April 18, 2006
Spotlight on Law Librarians: Greg Lambert
Information Resource and Records Manager,
King and Spalding L.L.P., Houston, Texas.
I’ve always prided myself on trying new things. So, when my wife (who is also a librarian) suggested that I work on my MLS at the same time I was working on my JD, I said “why not!?!” Twelve years, two degrees, and five jobs later, I think she picked out the perfect career for me.
In those twelve years, I’ve worked as a computer programmer, academic law librarian, director of 75 county law libraries, webmaster of a state supreme court website, adjunct law professor, project manager of a FEMA project, and last, but not least, a manager of a law firm library and records department. It definitely hasn’t been boring.
Recently, I remembered something that Jon Schultz told me that really helped me expand my horizons as a law librarian. I was interviewing with Jon for a position at the University of Houston Law Library when he asked me that inevitable question “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” I gave him my stock answer of how I was going to climb the ladder in academia and eventually become a director of a law library. His very candid response was “Why would you want to limit your goals to that?” I was stunned, and eventually told him “thanks, but no thanks” on the U of H job. However, I did take what Jon said to heart and decided that I would take risks and try new things with my career. The first thing I did was to write a proposal to teach a brand new class at Oklahoma City University School of Law on Computer Law. When a Property II professor took a late sabbatical, I applied and got the job to teach it in his absence. I was taking risks that I would have never thought of trying before, and I was having a blast.
Perhaps my favorite job was working with the Oklahoma Supreme Court. This was an exciting and intellectually (although not financially) rewarding job. I was given the task to consolidate all of the management of 75 county law libraries, digitize 120 years of state case law, and reconcile a couple million dollars of outstanding bills. Perfect!! When I left this position to move to Houston three and a half years later, the libraries were consolidated under the Court Administrator’s office, every single case decided in the State of Oklahoma, the Territory of Oklahoma, and the Indian Territory was online, we had reconciled all outstanding accounts, plus we doubled funding for the county law libraries thanks to a bill introduced by a state senator who is now the Governor of Oklahoma.
When I had the chance to work with AMIGOS Library Services as a Project Manager to rebuild the University of Houston’s law library collection, I felt as if fate had stepped in to allow me to lend a hand to the person that gave me the vision to try such difficult tasks. Coordinating a project to replace 175,000 volumes under the guidelines of FEMA was perhaps the most challenging job I have ever had. However, it allowed me to see the structure of a law library in a way that few people have. I needed to learn acquisitions, cataloging, serials, vendor relations, library systems operations, rules regarding non-profit organizations, and how to build something from the soggy remains of a library standing in 10 feet of water, all while still following the inflexible guideline of FEMA. To say that this called for some “outside the box thinking” is an understatement indeed.
After having worked in Academic, State, Court and County, and non-profit library systems, I decided to go private. I had spent the previous 6 years on the razor’s edge attempting to build or rebuild law libraries. Now, I was going to take a more traditional role and manage a law firm library and take on the responsibilities of a records department. I think my “traditional role” lasted approximately 6 minutes. I quickly discovered that the world of law firm libraries is in constant motion. Having to respond quickly to late Friday afternoon requests like “Can you find me an English to Vietnamese translator in Bangkok on Monday?” sure keeps you on your toes.
Of course, I still look at the way things are and ask myself how can we make it better. I’ve always been lucky in that most places I’ve worked, I have been given the flexibility to try new approaches. My mother still tells the story of how I would take everything apart as a kid and see if I could make it work better. In a way, I’m still that same kid trying to look at something in a new way to see if it can work better -- and still having a blast doing it.
Editor's Note: 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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