December 6, 2005
Spotlight on Law Librarians: Terri Gallego O’Rourke
Terri Gallego O’Rourke
Reference and International Law Librarian
Pappas Law Library
Boston University School of Law
B.A. 1994 State University of New York at Albany
J.D. 1997 Villanova Law School
M.L.S. 2004 Simmons College
Like many law students I have talked to, I graduated from college with a liberal arts degree but didn’t know exactly what to do with it. So, I applied to law school. While at Villanova Law, I worked for the State Court Administrator’s Office of Pennsylvania and a small litigation firm. I also spent many hours in the library, working on the Environmental Law Journal. It was while I was working on gathering sources for a journal article that I discovered that one of the law librarians had both her law degree and library science degree. Incredulous, I asked her “Why would you do this job when you could be working in a high-paying job in a big firm?” She replied that she liked helping people. It’s kind of funny that eight years later, I find myself answering the same question to students.
Nevertheless, when I graduated law school, I did the “firm thing,” with a small litigation firm. I was laid off after a year, but now consider that to have been a blessing in disguise. I knew that litigation was not for me, but I didn’t know exactly which way to turn, other than that I wanted to move to a new city, which ended up being Boston, MA, where I had a good friend.
I moved to Boston in 1998, and worked in a variety of administrative positions while I figured out where I wanted my career path to go. I didn’t feel at all mentally stimulated or challenged in any of those positions, and I found myself always asking for research-oriented projects. I also felt like I was wasting the law degree that had cost me so much time and money to obtain. So, I decided to go back to school at Simmons College for my M.L.S.
While in school, I worked in circulation at a local public library and obtained a full-time, 6-month temporary stint at the Harvard Law School Library as a Reference Assistant. I was very happy when that led to a longer temporary position as a Reference Librarian in August 2004. However, I knew that my time at Harvard would eventually come to an end, so I started looking at permanent positions elsewhere in Boston. I was sorry to leave Harvard, where I was able to work with and learn from such an amazingly talented group of reference librarians who I now count as my friends, but I consider myself very fortunate to have landed at BU. The librarians are very knowledgeable, and the faculty is very supportive and down-to-earth. Having had very little international reference experience before my current position, my department has allowed me to audit an international law class and a French class. Where else could I do something like this?
Among other things, my job involves a lot of teaching, which at first terrified me. I hated public speaking as a lawyer but I love teaching. I have been asked to speak about research in substantive law classes, which I absolutely love doing because it gives me the opportunity to show them electronic (and print) resources that they might not otherwise learn about. The students here are unpretentious and very willing to ask questions both in class and at the reference desk. It’s funny but when I practiced and someone asked me a question I couldn’t answer, I felt like a fraud and that I knew nothing. Now, when someone asks me a question to which I don’t know the answer, such as researching the laws of Estonia, Latvia or Tajikistan (just the other day in fact), I am happy for the opportunity to learn something new.
It took me several years to figure out where I needed to be career-wise. You know how I knew? It was when I walked into the Harvard Law Library on my first day, and I thought to myself, “I’m home.” Now, at BU, students often wave to me and say, “Hey Terri!” or “Thanks for your help on that project of mine,” or they ask me questions that show they’ve retained something I taught them in a class or earlier reference sessions. I finally feel like I am making a difference. It really hit home when my older brother, who watched me flounder career-wise for so many years, said to me a few weeks ago, “I think you found your calling. You seem very happy.” He’s right. I find it amazing that I get paid to do something I love every day.
The Spotlight on Law Librarians feature is edited by Lee Peoples, Law Librarian Blog Contributing Editor and Associate Director for Faculty, Research and Instructional Services, Oklahoma City University Law Library. Please feel free to recommend a colleague for this feature to Lee at email@example.com
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Spotlight on Law Librarians: Terri Gallego O’Rourke:
Your story is both fascinating and inspiring!
Posted by: Christen Smith | Nov 6, 2007 1:08:17 PM