ARCHIVED: Future of Law Libraries in the Digital Age - Scenario #16: State, Court & County - State, Court & County Regional Repository

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(November, 2001)


Despite the growing trend of the all-electronic law library and the disappearance of some trial court and public law libraries, state law libraries and larger public law libraries continue to serve the legal research needs of those requiring access to materials not available in electronic format. Their mission includes the acquisition and preservation of primary law at the federal, state and local levels, materials currently not produced in an electronic format, superseded treatises, and local court documents.


Recognizing the importance of preserving unique court collections and important print legal documents, these law libraries are home to large collections acquired and maintained since the eighteenth century. While rarely visited by attorneys and the general public, these libraries remain an important resource for users of court and public law libraries that discarded print materials in favor of online access.

A second important function is to serve as the archival repository for future court documents and publications; while most of these publications are available online via a court's web site, many disappear into an electronic black hole after their initial appearance. Depositing a copy of the document at the state law library or other court library ensures access long after that initial release. Aside from this form of electronic preservation, in the absence of necessary funding and staff expertise, this scenario doesn't address an ongoing digital preservation program.


  • Facilities:

    • Because no additional library space is available, these regional law libraries coordinate efforts to collect and preserve print legal resources in existing library space
    • Some collections housed in off-site warehouse facilities
    • Electronic access to Internet and other online systems necessary for sharing of information and content, and provision of reference services to other libraries, the courts and the public 



  • Collections/content:

    • Primarily print and microfiche
      • State and federal reporter series
      • State and federal codes
      • State and federal session laws
      • Superseded editions of treatises
      • Treatises not produced in an electronic format
      • Law reviews and journals
    • Court documents and publications produced by state and/or local courts


  • Staffing:
    • No increase in the number of staff or fewer staff than previously budgeted
    • Staff responsibilities have been realigned to reflect a more focused library mission
    • Individual staff members have strong written and oral skills necessary to teach others in the use of print materials


  • Services:
    • Outreach to law libraries no longer maintaining print collections
    • Emphasis on interlibrary loan services
    • Greater involvement in design and maintenance of records management systems for court documents
    • Ongoing preservation activities
    • Teaching and training users, including colleagues, research skills necessary for accessing print historical materials
    • Research services for law firms and others requiring research in print resources with responses provided via virtual reference, e-mail and fax systems


  • Training:

    • Staff training in basic preservation techniques
    • Workshops focusing on teaching and training adult learners


  • Budget:

    • Legislative appropriation continues to be the primary source of funding for these collections


SWOT Analysis


  • Strong historical collections acquired over decades of library operation
  • Commitment to preservation of legal materials
  • Staff familiarity with and expertise in researching print collections


  • Lack of necessary funding and expertise for in-depth preservation programs
  • Lack of appropriate archival environments for storage of library material (i.e. temperature and humidity controls)
  • Isolated physical location and/or fewer visitors to the library reduces visibility of staff and their services = "out-of-sight, out-of-mind"


  • Partnering with court entities such as the administrative office of the court, judicial planning and the office of the clerk to preserve judicial documents increases library visibility
  • Partnering with academic law libraries ensures shared responsibility for housing historic collections
  • Using variety of PR methods (print, electronic) to aggressively market the library's special collections and staff expertise in researching historical materials increases visibility and awareness of needs


  • Staff resistance to shift in mission from primarily serving the public and/or attorneys to serving internal court entities and other libraries
  • Perception that fewer visitors to the library equals a decreased need for staff and funding
  • Some materials already have deteriorated to a state beyond the scope of preservation action
  • "It's all on the Internet, so why do we need to keep these books and pay this staff?"



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