April 30, 2007
Spotlight on Law Librarians: Jill Fukunaga
Jill is currently Reference Librarian & Lecturer in Law at the UCLA School of Law but will soon begin a new position as Collection Development Librarian at the University of San Francisco School of Law’s Zief Law Library. In addition to collection development her duties will also involve reference and teaching.
My path to law librarianship was pretty typical. After law school, I clerked for a judge at the Intermediate Court of Appeals in Hawaii, and went into private practice. Nine years later, I was at a large employment law firm in the San Francisco Bay Area. Tired of the grind and adversarial nature of litigation, I began searching for alternative careers, which ultimately led me to the idea of becoming a librarian. I started hanging out in our firm library, where the librarians seemed happy with their career choices and were extremely supportive of my efforts to learn more about the profession. In 2003, I enrolled part-time in the San Jose State University master’s program.
During my first few months of library school, I began gathering as much information as I could about academic law libraries. I was living in Oakland, so UC Berkeley was the closest law school to me. I recall thinking, “Hmm, I don’t know much about this Bob Berring guy, but he seems to have been around a long time. I should email him.” So I did, and asked Bob whether he’d be willing to meet for coffee and talk about law librarianship. He promptly replied, saying he was out of town but could arrange to meet in the future when he was back in Berkeley. We never did get together, but I will always remember his courteous response and willingness to meet a complete stranger who wanted to ask him for career advice. Similarly, I contacted Jenni Parrish, the director of the law library at UC Hastings in San Francisco, and actually met with her on two occasions. Again, I was struck by how open, friendly and encouraging she was – just like many of the other law librarians I’d met. Would the managing partner of a big law firm have responded in the same way? My guess is no.
In 2005, I decided to leave the Bay Area and pursue my library studies full-time. I enrolled in the program at the University of South Florida in Tampa. It was a great gig – I secured a Graduate Assistant position in the main campus library, where I worked 20 hours a week, and in exchange, the university covered most of my tuition. As a GA, I got a lot of valuable experience in reference, collection development and electronic resources – opportunities that probably would not have been available had I stayed at SJSU. I also completed an internship at the Stetson University College of Law Library in Gulfport, a small seaside town south of Tampa. The librarians there are top-notch, and I learned a lot from them.
After completing my degree, I returned to California and started my current position as a reference librarian at the UCLA Law Library in February 2006, where I’m part of a very dedicated and talented team of people who keep our patrons happy and the library running smoothly. The most enjoyable aspect about my work is teaching and working with the students. I was fortunate enough to co-teach Advanced Legal Research last fall with our Acting Director, Cynthia Lewis. Also, since UCLA has a library master’s program, we have occasional opportunities to teach legal bibliography in the library school.
But enough about work. What’s it like living in Los Angeles, you ask? Having lived in the SF Bay Area, I admittedly started out with a bit of a bias against southern California when I first moved here. However, I’ve since learned that, in addition to the near-constant sunny weather and laidback attitude, L.A. has some unique charms. World-class museums, shopping, restaurants, entertainment and outdoor recreation are all here. And speaking of entertainment, there’s just no getting away from the “industry.” Sometimes I feel like the only one here who hasn’t written a screenplay or worked on a film or TV show. Nonetheless, I am still star-struck whenever I see celebrities around town. A few weeks ago, Ted Danson and his wife, Mary Steenburgen, approached me during an intermission at the Geffen Playhouse and asked, “Are those chairs taken?” Sam Malone! One night in Culver City, I watched the filming of a scene from Spiderman 3 (Tobey Maguire on a moped). Someone told me that Holly Hunter used our library years ago to research a role, and folks here used to see John Lithgow, whose wife is a professor at UCLA, walking his dog on campus.
Despite the thrill of celeb-watching, I’m not leaving to start a Hollywood blog anytime soon. Being a law librarian is a lot more interesting and rewarding, so I’m planning on keeping my day job.
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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