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.