The DuPage County legal system has been heralded as one of the State of Illinois’ frontrunners in providing new and technologically savvy ways for users to navigate the court system. The DuPage County Law Library is taking significant steps to make itself more relevant and user-friendly for patrons. I had the opportunity to sit down with the law library staff to dig into exactly what recent changes they have made in the last year and what upcoming changes they plan to implement over the next year. The law library is staffed by three wonderful librarians, Mary Anderson, Juanita Harrell and Sarah Cole, who have legal backgrounds and the knowledge to tackle any question that comes their way.
I know what you’re thinking. Libraries are a thing of the past. Books are a thing of the past. Everything is done online now. To be honest, this sentiment is mostly true, and much to the dismay of the members of the DCBA Senior Lawyer Division, today’s legal practice requires a much greater knowledge of the online research tools in order to provide efficient and costeffective legal services. The updates to the law library are not the usual updates you would expect from a law library – such as adding, replacing and removing print volumes. While the library still maintains a collection of 26,000 print volumes, if you haven’t been there lately and think it is lined with shelves of dusty books, you’ve got another think coming.
Law Library Technology. First and foremost, the law library can save you and your firm money. There is an effort to make library resources accessible even outside of the physical courthouse. This includes an updated law library website (located at http://www.dupageco.org/lawlibrary). On the website, there are tabs on the left side to take you to the law library catalog, legal research sites, and even an e-filing assistance page. The catalog is searchable by keyword so you can find exactly what you are looking for. In addition, if there is a resource your firm does not possess, you can get it without having to go to the library. One phone call or email to the law library reference desk and the staff will prepare and email you copies of the sections you request, for free. This means that access is available to the entire library collection, both print and electronic, without cost to you or your firm. Even more convenient is the fact you don’t have to go there to get it. Imagine the ways you can trim down your Westlaw or LexisNexis online subscriptions to exclude those resources you only use once or twice a year.
Full Wi-Fi access is available in the law library and printers, copiers and fax machines are available for a minor fee. The library maintains a full WestlawNext© subscription with unfettered access to Illinois legal resources as well as other state and federal case law, statutes and secondary sources. Additionally, Microsoft Word and FinPlan Divorce Planner are available. Recently added to this arsenal are two new major electronic databases: a Westlaw database called Practical Law© and a Lexis Digital Library© of electronic secondary sources.
Practical Law© is a full database for the practicing attorney which gives updates and alerts tailored to specific practice areas as well as guides, forms, checklists, and flowcharts for all common practice areas in transactional and litigation settings. These include resources for antitrust, bankruptcy, commercial transactions, corporate and M&A, employee benefits, finance, intellectual property, labor and employment, litigation, real estate, and taxation. The Lexis Digital Library© is a one-stop-shop for electronic legal books encompassing both state and federal practice. Just a few general examples are: Illinois Forms of Jury Instruction, Illinois Civil Procedure, Illinois Criminal Procedure, Corbin on Contracts, Collier on Bankruptcy, Moore’s Manual, and Gitlin on Divorce. The materials in this database will be expanded and tailored depending on what requests practicing attorneys have for the library. For now, it is available in both print and e-book format, but starting in 2017 these volumes will only be available in e-book format. Practical Law© and the Lexis Digital Library© are just two of the most recent examples of steps taken by the law library to stay ahead of the times. The staff is looking into ways to best showcase these new databases and plans to schedule demonstrations for attorneys to learn how to best utilize them, so stay tuned.
Reconfiguration. The resources at the law library are not the only things getting updated – the actual library itself is set to undergo some changes in layout over the next year or so. These changes are intended to create designated spaces for both practitioners and pro se litigants through re-configuring the space. The attorney section will have multiple computer terminals equipped with all of the legal research tools, resources, print materials and plenty of seating. A new e-filing station will help attorneys to easily file their court documents. The reference desk will be relocated to the right side of the law library so it is closer to the newly created room specifically for pro se litigants. This pro se help area will have at least five computer terminals, printing services and e-filing services, since e-filing is now mandatory for civil matters in DuPage County. The computers will not have WestlawNext©, but will have Illinois legal aid programs and internet access.
Another equally-important goal of the reconfiguration process is to make the law library more handicapped accessible. This includes the addition of double doors to the entrance and installation of low-top counters that are wheelchair accessible. The intention with all changes to the library is always to find ways to allow more access to a broader group of users. The work to the library space is tentatively scheduled to begin over President’s Day weekend and will be scheduled during times that will least interfere with daily operations. The staff plans to host an open house once all of the work is complete.
Conclusion. The new and exciting changes to the law library are just beginning. Therefore, the staff wants to hear suggestions from you on how it can improve its services and resources. It is important to note that although the law library staff is not allowed to give legal advice, they are always on hand to assist in finding specific materials and directing you to available resources. You can contact the law library through their website listed above, through email to email@example.com, or directly call the Reference Desk at 630-407-8811.
Peter Evans is an attorney with Skawski Law Offices, LLC focusing on commercial, construction and personal injury litigation. He graduated from Vanderbilt Law School, earning the Law & Business Certificate, and Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management.