Spring is in the air and construction has begun in the DuPage County Law Library. We are adding a self-represented litigants center to the law library and will be doing a little reconfiguring. I believe we all know that if we build it, of course, they will come. They have been coming and will continue to come for help and to represent themselves. The real question is how we can serve the pro se patrons in the best way possible. There is a fine line between giving a patron useful information and giving legal advice. So far we do know that we will be open Monday through Friday during regular courthouse hours.
Libraries and librarians have always been a source of help in times both good and bad. My former employer, Oak Park Public Library, for example, has recently hired a social worker. Public libraries have had and continue to have a regular rotation of patrons who are homeless or may have some mental health issues. Having an onsite social worker can provide a service to patrons who would not normally seek it out and it will reach them where they are. Law libraries deal with the same issues, except on top of the patron being homeless and having possible mental health issues, they may also be facing an eviction, vehicle forfeiture, or another type of lawsuit. So when I ask the question, if we build it , will they come to the law library, the answer again is sure. They have been coming to the physical library. They will continue to come.
The ability to actually provide a service that can be helpful is what will need to be built upon with the construction of this new space. We will have to get feedback from the patrons using the self-represented litigants center. What is helpful? What is not? How will we construct our services to help those who cannot, and will not be able to afford an attorney? What additional programs and services will we need to build to enhance the services offered? These are just a few of the questions that come to mind as we begin this process.
We are thinking that we will maybe, possibly, be able to open by the end of the summer. We plan to have an open house for the official opening. I am excited about this new service that we will be offering. Any chance for the patrons to receive more help is always a good thing. Being able to help people solve problems or find information is what brought many of us to the library profession in the first place. After all, being a librarian is a call to service and we attempt to answer that call on a daily basis.