Learn What You Have Access To

Today’s Tip: Learn what you have access to.
This pithy statement could be read a couple of different ways in the context of legal research.

One meaning is to remember to search your library catalog – in your firm, at your local courthouse or law society library, at your nearest public library, at your local law school. Even law librarians who help fill the shelves should remember to look in the catalog. Favorite sources are great, but other sources should not be overlooked. Searching a library catalog will remind you that there are additional sources to refer to.

Another meaning is to remember to look at the database content of your electronic resources. If you don’t know that a particular source stopped being added to in 2009, you may think that you are finding everything when there is a great big gaping hole in your gathering strategy.

What do you think of when you read the phrase “learn what you have access to”?


  1. Shaunna, great post! For online resources, I would add that individuals should check their library intranet site as a reminder of what other “catalogue” tools might be available such as Heinonline, and also check with their librarian as there may be library use only databases that may answer the problem that may not be advertised on the library portal.I am sure we all provide orientations to new staff, but experience has taught me that these individuals suffer from information overload and they only remember what they might need to access immediately.

    The reminder to check database content is also relevant to checking the update status of a loose-leaf services and print materials. As libraries are moving to online content they may be updating their loose-leaf services less frequently. For our users that are still print based they need to be aware of the currency of the material they are consulting.

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