By Yasmin Morais

Last March, Marcelo Rodriguez (Foreign, Comparative and International Law Librarian at the University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law) invited me to be a part of a small group of librarians monitoring the legal responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in Latin America and the Caribbean. Despite trying to balance work and homelife as well as settle into the new work-from-home routine, I was enthusiastic to join the project for several reasons.

  • It was therapeutic for me to track the responses of governments in the region and absorb as much information as I could. I still have family and friends in my native Jamaica, so I was eager to find information on policies, statistics or regulations, and any progress in containing the pandemic.
  • The economies of this region are heavily dependent on tourism and foreign direct investments and there are other challenges related to capacity to manage the pandemic, so I was curious about immediate steps being taken by governments to mitigate these challenges.
  • As a member of the Latin American Interest Group, I was familiar with the main sources of information, and the work of regional, non-governmental and international organizations operating in Latin America and the Caribbean. This made the information-gathering process easier.
  • The project was an opportunity to bridge the information gap and to disseminate widely the emerging COVID-19 policies and legal responses.
  • This global pandemic meant that no region was spared, and therefore the information collated had the potential to provide best practices and new knowledge for institutions and governments grappling to understand this new epidemiological threat.

My first report in April looked at my reason for joining the project and a summary of the CARICOM/OECS response at that point. In the second report, I focused on the role of Caribbean Disaster Agencies, and their impact on COVID-19 management.

One year later, I am proud of what this project has achieved, and how I personally have benefitted.  More librarians have come onboard since last March and have shared valuable reports on their respective countries. In addition to their legal skills, some librarians bring language skills, so our reports reflect the multi-lingual nature of the region. From our meetings, I have had the opportunity to meet these amazing librarians, some of whom have been working in challenging situations. I have gained a greater understanding of the legal systems, institutions, policies, and challenges facing the governments and people in Latin America and the Caribbean. However, I am also hopeful of some of the best practices and improvements in COVID-19 management that have been highlighted. I am also very proud of the recognition that the project has received from AALL, and that HeinOnline has included the project under Librarian-Curated Content in its COVID-19: Pandemics Past and Present library.

For more information on the Monitoring COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean project, please visit https://lawlibrariansmonitoringcovid19.com/

About this author: Yasmin Morais is the Reference and Cataloging Librarian for the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law. 

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