Change is upon us. Libraries and, in particular, law libraries will deliver services and information in different ways in the next 10 to 20 years. Courts are also changing how people interact with the courts. E-filing and electronic storage of court documents are just two examples of recent changes.
The courts and law libraries have also seen a change in how people access legal information. More resources are available for attorneys and judges electronically. More people are coming to the law library for legal information.
Many people are navigating the court system without benefit of an attorney. They seek out assistance from legal service providers, self-help clinics and other volunteer services, many of which are provided within the law library or patrons are referred to other service providers by the librarians.
The president of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), Steven Anderson, sees the need for access to legal information and legal services in his law library daily. Because of his concern, he created an Access to Justice Special Committee of the AALL that is charged with creating a white paper on the services that all law libraries provide and recommendations on best practices that law libraries can incorporate into their services.
Law firm libraries, academic law libraries, and state, court and county law libraries all play a critical role in providing access to justice. Law firm librarians may provide legal research for the internal pro bono section of their law firms. Academic and law firm libraries may provide training to public librarians to enlighten them to the legal information that they may have available in their libraries or on the Internet. Academic law libraries may function as the local public law library in areas where there are no other law libraries available to the public. State, court and county law libraries are on the frontline of services to the public, partly due to their location in or near the local courthouse.
Law libraries may sponsor "Attorney in the Library" services provided by volunteer attorneys. They may house legal clinics in their spaces. Or they may have a staff attorney that provides legal information and basic services through the library's in-house, self-help clinic.
Law libraries are a major contributor to the access to justice movement and may play a larger role in the years to come. The white paper will be distributed in July and will describe what a rich community the law libraries are and the significant role that law libraries play in access to justice. Watch for it.
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