Monday, July 6, 2015

Solo Practioners & Small Firms: A New Chapter for the Public Law Library

By James A. Schmidt

     It has been a banner year for all attorneys in the Hillsborough County Bar Association. However, our section is privileged to report on what must be one of the most outstanding accomplishments. As more than a few of the readers are likely aware, last year the Board of County Commissioners discovered that the law library had become a largely unsupervised entity over the years. A supervisory board ― The Law Library Advisors ― spawned from that discovery and has labored in cooperation with the county administrator, Library Services, and the impressively dedicated and professional staff of our James J. Lunsford Law Library (just to name a few of the contributors) to take bold and exciting action to carry our law library into a new chapter of its existence. If we have one of the best local Bar Association in the country, why can’t we have one of the best public law libraries.

The law library, which has forever existed on its own, now has all of the resources and leverage of the county. Here are just a few of the developments: 

  • There is now Internet and better Wi-Fi access, and the phone system has been transferred to VOIP (to conform with most other county entities).
  • The accounting got a scrubbing. The library now procures through the county. We even discovered a long-defunct foundation created to help buy new furniture, which should once again prove useful to its original purpose.
  •  The library’s staff and security needs have been reviewed and improved to ensure that our hardworking public servants are as safe as possible (and us, too) while they are on the job.
  • The library has negotiated the most robust possible Westlaw (no Lexis) package, and it is monitoring the electronic subscriptions each month to determine what is used and what isn’t so that we purchase the products with the most appeal to its core users.
  • The library is studying patron visitation to evaluate its hours.
  • And if you did not know – the law library now offers five-day checkouts of complete sets of continuing education CDs from The Florida Bar. The late-fee structure was just changed so that after the five days, if the set has eight CDs, it will be $8 per day. It still works out to be $1 per day per CD, but now you can have more than one CD at a time. Please be mindful of your neighbors!
     Library Services, which oversees the county’s entire library system, could not be more excited to add this jewel to the library system.  It is hoped that the law library will, through careful and measured steps, eventually provide greater access to its resources through all of the local public libraries. There could even be law library substations in those public libraries serving the county’s other large populations centers. 

     All of these developments position the passionate servants of our law library and Library Services to fulfill their mission with more enthusiasm and more energy. This is a great moment for our law library. You should stop by and see for yourself.