June 27, 2006
Spotlight on Law Librarians: Ann Walsh Long
Ann Walsh Long
Librarian, Fellers, Snider, Blankenship, Bailey & Tippens, P.C.
Oklahoma City, OK
BA: Colorado College
MSLS: Catholic University of America
J.D.: Oklahoma City University, 2009
I have had the pleasure of working in many different law library settings, including law firms, the federal government, and law school libraries. I have actually worked at four different law firms and worked in five different states. When I decided to become a law librarian, all I really wanted to do is stay competitive in the Denver, Colorado legal market, so I could remain in Denver and ski. I’m entering my sixteenth year as a law librarian and in a lot of ways, I think I have almost come full circle.
My career as a law librarian began with a law school application. A friend, who worked in the accounting department at Kirkland & Ellis (when K&E had a Denver branch office), told me about an opening in the law library. I thought I may as well apply and get a feel for what my future life as a lawyer would hold. I got the job, and in less than two months, I decided the life of a practicing attorney was not for me! For starters, Kirkland & Ellis has high standards for their associate hires: they interview candidates from only the top law schools and only those students who are in the top of their class. I knew I wasn’t going to fit into either of these categories and realized that my chances for getting a position with a large firm would be slim. Not to mention all those late nights and weekends… Did I really want to spend my life pursuing the billable hour? Lucky for me, I landed in the right spot. My boss had her master’s degree in Library Science and the Reference Librarian was getting her master’s degree through the University of Emporia at Kansas (at the time, Denver University’s library school was closed). It was the combination of interesting work, good mentoring, and a professional atmosphere that led me to apply for a master’s degree in library science at the Catholic University of America. At the time, I felt I had two choices for suitable library schools: Catholic University of America and the University of Washington. These schools were the only two schools that offered several courses in law librarianship, instead of just an introduction to legal research course offered by adjuncts like the majority of library schools. Thinking that I would eventually like to become a legislative librarian, I moved to D.C.
At Catholic, one of my professors was the Director of the Library at Covington and Burling. I was fortunate to be able to work at Covington & Burling part-time while going to school full-time. This meant incredibly long days and resulted in many late-nights spent waiting for the bus in Dupont circle. Oddly enough, after graduation, my first professional job was not in a law firm library. Instead, I accepted a position as the Water Office Librarian at the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA contracted out all of its information services to contractors, and during the three years I worked at the EPA I worked under five different contracts! Working as a contractor, everything is considered a “deliverable” and everything had a deadline -- a perfect environment for a former law firm librarian. I wrote a daily newsletter distributed to over 500 EPA employees that involved scanning five major newspapers, weekly, bi-weekly and monthly periodicals to create the newsletter, and sent it out every day by 10:00 a.m. I worked at the reference desk for up to four hours a day, with three phone lines, walk-in patrons, and EPA employees all waiting their turn for help in navigating through the vast amount of information. The amount of information one agency can generate and the number of people that information impacts is staggering! I was promoted to the Head of Reference and the last contract I worked under was disrupted by Congress’ inability to submit an appropriations budget. After being laid-off for several weeks in November, the supplemental budget ended without a replacement in December, and without a paycheck, it was time to move on. While the budget was eventually ironed out, I see now that this bump in the road would not be the EPA’s last. It is hard to believe that President Bush is closing the EPA libraries and removing the most valuable access points to environmental information. My experience may become only a memory, in more ways than one. While I was working at the EPA, my fiancé moved to Virginia for law school and I joined him when the supplemental budget ended.
My job search in Virginia began with a mail campaign to nearly every member of VALL and VASLA with copies of my resume and a plea for a job. My efforts resulted in a temporary position with the College of William and Mary School of Law Library, and two law firm interviews. I accepted a position with Hunton & Williams as a Reference/Computer Services Librarian (a new and trendy title at the time) and developed one of the first law firm library Intranets. I enjoyed my first speaking gig at SEAALL on developing Intranets, and as most things do, this led to more opportunities for articles, presentations, etc. I loved everything about this job. I loved the interesting work, I loved my colleagues, and I loved being a member of VALL. I hated to say goodbye, but when the time came for my husband to find his first job out of law school, we landed in West Virginia and my time as an Intranet pioneer was over.
