This week’s interview is with Debbie Shrager, a legal reference librarian with the Public Services Division of the Law Library of Congress.
Describe your background.
I grew up in the Philadelphia area and still love cheesesteaks, hoagies, and “the shore.” I’ve also lived in New York, Chicago, and Edinburgh, Scotland. Northern Virginia has been home for more than 20 years.
What is your academic/professional history?
I stayed in my hometown for college and received a BA in history from the University of Pennsylvania. I spent my junior year at the University of Edinburgh. Following a brief stint in the retail industry, I moved to Chicago to attend Northwestern School of Law. After graduation, I clerked for a U.S. District Court judge and then moved to the D.C. area to work in the Division of Enforcement Litigation, Appellate Court Branch, of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). It was a great job for a new attorney because I immediately had primary briefing and argument responsibility for cases in the U.S. Courts of Appeals. I argued in the First Circuit after only three months on the job! I spent close to 8 years at the NLRB and then took a break from law to spend time at home with my children.
When I was ready to start thinking about going back to work, I decided to make a career change. I received my MLS from Catholic University in 2010. My favorite experience during library school was doing a practicum at the U.S. Supreme Court Library. After getting my library degree, I worked as a reference librarian at George Mason Law Library before joining the Law Library of Congress public services staff.
How would you describe your job to other people?
I get to help people every day. They give me puzzles, and I try to solve them.
Why did you want to work at the Law Library of Congress?
It’s the ultimate library for anyone interested in legal research. It is also a wonderful place to learn about the documentary history of Congress.
What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?
I am the director of a small family foundation that supports arts and humanities programs for disadvantaged children. My father, who was a trial lawyer in Philadelphia, created the foundation before he died in 2005. I care a great deal about the availability and quality of arts education in our community. I benefited tremendously from the performing arts and other educational experiences I had growing up, and it is incredibly rewarding to help others have these opportunities.