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Turning to the Library for Legal Help

by on June 18, 2013

Nobody wants to be in a situation that necessitates hiring an attorney. Some people simply need advice, but are cautious because they assume they cannot afford one. Others just need to understand what their basic rights are. Where can people go when they are seeking legal information? The public library is one place to start. Across the country, libraries are providing a space for people to connect with practicing attorneys and get the help they need. Partnering with Lawyers in Libraries, the Farmington Public Library in Maine participated in Law Day (May 1, 2013). At the event, lawyers provided information about free legal resources to patrons.[1] Another event at the Bangor Public Library is geared specifically towards veterans.[2] In Northern California, the Pro Bono Project collaborates with the San Jose Public Library to offer 20-minute attorney consultations to their patrons.[3] In a further example, several of the Oakland Public Library’s branches offer similar assistance.

Public libraries provide a unique and indispensable service to their communities by participating in these programs. Whether its employment, family, or financial concerns, many people can find much needed assistance with these kinds of resources. Holding these events at a public library makes sense, because not everyone is aware of, or has access to, specialized law libraries in their area. Additionally, online database research might not suffice for answering complex questions. Offering these sessions illustrate that libraries contribute to democracy and are advocates for consumer’s rights. Many library websites also include legal self-help links. The Alameda County Public Library’s page is an example of a useful legal research website. It contains links to important federal, state, and local information. If your library does not yet have a functioning legal webpage, it may be worth creating one. The idea is to provide patrons with all the information and tools required to successfully resolve their needs. Asking library managers about what else can be done to help patrons might jump start the conversation. After all, folks who already turn to the library for Internet and computing needs may return to the same place for legal help.


[1] “Lawyers offer free advice at library Law Day 2013,” Morning Sentinel, April 30, 2013, accessed May 15, 2013, http://www.onlinesentinel.com/news/Lawyers-offer-free-advice-at-library-Law-Day-2013.html


[2] “Veteran’s Benefits Law Walk-In Clinic,” Lawyers in Libraries, accessed May 15, 2013, http://www.lawyersinlibraries.org/content/veterans%E2%80%99-benefits-law-walk-clinic

[3] “Lawyers in the Library,” San Jose Public Library, accessed May 17, 2013, http://www.sjpl.org/event/lawyers-library


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