Wisconsin State Law Library

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2008 in Review – Jane Colwin, State Law Librarian

2008 was another productive year for the State Law Library – all of us have worked hard to continue to serve you while coping with absent staff, an unexpected and fairly large blow to our budget, ever-increasing book and online services costs, and the impact of our nation’s current economy on public libraries in general and our library in particular.  According to the Jan. 15th, 2009 Wall Street Journal, public libraries are experiencing up to 65% increases in attendance even as their budgets are being cut – as people turn to their public libraries to use their computers to look for jobs, to borrow books, CDs and videos rather than purchase them, and to attend free and/or low cost programming.  Although our use is not up 65%, we are seeing increased use of our public computers, greater numbers of self represented litigants seeking assistance with forms and procedures, and our circulation remains steady.  We know the economy is affecting all of you – court and law firm budgets are not exempt – and we will continue our efforts to provide books, online materials and services to assist you as you cope. 

Some highlights from 2008:

  • Largely in response to requests from users, we implemented wireless connectivity on both floors in the State Law Library in early December. Now all we need is a barista to make the library a true downtown hot spot!
  • We hosted Erin Schlicht, Evenings and Weekends Circulation Supervisor at the UW Law Library and an online student in the University of Washington’s Master in Library and Information Science program, for a summer field experience project as a part of her degree requirements.  Erin spent approximately 150 hours with us over the summer, working on a wide variety of projects both here and at the Dane County Legal Resource Center.
  • With Erin’s help, we reviewed our periodical subscriptions in light of increasing full-text online access, particularly through HeinOnline.  Based on our review, we cancelled over 350 print law review subscriptions effective in 2009.  It was a big step to take, but we will save money and gain space while still providing access to these journals.  My fellow state law librarians around the country all wanted copies of our study, so I know that we are not alone in our efforts to manage money, space and user needs.
  • Thanks to Rachel Holtan, who shifted over 1260 feet of materials, our Wisconsin treatise area is not so tightly packed and should be easier to use.  Look for more shifting and moving – we plan to address our most critical space issues during 2009.
  • Big changes are afoot!  Our website redesign team (Amy Crowder, Carol Hassler, Angela Sanfilippo and Heidi Yelk) spent much of 2008 planning a total redesign of our website. Under Amy’s expert leadership, they have kept the project on track and have some exciting things in store.  Some of you have volunteered to participate in various user surveys as part of the redesign process, and we thank you for your help.  The planned launch of the new site is scheduled for late spring – watch our newsletter for more information. 
  • Speaking of our website, we had over 500,000 visits to our website in 2008 – most visitors find us through Google and other search engines and in doing so they most often land on our highly popular Legal Topics pages.
  • We offered 11 classes in 2008 on topics as diverse as Wisconsin Briefs and Wikipedia.  Our classes continue to be popular – be sure to check out our upcoming class offerings.
  • Connie Von Der Heide, Director of Reference and Outreach Services, developed an outreach program for local bar associations in order to spread the word about our many services for Wisconsin attorneys.  Connie has presented the program to the Dane, Green, and Buffalo/Jackson/Pepin/Trempealeau bar associations, creating lots of interest in our services and many applications for library cards.
  • We had another record breaking year scanning Wisconsin appellate briefs. Thanks to Wisconsin Collections Librarian Angela Sanfilippo and her assistants (including another library school volunteer, Hilary Hahn, a student in UW-Madison’s School of Library & Information Studies) over 153,000 pages from 5460 briefs were scanned in 2008.  A new court rule requiring electronic submisson of briefs takes effect in July 2009 - Angela is already working to ensure that we can easily incorporate these electronic documents into our workflow.   So we may not break any scanning records in 2009, but we should have more efficient methods of preserving the briefs and providing access to our users.
  • I spent much of 2008 participating in presenting a variety of programs around the state geared at helping court staff as well as public librarians learn more about how they can better assist self represented litigants – and have more of these programs on the agenda for 2009.  The Public Library Initiative has been very well received and  several more judicial districts/library systems are scheduled for 2009.  A very successful training for Clerks of Court staff in the 9th Judicial District was held in October 2008, and plans are already underway to replicate this program in the 10th District in October, 2009.  This spring I will be assisting with three regional training programs for Clerks of Court staff from all over the state.  My efforts are primarily directed at acquainting these groups with our website and services - giving them a “who you gonna call” resource for their own questions as well as those they get from their users.


