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The Saskatchewan Access to Legal Information Project (SALI)

By Alan Kilpatrick

This talk was presented at the 2017 Saskatchewan Library Association Conference by Alan Kilpatrick, Reference Librarian, BA, MLIS.  Please find the transcript of the presentation here.

I am here to share a remarkable library collaboration that is going to revolutionize access to justice and legal information in this province.  The Saskatchewan Access to Legal Information Project (SALI) is a new partnership among urban, rural, and remote libraries, justice industry stakeholders, and community organizations, working to advance access to justice for Saskatchewan residents.

The project arose in 2016 out of a discussion at the Dean’s Forum on Access to Justice and Dispute Resolution.  This is an initiative from the University of Saskatchewan that brings together justice stakeholders to discuss access to justice and to find solutions to the justice system’s inaccessibility.  During this discussion, the forum realized that serious gaps exist in the public’s access to legal information.  It is generally accepted that legal information is widely accessible through the internet.  However, many people are not aware of the wealth of resources available online.  It can be difficult to determine if online legal information is credible or reliable if you do not a background in the law.

Recognising that libraries are suited to act as intermediaries to help the public locate and identify authoritative legal information, the forum made it a priority to partner with Saskatchewan’s public libraries as a way of improving access to legal information.

Under the coordination of Brea Lowenberger, Saskatchewan’s Access to Justice Coordinator, and Beth Bilson from the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Law, a working group was formed with representatives from the Public Legal Education Association of Saskatchewan (PLEA), the Saskatoon Public Library, the Law Society Library, and the University of Saskatchewan College of Law to investigate turning this idea into reality.  PLEA, Saskatchewan’s official public legal education provider, has developed a variety of accessible legal resources and has experience partnering with public libraries to distribute legal materials.  The Saskatoon Public Library, the Law Society Library, and the College of Law Library all possess legal collections and expertise that enhance PLEA’s materials.

This working group realized it would be valuable to bring together a broader group of library and community partners.  A one day meeting was hosted in Saskatoon last September to exchange information and to discuss the role libraries might play in improving access to legal information.  Those invited included representatives from every library region in the province, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice, Pro Bono Law Saskatchewan, Community Legal Assistance Services for Saskatoon Inner City, and Saskatchewan 211.

The morning featured discussion on the access to justice crisis and potential opportunities for libraries to help improve access to legal information.  The afternoon featured break-out sessions.  Several themes emerged during the day.  They included how to collect statistics on public library patron’s legal questions, identifying opportunities for legal reference question training for library staff, and utilizing public library space to increase access to legal information.

Based on the momentum of the meeting, the attendees formally established the SALI project and embraced several next steps.

What’s next for SALI?  Key updates include a two-day conference to be held during Saskatchewan’s second annual access to justice week in October 2017.  This will continue the discussion started at the first meeting.  SALI is also began a pilot project to collect statistics regarding public library patron’s legal questions at six public library locations in May 2017.

Do you participate in improving access to legal information initiatives?  Post a link or picture on Twitter using our hashtag #SKA2J.  Want to get involved with SALI?  Contact us at sali_project@usask.ca!  You can learn more and sign up for the SALI newsletter at law.usask.ca/createjustice.

Saskatchewan Legislative Research Primer

By Alan Kilpatrick

Need a quick primer on Saskatchewan legislative research?

  1.  Court Rules: Publications Saskatchewan publishes the Court of Appeal Rules and the Queen’s Bench Rules online at publications.gov.sk.ca/freelaw.  The Law Society of Saskatchewan Library publishes annotated print copies of these rules.  The Saskatchewan Queen’s Bench Rules Annotated 2016 Consolidation and Civil Appeals in Saskatchewan feature high quality commentary and practical observations on case law and legislation.  Copies are available for sale on the Law Society website
  2. Provincial Point-In-Time Research: Point-in time consolidations and historical legislation are available online on the Publications Saskatchewan website.  The Law Society Library maintains the Saskatchewan Bills and the Saskatchewan Regulations databases.  These searchable databases track changes to Saskatchewan statutes and regulations over time, chart the progress of bills, feature proclamation dates, and include legislative summaries.  Saskatchewan Proclamations features a handy list of provincial proclamations dates from 2000 to the present.
  3. Legislative Assembly Website: The Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan website charts the progress of bills before the current session of the Legislature as well as previous sessions from 1998 to the present.  Debates and hansard are available from 1998 to the present and can be browsed by date through the legislative calendar, searched through the subject index or speaker index.  Information about committees, minutes, orders, and journals can also be found here.
  4. Legislative materials:  The premier resource for Saskatchewan legislation is the Publications Saskatchewan website, available for no charge at publications.gov.sk.ca/freelaw.  It hosts a comprehensive collection of current Saskatchewan legislation as well as a growing historical collection.  They also maintain legislative tables that are essential for historical research.  The legislation available online is considered authoritative, not official.  Only paper copies of legislation are considered official.
  5. Continuing Legal Education: The Law Society of Saskatchewan operates a mandatory continuing professional development (CPD) program for members.  Some past editions of CPD materials, Bar Course materials, and other legal education materials are available for free online through the CPD Full-Text Search, a unique resource maintained by the Law Society Library.            
  6. Law Society of Saskatchewan Library: The Law Society of Saskatchewan Library serves the legal information needs of Saskatchewan members, articling students, and the public by providing a print and online library collection, high quality legal research services, and a variety of Saskatchewan focused legal publications.
  7. Additional Resources:  The Law Society of Saskatchewan Library participated in a digitization project with CanLII.  As a result, CanLII now features a nearly complete record of Saskatchewan case law from 1907 to the present.  Those searching for Saskatchewan case law should also consider consulting Saskatchewan Cases.  This searchable database features digests of Saskatchewan cases from the late 1980’s to the present.

