Imagine this: A patron comes into the law library at 4:40 and says “I’m being sued, and I need to file a response before 5:00 today. Do you have the form for that? Oh, and I need help filling it out.” We would really like to help this person, but realistically this may not be possible. Unfortunately, patrons usually do not know what services we provide. Read on for information on what law libraries can and can’t do and how to get the most from your visit.
Don’t leave your research until the last minute. Leave enough time to handle any problems that might arise. In our example, the patron assumes that there is a fill-in-the-blank form that they can use, and that law library personnel can help them fill it out. Oregon does not have many fill-in-the-blank forms and law library employees cannot help patrons fill out forms. We would direct the patron to possible sources of templates that they can use to create their own document, and to resources that might help them to fill out the form. They probably wouldn’t have time to do all that in less than 20 minutes and get it to the court before they close.
Along those same lines, make sure you can devote time to research your questions. Law library personnel can’t do research for you. We can point you to resources that might be useful and show you how to do the research yourself.
It is also a good idea to find out a law library’s policies and hours before you head out. Some libraries only have librarians to help with legal research during specific times and days. Some are closed certain days and hours. You can check the law library’s website or call to ask about their specific policies. You can find a list of Oregon county law libraries here.
You might want to ask questions about services the law library offers before you make the trip. Some libraries only accept cash or check for payment on copies and printouts. If you know you need a specific publication or service to do your research, ask if the library has it. Not all law libraries have the same material.
The most important thing to remember when using a law library is that law library personnel are not attorneys and cannot give you legal advice. They can point you to resources that you can use to help you in your research.
Hopefully this information will help make your trip to the law library a productive one!