Thursday, April 26, 2007

Legal Reference for Non-Law Librarians

Tammy A. Hinderman and Christine Mandiloff, of the State Law Library of Montana and Montana Legal Services Association respectively, began the morning with a presentation which proved valuable to both public and academic librarians. Tammy presented attendees with an overview of the three branches of government, both state and federal, and the types of resources created by each, including statutes, opinions, rules, and forms. She pointed out the secondary sources which could be consulted for legal reference questions: dictionaries, encyclopedias, treatises, articles, book, and sample forms and discussed how to attack a legal reference question by identifying the patron and the type of question. The legal reference framework included the resources of one's own library, the Web, the State Law Library, and proceeding to other organizations.

Christine led us through an overview of and its resources. This site provides valuable assistance in areas for Families and Kids, Public Benefits, Consumer, Housing, American Indian Issues, Employment, Domestic Violence, Seniors, and the Legal System sections. It also includes legal information for the public, local listings of legal aid offices, local community resources, a directory of local courts, automated forms (coming soon), and a LiveHelp chat service.

Tammy continued with an overview of the State Law Library of Montana site, providing a variety of services and resources. Here one can find laws by topic, forms, statutes and rules, links to free Web sites, and suggested books, Montana Supreme Court Cases, opinions, and briefs, and a Law Library Newsfeed. She ended with other resources available through the Web and at the State Law Library.

Christine concluded the presentation with an overview of the Montana Legal Services Association, "a federally and privately funded program that provides free legal assistance in civil cases to low-income people." She also explained who qualifies for this service, the types of legal assistance offered, and what the service cannot do. A hotline for information (1-800-666-6899) and brochures covering 35 legal topics are also available.

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