#RL2013 2: Law For Lunch

Law School
Law School by Tulana Pulic Relations via CC license on Flickr

Last night I attended the second Reality Librarianship session for 2013 offered by Heroes Mingle – a partnership made up of Sally Pewhairangi (@sallyheroes) and Megan Ingle (@megingle). This is my summary of the main points of the talk :) 

You can read my summary of the first talk here.

This talk was:
Law for Lunch
Celia Lillis, Customer Service Team Member
& Rebecca Chilton, Customer Specialist from Wellington City Libraries (@wcl_library).

Please also check out:

What is “Law for Lunch”?

  • Free lunchtime seminar in the library from 12-1PM
  • Offered in partnership with the local Community Law Centre
  • Informs/increases knowledge of legal rights
  • Also raises awareness of legal material/resources held by the library

What was the trigger for offering this programme?

  • Back in 2005, there was a change of alignment in the Council business units. The library became part of city services and was required to focus on events and partnerships within the community.
  • A staff member at the time, Kim, had a contact with the Community Law Centre.
  • The first session started in 2006, and the programme has been running successfully since then
  • It’s a core part of the event calendar that people look forward to and ask about

How often do you run it?

  • 2 series a year – one beginning in March and one starting in October
  • 5 weekly sessions in each series

Who decides on topics?

  • A combination of the library and the Community Law Centre
  • Prep starts early – 3-4 months beforehand – as it takes time to decide on topics & secure presenters
  • Topics are general legal topics of interest to the general public
  • Important to secure the right lawyers to present the topic
  • Often cover recent law changes

What were the most popular topics?

  • There have been a number of very popular topics!
  • Neighbours at war
  • Employment issues
  • Relationship issues (include property)
  • ACC
  • Wills and trusts
  • How you can avoid leaving legal problems (when you die)

How many people attend these sessions?

  • Average – 50-80 per session
  • Popular topics – 80-100+!

Is there a limit to who many people can attend?

  • No – have a nice big open space in the library which can seat 100 comfortably
  • People will also stand or look from the mezzanine area

Is it only offered at the central library?

  • No, we offer the sessions at the larger branch libraries too
  • Usually 20-30 people at those; maximum 45
  • Still early days

Do people have to register?

  • No, they just rock up!

Do you gather customer input for topics?

  • Go round with a clipboard at the end of the sessions
  • Anecdotal feedback

Who’s responsible for running the sessions?

  • An equal partnership with the Community Law Centre
  • Have meeting 3-4 months beforehand to brainstorm and shortlist topics
  • Community Law Centre also prepares a list of topics and notes lawyers who are keen to speak on particular topics
  • Confirm topics for series
  • City Library is responsible for all the marketing and promotion
  • Big part of Ceila and Rebecca’s roles 🙂

What marketing channels do you use?

  • Community law centre has a database of members it e-mails information out to
  • Library has multiple channels including:
  • Material in the library branches
  • Website
  • Twitter
  • Blog
  • Good printed posters
  • Page of council news in Dominion Post
  • Citizens Advice Bureau also advertise it
  • Word of mouth

Do you have a routine established now?

  • Yes, there are some routine tasks
  • Template process for marketing
  • Standard meetings with Community Law
  • Used to time and technology required now
  • Make sure you test all sound first!
  • Also make room for more people than you thought might come…

What’s the evaluation process like?

  • 2 debriefs after the sessions
  • 1 internal marketing debrief that looks at:
  • effectiveness of marketing, what could be done better next time
  • looks at effectiveness of titles & popularity of topics.
  • 1 external with community law that looks at:
  • How well attended it was
  • How effective the speakers were.
  • It’s important to evaluate as this programme takes lots of time and resources
  • Also vital to keep it ‘fresh’ and new – not tired and old…

What is the biggest benefit to the library?

  • There are so many benefits!
  • It enables us to provide direct information to people in a different form
  • Provides reliable current information
  • Works with an organization that has similar goals & philosophy – not selling services but helping community
  • Promotes library services and resources relating to legal issues
  • Encourages view of library as community hub
  • Also encourages different people to come to the library who might not normally come

Are these sessions stand-alone or do they have a common theme?

  • Each session is stand-alone
  • Series are not themed, but cover a good mixture of topics

Does the Community Law Centre do follow-up?

  • It encourages people to ask Qs at session
  • Some stay back and talk to lawyer after session
  • Also encourages them to come to Community Law Centre if they have longer inquiries

So why a lunch session?

  • A lot of people from the offices in the CBD have an hour for lunch and come to the library
  • It works so we keep on doing it 🙂
  • The sessions run from 12-1 with 45 minute presentation and 15 minutes for questions.

How do you get the lawyers on board?

  • The Community Law Centre approaches the contacts
  • Some are lawyers actually working at the Community Law Centre
  • Others are specialists on particular topics from the greater Wellington region
  • Also link the topics to the lawyers; if you have a lawyer who wants to speak you can design a topic around their area of knowledge

So what does the Community Law Centre actually do?

  • It offers free legal advice to those in the community who can’t get to a lawyer
  • May charge a small fee if very complex inquiry
  • Not a government agency; it is an independent, non-profit organization
  • They do receive some funding from the government though
  • Take some cases, but primarily provide information/referrals
  • All qualified lawyers there
  • Mainly give legal advice

Anything you would do differently?

  • The law centre knows more about the subject, but we know our customers
  • In early days, the titles were often too serious sounding and didn’t attract people, so the library stepped in with the marketing/promotions to find titles that drew customers in
  • Make sure both sides are equally contributing
  • Remember it is all about the customers – it needs to stay relevant
  • There was one session – driving offenses – that is a topic frequently asked about at the Community Law Centre that we thought would be very popular. But the numbers were lower than other sessions. One thought was that people may only want to know this information if they have a traffic offense, and normally don’t think it is relevant to just go to a session if they don’t have a problem. But this is conjecture only 🙂

What sort of people come? Who is your target audience?

  • Varies depending on the session
  • There are the regulars who come to all of them!
  • Also ladies working at the Citizens Advice Bureau also came for training
  • School teachers, board of trustees members, tenants, landlords, older folk, young people – a real variety!

Do you have any other community partnerships?

  • Yes, we’ve run a variety of other seminars
  • Career services – ran a series of seminars on that
  • Also seminars for City Council business units on earthquake survival (ironically before the Christchurch earthquake) so that involved Building Compliance, Emergency, Civil Defense, and utilities like water.
  • Also tapped into popular interest topics such as astronomy during International Year of Astronomy – had a very fruitful partnership with Wellington Astronomical society.

Any tips or suggestions for other libraries?

  • Know your local community – what are their information needs? Who can you partner with?
  • Are you competing with other groups and their resources?
  • Work in partnerships with mutual benefits for both sides
  • Make sure you have compatible philosophy and values
  • Libraries are often great at working iwth other non-profit organizations
  • Think about credibility of information – make sure you don’t compromise on the quality and jeopardize losing trust people have in you
  • Look at what you can manage and go from there
  • Also look at who is responsible for promotions – does your partner have communication channels that can also help get the message out?
  • Also look at what topics are hot in the local news and media and tap into those interests.
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3 thoughts on “#RL2013 2: Law For Lunch

  1. Pingback: Law for Lunch fills community information gap #RL2013 | Heroes Mingle

  2. Pingback: The Octopus Librarian | #RL2013 – Linking the Public Library and School

  3. Pingback: The Octopus Librarian | #BlogJune: Looking back…

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