“Law Librarians as Access to Justice Allies”

LLNE President Nicole Dyszlewski and Service Committee chair Jessica Almeida recently published an article titled, “Law Librarians as Access to Justice Allies” in Public Services Quarterly.  The article was part of the “Special Libraries, Special Challenges” series and discusses the how law and public librarians can be allies in working toward shrinking the access to justice gap.  It also celebrates the work of a great number of LLNE leaders such as Catherine Biondo, Mike VanderHeijden, Josh Laporte, Jessica Jones, and all the members that have served on the Access to Justice and Service Committees.

The article begins by looking at the history of the LLNE Service and Access to Justice Committees, including the various service projects that have been organized over the past twenty years.  One of the most successful service projects was the Legal Book Drive, which led to the creation of LLNE Legal Link.  The Legal Link website has become a tool for law librarians to share their knowledge with public librarians and self-represented litigants, through the use of best practices and resource documents. 

The article continues by discussing the committees’ work in outreach, specifically presentations at regional public library conferences that allow law librarians and public librarians to connect over access to justice issues.  Also mentioned is the creation of the LLNE A2J Twitter account that promotes Legal Link documents as well as the programs and resources of other legal organizations such as court libraries and bar associations.

Finally, the authors explore the areas that public librarians are most concerned about.  They discuss the unauthorized practice of law, what it is, and how and when to say no to a question that veers into legal advice territory.  The article ends with a section on how to write a policy that explains legal information vs. legal advice.  This policy can be used by public library staff to help patrons understand the legal questions public librarians can and can’t answer.  For more information on the article, please reach out to Nicole Dyszlewski at ndyszlewski@rwu.edu or Jessica Almeida at jessica.almeida@umassd.edu

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