Association of Boston Law Librarians 
Ann DiLoreto, M.L.S. Chair 1983 

Organizational Policy 
Professional Development 
The Collection

Information Services

Records and Procedures 


These standards and attached procedures are intended to aid private firm libraries of all sizes in providing the most accurate, complete, timely and professional information resources and services possible. They were drafted by the Professional Standards Committee of the Association of Boston Law Librarians (Ann DiLoreto, chair.) The Association of Boston Law Librarians on November 9, 1984, accepted these STANDARDS FOR PRIVATE FIRM LIBRARIES. It is hoped that they will guide all those in businesses relying on information services: lawyers, business men and women, accountants, bankers and librarians, and assist in effective management and use of their information resources. 

Top of page



These standards apply only to private firm libraries (hereafter called "libraries"). Firm libraries are defined as law firms, business, accounting firm, or bank libraries, or any library serving the legal reference needs of the professional staff of these organizations. Private firm librarian (hereafter called "librarian") is the person responsible to management for the operation of the library. Assistant librarian performs responsible functions and reports to the librarian. Library assistant, library technician or library clerk (hereafter called "para-professional") performs clerical tasks for the library. Qualifications for these positions are delineated under "Staff. " 

Top of page



The library should be recognized by the organization, library staff, and users as an integral and essential part of the whole. A suitable framework within the parent body is essential. It should: 

a) delineate clear lines of responsibility and communication within the organization as whole. 

b) provide for the making and amending of general policy and the means of implementing that policy. 

c) provide for the proper management of finance, personnel matters and physical plant. 

d) provide the librarian with clear lines of authority from either a library committee or a senior member of the organization. 

The categories of persons entitled to use the library (here-after called "users") should be clearly defined. The librarian should be permitted to use discretion, subject to the rules of the organization, regarding the admittance of others. 

The librarian should ensure that the highest possible level of service is provided to users. The library staff should be aware of users' interests and provide the appropriate service. 

Recognized channels of communication between the library and its users should exist. The library staff should seek users' views on the library's services, and procedures should exist to make those views known. 

Top of page



The library should be directed by a librarian with a graduate degree in Library/Information Science from a library school accredited by the American Library Association and two years of demonstrated ability in librarianship. An advanced degree in the subject area of the firm (such as a J. D. ) is a welcome addition to the library degree. 

The library should be supported by an adequate staff. An assistant librarian should have the same educational qualifications of the librarian. A para-professional does not have a library degree but should have education beyond the high school level. Staff size should be adequate to serve the information needs of the organization. 

The librarian should be: 

a) a member of a library committee and any other committee dealing with matters likely to affect library finances or services. 

b) fully informed of all policy changes and developments within the organization. 

c) consulted on all matters affecting the library. 

The librarian should be responsible for: 

a) cataloging and classification of library materials including memoranda of law and other appropriate documents of substantial research value. 

b) guiding library users in their use of the collection and informing users of available library services. 

c) formulating and implementing records systems and procedures including acquisition and collection development policies (See Appendix) . 

d) recruiting, training, and supervising any necessary library staff and compiling and maintaining a staff manual. 

e) preparing necessary reports on library expenses and services including an annual budget. 

f) preparing a statement of policy and rules written with consultation of the library committee or a senior member of the organization, as well as its implementation. 

g) keeping current in the developments in law, librarianship, and on-line data base publishing and research through literature and participation in professional groups and educational programs. 

Top of page



The library staff should actively support the Constitution, By-laws and Code of the American Association of Law Libraries and those of other professional associations relevant to their work. 

The library staff should be encouraged and helped to improve proficiency in library computer applications, library procedures and use of legal materials. 

The library staff should attend pertinent courses, conferences and meetings. The organization should pay necessary expenses. 

Paraprofessionals should be encouraged to obtain further educational qualifications and skills relevant to their work. Financial aid should be considered. 

Top of page



Salaries for staff should parallel those reported by the local chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries and other professional associations for similar positions in comparable organizations. They should reflect qualifications, experience and performance. 

Top of page



The library should provide a collection of useful and relevant titles including a range of bibliographic tools selected from standard recommended sources 

a) The library should provide an adequate collection of primary materials and finding aids relating to federal and California law 

b) In addition, each library should provide secondary materials: textbooks, treatises, commentaries, restatements, periodicals and reference tools relating to topics or jurisdictions of particular interest to the institution which it serves 

c) The collection should include current materials (and older materials, when advisable) in the areas in which the firm practices. The librarian should consult the members of the firm, accepted printed sources, and other librarians to determine the value of the treatise to the collection and whether it should be purchased. 

d) Nonbook materials, including on-line databases, microfilms, slides, tapes, etc. are valuable items of a library collection. If microfilm is used with any frequency, a reader-printer should be provided. Materials in frequent use should not be in microfilm alone. 

e) As much of the collection as possible should be allowed to circulate, with an appropriate record kept of who is using the materials. It may, however, be necessary to restrict some materials to use in the library only. Other materials should circulate for a limited time only. 

f) Photocopying facilities should always be provide in or near the library. Current copyright laws should be strictly observed. Copyright notices should be displayed at all points where photocopying machines are operative. 

