By Alan Kilpatrick, Reference Librarian
This article was originally published in the Benchers’ Digest, Volume 30, Issue 3.
The Law Society of Saskatchewan Library has been an innovator and a leader among Canadian law libraries since the 1970s. No history of our library is complete without acknowledging the vital role women played in leading the library and pioneering state-of-the-art information services that have made the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library a model to be emulated. It is fitting to recognize the contributions of women to the library.
Before the mid-1970s, the Law Society Library had never employed a professional librarian or library staff. In the early 1970s, the ground-breaking Freeman Report recognized that members desperately needed modern legal information services and recommended investment and professional staff for the library. In 1975, the library’s first ever professional librarian was hired in Regina, Judy Brennan, MLS. A few years later, in 1978, the first professional librarian was hired to run the Saskatoon Law Society Library, Sheila Ann Lidster, MLS.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the library assertively tackled the challenge of developing and providing modern information services to a different and rural province with limited funding and support. Thinking outside of the box, the staff extended information services to rural areas by telephone and fax machine network. Notably, the Regina Law Society Library became the first computerized courthouse library in North America. Peta Bates, MLS, a professional legal librarian from Toronto, took over the Saskatoon Branch in 1979, staying for more than thirty years. Pat Kelly, a trained library technician, soon joined her in 1982. Pat remains with the library to this day.
In the 1990s, online library databases were provided to members for a subscription fee through a toll-free dial up line: a technological feat described as state-of-the-art and a first among law society libraries in Canada by Iain Mentiplay in a Century of Integrity: The Law Society of Saskatchewan 1907 to 2007.
Susan Baer, MLIS, took on the directorship of the Law Society Library in 1998, and desktop access to online legal resources became a primary focus. In 2004, we because the first jurisdiction in Canada to provide our members with desktop access to Westlaw. As part of the Law Society of Saskatchewan’s early commitment to open access to the law and access to justice, the library’s in-house databases (Saskatchewan Cases, Saskatchewan Bills, Saskatchewan Regulations, and the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal Sentencing Digest) were made publicly accessible on the internet for free for members of the public and lawyers alike in 1999.
In 2012, Melanie Hodges Neufeld, BA, LLB, LLM, refocused the direction of the Law Society Library as the Director of Legal Resources. Under Melanie’s leadership, the number of online resources available to members on their desktop through the Members’ Section has skyrocketed, far exceeding that of other Canadian jurisdictions. CanLII’s free coverage of Saskatchewan case law nearly doubled as a result of a library-led digitization project. To provide meaningful information services, the library must continually change, evolve, and reflect. The Law Society Library remains committed to providing members with the latest legal resources in the most convenient digital formats.
Librarianship, mostly a female-dominated profession, has been and continues to be undervalued.
Librarians and library staff continue to be associated with inaccurate and sexist stereotypes disconnected from the busy and challenging reality of librarianship. It’s time to recognize the innovative and revolutionary services forged by the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library. It’s time for library staff to stand up and demand the recognition that they so well deserve.
Female Library Directors
Judy Brennan 1975-1977
Suzanne Gumprich 1998-1998
Susan Baer 1998-2008
Toby Willis-Camp 2008-2012
Melanie Hodges Neufeld 2012-Present
Female Library Staff
Shirley Hunard 1977-1981
Sheila Ann Lidster 1978-1979
Peta Bates 1979-2012
Judy Livingstone 1981-1986
Pat Kelly 1982-Present
Mary Tastad 1986-1988
Maxine Seeley 1986-2013
Kelly Chiu 1999-2018
Sarah Sutherland 2005-2006
Sarah Roussel-Lewis 2012-2017
Kelly Laycock 2013-2018
Jenneth Hogan 2013-2019
Christine Muldoon 2017-Present
Sara Stanley 2018-Present