The Sheriff Court Library Service: Visiting Courts

The Sheriff Courts of Scotland have a new library service. Assistant Librarian Julie McGregor kindly agreed to tell SLLG about some of the early challenges of setting up a multi-site service.

The Sheriff Court Library Service was officially launched in April 2017 to provide a library service for all 38 of Scotland’s Sheriff Courts. As part of the SCTS Library Service, the Sheriff Court Library Service mirrors that of the Supreme Court Library Service. The service centralises  the purchase and management of library materials for all sheriff courts, provides an enquiry service and offers training in e-resources to the judiciary and court staff.

The plan 

Although we are based in Edinburgh, it is vital that we visit all the courts to meet staff, assess and record stock and catalogue. Introductory visits to at least one sheriff court in each of the six sheriffdoms were made during summer 2017 but more detailed visits to all courts were then planned for autumn.

The visits

We opted to go to the far flung courts of Grampian, Highland and Islands in October and November before the weather became too troublesome. We worked out that three courts per trip was a realistic plan. Fort William, Portree and Lochmaddy became our first trip and took four days. A couple of weeks later we jetsetted off for three days to Aberdeen, Kirkwall and Lerwick. Two full days in Perth were also fitted around the two big trips.

The challenge 

Our big challenge when preparing for these visits was to plan routes that would cover the courts – all by train, bus, ferry or plane. We also had to fit in with courts that only sit every 2 or even 4 weeks. It felt quite strange being given the key to a sheriff court and just letting ourselves in. What and how much library stock would we find? What condition would it be in and where would it be stored? How are the materials being used? Are Sheriffs and staff in smaller, more remote courts relying on print material or accessing it all online? Would we have enough time to weed, reorganise, record and photograph the stock? Would we have time to visit Orkney and Shetland Public Libraries?!

Observations and reflections

  • Larger courts have a dedicated library room but most courts have library material in various rooms such as Sheriff’s Chambers, on the bench, in solicitors’ rooms or sometimes even in Witness Rooms. Every court seems to have a grand old collection of Public General Acts – although these are now easily available online we left these for display purposes.
  • It’s important to plan but be flexible. We were able to complete our work in some courts; in others we had to fit work around the running of the court and may need to return.
  • The sheriffs and staff we met use a combination of a small number of textbooks and online resources. Both court staff and sheriffs may work in more than one location so it’s not practical to carry looseleafs, books etc. between the courts.
  • Meeting and chatting to the staff in the courts has been a valuable and enjoyable experience. The smooth running of the library service relies on the relationships we build with the staff in the courts. It has been good to put faces to names and we found that our colleagues in the courts we visited are very pleased to have the support of a library service. Having met us they are more likely to get in touch with us for help.
  • Orkney Public Library and Shetland Public Library are worth visiting!

We documented our trips on twitter under #shedlibsontour so watch this space for the further adventures of the Sheriff Court librarians!

Sheriff Courts image

Clockwise from top left: Sheriff Courts of Lochmaddy, Aberdeen, Fort William, Portree, Kirkwall and Lerwick. Photos courtesy of SCTS and J.McGregor.

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Law Librarians Explained, a Law School Toolbox blog post

Link: Law Librarians Explained: Everything a 1L Should Know 

Although the context is for American law students, this is a good little introductory blog about law librarians.

Respect your law librarian—they are not just there to reshelf your books

John Passmore’s post includes quotable lines which are worth taking away for any of us explaining our law information service.

….don’t doubt a law librarian’s ability to dig just a little deeper and search just a little more precisely than you can

Even if it might have mentioned loose-leaf updating a bit more, it’s only an introduction to all the amazing stuff we do, after all, so I suppose not everything could fit in it.

Having a highly educated and experienced legal information professional in your corner is huge

If anyone has a comment on the Toolbox blog post or has one (or more!) blog posts they’d also like to share with the group, please let us know.

The Advocates Library: telling our stories through infographics

As a contribution to #librariesweek, Helen and Jane from the Advocates Library write about their use of infographics for highlighting library workings to service users.

There is always a need for libraries, of any sort, to look at ways to raise their profile and remind users of the value they offer.

Back in the spring Helen was thinking about ways to raise the profile of the library. As a result of a 3am light bulb moment she came into work with infographics on her mind. Co-incidentally Jane had also been looking into this method of communicating information in a gorgeous and eye-catching manner. We got quite excited.

As it is Libraries Week we thought we would share our recent experience of using infographics to promote Advocates Library services to our members. Two of our recent infographics are featured below. Save the images to view them larger.

Heart of the Advocates Library

The librarians at the heart of the Advocates Library

Helen saw infographics as an opportunity for marketing and raising awareness of the Advocates Library services with a method of displaying content in ways that would catch and hold our members’ attention. It was not going to present new or particularly complex information as such. It was felt best suited to information that can be given in a bite-sized form, wrapped in pretty packaging.

Jane assessed various infographic sites at the start but has settled on piktochart.com which provides an incredible level of content and functionality for free (more is available with a subscription). Piktochart offers a variety of templates but she tends to start from scratch with a blank page and build up our story for the month.

Each month Helen comes up with a theme idea. As it is discussed, a ‘story’ evolves about the message we are trying to convey. While Helen gathers statistics and information on the theme from departments within the Advocates Library, Jane lets the story develop in her mind.

By the time Helen has a factual outline of the infographic, Jane can get to work with a clear idea of what imagery she wants to create with it.

When Helen and Jane are happy with the result, the new infographic is disseminated as part of the Library news ebulletin and printed out for display at the main Enquiry Desk and remote library rooms.

The industry of the library

The industry behind answering an enquiry in the Advocates Library

Our member feedback has been very positive about the infographic series. We hope that on some level this approach to marketing our library services will improve their understanding of the “library” work done by library staff, much of which is undertaken behind the scenes and probably otherwise unawares by our members.

Libraries are always looking at ways to promote their services. For us, working in quite a traditional environment, we have found doing something relatively unexpected quite effective. We have had a chance to use our latent creative skills and think about alternative ways of communicating with our members. It has been a rewarding experience. We have ideas for the next few months but our challenge will be to keep telling our Library stories in interesting and attractive infographics in the months beyond.

Helen Robinson, Reader Services Librarian & Jane A Condie, Reader Services Assistant,
Advocates Library.

“More pure thought less word search” – SWOP event with talk on the lawyer’s use of a law library, given by Lord Carloway

For SLLG members and lawyers, this posting is especially informative because of the full text link to Lord Carloway’s talk on the lawyer’s use of print and online resources in the law library: past, present and future, presented at the SWOP event.
Click on ‘view original post’ link below.

SWOP Forum

There was  a good turn out for our SWOP meeting at the Supreme Courts yesterday.  We were delighted to welcome Alison Young from the Mitchell Library in Glasgow to the meeting as well as Kelly, Sarah Louise and Rebecaa from the  library service for the Scottish Courts.

supreme courts

Attendees enjoyed a tour of the Courts’ buildings which included the original cells, now used for storage and the ‘piano store’ which as well as a piano housed a coffin!

Jennie Findlay, Scottish Courts Services Library Manager, was our guest chair and introduced Lord Carloway, Lord President of the Court of Session.

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His speech reflected on the fact that the Scots Legal System is based upon principle and not precedent  and whilst databases certainly aid research they must be used with caution and not replace research of core works and texts by legal greats. He has kindly made his speech availablefor those unable…

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