On the case

Supreme Court Library Queensland

Any fan of TV courtroom drama knows what it takes to make a hotshot lawyer. A law degree, naturally. A penchant for a good argument. And a pretty sizeable chunk of grey matter.

But there’s something else that real-life members of the legal profession need just as much. It’s information.

Let’s face it, even with the biggest brain and the quickest tongue in the world, it’d be just about impossible for a real-life Perry Mason to do his job without the help of a plethora of information resources—from case law and statutes to reports and court lists.

Luckily for members of the Australian judiciary and legal profession, staff at legal libraries across the country are on the case.

One such library, operating since 1862, is the Supreme Court Library Queensland—the key repository for legal information in that state. Here, the team works to ensure that members of the Queensland legal profession, as well self-represented litigants, the general public and community groups, can access the legal information they need.

Among them are collection management librarian Sean Pybus and collection management technicians Pippa Shaw and Michelle Clarke-Aro. They’re the behind-the-scenes staff who help develop and maintain the collection—cataloguing, weeding, making acquisition decisions, and providing support for the library’s satellite collections in regional areas across the state. Meanwhile, the information services team guides users of the library through the legal information jungle to find the resources they’re after—whether it’s case law, legislation, sentencing information, research papers or speeches.

But there’s more to the work of the library and its staff than helping people get access to resources for the practical work of administering justice. With its 155-year history, it’s probably not surprising that the library also has an important role in preserving Queensland’s legal heritage. Nestled in the collection is a good smattering of manuscripts, diaries, photographs, items of legal dress, oral history recordings and legal memorabilia. Exhibitions and displays, as well as a popular lecture series, are all part of educating the public about Queensland’s legal history.

Among the library’s fascinating historical items are sections of English Law Reports showing damage from the dramatic 1968 fire in the Supreme Court.

‘It just amazes me,’ says Pippa, ‘that these books, some from the 1800s, have survived so much, have been used by countless people and are still providing legal knowledge for our judiciary.’

 

Clockwise, from left: Michelle Clarke-Aro and Pippa Shaw; books in the library's collection; Pippa Shaw.

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