AALL Conferences lawlibrary

AALL Annual Meeting Roundup: Working With Public Libraries

Two programs at the meeting dealt with the role of public libraries in providing access to legal information: “Partnering with Pubic Libraries to Expand Services” and “Statutes, Cases and Codes, Oh My! Easing Public Librarians Down the Road to Legal Reference.”

Many states do not have an extensive system of court libraries and public libraries can fill the gap.  Where court law libraries are available, public libraries can supplement with additional hours and locations.

Marcia Koslov, of the Los Angeles Law Library, began the “Partnering” program by stating that law libraries are a  means of bridging the gap between the courts and public libraries.  Public libraries and court libraries can complement each other. Public libraries can make legal resources more available to the public with better hours and more locations and have an established user population.  Court law libraries have trained staff, access to extensive legal material and are located within or adjacent to the court building.

Court law libraries can expand service to the public by partnering with public libraries to provide collection support, online services and staff training for public libraries.  Public libraries, in turn,  can provide additional space and extended hours.  Understanding the legal system, legal materials and the difference between legal information and advice can be a challenge for public librarians.

Los Angeles has a model outreach program consisting of three parts:  an introduction to the courts, access to legal information which includes a “civics” lesson, and legal materials in the public library collection.

While there might be concerns that this model could lead to competition, it must be considered that the public library will not be able to provide the extensive law collection or staff expertise found in a court library.  This model of partnering will allow the public library to provide better service to patrons needing legal information.

Liz Reppe, of the Dakota Law Library in Minnesota, described the partnership between the public libraries and law libraries in Minnesota.  You can find law libraries embedded in public libraries there.  This model provides the advantage of having public library substitutes when the law librarian is out of the library.  Other ways in which libraries partner in Minnesota include attorney legal information sessions in public libraries, guides to legal resources on the Internet created by law librarians, self help terminals in public libraries and legal clinics.

Sara Galligan, of the Ramsey Law Library in Minnesota, presented information on grant opportunities that Minnesota has taken advantage of to fund partnerships between public and law libraries.  LSTA grants are a source of federal funds implemented by the State Librarian.  The Gates Foundation is another source mentioned.

The program, “Statutes, Cases…” provided examples of programs developed by law librarians for training public librarians in legal reference.

Brian Huffman, a law librarian in a Minnesota public library, spoke about the “Austin” Conference held earlier this year.  Teams representing states from across the country met in Austin, Texas to address the needs and methods of training public libraries in providing legal information to the public.  He shared a FAQ and template resulting from that conference that could be used by public librarians to develop materials for use in providing access to legal information.  He provided a link to the conference materials:  His overview of Minnesota efforts in developing materials for public libraries included MALL‘s resources, a MLA 2009 Handout, “Access to Justice for All: The Public Library’s Role,” and the Ramsey County Law Library Guide.  Other resources mentioned included a training program for public librarians that deals with the unauthorized practice of law, “What Public Librarians Can Do,” and a handout on the topic for patrons.

In Georgia, the ALLA offers a Legal Research Institute that provides training to public librarians.

Terrye Conroy, of the University of South Carolina Coleman Karesh Law Library, described  South Carolina as a very rural state without a state law library and only a few public law libraries.  Public libraries are needed to fill the gap.  The need for the training of public librarians called upon to provide legal reference service to the public is being addressed by the  Circuit Riders Outreach Program. South Carolina law librarians travel the state to deliver the program and provide the presentation materials online for reference.

Maryland is one of the states that sent a team to the Austin Conference. The team was made up of  Sarah Frush, a Legal Aid attorney who heads the Glen Burnie District Court Self Help Center, Julie Strange who administers Maryland’s Ask Us Now service and Cathy Ashby, the director of the Ruth Enlow Library of Garrett County.  They are now collaborating with the staff of the Maryland State Law Library to create a three part webinar on legal information for public librarians.

On a local level, I recently worked with Catherine McGuire of the Maryland State Law Library to present a program to Anne Arundel County public librarians on legal information.  Catherine provided an in depth overview of law and legal materials.  I was able to highlight resources and referrals  specific to Anne Arundel County.

As a result of meeting Wanda Wagner, the director of  the North Area County Library,  at this training we can now offer the “Ask a Lawyer” program in north county on a regular basis beginning  in January of 2011.  Without taking part in that training, the AACPLL would still be an unknown resource to many Anne Arundel County public librarians and it would not have been so easy to expand the program.  The public can only benefit from such partnerships.

