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The AALL Spectrum® Blog is published by the American Association of Law Libraries. Submissions from AALL members and other members of the legal community are highly encouraged. Opinions and editorial views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of AALL. AALL does not assume any responsibility for statements advanced by contributors. The previous Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.
1/21/2015 1:28:56 PM

Urban Public Law Library Programming

Urban Public Law Library Programming


Meldon D. Jenkins-Jones

            New in my law librarian career, I felt somewhat intimidated. As the sole librarian at the Richmond Public Law Library—the library of the City of Richmond Circuit Court—I was amazed at the substantive research carried on at my library. My public law library patrons have cases pending in the U. S. Supreme Court, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals, U.S. District Court and local Virginia courts. What surprised me is the fact that almost none of these patrons are attorneys! Most are self-represented litigants. Many of these patrons never went to college, and some barely know how to read. Besides the daily one-on-one, step by step assistance—usually starting with the “You need an attorney and here’s a list of numbers you can call for legal assistance” speech and continuing to Black’s Law Dictionary and the indexes to the state and federal statutes—my solution to this often frustrating (and at times, frightening) situation became programming!

            Teaming up with members of the local bar, I started with free, basic legal informational classes for the general public: How to Start a Business; Estate Planning 101; Workers Compensation; and Teen Legal Empowerment. Collectively, I called them “Know Your Rights! Community Law Series”. We utilized the marketing resources of the Richmond Public Library, in whose building the law library is located. We’ve scheduled the classes at various times, and they have been well attended. This year we are planning to add additional attorneys and new sessions on Employment Law, the U. S. Constitution, and the legal rights of the homeless. We are also coordinating scheduling and marketing with the Main Library’s classes for those seeking grant funding of non-profits using the Foundation Center’s materials.

               Last year I taught my first research class for the general public which was popular with many of our law library patrons. It included a brief history of the American legal system, the organizational structure of the federal and state court systems, and how legal cases are structured. Handouts provided links to legal websites. I ended with a tour of the law library.

            This year my expanded Introduction to Legal Research Class has 16 people signed up so far, and I anticipate a few drop-ins as well. In addition to this general orientation to legal research, this Spring Thomson Reuters has agreed to send a trainer to teach using WestlawNextTM for computerized legal research on the two law library computers. There will be two classes, one for the general public and one for attorneys. Attending lawyers will have the option of receiving one Continuing Legal Education credit for their participation.

            My next programming idea is Legal Career Day to encourage local high school and college students to consider careers in law librarianship as well as other areas of the law. Now I feel that our public law library is providing valuable resources to all members of the Richmond community.   

Posted By Meldon Jenkins-Jones at 1/21/2015 1:28:56 PM  0 Comments
1/13/2015 12:47:33 PM

What I Did On My December 9th Lunch Hour

My favorite thing to do is go to a museum.  Whether it’s fine art or historical artifacts, I’m never happier then when I’m walking into a great building devoted to the display of human endeavor and learning.  I am particularly fortunate in my location, as Washington, D.C. is home not only to the world-class Smithsonian Institution, but also to the National Gallery of Art, as well as many other fine, although admission-charging, institutions.  Not only do I live in the D.C. area, but my office is located walking distance from the Mall, home to the National Gallery and to most of the Smithsonian museums.  This means, when the weight of the world is on my shoulders (meaning, I've had one too many requests from attorneys), I can stroll a few blocks down the street at lunch time to soothe my soul and clear my head.

So imagine my delight at being able to combine my profession and my great passion and take a guided tour of the library of the National Gallery of Art!  Arranged by Andrew Martin, librarian at the National Labor Relations Board, under the auspices of the Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, D.C., a group of law librarians took a tour of the National Gallery’s library last month.  Our group met with several of the library’s staff members, including Gregory Most, who was kind enough to spend a lot of time showing us the library’s fantastic image collection.  Note that, unlike those of us in the law library world, the National Gallery is not moving from print to digital resources!  They will go on acquiring art books as long as they are around to be collected; many of them are works of art themselves.

Located in the East Building, the library is still open to visitors while much of the rest of the building is undergoing construction for the next several years.  Although most of the people who enter the library come to do research, there is also a display case in the reading room area with rotating small exhibits throughout the year that is open without an appointment.  There’s a guard at the entrance, a feature I wish I had at my library, but you can just tell him or her that you’re there to see the display and in you go.  For more information on the library, visit their website located here: http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/research/library.html.

So why am I telling you about this?  Sure, it’s a nice story: law librarians venture out and make a new friend, but it’s not exactly “breaking news.”  What I got out of it was an opportunity to expand my horizons, to see how another library works, how it’s different from and similar to a law library.  It’s easy to become insular in law librarianship - there are enough of us that you can always talk to another person who does the same thing you do, and the specialized jargon is often incomprehensible to someone without a legal background.  In these times of chaos (really, “change” doesn't do the situation justice), reaching out to other librarians, to see how they do things in their library, how they handle patron requests, how they make collection development decisions, is a rich (and free!) source of new ideas.  The more connections we can make, the better off we’ll all be.  So if your local law library organization offers tours of other types of libraries - by all means, make the time and go.  If not, suggest that they start.  

Susan Ryan, 2015
Librarian, Seyfarth Shaw, LLP, Washington, DC  sryan@seyfarth.com

Posted By Susan Ryan at 1/13/2015 12:47:33 PM  0 Comments
1/12/2015 3:58:00 PM

Winter 2015 Issue of ALL-SIS Newsletter Available!

The Winter 2015 issue of the ALL-SIS Newsletter is now available!  Do you love checklists?  Ever thought about a legal research checklist?  Maybe you should read Kasia Solon Cristobal's article, "Having Fun with Checklists."  You can learn about instructional design in Angela Hackstadt's article.  There is a very nice memorial for Nancy P. Johnson by Ronald E. Wheeler.  And, you'll meet ALL-SIS member, Jonathan Rountree, in the new member profile.  You'll also find great ideas from other libraries, book reviews, section news, and member news.

Posted By Kristen Moore at 1/12/2015 3:58:00 PM  0 Comments