Empowered by the Legal Research Instruction Program (LRIP)

By Alvin Ealy*

There are some questions that a public librarian will not answer because they fall under the purview of a specialized profession.  We don’t want to do harm to our patrons nor do we want to be liable for questions about health, medicine, or taxes.  You can also add legal questions to this list, but what I learned at LRIP is that there is a world of difference between legal advice and questions about the law.   Information about the law is much more readily available than I realized.  It was useful and instructive to learn how to use Lexis and Westlaw, but most public libraries do not have the funding for such resources.  But LRIP taught me how to find useful legal information via Google as well as state and federal government websites.  The lessons learned in this course certainly made me feel empowered.   Before LRIP, I would refer all legal questions down the road to the Plymouth Law Library.  After LRIP, I feel better prepared to help patrons with questions about the law.

*Alvin Ealy is the Head of Adult Services/Reference at the Kingston Public Library in Kingston, MA and a recipient of the 2018 LLNE Service Committee Scholarship to attend the Legal Research Information Program.

The Legal Research Instruction Program and Continuing a Commitment to Equity and Justice

By Heather Diaz*

Beyond supporting patrons’ research and learning interests, I would like to extend the reach of what we can do at the library in terms of patrons’ access to justice. Perhaps because of our proximity to the Trial Court Library, reference services have comprised of referring folks to the expertise of the law librarians there. I felt limited by my own threadbare understanding of the legal system and intimidated by the process of reading the law. In these regards, I certainly related to patrons dealing with complex, unfamiliar, or overwhelming legal issues. The Legal Research Instruction Program exposed me not only to open-web legal resources that I can share, both with patrons and on our library’s website, but also to the types of research methodologies that attorneys, paralegals, and law librarians use. This type of insight strengthens my own research process, which helps me to interview patrons better and prepare them for further research at the Trial Court Library. Furthermore, I’m excited to connect to the law librarians there, build a stronger professional relationship between our two institutions, and better facilitate community access to legal information. Considering the systemic inequalities that play out through the courts, the laws, and law enforcement, I consider this work to be profoundly important for our commitment to equity and justice. It was a great, eye-opening experience to demystify the legal research process!

*Heather Diaz is a reference librarian at Forbes Library in Northampton and a recipient of the 2018 LLNE Service Committee Scholarship to attend the Legal Research Information Program.

Scholarships for LRIP

By Alisha Hennen

All public librarians are encouraged to apply for a scholarship, sponsored by the LLNE Service Committee, to attend our chapter’s Legal Research Instruction Program.

The Legal Research Instruction Program (LRIP) is a six week seminar geared towards public librarians interested in learning more about law librarianship.  Each week, a different aspect of legal research is covered, everything from an overview of the U.S. legal system to finding transactional law documents.  The class will run on Tuesday evenings from April 10th – May 15th. The six classes will be held from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Suffolk Law in Boston.  For more information about the LRIP course, go to https://llne.org/legalresearchinstruction/  or contact Brian Flaherty directly at brian2@bu.edu.

The LLNE Service Committee is providing two scholarships to cover the cost of registration.  Applicants must be public (non-law) librarians from the New England area.  For more information and to apply, go to https://llne.org/committees/service/.  Please send applications to Jessica Almeida at jessica.almeida@umassd.edu by Friday, March 30, 2018.

We encourage all LLNE members to share this scholarship opportunity with their local public libraries and any public librarians that would be interested in this excellent professional development opportunity.

Helping My Neighborhood Library through the LRIP Program

By Emily Todd*

Legal literacy is an important area that can often be overlooked by public librarians, despite the fact that our patrons come to us regularly with questions involving a variety of legal issues. While I cannot interpret the law for my patrons or offer them legal advice, I can conduct a reference interview in which I can determine the nature of their legal information request. For example, do they need a lawyer, or do they simply want to find out what the law says (minus an interpretation)? Typically, my inclination is to err on the side of caution with these types of reference questions. Sometimes the offer of the number for the Lawyer Referral Service or a public law library where a qualified law librarian could assist them is the best answer. However, for patrons with legal research questions, I am missing an opportunity to serve my patrons and instruct them in information retrieval.

