As costs for legal representation have steadily risen and free legal
services to the poor have been cut, many citizens are representing
themselves in legal matters. Because of this trend, public libraries
must be prepared to provide patrons with access to primary law sources
(e.g., cases, statutes, and regulations), as well as secondary sources
(e.g., legal almanacs, directories, etc.)
The costs of legal publications and their associated upkeep, however,
make it difficult for most public libraries to acquire and maintain
even a core legal collection. With the use of the Internet, a referral
program with a local public law library, donations from local bar associations
and firms, and careful collection development and maintenance, even the
smallest of public libraries can provide their patrons with access to the core federal
and state legal sources necessary to perform legal research. The word
access is emphasized because as mentioned earlier, it is virtually impossible for a public library to
have the financial, physical, and employee resources necessary to maintain
a legal collection onsite. However, as demonstrated by the following guidelines
and annotated listings, it is possible for a public library
to provide informed access to legal research sources.
The guidelines are divided into three categories: Federal,
State, and General. Each
listing contains a bibliographic citation, a brief description of the resource,
cost information, CD-ROM and internet availability, notes, and research tips.
Because cost information often fluctuates, resources have been classified under the following
general scheme: $= under 100, $$ = 101-250, $$$ = 251-500, $$$$= 501-1000,
and $$$$$= 1001+; unless otherwise noted, cost information relates to the
new, print version.
Where available, internet links are provided so that
you may access the information directly from this website. (Please note that
the Internet addresses listed are not exhaustive; they have been
selected according to the following criteria: currentness, authority,
ease of use, and connectivity). The notes section contains a catchall
of information regarding acquisitions, alternate formats of the resource,
referrals to law libraries, etc. In reference to referrals, it is highly
recommended that you contact the director of your local public law library
to become familiar with their collections and policies to insure that
referrals are made in an informed, efficient manner.
DISCLAIMER: This web page is provided for informational purposes only. While every
effort has been made to ensure accuracy, it is not an exhaustive list of legal sources.
It is NOT meant as legal advice or legal representation, which, of necessity, must relate
to specific factual situations and claims. Library patrons should be urged to
consult with counsel of their choice concerning their own situations and any specific
questions they may have. Librarians who give legal advice or interpret legal materials
may be engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.