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Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Resource Guide Collection

Legal Reference: Overview

Record training webinars, information on the Social Law Library proprietary databases for use by Massachusetts Public Libraries, and related materials.


A Legal Reference and Referral Partnership

Massachusetts Courthouse, including Trial Court Law Libraries and Court Service Centers, as well as the Social Law Library, are closed to the public due to COVID-19.

MBLC has partnered with the Social Law Library, the Massachusetts Trial Courts, including the Trial Court Law Libraries and Court Service Centers, to provide legal reference continuing education to librarians. This partnership has also drawn on help from the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute.

Our goal is to provide public librarians with the tools they need to help patrons find legal assistance, prepare themselves for court appearances, including completing court forms, locate legal reference materials in print and online, and understand the availability of lawyer referral services..

Social Law Library Logo  Massachusetts State Seal  Massachusetts Access to Justice (A2J) Logo

Social Law Library Databases

If you need to find out your password, please contact and provide your name, position and library affiliation.

Upcoming Webinars

Introduction to the Social Law Library Suite of Legal Reference Databases

February 1, 2023, 11am - noon

The Social Law Library will offer a one-hour training opportunity for librarians to learn about, or refamiliarize themselves with, the suite of legal reference databases that the Social Law Library has made freely available to public libraries. Social Law Library Reference Attorney Jessica Pisano Jones will describe the types of decisions that can be found in the collection of databases and demonstrate how to use the search platform.


(Updated 1/19//23)

Webjunction's "Improving Access to Civil Legal Justice through Public Libraries"

In addition to the Massachusetts webinars, you also have access to a parallel set of trainings through WebJunction.   WebJunction has partnered with the nonprofit  Legal Services Corporation with a series of trainings and webinars. 

Most recently, WebJunction announced a new course, Navigating Civil Legal Issues of Natural Disasters, which acknowledges that libraries are at the very center of activity when a natural disaster strikes a community.  Think New Orleans libraries after Katrina and how libraries can support the civil legal issues that community members encounter as a result of a natural disaster.

A May 27, 2020 post in OCLC's research blog Hanging Together extensively documents some of the lessons learned.




Past Webinars

An Overview of Identity Theft and Fraud Prevention and Learn how to Schedule Local Presentations for your patrons

This webinar focuses on identity theft and fraud prevention resources across the state. The presentation not only includes an overview of some of the most pervasive scams that are trending in this pandemic, but also offers helpful responses from the state, municipal and Legal Services organizations represented on the panel. In addition, the panel describes how municipal libraries across the state can schedule local presentations to help their patrons deal with identity theft and fraud prevention.


  • Joseph Horan, RSVP Volunteers of Central MA
  • Lisabeth Jorgensen, MetroWest Legal Services
  • Robin Putnam, Mass. Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation
  • Anita Wilson, Consumer Protection Unit - Northwestern District Attorney's Office

Handling Patrons' Domestic Violence Related Legal Questions (06.15.21)

Domestic violence remains a major area of concern in Massachusetts. This program begins with an overview by Jamie Subino of two of the primary tools available: the Domestic Violence Restraining Order (209A) and the Harassment Prevention Order (258E). She then discusses options for ending a lease early or holding onto public housing when experience a domestic violence situation. Jamie is the Lead Advocate, Domestic Violence Legal Assistance Project and the Co-manager, Civil Legal Aid for Victims of Crime Initiative (CLAVC), Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI).

Rochelle Hahn, Co-Director, Massachusetts Legal Aid Websites Project, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, follows with a demonstration of several critical websites to help users find local advocates, help with legal forms and legal aid related to domestic violence issues. These include Mass Legal Help, the Massachusetts Legal Resource Finder, CLAVC (Civil Legal Aid for Victims of Crime), MassAccess (a guided interview that helps survivors prepare paperwork for a 209A restraining order) and Mass Legal Answers Online.

