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Riding the Digital Wave: Technology and the Library

April 18, 2017

By Alan Kilpatrick

This article originally appeared in the Law Society of Saskatchewan Benchers’ Digest, Volume 30 (2017) Issue 1, Page 26

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)

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