Legal resource help: Kiosks installed at the Columbus library and United Way

Mike Wolanin | The Republic A view of the Indiana Legal Help kiosk in the United Way building in Columbus, Ind., Monday, June 5, 2023.

Two Columbus locations have received special devices that can provide free legal resources and forms to residents.

Indiana Legal Help kiosks have been installed and activated at the Bartholomew County Public Library’s Columbus branch and the United Way of Bartholomew County building.

The Indiana Bar Foundation plans to install 150 kiosks across the state, with every county having at least one, said Abbie Bush, director of Civil Legal Assistance Programs for the foundation. To date, 147 are in place.

Residents can use the kiosks to print legal forms, search for legal assistance organizations and events in their area, find contact information for Indiana Legal Help and access resources regarding rent, eviction and foreclosure. The devices are also equipped with scanners.

“The purpose of the kiosk is to connect people to the website, which the kiosk today is showing you the housing resources that we have on the site,” said Bush. “And is a website that anyone can access from anywhere, like on a computer or a smartphone, but we know that there are many Hoosiers across the state who don’t have reliable internet at home. And so the kiosks were intentionally placed in courthouses, libraries, community centers around the state, to make sure people had a space available where they could go and get legal resources.”

Bartholomew County Public Library public outreach librarian Sandy Allman noted that there are no fees for printing forms at the kiosk, which eliminates another barrier. Additionally, the library is located near the Bartholomew County Courthouse, which may be convenient for some users.

The device does not save users’ information, and it resets after each use, she said. Furthermore, if an individual prints a form but doesn’t pick it up right away, the paper will be recalled into the machine.

“So those delicate papers with people’s information is not just hanging out there for anybody to pick up,” said Allman. “We have to use a key to get it back out of the tray, which I think is really good. So the whole idea is for people to be able to do things themselves confidentially.”

Library staff can assist patrons with using the kiosk but do not give legal advice, she said.

While the kiosk services mainly focus on housing resources at present, Bush said that the foundation plans to expand these offerings in the future, with kiosks eventually having the full suite of resources available through the Indiana Legal Help website. They are also adding a function that allows users to live-chat with a legal navigator.

Legal navigators can provide additional legal information but do not give legal advice, said Indiana Legal Help officials. The kiosks also do not provide legal advice; only attorneys may provide legal advice.

The kiosk project is managed by the Indiana Bar Foundation, which runs the Indiana Legal Help website in partnership with the Coalition for Court Access. The kiosks are funded by a grant from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

These devices are provided free of charge to the organizations that host them, said Bush. The services provided by kiosks are also free.

Initially, the plan was to install 120 kiosks.

“We had enough interest to justify bumping that up to 150,” she said.