This week’s interview is with Barbara Bavis, a Legal Reference Librarian in the Public Services Division of the Law Library of Congress. Barbara was a co-author of yesterday’s post on the electoral college and is joining the In Custodia Legis blog team – we look forward to reading more of her posts!
I consider myself a native of two places—North Carolina, where I was born, and Kansas, where I lived for several years while growing up. Looking at my family history, it seems fated that I would become a law librarian. My parents are both attorneys, and after running their own firm for several years, decided to utilize their law degrees in other fields—private sector human resources management and labor relations for my Dad, and teaching for my Mom. In addition, my grandmother worked for several years as a librarian. All of them instilled in me a great love of learning and the tenacity to always try to find the right answer, skills that I think have served me well in this career.
What is your academic/professional history?
I returned to North Carolina for my undergraduate education, graduating with a BA in history from Duke University. To the chagrin of some of my more sports-invested friends, I attended the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill for law school, where I was a Comments Editor for the North Carolina Law Review. Working for the Law Review gave me my first taste of how law libraries worked, because I had to use all of the surrounding law libraries at one time or another to complete citation checks.
After law school, I worked for several years as an associate at LeClairRyan, both in its Richmond and Alexandria offices. I focused my practice largely in labor and employment law as well as immigration law. Working in a private firm helped me hone my skills in legal databases, because searches had to not only be fast, but cost-efficient as well.
In fact, I loved legal research so much, that I decided to go back to school and get my Master’s in Library Science. I graduated from Catholic University, where I was lucky enough to have a practicum at the Department of Justice Libraries. Afterwards, I worked at Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law as a Faculty Services Librarian where, in addition to providing reference services, I taught in the Lawyering Skills Program and managed student research assistants.
How would you describe your job to other people?
I think it is almost impossible to fully describe this job because I get to do so many different things every day. In fact, that may be one of the best things about this job, because it allows me to constantly learn new things.
Why did you want to work at the Law Library of Congress?
I know that people who work here say this all the time, but working at the Law Library of Congress is a dream job for me. Although I knew of the Law Library’s excellent reputation before beginning my Master’s program, the die was cast for me when, during a tour for one of my law librarianship classes at Catholic University, I got the chance to visit the Law Library of Congress’s closed stacks. I was amazed to see all of the rows and rows of books, stretching off as far as the eye can see (if you have ever had the opportunity to visit, you may already know that our onsite stacks take up approximately one and a half football fields). Also, my inner history major was thrilled to see the older books in the collection, especially the canon law materials. I feel so lucky to have all of these materials, along with Congress.gov and our other databases and e-resources, at my disposal to help our patrons.
What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?
One thing that my co-workers may not know yet, but I am sure that they will soon, is that I have an indefatigable love of sweets—from candy to baked goods and everything in between. I like to hope that, rather than being a costly addiction, this might be a sign that I will someday fall into the genius sweet tooth trope.