AALL Conferences lawlibrary

AALL Annual Meeting Roundup: The Practical – Accounting and Reference Statistics

When the responsibility of library accounts transferred from the Clerk of the Court to the county’s finance department, I was exposed to a new way of talking about library finances.  I decided to attend the program, “Accounting: Prepare for  Your Future,” to get a better understanding of finance.  As a result I now have a better understanding of the vocabulary and some of the concepts.  Still, I am more than aware that I belong in the information world and not the world of accounting.

The program, “Lies, Damned Lies, and Reference Statistics: Maximizing Your Data Efficiency,” was more library practical.  Jennifer Behrens of Duke University provided a good overview of the hows and whys of collecting reference statistics.  Though she may have been speaking from an academic perspective, the information was useful for any type of law library.

A library might keep statistics because it is required or for use in decision making and planning.  Statistics can be collected in a variety of ways from simply making hash marks on a page, “the prison wall method,” for each transaction to recording every question and answer in a database.  Duke uses a form that records whether a transaction is in person, by phone, email or an appointment longer than ten minutes.  In addition, it is recorded whether the transaction involved faculty, students, other university, non-university or if is directional.  With the information collected in this way patterns can be seen over time as long as data is collected in a consistent manner.  The continuous recording of questions and answers can result in more qualitative data.  Collected reference data can become a database of reference questions.  This allows the library to track types of questions and make use of past transactions in aid in answering future reference questions.  A hybrid approach might combine the two methods.  All transactions could be logged with the more substantive questions recorded in a knowledge base.  Statistics can be collected daily or via sampling.  If using a sample to compile statistics it should be decided whether the sample period will be a week or a day and how often, weekly or monthly or some other regular time period.

Reference statistics can be used to evaluate the success of a reference transaction, to develop information packets for frequently ask questions or plan to staff the reference when use is higher.  No matter how a library collects reference statistics, it is important that the information is used.

The AACPLL has been recording all substantive reference transactions in an askSam database.  All questions are assigned a subject area and, for most, a category within the subject.  In addition, it is indicated if the question was initiated by a non-attorney, via phone or email.  We can use the database to help in answering repeat questions.  We can track the types of questions asked most often and by whom.  This information aids in making collection development decisions.

A record of the library’s questions can provide evidence of the value of a public court law library by illustrating the breadth or information provided by the library to meet the legal information needs of a variety of users.


National Pro Bono Week Celebration in the AACPLL

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On Tuesday, October 26, the law library celebrated National Pro Bono Week by hosting an appreciation lunch for the attorneys who volunteer for the “Ask a Lawyer” programs.  The AABA provided the food and we provided the appreciation certificates.  I hope that these volunteer attorneys  know how much their donation of time is appreciated.

Through the “Ask a Lawyer” programs, 36 attorneys have provided 181 hours to 378 clients.  Services have been offered at the Annual Anne Arundel County Homeless Resource Day,  in the Law Library and at the Brooklyn Park Branch and the Russett Branch at Maryland City of the Anne Arundel County Public Library.

John Gardner, AABA President, presented the attendees with certificates of thanks for their volunteer time with the Ask a Lawyer programs.  John also mentioned that Andy Vernick of Wharton, Levin, Ehrmantraut and Klein is Anne Arundel County’s Pro Bono Resource Center Pro Bono Star.  He will be recognized as the Anne Arundel County Honoree at the PBRC 20th Anniversary Benefit Gala on November 13.  Andy was chosen because of his work with the Asbury United Methodist Church located across the street from his office.  He offered his pro bono service to members of the church on a whim and has been busy providing his legal services on an average of 5 hours per week since.

It is hoped that beginning with these programs and the recognition of one of Anne Arundel County’s Pro Bono stars that interest in pro bono service will increase for Anne Arundel County attorneys.

