Questions? Ask a Librarian
Frequently Asked Questions
- Using the Library
- Library Collection & Borrowing Materials
- Computer Legal Research
- Services at the Reference Desk
- Library Services
- Are the libraries open to the public?
- Yes. People using the library shall be engaged in reading, studying, or using library materials or services. Children must be supervised by an adult.
- What are your hours?
The State Law Library is open 8:00-5:00 Monday-Friday. The library has an After Hours program for judges and attorneys licensed to practice in Wisconsin.
The Dane County Law Library is open 8:30-4:30 Monday-Friday.
The Milwaukee County Law Library is open 8:00-4:30 Monday-Friday.
- Where can I park?
Main Library: Parking Map
Dane County Law Library: Metered street parking is available on W. Wilson, W. Doty, and S. Hamilton streets. The Capitol Square South Parking Ramp is nearby, located on South Fairchild Street between West Main and West Doty Streets: Map NOTE: This is a metered parking facility. Meters take cash or credit cards.
Milwaukee County Law Library: Parking is available in the MacArthur Square Parking Garage under the Courthouse. Enter on James Lovell Street. There is some street parking but it is extremely limited.
- What computer resources do you provide?
The State Law Library has seven public computer workstations. Each includes access to the internet and to legal research applications. We provide access to Microsoft Word and the Libre Office word processing and office productivity software.
The Dane County Legal Resource Center has two public computer workstations. Each includes access to the internet and to legal research applications, such as Westlaw. We also provide access to Microsoft Word and Libre Office.
The Milwaukee County Law Library has three public computer workstations. Each includes access to the internet and to legal research applications. We also provide access to Microsoft Word and Libre Office.
- Can I bring in my laptop and get access to the Internet?
Yes. The State Law Library provides WiFi and "wired" access. The WiFi password changes monthly; get the user name and password at the circulation desk. To use our wired connection, bring a CAT-5 cable or borrow one from our circulation desk. You may attach to our network from any seat or user workroom in the library.
DCLL: Yes, the Dane County Law Library has WiFi.
MCLL: Yes, the Milwaukee County Law Library has WiFi.
- Can I print from my computer/device to one of your public printers?
No. The State Law Library does not currently have wireless printing set up. Files may be stored on a portable memory device, such as a flash drive, and transferred to a public computer for printing.
- What does it cost to print or make copies?
The State Law Library charges $.25/pg +tax to print or make photocopies at the library.
The Dane County Law Library charges $.25/pg including tax.
The Milwaukee County Law Library charges $.25/pg including tax.
- Can I watch DVDs and videos in the library?
Yes. The main library has audio/visual equipment available on the second floor of the library near the training room. Headphones are available for audio; ask at the circulation desk for assistance.
The Dane County Law Library has 2 portable DVD players that may be used in the library. Headphones are available for audio; ask at the staff counter for assistance.
- Is there a place I can meet with a client?
The main library has study and conference rooms available. For more information, visit our Room Rentals page.
The Dane County Law Library has several 4-person tables available, some of which are removed from the high traffic area, but does not have any private conference rooms. Any meetings may be audible to other people in the library.
The Milwaukee County Law Library has a room set aside for attorneys to use. Some attorneys may also meet with clients in the cafeteria.
- How do I reserve a study room?
For information, visit our Room Rentals page.
- How do I reserve rare book room, training room, conference room?
For information, visit our Room Rentals page.
- Do you have a drop box for returning books?
A drop box is available from 7:45 am - 5:00 pm during the Risser Justice Center lobby's open hours. The drop box is on the first floor inside the lobby at the 120 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd entrance - by the elevator.
- Are drinks allowed?
Yes. Beverages must be in sealed, covered, or other spill-proof containers.
- Are lockers available?
The main library has lockers available for use during our business hours; please request a key at the circulation desk.
- Do you have a pay phone?
No. The nearest pay phone to the main library is located in the lobby of the City County building, 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
No. The nearest pay phone to the Dane County Law Library is located by the public elevators on Lower Level 1.
No. There is no pay phone near the Milwaukee County Law Library.
- Can you page someone in the library for me?
Yes, the main State Law Library can page someone. Please ask at the circulation desk.
- Who can check out books?
