How Law Libraries Can Help Self-Represented Litigants

This is a follow-up to a September 18, 2014 post on Slaw.ca entitled American Association of Law Libraries Report on Access to Justice that referred to a white paper about what U.S. law libraries are doing to assist self-represented litigants (SRLs).

The blog of the National Self-Represented Litigants Project funded by the University of Windsor Faculty of Law has a recent guest post on the role that Canadian law libraries can play to help SRLs.

It is written by Annette Demers, Acting Law Librarian, University of Windsor, Melanie Hodges Neufeld, Director of Legal Resources, Law Society of Saskatchewan, and Dale Barrie, Information, Research and Training Services (IRTS) Manager, Alberta Law Libraries. Demers is also the current President of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries:

“Much effort is required in order to ensure that SRLs and the larger public understand that the law library is a resource available to them. Through partnerships with other public service providers such as public libraries, Legal Guidance or other pro bono agencies, the law library will benefit through increased exposure, and SRLs will ultimately benefit by learning how to access a significant resource that is freely available to them.”

“Integration with other court service providers and general awareness raising campaigns will help to ensure that proper referrals are made, and that SRLs can be provided with the option of accessing information resources that may prove to be very useful to them. Additional partnerships may also be pursued to more efficiently deliver legal information to SRLs. In Saskatchewan, the Law Society Library has been exploring options for a more coordinated approach with several other legal information providers.”

“The law library must also continue to increase its role in the development and provision of information available online via library and court websites.”

“By employing best practices in website design and usability, using plain-language approaches in developing public legal education and information tools, and by engaging people in multiple places and in multiple formats, the law library will increasingly be seen as a destination for anyone with a legal information need.”

“An important challenge for the legal profession is building public awareness about the variety of tools available to SRLs, including law librarians and the services and materials that they provide.”

The National Self-Represented Litigants Project is headed by University of Windsor prof Julie Macfarlane.

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