CLARK COUNTY LAW LIBRARY
PO Box 5000
Vancouver WA 98666
February 23, 2005
To: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee:
Re: SB 5890 regarding county law library funding
Thank you for taking testimony on this bill yesterday. I didn’t get a chance to speak, and would
like to give the committee a little more information about this bill. I can also address some of the
questions that were raised.
1. Prices on books and materials are rising much faster than filing fee income
Due to mergers in the legal printing industry, the prices of books, internet subscriptions, and
other materials are increasing dramatically. To address Senator Johnson’s question, Clark
County has the second fastest population percentage increase in the state. Even with that, our
revenue increase from filing fees has been 23% over the last 7 years, or just over 3% per year.
Filing fee revenues: District Court Superior Court Total
1997 $30,348 $84,288 $114,636
1998 $32,169 $83,753 $115,922
1999 $29,331 $88,144 $117,475
2000 $32,388 $91,208 $123,596
2001 $28,932 $91,168 $120,100
2002 $31,306 $94,634 $125,940
2003 $30,314 $103,846 $134,160
2004 $32,203 $108,569 $140,772
A few sample price increases of materials that are critical to own:
Washington print shepards 44% increase in 2 years
RCWA pocket parts (these update the set) 37% increase in 2 years
USCA pocket parts 28% increase in 2 years
Due to the rapid price increases, Clark County Law Library cuts materials from the collection
each year. Even with our increase in filing fees, our purchasing power is reduced each year.
2. The law library has tried to raise revenue
1. We began charging a fee for attorneys who have an after hours access keycard which
allows them to use the library when it is closed.
2. We have produced two form packets, and sell those at a profit. We also reproduce
other materials for a discounted copy cost and sell those at the price people would pay
if they copied them in the library.
3. We charge for printing off the computer.
4. We make a small amount of money from the copiers.
The library currently gets 7-8% of its total annual revenue from self-generated sources.
3. The public, as well as many local attorneys, court staff, and inmates rely on the law
My primary users are members of the public with a case pending. I answered 3,535 reference
questions last year. Of those, 85% were from non lawyers. I hear comments regularly from
people who cannot afford an attorney, or even pay the $10 fee to see the court facilitator for help
with family law issues.
The collection agencies who testified against the bill say they don’t use the library and shouldn’t
have to pay for it. However, I see people each week who are defending collection cases, which
is a direct result of collection cases filed.
4. We offer materials that are not available anywhere else
You can find basic primary materials such as the RCW, WAC, and case law free on the internet.
But there is nothing free on the internet that helps people interpret the information, or apply it, or
offers forms that will help them.
1. The case law that is available free lacks head notes that summarize the legal points in
2. It allows a search by key words but does not allow a search by legal issue.
3. There is nothing available free that tells them if a case is still good law.
5. Computer resources complement, but do not replace, books
Senator Carrell referred to counties that have only computer resources. There are some low-cost
subscription internet services that are probably what he is referring to, such as Loislaw.
However, services such as that are far less useful than Westlaw, as they lack the following:
1. Loislaw does not have editorial features such as headnotes which summarize the legal
points of a case.
2. Loislaw lacks the ability to indicate whether a case is still good law.
3. Loislaw offers only the ability to search by term, not by legal concept. West has a
“key number system” which allows you to search by legal issue rather than just by
4. Loislaw lacks substantial subject treatise access.
Clark County Law Library has Westlaw. I used to have Loislaw and prior to that had CD Law. I
can tell you that Westlaw is the most useful service we have had.
Computer resources are often helpful, but they do not function as a replacement for books. For
one thing, internet subscriptions are also very expensive. My law library pays over $1200 per
month for Westlaw subscriptions, and that only includes selected databases. In addition, you
need to pay for and maintain computers, printers, etc.
Many patrons are not computer literate, some to the extent that they have never used a mouse
before. It takes a lot of staff time to help someone use a computer. I can show someone how to
find the same types of information in books more quickly, and people can figure out how to use
the books more easily, because it is easier to see what you are doing. On a screen people get
Last week I had a man come in who was doing some research to defend himself against a
collection lawsuit. He used 9 different books while he was in the library, only about half of
which contained information he could have found on-line.
I have a man representing himself who has been coming in regularly. He was working on an
appeal in his case. He used many materials in the law library that are not online, such a couple
of books about appeals, a set of books called Words and Phrases that locates cases that define a
certain term, the annotated court rules that supply explanations and forms for court rules, as well
as looked at briefs that I have to see the format and style.
As the library makes further cuts each year, the ability of these people to find what they need
I did a survey recently about whether people were able to find what they needed online, or at the
public library, or at the law library. One of the people who filled out my survey wrote the
following in the comments section: “the library and the librarian have been invaluable to me as I
have been working to defend myself as a pro se litigant. This is the one place in this courthouse
where I can depend on competent, proactive assistance and information in navigating the legal
maze of (non-family related) civil procedure.”
And that is why the county law libraries need more funding. We are providing a valuable
component of the average person’s access to justice. With each price increase, and each
subsequent budget cut, our ability to help the community with their legal needs is diminished.
I would be delighted to answer any questions you may have.
Clark County Law Librarian