Jan 11

This LibTour on American Law Reports, which you can download here, was written by Beth DiFelice of Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Assistant Director Ross-Blakley Law Library & Head Of Public Services.

LibTour Poster:

Librarians:  Download the pre-made, letter-sized LibTour poster. Print the PDF, and post it close to your library’s collection. Students can scan the QR code to hear the audio file instantly on their smart phones.

What Else Can I Do With This?:

We offer LibTour materials to you under this Creative Commons license. It means those of you at schools and libraries – including law firm and public libraries – can use LibTour about however you want. Just give credit to CALI and don’t turn around and sell our work.

But, change it around completely, post it on your own site, work it into your library tours, paste all the QR codes onto one handout…whatever you want. Just have fun, be creative, share and let us know what you’re doing with them!


This LibTour covers a set of books called American Law Reports, “ALRs” for short. ALRs are commonly used in first-year legal writing assignments. They are a secondary source, which means that they are not “the law”, but rather they discuss the law.ALRs are comprised of articles, called “annotations”, which summarize the case law on a very narrow legal issue or fact situation. Therefore, this is an excellent source for you to use when you need to find cases, regardless of the jurisdiction, state or federal.

You may have heard of legal encyclopedias, AmJur and CJS. While legal encyclopedias may cover a wider range of legal topics, ALRs often provide more detailed information and analysis of a very specific legal topic.

An ALR annotation summarizes state and federal cases on a particular issue, which is why it is such a good tool for finding cases. There is a table of jurisdictions at the beginning of each annotation. This makes it easy to locate the discussion of cases for a particular jurisdiction. For example, if you are looking for California cases, look for California in the table of jurisdictions to get a list of the sections of the annotation that discuss California cases. Another useful feature of ALR annotations is a list of related sources, such as other ALR annotations and law review articles.

Your library will have a set of ALRs in print. ALRs are also available on LexisNexis and Westlaw.

If you have used legal encyclopedias, you know that they are arranged by topic. ALRs are not arranged that way. If you are using ALRs in print, your first step is to locate the index volumes at the end of the set. Try various key words in the index to locate an annotation on point. For example, if you were trying to find an annotation discussing cases where a spectator was hit by a hockey puck, look for “hockey” in the index, which will lead you to an annotation titled “Spectators, liability for injury to one attending hockey game or exhibition,” with the citation 14 ALR3d 1018. To find this annotation in print, look for the books that say ALR3rd on the spine. Then look for volume 14 of ALR3d, page 1018. You can update this annotation by using the pocketpart in the back of the book.

1 comment so far

  1. Cindy Bassett
    2:55 pm - 1-27-2011

    This sounds really interesting. I appreciate the idea of librarians collaborating to create one superlative product rather than everyone tackling the same project and reinventing the wheel over and over. I think the same model has potential for short demos for database instruction.


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