April 10, 2007
Spotlight on Law Librarians: Amy Hale-Janeke
I discovered law librarianship accidentally. During my first two years of law school, I was a research assistant for a couple of professors and worked at a law firm during the summers. I found that I loved the research assignments much more than the endless paperwork at the law firm, and wondered what in the world I was going to do with a law degree that didn't involve being a lawyer in a law firm.
Luckily, during my third year of law school, a friend of mine told me about an opening at my law school's law library as a weekend circulation assistant, and I applied. I was accepted and fell in love immediately. I loved it all- shelving, filing updates, processing materials, checking books in and out, - wow! I even found my first mentor there - Elizabeth (Beth) Schneider. I was also introduced to the wonderful Sharon Blackburn,with whom I would later write articles and create presentations.
Beth first met me when she found me rearranging the reference collection by topic rather than by call number one Saturday. She stopped in her tracks and said, "Excuse me, who are you and what have you done with my reference collection?" "I am reorganizing it for maximum accessibility and usage," I responded. "And who are you anyway?" I asked, feather duster in hand. Turns out she was the Associate Director of the Law Library. Whoops!
She let me down gently. "Wow, that's an...innovative idea," she said as she started putting the books back in the correct spots. "But next time you get the urge to reorganize, you need to get the OK from a librarian ahead of time. See, we have this notion of organization called cataloging and people who are paid to organize things called law librarians...." And with that, a mentoring relationship was born, and I found my answer to the question of what to be when I grew up!
After law school, I attended Beth's alma mater, the University of Arizona. Beth was always in touch to offer advice or an invitation to join her and her family for meals. A hungry library student appreciates both things equally! She remains a close friend and mentor, and we share other interests as well. We both enjoy needlework and can often be found together in needlework shops. We also enjoy "taste testing" products at chocolate stores. Both of our spouses are addicted to NASCAR, so once a year we all meet up in a city for a racing weekend. The guys go off to the race, and we race around and see how many shops we can hit in one day.
Beth's support and advice was invaluable when I got my first professional job as a reference librarian at the San Diego County Public Law Library.Library school failed to prepare me for patrons who wanted to sue invisible people, get restraining orders against the FBI to stop the FBI from tracking them via their teeth fillings, and for those who wanted the Supreme Court to grant their divorce. Beth's counsel on how to deal with these situations was invaluable.
My days working with the public were interesting, but after working the reference desk 40 hours a week for six years, I knew I had two choices: get out or have a nervous breakdown. So I got a new job as Head of Reference Services at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which happens to be located in the moist city of New Orleans. I got the job two weeks before Katrina. My new boss, Kay Guillot, pronounced me "brave and slightly crazy" for staying onboard after Katrina, but the people at the 5th Circuit and in New Orleans are great and the food can't be beat! Beth is planning a visit and I can't wait to show her the chocolate and needlework shops!
My other hobbies include teaching American Tribal Style belly dance, playing with my two dachshunds, and going trap shooting with my husband. I also knit occasionally.
Editor's Note: The Spotlight on Law Librarians feature is edited by Lee Peoples, Law Librarian Blog Contributing Editor and Associate Director, Oklahoma City University Law Library. Please feel free to recommend a colleague for this feature to Lee at email@example.com
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