Law Libraries for You

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Need to do some legal research? Look up a case, a statute, books on a particular legal topic, or a specific legal document? Try the law library; it’s easier than you think. There is at least one law library in your state that is open to the public; in some states, there is one in every county. And like public libraries, law libraries are putting their catalogs and other resources online.

Check your state’s CourtReference guide’s Self Help and Legal Research resource category and look for the word “library” on the page. You’ll find the closest law library and links to law library web pages. For example, in CourtReference Guide to Alabama Courts you’ll find a link to the website of the Alabama State Law Library in Montgomery, where you can ask the librarian a question, search the catalog, and get directions and hours of operation.

New York not only has a law library in every county – linked on CourtReference, of course – but also has a statewide catalog search that covers every law library in the system. Even better, if you need a document, you can have it e-mailed to you for free (sorry, no such service for books). Washington’s state law library website has an online catalog, directions and contact information, and online ordering of photocopies for a nominal fee; it also has extensive links to online research resources, and even a brochure that explains the “10 Easy Steps to Legal Research.”

Most legal research is done online now, so law libraries are not just collections of books and documents. They also have computers set up for online research, and many are open to the public. New York is a good example, but so is Alaska.

Law libraries, like their public library counterparts, have librarians that are happy to help you find what you need, and easy online access to their catalogs and other electronic resources. They may not be as well known as public libraries, but you can find out more about them at CourtReference.

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