AALL Program Preview: Services for Self Represented Litigants In Pennsylvania

By Joan Bellistri
Anne Arundel County Public Law Library

As a member of the Self Represented Litigation Network (SRLN) Law Librarians Working Group, I volunteered to propose a program for AALL 2011 that would provide information on how court libraries in Pennsylvania provide service to the self represented. After agreeing to come up with a program, I realized that I didn’t really know any court librarians in Pennsylvania. I just started calling court librarians in the AALL directory to find out what they do. I was able to persuade three county law librarians to talk about their experiences with self represented litigants.  Eleanor Gerlott of Lancaster County, Melanie Solon of Berks County and Tracy McCall of Dauphin County all work in court law libraries with a small staff. Still, all of them have been involved in the development of programs for the self represented in their courts. Eleanor was instrumental in the creation of the Lancaster County self help center. She manages the center, which is not on the same floor as the law library, with a staff of two. Melanie works with  her court’s Pro Se Task Force, which creates forms packets for use by self represented litigants. Tracey established the self help center in her law library and was a member of the forms committee.

The program was not accepted by the AMPC, but will be sponsored by the State, Court, and County Law Libraries Special Interest Section. The program is scheduled for Sunday, July 24, at 3:00. Only two of my original contacts, Eleanor and Melanie, will be presenting, but the program will be of interest to those of us in county law libraries that are seeing an increasing number of self represented litigants. The Value of the Public Law Library: How County Law Libraries in Pennsylvania Collaborate with the Courts to Provide Service to the Self Represented Litigant will provide information on the creation of a self help center and SRL forms development. More importantly, I hope that it will enable county law librarians to demonstrate the value of the court law library as an indispensable element in the court’s ability to provide service to the self represented litigant.  By taking the lead in the development of services to meet the needs of self represented litigants, law librarians can enhance their visibility while demonstrating their value.