Findings: The e-Newsletter of the
Maryland State Law Library

From Maryland's First Legal Resource
Volume 4, Number 4, Fall 2009

In This Issue:

A Snapshot of a Day in the Life of the Library

By Steve Anderson

As everyone knows, it takes a talented and dedicated staff to make a large institution operate effectively. Fortunately, the State Law Library possesses such a team. Reference staff take careful steps to guide researchers to proper sources, and books rarely appear on shelves by magic alone. (There was a peculiar incident on a dark and stormy might several years ago, but that tale will have to await another issue.) At the end of the day, skilled staff create the collections, provide the services, and educate the researchers, all in order to further the Library's mission. But what--exactly--do Library staff members do all day, one might ask? Read? Shelve books? Of course, there is some of that, but also a great deal more.

In order to add a book to the Library's collection, the several staff members who comprise the "Collection Development Committee" review possible purchases, according to various "selection criteria," such as the relevance of a title to the existing collection, the authority and reputation of the author and publisher, the future reference value of the title, and others. Committee members write short evaluation comments about the prospective acquisition on a recommendation form. Often, there is a meeting of the minds, but on some occasions staff meet to discuss difficult decisions. Then, depending on the cost and the publisher, the ordering process is either straightforward or a bit cumbersome. The most important consideration during the ordering process, of course, is compliance with purchasing policies. The second most important step is the creation of a record in the Library's online catalog, which then permits staff to track the order, check in the item when it arrives, and catalog it according to several national standards. Library staff label and shelve the book, after the cataloging process (which could be easy (especially when using information from OCLC's WorldCat system) or complex, as in the case of a rare or new book by a smaller publisher). Staff follow special steps in the acquisitions process for research databases, Maryland state agency materials, and Federal government documents. Finally, staff include the book on the Library's New Publications List. Is that all there is then? Not really. Continuation subscriptions require supplementation, so staff have to discard old volumes and insert new "pocket parts" or looseleaf filings. Then there might be the need to consider shifting some books to make space for newer ones. There could be book repair or preservation concerns. Staff also periodically evaluate the need to continue subscriptions and make decisions regarding permanent retention or withdrawal from the collection.

The Library's reference staff similarly makes multiple steps appear seamless and effortless. While in-person assistance allows for a fairly complete question-and-answer session, telephone calls and e-mails sometimes require additional follow-up in order to determine what sources might be useful. Staff members know by heart where to find some answers to routine questions, but other requests can be more challenging, especially when the questioner is unfamiliar with legal terms. The Library's staff is very careful to not apply the law to any patron's individual situation, but guiding them to helpful sources frequently necessitates several steps: the index to one source might lead to a statute in another, which takes the reader to information on yet another source, and so on. By knowing the authorship of such resources, the librarian can explain to the patron the differences between primary and secondary sources, the concept of precedent, and the use of citator services. This is an especially useful skill these days, because so much information is online; generally speaking, librarians possess a sophisticated ability to sift through intricate search queries to find the most useful resources. Sometimes, too, a question takes the librarian "outside" the walls of the Library, searching for referral sources or other libraries from which to request interlibrary loans. The Library's clerks are dedicated to assisting patrons with specialized requests, such as locating older books in the Library's storage area and providing scans or copies for document delivery requests. Finally, there is the continual feedback that the reference staff provides to co-workers involved in the ordering process and the maintenance of the Library's websites. Assisting Library patrons requires detailed expertise, patience, and a broad knowledge of research skills.

Another aspect of staff activity revolves around the Library's educational and outreach programs. One of the key services is the People's Law Library, which aims to provide legal self-help to low- and moderate-income Marylanders. The web content coordinator reviews and updates current content on the site, develops new topic areas according to written protocols, and makes plans for continuing improvements to the site. Additionally, State Law Library staff members work closely with stakeholders from the legal services community who comprise the Content Advisory Committee for the People's Law Library. The State Law Library provides other instructional opportunities as well. For example, staff created practical, hands-on curricula for the formal legal research classes it offers to Judiciary employees. Librarians routinely give tours of the facility to student and professional groups, and visitors can learn more about legal history and the Library's collections through displays in the building's lobby area and in the Library's Special Collections Room. Finally, the Library's outreach services librarian provides consultation services to smaller Circuit Court libraries throughout the State and works with public librarians on various initiatives.

This quick snapshot of the Library staff's typical day might help answer questions about what librarians do during an ordinary day. Library workers thrive on the opportunity to be of service, learn new skills and ideas, and work on a wide variety of tasks. Even if much of this work is accomplished "behind the scenes," it adds significant value to the Library's collection and to a patron's efficient research experience. Do librarians like to read? Sure. Do librarians like books? Maybe. Do librarians help give meaning to information and streamline the research process, too? Absolutely! It really is in just a day's work.


By Mary Jo Lazun

HeinOnline Now Hosts Maryland Session Laws

HeinOnline has recently completed adding Maryland session laws from 1777 to 2007. The Maryland State Law Library subscribes to this database. Hein’s version includes a robust search and the ability to print multiple pages.

