Information for library students

Frequently asked questions for students of MLIS and Library Technician programs.

Courthouse Libraries BC is a unique library system because we serve the public, the judiciary and the legal community of BC. We are funded by the Law Foundation of BC, a non-profit foundation that funds legal projects and programs that benefit the BC public, as well as the Law Society of BC, the organization that regulates lawyers in our province. Although the Provincial Government provides us with space in 30 courthouses across British Columbia, we are classified as a not-for-profit registered charity, not a government library.

Ways we serve the public:

  • Free reference service by:
    • email
    • phone
    • in-person
  • Document delivery services
  • Maintenance of print and electronic legal collections
  • Computers, photocopiers  and tables for working
  • Clicklaw
    • developed by the Courthouse Library in 2009
    • explains common legal issues in plain language
    • authored by more than 40 contributing organizations
    • new content is uploaded as it’s developed
    • promotes staff selected resources
  • LawMatters
    • works with public libraries to provide all residents of British Columbian with local access to basic legal information
    • provides training for library staff
    • publishes lists of recommended purchases for public libraries
    • provides financial assistance for legal materials 
  • Legal Help for British Columbians
    • written to help non-legal professionals make legal referrals for their clients
    • covers common legal questions in more depth than Clicklaw
    • third edition was published as a wiki / print-on-demand book  h

For more information on these services, please see our most recent Annual Report.

The legal community consists of lawyers, judges, law students, law librarians, paralegals and other support staff.  We support this community in a number of ways:

  • maintenance of practice-oriented print and electronic collections
  • free reference services by email,  in-person and phone
  • remote access to select legal databases
  • document delivery service and Book in a Box 
  • computers, photocopiers, study and meeting room spaces  
  • accredited training sessions, online and in-person (see Training & Tutorials)

Our mission is to provide the legal community and public with legal resources, Librarian expertise & informed referrals, to help people research and manage their own or client's legal issues. Our current Strategic Plan features key initiatives to fulfill that mission.

We have libraries in 30 courthouses around the province, providing access to digital and print legal information. Each library is equipped with public computers providing access to the internet, legal databases, and word processing software.

Our libraries occupy three categories: Resource Libraries, Regional Libraries, and Local Libraries. Each category has its own staffing and collection model.

Local Libraries

Our local libraries are staffed either one day per week or one day per month.

All local libraries offer access to:

  • online access to current and comprehensive BC and federal legislation, Canadian reported case law, forms & precedents, reference sources, and law journals on topics including civil litigation, criminal law, family law, personal injury, wills & estates, and practice management & technology
  • practice manuals
  • materials purchased for individual libraries to meet local needs

Regional Libraries

Regional libraries are open Monday-Friday. They are usually staffed by 1-2 staff members.

In addition to the core materials available at all local courthouse libraries, regional libraries in larger population centres offer access to more resources to support a larger numbers of local lawyers and a wider variety of practice areas. 

Resource Libraries

Our largest libraries are in Vancouver and Victoria. The Vancouver library is the central library and acts as the administrative seat. Collection and staffing decisions for the branches are made in conjunction with Vancouver and our regional libraries.

The resource libraries offer the following types of materials in addition to the regional core collection:

  • historical legislation and case law from other Canadian provinces and territories
  • selected case law and legislation from US, UK and other Commonwealth countries, both historic resources in print and current material online
  • specialized practice areas such as entertainment law and international law
  • selected resources from the US, the UK and other jurisdictions, particularly in subject areas where Canadian law has been modeled on the law in another country

We have 30 FTE (full time equivalent) staff in our Vancouver library and 54 employees province-wide. Of our 30 libraries, 8 are staffed full-time, and our remaining locations are staffed (for the most part) 4 to 6 hours per week.

Our Vancouver location has the largest complement of staff. In addition to being our largest library with the most information requests, Vancouver also:

  • staffs our province-wide client services, such as:
    • our 1-800 number
    • LawMatters program for public libraries
    • Clicklaw website for the public
    • Home office for the two legal liaison lawyers
  • offers administrative support for the whole system – accounting, HR, etc.
  • home of the team responsible for our website, digital collections and technical services

Vancouver and the Regional branches jointly staff our province-wide email reference service.

In Vancouver, we have:

  • 10 librarians (Front line services, Website, Outreach, Clicklaw Coordinator, Managers)
  • 1 library technician
  • 2 library assistants
  • 2 Liaison Lawyers
  • 7 staff with other backgrounds (Finance, Human Resources, Administration Support & Senior Leadership)

You can view some of the job postings we have published in the last few years:

Our collection includes digital content and print materials. It is a practice-oriented collection rather than a research collection, with a focus on the practice areas of interest to most lawyers in BC. We primarily collect BC and Canadian legal resources, including case law, legislation, practice manuals, textbooks, forms & precedents, continuing legal education, and practice management & technology resources. The collection is supplemented with resources that support specialized practice areas and selected US, UK, and other foreign and international resources. We license a number of legal databases for clients to use on public computers in our libraries.

We have 165,000 items in our physical collection. Of that, 53,000 items are on microform, and the remainder are print volumes. Our Vancouver library houses our largest collection, including all of our microform materials and 81,000 print volumes.

View our collection policy.

Information requests pre-COVID:

In 2019, we received over 65,000 legal information requests across all of our full time locations, which averaged out to 260 requests per day.

Frontline services during COVID:

2020:

  • On March 17th we closed all of our physical libraries, and our staff started working remotely, answering questions by phone and email.
  • At the end of June, a small number of front line services staff returned to work in the Vancouver and Victoria libraries to support staff delivering legal information services via phone.
  • Seven small libraries – Duncan, Fort St John, Nelson, Penticton, Quesnel, Terrace and Williams Lake – opened to the public in late summer, providing up to 30 minutes at a public access computer one day a week.
  • In September, Vancouver partnered with the Vancouver registry to provide limited in-person services to the public.
  • Nanaimo opened to limited in-person services in December.

2021:

  • Kamloops, Kelowna, New Westminster, Prince George, and Victoria opened for limited in-person service in January.
  • Abbotsford opened to limited in-person service in September.

SLAW is a Canadian legal blog written by a large group on contributors that includes law librarians and lawyers. See their Open Letter to a New Grad for tips on good programs for aspiring law librarians.

Vancouver Association of Law Librarians – VALL

Canadian Association of Law Librarians – CALL

Visible Minority Librarians of Canada - ViMLoC

Additional questions

Contact us at librarian@courthouselibrary.ca.  We are happy to talk with you, but please keep in mind that we are working and our clients are our top priority.  Please keep your questions succinct and professional.

Last updated: August 2021