The following are eligible for a library card and may borrow materials from our libraries:
> Judges and Wisconsin Court System staff
> Municipal judges in Wisconsin
> Wisconsin legislators and legislative staff
> Federal, state and local government employees in Wisconsin
> Attorneys licensed in Wisconsin
> Staff of Wisconsin attorneys (authorization required)
- How can I get a library card?
Eligible borrowers may get a library card in person at any of our three locations, or by mail. For more information, see our Borrow Library Materials page.
- If I'm not eligible for a library card, are there other options to use the library and library resources?
Yes. You are welcome to visit any of our three libraries in person to use our materials. Copy machines are available for your use. All of our databases are available on our public computers.
You may ask at your local public library to borrow materials on your behalf through their interlibrary loan service. Books requested this way might not come from our collection. Your public library will follow its own guidelines when trying to fill your request.
The library also has a document order service where you can request copies from books, databases, or forms to be sent to you by email, mail, or fax. Ask a librarian for help determining which service is best for you.
- Is my library card number the same as my Wisconsin Bar Association number?
No. Your library card number is the full barcode number on the back of your library card.
- Can we get one card for the law firm?
No. The State Law Library issues cards to individual borrowers. However, you can authorize staff to use your library card. See below for more information.
- Why do I need a library card?
- Can my law clerk or staff use my library card?
We prefer to issue separate cards for staff. Supervisors must notify us that the individual works for you and that you would like a card issued to the individual. Supervisors are responsible for materials checked out by authorized staff. Supervisors may request a card for authorized staff by mailing a letter, sending an email, or calling us. Correspondence must include the name of the authorized staff person, a statement that the individual works for you, and that you would like a card issued to the authorized staff person.
> Mail a letter on letterhead to: Wisconsin State Law Library, Attn: Elspeth Gordon, PO Box 7881 Madison WI 53707.
> Send an email from your business email account to Elspeth Gordon.
> Call Elspeth Gordon at 608-261-7554. You may also call the Circulation Desk at 608-266-1600 if Elspeth is not available.
- What if I live or work far from the library? Can I still check out library materials?
The State Law Library lends materials by mail to Wisconsin judges and attorneys licensed to practice in Wisconsin.
- What if my materials are due but I still need to use them?
Most library materials may be renewed. Log in to your library account to renew online or contact the library for assistance. If you owe overdue fines or if someone has placed a hold on your item, you may not be able to renew it.
- What if something I want to borrow is in use?
Contact the Reference Desk to speak with a librarian about placing a hold on the item.
- How much are overdue fines?
Overdue fines are 25 cents per item per day. Overdue notices are issued by mail. If the item is not returned within two weeks of the due date, an invoice for the cost of the book is mailed. Anyone owing $3.00 or more in fines must pay in full before borrowing additional items.
- Who can use the Interlibrary Loan service?
If you are Wisconsin State Law Library cardholder, we can place an interlibrary loan for you.
- Can my legal assistant or messenger check out a book under my name?
Yes, with your okay. We prefer to issue a library card to each of your support staff - again, with your prior authorization. See our Borrowing Materials page for more information.
- Can I renew books?
Yes, most library materials may be renewed. Renew online or contact the library for assistance. If you owe overdue fines or if someone has placed a hold on your item, you may not be able to renew.
- How do I place a hold?
Contact the library for assistance.
- How do I request a book from another branch?
- Can you deliver materials to me?
Yes. Our library can identify and deliver most accurately cited legal materials, including copies from treatises, journal articles, and even whole books. Delivery options include email, fax, mail, UPS and FedEx. Delivery fees will generally apply, and prepayment may be required. Visit our Request a Document section to place a request.
- Do you have CLE books from the State Bar of Wisconsin?
Yes. CLE books, sometimes referred to as the "brown books", can be found using our catalog.
- Do you have audiobooks?
Yes. Our media collection includes over 300 titles of substantive legal materials in DVD, CD, video, and audiocassette formats.
- What federal materials do you have?
The main library's collection includes the Federal Register, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), and Congressional Record. Current U.S. Congressional bills, resolutions and reports, United States Statutes at Large, United States Code (USC), United States Code Annotated (USCA), United States Code Service (USCS), United States Supreme Court and Federal Court system decisions, court rules and digests. The library is a Partial Federal Depository and has selected depository items including agency reports and administrative decisions.
- How can I access briefs?
