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[Editor’s note: the following is a guest post by Emily Feltren, Director of Government Relations for the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). This post grew out of a conversation we had about “advocacy tips” sent out to the listserv of the Northern CA chapter of AALL (NOCALL) to which I subscribe. This is a great example of how a community can advocate successfully about the important work that FDLP libraries do to collect, describe, preserve, give access to government information. Emily can be reached at efeltren AT aall DOT org.]
Last year, the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) began collecting stories from our members and chapters about their use of U.S. legal materials in print. Our goal was to demonstrate to Congress that researchers, attorneys, students and members of the public continue to use and value print legal resources. I’m pleased to report that our members responded with great enthusiasm to our call for stories! Through our Print Resource Usage Log, we’ve collected more than 40 examples that illustrate the ongoing need for access to print legal materials.
Stories range from urgent faculty requests where print “saved the day,” to law review cite checking, to patron preference. In several cases, law librarians said that using the print made it easier to find exact language in a document, look at multiple provisions simultaneously, and verify language and proper citations.
We’ve already described some of the excellent entries to the log on AALL’s Washington Blawg. For example, a law librarian at a private firm noted how much more practical print resources can be when attorneys use multiple titles of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) every day. She prefers the print “to be able to look at multiple provisions simultaneously without having to continually expand the table of contents at FDsys to find other provisions, or hav[ing] to bear the search expense of looking in Westlaw or Lexis.”
Maria Willmer, Legal Research Specialist at DePaul College of Law Library, shared her story of how the print not only ruled, but it saved the day! She wrote, “During a rush request from a Professor for his class, I needed to find a Proposed Rule and track it through to when it became a Final Rule and then find where it was codified in the CFR. Using the print issues and volume were the best way to track this down. I pulled a 2010 FR issue in paper – found a proposed rule – pulled the CFR volume where this potential rule would be codified and then back tracked to find the final rule. I honestly believe having the print volumes in front of me, helped me quickly navigate and find all three documents in a short [amount] of time …print rules (pun intended)!”
AALL continues to collect stories of print usage, and we invite you to join our efforts. If you find yourself referring to print legal materials, such as the print Code of Federal Regulations, Congressional Record, and U.S. Code, please log your usage on our SurveyMonkey form. We will continue to collect the responses and share them, with names and identifying information removed, with the Government Printing Office and key Committees on Capitol Hill.
Thank you, James, for the opportunity to guest blog. I look forward to sharing information and telling stories. We’ll see how September unfolds.
In July, the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Executive Board approved a new Government Relations Policy. The policy covers the dissemination of government information, as well as intellectual property, privacy, and preservation. I hope to blog about some of these issues in the future, but reading through revised policy, I was most pleased to see a new section (Section VII) on support for law libraries. AALL calls for adequate funding for the FDLP and state depository programs, as it always has, but there is a new emphasis on strong support for public law libraries, including state, courthouse, county, and local libraries.
I’ve spent 20 years at an academic law library that is open to the public. We have a public mission, as a state institution and as a depository library. We provide reference services, and print and electronic collections to the public, which includes self-represented persons. But our primary purpose is to support the research and curricular needs of the University of Washington School of Law faculty and students. Although we serve many people without lawyers, it’s the public law libraries of our state and region, most notably the King County Law Library, that are truly on the front lines of providing access to justice. These important, and often fragile, parts of our government and legal information ecosystem deserve strong support.
From an Announcement by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts:
A pilot project aimed at having public libraries enhance the public’s knowledge and use of the federal judiciary’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) service begins July 1, 2011.
Two libraries – the Library of Congress in the District of Columbia and the Law Library for San Bernadino, California – will kick off the pilot, but up to 50 additional public libraries may join them in future months.
PACER allows users to obtain case information from federal courts without having to visit the courthouse. The service allows an Internet user to request information about a particular case or party, and makes the data immediately available for printing or downloading at a cost of 8 cents per page.
In the pilot project, libraries will conduct at least one training class for the general public every three months, and offer training or refresher opportunities for library staff at least one a year. Those staff members, in turn, may assist library patrons in the use of PACER. For participating libraries, the first $50 of PACER use fees each quarter will be waived.
The pilot is a joint undertaking of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, the Government Printing Office, and the American Association of Law Libraries.
Susan Nevelow, author of the Library Law Blog recently wrote:
In the shameless self-promotion category, my article on FOIA and how to reclaim information disappearing from government web sites, Let the People Know the Facts: Can Government Information Removed from the Internet be Reclaimed?, 98 Law Library Journal 7 (2006), which was originally posted on this blog as a draft in June 2005, has been awarded the Law Library Journal article of the year award by the American Association of Law Libraries.
We don’t think that’s shameless. We’re happy to recommend your work to others. Especially when it is a timely reminder to our readers that if your library depends on pointing to third party servers instead of serving locally housed electronic collections through the Internet, you could lose access in the blink of eye with NO public process.
There is another way. But you have to ask GPO and Congress for it.