Text courtesy of Hayley Coble, Librarian II, Anoka County Library
What do you do when a patron asks you for help finding a specific legal form? If you give them a list of lawyers practicing in the county, is that okay? What is the line between providing information, and providing legal advice?
Do these questions, and any questions involving legal reference, make you freeze up and panic? WebJunction can help! Recently, WebJunction created a self-paced course on Civil Legal Justice and providing legal reference to library patrons. The course is 9 hours long over a series of four modules, and it can be done at your own pace (I did it over about 4-5 weeks), and is completely free! It was created with help from the Legal Service Corporation, which provides civil legal help to low-income Americans to help ensure that justice is available to everyone – not just to those who can afford to pay an attorney.
In this course, you learn about the many reasons why lower-income Americans often do not seek legal aid for their civil legal problems, and about how we as librarians can help connect them to sources that can help them with their legal needs. Also included is resources for librarians, including law libraries, courts, state bar associations, and other places that it is good to cultivate partnerships with. You also learn how to build a strong legal reference collection (spoiler alert: You can find most of what you will need online!), and how to conduct a legal reference interview. With interactive videos, a bounty of resources and references, and short assignments that challenge you to become familiar with free and low-cost civil legal resources in your area, this course will prepare you for when those strange and terrifying legal questions arise, and will give you the confidence to handle them as you would any reference question.
I went into this course knowing absolutely nothing about civil legal justice, or how to do legal reference. Now, I am confident that when someone has a question for legal reference, I will know where to look to get them started. And I can do so without worrying that I am providing legal advice! This course was absolutely wonderful, and I learned so much. If you are also interested in civil legal justice or in helping to provide legal reference services, you can sign up for the course here: https://www.webjunction.org/news/webjunction/creating-pathways-to-civil-legal-justice-new-course.html
Hayley Coble, Librarian II, Anoka County Library