Posts tagged publications
Are our publications working? The Publications Development Coordinator finds out

If I tell people that I’m a “Publications Development Coordinator,” they have no idea what that means. Instead I usually just say that I talk to people about what they think is working (or not) with our publications and then I bring that information back to the editors and designers so that they can improve them. We can make an educated guess on what information people need and how they’re going to use it by getting input from lawyers, experts, and people who work with the public. We can try our very best to put ourselves in other people’s shoes. But we won’t really know how people use the publication and whether it’s meeting their needs until we hear from people who are actually going through the legal situation.

In some cases, it’s difficult to find people to talk to because they’re dealing with a legal issue that normally occurs away from Vancouver. Or it might be difficult to locate people because they’re dealing with a more sensitive legal issue. That’s where I get help from people around the community. Sometimes that help comes in the form of the organizations like YWCA Metro Vancouver, which helped me meet with people who have experienced abusive relationships to talk about how they would use the Live Safe End Abuse fact sheets. Our legal aid office in Terrace also recently helped connect me to people to listen to what they had to say about A Guide to Aboriginal Harvesting Rights.

For each publication, I have a “worksheet” – a list of instructions and questions that I use to ask the person their thoughts on the cover, design, and content. I also ask them to complete tasks using the publication. During the session, I observe where people experience frustration or confusion or if they have trouble finding a piece of information. I preface each interview with, “I didn’t have any part in producing this publication, so I won’t get offended!” This statement usually draws a laugh but also gives people permission to be brutally honest.

Recently, I was looking for people to usability test the upcoming Gladue Submission Guide. This guide helps Aboriginal people make an oral or short written submission about themselves and their family history which helps the judge apply Gladue principles when deciding bail or sentencing. I needed to find Aboriginal people who had gone through the criminal system for their feedback. With some help I was put in touch with a few people who would be potential users of this guide.

The guide is a little different than our other publications. It’s more of a workbook where people can fill in their answers under different sections to create a Gladue submission. It also provides information about Gladue rights, Gladue factors, and restorative justice. During the session, I asked each person to read a section and let me know if any words or concepts were unclear or difficult to understand. I didn’t ask them to share what they would have written, but the people that I spoke to were very candid and open about their history. Overall the response was positive. One woman said that she wished she’d had it earlier. During a different user testing session two of the people interviewed wanted to take the booklet so they could use it right away.

When I find out that a publication isn’t working for people it’s good news because we can work on making the publication more useful. This job has been a way for me to gain an understanding into the often difficult and complicated lives of the people who need legal help. Everyone who works at the Legal Services Society contributes towards making sure everyone has access to justice. When you’re not on the front-line that can sometimes be hard to see. Through my position as Publications Development Coordinator, I’m able to get a tiny first-hand glimpse into how LSS and its publications can make a positive difference in people’s lives.

-Patricia, Publications Development Coordinator

What’s so great about eBooks?

Recently you may have noticed that we’ve been releasing eBooks. So far, three books are available:. A Guide to the Indian Residential Schools Agreement, Consumer Law and Credit/Debt Law, and Living Together or Living Apart. You can read eBooks on a dedicated eBook reader like a Kobo, on your phone, or on a tablet like an iPad. If you don’t already read books on one of those devices, then you might be wondering what the benefits are. EBooks offer two big advantages over traditional books. First and foremost is space. They are light, easy to carry, and able to store thousands of books on a single device. Our entire library of publications wouldn’t even begin to fill up a Kobo that you could fit in your back pocket.

Another advantage is that eBooks can give you some discretion when you’re out in public. Since there isn’t a cover on display, it’s harder for people to tell what you’re reading. For example, if you were reading Living Together or Living Apart on the bus, you might feel a little self-conscious that someone you know would see you reading about divorce. With an eBook, that isn’t an issue.

What about PDFs — are eBooks better than PDFs? EBooks might be a better option if you’re reading on an eReader or tablet. EBooks, unlike PDFs, automatically adjust to be read well on any screen size, which means less zooming and scrolling as you read.

