Wisconsin State Law Library

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WSLL @ Your Service February 2019


Wisconsin State Law Library Year in Review - Julie Tessmer

The Times They are a Changin'

I grew up in the '60s listening to my mom's favorite musicians Simon & Garfunkel, the Mamas & the Papas, and Bob Dylan singing about change. I've got that music on my mind now, because 2018 was a time of change at the Library.

Last year, we saw a dramatic change in how our collection was used. In the spring of 2017, we purchased a public book scanner. Since then it has been used over 1,500 times, totaling over 25,000 pages. The use of our old paper copiers dropped to a mere 3,000 pages in 2018! Our users were delighted to scan pages and send files by email or save them to a USB drive. This quick and easy way to use our print collection really improved access to legal information. 

Technology updates

Legal information needs can change as quickly as the news. In the spring of 2018, the Library began to get phone calls and emails from members of the public asking questions about Cannabidiol or CBD oil. Our first job as Librarians was to educate ourselves and search for sources of information. Throughout the year, we gathered information from the State Statutes, Department of Justice, Legislative Council Act Memos, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, and the Wisconsin Controlled Substance Board - to name a few. Next, we organized the information and then disseminated it via our website, newsletter, and blog. Finally, we continued to track any changes to the existing research guide and searched for new information from reliable sources as it became available. Gathering and organizing information on this hot topic was a collaborative effort on the part of our experienced Reference Librarians.

Connections and collections

Looking forward to 2019, I anticipate more questions about the new Tax Code, immigration, and the legalization of marijuana. Our approach to questions about these topics will start with the same thorough research and resource gathering we used for CBD oil and other research this past year. So if you are a Judge, Law Clerk, Attorney, business owner, landlord, tenant, or a member of the public we are ready to help find information for you.

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Milwaukee County Law Library Year in Review - Jennifer Waite

In 2018, the Milwaukee County Law Library (MCLL) wished a fond farewell to our LTEs Brittany Lee, Jamie Neuendorf, and Erik Johnson. All three LTEs moved on to full time positions: Brittany with the Milwaukee Public Library, Jamie with the Milwaukee Municipal Court, and Erik with Dickinson State University. Jenna Marquardt, Melissa Sylla, and Alexis Pederson joined the MCLL team as LTEs in 2018.  All arrived with strong customer-service backgrounds and are doing great learning the ropes at MCLL. 

The MCLL continues to work closely with the Milwaukee Justice Center to help pro se users navigate the courthouse. The Chief Judge's Office requires that individuals bring proof of public assistance along with their notarized affidavits in order to approve the waiving of filing and service fees in Milwaukee County. The library assists low-income users who need help obtaining proof that they receive public assistance for those fee waiver approvals. In 2018, the library assisted 3,000 low-income patrons with their fee waivers.

MCLL data


Branch Librarian, Jennifer Waite, continues to assist users with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue's online Electronic Real Estate Return. The Register of Deeds requires individuals transferring property in Milwaukee County to complete the Electronic Real Estate Return. The online program can be confusing and complex for users with limited legal knowledge or computer skills. Users can call or walk in to make an appointment for help. Jennifer helped 218 users with the Dept. of Revenue's Electronic Real Estate Return. 

Also in 2018, Jennifer attended the Law & Technology Conference in Milwaukee. The conference centered on the effect technology has had on privacy, discovery, and security. The MCLL continued partnering with the Milwaukee Public Library to offer monthly Continuing Legal Education classes to attorneys and the public. Classes are led by local law librarians and continue to be a useful, budget-friendly CLE option. 

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Dane County Law Library Year in Review - Bob Lopez

2018 was another year to remember for the Dane County Law Library (DCLL)! We helped over 20,000 visitors and users in the library and responded to approximately 1,500 phone and email questions. Additionally we received and responded to nearly 2,000 reference and information requests from inmates incarcerated at the Dane County Jail - this amounts to over 25,000 pages of printed material and over 700 books loaned.

DCLL statistics

The Small Claims Assistance Program (SCAP) continued to fill the need for legal assistance for self-represented parties. The weekly clinic, staffed by attorneys and paralegals, assisted over 500 pro se litigants with money, eviction, and return of property cases.

In May 2018, the American Bar Association sponsored Law Day, a celebration of the Rule of Law. The theme for 2018 was Separation of Powers: Framework for Freedom. The Law Library participated in the event by hosting a free, day-long legal assistance clinic where volunteer attorneys helped dozens of visitors.

