MSLL Logo 2000 Annual Report

Technical Services

Dennis Skrade, Head of Technical Services Highly Technical Services

The Technical Services Department of the Library is responsible for the ordering, receiving and cataloging of books and other media for the Library's collection. In addition, the Department catalogs for ten county law libraries throughout Minnesota. The Department serves as a micropublisher of Minnesota appellate courts briefs for county and academic law libraries.

Twenty years ago, this process was done entirely manually. Today, computers are used for ordering, tracking costs, cataloging, labeling and processing. In some cases the books themselves can be read only by using a computer. In the future, we anticipate more ordering by computer, a serials/periodicals check-in system, and the continuing challenge of different formats for information (DVDs, etc.).

How Would You Like Your Book Today?

In reality, the Library collection is not only books. Other formats, including pamphlets, microfiche (first cataloged in 1981), videotapes and CD-ROMs (both first cataloged in 1990), and Internet websites (first cataloged in 1998) are all part of the Library collection. Departmental staff is continually assessing how we can make sure our patrons know about all of our resources. How we catalog these items and provide access is only one question raised by these formats. When ordering materials, we need to balance issues such as cost, space, user-friendliness and stability (for our archival collection we need technology that will last and paper is a good medium for this!). Electronic format items added to our collection in 1999 totaled 114 and soared to 464 in 2000. Ordering legal materials now is more complex than ever before, and the future promises more challenges with the DVD format, more Internet products and perhaps technologies as yet unknown.

Books Are Still Our Bread And Butter

Technology has changed many procedures in the Library and made searching books and indices simpler and more powerful. Nevertheless, at our Library the vast majority of the collection is still in print form and is likely to stay that way. The Library collects judicial opinion reporters, as well as statutes for all fifty states. Because of this commitment, and the fact that few states have competitive publishers of these publications, we are at the mercy of publisher price increases. In the past several years, these ongoing subscriptions have consumed an ever-increasing portion of our materials budget. We have cancelled many titles and spend an enormous amount of time devising ways to save costs in order to maintain the integrity of these core collections. Also, as money permits, our preservation program continues to bind selected distressed volumes.

Better Living Through Catalog Access

Cataloging statistics for 2000 (4544 items cataloged) show a marked increase over 1999 (1359 items). This is due to the cataloging of our government documents collection (government documents were cataloged only sporadically before). Better catalog access will increase the use of this important legal collection. We cataloged 1240 titles for county law libraries last year. With the coming of MnLINK, we will realize a long-time dream: an online catalog of legal resources that extends statewide and includes law libraries and state agency libraries, as well as public and private institutions.

Logo What's Up Docs?

The Library is a selective government depository and has developed a unique program in which we share documents with 23 state agency libraries. We obtain government documents from GPO and disburse them to these libraries for a very modest processing fee. The Department processed 8242 documents in 2000. Of that number, fiche accounted for 4813 pieces or over half. Librarians follow the U.S. Congress closely with regards to funding of the Government Publications Office. When funding decreases, we fear that less material will be available to the public through the GPO Federal Depository Program. In recent years, many Government Publications have been transferred to microfiche, and lately to the Internet. How this will affect long-term access to these items is a topic of lively debate among librarians. At the Library we place direct links into our online catalog (e.g.,, so if a document is available on the Internet, the patron simply has to click on the link in the catalog record and jump directly to the document. The Library is also a full depository for state documents.

What's So Special?

We are proud of our special collections of rare and unique books, which currently totals approximately 1900 volumes - with a few volumes added each year. One of the gems of this collection is a selection of books concerning trials by and large from the United Kingdom and the United States. Most interesting is the almost complete set of 'British Notable Trials', which is a wonderful historical set of volumes. We instituted our first annual Governor Elmer L. Andersen Rare Books Lecture on November 2, 2000. Our first presenter was Doug Thompson, a renowned St. Paul defense lawyer, speaking on “Whiskey and Wisdom from the Bar.” Mr. Thompson used many of the resources available in Special Collections in preparation for his lecture. Some other special collections at the Library are:

  • The most extensive historical collection of Minnesota agency rules and regulations.
  • The Minnesota Justice Series, which compiles articles, photos, newspaper accounts, letters, commendations, judicial opinions, and essays by and about retired Supreme Court Justices.
  • The official depository for the
    • State Justice Institute,
    • Council of Appellate Staff Attorneys, and
    • Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission.

99 Volumes Of Briefs On The Wall
Since 1982 the Library has bound and microfiched Minnesota appellate court briefs. We receive a copy of the brief for each published opinion: the Library then binds and microfiches them and make them available for the public and our patrons. In the year 2000, 99 volumes of briefs were bound. The Library is proud to own paper copies of Minnesota Supreme Court briefs, commencing with the very first opinions issued in 1867. This collection now includes Court of Appeals briefs dating from the court's creation in 1983. Briefs for cases currently before the courts are also available. Of great import in 2000 was the transfer of one early set of these valuable briefs to the Archives Center at the University of Minnesota. The Library currently archives a set of briefs in microfiche (beginning with volume 300 of North Western Reporter, Second Series) with the Department of Administration. Storing a second set of hardbound volumes and microfiche off-site is good disaster planning and something the Library has sought for years. The second set of these volumes is available for interlibrary loan and accessible to more potential patrons.

MnLINK Logo Getting More Connected
In the days before telephones and computers, your local library was often your entire universe of knowledge. Today, the Minnesota Legislature has mandated a statewide library catalog system. This means a patron in Black Duck, Minnesota, can access the online library catalog, locate material in libraries throughout the state, place his or her own interlibrary loan request, and a few days later pick up the items right there in Black Duck. This level of connection and cooperation was only dreamed of twenty years ago. In preparation for this new system (MnLINK), The Library has cleaned up the collection, discarded out-of-date books, barcoded each item, and edited the online catalog. Soon, the paper-and-pencil checkout we know so well will be replaced by an automated system, we'll track our periodicals with the new system, and patrons will be notified electronically of books overdue or being held for them. For more information, visit the MnLINK website at

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This page was posted on May 2, 2001.