Hello. My name is Andrea Curr and this is Catherine Bryant. We both work in Public Library Services here at the State Library.
I coordinate the Drug Info Service and Catherine coordinates Find Legal Answers.
Today we will talk about these two unique services, both delivered in partnerships with public libraries - and how starting a reference conversation can be used to provide information about the law, drugs and alcohol to the community.
These conversations are aimed at increasing knowledge and empowering people.
We will talk about the tools, programs and opportunities to start these conversations.
Find Legal Answers was established in 1990. Back then it was known as LIAC, or the Legal Information Access Centre, with the name changing to Find Legal Answers in 2008.
Find Legal Answers was established to provide access to legal information for the NSW community.
Prior to this there was no public access to legal information outside of an academic setting. Similarly Drug Info (then known as DI@YLL and then Drug Info @ your library) was established to provide drug and alcohol information.
Both services have at their core a reference collection – a small collection of plain English books and pamphlets that are current, authoritative, and relevant to community need.
Both services also have dedicated websites to provide information and support service delivery.
The Find Legal Answers website can be used to find legal information by browsing or searching.
All the Tool Kits books can be found here as well as links to free legal advice and assistance. All the content has been selected by LIAC staff.
The Drug Info website has the A – Z of drugs, information about drugs and the law and where to get help.
We have separate sections on the State Library website designed for public library staff. This has information about delivering the services in your libraries and includes programs, collection management information and order forms for collateral.
We also publish.
Where there are identified information gaps we have published high quality material, eg A Quick Guide to drugs and alcohol, Neighbours and the law, Hot Topics collection and we are currently working on a new edition of Rest assured.
These collections and websites are ideally suited for reference work.
All these questions can all be answered using pamphlets, Tool Kit books or the Find Legal Answers or Drug Info websites.
These resources help people find legal or health information to answer a specific question at a specific time.
As well as providing the collections and websites, we deliver training for public library staff – here at the State Library once a year and throughout the year in public libraries.
These workshops have always been hands on with discovery and discussion of this reference material at the core.
The training is designed to build your confidence to answer legal, drug and alcohol inquiries.
Importantly it also empowers you to actively promote legal, drug and alcohol information in different ways.
As you can see from the participants'’ comments the training builds - awareness, knowledge and understanding.
Partnerships are also important to both services.
Find Legal Answers works with a range of legal experts such as Legal Aid NSW and Community Legal Centres. We work together to create publications and community education programs.
Drug Info works closely with NSW Health and Community Drug Action Teams (CDATs).
Traditional reference work has centred around the idea of buildings, collections and access. Libraries have been built and promoted as physical spaces where people have access to books and databases containing information and library staff assist people to find the right piece of information for their question.
As we have just outlined, the Find Legal Answers and Drug Info resources can be used to provide this reference work. You have the collections in your libraries, and they can be used to answer questions.However, providing access to legal, drug and alcohol information goes beyond the physical or virtual collections.
The information in your Find Legal Answers and Drug Info reference collections can be used to facilitate knowledge. You can use the collections and resources to engage your communities with legal and health information, empowering them with the knowledge to make life choices.
So how does this work in practice? – let’s do some reference work.
(Standard drinks demo)
(Show this when the participants have been given the glasses)
Who in the audience has learned something new today or had something explained further?
What we did then was a reference activity. It didn’t start with a reference question, but by the end of the activity, we obtained a greater understanding of what constitutes a standard drink and why it’s important to know this.
How does this differ from “traditional” reference?
This book (in your reference collection) has the same information we just learned.
You all have this book in your collections, but I imagine it is rarely used despite the wealth of information it contains. The book contains the definitions for standard drinks as well as ….
Drug Info has developed a program which hast taken the essential info from the book and made it real and relevant to people.
The aim of the Know Your Standards program is to build awareness of standard drinks, the Australian Alcohol Guidelines and approaches and strategies for reducing risks associated with alcohol and drinking.
It provides people with the knowledge and tools about standard drinks to help them make informed decisions and choices about drinking.
Central to the Know Your Standards program is the resin kit.
Each library service in NSW has been provided with a resin kit.
The aim of the kit is to increase people’s knowledge of standard drinks. The kit does this by introducing clients to the different strengths of alcoholic beverages and visually demonstrating the differences in what constitutes a standard drink for commonly used alcoholic beverages.
As a basic resource the resin kit is a conversation starter or prompt for people to find out about standard drinks. – what’s a beer doing in a library ….
Library staff can also use the resin kit to engage people with interactive activities to increase sustainable learning regarding alcohol and build knowledge and awareness of standard drinks.
These activities also act as a conversation starter about issues around alcohol.