The Legal Research Instruction course is equipping me with the skills and knowledge to assist my patrons in tackling their legal reference questions. Like many people, the last time I learned about the legal system of the United States was in high school. During each session, the experienced teachers guide us through the ways our legal system works.  We discuss leading our patrons to the information they seek, whether it is publicly accessible (e.g., on a government website) or a fee is required.  This opportunity is invaluable to me professionally. Developing these skills will allow me to take my legal research training back to my neighborhood library, where I can put them to good use helping my patrons and perhaps teaching them some basics about the legal system along the way.Professional Headshot

*Emily Todd is the Program and Community Outreach Librarian for the Fields Corner Branch of the Boston Public Library.  She is a recipient of the 2017 LLNE Service Committee scholarship to attend the Legal Research Information Program.

Enhancing Capabilities through the LRIP Program

Law booksBy Brian Hodgdon*

If pressed, I imagine that most public librarians will admit to struggling with the unique challenges presented by patrons seeking legal help. These requests, like those of the medical variety, can leave us feeling less than helpful and often require a punt to the experts at the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries or the nearest legal aid program. While we know we’re doing the right thing by not diving into a subject area where errors or misinterpretations can have very real consequences for patrons, we don’t feel great about “getting to no”. That’s why I’m excited to be participating in the Legal Research Instruction Program this Spring, and grateful for the scholarship award. In the first half of the 6-week course we’ve been introduced to the finer points of case law and statutory research.  We have also learned how to assemble legislative histories, covered administrative law, and honed our searching skills in Westlaw and Lexis. We’ve also attempted to break out of the databases that most of us in public libraries won’t have access to on the job, replicating our searches in Google Scholar and scouring government websites for the information we need. While enhancing our capabilities as legal researchers, we are also building the confidence to determine what we can and cannot provide to the public. Thanks to LLNE for offering this important program and encouraging public librarians to participate. A special thanks to Brian Flaherty for steering the ship and to the expert lecturers that have joined us so far.

*Brian Hodgdon is the Director of the Saugus Public Library and a recipient of the 2017 LLNE Service Committee Scholarship to attend the Legal Research Information Program.

Winners of the 2017 LRIP Scholarships

Photo by Brandon Mowinkel

By the LLNE Service Committee

The LLNE Service Committee, in conjunction with the Education Committee and Legal Research Instruction Program (LRIP), is pleased to announce the public librarians awarded scholarships to attend LRIP this year. The Service Committee has awarded the scholarships to Emily Todd, Program and Community Outreach Librarian for the Fields Corner Branch of the Boston Public Library, and Brian Hodgdon, Director of the Saugus Public Library. Both candidates have extensive experience in public libraries as well as an immense interest in learning more about the legal system and how to respond more effectively to legal information requests. Please help us in congratulating Emily and Brian and look out for their upcoming blog posts on their experiences in the Legal Research Instruction Program!

Scholarships for LRIP

Photograph
Photo credit Matthew Landers

By Jessica Almeida

All public librarians are encouraged to apply for a scholarship, sponsored by the LLNE Service Committee, to attend our chapter’s Legal Research Instruction Program.

The Legal Research Instruction Program (LRIP) is a six week seminar for those interested in learning more about legal research and law librarianship. Each week, a different aspect of legal research is covered, everything from an overview of the U.S. legal system to finding transactional law documents.  The class will run on Tuesday evenings from March 14th – April 25th (with no class on April 18th).  This year, one week will be online and the remaining classes will be held from 5:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Suffolk Law in Boston.  For more information about the LRIP course, go to https://llne.org/legalresearchinstruction/intro_course/ or contact Brian Flaherty at bflaherty@nesl.edu.

The LLNE Service Committee is providing two scholarships to cover the cost of registration.  Applicants must be public librarians from the New England area. For more information and to apply, go to https://llne.org/committees/service/.  Please send applications to Nicole Dyszlewski at ndyszlewski@rwu.edu by Thursday, March 2, 2017.  If you have questions, please contact the co-chairs of the Service Committee, Joshua LaPorte (joshua.laporte@uconn.edu) and Jessica Jones (jjones@sociallaw.com).

