Assisting Rural Domestic Violence Victims: The Local Librarian's Role

14 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2015 Last revised: 2 Jul 2016

See all articles by Sara R. Benson

Sara R. Benson

University of Illinois Library

Date Written: August 8, 2015


Rules prohibiting the unauthorized practice of law by non-lawyers serve many important purposes: limiting fraudulent activities, protecting the public, protecting the bar, and many more. However, those valid purposes can limit non-lawyers from engaging in otherwise helpful activities, particularly in the domestic violence arena. For instance, the laws against the unauthorized practice of law have been relaxed in some states, including Illinois, in the case of laypersons working to assist domestic violence victims in court to allow those who cannot afford a lawyer to have a helping hand from a knowledgeable and trained layperson or victim advocate. Librarians are ideally suited, especially in rural areas, to serve as advocates, at least within the confines of the library, to domestic violence victims as well. Indeed, with the proper training, librarians could be an ideal partner to combating domestic abuse in rural areas, as many victims of domestic abuse are prevented from working outside the home and may only be permitted by their abuser to access public places, like a library, without punishment. To establish this premise, the Article will begin by attempting to define the term rural to better form a context for the surrounding discussion of a specific portion of the domestic violence victim population. Next, the Article will further elaborate on the specific needs of domestic violence victims in rural areas, where shelters and legal services are often limited or absent. Then, the Article will explain why unauthorized practice of law (UPL) policies exist generally and how they have been interpreted to apply to librarians. Additionally, the relaxation of domestic UPL policies, with respect to domestic violence advocates, will be explained. Finally, some examples of the justification for and use of librarians to serve the domestic violence population will be examined. The Article will conclude with a plea for more efforts to train rural librarians to support domestic violence victims.

Keywords: domestic violence, library, law

Suggested Citation

Benson, Sara R., Assisting Rural Domestic Violence Victims: The Local Librarian's Role (August 8, 2015). 108(2) Law Library Journal 237 (2016), University of Illinois College of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 15-34, Available at SSRN: or

Sara R. Benson (Contact Author)

University of Illinois Library ( email )

217-333-4200 (Phone)

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