Depending on when the case was decided, you can access briefs on the WI Briefs website (see scope statement at the top of the page), by way of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Access (WSCCA) database, at the main library in paper or microfiche, or through our Request a Document service. Please contact the reference desk if you need further assistance.
- How quickly does your library get briefs?
The State Law Library receives copies of Court of Appeals briefs about 2 weeks after the case is sent to the district and Supreme Court briefs about 2 weeks after they are put on the calendar for Oral Argument.
You can verify whether the library has received a brief by searching WSCCA, clicking on the "Case History" button from the case's summary page, and looking for the "Briefs Received At State Law Library" event.*
*The library does not retain briefs for cases that are summarily disposed or otherwise terminated.
- How quickly do briefs go online?
Briefs can be generally be accessed within 2 weeks of e-filing on Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Case Access and 12-18 months after the date of the decision of the case for those found in 318 Wis. 2d forward..
- Do you sell statutes, jury instructions, and law books?
No. You can purchase the Wisconsin Statutes from Document Sales & Distribution and Jury Instructions from the University of Wisconsin's CLEW (Continuing Legal Education for Wisconsin). To purchase CLE (Continuing Legal Education) books and other Wisconsin practice materials, please contact the State Bar of WI.
- Where can I find free case law (pre-1995) online?
Google Scholar may be a good source for locating pre-1995 case law. The Wisconsin State Law Library has a complete collection of Wisconsin case law. Complete our Order a Document form or contact the library for assistance.
- How can I access Hein Online and Index to Legal Periodicals?
Visit our Articles & Journals page; remote access is available to registered library card holders. Both resources are also available on our public computer workstations in the library.
- Why am I asked for my Library Catalog number when I try to access Hein Online and Index to Legal Periodicals?
Due to licensing agreements, the library must restrict access to registered library card holders. Learn if you are eligible for a library card.
- Can I access the library's Westlaw from home / office?
No. You must be at one of the library's public computer workstations.
- Can I access Westlaw from my laptop at the library?
Yes, you can connect to Westlaw if you are using our wireless network in the library.
- Can you teach me how to use Westlaw and other legal research databases?
The librarian on duty at the reference desk can provide some basic instruction to get you started with a Westlaw or other legal research project. You can also consult our help sheets in the library. We offer occasional one-hour classes on these databases. See our Classes page for a list of current classes.
- How can I contact Lexis, Westlaw?
The customer service phone number for Lexis is 1-800-543-6862.
Westlaw customer service can be reached at 1-800-937-8529.
- Can you answer questions from the public?
Yes. By statute, the State Law Library is a public library. As such, we provide legal reference services and research assistance in the library, by telephone, fax and email. Please see our Reference Assistance page for more information.
- Do you provide legal advice?
No. State Law Library staff are not licensed attorneys and therefore cannot give legal advice or interpret the law, nor should any response given be construed or interpreted as legal advice.
- Do you have attorneys on staff?
No, see the question immediately above.
- Can you recommend an attorney?
Library staff do not recommend the services of a specific attorney or law firm. Please see our Legal Assistance and Hire a Lawyer legal topics pages for links to lawyer directories, the State Bar of Wisconsin's Lawyer Referral Service, and general information on hiring and working with a lawyer.
- Can someone help me understand what I'm reading (interpret the law...)?
Library staff cannot interpret the law or determine whether or how a law applies to a particular situation. We can help you find other resources that might provide more information.
- I am representing myself in court, can you help me?
Library staff can provide legal reference services and research assistance but cannot assist you with handling your case nor can they give you legal advice. One way that we provide assistance is through our many Legal Topics pages, which are designed to direct you to resources that you can consult on your own as you research and prepare your case.
- Can you help me find a form? Can you help me fill out a form?
If you know which form you need, we can help you locate it. Library staff cannot determine which form(s) you need or help you fill out forms.
- Can you find a statute of limitations for me?
Library staff can search for a statute of limitations, but we cannot determine whether it applies to a specific situation or when it begins or ends.
- Can you search Westlaw or Lexis for me?
Library staff can retrieve accurately cited cases for you on Westlaw or Lexis. Library staff will also perform issue-based caselaw research on Westlaw or Lexis for attorneys. Search fees will apply. We will show non-attorneys how to perform their own caselaw research using electronic and/or print resources available in the library.
- Do you have a notary on staff?