Please contact the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library at reference@lawsociety.ca or 306-569-8020 if you have questions regarding Saskatchewan legal research.

This article originally appeared in the Vancouver Association of Law Libraries Review, Spring 2017 Issue, Volume 29, No 2.

Access to Legal Information Innovation in Saskatchewan

By Alan Kilpatrick

This talk was presented at the 2017 Saskatchewan Library Association Conference by Alan Kilpatrick, Reference Librarian, BA, MLIS. Please find the transcript of the presentation as well as the PowerPoint slides here.

Introduction

Good afternoon.  I am pleased to be here today to speak about access to legal information innovation in Saskatchewan.

We all know that access to justice in Canada is inadequate.  Over 12 million Canadians will experience at least one legal problem in a three-year period.  Unfortunately, legal services are becoming increasingly inaccessible.  Our justice system has been described as too complex, slow, and expensive.  The justice system, overwhelmed by the increase in those representing themselves (self-represented litigants), is not meeting the needs of all Canadians.

A major barrier to accessing justice you may not be aware of is the inaccessibility of legal information.  Having access to legal information enables people to identify the full range of legal options available to them.  In some cases, having access to legal information allows people to resolve legal problems outside the court system altogether.  To improve access to justice, we first need to improve access to legal information.

A variety of organizations, such as the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Family and Civil Matters for example, have recognized gaps in the public’s access to information about the law.  At a time when legal information is readily available online, gaps still exist.  Not all Canadians have access to the internet and it can be extremely challenging to determine if online legal information is credible, reliable, or up to date.  There is a confusing lack of coordination among the organizations that provide public legal information and a strong need for intermediaries to guide the public to trustworthy sources of legal information.

 This is exactly where the Law Society Library’s interest in legal information innovation developed.

Read more…

TEDX Talk at the Regina Public Library

By Alan Kilpatrick

On March 23, the Regina Public Library (RPL) is hosting a TED Talk, TEDxRPLCentralLibrary, from 1 – 7pm at the RPL Film Theatre. TED Talks bring together diverse speakers and groups of people to connect and to discuss exciting and emerging ideas in the world today. TEDx Talks are independently organized and hosted TED events. If you are not familiar with the TED phenomenon, check out this video.

The TEDxRPLCentralLibrary website explains,

A library is place of connections – connections to learning, to language, to new experiences and new people. Engage is the action taken after you make a connection. It can also mean attract, occupy, involve, participate, pledge to do something; it’s the word said at the start of a swordfight and the on
e famously used by Captain Picard of the Starship Enterprise. At TEDxRPLCentralLibrary, we’re asking you to not just make a connection but to engage: with each other, with learning, with health, with creativity, with technology, with history, with the future, with the environment, and with ideas –new and old, big and small.

I call on all members of the Regina legal community to attend. It’s more vital than ever before that legal professionals reach out, connect, and engage with those in their communities. Particularly, as access to justice and regulatory changes come to the forefront. What better place to connect and engage than TEDxRPLCentralLibrary?

After all, the library is the natural place to learn about new ideas.

Riding the Digital Wave: Technology and the Library

By Alan Kilpatrick

Over the past century, the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library has been tasked with providing members access to legal information and resources in the latest, most convenient, and most accessible formats available.  While the physical presence of the Law Society Library in Saskatchewan has been constant, technological developments during the last three decades have radically changed the way law libraries operate and provide service.  This is an exciting, and absolutely necessary, opportunity to reinvent the library for the digital era.  At the forefront of these developments, the Law Society Library has appropriately shifted its focus away from print resources and towards online resources in digital formats.

