Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Public Library and the Public Law Library

American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Legal Information Services to the Public Special Interest Section (LISP-SIS) has created a “Public Library Toolkit” with links to help public librarians “understand the process of legal research, effectively develop and use the information located within their libraries and utilize information outside their libraries.” Topics range from researching a legal problem to knowing when to refer. There are State-specific Public Library Toolkits, all written using a particular formula, including one for Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries have a long history of working with public librarians. 

In 1994, Trial Court Law Librarians Meg Hayden and Janice Shotwell published How to Grow a Law Collection: a Guide for Massachusetts Public Librarians

In 2001, the Statewide Legal Reference Service (SLRS)  was set up to guide non-law librarians in assisting their patrons with legal research needs. Evening and weekend reference support was offered  via a toll-free number, as well as via fax or e-mail. A SLRS Web site addressed many common reference legal queries that public librarians dealt with. The project grew out of the Mass. Board of Library Commissioners’ strategic plan (page 23 of their 2001 Annual Report).

The Trial Court Law Librarians continue to work with their public library colleagues as members of the Mass. Library System (MLS). Barnstable Law Library is one of the pilot libraries for the MA eBook Project , a six month pilot project exploring different models for eBook lending . Law Librarians have recently presented at several MLS workshops titled "Skill Builders: Legal Reference" continuing the work first addressed in Meg and Janice's book, and followed up with the SLRS project. 

In January of this year, the Fitchburg Law Library re-opened in a new location on the second floor of the Fitchburg Public Library, another example of the Trial Court Law Libraries and the public libraries working together.