Improving Access to Civil Legal Justice through Libraries
Through OCLC’s partnership with Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and consultation from law librarians, WebJunction continues to design and deliver national training for U.S. public library staff to strengthen their ability to identify civil legal issues and connect community members to relevant information and resources. Through this training, public library staff become better equipped to help close the justice gap in their communities by connecting people in need of civil legal help to reliable information, resources, and services. Since the project began, more than 1,000 library staff have enrolled in or completed the initial four-part course series, Creating Pathways to Civil Legal Justice. The courses are freely available on demand through WebJunction’s Course Catalog.
New Courses: Civil Legal Issues of Natural Disasters
A new course series—Navigating Civil Legal Issues of Natural Disasters—introduces learners to the civil legal issues that arise during natural disasters and how libraries can play a crucial role in connecting people with civil legal resources and information that can help.
- Creating Pathways to Civil Legal Justice: Series of four on-demand courses for library staff. Learn more about the courses, including a short video introduction.
- Navigating Civil Legal Issues of Natural Disasters: Series of three on-demand courses focused on the civil legal issues that community members encounter as a result of a natural disaster. Learn more about these courses.
- September 2022 webinar, Civil Legal Issues of Natural Disasters: Libraries Can Help, for an introduction to the topic and courses.
- Learning Groups for Creating Pathways for Civil Legal Justice Courses: How to lead a group of colleagues taking these courses together.
- Learning Groups for Navigating Civil Legal Issues of Natural Disasters Courses: How to lead a group of colleagues taking these courses together.
Additional Key Resources
- Eviction Resources for Libraries: A collection of resources focused on strengthening library staff’s ability to respond to eviction questions with confidence.
- Partnering with public libraries: Information for Legal Aid Organizations (pdf) and Law Libraries (pdf)
Learn more about the role libraries can play in providing access to civil legal justice in this 9-minute presentation by Betha Gutsche, WebJunction Programs Manager:
Libraries help close the justice gap
The local library is a familiar, reliable, and trusted source of information and resources for many community members. Public libraries can help to close the justice gap by offering an access point and helping people navigate the complexities of legal information and services. But it can be challenging for library staff to discern when a civil legal issue is in play and to know how to give information without veering into advice. WebJunction has designed the training to help libraries understand how to conduct the reference interview in these situations and how to build relationships with law libraries and local organizations that offer legal aid.
More knowledgeable, confident library staff
The project evaluation from 2021 showed that 91% of staff who completed the first training opportunities felt more confident, and 84% felt more knowledgeable about recognizing the difference between giving legal advice and legal information. Additionally, 85% felt they had learned how to identify a patron’s specific legal issue, while 77% felt more confident in conducting a reference interview toward that identification.
Stay up to date
We are continuing our collaboration with the Legal Services Corporation in creating learning opportunities on the topic of civil legal justice for library staff. New content will be posted on WebJunction under the legal reference topic, and featured on Facebook, Twitter, as well as in our e-newsletter, Crossroads. The self-paced courses continue to be available for free in the WebJunction Course Catalog.
This project is made possible in part thanks to financial support from these organizations
About Legal Services Corporation (LSC)
LSC is a publicly funded, 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation established by the United States Congress. It seeks to ensure equal access to justice under the law for all Americans by providing funding for civil legal aid to those who otherwise would be unable to afford it.
Photos courtesy the Cleveland Public Library and The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, who partner in providing monthly legal clinic hosted at the Cleveland Public Library.
Navigating Civil Legal Issues of Natural Disasters
These new courses will equip library staff to recognize the civil legal issues of natural disasters and be prepared to provide information and resources that will guide patrons to positive outcomes.
In the Media
- Talk Justice podcast episode, The Role Libraries Play in Closing the Justice Gap
- Urban Libraries Council blog post, Improving Access to Civil Legal Justice Through Public Libraries
- Hanging Together blog post, Online training prepares library staff to address the civil legal justice gap