As you saw from Kelly’s post, we have quite a group of foreign legal specialists working for us. She mentions the legal reference librarians that work at the Law Library and you may have found yourself asking “what is a legal reference librarian?” and “how does someone become one of those?”
The answer to that, my friend, is different for everyone. My personal story is that I went to law school but wasn’t sure I wanted to practice. Then the lovely law librarians who taught Legal Research and worked in the Law Library at the University of South Carolina School of Law took me under their wings and mentored me. I went to library school, got a job in a firm as a law librarian, and have made my way here.
However, there are no strict requirements for the path a law librarian should take. There is no certification or licensing procedure, but we do have ethical principles we follow. Some law librarians have law degrees as well as a Masters in Library and Information Science. Some law librarians have one or the other. One of our legal reference librarians has worked here 14 years after stints in both academia and other federal libraries. One of our legal reference librarians has law degrees from Bangladesh and Howard University. One legal reference librarian was a paralegal for 14 years, a cataloger for 6, and the directed the Coast Guard law library before coming here. Above all, we are all required to have excellent research skills, as well as patience and the ability to adapt to the situation.
All of us provide research assistance and reference services for Congress, the Supreme Court, government agencies, and the public. We answer questions at the reference desk in the Reading Room, as well as over the phone and through the Library’s “Ask A Librarian” service. We also teach and write publications, including articles and resource guides. Sometimes we even hike through the snow to get here! Check back soon to find out why!