July 30, 2007
Spotlight on Law Librarians: Julie M. Jones
Like many academic law librarians, my journey into the profession began with a rejection of life as a practicing attorney. I won’t detail a litany of the woes I endured. Suffice it to say, I once had a job where every day began with crying at the metro station.
I am happy to report that I have never once cried at the thought of coming into work as a law librarian. I haven’t once experienced searing back pain as a law librarian. I haven’t once worn a sweater inside out and backwards to work as a law librarian.
Instead, I have laughed at the thought that I get paid for doing things that I love. I have relaxed into the easy camaraderie of the profession. I have put my clothes on correctly each and every day.
But I can’t say the career change was a complete surprise. It certainly made my mother proud. She was the San Diego Children’s Bookmobile librarian in the 1960s, and later a prison librarian (brave woman, my mother!). Before I attended law school, I considered entering librarianship. But then, a fateful episode of the Young & the Restless changed all that.
Picture Cricket, legal aid attorney extraordinaire, at a fancy Genoa City restaurant. Beside her sits Mr. Big Partner trying to convince her to join his law firm. Cricket asks, “Will I be able to continue my public interest work if I join your firm?” Mr. Big Partner so sincerely replies, “We have a strong pro bono program. You can continue to fight for the civil rights of people in need.” He then goes on to name many areas of law that sounded utterly fascinating to me.
I can’t remember if she took the job, but I was sold. Unfortunately, the reality turned out just slightly different than the television version. After getting my degree at Northwestern Law School, clerking for a federal judge, and working in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors, I realized that it might work for Cricket, but I ain’t Cricket.
(Note to self: don’t make career decisions based on soap operas.)
So I inventoried what I enjoyed most in all the jobs that I had held. Resoundingly the answer came to me: legal research. I loved the thrill of the hunt for information and sleuthing for solutions. Back on the path to librarianship I returned. After conducting a few informational interviews of academic law librarians, I enrolled at Dominican University’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science, graduated in 12 months, and relocated to sunny upstate New York to work as a reference librarian at Cornell Law Library.
July 1st will mark my third anniversary in the profession and at Cornell. It’s been a whirl-wind of activity. I have served on two AALL committees and four Cornell University Library committees, created a one unit Law Practice Technology course, taught first-year and advanced legal research courses, published in various periodicals, and, of course, provided lots of reference services to our students, faculty, and other library users.
Working with law students is easily the highlight of my job. I thrive on making legal research interesting and relevant to first year students who arrive with no context for the material. Second and third year students are great because they know from personal experience the value and need for strong research skills and are eager to learn. I welcome every opportunity to speak one-on-one with students to discuss the “real world” of life as an attorney. It’s wonderful to be a part of their legal education and, hopefully, help smooth the sometimes bumpy transition from student to attorney.
To wrap things up in typical Spotlight on Law Librarians style, I give you my hobbies: hiking, more hiking, traveling, more traveling, and wondering how I ended up with two cats when I’m a dog lover.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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