Both the Dane and Milwaukee County Legal Resource Centers have separate updates in this newsletter – be sure to read about what these busy libraries have been up to over the past year.  I would like to thank the judges, Clerks of Court and county officials for their support of these libraries – MLRC begins its 13th year of operation in 2009 and DCLRC just finished its 10th anniversary year. 


Acquisitions Librarian Pete Boll, who also serves as a Lieutenant Junior Grade in the Navy, was deployed to Kuwait last fall in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Pete is working at the Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group Headquarters. He sends the staff updates and photos of his new surroundings as time permits. All remaining WSLL staff have pitched in to cover his work and will be glad for his safe return later this year.

Rachel Holtan received her Master’s degree from the UW-Madison School of Library & Information Studies in December 2008 – we supported her academic efforts as she continued to work full time and are very proud to have another staff member join the profession.

Richard Hsia, our Circulation Desk Attendant and the “voice” of the library since 2005 left in December to take a position with the Legislative Reference Bureau.   Due to budget concerns we are not able to fill this position yet, so don’t be surprised to see a variety of “new people” at the Circulation Desk as everyone on our staff takes a turn.

I want to thank all of our staff for the incredible job they do every day – especially now,  when we are all wearing many hats and doing many jobs.  Everyone has willingly taken on the added work, even though their own work goals and deadlines are flying out the window.   What a great team!

And finally, a thank you to all of you who have called, emailed, used our website or visited our libraries.  We enjoy working with you, having you in class, helping you find answers to your questions and seeing you in the library engrossed in your laptop and/or surrounded by stacks of books.  We look forward to serving you in 2009.

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Milwaukee Legal Resource Center (MLRC) 2008 Highlights – Rebecca Knutson, MLRC Branch Librarian

It was another busy year for the MLRC as the number of pro se litigants needing assistance and purchasing forms continued to grow.  The welcome increase in the number of forms for self represented litigants on the Wisconsin Supreme Court website has been matched by an increase in the number of users asking for assistance in finding, downloading, printing and completing them.
The MLRC continues to provide training for Courthouse staff and attorneys.  Our Westlaw representative conducted several Westlaw training classes showing basic search techniques on Westlaw.  With complimentary Westlaw provided by and available at the MLRC, these classes were filled to capacity.  Our plans for 2009 include offering more basic Westlaw classes as well as advanced classes, such as using Westlaw’s KeyCite to help users make the switch from using the traditional Shepard’s citators.
One of MLRC’s annual events is assisting with the summer judicial rotation, when approximately one-third of the 47 circuit court judges change not only their case assignments but also their physical chambers.  The 2008 rotation was our most successful ever, due in large part to advance planning – we were able to assess collections and weed outdated materials before the actual move.  Many thanks to the judges who participated in the advance sessions.  These judges and their staffs were rewarded with doughnuts on the morning of rotation!  We are also grateful to Judge Mel Flanagan's two daughters and Erin Schlicht (the State Law Library’s summer intern) whose help was invaluable.   
On a fun note we had a very successful National Library Week.  This year we had a Beijing Olympics theme.  A torch relay was set up in the library for people to travel and we provided an Olympics quiz.  We also posted a daily trivia question.  After Library Week we continued the theme with a countdown to the start of the Olympics in August and a daily Olympic Fun Fact.

