What’s up with LawMatters: An update on CLBC’s public legal info program

Through the LawMatters program, Courthouse Libraries BC (CLBC) helps provide legal information to the public throughout British Columbia. CLBC also hosts the websites Clicklaw and Clicklaw Wikibooks, which provide access to legal information and education for British Columbians.

With the release of new online publications, acknowledgment at a conference in Toronto, Ontario, and the retirement announcement of long-time Program Coordinator Janet Freeman, 2015 was an eventful year for the LawMatters program This year, it will continue providing legal information grants to libraries, along with lists of recommended titles and retention guides, legal reference support and training, and Wikibook updates. LawMatters staff look forward to another eventful year of partnering, innovating, and connecting with public libraries and communities across British Columbia.

New Publications

Last October, LawMatters launched a new online publication called The Beginner’s Guide to Finding Legal Information. The guide is part of a growing collection of Clicklaw Wikibooks: plain language online publications that are fully searchable and downloadable in PDF and ePub formats. Compiled by CLBC librarians, the most recent title provides an introduction to understanding legislation and legal procedures as well as instructions for finding specific resources on a given legal topic. The guide is intended to help people—particularly those representing themselves in B.C. courts—manage everyday legal problems.

Specific questions addressed in the guide include:
Which Area of Law Does My Problem Fall Under?
Do I Need to Go to Court?
How Do I Find Court Forms?
…and more

Additionally, in a new article published by the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, LawMatters Program Coordinator Janet Freeman and Program Consultant Nancy Hannum chart the history and growing role of public libraries as partners in access to justice. The article, titled “Law Matters at your Local Public Library,” chronicles the success of this unique program–through which B.C. became the first jurisdiction in Canada to develop an ongoing initiative to help public libraries provide legal information to the public.

Libraries and Justice Conference

Also in October, Freeman delivered a keynote presentation to a number of legal and information professionals at a conference at the Law Society of Upper Canada in Toronto, Ontario. The event, called “Libraries and Justice: Innovative Access for Rural and Remote Communities,” drew lawyers, librarians, and other legal information providers who met to discuss developing partnerships to provide non-urban communities with effective legal information and referral resources.

During the daylong event, LawMatters and its predecessor, the Legal Services Society’s public library program, were recognized as pioneering programs in B.C. The aforementioned Clicklaw Wikibooks collection was also acknowledged as an innovative legal information publishing tool.

Program Coordinator Janet Freeman Retiring

After coordinating the LawMatters program for eight years, Janet Freeman retired in December 2015 and is succeeded by Shannon McLeod. Freeman, who helped to develop LawMatters, said in a blog post that she met a “great number of public librarians” during her work with the program. She added that she is leaving it in “excellent hands.” Read Freeman’s full statement here.

If your library is interested in legal reference and information training or in hosting a community legal information forum, please contact Shannon McLeod at [email protected] or visit www.bclawmatters.ca for more information.

Shannon McLeod is the LawMatters Program Coordinator at Courthouse Libraries BC.