Monday, January 25, 2010

346 - 349

This is the last of the 340's and it is a large section. A number of items I just discarded because they had already been updated by something else. And, as in the previous section, there are a number of things, particularly the Nolo books, that need to be updated.
Some new additions here. When we discontinued the WestLaw NJ database, we got new printed materials from the New Jersey Practice Series that will be updated on a regular basis. This set includes the 8 volume Wills & Administration, the 3 volume Landlord Tenant, the 3 volume Family Practice (all with forms), and the 7 volume Legal Forms. Our WestLaw rep said this would replace the green New Jersey Forms Legal and Business, which we are no longer updating. It costs about $550 per year. The rep said that we would no longer need it with the new stuff. but I'm willing to reconsider if you think we need it as well. Otherwise this will be discarded.
A couple of items that came automatically with our new WestLaw package: Neighboring Property Owners and West's New Jersey Law Finder, which is like the 3 volume NJSA index, only not as good.
As you know, we are discontinuing the USCA, but are continuing the NJSA and NJAC. So we need to get rid of the entire USCA, because it is of little use without the updating service. It is also useless to offer it to another library, because the great expense and value of this is the updating service. So it goes.
The other sets on that back wall that are probably of little use to us are West's New Jersey Digest (brown set, covers cases pre 1954) and the 2nd edition (red set, covers cases since 1954 to 2004 when the updating stopped). They were donated to us by a law firm in 2004 without the updating service. They actually do have some value, although I have never used them, nor have I been asked for them. They give specific cases that have been decided on various topics, for example, under "Eviction" Chelsea Hotel Corp v Gelles, 1942 ruled that an eviction of a tenant by the landlord suspends the obligation of tenant to pay rent..." and so on. Hmmm....what do you think?
Take a look at the Supreme Court material on the middle shelf. Should we get rid of any of it? I couldn't decide--I thought each had value.
Getting rid of the USCA, and relocating the NYT index and the Book Review Digests will make a lot of room on that back wall for our new legal reference section. Specific sections would be immigration, wills and estates, family law, landlord tenant. Let me know of other possible sections. Sections will be color coded rather than recataloged. Also, I'm going to be checking catalogs for face out shelves, etc.
Any ideas here also would be appreciated. Since we are through the 330s and 340s I think we can go right ahead with our plans for those two areas.


Jane said...

GS says: I think we should always have the most up to date NOLO guides. In recent years, Reference has fallen down on this a bit and some of the more recent guides are in the circulating collection. Are we planning on duplicating what is in the circulating collection, having one copy circ and one reference?

I think two more categories for separation should be books related to starting a business (with all related books together) and another for copyright. We also have quite a lot of books on inventions/patents.

I have not really been asked questions that would use the New Jersey Digests. I have sent people back there to take a look at them but have no idea if that is what they really wanted or not.

There was a time when lots of patrons wanted court case (either New Jersey or Supreme Court) information for school projects. This seems to have faded away a bit but I wonder if it will come back. I think we should update those titles that we can, such as the Oxford Guide to United States Supreme Court Decisions.

I think we should put some type of dummy of the shelf in the forms section to let people know about the CD-ROM 101 Law Forms for Personal Use that is downstairs in the CD ROM Collection. Some libraries have online access to legal forms and we might want to consider something like that. I do believe a product does exist for New Jersey Forms. We used to be able to get forms through one of our other databases but it is gone now.

Catherine Harper said...

Of the Supreme Court titles, I’d like to see us get the latest editions of Oxford Guide and CQ. If we can’t spend the $400 on the 2004 edition, then perhaps the 1996 now and the 2012(?) when it comes out.

I recommend that we put Jersey Justice in circ.

Even though we can get state law digests from, National Survey of State Laws is much easier to use for cross-state comparisons. I’d like to see us get the new one when it comes out, but I don’t think it makes sense to buy the 2007. If others think we should just rely on, I don’t have a problem with that.

New Jersey Rules of Court are available on the State Judiciary’s web site. I don’t think it makes sense to keep getting them in print. The Oceana book on small claims courts is much too general, and besides, the Judiciary site has all the information that someone thinking of filing in small claims court in New Jersey should need.

I must say that I have strong misgivings about our having professional legal sources like New Jersey Practice. Generally, I think we should only have them if at least one of us—and preferably all of us—can explain to our patrons how to use them and how the information in them may be relevant to their question, as well as what information they don’t contain without which what they do contain is insufficient, and therefore may lead the patron to forming a conclusion that could do him or her legal harm. (Sorry for the unwieldy sentence.) I feel comfortable directing someone to the New Jersey Statutes and the Administrative Code, and showing them how to access the U.S. Code online. But I have only a vague understanding of case law research. I know that it involves more than looking at New Jersey Practice (even assuming that you know what it is you are looking for), but what I don’t know is what to tell the patron who needs to know what other sources he should consult. My lack of legal expertise makes me nervous, not only because of liability ccncerns, but because I may be doing the patron a huge disservice.

What I usually do when faced with a legal question is suggest that the patron look at sources like the Nolo books that are written for the general public. I explain to him that they are designed to give a general overview of the topic, and that what they say may or may not reflect current New Jersey law. I suggest to him that he consult with an attorney or a law librarian if he needs a definitive answer to a legal question.

So, to cut to the chase, I think we should save the money we’re paying for New Jersey Practice, and just refer people to the State Law Library if they need information that can only be obtained from professional tools.

As for legal contract forms that one finds in New Jersey Forms and New Jersey Practice, my experience has been that people don’t want forms in this format. What they want are the ready-to-execute forms like those that one can buy at stationery and office supply stores. The legal forms available in New Jersey Practice are not, to my mind, sufficient reason for us to continue to get this set. The same liability concerns pertain to recommending that patrons use these forms to draw up a contract that could have major financial consequences for them. I’d prefer we just refer them to Hinkson’s or Kinko’s if they insist on not using an attorney. For Nolo and other non-professional sources of legal forms, I would use the same disclaimer--that the forms may or may not reflect current New Jersey law and should be used only as general guides.

Kristin said...

I have to disagree with the recommendation to discontinue New Jersey Practice. The discussion over librarian liability has been a continuous one. While, I am a huge proponent of all things NOLO, in making legal topics palatable and understandable to the masses, I think it's important to have professional legal sources available for those who wish to dig deeper. This can be especially true for state-specific resources.

Clearly, when we refer customers to legal materials, we should verbally inform them that we are not legal advisors, nor can we tell them what forms to use, no matter how much they may demand this.

Speaking from personal experience, when I needed to engage in a legal proceeding, even though I hired a lawyer, I wanted to be sure I had all of the information available to me, and I sought information from NOLO, NJ Practice, and whatever resources I could find. It's a matter of literacy, really.

I'd like to see us keep this resource, and others like it, when possible. Even if we cannot fully understand the language, that is the language of the courts and it could empower some of our customers.

We're not counselors or lawyers and as long as we make this clear, I don't believe there should be a problem. If someone does persist in getting an opinion about something of a legal nature, by all means, do refer them to the State Law Library, or another law library.

Catherine Harper said...

I think Kristin's points are well-taken and very well expressed. I'm sure that many of our patrons are capable of using New Jersey Practice appropriately and benefiting from the information it contains. It's the other people I'm concerned about. But if others feel we should have this source, I won't fuss.

I thought I'd see if there are any professional guidelines on the topic. The best I've found so far are on ALA's site:

They don't really address what kinds of sources are appropriate for general users, but they have some things to say about disclaimers and staff competency that we may want to think about.