Solano County Law Library staff can’t offer legal advice, but they can do a lot for people who need a slew of other services – all free except for photocopiers and fax machines.
Law librarian Jonathan Watson said these services include in-person research assistance and internet legal sources in English and Spanish to a sizable collection of law books and a conference room for meetings to referrals to free or low-cost legal services and a conference room for meetings.
Watson, a 2002 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and a 2009 master’s degree in library science from San Jose State University, said the purpose of the library, on the third floor of the Hall of Justice of Fairfield, is to provide “access to do justice for all the public.
“I think we want to maintain innovative ways to reach the public, so that they can adequately represent themselves in their case,” he added during an interview Wednesday in his office at 600 Union St..
He and part-time library employee Aaron Winter can assist “customers” – in person, by phone, and by email – with reference assistance, finding laws and legal forms in the collection. library’s 14,000 books, search databases or other online resources, and make references. to local legal departments, which also have Spanish or Tagalog-speaking staff.
If a patron prefers to go online to ask a question, “Ask the Law Library” is available on the library’s webpage at https://solanolibrary.comnoted Watson, 41, a 1998 graduate of Will C. Wood High who was promoted to law librarian in 2011.
For those wishing to visit the library in person, Watson and Winter accept walk-ins, but appointments are preferred. The library is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Dial 421-6520.
The Law Library, established in 1891 and part of the Solano County Library system, has LexisAdvance databases (California and federal codes, case law, over 200 model forms); WestlawNext (California and federal codes, case law, chapters in over 50 law books, articles in over 100 law journals); CEB OnLAW; Legal Information Reference Center (several Nolo Press titles and forms available electronically); and VerdictSearch (specific cases and amounts of money requested), all on multiple computers in the library.
Additionally, all customers also have access to Dissomaster software, which is particularly useful in child custody and guardianship cases, among other things, said Watson, an Air Force “kid” who lives in Vacaville.
“A lot of clients – they may be emotionally distressed – if it’s a family law matter or if they’re going through a divorce or trying to establish custody of the children,” he said. -he declares.
“Stacks” of legal reference works, as Watson called them, are organized by the Dewey decimal system, which uses three-digit numbers, which are sometimes extended beyond a decimal point for subclasses of books.
Among the stacks are legal encyclopedias, U.S. and California codes, the latter dating to 1850, the year California joined the Union, treaties, U.S. Supreme Court reference books, and more. .
“The majority of our clients prefer a printed resource,” Watson said. “It’s something tangible.”
The library also stores copies of the San Francisco Daily Journal, a newspaper that covers local legal and court news.
And in the main office are copies of helpful brochures from the library on legal sources on the Internet, free and low-cost legal aid. The latter includes information about the county’s “Lawyers @ Your Library” program, in which local attorneys offer free legal advice and referral. Call toll free 866-572-7587, or visit solanolibrary.com for the latest program details.
Watson and Winter can provide helpful information and referrals for people who have experienced abuse, domestic violence and need restraining orders; who need alternative dispute resolution; need for various legal services (Northern California Legal Services, Solano County Bar Association, Solano County Small Claims Adviser); who need assistance for victims of criminal acts or erasure of criminal records; need for information on family law and help for the elderly; and who need immigration information or assistance.
The Law Library, overseen by the Solano County Library since 1987, receives funding from filing fees rather than property or sales taxes and also from internal revenue, printing, photocopying, faxing, and rental of conference rooms.
The conference room can accommodate 10 people (but numbers may be limited due to pandemic-related public health guidelines), power outlets and Wi-Fi, and a screen for privacy. Call the Law Library’s main number to reserve it, if needed.
Most law library users are laypersons, about 90%, while legal experts make up about 10% of users, Watson noted.
For the 2020-2021 fiscal year, the library received more than 3,400 reference questions and nearly 3,500 people entered, he said.