Law on the 'Net: Legal Reference in Non-Law Libraries
Fee: $75 for those in the California library community and Infopeople Partners, $150 for all others.
(An Infopeople Online Learning Course)
Tuesday April 6, 2010 – Monday May 3, 2010
Few people get through their lives without encountering the law in one form or another. Speeding tickets, divorces, and conflicts with landlords or tenants often send users to local public libraries for help. Public library staff may not always have the in-house resources or expertise to feel confident in meeting these users' needs.
Law on the 'Net will help staff in non-law libraries gain confidence when confronted with legal reference questions. Experienced law librarian Laura Cadra will help you:
- Understand the structure and the components of "the law"
- Use effective questions during the reference interview
- Understand the difference between providing legal advice and legal reference service
- Identify and navigate reliable websites containing federal, California state, and city and county legal materials
- Identify resources for referral beyond your library
When you complete the course, you will have the skills needed to assist your users with commonly-encountered legal questions and, even better, will have a strategy for facing even the most daunting ones.
Course Description: This four-week online learning course provides an introduction to legal reference and to publicly available legal websites. We'll discuss user perceptions of the law, why it's not as scary—or as easy—as some people think, and how to effectively provide legal reference service.
Weekly readings will explain legal concepts and introduce you to web-based legal resources. Additional optional readings will be available to enhance each week's topic. Exercises will give you the opportunity to explore particular websites and evaluate their usefulness. You will also participate in online discussions where you can share successes and challenges in handling legal questions. During the 4th week of the course, there will be a guest presenter explaining the resources and services available through the California county law library system.
Preliminary Course Outline: Using your web browser and your Internet connection, you will log in to the Infopeople online learning site and complete the following learning modules:
- Week 1: Legal Research Boot Camp
- Debunking legal myths
- Cases, statutes, regulations, and ordinances: what they are, why they are important.
- Initial questions for your user
- Where to begin when you don't know where to begin
- Week 2: Federal, California State, and Local Law
- What is readily available and useable on the web
- Why you can't discard those self-help books yet
- Week 3: Forms, Forms, Forms!
- Reliable websites offering legal forms for personal use
- Why finding forms, which seems like it should be easy, isn't
- Week 4: Referral is Not a Four-Letter Word
- Finding and evaluating attorneys
- Law libraries want your business!
- Strategizing for legal reference success
Pre-workshop assignment: Please gather legal questions that you or your colleagues have encountered in your library. You will be encouraged to email them to the instructor and use them in the discussion forums.
Time required: To complete this course, you can expect to spend 2½ to 3 hours per week for four weeks, for a total of 12 hours. You can work on each module at your own pace, at any hour of the day or night. However, it is recommended that you complete each week's assignments within that week to stay in sync with other learners.
Who Should Take This Course: Anyone from the library community who would like to increase familiarity with basic legal resources on the Internet, including staff encountering legal questions, webmasters developing legal web pages, and staff responsible for collection development. Emphasis is on federal and California state and local resources. No prior knowledge of legal materials is required.
Online Learning Details and System Requirements may be found at
Course Start: This 4-week-long online learning course starts on Tuesday April 6, 2010.
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