Join me and Joanne Vandestreek — the law librarian of the William D. Block Memorial Law Library — as we discuss how the law library is not for lawyers only, but for any citizen who needs legal help. Ms. Vandestreek walks us through the print and on-line resources available, and we discuss the Center for Self-Representation!

Joanne Vanderstreek is the law librarian at the William D. Block Memorial Law Library at the Lake County Courthouse located at 18 North County Street in Waukegan. The Law Library is not just for lawyers, but serves any citizen seeking legal information. There are many resources, both print and online, for lawyers and the public.

Vanderstreek was born and raised in Waukegan. She attended Northwestern University as an art history major. She developed her interest in working as a librarian when she had a work-study job in one of the university libraries. Her first job after college was working in the law library of a private law firm in Chicago. Though she enjoyed that work, she missed interacting with the public. She subsequently moved to Utah and obtained a job with the State of Utah Law Library as a reference librarian. She also received her Master’s in Library Science while in Utah. In 2014, Vanderstreek returned to Lake County to become the Law Librarian in Lake County.

Vanderstreek stated that there are many resources, both print and online, for both lawyers and the public at the Law Library. The Law Library has 5 public computers with access to legal databases such as WestLaw for legal research as well as print resources such as AmJur, Illinois Civil Practice and IICLE (Illinois Institute of Continuing Legal Education) manuals which cover a variety of legal issues. Additionally, the Law Library contains many court forms for pro se litigants. Though the staff at the Law Library cannot give legal advice, they can assist patrons by educating them about the resources available at the Library and giving them the information they need so that they can represent themselves in a legal matter. In addition to the public computers, patrons can photocopy and fax documents at the Law Library. Only lawyers, however, can check out books from the Law Library.

The most common issues that citizens ask about at the Law Library are family law, post-judgment orders and general civil matters. Vanderstreek and her staff can point Law Library visitors to forms and resources. Some helpful resources can be found at the websites of the Illinois Supreme Court, Illinois Legal Aid and the Northern District Court of Illinois.

In addition to Vanderstreek and her staff, a senior clerk and paralegal, there are volunteers through the Justice Corps who are available at the Courthouse to assist visitors to the Law Library. Vanderstreek and her staff can refer such visitors to these volunteers to help with court forms.

Though the Courthouse can be an intimidating place for many, Vanderstreek and her staff, strive to help visitors to the Law Library access the many legal resources available. The Law Library is open to the public and is a great place to start if you have a legal issue you want to resolve.