Patrons Are Asking For It

Patrons are asking for it.

  • Do you have this book?”
  • Where can I find this information?
  • How can I use a computer?

and (the most important question for many in our community)

  • Can YOU help me use the computer to do…?

Staff at the Alameda County Law Library, because it is a public library, regularly answers these more traditional types of library questions.  We also answer not-so-traditional, issue–specific information questions related to law.  Public librarians at a city public library, such as the Oakland Public Library, stretch the furthest across the information universe.  Those of us who work at subject-focused special libraries, like ACLL, can go deep into a topic.  ACLL’s focus is on legal information – local, California, federal – but that still has us covering quite a bit of information territory.

Libraries disseminate information.  ACLL staff members are experienced in helping people find, retrieve, and share legal information – via a page in a book, a view on a computer screen, a download to a USB, or an attachment to an email.  Our job not only involves finding the text of information but assisting a patron in the delivery of the information to a file or to others.  What patrons do with the information is up to them.  Librarians do not provide a legal interpretation for any information retrieved since that would be providing legal advice.

What kinds of questions are we asked at ACLL?  Most of our patrons are non-attorneys (about 80%), so it is no surprise that one of the more popular questions is along the lines of “how can I talk to an attorney for free?”   We do not have attorneys on staff at ACLL but we provide information on legal aid organizations, area clinics, and FAQs written by attorneys.  ACLL currently administers the countywide program, Lawyers in the Library.  It is a legal aid program that provides 20-minute free consultations with volunteer members of the CA State Bar.

At ACLL, questions involving civil law and court procedures are asked at about a 4 to 1 ratio in comparison to criminal law questions.  Questions range from the basic “How do I file a lawsuit?” to “I need the form to complete something called a writ of mandate.”  In the law library, as in life, some simple questions do not have simple answers.  Family law comes next on the list of frequently asked about topics.  Family law covers marriage, divorce, child custody, and financial support.  Modern families come in many varieties.  The law is constantly adapting to the realities of our societal units and interactions.  Facebook posts used as evidence in a contested marital dissolution matter would be a case in point.  We have patrons on both sides of the issues for landlord-tenant cases (which include unlawful detainer actions and evictions.)  Real estate or real property ownership questions are popular, whether it is adding a person’s name to property or an issue with a neighbor’s fence.

Much staff effort is directed at trying to sort out the issues from the facts and emotions during the reference interview to allow staff to direct patrons to the most helpful resource.  Families can have other types of issues between members that are outside the area of “family law” as the courts and codes define it.  Patrons might need to be directed towards probate or trusts and estates materials.  (Fold family emotional issues into real property matters then mix well with trusts and estates procedures.  Careful, it is combustible.)

Reference librarians love an interesting question – one that makes them say – “That’s a new one on me.”  There are too many of these interesting topics handled by the ACLL librarians to list them all but the chart below summarizes the topics most frequently asked over the past few years here at ACLL.


Alameda County Superior Court Criminal Case Documents

Alameda County Superior Court criminal case documents

The public may now view criminal case information including non-confidential case documents via the Odyssey Portal at the Rene C. Davidson courthouse, Room 107.  No copying or downloading services are provided for the case documents.

The court does provide public internet access to the Odyssey records system but public internet access does not allow for viewing of case documents.

Case information is available only for cases that have had any activity since 2005.  This service is free and members of the public are not required to register.

Copies of non-confidential criminal case documents may be ordered online through the Criminal Record Requests portal.  The copies will be mailed or emailed to you.  Use this link –

Voter’s Edge For The Upcoming June 5 Primary

The California Statewide Primary Election is on June 5.

You can find unbiased election information from the website of Voter’s Edge California, which is hosted by the California State Library.  Voter’s Edge California is a joint project of MapLight and the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund (LWVCEF).  It is a comprehensive, nonpartisan online guide to elections – covering all state-wide and local races in California.  The guides are available in English and Spanish.

By entering your zip code and street address, you can review information on the candidates and ballot measures you will be voting on in June.  Individualized information for voters can be generated by searching HERE

For many offices, there are multiple candidates in the race.  The two candidates who get the most votes in the primary election appear in the general election in November.  This is because of California’s “top two” system.  In some cases, the two candidates may be from the same political party.  The Voter’s Edge system allows you to sort through this extensive amount of information and create a voting reference list without leaving the database.  You can review the candidates’ statements, as well as, a list of top contributors for those candidates who have conducted political fundraising.


Make A Plan – IMMI

Immi has a new resource to help people who are worried about immigration enforcement.  Make A Plan helps families and individuals be more prepared for an emergency, such as detention or deportation. It helps families stay together, manage assets, and make other arrangements. Try it today in English and in Spanish.

Free Upcoming Webinar:

Immi+Family: Make A Plan
Thursday, April 5th at 2 pm Eastern / 1 pm Central / 12 pm Mountain / 11 am Pacific

Learn about Make A Plan, a tool that helps families and individuals be more prepared for immigration detention or deportation. To register for our free 30 minute webinar, click here.


AmazonSmile Triple Donation

3x your impact! Amazon is tripling the donation rate on your first purchase – through March 31!  Go to and Amazon donates to Alameda County Law Library.

The AmazonSmile triple donation promotion has started! Amazon is tripling the donation amount to 1.5% when customers make their first eligible purchase from March 12 – 31.  We want to remind you that this is a great opportunity to increase Alameda County Law Library’s AmazonSmile donations by shopping at

Additional details about the promotion are available at the promotion detail page.

Thank you!