The LawMatters program at CLBC, made possible with funding from the Law Foundation, has been working directly with public libraries in BC since 2007. We administer collection grants for libraries to purchase print legal materials annually, offer training for public library staff, and provide collection support and guidance. Having worked with all 71 library systems in BC, LawMatters offers a unique perspective on public library needs within the Public Legal Education and Information (PLEI) sector.
This research study looks at PLEI in British Columbia and how public libraries, with materials from the LawMatters program, support the PLEI needs of BC’s rural and remote communities.
Two previous evaluations of LawMatters pointed to the capacity challenges public libraries face in providing legal collections and information services to the public in terms of: space, staffing, outreach, and technology. It showed that while legal collections were very important, the relative infrequency of legal questions in many public libraries created a dynamic of low collection use and limited opportunities to practice legal reference. Nonetheless, the grant program LawMatters offers was reported as highly valued, particularly by smaller libraries that would never be able to purchase such legal materials with limited collections budgets.
Our new line of research focuses on public library capacity and community needs to understand what might further support librarians in answering legal information questions; seeking to understand more about the public’s use of local libraries for PLEI. We looked at the priorities of public libraries and their communities to contextualize the relative importance of PLEI by asking:
- What are the relative rate and type of legal information questions being asked?
- What other community constraints/barriers are libraries facing?
- How could LawMatters better support their community’s legal information needs?
Want to know more? Read the full LawMatters research study results.