Featured LLNE Library: Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries

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

Featured LLNE Library: Western New England University School of Law

What do you get when you mix one Southerner, two Midwesterners, and three New Englanders? A small-but-mighty library staff with a whole lotta love for our patrons. Western New England University School of Law Library consists of four librarians, two support staff, and the best student employees money can hire. We are located in Springfield, Massachusetts, the birthplace of basketball and Dr. Suess.

Nicole Belbin, Associate Dean for Library and Information Resources, has worked in various positions in the library since 2005 and was hired as the director this year. Her team includes Kathy Layer, User Experience Librarian (joined our staff in 2015); Diane Swanson, Circulation/Serials Specialist (2019); Christopher Collins, Research and Emerging Technologies Librarian, and Susan Wells, Temporary Librarian (2021); and our most recent addition, Jasmin Thornton, Circulation Assistant (February 2022).

We are extremely proud of how creative we are at meeting our patrons’ needs. Our can-do attitudes really paid off during the early days of COVID when the building was closed to everyone except for patrons studying for the bar exam. We developed a contactless curbside pick-up option utilizing our patio as the drop-off and pick-up location to get materials to our patrons and added extensively to our digital content.

We spent last summer repurposing spaces and making room for three new areas of the library: the Nourishment Nook, the Center for Academic and Bar Excellence, and an expanded Self-help Center. These new areas help us better meet our primary mission of supporting and enhancing the research and educational endeavors of our students, faculty, and staff, as well as assisting other individuals in finding needed legal information.

The Nourishment Nook is still under construction, but when complete it will have a prayer room, a lactation space (with a changing table), a meditation area, and a satellite location for WNEU’s Bear Necessities Market. The Market provides free supplies, such as food and personal hygiene items, to students with food insecurities.

The Center for Academic and Bar Excellence is a collaboration with the Assistant Dean of Academic and Bar Success to provide dedicated space for peer-to-peer tutoring and workshops.

We added to our Nolo collection and similar publications to expand our existing Self-help Center to support a partnership with the Center for Social Justice on their Legal Technology Kiosk initiative, where we served as the first site.

The last big change we made to our library space was purchasing five Pillar Booths for students to use for individual study spaces, Zoom meetings and interviews, and online classes.

We are excited to kick off the second year of our Intro to Law program, an outreach program where we partner with our Admissions department and the Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School.

When we are not busy assisting patrons, we enjoy going to the beach, hitting the slopes, singing in a choir, watching IndyCar races, baking, tackling DIY home improvements, conducting genealogy research, or spending time with our families, which include toddlers, teenagers, grandkids, cats, dogs, fish, and a bird.