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Published January 26, 2024
Law librarian Tawnya Plumb works to raise awareness of legal resources around the state.
By Micaela Myers
Across Wyoming, many people represent themselves in legal matters, often due to lack of options and money. Other times, residents want to research legal issues to learn more. However, these folks run into two barriers. First, professionals such as local librarians may not provide “legal advice.” Second, the only two public law libraries in the state are located in the southeast corner — in Laramie and Cheyenne.
Because of this issue, Tawnya Plumb, director of the University of Wyoming’s George W. Hopper Law Library, wanted to dedicate her 2020 sabbatical to outreach by working with libraries across the state to provide resources and discuss how to safely direct the legal inquiries they receive.
She applied for a grant from Equal Justice Wyoming Foundation and earned additional funding as a fellow for UW’s Office of Engagement and Outreach.
“I strongly believe in the land-grant university’s mission to serve the state,” Plumb says. “There is a state, individual and court need for this work. We struggle in Wyoming with folks who cannot afford legal representation and represent themselves in the courts. The courts need support to help these litigants who may not be prepared. The more prepared people are, the more efficient the courts are. There’s a benefit to the community because people can find the help they need, whether it’s affordable representation or access to information.”
For example, the College of Law offers a number of free legal clinics to help those in need. Part of her work included spreading the word about these great resources.
Since her sabbatical, Plumb has continued her outreach. The Law Library also recently hired a dedicated public services librarian, Tracey McCormick.
“Her extensive background in teaching and advocacy will help us grow our access to justice initiatives,” Plumb says.
Plumb’s article “Access to Justice: Legal Research on the Road” published in the peer-reviewed national librarian journal Public Services Quarterly earned the American Association of Law Libraries Excellence in Community Engagement Award in 2021. The work was also presented on campus and at the Western Pacific Chapter of American Association of Law Libraries from 2020 through 2022.
Plumb and McCormick plan to continue offering training and resources to interested libraries and organizations throughout the state.