Q and A with Lisa Thorp of Saint Louis Public Library

Submitted by Gail Wechsler on Wed, 02/14/2024 - 15:11
Logo for Saint Louis Public Library

The Law Library Association proudly collaborates with Saint Louis Public Library on several projects. Here's what Lisa Thorp of Saint Louis Public Library had to say in our recent Q and A with her.


  • What resources does Saint Louis Public Library have for patrons who have legal questions or issues?

We have both reference and circulating books on legal topics, as well as links to some online legal resources. In our reference collection we have Black's Law Dictionary, the Code of Federal Regulations, the U.S. Code, and Vernon's Annotated Missouri Statutes (though we no longer update the statutes - we point out that the annotations might be useful but urge people to double-check the statutes online to make sure they have the current version). On our reference computers we have links to the Missouri Revised Statutes and the Missouri Code of State Regulations, as well as the Illinois Compiled Statutes. In our circulating collection (the books that can be checked out with a library card), we have another copy of Black's Law Dictionary, and a wide array of books on a variety of legal topics, including constitutional law, various landmark Supreme Court cases, the Supreme Court and individual Justices, as well as "practical law" books from Nolo on a number of topics (taxes, incorporation, family law, real estate, contracts, small claims court, etc.). Of course, an issue with books that can be checked out is that sometimes they are in fact checked out. But since St. Louis Public Library merged catalogs with St. Louis County Library, a search of one catalog searches across both systems. If a title is not available at Central, there is a good chance it can be found somewhere at a City or County location and delivered to a convenient location by placing a hold.


  • Do you have programming revolving around legal issues?

SLPL hosts Legal Services of Eastern Missouri monthly for a legal services clinic at SLPL Central (3rd Thursday of the month from 9AM-12 noon). We will also be hosting Gail Wechsler of the Law Library Association of St. Louis for a series of Legal Research for Non-Lawyers programs at various SLPL locations during March, April, & May. Our Legally Reading book group is a joint effort between SLPL Central & the Law Library Association where we read and discuss books with a legal focus (some books are more explicitly legal than others). We meet every other month on the 2nd Tuesday over Zoom from 12:30-1:30. The Library also offers the occasional program for small businesses and nonprofits which touch upon some of the legal aspects involved.


  • Can the public access computers, Wi-Fi, and printers at all the St. Louis Public Library branches?

Absolutely! Wi-Fi is available throughout our buildings, and internet computers are also available at all of our locations. Use of the computers does require a library card or a computer pass, but a library card comes with $5 a month free printing and copying (and access to SOOO much more), so best to just get a library card. They are available for FREE to anyone who lives in the City, St. Louis County, or St. Charles County OR who works in the City OR who owns property in the City.  


  • Have you had exhibits (past or upcoming) that address legal issues?

 In 2022 we hosted a travelling exhibit about Mother Jones and Fannie Sellins, another labor activist who got her start in St. Louis just a couple of blocks from Central Library, and their fight to change the laws to protect workers rights. That's the only one that comes to mind.


  • What is the relationship between the St. Louis Public Library and the St. Louis County Library system?

I jokingly refer to us as "friendly competitors" but the relationship is really far more collaborative. In addition to merging our catalogs, as mentioned above - which results in both systems daily sending books back and forth to satisfy customer holds - we work together in a number of ways.  One example is the Small Business and Nonprofit Conference that we hosted jointly last fall, with one day of in-person programs at SLPL Central, another at the County's Florissant Valley branch, and a third with programming offered virtually. It was a big success and we are looking to improve on that success in Fall of 2024.


  • The Law Library and SLPL co-host a book club.   What other book discussion groups does the SLPL host?

SLPL offers book clubs across its various locations for folks of all interests, from philosophy to historical fiction to history to mystery to "meet cute" to sci-fi to contemporary literature - the list literally goes on and on. Meetings might take place virtually (like Legally Reading), at Library locations, or at local coffee shops or restaurants. The Library also offers book groups for teens and kids, and a "Book Buddies" program at our Julia Davis location, as well as an Adult Reading Challenge for people who might not be into book groups but would like to read more &/or diversify their reading. Go to the SLPL Events page & select "Book Discussion" under "Event Type" to learn more.


  • What other collaborations are there between the Law Library Association and Saint Louis Public Library

As a librarian at a public library with some legal books that is decidedly NOT a law library, I am lucky to be able to point out a window and tell people that there is a public law library on the 13th floor of the Civil Courts building where they should be able to find even more useful resources. I hand them a flyer with info about hours and services. Otherwise, we generally cross-promote each other's programs and offerings, and (as good neighbors do), we keep each other informed about opportunities and topics that might be of mutual interest. Legally Reading has been a big success, and I anticipate the Legal Research programs that Gail will be offering will be as well, so I suspect more collaborations may be coming.