Despite the advent of the digital age, or maybe because of it, when it comes to no longer needed law books, supply and demand are perfectly matched. The International Law Book Facility (ILBF) has been finding new homes for unwanted law books for over 15 years and, in that time, has shipped over 75,000 law books to more than 200 organisations in 54 countries.

At the time of the launch of the ILBF in 2005, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the ILBF’s founder, said:

“The establishment of the rule of law is most obvious in underpinning individual liberty and democratic government, but the development of successful modern economies cannot take place without it. No judiciary can accomplish this task without the help of lawyers that have access to good libraries and good libraries themselves.”

Helping organisations across the world to stock and update their law libraries and thereby sharing legal knowledge to advance access to justice is the guiding mission of the ILBF.

The availability of good quality legal texts has an incredibly positive impact on the training of lawyers and judges, the administration of justice, the revision and updating of laws, and access to justice for whole communities. These are some of the measurable impacts of our work:

  • pass rates at the Law Development Centre in Uganda have
  • judiciaries have up to date and comprehensive texts to inform
    judgments in Tanzania and Mexico;
  • Law Commissions have reviewed and updated legislation in Uganda;
  • university law departments have been able to provide students with
    course books for new courses in Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe
    and Ghana;
  • prisoners and prison officers have been equipped with the texts they
    need to complete the University of London Law Diploma, and to advise other prisoners and the wider community in Uganda and Kenya;
  • libraries destroyed in conflict or natural disaster have been replenished; and
  • Bar Associations and human rights organisations in South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the DRC have authoritative texts to support legal arguments.

Support from the legal community

None of this could be achieved without tremendous support for our work from across the legal community. Law students, law firms and barristers’ chambers, in-house legal teams, legal publishers, courts and the judiciary all play an invaluable role, whether that is collecting and donating books, funding, kind support or advocacy for our work. Law librarians including members of the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL) have supported the ILBF since the beginning in many and various ways.

In 2019, we made a shipment of over 2,000 books to Njala University in Sierra Leone to help the establishment of a new law library. The University needed new shelves to house the books and BIALL very generously paid for the shelving with a Wallace Breem Award. The students now have access to valuable materials to assist their studies. You can see how much it means to the students in our 15th anniversary

In 2020 and 2021, the ILBF made shipments to the Supreme Court of the Turks and Caicos Islands so that the Chief Justice, the Hon Mrs Mabel Aygemang, could create a new law library. BIALL members assisted the Supreme Court by providing important guidance on key considerations to address when setting up a law library.

“The island of Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands had no library in its Law Courts building. With immense support through donations of Law Reports and Legal Textbooks from the ILBF, our Judiciary was able, on Friday 3 September 2021, to formally commission its Providenciales library. The Judiciary is deeply grateful for the ILBF’s donations, which bolsters our Bench, Bar and public as we strive to meet our mandate of ‘Providing Access to Quality Justice’.”     – Chief Justice, The Hon, Mrs Justice Mabel Agyemang, Turks and Caicos Islands.

BIALL members at law firms have donated invaluable textbooks. A recent shipment to the Ministry of Justice in Imo State Nigeria included books donated by law firms.

Support for Justice Defenders and Pro Bono

The ILBF has supported the work of Justice Defenders for many years; valuable resources have been shipped to the prison libraries in Uganda and Kenya which assist the prisoners and prison officers who are completing the University of London Diploma in Law. The latest shipment in 2021 included books from BIALL members.

2022 will see an exciting development with the very first law library training session organised by the ILBF, BIALL and the UK Sierra Leone Pro Bono Network. The attendees from several Sierra Leonean universities will meet in person in Freetown, Sierra Leone with the training delivered remotely by BIALL members. Law students at the University of Nottingham who collected and packed books for Njala University have made a short film about what their law library means to them with a guest appearance from Tony Simmonds, Senior Research Librarian in the School of Sciences.

The ILBF is very grateful for the many ways that BIALL and its members support the ILBF. The shared love and respect for law books and their quiet but incredible power to change lives through supporting access to justice and legal education is an incontestably motivating force.

How you can help

Please do get in touch if you would like to find out how you can help. Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook for updates and visit our website at

Katrina Crossley is Chief Executive of the ILBF.

This article originally appeared in the May 2022 edition of the BIALL Newsletter.

Featured image: Photo from the Law Reform Commission of Uganda celebrating their receipt of a donation of books in 2015. (Via Facebook.)