New clinics started in the Law Library this year to meet the needs of our users. Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) started a weekly, no-appointment, in-person Restraining Order clinic every Friday from 12:00-4:00 p.m. to assist visitors with restraining orders related to domestic partner violence.

Legal Action of Wisconsin started the Eviction Defense Project which meets in the Library every Tuesday. The day-long clinic is court-based, free legal aid for low-income tenants who are facing eviction. Eligible clients can get free help with their evictions, including brief legal advice, settlement assistance, document drafting, and limited scope in-court representation.

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New Books - Kari Zelinka

New Book! Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, & the Law, by Christopher Krimmer and others
Call Number:  KFW 2811.5 .H64 S492 2018

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals face specific challenges in how the law is applied in schools, employment, healthcare, and other settings. If your clients are looking for expertise, this book will help you understand their rights and responsibilities so that you can advise them. A sample petition and order for gender change are included.

Explore issues in:

  • School law
  • Employment law
  • Gender transitioning
  • Hate Crimes, domestic abuse and cyberbullying

New Book! The Wrongful Convictions Reader, edited by Russell D. Covey
Call Number:  KF 9756 .W765 2019

This text gathers together research, law, and policy analysis on over 2,000 exonerations of wrongfully convicted individuals. Contributing factors to wrongful convictions include: false confessions, witness mis-identifications, cognitive bias, junk science, police and prosecutorial misconduct, and ineffective assistance of counsel. Each chapter contains readings, legal materials, exercises, and media on a particular topic.

Chapters include:

  • Defining innocence and miscarriages of justice
  • DNA and junk science 
  • Scientific standards, statistical evidence and the future of Forensic Science 
  • Informants and snitches
  • Cognitive bias and tunnel vision
  • Guilty pleas, pretrial procedure, and innocence

new book shelf
New Titles RSS Feed See our latest New Titles list for a list of new books and other resources.

For assistance in accessing these or other resources, please contact our Reference Desk.


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Tech Tip - Heidi Yelk

Create Searchable PDFs

How can I create a searchable PDF (and can it be free)?  There are many free and easy-to-use online services available to create, convert, save, and manipulate PDF documents. However, few will create a searchable PDF document. 


The arrival of e-filing has increased the need to create searchable PDF documents, since most parties must submit searchable PDFs to the court. So what are the options? Recently Lifehacker's David Murphy explored a few solutions for creating a searchable PDF archive. Rather than re-create the wheel, see Murphy's column here. Other great articles include Converting a Scanned Document into a Compressed, Searchable PDF with Redactions and Top 10 Free OCR Readers for Scanned Files.

Reviewing the articles linked above will give you some idea of how difficult it can be to find a good solution to creating a searchable PDF. I tried several of the options offered and found just one I liked: Free Online OCR. I was able to take a four-page scanned PDF document and convert it into a searchable PDF file without losing formatting.

My research and testing revealed to me that investing in software, such as Adobe or Foxit, is the best solution for most businesses. However, there is one free option I can still suggest. Bring your document to a library that provides an OCR scanner. Here at the David T. Prosser Jr. location of the Wisconsin State Law Library, the Bookeye Scanner scans multiple pages with an OCR/PDF option. The searchable PDF document can then be emailed or saved to a USB drive.

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Library News - Carol Hassler

The David T. Prosser Jr. Library's full 2019 schedule of Westlaw classes have been added to our Classes page. Check out what's coming up and sign up online for these free CLE classes. Here's what is on our schedule for this month:


Public Records
Tuesday, February 12, Noon - 1 p.m.

Advanced Westlaw
Tuesday, February 19, Noon - 1 p.m.


Researching Municipal Ordinances
Thursday, February 7, Noon - 1 p.m.

Learn more and register on our Classes page and watch it for more 2019 classes as they are added! Do you have a class suggestion? Contact Jennifer Waite in Milwaukee or Michael Keane in Madison with suggestions or requests.

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February Snapshot

microfiche scanner

Microfiche Scanning Made Easy
Photo by Carol Hassler

Our new touchscreen microfiche and microfilm scanner makes it easy to read and save drafting files. Print, save, or email copies easily! Ask a librarian for help.

We are accepting snapshots! Do you have a photo highlighting libraries, attractions or points of historical interest? Send your photo the editor at carol.hassler@wicourts.gov to be included in a future issue.

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