Last October the city of Sarasota ejected the Sarasota County Law Library from its home on Adams Lane. A fraction of its assets were moved to the second floor of the downtown Selby Library, far from the courthouse.
At Monday’s Criminal Justice Commission meeting, Court Administrator Walt Smith admitted there is still no permanent home in sight. “It was foisted on the Selby Library, but they really don’t have enough space,” he said.
“The Law Library Advisory Council met a couple of times with county officials, but so far nothing has come up,” said Smith. “Either it is not a good space, or not a good location, or the rental cost is too high.”
The city moved the library out to create a health clinic for its employees on the city-owned site. During a mad scramble last autumn, Law Librarian Roger Fischel was told to pare down the collection and move it to the Selby. Hundreds of volumes of old law books – some dating to the Nineteenth Century – we put in a overflowing dumpster, and other volumes were given away to all takers.
Smith himself found a slim volume of the Sarasota City Code, circa 1920s – a far smaller compilation than today’s bookshelf-long regulations.
Others were boxed with the intention of reshelving at the new location, which so far has not materialized. Smith says he will brief the county commission on Oct. 26, along with Chief Judge Andy Owens and other members of the advisory board.
Public Defender Larry Eger suggested the county really doesn’t need a dead-tree version of a law library because all the references, citations and statutes are on the internet. “When we moved to our new space in Manatee County, we got rid of our law library,” said Eger. “What I can get on my phone now is incredible.”
But Owens, who chairs the commission as the circuit’s chief judge, disagreed. “About half the usage [at the law library] is lay people. They are not able to do the research on-line,” he said. “We need a certain core of basic books. And a lot of attorneys use it.” Owens agreed most of the material is on-line, but is not understandable to non-lawyers.
Criminal Justice Coordinator Wayne Applebee said he spoke with county library officials to see if the law library could be integrated into the public library system. “We decided the missions are too incompatible,” he said. “Where do we move next?”
The old law library on Adams lane had 5,000 linear feet of shelving, almost a mile of books. At the Selby, it has 400 linear feet.