Sunday, September 16, 2012

Public Law Library of King County

Law Libraries come in many forms. Law schools are required to have law libraries, which tend to be administratively separate from university library systems. Most academic law libraries tend to be closed to the public, unless they are depositories within the federal depository library program, or the campus is more open to the public. It varies, as to the level of public access for these libraries as their primary purpose is to serve the school to which they are attached. Most law firms, court houses, counties, and cities have law libraries. Many special or public libraries contain legal collections although law might not be the primary collection focus.

The King County Law Library in Washington State is a public law library that provides access to legal resources for free to anyone who visits the two locations; the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle or the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, WA. The law library provides check-out privileges to Subscribers. Other services include Conference Room Space, computer use, and access to legal and research databases. The library offers classes on legal topics for a range of experience levels.

The mission of the Public Law Library of King County is to provide the public with access to legal resources. "Without access to information, there is no justice. Public Law Library of King County aids all persons with their need for legal information by providing legal materials, training, education, and services in a welcoming and positive environment." Law librarianship is a fascinating field that tends to draw on people with legal degrees. Most take specialized courses within an MLIS program, or a condensed program in addition to possessing a law degree. Not all law librarians have law degrees, but most have prior legal experience. Law librarians are not practicing layers and cannot give legal advice, but can direct patrons to resources or provide direction to where to find legal counsel.

I had the opportunity to visit the law library in the King County Courthouse with a group of MLIS students as part of a library crawl with the University of Washington chapter of the Special Library Association. In addition to the collections and helpful staff, they also have great views of some Seattle landmarks, such as the Smith Tower.

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