Aristotle’s words ring true as justice seekers cope with a host of sometimes violent challenges to law and justice. The words take on practical meaning in a recent publication Access to Justice, http://www.aallnet.org/mm/Publications/products/atjwhitepaper.pdf
an insightful white paper written and adopted by the American Association of Law Libraries. This is a how-to guide to walking the walk for law librarians and for those who may not yet understand the role that law librarians play in the pursuit of access to law and justice for all.
Sara Galligan, Director of the Ramsey County Law Library, is the principal author of the white paper. The thrust of the paper is the powerful idea that “by pushing their own boundaries, law librarians can gain meaningful perspective on access to justice and can boldly assert their own unique contributions.”
For law librarians, Access to Justice presents a challenge and a road map. Not an end but a means, access to information is paramount. For those who cling to a stereotyped image of librarians the white paper offers enlightenment. A strength of the paper is the clear description of the diverse roles that law librarians play depending on their work setting; the paper presents a sort of “work plan” that expands the image and outlines the possibilities. For those outside the field the paper presents a “who knew?” overview of unrealized potential.
The strength of the white paper is the focus not on tasks but on mission – Access to Justice. Towards the shared goal of access to justice law librarians choose different paths, ranging from supporting the information needs of pro se litigants to building skills and values of law students to lending their information management skills to law firms that know more about the law than they know about how to plumb the depths of relevant legal resources.
The white paper also suggests ways in which law librarians can blend their skills with agencies whose forte is outreach – to legal aid agencies, partnerships with public libraries, to acquainting practicing attorneys with current resources essential to informed practice of the law.
Collaboration, currency of resources, expanding access and sharing the intellectual wealth are means to an end in this significant paper. The prevailing theme of Access to Justice informs the white paper and thus the work of law librarians who daily get up and do what needs to be done to assure access to justice for all.