Going forward, we’ll experiment more with eBooks and release more publications in eBook format.

If you’ve been using the eBooks we’ve released, we’d love to hear your feedback.

Hot off the press: A Guide to Aboriginal Harvesting Rights
Harvesting Rights

Harvesting Rights

Back in stock! We’ve updated and reprinted our award-winning booklet A Guide to Aboriginal Harvesting Rights and it’s now available for order. The booklet features a new look and revised, easy-to-read content. This booklet is for Aboriginal people who want to understand their harvesting rights  (fishing, hunting, gathering rights). It also explains what you can do if you’ve been charged with a harvesting offence (such as illegally hunting or fishing) and how to get legal help. The booklet explains in plain language:

  • the Aboriginal rights protected under the Constitution Act,
  • who these rights apply to,
  • Aboriginal harvesting rights in BC,
  • what you can do if you’ve been charged with a harvesting offence,
  • how to get legal help,
  • what happens in court.

The booklet now has more information on Métis rights, including information on how to become a Métis citizen in BC and how to get a Métis harvester card.

Your Welfare Rights: A Guide to BC Employment and Assistance
Your Welfare Rights

Your Welfare Rights

We’re running out of copies of Your Welfare Rights: A Guide to BC Employment and Assistance. Since we won’t be reprinting this booklet before we run out, please make sure you keep a few copies on hand for staff use in your office. If you have any upcoming training or events where this booklet would be particularly useful, you may want to order your copies now—but please think carefully about how many you order so that we can all make the best use of the remaining supply.

The online PDF will remain available. Coming in early 2015, we’ll be releasing the eBook of Your Welfare Rights for those who use mobile devices to access information.

How is Your Welfare Rights used now?

Your Welfare Rights has been around in one form or another since 1977 and has always been popular. Over the years, it has grown in size and content, including more and more detailed information. In 1997, it was only 58 pages; now it is 168 pages.

Your Welfare Rights is intended for advocates and intermediaries, but what we intend and how it’s used are two different things. In 2012, we saw nearly 10,000 print copies distributed in BC. This made us wonder, where are they all going? So we asked.

When we surveyed advocates and community workers a few years ago, they told us that almost all (80%) give the booklet to their clients. Some went over it with clients first and some didn’t. We also found out that most advocates don’t use the booklet themselves on a regular basis. Instead, most seem to prefer going straight to the legislation itself. We’ve heard anecdotally, though, that it’s a good resource for training new advocates.

Your Welfare Rights is a difficult book to maintain; it’s full of complicated information and the laws and programs it talks about are constantly being updated, meaning that it requires frequent revisions. Right now, Your Welfare Rights comes as a package that contains the booklet itself and an insert, as well as a sticker, that detail legal changes since it was last published.

In recent years, we have worked hard to improve the usability of our publications and websites, and on testing our publications with the people who need our information. Last year, we interviewed people who were on welfare and wanted to learn more about their rights – the exact type of people, it turns out, who use the booklet most often. Everyone thought the information in the booklet was too overwhelming and some even said they felt increasingly powerless after trying to use it. We followed up with them a few weeks later and no one had taken any action based on having the booklet.

This will be disappointing news for advocates who provide copies to their clients, hoping that it will help them take that next step, just as it was for us. No one wants to produce or distribute a booklet that is, in the end, hard to use.

What’s next?

Our top priority is to create legal resources that work for our clients and that advocates can use with their clients to help them understand the process and the law. Your Welfare Rights serves some advoates’ needs as a training and reference tool, but it’s become clear that we can better present the information in Your Welfare Rights better for the general public.

Over the next year, we’ll be developing a new publication that will meet the public’s needs. The current booklet is going to remain online as a PDF, and soon as an eBook, for advocates and for training purposes.

Stay tuned to the Factum for details and updates.

Please send any feedback you have on this, or any other LSS publications, to