Today is Power Up Day at the Library. This initiative of the Texas Library Association was developed to raise the profile of libraries as vital technology hubs within communities.
Libraries are often thought of as repositories for books, but advances in technology and the explosion of digital content has transformed the traditional library from a purely analog institution to an innovative center of activity and services where people, ideas, and technology intersect. At the Harris County Law Library, we bring these facets together in number of ways. In general, we offer access to legal materials, in both print and digital formats; we instruct users in the selection of appropriate tools for their legal needs; we suggest strategies for locating and evaluating legal information; and we refer patrons to resources in the community when appropriate. These are the traditional roles of libraries and librarians, but performing them in fulfillment of our mission achieves, we hope, a greater good, namely, access to justice.
We recognize that navigating the legal system is difficult and daunting, and that barriers to both access and engage with the system are great, especially for those of modest means. We are committed to reducing these barriers and to facilitating the best use of our library in any way we can. Not only do we provide access to legal information resources, i.e., the substance of the law, we also guide our patrons in the use of those resources as a means to an important personal end.
Any individual with a legal issue to resolve must learn how to access the materials in our collection and how to use them in the context of the legal system, but neither of these tasks can be accomplished without also knowing how to use technology. For many people, opportunities to use and feel comfortable with technology are limited, yet increasingly, digital literacy is a prerequisite to engaging with the legal system. Without some degree of tech proficiency, one challenge -- learning how to file a petition in civil court -- becomes two. This double deficit created by the digital divide and the justice gap is our focus. Providing basic technology skills training is one way to reduce it, and this is just one example of how we Power Up at the Harris County Law Library, bringing people, resources, and technology together to facilitate access to justice. It's what we do.