The resin kit is supported by the print resources held in public libraries such as the Know Your Standards pocket guides, postcards and information on the Drug Info website. These print resources reinforce learning concepts regarding standard drinks and the Australian Alcohol Guidelines.
So how do libraries implement the Know Your Standards program at a local level?
The program has been used by libraries to incorporate into everyday reference work.
This can be from putting together simple displays through to incorporating the resin kit display on the reference desk.
For example –
Both Bankstown and Narrandera libraries have experimented with putting their resin kit on display at the reference or circulation desk. By placing the kit on the desk it invites questions from library users about the kit and can open up conversations about alcohol – which is one of the aims of the program (to provide people with discussion points around alcohol issues.). Library staff can then provide further information about reducing alcohol harm with supplementary material such as NSW Health pamphlets.
Library displays can also be an opportunity to highlight the kit and associated material. Displays can be standalone displays about alcohol or drug use or the kit and material could be incorporated into a display for Seniors Festival or Youth Week.
As you all know, another way of creating knowledge in the community is through public programs.
Public library programs are an integral part of the Drug Info services. Programming around drug and alcohol harms and reduction are a valuable form of community outreach, serving community needs while increasing visibility for the Drug Info service and for the role of public libraries in providing health information.
An example of an innovative and successful public programming was the recent Burwood Bar and Beats mocktail event offered by Burwood Library as part of their Council’s Youth Week program.
This event consisted of a pop-up library providing drug and alcohol information, a bar providing free mocktails and promoting the Literary Mocktail resources, a beer goggle activity highlighting the harms and risks associated with alcohol use and a Know Your Standards drink challenge.
Local police were in attendance to assist - together with members of the Burwood Youth Advisory Group. This event was highly successful with over 600 mocktails served and around 300 people participating in activities.
By providing a range of activities library staff were able to encourage attendees to learn about a broad range of health messages around alcohol consumption and harm reduction.
This event reached many more people in just one afternoon than could ever be reached by the reference book I discussed earlier...
This is just one example of the many events and activities developed and delivered by public libraries each year that build knowledge around alcohol awareness.
So why is the work that you do through Drug Info important?
Although most Australians have never used illicit drugs, the use and misuse of both legal and illicit drugs is recognised in Australia as a major health problem and one that has wider social and economic costs.
Drug use has consequences for individuals, families and communities. The health, safety and wellbeing impacts can include addiction and illness, family breakdown, financial insecurity, homelessness, road accidents, assaults, injuries and fatalities.
Building knowledge and awareness in the community through drug and alcohol information services is part of “primary prevention” which aims to prevent drug or alcohol problems by helping people to avoid drug use, to delay or reduce drug and alcohol use, or to avoid use that is likely to cause harm. The information that we provide through the Drug Info service in public libraries contributes to the national policy of harm minimisation.
Thanks Andrea. I’m now going to talk about why it’s important to start a conversation about the law with your community.
Almost all aspects of our lives are governed by laws – whether you are building a new fence, getting married, posting a letter, enrolling a child in school, travelling on a train, getting a driving licence, writing a will – all of these everyday things are regulated by laws.
At any time, members of the community may need information about the law, to help them deal with these everyday issues.
So what is a legal issue?
Even though these questions don’t necessarily sound like legal issues, they all are. They are all everyday issues that involve a legal process.
But librarians aren’t lawyers. So why would someone go to the library with a legal question?
A study by the NSW Law and Justice Foundation showed that 50% of people with a legal problem do not seek any sort of help.
Of those who did seek legal assistance, only 12% of people consulted a lawyer.
The remaining people sought help from places like the internet, friends, government agencies including local councils, professionals such as doctors, community groups and their employer.
The study showed that people go to all sorts of places to access legal information and assistance. Public libraries already provide information to their communities about a vast range of topics, and are very well placed to provide legal information.
So how to we help our community find answers to their legal needs?
We can of course answer their questions, using the resources in the Find Legal Answers Tool Kit and website.
But what if they don’t ask a question?
In Blacktown Library, there is a high traffic area on the first floor between the Reference and Technology areas. Because of the high traffic, this area was chosen for the main display of the Find Legal Answers Tool Kit, other legal books and legal pamphlets. This is an ideal location for browsing and the tool kit design with outward facing books lends itself to this space.
Kempsey Library did something similar for Law Week a few years ago. They featured one Tool Kit title per day on their circulation desk – a really simple but very effective idea which prompted conversations about the book and the legal subjects it covers.
Another approach you can take is to change the position of your legal material to suit your community.
Last year, Blacktown Library conducted an audit of their legal brochures and booklets and assessed their display locations in all five of their locations.
