While the United States does not publish an official gazette, most countries of the world do. These primary law sources are invaluable for foreign legal research. While no two countries’ gazettes are identical, most contain legislation, orders, regulations, statutory instruments, and international agreements. Some even include decisions of courts and administrative agencies. The currency of gazettes adds to their value. A new law may be published in a gazette months before it appears in a statutory compilation or a bound volume of session laws. In some cases, the official gazette becomes the only source of a legislative record. The Law Library strives to collect official gazettes from all countries of the world (past, current, and future).
Collection maintenance / access
Official gazettes are a significant part of our collection and can pose a variety of maintenance issues. Some countries see these publications as advance copies of legislation, and print their gazettes on cheap, low quality paper or newsprint. This paper does not age well; it quickly turns yellow or brown and becomes brittle. For gazettes published in this manner, we microfilm them to ensure continued access to this valuable information. In fiscal year 2010, the Law Library sent 2,907,936 pages of gazettes for microfilming.
For gazettes that are printed on relatively good quality paper, we bind all issues, e.g., the Polish gazette Dziennik ustaw Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej. Or in the case of Moldova, whose gazette we once microfilmed, this is now published on a higher quality paper and so is able to be bound.
To add to the variety of formats, some countries publish parts of their gazette in print, and others electronically on CD-ROM or online. Hungary is an example of this. The gazette Magyar Közlöny is published in print and is accompanied by a cumulative index on CD-ROM. Additionally, beginning July 1, 2008, an online edition has been produced and is also considered official.
In cases of nations with federated states, e.g., Mexico, we also collect the state gazettes. We are beginning to see nations declare the online edition of their gazette the only official version, and print has been discontinued. Spain was an early adopter of the electronic version – however, the Spanish state of Andalusia still publishes its gazette in print, and we do collect it.
One of our favorite methods of distributing an official gazette is when a country publishes an official bound copy that follows the advance releases. In these cases, e.g., Ethiopia, we can simply label and shelve each new volume received. No filming or binding of loose issues is necessary. We only retain the advance releases until the bound copy is received.
To manage the amount of material published globally, we have a gazette room at the Law Library. This active space holds current, unbound gazette issues. It is also the staging area for microfilming and binding projects. All loose, paper gazettes are in alphabetical order (according to UN designation) by jurisdiction. Subnational jurisdictions (e.g. states or provinces) follow their respective national jurisdiction in alphabetical order.
Selections from our gazette collection are digitized and loaded onto The Global Legal Information Network (GLIN). Gazettes from the following countries have been included in this publicly accessible database: Angola, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Iraq, Morocco, Mozambique, Peru, Philippines, Sao Tome and Principe, Venezuela, and Yemen.
Need more help? A stop at the Law Library reference desk is a great place to start.