No. If you need to notarize a form that you will be filing with a Wisconsin court, check with the Clerk of Court's office to find out if they provide notary services. Otherwise, check with your bank, look in your local yellow pages, or search an online directory to locate notary services in your area.
- How can I get certified copies?
The State Law Librarian may certify copies of materials contained in the library's collection, pursuant to Wis. Statutes 889.03. The certification fee, currently $1.00, is set by Wis. Statutes 809.25(2).
Contact the Clerk of Court for your county if you need certified copies of court documents.
- Do you take credit cards?
Yes, we accept Visa or MasterCard. See our Request a Document page for more information.
- Can I be billed for copies?
You may be billed on a one-time basis for a $3.00 service fee.
- How do I get a billing account?
Firms may set up a billing account for in-library services; the fee is $8 per month paid in advance on a yearly basis. Call to inquire further.
Firms may also be billed for services done through our document delivery service without service fees.
- How do I find out if my class is approved for CLE?
See the Board of Bar Examiners database of approved CLE courses.
- Can I get someone to come in and speak to my group?
The library offers a variety of legal research related programs for different audiences: judges, attorneys, librarians, and the general public. Please contact the library to inquire.
- Can I take a tour of the library, can I bring a group?
Yes. Library tours for both individuals and groups are generally scheduled by appointment. Please contact us for more information.
- Do you accept book suggestions?
Yes. Please complete our Suggest a Purchase form.
- Does the Library accept donations?
Yes. The Library appreciates and encourages gifts and donations of useful materials with the understanding that the State Law Librarian is free to use gifts in the most beneficial or effective way.
- Do you appraise books or library collections?
No. The library does not appraise books or collections for income, insurance, or inheritance tax purposes.
- How do I get work at the library / how do I volunteer at the library?
If you are interested in employment, interning or volunteering at the library please contact us.
- How do I place an Interlibrary Loan request?
Fill out the form on our webpage or contact the reference desk at 608-267-9696. Please provide as much information as you have. Title, author, year of publication and edition are most helpful. Other information, such as the ISBN and publisher is helpful but not required.
- What types of items can I request via Interlibrary Loan?
We can place requests for almost any item that another library owns. The other library decides whether they will send the item. Frequently, libraries will not loan loose-leaf materials or recently published books. Copies of articles or pages from books may be requested.
- How much does Interlibrary Loan cost?
Lending fees vary. Generally, the lending library charges between $5.00-$50.00 per volume. However, some libraries loan for free. When you make your request, please let us know how much money you are willing to pay for borrowing the item. We will charge you what the lending library charges us.
- When will I receive the item from Interlibrary Loan?
Books generally take one to two weeks to arrive. Copies arrive sooner if sent via email. Occasionally, the first request for an item goes unfilled ~ none of the libraries on the list will loan it. In that case, we will resubmit the request to other libraries. This process may increase the time to three weeks.
- How will I be notified when my Interlibrary Loan arrives?
When the item arrives, we will contact you via the information you provide, generally a phone call or email.
- How long can I keep the item?
Loaning periods from the lending library are generally four weeks. This means you can usually keep the item for 2-3 weeks, if you pick item up immediately after you are contacted. Some libraries allow renewals. Please contact the ILL coordinator if you need to renew an item.
- Where should I return the Interlibrary Loan item?
Always return the item to the library where you picked it up (the main library or a branch library of the Wisconsin State Law Library). Please do not remove any of the book straps on the book.
- What if I have further questions?
Please email the reference desk.
- I work at another library. How do I make an Interlibrary Loan request to your library?
We take requests via OCLC or by ALA form, phone, fax, or email.
- How much do you charge?
We charge $10.00 per volume and can bill you via IMF or invoice. Copy charges are 75 cents per page. Please see our fee schedule for more details
- Are you a reciprocal lender?
We have reciprocal agreements with the University of Wisconsin Law Library and Marquette Law Library.
- Do you lend loose-leaf material via Interlibrary Loan?
No but we can send photocopies within the fair use guidelines. We also do not lend rare books, new books, reference titles, periodicals and microfiche. We will provide fiche to fiche copies and photocopies sent via fax or email per our delivery fee schedule.
- I work at another library. Can our patrons contact you directly for Interlibrary Loan?
If your patron needs an article or copies from a book, they can use our order a document service to obtain copies. Book requests from non-cardholders must come through Interlibrary Loan.