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Research Guides in Focus – Municipal Codes: A Beginner’s Guide

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The following is a guest post by Louis Myers, the Law Library’s current Librarian-in-Residence.

Continuing the Research Guides in Focus series, today we are highlighting a guide that introduces readers to resources on finding local laws, Municipal Codes: A Beginner’s Guide.

Screen capture of Law Library research guide on municipal codes
Introduction page of Municipal Codes: A Beginner’s Guide, //

The guide begins by explaining that local laws can go by many names—ordinance, bylaw, measure, codes, etc.—and can refer to the laws of a county, city, village, township, borough, or any other local government. While the Law Library of Congress may be best known for its resources on federal law, researchers and librarians often come across issues that require sources at the local level. I find myself recommending this guide frequently. While it is described as a beginner’s guide, many of its resources are useful for the experienced researcher, too.

The guide is set up to help readers search for both current and historic municipal laws. Current local codes are generally easily accessible, and the guide provides several websites that compile different bodies of municipal law in one place. Finding historic, or superseded, laws can be a bit trickier, but the guide offers strategies on researching historic codes. For example, while older laws are sometimes available online, superseded laws are often found in local libraries, with local government agencies (such as a county clerk’s office), or even the state archive.

Finally, the guide offers resources for those seeking more general information on municipal laws, through both the websites of organizations focused on local governance and published secondary sources. The linked organizations focus on current trends in municipal laws, while the section on secondary sources lists resources that provide commentaries to help interpret and understand how local laws are incorporated into our communities.

We hope you find this guide helpful in your research. As always, we encourage you to contact us through Ask a Librarian to help you with your research.

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