We encourage all LLNE members to share this scholarship opportunity with their local public libraries and any public librarians that would be interested in this excellent professional development opportunity.

Exciting News about the LLNE Legal Research Instruction Program

By Ellen Phillips, LLNE Education Committee Co-Chair

Each Spring LLNE offers a six-week legal research instruction program for librarians in the New England area who would like to learn about law librarianship. For many years, this unique course has been offering instruction in various legal topics.

Beginning this year, one class of the Legal Research Instruction Program (LRIP), the section on Case Law, will be taught online. The rest of the classes will be held in person on Tuesday evenings at Suffolk Law in Boston as it has been for the past two years.

Each topic is taught by academic law librarians who are members of LLNE and is overseen by Reference Librarian Brian Flaherty from New England Law.

Currently Brian, along with Susan Vaughn, a legal information librarian from Boston College Law Library, is working together to create a lesson plan to teach caselaw online.  All of the instructors volunteer to donate their time to participate in LRIP, and the students have the benefit of being taught by a variety of information professionals who are also experts in their field.

Class participants are varied in their background and career goals. The class traditionally has an even mix of public, academic, and law firm librarians, as well as the occasional pupil who is considering library school. This ensures a lively mix of skills and experience, but it was noted that the majority of the participants are from the greater Boston area. It is hoped that by offering a hybrid format, LLNE will be able to encourage librarians who live further away to consider attending.

This year’s Legal Instruction class will run from March 14th through April 25th. Classes will not be held on April 18th. A description the program is available at the LLNE website. The deadline to register is Friday, March 7th.

The Education Committee is excited about this change and welcomes any feedback. The members of the committee are Greg Ewing, Brian Flaherty, Bonnie Gallagher, Elliott Hibbler, Jessica Lundgren, Ellen Phillips, and Susan Vaughn.

Service Committee Update

By the LLNE Service Committee

The Service Committee continues to focus its efforts on making connections and building partnerships with public libraries in the New England. This Spring the co-chairs of the service committee will be presenting a session titled Successful Strategies for Managing Law-Related Patron Inquiries at the Rhode Island Library Association (RILA) Annual Conference in Warwick, RI. This will provide an opportunity for the Service Committee members to meet public librarians with an interest in law and to showcase LLNE’s Legal Link project.

For the third year in a row, the Service Committee worked with the LLNE Education Committee and the Legal Research Instruction Program (LRIP) to offer two scholarships to New England area public librarians interested in taking the LRIP course. The two librarians who received the scholarships this year were April Pascucci, Library Technician at the U.S. Court of Appeals Library for the First Circuit and Jazmin Idakaar, Generalist Librarian I of the Mattapan Branch of the Boston Public Library.

LRIP Public Librarian Scholarships

For the third year in a row the LLNE Service Committee, with the support of the LLNE Executive Board, is administering a scholarship for New England non-law public librarians to attend our chapter’s award-winning Legal Research Instruction Program. ( https://llne.org/legalresearchinstruction/intro_course/)

The LLNE Service Committee wishes to encourage and support access to legal information and education for New England-based librarians working in non-law public libraries. As part of its ongoing service initiative of outreach and service to local non-law public libraries, the Service Committee has elected to offer up to two scholarships for public librarians to attend LLNE’s annual Legal Research Instruction Program (LRIP).

Information about the scholarship can be found on the LLNE website (https://llne.org/committees/service/#publiclibrarianscholarships)

The application is also available online. (https://llne.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/LLNE_Intro_Scholarship_2016.docx)

The deadline for submission is Monday, February 29, 2016.

Completed applications should be sent to Nicole Dyszlewski at ndyszlewski@rwu.edu.

We are advertising this scholarship on various listservs throughout our region. We are asking all members to share this announcement widely and to recommend this scholarship for those public librarians who may be interested in a law-related professional development opportunity.

If you have any questions, please email one of our committee co-chairs, Jessica Jones (jjones@socialaw.com) or Joshua LaPorte (joshua.laporte@uconn.edu)