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Dane County Legal Resource Center 2008 Highlights – Lisa Winkler, DCLRC Branch Librarian

2008, our tenth year of operation, brought many exciting challenges and activities.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • MLK Day Flood: 2008 began with a bang when the Courthouse flooded over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.  Due to a broken sprinkler head, water pooled in the Clerk of Courts Office and most of the first floor, then in turn poured down to the Lower Level, where both the Jury Assembly Room and the DCLRC sustained water damage.  Fortunately, the damage to the library was minimal, and we continued daily operations during the clean up phase.
  • New Friendly Faces: In March, the DCLRC said goodbye to Ashley Brown and welcomed a new library associate, Kristin Garvey, to our staff.  Kristin joined the DCLRC after leaving her part-time position as a filer at the State Law Library.  In December, she successfully finished her first semester at the UW Madison School of Library and Information Studies. Kristin plays a vital role in ensuring the quality delivery of legal information services to our patrons – with a special focus on responding to the jail inmate legal information requests. Over the summer we shared Erin Schlicht with the State Law Library 1.  She assisted us with a variety of projects, including updating several of the library’s pamphlets, taking a book inventory of all the judicial chambers, providing reference assistance to patrons in the library, and assisting with the weekly inmate requests.  While Erin gained valuable experience in public and legal reference services, we also benefited greatly from her efforts - we were sad to see her go but wish her good luck in all her future endeavors! 
  • Beyond the Library Walls: On October 16, 2008, Lisa Winkler and Connie Von Der Heide presented at the Wisconsin Clerks of Circuit Court Association Conference.  The program offered tips and tricks for finding legal information online and specifically spotlighted the DCLRC as a possible public law library model for the provision of legal information in other counties in the State.  Over the course of the year, Lisa Winkler conducted 7 tours of the Dane County Courthouse for students, curious citizens, and senior citizens.  Tours can be arranged on request by contacting Lisa Winkler at lisa.winkler@wicourts.gov or 608-266-6316.
  • Library Service Figures:  The DCLRC is a busy place – and the following statistics for 2008 help to show why.  Last year we had 21,375 visitors (5000 more than 2007!), sold over 4,400 legal forms, and answered well over 4,130 questions regarding forms.  We filled nearly 2,300 legal information requests for Dane County Jail inmates and circulated over 850 books to them.  The Small Claims Assistance Program (SCAP), coordinated by the DCLRC, the Dane County Bar Association, and the State Bar Association, assisted 415 participants with a range of small claims issues.   This successful clinic is staffed primarily by volunteer attorneys and paralegals, so if you are interested in volunteering, please contact Lisa Winkler at lisa.winkler@wicourts.gov or 608-266-6316. 

The DCLRC would like to thank all of its supporters and collaborators for the assistance, encouragement and partnership it has received throughout 2008.  We look forward to all that 2009 has to bring!

1 See Jane Colwin’s article in this issue for more information on Erin.

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Odds ‘n’ Endings – Connie Von Der Heide

Register Now for Upcoming WSLL Legal Research Classes

A full slate of legal research classes has been scheduled for spring and summer here at WSLL.   Please visit our Classes & Tours web page for dates, times, class descriptions, and access to registration forms. Seating is limited, so register early.

February Notables

14 - Did you know that nearly 200 million Valentine's Day cards are exchanged annually in the U.S.? And that doesn't include the ones exchanged in many elementary school classrooms. Learn about that and much more on History.com's Valentine's Day website.

20 - On this date in 1792, President George Washington signed the Postal Service Act, creating the U.S. Postal Service Department. The act outlined Congress’ power to establish official mail routes, enact criminal penalties for mail tampering and identify the types of mail to be carried. The newly created department served 4 million people over 2,400 miles. Source: Today in Legal History

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Ask a Librarian: 800-322-9755; 608-267-9696 (In Madison); wsll.ref@wicourts.gov
Library Hours/Locations: WSLL (WI State Law Library), DCLRC (Dane Co. Legal Resource Center), MLRC (Milwaukee Legal Resource Center)
Visit Our Website: http://wilawlibrary.gov

Editor: Connie Von Der Heide 608-267-2202 Comments welcome!


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