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Law Library User's Guide: Reference

A guide to the services, collections, locations, policies and rules of the Law Library.

Reference Assistance

While the needs of the University of Iowa law students, faculty, and staff are first priority, the Reference Librarians also assist students, faculty, and staff campus-wide, as well as attorneys and members of the general public, in person or via telephone, e-mail, U.S. mail, or fax.

The Reference Desk, located on Level 2, the main floor of the Law Library, is staffed by a team of professional law librarians who assist patrons with their research needs. A Reference Librarian is available most of the hours the Law Library is open. Reference Librarians:

  • help patrons locate resources,
  • instruct patrons in the use of library materials and electronic resources,
  • suggest appropriate resources and research strategies,
  • look up readily available information, such as legal citation verifications, addresses or telephone numbers,
  • assist patrons with locating resources not found in the Law Library collection,
  • encourage patrons to make interlibrary loan requests, and
  • refer patrons to other libraries or institutions for materials.

Patrons may request reference assistance by telephone; however, individuals requesting assistance in person receive priority. Telephone assistance is limited by the Policy on Legal Research and Legal Advice; and by the availability of staff. The Reference Librarians cannot:

  • conduct legal research on patron’s behalf,
  • interpret the law,
  • provide legal advice,
  • read statutes, cases, court rules, or definitions over the phone, or confirm that resources currently are on the shelf and available to use.

Policy on Legal Research and Legal Advice

Reference librarians primarily serve the College of Law's students, faculty, and staff. Reference librarians also help attorneys and the general public, as time permits. However, reference librarians are not allowed to do research for public users, and may not give them legal advice. Public users are responsible for their own research.

Legal research is complicated and time-intensive. Simple questions can require complex analysis. Researching law, applying law to specific facts, and advising clients must be done by a licensed attorney meeting all Iowa State Bar requirements for operating a legal practice. Our reference librarians are highly qualified legal professionals, but they are not practicing attorneys.

Reference Librarians will locate legal resources and demonstrate their use. However, reference librarians are not allowed to conduct public users' research, nor may reference librarians analyze or interpret information found in library resources. In addition, reference librarians may recommend resources for finding an attorney, but are not allowed to recommend specific attorneys to public users.

Reference Collection

A reference collection of almanacs, encyclopedias, directories, dictionaries, yearbooks, and so forth, is located on Level 2 near the elevator.