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An Interview with Theresa Reiss, Legal Reference Librarian

The following is an interview with Theresa Reiss, who is currently working at the Law Library of Congress as a reference librarian in the Law Library Reading Room.

Theresa Reiss / Photo by Donna Sokol

Describe your background

I am originally from Scottsdale, Arizona. But during my adult life, I have lived in Arizona, California, Illinois, and Virginia. I am a part-time legal reference librarian with the Law Library.  I am also the operations supervisor of the Alexandria Law Library, a branch of the public library in Alexandria, Virginia.

What is your academic/professional history?

I graduated from Arizona State University with dual degrees in English literature and philosophy as well as a certificate in ethics. Subsequently, I attended law school at the University of Illinois College of Law.  After three grueling winters in the Midwest, I decided to sit for the California bar exam and moved to San Diego.  In California, I practiced insurance coverage litigation as well as civil defense litigation.

To satisfy a nagging itch to pursue law librarianship, I took a position as the operations supervisor of the Alexandria Law Library.  Two months later, I began the Master of  Science in Library and Information Science (MSLIS) program at Catholic University of America.  I began working at the Law Library during my last week of my MSLIS program.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I tell people I split my time between teaching and learning.  I empower others by guiding them through their legal and legislative research.  Simultaneously, I have the opportunity to learn constantly from my colleagues, my patrons, and my own research.

Why did you want to work at the Law Library?

It may sound like a cliché, but working at the Library of Congress was a dream for me.  When I began working at the Alexandria Law Library, I quickly took note of how often I referred patrons to the Law Library. I am not ashamed to admit I was envious of the Law Library’s massive collection.  So, I jumped at the opportunity to work here.

What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the Law Library?

I am astounded at how many hidden treasures are available in the Law Library’s collection of 2.9 million volumes.

What is something most of your co-workers do not know about you?

I have a voracious appetite.  I once ate an entire cookie cake for a video submission to the television show, Man v. Food Nation.

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