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Willy-Nilly is Not a Legal Research Strategy: Public Law Librarians and Advice to Unpublished Children’s Book Authors


Pro se (aka pro per or self-represented) law library patrons have a tough time of it. If you didn’t learn in high school or college how to learn, how to study, or how to develop a research strategy, then the legal research process will be a very steep uphill battle. Some of our law library non-attorney patrons learn very quickly that Willy-Nilly is not a research strategy. Others never figure it out and public law librarians hear a lot of “I just need a yes or no answer to my question.”

We, public law librarians, are not the only ones with this problem. I just came across another group of people who are recipients of these types of questions and the answer to one person’s situation pretty much sums up what we in law libraries have had to figure out how to say tactfully (forgive the garbled syntax – it’s Friday and you know what I mean! :-):

The January 4, 2008, Library Link of the Day post on a January 1st, 2008, article in the Boston Globe, by Candice Choi, about self-publishing, “Got a Manuscript? Publishing Now a Snap.” The story sent me off on a winding road that ended up at a blog site where I found this excerpt:

From the Self-Publishing blog (though I’ve put in Bold the points relevant to this post of mine):

It sounds like (sic) you are going about this at random, which won’t work. For starters, buy a copy of Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market 2008 by Alice Pope. This is the main reference for authors trying to sell children’s books. It lists all of the publishers, their submission guidelines, and their specific interests. You must follow the guidelines or they will ignore you. You might try my friend Aaron Shepard’s short book The Business of Writing for Children as well. Most importantly, slow down, study up on the subject, and understand that having written a book is only the first step, and often the easiest step, on the path to becoming a published writer. If you rush, you’ll just throw away your money and end up feeling like an idiot.”

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