Cliff  O’Connor has already shown interest in expanding the program by agreeing to coordinate the  “Ask a Lawyer in the Public Library”  program.  Through his commitment the program will be offered on a regular basis in 2011 at the North County Area library of the Anne Arundel County Public Library.  The first is scheduled for January 19, 2011.  Then, beginning on March 16, the service will be offered on every 3rd Wednesday through June.  There may be a summer break but the program will definitely resume in September and continue through December.

lawlibrary Maryland Law

Maryland Regulations for Foreclosure Procedures for Residential Property

The Commissioner of Financial Regulation proposed emergency regulations for Foreclosure Procedures for Residential Property that were effective July 1, 2010.  COMAR 09.03.12 was published in the Maryland Register on July 16, 2010.  The text of the regulations in 37:15 Md. R. 986-997 (July 16, 2010) can be found at the Maryland Register Online and on the Commissioner’s website. The regulations consist of forms for the Notice of Intent to Foreclose, a Preliminary Loss Mitigation Affidavit, a Final Loss Mitigation Affidavit, a Request for Mediation, a Loss Mitigation Application (includes hardship affidavit) and Instructions, a preprinted envelope, Notice of Foreclosure Action, and instructions provided by the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings.

The Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation provides these forms on their website in Word format.  It states that the forms are provided as a convenience for mortgage lenders/servicers and that consumers should obtain the forms directly from their mortgage lender/servicer.

lawlibrary Maryland Law

Maryland Court of Appeals Adopts Emergency Foreclosure Rules

The Daily Record reported that the Maryland Court of Appeals approved the foreclosure rules changes in the 166th Report of the Maryland Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure yesterday, October 19, 2010.  The report can be found on the Rules Committee website.  The rules were proposed at an emergency meeting on Friday October 15, 2010.  The report proposed new rule 14-207.1 and amended rules 14-207 and 1-311.

The rules changes are necessary in light of the recently revealed problems with affidavits in foreclosure actions.  New rule 14-207.1 deals with court screening of pleadings and papers filed in an action to foreclose a lien, the reviewing of affidavits and the designation of special masters or examiners to screen pleadings and papers.  Rules 14-207 and 1-311 are amended to reflect language in the new rule.

lawlibrary Maryland Law

New Maryland Cell Phone Law and More — effective October 1, 2010

Most laws passed during the Maryland legislature’s 2010 session will go into effect on October 1, 2010.   Just a few are highlighted below.


The law prohibiting hand-held cell phone use while driving except to “initiate or terminate a wireless telephone call or to turn on or turn off the handheld telephone” has been getting a lot of press as the deadline nears.  The new law enacted per CH538/716 can be found at MD. CODE ANN., TRANSP.  § 21-1124.2.


Child Support Guidelines have not had a major revision since being adopted in 1989.   The child support schedule found at MD. CODE ANN., FAM. LAW.  § 12-204 as enacted by CH262/263 now has a higher upper income  limit.  However, not all amounts have adjusted upwards.  Some at the lower income levels have actually decreased.


Print copies of county codes will no longer have to be distributed to the county’s legislative delegation if an electronic version is available.  However, print copies will still have to be distributed to the Maryland State Archives, the Maryland State Law Library and the State Department of Legislative Services.  This was a great relief to Maryland librarians as the bill, as first introduced, would not have required the distribution of any print copies.  It is hoped that print versions of important sources of primary law not be eliminated unless the online version can be authenticated and provisions are made for permanent public access.  Changes to  Art. 25A,  §7 and  Art. 25B,  §12 were enacted by CH 654.


CH. 486 made changes to MD. CODE ANN., CTS. & JUD. PROC. §7-202 and §7-301 as well as to MD. COD ANN., HUM. SERV. §11-208 . The law increases the maximum filing fee in civil cases used to fund the Maryland Legal Services Corporation.  As the funding from IOLTA funds has dropped dramatically for the MLSC the demand for MLSC funded services has risen at a great rate as well.  This increase in the filing fee surcharge is intended to address the shortfall.


These laws are obviously just a few of the many laws passed this last session.  The 90 Day Report – A Review of the 2010 Legislative Session prepared by Karl S. Aro, the Executive Director of the Department of Legislative Services, provides a detailed overview of the last session including a discussion of the legislation that passed and the bills that did not.  Additional information can be found at the Maryland General Assembly website:

lawlibrary Uncategorized

Free Online Law School Course on the Health Care Reform Act

A recent article at reported that the University of Iowa College of Law is offering a course on health care reform law online and free to the public.  Participants have the option of viewing the sessions live or the videos and PowerPoint presentations later.

The weekly classes of the Innovation, Business & Law Colloquium: Health Care Reform Act began on August 26, 2010 and will continue through December 2.

