Extras – A Conference on California Library Resource Sharing

Catherine Meller is the Reference Librarian at the law firm of Latham & Watkins in Los Angeles, CA. She has been a law librarian for 10 years and holds a Master’s degree from UCLA in Library and Information Science.

(Archived January 1, 1998)

A few months ago Dr. Kevin Starr, the State Librarian of California, announced an invitational conference series for special librarians. The purpose of the full day conferences was stated as follows in the letter sent to many special librarians throughout the state:

  • to define the current status and inter-relationships of different types of special libraries (corporate, government agency, hospital, institutional, law, newspaper, etc.) in California
  • to share information on recent technological developments and issues impacting both libraries and library cooperation, including Universal Service discounts for telecommunications
  • to explore the role of special libraries in the network plan for multi-type library cooperation and resource-sharing
  • to recommend future roles and relationships between special libraries and the statewide library network…between special libraries and the California State Library

Because he considered the conference series to be an important step in the evolution of a statewide program of resource-sharing among libraries of all types, Dr. Starr allocated funds to underwrite the participation of up to 500 special librarians. Participants were reimbursed for travel expenses and were provided with breakfast and lunch. The conferences were held at the Wyndham Hotel near the Los Angeles International Airport.

Registrants were asked to select their conference day from the following categories, or types of libraries, particular to their interests: corporate; health care/hospital; institutional; law; or other (church, government agency, newspaper, etc.). Your reporter chose to attend the law conference day, and coincidentally was asked to provide a brief presentation on the context of private firm libraries (estimates of their number, resources, staff, service roles and relationships) in the state of California. David McFadden, Senior Reference Librarian of Southwestern School of Law and current SCALL President, provided similar overviews on academic law libraries, and read the report written by Gayle Webb, Director of Riverside County Law Library, on county law libraries. Approximately 150 law librarians were in attendance, representative of all the varieties of law libraries as well: private, county, court, academic and prison.

Barbara Will, the Networking Coordinator of the California State Library, was the moderator and guide for the program. As an introduction, Ms. Will shared with us her experiences in facilitating and achieving a statewide networking and resource sharing program for the libraries of New Jersey. The first morning session consisted of an overview of recent technological developments, many of which impact on libraries and their services. All California libraries may be eligible for Universal Service discounts for telecommunications. The California Public Utilities Commission has established a procedure for qualifying schools and libraries to receive service discounts of 50% through the California Teleconnect Fund. The total annual allocation is $40 million, and applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. Barbara Will encouraged all libraries, both public and private, to apply for this discount, since any library that shares resources with other California libraries is considered eligible.

A video of a presentation by Adam Eisgrau, of the ALA Washington office, presented and discussed issues involving intellectual property rights and copyright, a topic well-known by most law librarians. Mr. Eisgrau assured us that most interlibrary loan and resource sharing processes were protected by the present individual use and study provisions of the copyright laws.

The next presenter, Holly Hinman, outlined the types of training and outreach projects that she developed as a consultant with the California State Library to help public libraries provide internet orientation and access to the public. You can view some of the materials available through and from this program at http://infopeople.berkeley.edu:8000/src/chart.html.

Private firm librarians noted their concerns with confidentiality, and with their mandate to provide services to their employers first, and anyone else second, if at all.

Ms. Will next presented an overview of how and why law libraries might want to participate in the California Library Network. All Californians would have access to billions of dollars worth of information resources by the linking of all 8,000 libraries in California, and the State Library would help support the sharing of information and collections, with such programs as the California Teleconnect Fund discussed previously. Those in attendance were then randomly assigned to small discussion groups of 4 to 8 each to consider the factors of liking or disliking participation in multi-type library networking. Due to the varying types of administration and funding represented by all the different types of law libraries represented, many different issues were raised. Many noted that a strong network of resource sharing may already exist among law libraries and other types of libraries, through traditional interlibrary loan processes and contract retrieval services. Private firm librarians noted their concerns with confidentiality, and with their mandate to provide services to their employers first, and anyone else second, if at all. All librarians expressed concern about the addition of more work to their already busy schedules, and about the appropriate screening of requests regarding legal advice versus legal research. Barbara Will noted that all the concerns and issues raised would be taken into consideration, and that ultimately participation in the network would always be voluntary.

To introduce the types of programs that could be offered with the assistance of resource-sharing grants, the next presentation was given by Jean Hofacket of Triadigm Technology. As a pilot project for public libraries in the San Diego area, Jean’s company developed a public service program on pre- and post-natal care available in many different languages. Based on software developed by Triadigm, the information provided can be translated both in text and audio into the the desired language, and can be used either in the library, or checked out, loaded into a laptop computer, by the patron. This type of program might be useful to public law libraries to provide basic guides to legal research, perhaps, or pathfinders to guide individuals through family law, small claims or bankruptcy court matters. Barbara Will then provided a draft outline of the criteria for resource-sharing grants. Quoting from the draft:

The recently-enacted Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), replacing the Library Services and Construction Act (LSCA), is a funding source for grants to libraries for technology, resource-sharing and services to persons having difficulty in using a library and to those in underserved urban and rural communities. For the purpose of the LSTA grant program in California, “library resource-sharing grants” are defined as funds awarded to libraries for planning and/or implementation of projects whose primary goal is to enable and facilitate resource-sharing among California libraries of all types: academic, public, school, and special; publicly-funded and privately-funded. Funds may position a library to participate in multi-type library resource-sharing, enable a library to share resources beyond its own clientele, and facilitate a cooperative, collaborative initiative by a group of multi-type libraries. Libraries must share resources with other California libraries, in some way, to be eligible for a resource-sharing grant.

During lunch, an announcement was made concerning California SB 409, known as the “Library of California” legislation that would provide funding of the virtual library network in the state of California. According to the CLA fact sheet:

SB 409 declares that the legislature’s policy is to ensure adequate funding of libraries from local or other sources, with state aid under this program serving as a supplement rather than a replacement for other funds. It is the state role to maximize upon those local investments by enabling the sharing of library resources over jurisdictional lines.

Sponsored and endorsed by the California Library Association and the California School Library Association, the Library of California legislation establishes the framework for a multi-type library network in California. This legislation updates, expands and replaces the California Library Services Act (CLSA) of 1977. Interested librarians were encouraged to consider support of this legislation by writing to their local representatives.

Following lunch, Barbara Will presented an overview of the types of services available to all California libraries from the Library Development Services Bureau of the California State Library. The bureau can provide technical and consultative services to libraries seeking assistance with general library development, facilities planning, special planning and program services and resource sharing, among others. Another California State Library resource available and of particular interest to law librarians is the California State Law Library. Fran Jones, the director of the state law library, shared facts concerning the collection and function of the state law library. She encouraged the law librarian community to call and ask for assistance with state legislative research issues, and for assistance with state and federal government publications resources that might not be locally available to them.

A second small discussion group session was held to consider and recommend how the California State Library should work with law libraries in the future. Many expressed the need for assistance with, and a one-stop reference resource center for, California legislative history.

In summation, Barbara Will expressed her appreciation for the participation of those present. She indicated that the suggestions and facts provided by the law librarians would assist in furthering the fine-tuning and development of the multi-type library network.

Posted in: Extras, Law Librarians