I am doing some writing right now about the vision for a Twenty-First Century Access to Justice Law Library. I believe that there is a critical role for law libraries as part of the access community and the access solution.
However, the starkness of the alternative is highlighted by this article in the West Virginia State Journal. The article explains that the State Supreme Court is studying if there is any need to keep law libraries in the face of the online access that is available to the profession, and that a bill is moving in the state legislature to authorize such steps.
The push to close the libraries has met with some criticism. [State Court Administrator] Canterbury said he has received thousands of emails.
“But out of the 1,300 I received, only six were from within West Virginia,” he said. “Three of those were from the same family, but there is no law library in their county.”
While there is discussion in the online comments to that article about the accuracy of those numbers, the overall dynamic remains in play.
There are obviously already powerful models out there of law libraries that are committed to access to justice, and already playing a crucial role — Montana, Austin Texas, Los Angeles, Maryland, to name just a few. This West Virgina news item highlights that doing so is not only the right thing — it may be critical to public law libraries institutional future.
Here, for example, is the Maryland mission statement:
The Maryland State Law Library is a court-related agency of the Maryland Judiciary and is open to the public. The Library serves the needs of Maryland’s government and citizens by: building and preserving collections of legal information resources, promoting access to these collections, and creating educational opportunities that enhance the understanding of legal information.
Please make suggestions in the comments for the best possible mission statement for a law library. It might be helpful in the writing I am doing.
Coconino County (Arizona) Law Library’s Mission Statement:
“The Law Library serves the legal information needs of the county’s legal community and the public. We connect the public with tools and information to help them perform common legal procedures affordably and with confidence.”
If county law libraries and state law libraries do not serve pro se litigants then the libraries will close. And I don’t mean serve pro se litigants as a sideline to serving attorneys. I mean as our main source of patrons and as our main focus of providing information.
Pro se litigants need legal information (attorneys not so much anymore). We provide legal information. We need patrons to justify our existence. There is a huge population of non-lawyers who need us and are willing to be patrons. Courts are frustrated with pro se litigants and need us to help them. It is a win-win-win-win
That would be very useful. I look forward to seeing what they come up with.
I sent your request to my Library Science class. I will let you know if I get any good ideas back.