At the main Max Webber Library, a review of the ground floor display spaces led to a more targeted approach in the placement of stands and legal brochure content: They placed pamphlets and fact sheets about wills, advocacy, and housing near their adult fiction and large print resources – this is illustrated in this slide Information about immigration and housing and information in community languages was placed in the multicultural resources area Information about housing, police powers, drug info, youth and community justice was put in the young adult area and Legal Aid’s series of booklets “Keeping your child safe” were placed in the children’s area. This is not a traditional area to display legal pamphlets, but is useful because of course there are many parents in the children’s area who now have access to this information.
Simply by thinking about the location of your legal or drug and alcohol resources can have an impact on their use and facilitate knowledge creation. For example an older library user browsing the large print collection in Blacktown may pick up a book such as “Speaking for Myself” and read about power of attorney - gaining knowledge of an area of law that they didn’t visit the library to find.
As Andrea stated earlier, another way of creating knowledge in the community is through public programs.
This week is Law Week and many of you will be taking the opportunity to present events and programs over the week.
Andrea and I visited Gordon Library last week and saw this Law Week event – just one of the many events planned over the week.
I’m sure this event is being replicated by many of you. What I like about this event is: It’s being tailored to a particular group in the community – older people - and is at a time suitable for them to attend Free information is available It is a partnership with the local Legal Aid office – tapping into the legal expert It promotes the legal information in the library
Many of the people who attend this event may not realise the library has excellent plain English books available on wills and estates, and housing.
Following this talk and armed with some knowledge – the participants might have more questions about wills and power of attorney and now they will know that their library has material and staff to assist.
Campsie Library sent this photo through just yesterday – they partnered with their local Centrelink office to give a talk on knowing your pension.
Having a talk about pensions is a great topic for Law Week – and is one of those topics that you may not think of as being about the law.
Ten minutes before the talk from the legal expert, staff from Campsie Library showed the participants the legal resources available in the library. They also gave away showbags with information and promotional material.
After the talk, maybe one of the participants did some more reading, perhaps reading the chapter on pensions and allowances in the Law handbook or checking out the information available via the Find Legal Answers website.
Before they attended the talk at the library, they may not have had any idea that information was available.
By planning a talk and providing legal resources, Campsie Library met the information needs of the participants – all without anyone approaching the desk and asking a question.
Earlier we mentioned the importance of partnerships to Find Legal Answers and Drug Info.
This year for Law Week, we partnered with Legal Aid to present Piano Forte, a video of a play about elder financial abuse. The film screening is followed by a panel of legal expert speakers, from agencies such as Legal Aid, Seniors Rights Service, community service providers and health professionals.
Seventeen libraries will be presenting the program – twelve this week alone.
Once again, it is a combination of partnerships, legal expertise, and the availability of legal resources and has proven to be very successful in creating knowledge in the community.
But you don’t have to wait until Law Week to give your clients access to legal information.
Let’s Talk Legal is a collaborative project between the Macarthur Legal Centre and Campbelltown City Library. A series of legal talks, presented by lawyers from the Macarthur Legal Centre, provide the community with access to free legal advice and information. Topics covered included elder law, a free legal advice clinic for young adults, debt and fines, wills, and a talk for carers about legal issues for people with disabilities and mental health problems.
This also provides the opportunity to promote the quality legal information at the library.
What each of these programs illustrates is that libraries are going beyond the collections and online resources dealing with the law. They are allowing their clients to gain knowledge about the law.
As you are all well aware –providing a reference service can go beyond questions and answers.
Today we started the reference conversation about the law, drugs and alcohol.
Armed with the knowledge of what constitutes a standard drink - and that a mouldy bathroom in a rented house is a legal rather than a home decorating question - we hope you will continue these conversations with your community.
And we help you to do this by providing the reference materials at the core of both services, online information, promotional material, campaigns to support your events and programs, and training.
Let’s continue the reference conversation over lunch where we will be serving the Drug Info literary mocktails.
Please keep in touch – feel free to contact us with any questions about either service, if you have an enquiry you’d like help with, or if you’d like to see if we can visit your library to do some training.
Find legal answers and drug info
Starting a reference conversation - increasing
knowledge and empowering your community
Andrea Curr, Drug Info
Catherine Bryant, Find Legal Answers
• How do I get my landlord to fix the mould
in my bathroom?
• Can my 16 year old drop out of school?
• What is ice? Is it different to speed?
• What drugs are the most commonly used
People can relate to it as it’s a big part of
today’s society being aware and knowing
The workshop is extremely interesting and
helpful in all aspects at work and at home
More conversation with people over the
display of standard drinks
I now have a better understanding of this
valuable resource, so will now actively use
and promote when asked legal questions