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Research Guide - Updating Legal Resources  

Make sure the legal information you are relying on is current and up-to-date.
Last Updated: Aug 11, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Frequently asked questions

Why is updating important?

Law changes. Case law can be overturned. Statutes can be repealed or amended. Updating tools help ensure that the legal authority you are relying on remains good law.

I found my information online. Isn't it up to date?

Not necessarily. Just because a source is online does not mean it is updated frequently. Check the publication date of websites used for research, including government websites. Always use a citator such as Shepard's or KeyCite to find out if a case is still good law. Instructions on how to use these citators and similar services can be found here. The author is also important in determining if a source is reliable. Is it a government website? A law library?

The library catalog lists a book as "superseded." What does that mean?

A resource has been "superseded" when a newer resource has been published that takes its place. Similarly, a "cancelled" resource refers to cancellation of a subscription that requires updating. When a publication is cancelled, the library no longer receives updates such as loose-leaf pages, pocket parts, supplements, and new volumes. The law, forms, or other information referred to in superseded or cancelled titles may no longer be valid.

At ACLL, most print materials that have been cancelled or discontinued are available on the library's databases, including Westlaw, LEXIS Advance, OnLAW, HeinOnline, Fastcase, and Nolo (EBSCO Legal Information Resource Center). A reference librarian can assist you in finding the right database for your needs.

How can I tell if a book on the library shelf has been superseded or cancelled?

Superseded and cancelled materials at ACLL are clearly marked on the book's spine.

Why are superseded and cancelled materials still on the shelves?

Many patrons prefer using print sources. Some features of print books, such as indexes, can be more easily searched in print form. A superseded or cancelled book can serve as a starting point for legal research. A patron can more easily find needed information in an electronic database once they have found the applicable chapter or section in a print book. Reference librarians at ACLL can assist patrons in how to locate these souces using our public computers.

What about books that are not marked as superseded or cancelled? How can I tell if the law cited is still valid?

Remember to check how current the print source is. Tips for checking for updates can be found here. Look for the publication date, closing date, most recent update, closing reporter volume, pocket parts, and supplements of any print material you are relying on. The law changes rapidly so the current pocket part or supplement could be three months out of date when it is received. Therefore, databases at ACLL such as OnLAW, Lexis Advance, and Westlaw should be consulted for the most up-to-date versions. Always use a citator to verify that court cases are still good law and make sure statutes, forms, and court rules are current by using the resources in this guide or by speaking to a reference librarian or consulting an attorney.


ACLL Contact Info

Alameda County Law Library

This guide is for information purposes only and cannot provide legal advice or assistance with individual legal matters. For additional information, please feel free to contact us:

  • Phone - Reference Desk (Oakland) 510-208-4832

  • Email -


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