Massachusetts Trial Court Libraries: a resource for the general public

Welcome to the Massachusetts Trial Court Libraries.  I  recently attended a workshop there for librarians.

If you haven’t heard of them here’s the scoop:

17 libraries in all.  Began in 1842.  Set up for the public, not lawyers. Friendly and knowledgeable.  With regard to access to justice, there is a movement toward self-help centers.  Massachusetts Trial Court Libraries have become the de facto self-help centers.  Six ways to contact them – you can email, text, chat, call, instant message, or visit.  Free document delivery service – up to 3 free documents per day!  Get a free library card!  Must pick up in person.  No weekend hours.

Things to check out on their website: Go to

Their website pulls together free legal resources plus these databases you can access free with your  Trial Court library card!


Free databases (using your Trial Court Law Library card)

  • Heinonline  [1200 law journals, Supreme Court opinions back to 1700’s]
  • Retrieve Law  [Federal & full-text MA law]
  • Nolo books [full-text of Nolo Publisher books] to get you started in your legal topic.

Subject  guides or pathfinders with direct links to MGLA, (Mass. General Laws Annotated) relevant websites and print resources.  You’ll find a huge array of subjects such as: Guide dogs, Horses, Same-sex marriage, Pot holes, Workplace privacy, etc., etc.  These link you to websites, MGLA, and print materials.

Index of MA laws by Popular Name:  Example:  Melanie’s law and can find link to session laws for full-text.

The Government Printing Office’s Federal Digital System accesses official publications from all 3 branches of federal government.

Other helpful information:

Law –  Cornell University:  Federal, constitutional, primary laws, plus legal dictionaries & encyclopedias.

Law –  Library of Congress:

Federal Legislative info.  – Library of Congress:  http://thomas.loc.go  (our official state website) has alphabetical listing of all agencies’ websites & courts.

Mass Practice (Robbins Library has this set) contains individual treatises by expert authors in various subjects.

Nolo  Not good for searching specific laws, but great for delving into a legal topic.

National Consumer Law Center publications.  Mostly refers to Federal Law, but has foreclosure book, fair debt collection, etc.

Ever wonder how to translate cryptic legal citations?  All MA citations are put together the same way.

401         MA           1       [Volume, Title, Starting page]

 MGL      Ch 93A       §  1    [Title, Chapter, Section]

Need community legal assistance?  See the Attorney General’s website

To locate lawyers serving the public good:  see  where you can find attorneys for low income individuals. 

The ever-popular Legal Tactics: Tenants law in MA is now available in as an ebook in EPUB and Kindle format; you can download it for free here.

Some examples of must-have books held by the Trial Court Library system:

  • Unemployment Advocacy guide:  An advocate’s guide to unemployment in MA by Alan G. Rodgers
  • Greater Boston Legal Services 2012 -13 edition by Monica Hales
  • Food stamp/Snap Advocacy Guide by Patricia Baker
  • Stop foreclosure now by Lloyd Segal
  • Massachusetts Landlord survival guide by Philip S. Lapatin
  • Representing yourself in a civil case: Things to consider when going to court by the Judicial Institute
  • Every dog’s legal guide: a must-have book for your owner by Mary Randolph.

Have a legal question you’ve been endlessly grappling with and unsure of what to do next?  Drop by the Reference Desk. We cannot say “This means X” or advocate for people


We can give statute and case information to get you started.

See you soon.

Aside | This entry was posted in Databases and Research. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Massachusetts Trial Court Libraries: a resource for the general public

  1. Mary Gilbert says:

    Hey, this is hot stuff. Thanks. Mary Gilbert

  2. Mike Rich says:

    I have been touting the Massachusetts Trial Court Libraries in many contexts for years. It’s also good for lawyers. Your blog post will help me get the word out about some of the many resources that may be found there much more concisely than I have been able to.

  3. Get More Information says:

    Really desired to point out I am relieved
    I happened in your webpage.

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