The most common use of session laws is to locate the chapter number cited in a particular section of the Maryland Code. This is very easy to do in HeinOnline. Below is an example of a search for Chapter 42 of the Laws of Maryland for 2000, using the “Field Search.” The same search works just as well in the Advanced Search option if search terms are included in quotes.

To print a chapter you will need to note the starting and ending pages. Hein does not automatically include the starting end ending pages for each chapter, presumably because one chapter may start and another one end on the same page.


Limitations in Maryland Law: Actions and Statutes

By Rudolf B. Lamy

“Limitations of Action” or “Statutes of Limitation” are two legal terms that, in general, mean the same thing in Maryland legal practice. Some legal writers have observed that "Limitations of Actions" refers to a broader set of rules dealing with the how the passage of time bars a claim. Therefore, the term "Limitations of Actions" often is used as the topic entry for many treatises and legal encyclopedias and may be a preferred term in other states. A "Statute of Limitation," on the other hand, is a specific legislative act defining a period of time in which to bring claims. (For a thorough discussion, see Ochoa & Wistrich, The Puzzling Purposes of Statutes of Limitation, 28 Pac. L.J. 453 (1997).) The Annotated Code of Maryland uses the terms interchangeably, yet their application means different things in the civil and criminal contexts.

The Maryland Law Encyclopedia (West) describes the two as follows:

Limitation of Actions §1 Generally (14 MLE 391 (2000)): “A statute of limitations is a legislative act limiting the time within which an action may be brought. Limitations are created by statute and derive their authority therefrom; they are not judicial acts. Statutes of limitations not only promote judicial economy, they are designed to encourage the prompt ascertainment of legal rights and ensure fairness to the defendants by precluding the filing of stale claims.”

Criminal Law §67 Generally (7 MLE 317 (2000)): “Statutes of limitations in criminal cases create a bar to prosecution, and the time within which the offense is committed becomes a jurisdictional fact; the state, therefore, has the burden of proving affirmatively the commission of the offense charged within the period limited by statute for its prosecution, and if the prosecution relies upon an exception to remove the bar of statute of limitations, the burden of proof is on the prosecution to show the applicability of the exception.”

The 2009 Index to the Annotated Code of Maryland has listings for both “Limitation of Actions” and “Statute of Limitations.”  These listing are, in fact, identical and cover everything from “Abandoned property disposition” to “Workplace fraud.”  Individual statutes which cover “Limitation” appear throughout the Code, but you may find that the Courts & Judicial Proceedings Article is possibly the most often noted, followed closely by the Commercial Law, Real Property and Criminal Law Articles.  

The Courts & Judicial Proceedings Article, sections 5-101 through 5-117 apply directly to Limitations.  Related statutes will be found in the same title. Criminal law limitations most often appear in the Code with the specific, individual offenses to which they would be applied.  The criminal statute sections on limitations also usually refer back to the Courts & Judicial Proceedings Article.  Both the Courts & Judicial Proceedings and Criminal Law Articles provide a plethora of annotations and revisor's notes; enough of each to provide as many references to case law and secondary sources as a practitioner or researcher might need. If citations to case law are needed, the “West’s Maryland Digest” has references to almost 30 pages of judicial opinions, all of which are indexed in detail.

The Maryland State Law Library lists nearly 100 references in its online catalog on the subject “Limitation of Actions,” both Maryland-specific and for Federal courts in Maryland. The Library's oldest source on the subject dates to 1810. The Library also offers both document delivery and interlibrary loan services, which can make limitations material in other libraries readily available to our customers.

Staff Picks: Maryland Legal Materials

By Catherine McGuire, Mary Jo Lazun and Deborah Judy

The Maryland State Law Library reference staff answers about 500 reference questions a month. We asked ourselves, "What Maryland materials do we use the most?" Here are our Top 25. For an extended list, see Maryland Titles Recommended for County Law Libraries Arranged by Subject.

Allen, Maryland Practice Forms

Bregman, Maryland landlord-tenant law, practice, and procedure

Fader, Maryland family law

Frank, Elder law in Maryland

Gibber, Gibber on estate administration

Gilbert, Maryland tort law handbook

Gilbert, Maryland workers' compensation handbook by

Gordon, Gordon on Maryland foreclosures

Klein, Maryland civil procedure forms : with practice commentary

Lynch, Modern Maryland civil procedure

Maryland civil pattern jury instruction

Maryland criminal pattern jury instructions

Maryland Digest

Maryland Trial Judges Benchbook

McLain, Maryland evidence state and federal

Murphy, Maryland evidence handbook

Mazaroff, Maryland employment law

Niemeyer, Maryland rules commentary by Paul V. Niemeyer

Practice Manual for the Maryland Lawyer

Reno, Maryland real estate forms.

Sandler, Pleading causes of action in Maryland

Sandler, ed. Appellate practice for the Maryland lawyer

Smith, Maryland Criminal Procedure Forms and Analysis

Stein, Trial handbook for Maryland lawyers

Stiller, West's Maryland law encyclopedia