Public Law Libraries
Although government-maintained law libraries were open to the public for over a century, under the direction of Charles Dyer, the San Diego County Public Law Library was the first to include the word “Public” in its name. That reflected the great change in emphasis, indeed in mission, that most public law libraries have had to make as their clientele has changed from mostly attorneys to mostly public citizens who represent themselves in court. With that change, the demands on the public law library are now different. Reference services need to be improved as more library patrons come unprepared to do legal research. Materials intended for use by self-represented litigants must take a priority in purchasing.
Yet during that same period, the public law library’s research collection has also changed, as hard copy publications of reporters, statutes, and supplemented treatises are now being replaced by online subscriptions. Unfortunately, the costs for these publications have increased dramatically in two ways: The online costs, which include rental of an entire database, are significantly higher than the costs of additional volumes to supplemented hard copy sets of volumes, while the costs to maintain supplemented hard copy sets are rising much faster than inflation. In addition, the law libraries must add significant computer terminals and networks in order to handle the increasing load and avoid long cues at workstations. Also, for those without computer skills, a significant amount of training in using computers must now be added to the time requirements of the reference staff.
Having coped well with these transitions for the past twenty years, among its many honors, the San Diego County Public Law Library won the Distinguished Organization Award from the San Diego County Bar Association in 2004, near the end of Charles Dyer’s tenure as director there. Having been the compiler and primary author of the Sourcebook for Law Library Governing Boards and Committees (American Association of Law Libraries Publication #45, 1994), Charles Dyer has become a mentor to many other public law library directors. While knowledgeable in all facets of public law librarianship, he is most noted for his work in these areas:
- Library Organization. Library organization is similar to business organization, with many translatable features, but some peculiarities. There are many possible organizations, but a library’s organization should first reflect its mission and then reflect its resources, the most important of which is the capabilities of individual staff.
- Board Relations. Whether an administrative board or an advisory board, the amount of hands-on work, as opposed to general policy decisions, will be based on the size of the library and the professionalization of its staff. Charles Dyer has written and lectured extensively on his rules for effective communication to (and from) board members, so that the board does not waste its time and faces important issues.
- Administration. The two parts to administration are the direct lines of authority necessary for any bureaucratic organization, with appropriate rules, and the crossing of lines, through teams and inter-departmental efforts that promote creativity and the inculcation of library culture. In addition, there are the unspoken power structures created by the confluence of different personality types. All these can be coordinated with both theoretical knowledge and practical advice that Charles Dyer can provide.
- Budgeting. In critical times, with funds too tight to allow for misuse, budgeting is the necessary element through which the library’s mission is either accomplished or missed. Adequate budgetary planning requires thorough analysis and an understanding of cost and funding trends. Charles Dyer is thoroughly versed in a wide variety of budgeting techniques, having worked with several different techniques, both in-house and those given from higher administration. He also is well acquainted with various auditing standards, including those for public entities, as well as those for both profit and non-profit entities.
- Staff Development and Personnel. Good hiring procedures that find the right person for the job, training and supporting that person, and evaluating that person, all these are elements of staff development. Proper disciplinary rules and conduct promote better employee environments and understanding. Core and advanced competencies are key to strengthening a staff.
- Goal Setting. Charles Dyer is well-versed in a variety of management techniques that promote proper goal setting and planning, including strategic planning, long-range planning, knowledge management, TQM, Balance Scorecard, and others. He understands their valid uses and their shortcomings. He can serve either as organizer, mentoring consultant, or facilitator for group activities, as needed.
- Marketing. Marketing entails both public relations and customer focus. Various instruments help determine customer needs, changing goals, and appropriate marketing tools. A marketing and public relations plan is a necessity for any modern library. Charles Dyer has had both training and practical experience in conducting focus groups, surveys, newsletters (including email newsletters), press releases, and similar organs. He can also aid in helping a library staff learn to handle and avoid bad publicity.
- Collection Development. Attuning a public law library's book collection and online resources to the needs of its community of users is a several step process. Goal setting and marketing set the initial directional factors, while budget considerations must, of course, inform the process. Public law libraries of more than a minimal size should have a collection development policy. Public law libraries of more than a modest size should also have an acquisitions and serials control system capable of providing management reports in order to assess how well the goals are obtained through the library's considered distribution of its carefully monitored budget. Charles Dyer has consulted and trained many librarians in this work throughout his career.
- Fund Raising. While at the San Diego County Public Law Library, Charles Dyer oversaw the dramatic increase in fund raising by its supporting charity, the Law Library Justice Foundation. Trained by the University of Indiana’s Center for Philanthropy, Charles knows what works and does not work with respect to private giving to law libraries. He has also developed and received (for both his library and himself as a researcher) many grants, both from private foundations and from governmental entities, and can train a law library staff in grantsmanship.
- Space Planning. Throughout his career, Charles Dyer has worked on space planning issues for law libraries, both those he directed and others on a consulting basis. From strategic planning, financing, and architectural charrettes, through requesting and awarding proposals, through working with other governmental, foundations, and capital campaigns, through contracting, inspecting construction, occupying, and moving libraries, Charles has done it all. He has taken courses with such notable experts as Aaron Cohen and Bill Sannwald. He has also devised and executed plans for major renovations, including re-organizing collections to fit modern technologies, such as scanning appellate brief collections.