind, from the collaborating organisations provided the resources necessary to set up the project.

Aims and objectives of WebLaw

The aim of WebLaw was to enhance research and learning in all areas of Australian law. This was possible by the indexing of quality resources and the addition of metadata that complied with the internationally accepted Dublin Core standard. The gateway utilised the combined experience of law librarians, legal information experts, and the infrastructure of the participating institutions to provide comprehensive coverage of as many areas of Australian law as possible.

A brief technical overview of the WebLaw project

The WebLaw repository was built using open-source software and includes full source code: MySQL for the DBMS, Apache with mod_php for the web-server, PHP for the server-side programming and HTML (HyperText Markup Language) with Javascript for the client-side web interface. The server run on the Linux operating system. All user interaction with WebLaw occurred through a web interface.

Participating organisations

Participants needed to demonstrate that they had the infrastructure and expertise in place to develop and maintain a quality guide. Participants demonstrated institutional support and commitment to the WebLaw project.

A number of organisations found that maintaining a wide range of subject guides to the law was time consuming. Several of these organisations were interested in developing a co-operative solution to this problem.

Preliminary discussions were held at the 2nd Law Libraries Symposium (Melbourne, 1998). These were followed up by discussion between Clare Cappa (University of Queensland), Sue Scott, Kathy McGuire (Law Foundation of NSW) and Carolyn Kearney (University of Sydney). They called an initial meeting to determine interest and outline the concept of the project. This was held on 21st July 1999.

A second meeting was held at the Specials, Health and Law Librarians Conference in Hobart in August 1999. Sue Scott from the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW provided project management until December 2000.

WebLaw began as a collection of individual web subject guides to the law. Each institution nominated one or more subject area/s of interest/expertise and developed a guide according to an agreed set of selection criteria and a standard ‘look and feel’. The resources in each guide were peer-reviewed for quality. Working as a virtual team each institution provided links to the other institutions’ guides thus forming an integrated collection of resources. Despite its success, WebLaw suffered from a number of limitations – with the lack of searchability across the sites being the most obvious.

This project had laid the groundwork for the development of WebLaw as a searchable database underpinned by Dublin Core metadata. Clare Cappa from the University of Queensland provided project coordination in 2001. From 2002 the project were coordinated by the Manager of the Walter Harrison Law Library, University of Queensland.

Main Source: WebLaw and Salvador Trinxet Llorca



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  • Article Name: WebLaw
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  • Description: ContentsWebLawAims and objectives of WebLawA brief technical overview of the WebLaw projectParticipating [...]

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