Top of page


As the information center of the organization, the library should be the first source for all information needs. Requests for reference and research services can be satisfied most effectively and efficiently through the library. Individuals who do not know exactly what they need or if it even exists should first consult the librarian. In addition to providing the usual information services, the library staff should also undertake custom research and preparation of special information packages. 

The library staff should be able to satisfy requests for information and material promptly. If the librarian cannot satisfy the information request within the organization's resources, the librarian should attempt to obtain the information elsewhere. 

The librarian(s) should be trained in on-line research and aware of new developments in the field. They should be familiar with the format and content of databases which may be of interest to their users. The necessary on-line systems should be available within the library; if not, the librarian should be aware of outside sources. The librarian should determine whether or not an on-line search is the best method to satisfy an information request. In diagnosing user needs for information, the librarian should identify sources, perform searches, and evaluate the yield of data searches (but not analysis the data) . The librarian should also instruct and assist users in on-line searching. 

In response to an inquiry the librarian should present information without discrimination or bias, allowing the inquirer to draw individual conclusions. Library staff should not engage in the unauthorized practice of law or provide opinions or give advice outside the province of the information retrieved. (See A.A.L.L. Code of Ethics in A.A.L.L. Private Law Library Directory). 

The confidentiality of the firm's clients should not be compromised through the use of another firm's librarian or library. The librarian(s) should be aware of any possible conflict of interest which may arise in these situations. 

The library staff should continually be responsive to the information needs of its users and should draw the users' attention to any item of information likely to be of value to them. Depending on the size of the collection the library should maintain or implement the following records and procedures: 

Top of page


Order Records: a written system of recording orders is essential. The order record should be regularly checked. Full bibliographic information should include order date, source of request, title, publisher, data received, price, invoice number, date paid, etc. 

Continuation and pocket parts, should be recorded upon receipt. The record should allow the tracing of missing items and should display the library's holdings. Its construction should be permit deletions, additions, amendments and re-arrangements, such as a visible records file. Additional related information should be included, e. g. subscription costs, suppliers' addresses, and instructions to be observed in handling a publication. 

Catalog: the library should provide a convenient and accessible catalog of its holdings and their locations in a form that will be easily understood by users. The catalog should be accessible by author, title and subject. Regular updating of the catalog is essential. A subject authority list, cataloging and filing rules are essential. 

Shelf List: the library should provide an up-to-date record of the order of the books on the shelves for inventory purposes. A microfilm record should be available for insurance purposes. 

Accounts: the maintenance of good records of expenditures is essential. Financial information is needed by the librarian in assessing current and future financial requirements; by the library committee; by the parent body; and in some cases by the auditors. All expenditure records should be contained in the same file and should be organized in a manner which allows maximum access to information. 

Circulation Records: records of books borrowed and loaned should be kept for statistical purposes. 

On-line Use Record: a record of use of computer research Amendments to this document will comply with Article VI of the by-laws of the Association of Boston Law Librarians. Services should be maintained and tabulated regularly. 

Library User Manual: written procedures should be established for all major routine operations in order to insure consistency, regularity and continuity of performance. A manual on the use of the library should be compiled and kept up-to-date. Procedures concerning all records should be reviewed from time to time. 

Staff Procedures Manual: the library should maintain a staff manual setting out all the library procedures in detail. Each procedure should note the purpose of each activity, and should provide illustrative examples, i. e. , the actual form in use for a particular routine, a layout of a catalog entry, etc. 

Processing: all library acquisitions should be marked with the stamp or label of ownership, location and cataloging label. Upon dismissal an item should be marked with a withdrawal stamp. 

Accession Record: this numerically lists every volume acquired by the library in order of receipt, together with other details necessary for identification. 

Library Files: correspondence, and records of library administration, information contract, publishers, etc. , should be filed systematically. 

Shelf Reading: shelves should be read regularly for correct placement of books and to identify lost items. The library staff should re-shelve at least daily. Books should be kept clean and in good repair and bound when necessary. Loose-leaf supplements, pocket parts and other supplements should be filed as soon as possible. 

Library Newsletter: the library staff should regularly circulate lists of new acquisitions, new databases, etc. 

Indexing: the librarian(s) should index the work product of the firm, including memoranda, and other appropriate documents of substantial research value. 

Routing: the library staff should maintain a routing list of serials and route materials as received. Current awareness lists for individuals should be considered. 

Interlibrary Loan: the library staff should maintain an efficient inter-library loan service. Arrangements should be made for users who wish consult material not available on loan, without placing an unreasonable burden on another firm's librarian. 


These Standards were developed by the Professional Standards Committee of the Association of Boston Law Libraries, Ann DiLoreto, M.L.S. Chair, in 1983. Ann is founder and principal consultant of Legal Information Management, providers of law practice support system and library automation consulting since 1984. 

1. Concordance accepts 2/1/99 or 020199 or 990201 or 19990201. DB/TextWorks will accept any form of date including dates with alphabetic month information, abbreviated or not.
2. Concordance assumes two digit years are between 1950 and 2050. 

Top of page

Return to Resources Page


Please email questions and comments to Ann DiLoreto at
 Legal Information Management or call (800) 898-6468

1999-2000 Legal Information Management. All rights reserved.   Updated May 12, 2000