By Sara Monalea McMahon
The eviction moratorium has created an abundance of questions from self-represented litigants (SRLs), and as a public law librarian I am writing to highlight some of the resources that we have here in the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries (TCLLs). At the Trial Court Law Libraries, we have multiple ways that SRLs can reach a librarian for access to information and resources as they navigate a housing court or eviction case. There are 15 library locations throughout the Commonwealth that SRLs are welcome to visit, where we have both print materials and online legal databases available to help litigants find information. Additionally, we have online reference services for patrons, including email reference and chat reference which is available on our website under “Ask A Librarian”. Using these electronic services, SRLs can communicate with a librarian about any questions they might have, and we will do our best to answer these questions by providing information.
The second valuable resource I would like to highlight is our “Law About” pages, where librarians have compiled the relevant laws and resources that we have for different subjects. Our “Law About Eviction” page, linked here, provides the relevant laws and various electronic and print materials that are available to help SRLs navigate the eviction process. Another “Law About” page that is available with helpful resources is our “Law About Covid-19”. The “Best Bets” section of that page has the latest laws, regulations, and Trial Court orders about eviction. Additionally, there is a “Housing and Utilities Resources” section with more relevant information for SRLs who are navigating a housing or eviction issue.
In addition to the TCLLs, the Trial Court of Massachusetts also offers Court Service Centers (CSCs). Currently the Court Service Centers are available to SRLs only virtually, but CSC staff will help fill out forms and provide information on court rules, procedures, and practices. They help SRLs on a first-come/first-serve, and are available from 9:00am to noon, Monday through Friday.
It is important to keep in mind that the pandemic has been especially challenging for those facing a housing crisis. As librarians, we are uniquely positioned to help those SRLs by providing them relevant information and resources. I’m happy to be a part of AALL where we can share with each other the tools that will strengthen our communities.
About the author: Sara Monalea McMahon is the Head Law Librarian of the Hampshire Law Library in Northampton, Massachusetts.