Reference from Coast to Coast - Bibliographic Reference Resources on the Web

Welcome to Reference From Coast to Coast: Sources and Strategies, a monthly column written by Jan Bissett and Margi Heinen.

Jan Bissett is a Reference Librarian in the Bloomfield Hills, Michigan office of Dickinson Wright PLLC. She is a past president of the Michigan Association of Law Libraries and has published articles on administrative and research related topics in the Michigan Association of Law Libraries Newsletter and Michigan Defense Quarterly. She and Margi Heinen team teach Legal Information Sources and Services for Wayne State University's Library and Information Science Program in Detroit, Michigan.   

Margi Heinen is the Librarian at Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer & Weiss in Detroit, Michigan. She teaches Legal Resources at the University of Michigan's School of Information and is team teaching with her co-columnist, Jan Bissett, at Wayne State University's School of Library and Information Science. She regularly does Internet training of legal staff at her firm and recently collaborated with Kathleen Gamache on an I.P.E. presentation, Internet Stategies for the Paralegal in Michigan. She is active in the Law Librarians of Metro Detroit and is a member of the American Association of Law Libraries.

We were recently told that it is. Or at least not one that you share with your patrons or library users. A far cry from my library school days when a professor's favorite saying "there's money in bibliography" rang through the halls.

A bibliography is a list of literature, often by subject, which enables one to identify, locate and deliver information. It comes in many forms: catalogs, subject & trade bibliographies, and guides to literature. These tools are invaluable in our ever-increasing world of information. Is there still a need for these tools? An emphatic yes! In the search for immediate answers, we often post to electronic discussion lists seeking answers to questions which are readily available in standard bibliographic sources.

Bibliographic tools see daily use in our libraries. Some have taken electronic form while others remain in print. Searching for bibliographic information via the Web is not unfamiliar to young lawyers and other library users who know how to use on-line catalogs in law school settings. Recently a summer associate needed to see material we did not own and he was told we would contact the local university law library. The summer associate volunteered to check for the material if we could direct him location on the web of the on-line catalog. This summer associate knew what we all should - checking bibliographic sources should be the first step in locating needed material. Bibliographic utilities such as OCLC's FirstSearch and RLIN's Eureka help us locate specific titles as well as identify materials by author and subject. If you don't subscribe to these services, other OPACs, such as the Library of Congress, can be useful in accessing that information. Our colleagues who labor to create catalog records daily make our pursuit of that "needle in the haystack" possible. Gary Price's Direct Search: Searchable Bibliographies, Major Library Catalogs and Librarian Tools  provides links to web accessible archives, catalogs and bibliographies. ACQWEB 's Directory of Publishers & Vendors and commercial sources such as Amazon.com help us to identify bibliographic information.

Our favorite bibliographic sources cover the range of questions received in many law libraries: legal, non-legal and other reference sources which are not strictly bibliographic but are often used for that purpose. Traditional "daily use" sources such as OCLC, Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory™ , Gale Directory of Publications & Broadcast Media and still others which merit occasional use, such as the Guide to US Government Publications  and Guide to Reference Books remain an essential part of our reference collections. Is there a book on Michigan legal topic Z? Any materials written by X Expert?; a California legal newspaper? Periodicals on xxx?; identify and locate this government material, maybe from the Dept. of X?; I need a book that illustrates this particular style of design in this particular type of structure….. All questions that have been answered by these titles.

But what of legal-specific bibliographic titles? Legal Information Buyers Guide & Reference Manual , Subject Compilations of State Laws, Law Books & Serials in Print™, AALL Legal Research Links: Law Library Catalogs, Legal Looseleafs In Print , Legal Newsletters in Print and the Directory of Law Related CD Roms are all excellent sources, not to mention the very site you are now reading LLRX.com. These references have been developed to ease the pain of hunting the needle in the haystack. Additional titles come to mind that are not primarily intended as bibliographic tools, but which make great sources in some instances. Clearly Specialized Legal Research as well as published pathfinders in Law Library Journal, Legal Reference Services Quarterly, and elsewhere provide help when you are in an unfamiliar area of law. If you are simply trying to identify a reporter designation A Uniform System of Citation (Harvard Blue Book) can help with its tracking of reporters for each state as well as international and agency publications. We also like to use the law digest volumes of Martindale Hubbell  to locate citations to statutes or case law in jurisdictions not our own before we go on-line or to the telephone. These digest volumes are only available in the print version, but their use can make an online search more specific and faster.

Bibliography in not a bad word. Bibliographic tools may not provide the "answer" to a research question but they are the best way to find where the answer may be and to understand how the answer fits into the universe of legal research.