Describe your background.
I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, where my father, a solid state theoretical physicist, taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. When I was five we moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico, where my dad went to work for the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (LASL) now the Los Alamos National Laboratory. This was over 20 years after the development of the Atomic Bomb so, although it was an interesting place to grow up, we were not in a position to have Oppenheimer or Teller over for dinner.
What is your academic/professional history?
I went to college at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, where I had a triple major in classics, religion, and medieval history, which I studied under Dr. Marcia Colish. I had intended to be a brilliant history professor but after college I took off for New York City where I became a paralegal with the firm of Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler. After a few years I applied to graduate school and came to Washington, D.C., to attend George Washington University. But the difference of experience in both attending and working at a large university instead of a small college led me to re-evaluate whether or not I wanted to be an academic. After some reflection I realized my mother had suggested years ago that I should become a librarian and I enrolled in The Catholic University’s School of Library and Information Science. I took a number of courses in law librarianship but in my final semester was seduced away to the world of cataloging as taught by Dr. Ingrid Hsieh-Yee.
My first 6-7 years of librarianship included working as a cataloguer on a variety of projects, including cataloging photographs for the Public Health Service Historian’s Office and the NIH History Office. I also ran the technical services department at the Virginia Theological Seminary. Because the VTS staff was so small, we all took turns at the reference desk and I realized how much I enjoy doing reference work. I moved onto working at a law firm reclassifying their collection and doing reference, and then spent two years as the sole librarian for the United States Coast Guard in their law library.
How would you describe your job to other people?
As several of my colleagues have mentioned, it is a hard job to describe. I often talk about the work we do with public patrons who have pro se complaints or launch into a description of the challenges of legislative history at friends’ dinner parties. But I think the characteristic that would describe this job would be how busy – even hectic – it is: from answering patron questions in a variety of formats; to working on the Reading Room collections; creating exhibits for the Reading Room; giving briefings and presentations to visitors; mentoring my colleague Matt Braun; and on one occasion analyzing the work of a legal medieval scholar. Many of the people I know still think of the librarian as someone who sits quietly dispensing information at a measured pace – we are not those librarians!
Why did you want to work at the Law Library of Congress?
One of my adjunct professors at Catholic University was Pamela Barnes Craig who encouraged my interest in law librarianship. She urged me to consider working at the Law Library. While I enjoyed my work at the U.S. Coast Guard, being a sole librarian was a little isolating and the chance to work at the largest law library in the world was an inspiring challenge. This is a job in which I utilize most of the skills and knowledge I have acquired over the years. It is a job that stretches and challenges me on a daily basis and gives me the opportunity to learn new things both about the law and my own skills.
What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the Law Library?
This is a hard question to answer because I find so much of the Law Library’s history and collections to be interesting. I think the thing that strikes me the most is that we collect many of our items in multiple formats: we have copies of Congressional bills in paper and in microfiche, and Congressional reports, hearings, prints and documents in paper, microfiche and now also through some of our subscription databases. Yet at the same time, certain materials are only available in one format, such as historical Executive Orders and Proclamations which are only available in microfiche.
What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?
I am passionately fond of children’s literature. I took several courses in children’s literature while I was in library school and still read and collect children’s books, particularly Young Adult fiction. If I ever retire I think would to like to work part-time in a public library’s children’s room in New Mexico.