The Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries (TCLLs) are a network of 15 locations, one in each county, except for Suffolk and Dukes Counties. The TCLLs have been helping the bench, bar, and public find the law for free since 1816. We started as county law libraries, each operating independently, until the late 1970’s when we were brought together as a network under the umbrella of the Massachusetts Trial Court. See https://www.mass.gov/doc/200-years-of-free-legal-information-from-county-law-libraries-to-massachusetts-trial-court-law/download for a thorough history of the libraries. Our mighty staff is made up of 14 Head Law Librarians, 13 Law Library Assistants, 3 Circuit Law Librarians, an Electronic Resources Librarian, a Web Content Librarian, and our fearless Law Library Manager. Because the TCLLs are spread across the Commonwealth, we are able to help patrons far and wide, and we provide access to our services in several different ways, including email, chat reference, by phone, by text, and in person. Most recently, the Brockton Law Library started “Ask a Law Librarian” Zoom sessions on Thursday afternoons to help provide legal information to the public. Last fiscal year, the TCLLs assisted an astounding 31,999 patrons. Our web site features the highly popular Law About Pages, which are subject guides on about 200 different topics in the law. Each specially-curated Law About Page includes relevant statutes, cases, web sources, forms, and print materials that our locations hold. Last fiscal year, our Law About Pages received over 2.1 million unique page views.
Our locations offer exciting outreach programs for our communities. The Berkshire Law Library, located in Pittsfield, holds an annual “Cinema of Law” film series, in partnership with the Berkshire Bar Association and the Berkshire Athenaeum, the first four Tuesdays in March every year. See https://www.mass.gov/doc/2022-cinema-of-law-poster/download for last season’s line-up. We reach out to our local bar associations with the latest news. For example, in September 2021, the Hampshire and Franklin Law Libraries presented to the Bar Advocates in Hampshire County on navigating the Hampshire Law Library. We’ve also collaborated with the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, Social Law Library, and the Massachusetts Court Service Centers on a series of webinars to orient public librarians to our services so that they can better help their patrons who have legal questions. See https://guides.mblc.state.ma.us/legal-reference to access these valuable programs.
Our 200+ years have infused our print collections and buildings with fascinating history. For example, the Essex Law Library is housed in an old, 1806 Baptist Church that was picked up and moved 250 feet to its current location! Check out this video to see part of the move: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PP_-Mvly2AI. The Hampshire Law Library holds the most thorough historical collection of the Massachusetts Register within the TCLLs and is located on the first floor of the old, historic courthouse in Northampton.
To learn more about the TCLLs and the services we provide, please see our website https://www.mass.gov/orgs/trial-court-law-libraries.
TCLL staff at the Fall 2022 LLNE meeting from left to right: Gary Smith, Alexandra Bernson, Robert DeFabrizio, Louise Hoagland, Sara McMahon, Barbara Schneider