Last week I had the privilege of attending the “Libraries and Justice: Innovative Access for Rural and Remote Communities” event held in Toronto at the Law Society of Upper Canada. This unique event brought together a diverse group of people interested in exploring the role libraries can play in increasing access to justice for rural and remote communities. Participants included librarians from public libraries, academic law libraries and courthouse libraries, representatives from law associations across Ontario and lawyers from community legal clinics, Legal Aid Ontario and the Supreme Court of Canada.
In addition to presentations on innovative ways that various libraries have partnered with the justice sector to improve access to legal information, part of the day was devoted to collaborative conversations. These discussions allowed attendees from different sectors to get together in small groups to exchange information, identify new partnerships, generate ideas, and discuss potential collaborative projects.
As the image demonstrates, public libraries are seen as community hubs that provide equal access to information for all. Public library staff are on the front lines in rural and remote communities and are valued as trusted sources of knowledge. Libraries are a place that people from all walks of life go, not just to find information, but to seek advice, and connect with others. Because of the unique role that libraries play in rural and remote communities, they are in a perfect position to provide access to accurate and current legal resources, and connect patrons to community legal clinics and other legal services.
In his inspiring opening address, former Ontario Attorney General Chris Bentley encouraged everyone in the room to take “one small step” toward bridging the access to justice gap. At the end of the day, it was clear that there was a shared enthusiasm and excitement about taking the next steps and moving forward with the ideas generated throughout the day.
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