The text for the course is CCH’s Law, Explanation and Analysis of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2010).  Supplementary readings will be available online.  A link to the act is also provided at the course website.

AALL Conferences lawlibrary

AALL Annual Meeting Roundup: Authentication and Preservation of Online Legal Material

“It’s all online.”  We hear that often in the law library here.  The problem is that it is not true.  The truth is that “it” comes and goes quite quickly.  What was online yesterday may not be there today.  Other problems with  “it’s all online” is that it is difficult to be sure that information found online is even a reliable source.

These are issues addressed in the program, “A Vision for the Future: Authenticated and Official Online Legal Resources.”  Mary Alice Baish, executive director of  AALL’s Government Relations Office, began the program by reviewing AALL’s vision: “to ensure equitable and permanent public access to authentic legal information.”  Through advocacy efforts AALL strives to “ensure the authentication and preservation of official digital legal resources” and AALL will advocate that government information must be in the public domain, and that information on government Web sites must be permanently available to the public at no charge.”  Mary Alice outlined components of a solution:  “Protect the official original as produced by the official publisher, without changing the file in any way and regardless of file type, protect the official copy made publicly available, and have easy an easy method for public to verify and warrant the chain of custody between the official original and the official copy, and have an easy for public to verify.”

Mary Alice reported that AALL State Working Groups are on the lookout for attempts to eliminate print and replace with online only without a means of authentication and for preservation for permanent public access.  These State Working Groups are taking on a large national project as well: the National Inventory of Primary Legal Information.  When completed information such as cost, copyright, official status, permanent public access, digital authentication and preservation will be known for all of the states, counties and municipalities in the U.S.

Handouts for the program included AALL issue briefs which contain more information on these topics of significance to AALL.  “AALL Leadership on the Authentication and Preservation of Online Legal Resources” and “AALL State Working Groups to Ensure Access to Electronic Legal Information” can be found at

The program included an update on the “2009-10 Updates to State-by- State Report of Online Legal Information” and the status of the draft of the Uniform State Law “Authentication and Preservation of State Electronic Legal Materials Act.”  (Since the meeting Joyce Janto reported in the July AALL E-Newsletter that the Committee of the Whole of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) accepted the draft on July 15.)

At the GD-SIS program, “FDLP Law Libraries in the 21st Century” I learned of the preservation efforts of the Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group ( “to preserve our digital legal heritage for generations to come.”  Already they have found that as time progresses more URLs are disappearing at a great rate illustrating the urgency of this project.  It is comforting to  now that our Maryland State Law Library is a member of this preservation group and that the MSLL is preserving Maryland’s digital legal information.

AALL Conferences lawlibrary

AALL Annual Meeting Roundup: Summit News

It seems I have been traveling all summer.  I haven’t been home or in the law library.  Still, I am determined to finish my summary of  my AALL Annual Meeting experience.  As a I prepare for one more trip I am providing a link to the final edition of the Conference newspaper containing “Golden FCIL Nuggets from Denver” (on page 5).

AALL Conferences lawlibrary

AALL Roundup: The future of libraries and/or librarians discussed in keynote address

I know there are those who see the library only as a place where books are stored and that the librarian’s job is to  see that all of the books are shelved correctly.  And so, if  “everything is online” there is nothing left for the librarian to do.

In his keynote address, “Take a Right at the Obelisk,” David Lankes stated  that the future of librarianship is bright and that it is the librarian that makes the library.  He stated that  “the best days of librarianship are ahead of us.”

Lankes puts the emphasis on the librarian rather than the library and the books contained there.  He speaks of the mission of librarians which is “to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities.”  Knowledge creation does not lie in books and materials or online resources in the library.  As information professionals, librarians must be active in the communities that they serve.  Librarians must know what its community is doing and how we can facilitate that endeavor.  Librarians cannot just sit at the information desk and wait for the next question to be asked.  Librarians must take an active role in their community and become a vital part of that community.

Lankes speaks of knowledge creation through conversation where we seek agreements as to facts or opinions.  Memory of these conversations allow us to not repeat the process in the future.  It is the librarian’s value and ability to create this  knowledge that will allow more information to make their communities better.

I highly recommend taking advantage of the link to David Lankes’ presentation to hear the entire address.  I found it energizing and challenging and of course, hopeful for the future of librarianship.