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: Roger Williams University School of Law

Location, location, location: The sheer beauty of the place stops first-time visitors to Roger Williams University (RWU) in their tracks. 

And it is striking. Comprising 143 acres of New England waterfront, the RWU main campus overlooks Mount Hope Bay in Bristol, Rhode Island.  Sparkling water and scenic coastline seem to lie in every direction. The towers of the historic Mount Hope Bridge loom in southerly views.

Like many buildings on campus, the RWU Law School features bay-facing rooms with expansive windows that take full advantage of spectacular views.  Ample recreation areas and walking paths provide students, faculty and staff with plentiful opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Our great law library staff is no exception, and on most days, you will find many of us walking, running, or swimming over our lunch hour. From the law and campus libraries to the wraparound deck of the Sailing and Education Center (photo), there are also plenty of quiet places to study and relax.

Of course, for law librarians, our favorite spot is the law library. Providing a year-round retreat from campus bustle and all weather, the library is designed to afford open, comfortable, and multi-functional spaces to meet student needs for study, work, and research. As the library adjusts its collection to an ever-increasing inventory of digital materials, planned renovations in coming years will see some shelving spaces converted to even more practical nooks for student use.

RWU Law is the only law school in Rhode Island. Bearing the responsibility of that distinction, the law library maintains a unique collection of current and historical materials related to Rhode Island’s state and federal jurisdictions.  The library also possesses a select collection of current and historical materials on other New England states, as well as key legal resources from farther afield.

Naturally befitting our coastal location, the law library collects heavily in maritime law. This collection supports the Marine Affairs Institute at RWU Law, a partnership with the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island Sea Grant.  The Marine Affairs Institute is home to the Rhode Island Sea Grant Legal Program, which prepares law students with academic training and practical experience to work in ocean and coastal law and policy.

With its bay-view perch, RWU’s location is intertwined with its academic programs, strategic priorities, and campus life.  With thoughtful interior spaces that complement outdoor natural beauty, RWU affords its community a healthy and supportive environment in which to thrive.

Featured LLNE Library: Boston College Law Library

BC Law Library in Seven Pictures

What makes Boston College Law Library unique?  Rather than just write about the library, here are some pictures to show how unique BC Law Library is:

Awesome Library Staff:  Not to be too cliched, but the people really do make the place.  As one library staff member put it, “I think one of the most important tenets of librarianship is sharing knowledge with others, and I am so grateful to work in a place that actively fosters a learning environment not just for its patrons, but for its staff as well.”  The workplace culture is really special. From encouraging professional growth and collaboration, to staff gatherings, spirit days like Weird Wednesdays, sharing homemade treats, and stopping to have a friendly chat, all build the feeling that the staff truly is a team.

Brilliant Outreach: Thanks to the Law Library’s tireless and enthusiastic de facto PR team, there are a plethora of outreach and engagement activities in the Law Library and through its social media. To give just a taste of the programs, the library has hosted Blind Date with a Book, Female Imprimatur digital exhibit, Baldwin in the Stacks (searching for a small stuffed eagle), Luck of the Library for St. Patrick’s Day and 1L orientation (including tours, games and prizes). The current outreach campaign is the Search for Law Squatch.  That video is incredible.  Subscribe to BC Law Library Instagram to keep up to date on the search!

Teaching Classes:  The Teaching & Research Librarians offer upper-level, credit bearing legal research classes each semester, taught in the Lutch classroom, located within the library.  The classes include Advanced Legal Research, Environmental Legal Research, International Legal Research, Business Law Research, Immigration Law Research and Intellectual Property Legal Research.  Enrollment is always maxed out, with a waiting list.  Students comment that these are some of the most useful classes they take in law school.

Rare Book Room: The Rare Book Room is named in honor of Daniel R. Coquillette, J. Donald Monan, S.J. University Professor, Boston College Law School.  The Rare Book Room hosts regular exhibits, law school class visits, and is available as a student study space (though it is chilly!).  The collection focuses on books that working English and American lawyers in the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries likely would have owned in their personal libraries.

Unique Check Out Items:  Need a beach chair?  Or a snow shovel?  How about a cornhole set?  Frisbee?  And of course, you can also check out book stands, chargers and wireless headphones.  Look out Amazon, the BC Law Library has it all!

Meditation Room: The Law Library works hard to support the overall wellness of the law school community.  Located inside the library, the meditation room is available for any students needing a quiet place to reflect and recharge, whenever the law library is open.  Prof Filippa Marullo Anzalone, Associate Dean for Library and Technology Services, teaches a class Mindfulness and Contemplative Practices for Lawyers.  Additionally, Prof Anzalone offers weekly drop in meditation sessions over Zoom. 

Nap Pods: On the upper floor of the library, the three nap pods are quite popular with our busy, sleep deprived law students.  Often, when you walk by, you will see several sets of legs poking out.  The pods have sounds to help students relax and rest, and include an alarm, so no one misses class!

Want to learn more about Boston College Law Library?  Check out our webpage and follow us on social media (Instagram, Twitter).

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.

Interview with LLNE Spring Meeting Panelist Ronald Wheeler

As we continue to get ready for the LLNE Spring Meeting, we want to share this interview with Ron Wheeler, the plenary panel moderator:

  1. Tell us a fun fact about yourself!  
Ronald E. Wheeler, Jr.
Director of Fineman & Pappas Law Libraries

I once attended a Madonna concert dressed as Madonna. 

  1. What is your favorite New England spot and why?  

Downtown Providence because it is urban and foody and cultured and full of life. 

  1. Do you have any pets?  

No, but I still hope to one day own a very large dog. 

  1. What is your favorite hobby?  

Dancing, reading, traveling 

  1. What do you enjoy most about being a law librarian?  

The people I work with. 

  1. How did you end up where you are, doing what you’re doing? How did you end up in your specialty?  

A combination of hard work, dumb luck, serendipity, and remembering to always be my true and authentic self. 

  1. What do you think is one of the most important aspects of critical law librarianship?  

The need for us to always question what is presented to us as truth.