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An Interview with Frank Herch, Legal Reference Consultant

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This week’s interview is with Frank Herch, a Legal Reference Consultant in the Public Services Division.

Describe your background.

Frank Herch (right) standing with Hugh Masakela (left) with a white wall in the background.
Hugh Masakela, the famous South African jazz musician, and Frank Herch

I grew up on the far South Side of Chicago and became a Californian, circa Oakland, in my teen years in the early 1960’s. My love of law librarianship and passion for music, especially jazz, are at the root of my being.

I have also had the opportunity to practice law with a concentration on civil rights and police misconduct in the San Francisco Bay Area. My caseload included employment discrimination cases in Federal Court and civil and criminal cases in state courts in the 1980’s.

What is your academic/professional history?

I received a B.A. in Sociology and History from U.C. Davis in 1971; with a few more units I would have had a B.A. in Political Science as well. I received an M.L.S. from U.C. Berkeley in 1972 and a J.D. from U.C. Davis in 1975.

My career has included academic employment, including Georgetown University Law Center, as Director of Public Services (later renamed Access Services) and adjunct teaching in Law School, Paralegal and Library and Information Science curricula, mostly in California and Nevada based colleges and universities.  My county law library employment includes being a Reference Librarian at the Alameda County Law Library, Director of the Clark County Law Library in Las Vegas, Nevada, and more than ten years as the Director of Public Services at the San Diego County Public Law Library.

My librarianship experience has also included public libraries. I have managed Cityline – a city hall-based information and referral service for the Oakland Public Library – and worked for the Escondido Public Library as a Reference Librarian.  For the Oakland Public Library, I was also the buyer for paperback fiction and non-fiction.

I also served on the Board of Trustees of the Las Vegas Jazz Society in the mid 1990s.

In September 2000, I began working for federal libraries as a contractor.  In April 2008, I came to work for the Law Library of Congress.  Then, on December 31, 2008, I moved to Israel and took citizenship there in addition to my U.S. citizenship. Of course, I had to move guitars, keyboards and my 4,000 record collection and huge CD and DVD collections there as well!

I have maintained my contractual relationship with the Law Library as I answer questions received through the Ask a Librarian service of the Law Library on my tree-lined mountain in the Galilee, for nine months or so each year.  For three consecutive summers now, I have returned to work onsite in the Law Library Reading Room.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I get paid to use my intuition and research skills to direct people to the best resources to resolve their legal questions. In the legal research classes I have taught, I would exhort my students to develop the intuitive skills to determine whether a legal issue would have its resolution in either the legislative, judicial or regulatory bodies of law or a combination of these.

Determining which branch of government was responsible for specific types of legal issues was at the root of  the model approach to legal research that I would foster to students and which I use today.  That coupled with a keen knowledge of online and print resources serves me well, in addition to the staunch confidence that there is nothing I cannot find online.

The rest is history. I do love my job. And being able to do much of it remotely over the Internet from overseas or, literally, anywhere I can access the Internet, makes for a nice vocation.

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

As I said previously, in addition to my public library, academic, and courthouse law library experience, I worked at a range of federal libraries between 2000 and 2008.  These were at the Department of Interior, the NASA Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, Md., Federal Communications Commission, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the Department of Commerce.  After all that, it was about time that I came to work at the best Law Library in the land.

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

What extraordinary people from diverse backgrounds constitute the excellent staff of the Law Library, especially serving as reference staff in the Law Library Reading Room. These people are great colleagues whose dedication and willingness to help has been demonstrated to me almost daily.

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

I’ve had considerable post-high school experiences as a thespian, including in a stage manager role (narrator and several other parts, including male and female roles) in Thornton Wilder’s play “Our Town” in San Leandro, CA, in 1966.  The Young America choir, once fronted by Johnny Mathis, came out of this same workshop.  I also staged and starred in the interactive murder mystery play, “Who Murdered the Law Librarian?” as a fundraiser for the Friends of the Clark County Law Library in 1995. Judges, law clerks, attorneys and professional actors rounded out the cast. Since then, I’ve performed in the minor lead part of the villainous Judge Carter in 18 performances of the musical production of  “Fiorello” at the NASA Goddard Space Center, through its MADD troupe, in 2002.  I actually sang, danced and delivered some very humorous lines!

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