Get legal info at your local library

By Shannon McLeod
LawMatters Program Coordinator

October is only a few days away, and it is Canadian Library Month, an excellent opportunity to recognize the role public libraries play in providing legal information to their communities.lmlogo

Since 2007, Courthouse Libraries BC has been proud to partner with BC’s public libraries through the LawMatters program. Supported by the Law Foundation of British Columbia, LawMatters is Courthouse Libraries BC’s outreach program for public librarians.

Through this partnership we are working to enhance public access to legal information in all communities across British Columba.

The LawMatters program focuses on four main areas to help support public libraries:

Grants

Financial assistance is given to all public libraries that choose to participate through our grants program. Grants are distributed annually to help purchase legal information and reference materials.

Collection Support

We provide libraries with a core list of titles to use as a guide for selecting and ordering materials. The list is evaluated annually for currency and accuracy. We are also available to offer suggestions and work with librarians to support local collection needs.

Working with Clicklaw Wikibooks, LawMatters has previously distributed print copies of Clicklaw Wikibook titles Legal Help for British Columbians, JP Boyd on Family Law, and Dial-A-Law free of charge to libraries throughout BC to support legal collections.

Skills Development

We offer training sessions to public librarians to improve their confidence helping the public with legal information questions. This includes how to use legal resources, the basics of legal research, and general legal reference skills.

Partnerships

Our goal is to increase access to legal information for all communities in BC and empower librarians and to provide legal information, reference, and referral.

We aim to build community capacity through partnerships which we continue to explore with libraries and other organizations. We encourage and consult with public libraries to host community forums to connect with local organizations that work with the public to help them find legal information.


For more information on the growing role of public libraries and public librarians as partners in access to justice, see “LawMatters at Your Local Public Library; A History of BC’s Program for Public Legal Information and Education in Public Libraries.”

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CBABC’s Dial-A-Law Scripts come to Clicklaw Wikibooks

Clicklaw, Courthouse Libraries BC (CLBC) and LawMatters are very pleased to let the public and legal information community know that the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch’s long-serving Dial-A-Law scripts are now on Clicklaw Wikibooks. They join a growing library of content from other key producers of 500px-Dial-A-Law_cover_imagepublic legal information, including People’s Law School, TRAC, BC CEAS and others including some authors CLBC helped to publish, such as Cliff Thorstenson and John-Paul Boyd. The collection of scripts will be printed in a 500+ page book to be shipped to public libraries in BC, at no cost to the libraries, in conjunction with the LawMatters program.

CLBC and CBABC announced this news by formal press release yesterday (April 14, 2015). It’s exciting since Dial-A-Law scripts are perhaps the longest-surviving example of the BC legal profession’s dedication to helping the public with free legal information. The scripts cover over 130 legal topics, and have existed in various formats for over 30 years. Dial-A-Law started in 1983 with help from the BC Law Foundation and its scripts have been edited by volunteer lawyers ever since. More information about the various ways you can access Dial-A-Law is on Clicklaw’s page for the service.

Yesterday’s announcement is significant because now the scripts are even more accessible. Clicklaw Wikibooks are all about keeping legal information in a single spot so that editors and lawyers can update it—this is one of the benefits of a Wikipedia-style platform—but letting the end user choose whether to print, read online, or otherwise export the content in a way that meets their needs. Users can download whole contents, or only portions, of Clicklaw Wikibook in PDF or EPUB. They can order a printed book for cost, or read it online.  Continue reading

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Clicklaw Wikibooks: An experiment in born-digital publishing

Earlier this year, we launched our first Clicklaw wikibook, Legal Help for British Columbians. A wikibook is a born-digital book, created collaboratively on a wiki platform. By turning this popular Guide into a wikibook, we hoped to make it more accessible, easier to update, and more versatile than its previous print-first format would allow.

In the first six months, we’ve seen that use of the wiki version of the Guide is 20 times greater than use of the previous online version of the Guide (a PDF generated from the print-ready file). We’re impressed with the way multiple contributors and reviewers can effectively collaborate on the wiki platform. And through our Courthouse Libraries BC LawMatters program, we provided public libraries across BC with printed copies of the Guide that were assembled directly from the wiki pages. So far, so good.

This slide presentation “Clicklaw Wikibooks” summarizes our experiment in born-digital publishing.

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BC Library Conference: Clicklaw Featured in Another Puzzle

Last week Clicklaw was featured in a jigsaw puzzle as part of the launch of our LawStartBC campaign.

LawStartBC Crossword Puzzle

This week Clicklaw was featured in another puzzle: a crossword puzzle that highlighted our LawStartBC display table at the 2010 BC Library Conference. The conference, held in Penticton this year, brings together librarians from across BC, from all types of libraries — public libraries, academic and schoool libraries, and special libraries (such as ourselves at Courthouse Libraries BC, where we like to think it’s a good thing to be called “special”).

A highlight of the conference was an award presented to the Law Foundation of BC for its support of public legal information and in particular our LawMatters program at Courthouse Libraries BC. Nominated by Surrey Public Library, the Law Foundation won the Keith Sacré Library Champion Award, presented to an individual, organization or business that has a record of support of libraries, literacy, and public access to information.

Mary Mouat accepting the Library Champion Award on behalf of the Law Foundation of BC, with Drew and Janet of Courthouse Libraries BC

With our LawMatters program at Courthouse Libraries, we work with over 240 public libraries across BC to assist them in providing current legal information, including print versions of many of the plain language materials that are available through Clicklaw. We also provide training to public library staff to enhance their ability to answer legal reference questions from the public.

More photos from the BC Library Conference 2010:

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