E-JASL: The Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship


Date of this Version

Winter 2005

Document Type



Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship (Winter 2005) 6(3). Also available at http://southernlibrarianship.icaap.org/content/v06n03/barnes_n01.htm.


Copyright 2005, the author. Used by permission.



This article offers reference librarians practical advice on how to approach legal information requests that arrive via the reference desk, as well as through e-mail and chat. It suggests how to avoid the unauthorized practice of law by focusing on the activities reference librarians can safely perform when faced with legal questions from both their on-site and virtual users. The article discusses how reference librarians can conduct effective legal reference interviews both in person and online. Additionally, it suggests ways to include instruction in legal reference encounters, and possible sources for referral of questions that require professional legal assistance.