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County law libraries, longtime fixtures in courthouses across New Jersey, have lately been falling victim to a space squeeze. Consider that: � In Camden County, the courthouse library closed about five years ago to make way for a new juror assembly room, after the old one was converted to two new courtrooms. � In Burlington County, much of the library was displaced by an arbitration hearing room, leaving what Assignment Judge John Sweeney calls the “remnants of a law library” — basic books like statutes and state case reporters and CD-ROMs searchable on two computers. Even those remnants will go as of April, when the space is converted to a courtroom. � In Ocean County, the space used by the law library was taken over by jury management in August. A makeshift library has been set up in the courthouse lobby until construction in the building is completed, which librarian Dr. Barbara Woods estimates will take a few years. Until then, patrons must make do with two computers in the lobby for CD-ROM research and N.J.S.A. volumes on carts. The case reporters are in the basement. � The Warren County library came within a few days of eviction earlier this year because additional area was needed for a state-mandated central fee office. Only a last-minute compromise that sent the county tax board across the street spared the small room that serves as not only the law library but also the sole attorney conference area in the space-starved Belvidere courthouse. � The Somerset County law library will shrink by about two-thirds in the next few months, as administrative offices are constructed where bookshelves used to be. The library will no longer carry regional reporters, laments James Moloughney, a sole practitioner who chairs the county bar association’s library committee. “Before you could research anywhere in the country,” he says. Yet, the situation is not as bleak as it seems. Efforts are afoot in Camden to build additional courthouse facilities that will include space for a library. The county freeholders, after consulting with the judiciary and the local bar about space needs, have authorized a request for facility proposals, and Assignment Judge Francis Orlando anticipates that “a library will be part of the new structure or, if some operations leave the courthouse, we could recreate it in the courthouse.” In the meantime, Orlando says he has directed the trial court administrator to explore setting up computers for CD-ROM research at one or more locations in the courthouse. Fortunately, the Rutgers-Camden Law School is only a few blocks away and “everyone’s using that right now,” says Camden County Bar Association President Michele Fox, a partner with Cherry Hill’s Pepper Hamilton. In Burlington, Sweeney says that for the short term, he will try to find room somewhere in the courthouse for the two computers so that research via CD-ROM will continue to be available after April. A more lasting solution will come with the expected purchase of another building near the county freeholders, he says. The Burlington County Bar Association is also helping to breach the gap. The group took over maintenance of some of the library books and has made them available to bar members at its offices one block from the courthouse, says president James Landgraf, a partner with Cureton Caplan Hunt Scaramella & Clark in Delran. A lawyer who needs to look something up quickly is sometimes allowed to use the judge’s library. Somerset County, faced with shrinking space as well as the need to cut expenses, has replaced some books with CD-ROMs and is eliminating other research materials altogether, while adding two more computers on top of the two that were introduced a few months ago, says Moloughney. Over the past month, his ad hoc committee has been meeting with bar members, Assignment Judge Robert Guterl, the county law librarian, court personnel and Westlaw publishers to discuss potential solutions. One idea on the table is to allow library users to charge online research to their own credit cards. Moloughney says he also recommended carrels with outlets where lawyers can plug in their laptops and access their own LEXIS or Westlaw accounts. He is also pushing for what he calls “cheat sheets” containing instructions on how to do the computer research for those like himself, who are not fully adept at it. Guterl says that while “almost everyone recognizes the need for some library,” providing case reporters for other states and even, in Warren County, the Pennsylvania statutes, “may have been a luxury” that the court can no longer justify in terms of expense or space. He foresees that, in light of computerized research, it may also cease to be feasible for each judge to have a set of New Jersey statutes and case reporters. At the other end of the spectrum is Bergen County where library expansion is under consideration. County bar president Charles Ryan, a partner with Midland Park’s Ryan & Cote, praises Assignment Judge Sybil Moses’ support for the library. Ryan says one of Moses’ first acts as assignment judge was taking the old library, which he describes as a dark, drafty and inaccessible “hellhole,” and moving it to the first floor, while expanding its size and its hours of operation. Moses, for her part, calls libraries “indicative of a civilized society,” and says they are “at the top of my agenda.” She has appointed a committee headed by Superior Court Judge Joseph Yannotti to determine if the Bergen library needs more space to expand, she adds. Similar committees exist or are being formed in other counties. For instance, Atlantic County Bar Association President Jeffrey Waldman, a Linwood sole practitioner, says Assignment Judge Michael Winkelstein recently wrote to him and Cape May president James Birchmeier, asking them for recommendations for a newly formed library committee. In Sussex, where the county law library faces no present threat, attorneys are taking a proactive stance. County bar association president George Daggett says before the new courthouse opened in 1992, the county law library was inadequate and its basement location made it “similar to a dungeon.” “It took us a long time to get a law library,” he says, adding that he and the librarian Barbara Mattingly “jointly reached the conclusion that the bar better get involved to make sure that it survives.” Daggett and Mattingly met with other bar members last month to discuss such topics as the need to preserve space, adding more computers and ways to encourage use of the library by nonlawyers, says Daggett, a partner with Sparta’s Daggett, Kraemer & Eliades. “People assume law libraries are for lawyers and lawyers have computers, ergo we don’t need law libraries,” says Daggett, who hopes that broader use of the libraries will help protect them. A library committee is also at work on the state level. Winnie Comfort, a spokesperson for the Administrative Office of the Courts, says a panel of about 30 law librarians and trial court administrators has been taking a broad look at the operation of county law libraries and is expected soon to report its recommendations to the Judicial Council.

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