Thormodsgard Law Library Working to Bring More Legal Information to Rural Communities
The Thormodsgard Law Library at the University of North Dakota School of Law has begun engaging in outreach efforts aimed at making legal information more accessible to citizens living in rural communities throughout the state.
“We strongly believe that as one of only two law libraries in the state, we have an obligation to reach out to all of our citizens and to help ensure that they have adequate access to legal information,” said Tammy R. P. Oltz, Director of the Thormodsgard Law Library. “As the School of Law as a whole continues its efforts to increase access to justice in rural communities, the Law Library can play an essential role by capitalizing on what we do best – collecting, analyzing, and distributing legal information resources.”
To that end, the Law Library was recently awarded a Library Vision 2020 grant by the North Dakota State Library, which is being used to create a collection of self-help legal materials that will be available for circulation to public libraries throughout the state. The purpose of the collection, which will be ready for circulation near the end of May, is to assist individuals in far-flung communities to obtain free access to helpful legal materials that they may otherwise have to purchase on their own or travel to obtain. Once the collection is complete, Oltz says, she and several other law librarians, “will be traveling to public libraries throughout the state to help advertise the collection and find out more about what we can do to assist them in providing legal information in their local communities.”
Indeed, efforts are already underway to collect some of this feedback. This past winter, Law Library staff members Anne Mostad-Jensen and Laurie McHenry conducted a survey of North Dakota Library Association members aimed at gauging non-law librarians’ familiarity with legal research resources as well as their comfort level in assisting their patrons with finding and using the kind of resources necessary to answer legal questions. Data from the survey will be used to inform potential future initiatives for rural outreach.
Mostad-Jensen, who serves as Head of Faculty Services, and McHenry, who serves as Head of Technical Services have also conducted outreach efforts by simply sharing what they know about legal research with other librarians. Last summer, the two presented together at the North Dakota Library Association’s annual conference on available resources for North Dakota legal research. Mostad-Jensen has also presented similar work at UND’s Chester Fritz Library as well as the Grand Forks Public Library.
“The Thormodsgard Law Library is committed to its role as an essential source for legal information for everyone in North Dakota,” Oltz said. “While our main patron group is law students, faculty, and the bench and bar, we want the public to know that our doors are open to them as well, and we welcome the opportunity to serve the entire state, not just those who happen to live in Grand Forks or nearby.”