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An Interview with Ann Hemmens, Legal Reference Librarian

This week’s interview is with Ann Hemmens, a legal reference librarian with the Public Services Division of the Law Library of Congress.

Describe your background.

I grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. My parents were transplants from Illinois and I inherited their interest in travel and living in different parts of the country. I’ve lived in Illinois, Georgia, Washington, New Mexico and now the District of Columbia.

What is your academic/professional history?

Photograph by Donna Sokol

Photograph by Donna Sokol

I attended college at the University of Illinois  and worked as a looseleaf filer and paralegal at law firms in Atlanta, Ga. and Chapel Hill, N.C. After earning a law degree at UNC-Chapel Hill, I decided to try my hand at public health education and worked at the CDC National HIV/AIDS Hotline responding to questions from people around the country about transmission, prevention, treatment, and support services. After a time working at the NC Division of Medical Assistance, which manages the Medicaid program, I found my way back to law through law librarianship. I earned a library degree at UNC and worked in the Law Library as a graduate assistant. I have worked in reference and public services at three academic law libraries: University of Washington, University of New Mexico, and Georgetown.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I assist congressional staff members and members of the public  in answering their legal research questions by helping them locate the resources from the Library’s vast print and online collections.  I help patrons in person, at the reference desk in the Law Library Reading Room, as well as online via our Ask A Librarian service.  I assist my colleagues in maintaining our government documents collection, including our United States Supreme Court Records and Briefs collection.  As one of only ten depositories of printed U.S. Supreme Court briefs, this is a very unique and heavily used collection.

Why did you want to work at the Law Library of Congress?

While I was in library school at UNC, I spent a summer working at the Law Library of Congress. I worked on the Century of Lawmaking website and a project to compile the legislative history of the Library. It was a great experience, introducing me to the Library’s tremendous collection, learning vital research skills related to congressional materials, and working with a wonderful team of people. It has been a dream of mine to return to the Library.

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

In addition to providing access to materials (print, online, microform) and helping patrons locate what they need, the Law Library provides important instructional sessions. For example, the Orientation to Legal Research and the Use of Law Library Collections session is conducted in the Law Library and provides an overview of statutory, regulatory, and case law research. An introduction to Congress.gov, which is the successor to THOMAS.gov, is offered as a webinar. Through these sessions attendees develop a better understanding of the intricacies of legal research and the various resources available in print or online.

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

I love jazz. I was introduced to the music of Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and others by my family and have continued to enjoy the many styles of jazz whether captured on vinyl/CD or in live performances. One of my most treasured experiences was seeing Nina Simone perform at Benaroya Hall in Seattle on July 23, 2001. The D.C. area is steeped in the history of jazz, including being the birthplace of Duke Ellington.  I’ve enjoyed performances at a few of the many local D.C. venues including HR-57, Bohemian Caverns, and Jazz Night in Southwest.

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