The idea of having a blog that shares research tips is premised on a generous impulse. So it is with embarrassment that I find myself reluctant to part with my posting for this week – I am here to reveal the virtues of the Massachusetts Trial Court Libraries' website. While I predict that all Law Librarians in Massachusetts know about this site, there are many law students, law professors, and lawyers out there who do not. I am therefore revealing a professional secret.
The area of the website I use most frequently is the “law about” page. I cannot remember the last time I had a public patron that I couldn’t at least get started by sitting him or her in front of this page, and finding an applicable topic. The page is rich with the issues that confront us in our typical daily lives – consumer protection, lead paint, small claims, health care proxies, adverse possession. Okay, maybe adverse possession’s not “typical.”
Next most used is the forms page. Need to change your name? Complain about a judge? File for an homestead exemption? It’s all right there.
One other aspect of the website that I really admire is that it provides the public with free online access to the Nolo Press series. All one has to do is get a Trial Court Law Libraries' free library card. Nolo Press, based in Berkeley, California, was founded in 1971 on the belief that ordinary people could participate in the legal system successfully, and thus, the two founders (lawyers) went about publishing books that help ordinary people do just that. Need to file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy? Make a living trust? Stand up to the IRS? Nolo has you covered. But one thing you might want to keep in mind when using a Nolo resource is that while some of those topics are governed by federal law, some are governed by state law. While a Nolo publication can get you started, you will have to complete your work by researching Massachusetts law. See paragraph 2, above.
It’s only now that I get to the end of my post that I realize why I love the Massachusetts Trial Court Libraries’ website: it embodies an idea fundamental to law librarianship – relatively easy access to essential information – you really can’t beat that as a concept. Thank you Trial Court Libraries!