Legal Reference for Public Libraries
Law and legal reference constitute a specialized area of knowledge and resources. The best way to be comfortable with a specialized area is to deal with it often, an opportunity not always presented to the generalist in a public library system. It is possible, however, to develop ability in this area through training and practice.
The guidance and materials on this site are structured to help the generalist at a public library to recognize and respond to questions about and for law.
Traditionally, training on legal reference has focused on the classic materials of law - cases, statutes, regulations, law textbooks, and the formal process of legal research. Some of the materials referenced herein include these classics. In addition, and possibly more importantly, the information here will help develop in reference staff the ability to:
- recognize when a question is a legal one or has a legal aspect
- conduct an appropriate legal reference interview
- respond to a legal question with confidence that the information is good and helpful, and does not constitute advice
- identify relevant and pertinent referrals from the broad spectrum available
For interested library systems, face-to-face training is available upon request from the Maryland State Law Library (contact the reference desk) and other members of the
Conference of Maryland Circuit Court Law Library Directors.