This time, my job search was relatively short. While in West Virginia for my husband’s interview, the WVU College of Law Library had an opening for a Reference and Electronic Services Librarian posted to their web page. What luck! The Director did not intend to fill the position until the new fiscal year, and I was looking forward to a new setting. Working in an academic law library is a whole lot different from a law firm setting and it took me over a year to adapt. I felt spoiled working in a library with so many resources and could not believe how much time I was allowed to work on projects! It was fun to work with law students and help them learn how to conduct legal research, and I think these daily exercises really demonstrated how different the training is for future law librarians and future attorneys. In my experience, law library students are taught to evaluate resources and to fully understand the type of information that each resource will provide, with the ultimate goal being in knowing where to find information. Law students are typically given a topic for research with the end result demonstrating that the law student understands the issue and can explain the issue in a legal memorandum. This helps explain why law students come into law firms with only a cursory understanding of legal research – the focus in on writing, not researching. My job often involved teaching one-hour research sessions on various electronic research tools and databases, and the law students eagerly awaited me to tell them what the answer was, not fully appreciating that I was actually trying to teach them how to conduct research. I worked closely with the Legal Research and Writing department and presented many CLE sessions on Internet Legal Research (again, trendy at the time) to the West Virginia Bar. This position also gave me the resources, time, and promotional incentive to publish articles. It was a good time, but all good times come to an end, and we left four years later for Oklahoma.
OOOOOOklahoma where the wind goes sweeping down the plain… My husband brought us to Oklahoma for his job at the Oklahoma City University School of Law. I managed to find a job in yet another law firm library, this time with a local firm, Fellers, Snider, as a solo librarian. While all law firms are managed differently, all law firms have a common thread: PPP (profits per partner). Most of my time has been spent trying to increase resources and decrease my 1% of the Firm’s overhead. It has been an interesting job, but wildly different from my previous positions with large, international firms. Oddly enough, the best part about moving to Oklahoma has been the professional opportunities the middle of the country offers. Oklahoma does not have a local AALL chapter, and at the time I arrived, there was interest in building a law librarian community. I co-founded the Oklahoma Law Librarians group (OKLL) with the Oklahoma County Law Librarian and I am happy to report we celebrated our third annual meeting last November. I am now serving as President of the Oklahoma Law Librarians group and I enjoy every chance I get to see other law librarians – being a solo librarian is lonely! Living in Oklahoma has also given me greater visibility within AALL. A former VALL colleague recommended that I chair the Publishing Initiatives Caucus (PIC) and through publishing a web site that was created by someone else, and by posting articles written by others, these efforts have resulted in my getting recognized by the AALL powers-that-be. Imagine that. I am going to have a busy year next year and I look forward to continuing on as the Chair of PIC.
Next year will also bring another new challenge: not working. After sixteen years, I am back to square one: applying for law school. As with pursuing my master’s degree, I am going to law school to remain competitive as a law librarian. Being an eternal optimist, I believe the opportunities for law librarians will increase over the next half of my career and those with dual degrees will be able to take advantage of many more opportunities. I think law librarianship is one of the few professions where change is constant and expected. Given this flexibility, our profession is aptly suited to move quickly into new areas and respond to new challenges with flair. I am certain that the second half of my career will be just as interesting as the first, and who knows? Maybe I’ll eventually get back to Denver so I can ski!
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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We law librarians of Oklahoma have sure appreciated Ann's leadership in co-founding OKLL, and we're looking forward to celebrating Ann's 4th year with the informal group as OKLL joins with MAALL for MAALL's 33rd annual meeting in Tulsa! The dates are Oct. 19-21, & the location is Tulsa's thriving southwestern suburb of Jenks, home of the Oklahoma Aquarium (site of our opening evening event!) and the lively RiverWalk Crossing.
Posted by: Lou Lindsey | Jun 28, 2006 6:39:09 AM