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Legal Resources Saved: A Public Library and Law Library Partnership

County of Los Angeles Public Library

Innovation Leader: Susan Broman, Adult Services Coordinator, sbroman@library.lacounty.gov

Problem Statement

The County Law Library and the County of Los Angeles Public Library partnered to develop a sustainable model of increasing access to legal information. A satellite of the LA Law Library, housed within the Compton Courthouse was facing closure, denying local litigants access to crucial legal information and resources. At the same time, growing numbers of public library customers were seeking resources in order to represent themselves at court hearings. Librarians needed to increase their understanding of the range of legal resources available in the community.

Innovation

The County of Los Angeles Public Library joined an unprecedented partnership with the LA Law Library to relocate essential legal resources to the neighboring Compton branch of the County Library. In addition, the County Law Library funded access to important online legal databases and continues to fund updates to the legal collection. This partnership ensures continued access to freely available legal information, greatly expands hours of availability and provides help from professional librarians. Staff attended training organized by the LA Law Library regarding the Court’s expectation of self-help litigants and the role the library plays in meeting this need. In addition, librarians learned of the unique resources available in community legal self help centers. Librarians also heard from a Superior Court judge about the importance of having access to correct information and the role of the public library as a primary access point in the process. County Los Angeles Public Library, the LA Law Librarian, and the Administrative Office of the Courts collaborated to do a presentation about the partnership and training at a conference of legal self help center managers from throughout the state. The training has since been replicated in the Bay Area, and another session is planned for the Los Angeles area this year.

Progress

The Compton branch has become an integral part of the local legal community. Legal professionals and library customers both use the collection and online databases. The model has been adopted at the Lancaster branch of the County Library and in other library juristidictions, and planning has started to expand further. Librarians who attended the training became better prepared to assist customers, had a clearer understanding of line between legal information and legal advice, and made contacts with local legal self help centers. The partnership continues with a major outreach effort planned for Law Week, May 2011.