Culpeper’s public law library -- located in three secured rooms on the second floor inside the Culpeper County Courthouse -- may soon become even more accessible to the community.
Even though the public is already welcome to use the stacks of legal reference books now, for the most part, attorneys and judges are the ones who typically utilize them.
And at this point, the law library is available to the public when the courthouse is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
However, the idea is to relocate the public law library into the Culpeper County Library in Southgate Shopping Center, which is open Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., allowing patrons more hours to access the research books in an online version.
The Culpeper County Public Law Library Committee will likely make a presentation to the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors in September or October, recommending the relocation of the public law library to the Culpeper County Library.
During last Monday’s public law library committee meeting, retired Culpeper County General District Court Judge Roger Morton asked CCL director Susan Keller about how many folks use the county library’s law depot, an online tool that helps people create their own legal documents.
On average, Keller said 25 to 50 people a month. Morton then presented the committee with a log of names of folks who used the public law library located inside the courthouse, stating that only six people signed up in July.
“There’s a lot more usage there than we are getting here,” added Morton, during Monday’s meeting held inside the courthouse.
Meanwhile, Keller is working out the details about how much it’ll cost to maintain the law reference books and whether to purchase subscriptions for a designated computer terminal where patrons could obtain law documents online.
“The online version for some law stuff is easier to search online than books,” Keller said.
Keller added that patrons already ask library personnel various legal inquiries.
“This move will also help us help the public since we already get those kinds of questions,” said Keller.
The county appropriates about $12,000 a year to purchase and maintain books for the public law library, according to Culpeper County Attorney Sandra Robinson.
Law books may get new home
Moving the books may also free up space for a new private elevator, private restroom and secured hallway restricting access between the public and Culpeper’s Circuit Court Judge Susan L. Whitlock.
In May, Whitlock submitted a letter to the county requesting a new private restroom be installed inside her chambers and a new private elevator just outside her office located on the second floor of the courthouse. The circuit court judge would be the only person using this restroom, according to the request filed in county records.
“The circuit court’s clerk’s office is located on this hallway which causes a constant flow of traffic by the public,” wrote Whitlock. “This poses a high security risk and also creates the potential for communication.”
In June, the Culpeper County Building and Grounds Committee recommended that the supervisors approve installing of a new elevator, new private restroom and hallway renovation inside the courthouse. The supervisors did so with a 7-0 vote.
These new changes “will reduce or eliminate unintended contact between the public, witnesses, defendants, and the judge by eliminating the shared use of public spaces.”
The entire renovation project is estimated around $82,100.
The new private elevator located outside of Whitlock’s office on the second floor will take her just one flight upstairs near her chambers located on the third floor just outside the circuit courtroom.
Expanding the county library
For about five years now, library and county officials have discussed expanding the county library.
Most recently, Keller said she’s planning for a 1,500-square-foot expansion on the western portion of the library where the porch is currently located.
The added space would feature three new study rooms for the community and a space for a new legal research terminal. Last Monday, committee members also discussed implementing a time limit to allow everyone a chance to use the legal computer.
It remains unclear where the stacks of law books will end up, but Whitlock requested to keep certain books in the courthouse including: the Code of Virginia, Virginia Reports, Virginia Court of Appeals Reports and Virginia Circuit Court Opinions.
Culpeper County construction costs:
» Private elevator, $65,000
» Private bathroom, $11,500
» Secure door in the circuit court hallway, $5,600
» Total costs, $82,100
Source: Culpeper County