The Vital Role of Law Libraries
A profile of an institution at the heart of our democracy
The law affects all aspects of our lives. Our society is built upon laws and there are more than enough rules and legal jargon to confuse us eternally. This is where law libraries step in. Law libraries are impactful beyond imagination. They exist all around the world for multiple reasons, from educating eager learners, to helping the public navigate complex information. While they are fundamental in supporting the justice system, they are often overlooked and poorly funded. The efforts that law libraries dedicate towards the community make legal information accessible to all, which is extremely important in maintaining a democratic society.
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Law schools train lawyers, but so do law librarians. They play an important role in helping law students and lawyers gain new knowledge by training them on helpful research platforms. Often this is critical training that helps lawyers keep up with new developments regarding law research. With so much that lawyers need to keep up with, law librarians ease the load by ensuring they have a direct place to catch up. These pieces of training guide lawyers through valuable tools and show them how to be more efficient with time. This leads to positive benefits further down the road for lawyers and the clients they serve.
Supporting the legal community is a major aspect of what law libraries do. These are also places where they have a quiet space to work over cases, as well as collaborative spaces to meet with clients or hold meetings. At the San Diego Law Library, spaces serve as satellite offices and they are committed to finding ways to provide resources for all who need it such as self-represented litigants or those searching for pro bono services.
While many can navigate online resources, law librarians take it a step further by being just the professionals who can search complex law materials like treatises or other difficult information that lawyers aren’t able to just pull immediately themselves. These librarians are well-versed in all things related to law and the law library. This means they can access information for lawyers that aren’t commonly used, like model jury instructions or form offerings. When it comes to legal cases the work that law librarians perform ends up saving a lot of time and resources, moving research along quickly and efficiently, and supplying the information that is needed to understand a case.
AI technology has seemingly threatened the work of legal researchers. With so many recent advancements in the tech space pushing the boundaries of research, people start to question the need for law librarians. However, these new systems show that it is even more essential to involve a legal information professional in these processes.
Law librarians are not just book smart, they are also computer smart. It is much more difficult these days to be an information professional without also having a good grasp of technology. The two overlap each other so much. Law librarians are tech experts in almost every way. They instruct lawyers on navigating research databases and are very familiar with navigating information systems themselves.
A new and interesting role related to technology involves being the gatekeepers within their organizations. This role exists as a “bridge between the IT world and the attorney.” These days, often law librarians are the ones to vet new software or products before law firms or organizations implement them. They have the knowledge and abilities to deep dive into the basics of a new tech idea and ensure that it holds up with what vendors claim. This puts them at the forefront of technology innovation in the justice system, especially in courts or government agencies where law librarians are pushing for access expansion.
Aiding the Community
It is not just the legal community that benefits from law libraries. These libraries also make it their mission to meet the needs of the community, whatever they may be. They are educational centers that provide information on all kinds of legal situations and questions so those who are confused or struggling know exactly where to go and who to turn to for help.
Businesses and nonprofits can use law libraries to learn about addressing any issues they may run into like taking advantage of market opportunities or learning about regulations surrounding certain topics. There are usually go-to guides that explain complicated laws in a way that anyone can understand. In addition, law libraries are a great place for networking and building relationships whether with partners, clients, or prospects because of the intimate and productive spaces they offer.
Members of the community are also an important group that law libraries serve. There are endless legal resources available, from clinics where lawyers volunteer their services, to educational programs, to print and electronic materials. There isn’t much that law libraries don’t touch on. They can provide resources on custody cases, fraud, unemployment, eviction, patents, and any other legal issue that you can think of. This gives everyone a better chance at succeeding in their legal pursuits.
A Necessity for All
If we expect everyone to have a fair chance with the law, it must start with having access to the law itself. Law libraries specifically cater to this need and expand in all other directions to do what they can for the community. The work that law libraries and their staff do for the justice system is invaluable whether they are assisting lawyers or assisting people who can’t afford lawyers. They help even the playing field for everyone by making sure there is a place that is open to people from all walks of life.