Learn the Ins and Outs of CELHP (03.30.21)

This webinar trains public librarians how to access the wide variety of resources and services of the new COVID Eviction Legal Help Project (CELHP). CELHP is a major statewide initiative to help keep low income tenants safely in their homes and to support low income landlords at risk of foreclosure, bankruptcy, or having to evict their tenants after the Commonwealth’s pause of evictions and foreclosures last October. The program is part of the Baker-Polito Administration’s statewide Eviction Diversion Initiative to support tenants and landlords facing financial challenges caused by the pandemic. Delivery of CELHP services throughout the Commonwealth is a collaborative effort of Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, the Volunteer Lawyers Project and six regional legal aid organizations.

Providing Access to Justice for Public Library Patrons (02.10.21)

Presenters: Executive Office of the Massachusetts Trial Court

  • Kathleen Ludwig, Head Law Librarian, Franklin Law Library
  • Mary G. Klaes, Esq., Manager, Greenfield Court Service Center

Even with the myriad challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis, both the statewide Law Libraries and the Court Service Centers of the Massachusetts Trial Courts are busy providing assistance to local attorneys, self-represented litigants and the courts serving your community. The same services are also available to both public librarians and members of the public throughout the Commonwealth—even in the midst of the pandemic.

Do these patron questions and comments sound familiar?

  • "My landlord told me I have to leave. I have no place to go. What are my rights?"
  • "My landlord shut off my heat and hot water and told me to get out."
  • “My tenants have not paid rent in two months. How do I evict them?”
  • “I want to get custody of my children.”
  • “I need child support.”
  • “How do I get divorced?”

Kathy Ludwig and Mary Klaes and their colleagues throughout the state provide help and assistance with these types of legal issues every day.

Recorded 02.10.21

Handling Patrons’ Landlord Tenant Questions (12.02.20)

Attorneys Rochelle Hahn, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, provides an overview of key legal-help websites when assisting patrons presenting landlord-tenant problems. Attorney Gordon Shaw, Community Legal Aid, then walks through specific scenarios, such as eviction notices, bad housing conditions, and rent increases, showing how these web resource can guide patrons to the specific information and legal help resources based on geography, income levels and other factors.

Recorded 12.02.20

Handling Patrons' Legal Questions During the Pandemic (07.07.20)

Court Service Centers (06.19.19)

Court Service Centers

Services provided by new walk-in centers to help the public navigate the court system.

Presenters: Executive Office of the Massachusetts Trial Court

  • Sheriece M. Perry, Esq. - Acting Co-Director of Support Services
  • Jorge A. Colón, Esq. - Court Service Center Circuit Manager
  • Constance "Connie" Mortara, Esq. - Worcester Court Service Center Manager
  • Carolin P. Hetzner, Esq. - Boston Court Service Center Manager


  • locations, hours, in-take procedures, and items to have in-hand before arriving
  • types of hands-on assistance provided
  • practical guidance to court proceedings, rules, procedures, and practices
  • access to information and assistance in other languages
  • referral services to other court services, Trial Court Law Libraries, community services, legal assistance programs and social-service agencies

Recorded 06.19.19

Legal Reference and Beyond (11.08.18)

Legal Reference and Beyond for Public Librarians.

Hosted by Robin Bates, Kathy Ludwig, and Barbara Schneider of the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries.


  1. “Who We Are” (Starts at 2:15)
  2. “Where the Law Comes From” (5:55)
    • Overview of the Court System (10:45)
  3. “How Each of the 7 Trial Court Departments Processes Cases”
    • Probate and Family Court (13:45)
    • Juvenile Court (19:33)
    • Housing Court (20:11)
    • Land Court (22:32)
    • District Court and Boston Municipal Court including Small Claims Court and District Court Appellate Division (24:05)
  4. “How the System Works” - A Traffic Ticket Example (33:57)
    • Superior Court (37:40)
    • Appeals Court (39:42)
    • Supreme Judicial Court (41:40)

Recorded Fall of 2018

Database Training (12.05.17)

Database Training.

Reference Attorney, Jessica Jones walks through the use of the Social Law Library's 30+ legal research databases.
Recorded 12.05.17

This website, and other programs of the MBLC, is funded in part with funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency that fosters innovation, leadership, and a lifetime of learning.