Find Answers with Courthouse Libraries BC
by Johanne Blenkin
The proliferation of web-based tools for legal research such as list serves, websites, and blogs as discussed in the October 2009 BarTalk issue is challenging for lawyers pressed for time. With more options than ever to do research, it’s hard for a busy practitioner to know where to look. At the library, when we ask the profession about what they need to stay current and to find legal information, the overwhelming response is ease of use and the ability to customize tools to meet their unique needs.
With that in mind, we redesigned our website courthouselibrary.ca in 2009. The new site offers more information organized by practice area and a Google-like search tool.
FINDING WHAT YOU NEED ON THE WEBSITE
You don’t need to be a technical whiz to use a GPS and you shouldn’t have to be a librarian to find what you need on the Courthouse Libraries BC website. When you use the new website search tool, think Google. The search tool employs “fuzzy search” technology and a legal synonym thesaurus customized by library staff to connect you to key resources from our website and library catalogue regardless of typos or alternate spellings. Your search results are relevancy-ranked and you can refine, sort and place photocopy orders or borrow library books directly from your search results – just as you would use Amazon or similar websites. Your online shopping skills will help you find what you need.
STAYING UP TO DATE: THE WEBSITE AND BEYOND
Courthouselibrary.ca is a good resource for finding answers to specific legal research questions – but it also offers ongoing help with staying up to date in your practice area. The website’s Practice Portals (civil litigation, personal injury, family, wills & estates, practice management & technology) offer selected library resources and links to get you started and news to keep you up to date. The library blogs, The Stream and New & Notable, each have an RSS feed, as do each of the website’s Practice Portals, so you can subscribe and monitor the feeds on your own schedule using your preferred tools – a feed reader like Google Reader for blog aficionados or Microsoft Outlook if you live in your inbox.
BOOKS ARE STILL PART OF THE STORY
A considerable amount of key legal research material, such as leading texts and precedent documents, remains in print format only. But you can use courthouselibrary.ca to obtain these materials without having to leave your desk. If you sign up for a website account it is fast and easy to order photocopies or to borrow library books online to be sent to your office.
LIBRARIANS CAN HELP YOU FIND THE ANSWERS
The self-serve aspect of our new website co-exists with our trained librarians who continue to provide personal service. Here are examples of the types of questions that our reference team answers every day:
- Do you have a precedent for a shareholders agreement?
- Has the word “trading” been judicially considered in B.C.?
- It’s been a long time since I had to do a personal injury quantum search. What are the current recommended sources?
A GPS helps you navigate the physical world. At the library, in combining a richer website with ongoing personal service, we aim to continue helping the profession navigate the legal information space.
Johanne Blenkin is Executive Director of Courthouse Libraries BC.
This article was published in the February 2010 issue of BarTalk. © 2010 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.