The Law Society Library has become a leader among Canadian law society libraries for its ability to take advantage of the latest technological developments in the legal information world and provide members with an ever increasing amount of digital resources and online services.

Historically, the Law Society Library languished for much of the 1970s as one of the few jurisdictions in a Canada without a professional librarian.  The 1980s, however, saw the library boldly enter the technical age, under the direction of librarian Douglass MacEllven, a graduate of MacGregor Law School and Washington State University.  He served as library director from 1977 to 1988 and was awarded honorary lifetime membership to the Law Society in 1988.

1979 saw the extension of library services to rural areas of the province by telephone and the introduction of a province wide fax machine network.  This network, likely one of the first in Canada, allowed information to be sent anywhere.

In 1980, the Law Society Library became the first computerized courthouse library in North America, an event covered heavily in the media.  With access to Quicklaw and its fax machine network, the library was able to complete computer research and rapidly send detailed materials to rural members.  The early 1980s also saw the creation of This Week’s Law (TWL).  TWL, a Saskatchewan judgement digesting service, was the precursor of today’s popular Case Mail newsletter.

In the 1990s, the ground breaking Legal Information Network (LINE), expanded members access to legal databases and the library collection, through a toll free telephone dial up line.  This ground breaking system, described as state of the art by Iain Mentiplay in A Century of Integrity: The Law Society of Saskatchewan 1907 to 2007, was a first among law society libraries in Canada.

Today, members can access an amazingly comprehensive set of subscription legal databases, like WestlawNext Canada, from the Members’ Section of the Law Society website on their computer‘s desktop.  In fact, the Law Society Library was one of the first jurisdictions to offer such convenient desktop access to legal resources.

As the Law Society Library moves forward toward a brave new world of online legal resources, we remain fully committed to providing all members with access to legal resources, wherever they may be in the province, in the latest and most convenient digital formats available.

(Reposted from the Law Society of Saskatchewan Benchers’ Digest Spring 2017)

First Edition of Halsbury’s Laws of England Digitized

By Alan Kilpatrick

The first edition of Halsbury’s Laws of England has been digitized and made freely available by the University of Toronto Robarts Library. Halsbury’s Laws of England, a comprehensive and popular legal encyclopedia covering all areas of English law, has been published for over a century and is currently in its fifth edition.

For some, the first edition of Halsburys constitutes a benchmark for Canadian and Saskatchewan law. Fortunately, you can now access the first edition of this seminal encyclopedia, originally published from 1907 to 1917 across 31 volumes, right on your desktop.

You can find an online index to all 31 digitized volumes here.

In the introduction to the first edition, the Right Honourable Earl of Halsbury, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, explained that,

“The result is not a mere encyclopedia, it is not a mere collection of cases, but a number of treatises composed by learned lawyers, supported by the decisions of the great judges who have from time to time adorned the English Bench; and it is hoped that when finished the work will finish a complete statement of the Laws of England.”

We encourage you to check it out!

Regina Public Library’s Legal Resources Fair 2017

By Alan Kilpatrick

The Regina Public Library is hosting its second annual Legal Resources Fair on Tuesday, March 14, from 12 – 8pm at the Central Branch.

Drop in between these hours for a tradeshow featuring Regina’s free legal service providers, a variety of free workshops on common legal issues, and to learn more about your legal rights. Volunteer lawyers with Pro Bono Law will be offering 30 minutes of free legal advice. Appointments must be pre-booked directly with Pro Bono Law.

Other participants at the fair will include Family Matters, PLEA, the Office of Residential Tenancies, and the Family Law Information Centre.

The Law Society of Saskatchewan Library is excited to participate in the event again this year and to connect with members of the public. I will be hosting a workshop on “Doing Your Own Legal Research” for self-represented litigants from 2 – 3 pm:

2:00 – 3:00 pm—Doing Your Own Legal Research
Doing your own legal research for a court case can be intimidating, especially if you have no formal legal training. However, there is help out there for people wanting to represent themselves. Join reference librarian Alan Kilpatrick from the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library to learn about CanLII, a free legal service that can be accessed by anyone via the Internet. The presentation contains federal and provincial case law, legislation, and more.

Do you need to learn how to conduct your own legal research? Are you just curious about Canadian law? Don’t miss this exciting session with the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library at the fair!

We look forward to seeing you there!  Click here to learn more.