The Legal Resource Centre
The Legal Education Network
In November 1983,The Legal Resource Centre of the University of Alberta celebrated its eighth anniversary of operation. Since its inception, its overall goal has been to facilitate the establishment of a comprehensive provincial and national network of legal informational and educational services, thereby increasing public concern for and involvement in the legal process. The centre seeks to achieve its goals by undertaking a range of services and activities and encouraging and assisting others with similar goals. It has determined that priority in the development of its services is to be given to addressing the needs of teachers, librarians, community leaders, interest groups, and children.
The movement to establish a centralized legal education source where legal materials could be collected, processed and disseminated, was spearheaded by a group of interested educators, librarians, and lawyers in the mid-l 1970s. This core group of individuals determined that there were, in fact, a variety of activities already being undertaken throughout the province of Alberta, but that there was very little awareness of them or the resources available to assist educators and librarians in carrying out their work. They decided their first task would be to collect all available resources and make them accessible to people already involved in public legal education (ple) activities. Once accomplished, there would be a base from which to assess the needs for further resources of both educators and the public.
In the fall of 1975, negotiations were carried out with the faculty of extension of the University of Alberta and an agreement was reached to establish the Legal Resource Centre. The centre is administered as a distinct project with actual administration of its affairs handled by its director. Activities are undertaken by both academic and nonacademic staff, which includes lawyers, librarians, educators, a journalist, a graphic artist, and technical specialists.
The centre's activities are essentially divided among the following functions: the library, the Legal Materials Placement Project (LMPP), community, school, and youth programs, the speakers bureau, research, productions, and publications.
The library is undoubtedly the core of the centre's operation, providing both direct service to clientele and supportive service to all other projects. The library maintains a comprehensive collection of law-related resources covering all major areas of law with special emphasis on criminal, family and juvenile law, native rights and public legal education. The collection also includes law-related fiction for children and youth and a wealth of media from books, periodicals, and pamphlets to videocassettes, audiocassettes and multi-media kits and games. Library services include circulation of materials to anyone in Alberta, linking library users to the centre's programming, consulting, and production staff for specialized information, locating and obtaining information from other community services and referring users to those sources, preparing subject bibliographies of library holdings from a computer data base and assisting with legal research.
A major outreach project of the centre's library is the Legal Materials Placement Project (LMPP). The project was begun in 1977 with the specific purpose of improving access to legal information through Alberta public libraries. The fifty-five libraries benefitting from the project keep in touch with the centre through visits from the outreach librarian who offers assistance regarding acquisitions, catalolgeing, maintenance of legal materials and the development of public legal information services. The outreach librarian also assists in developing programs and resources for teaching and offers workshops on select topics of interest to librarians.
The community program consists of two regular services: a speakers bureau and a training program for fieldstaff of Native Counselling Services of Alberta. In addition, the centre responds to requests from community groups for advice, training, workshops, and other educational services. The schools program was developed to assist teachers in acquiring information, skills, and confidence in dealing with legal issues in the classroom. A series of workshops designed specifically for teachers includes Mock Trial, Legal Materials, Legal Research, Tort Law, and Family Law. The centre's staff assists in curriculum design, special projects and activities, selection and use of audiovisual resources, selection of materials for school libraries and in obtaining legal personnel for school activities.
The youth program provides a variety of law-related educational programs for use in recreational and social settings and is also intended to provide the centre with direct experience with youth in order to develop a better understanding of their needs and the ways of meeting these needs.
Each year the centre assists from 20,000 -30,000 people. The centre's programming services during 1982 resulted in 131 events (785 hours) being offered to a total of approximately 2,500 people. During this time it also undertook several hundred small legal research projects in support of the library reference services and assisted with the legal content of two television programs.
The Legal Resource Centre's production team develops law-related materials tailored to the specific need of its clientele. Productions include slide/tape presentations on specific areas of law, overhead transparencies for teaching law, posters, and a series of booklets on legal services for Alberta.
Resource News, the centre's magazine is published ten times a year with a provincial and national readership in excess of 3,750 subscribers. The magazine serves to provide insight into current legal issues and to inform individuals and organizations about law and law-related programs and services in their region.
There continues to be an increasing interest in and demand for the services of the Legal Resource Centre. This phenomenon is not unique to the Legal Resource Centre but is symptomatic of the growing interest of the Canadian public in law-related matters. There are public legal education groups in almost every province of the country. The Canadian Law Information Council -- Legal Information Secretariat serves as a national clearinghouse and can help groups or individuals locate appropriate local services.
The need for legal information and education has not yet been determined. However it would appear that it will be met only by a comprehensive network of educational services available from early childhood through adolescence to adulthood.
Such is the goal of the Legal Resource Centre of Alberta: to meet the legal needs of Albertans through the continuous development of a dynamic education network.
LIST OF SELECTIVE PUBLIC LEGAL EDUCATION ORGANIZATIONS
The following organizations not only provide services to interested groups, they also can help locate other appropriate local services.
People's Law School 3466 West Broadway Vancouver, British Columbia V6R 2B3
| 1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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