Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What brought you to law librarianship?

I'm always fascinated by how different people came to this little niche profession. Did you become a librarian first and a law librarian second? Or did you enter law first, and then add librarianship?

I think it probably matters which you came to first, if only because it shows an initial attraction to one or the other sides of our two-headed profession.

There is librarianship, which is so oriented to helping people, and valuing information as a tool to power and equality. I loved the story Marie posted, for instance, about the Queens public library being so busy. When you read the original NY Times article, you see that besides catering to a hugely diverse, multi-lingual patron base, the library is offering an antidote to Know-Nothing anti-immigrant bias, with a Teach Them Something class, intro to citizenship and ESL aid. That is so librarian! Librarianship has nearly always displayed this social activism through books and information access.

Then, there are those of us who came through the door of Law first, to reach the intersection of Law and Librarianship. I will shamefacedly admit that I entered law school partly because I didn't know what else to do with myself, and it sounded so professional (but much shorter and less messy than medicine or dentistry!). But I became more and more drawn to the ideals of justice and equity in law. Imagine, then, my joy, at finding such a marvelous expression of justice and fairness, equality and social activism in a more nurturing role -- Law Librarianship!

There are all those other perks that make the profession so nice: dress down, lower stress (at least most days), flexible hours, constant learning, and real collaboration with fascinating colleagues around the world. But I think what really lured me here in the first place was the social activism, working for justice in some low key venue. And it's so pink!


Marie S. Newman said...

I came to law librarianship after being a librarian for six years, deciding to go to law school, and then realizing to my horror that I didn't want to practice law. What to do? When I saw an ad in the New York Times for a lawyer-librarian at New York Law School, I jumped at the chance to use my two degrees in a career that would not be soul deadening (as I perceived life in a law firm to be). I have spent the last twenty-three years as an academic law librarian, and I can't imagine doing anything else. The work is fulfilling on so many levels, especially when we work with students who do not come from privileged backgrounds. It is wonderful to watch them blossom and come into their own as they grow in poise and self-confidence. I think I am more oriented toward librarianship than toward the law, perhaps because I came to it first. I consider myself very fortunate to have a job that I still enjoy after so many years. Every day is an adventure!

Jennie said...

I'm a corporate law librarian, and I was a librarian before I fell into law librarianship, not a huge field in a small country like Scotland, there's only about 100 of us in all sectors!

I (sometimes, depending on stress level!) love the fact that I learn something every day, I get to hunt for information, I help people (whether or not they bother to acknowledge it!), I tend to be supported to investigate new technology and the corporate background means that, if we can make a good case for a resource, we can get it.

Law librarianship is certainly specialised, but definitely worth getting into!

Betsy McKenzie said...

What a delight to hear others' stories! Cool.

Meg Kribble said...

Fun thread, Betsy!

I took a gradual but happily inexorable path to law librarianship during library school. I knew I wanted to be a special librarian before I knew the term special libraries. The law librarianship seed was planted when my second semester special libraries seminar toured a firm library. It sounded like interesting, different, and challenging work. From there, I took a law librarianship course, then interned in the law library where I now work.

I officially started my career three days before my first AALL (Saint Louis), which was a fantastic validation of my choice of this cozy niche. Normally I would have feared even the thought of networking, but I felt right at home.

I love the diversity of things I get to do, research, teach, play with, and otherwise explore in this career, and I can't imagine doing anything else.