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An Interview with Emily Carr, Senior Legal Research Specialist

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This week’s interview is with Emily Carr, a Senior Legal Research Specialist in our Public Services Division.

Describe your background.

As a native of northern Virginia born into a Red Sox-Yankees household, I choose to be neutral and am actually a Nationals fan. Growing up in suburban Washington, I was fortunate to have access to the capital’s historical sites and museums and became interested in archeology and history.  The scores of family visits and school field trips to the Smithsonian Institution and National Geographic headquarters fueled my interests.   Although I planned to teach or study history, my love of libraries, books, and research steered me towards library school.

What is your academic/professional history?

In 1986 I graduated from Trinity College (now Trinity University) in Washington, D.C. with a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in English. Before completing my library degree, I gained invaluable experience as a law library assistant in law firm, federal, and academic law environments. While an acquisitions assistant at Georgetown Law Library, I also worked evenings at the Law Library of Congress, shelving and staffing the Congressional shift on late nights as mandated by 2 USC §138. By law, the Law Library is open for Congress when either the Senate or House is in session, regardless of whether a weekend is involved. My first all-night shift which ended early the next morning, earned a round of applause from my Georgetown colleagues, when I arrived a bit bleary-eyed.

Emily Carr standing with one person, with a seated person receiving an award, and a poster featuring an American flag is behind them.
Courtesy of the Veterans History Project

In 1991 I earned a Masters in Library Science, MILS, from the University of Michigan School of Information and Library Studies specializing in law librarianship and technical services, a curriculum which included Advanced Legal Research at the School of Law.

During my studies, I worked a number of student library assistant positions - at Hatcher Library (searching RLIN and OCLC for sheet music), the Benzinger Library (cataloging for then-resident-librarian John Szabo), and the Law Library (where I staffed the desk during many football games). Although I never managed to attend a game, I did visit the stadium once, on Commencement Day.

After graduation I worked as a temporary law librarian at the Law Library of Congress and then landed my first permanent professional job at the George Mason University Law Library.  As the Government Documents/Reference Librarian (and later Head of Reference/Documents), I coordinated the library’s Federal Depository Library Program  collection, which provides federal government information to more than 1,200 libraries nationwide. Documents librarianship and mentoring by colleagues in the FDLP program were instrumental in developing my interests in service to the public, access to government information, and professional outreach.

In July of 1997, I joined the Law Library of Congress as a legal reference librarian, my current position.

How would you describe your job to other people?

My official job title now is Senior Legal Research Specialist, but my responsibilities include a variety of projects and activities. I administer our Law Library Ask a Librarian digital reference service. I curate our Guide to Law Online legal portal. I provide Congressional statutory coverage (2 U.S.C. § 138) during late sessions on three to four evenings a week. I am part of a team that provides coverage through special orders, filibusters, rain, sleet, or snow! I assist Andrew Weber as part of the Law Library social media team, providing updates through our social media outlets on Facebook and two (THOMASdotgov, LawLibCongress) Twitter accounts. Since February of this year, we tweet hearing notices. With three of my colleagues, I am part of a two-year Reading Room Management Training Program. I have worked on a variety of past projects, including: web design, web archiving, publications, and developing special collections bibliographies of topics in the news (impeachment, terrorism, and judicial nominations).

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

A black and white image of Emily Carr as a young child dressed up to go to work.
Emily getting ready to go to work

My first visit to the Main Reading Room to research Arthurian literature made a great impression on me. Since my first job as a library assistant in the Law Library in 1989, I always dreamt of returning one day. The staff and collections have always been a source of inspiration, past and present. As a new employee, I attended a reference collection orientation in which reading room reference librarians provided briefings on their diverse and fascinating collections.

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

The breadth of the Law Library rare book collection is astounding. When I first started in 1997, the documents librarian David Rabasca (who also worked with rare materials) provided a tour of the Law Library rare book vault, highlighting a Catherine the Great rose-colored velvet and embroidered volume. I learn more fascinating facts weekly if not daily through the collection and interview highlights from In Custodia Legis and other Library blogs (Library of Congress blog, Copyright Matters, From the Catbird Seat, In the Muse, Inside Adams, Picture This, The Signal, and Teaching with the Library of Congress).

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

My maternal grandfather was a silver medalist bantamweight boxer in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics in a year plagued by many questionable boxing rulings by outside-the-ring judges. The New York side of my family worked in construction: iron welding at the Flat Iron Building, concrete work at the Guggenheim Museum, and laying the foundation of the World Trade Center. I have volunteered for the Veterans History Project interviewing veterans. Like Kelly Buchanan, I worked as an extra in a movie.  Somewhere in the reflecting pool scene of Forrest Gump, I appear at least 15 times!

Comments (3)

  1. Emily, you are an inspiration! Everything I know about law research and reference I learned from you.
    Forest Gump is one of my all-time favorite movies…next time I watch it I will look for you 🙂

  2. Emily,
    I enjoyed reading about your background! I started to reminisce about all the jobs and positions I’ve had before, and I realized how even student jobs provide invaluable exposure and experience to build upon. I’d love to see the Catherine the Great book one day! I’m a history buff so I’m a sucker for stuff like that.

  3. Emily,

    You are a fabulous law librarian with a huge variety of talents.

    I’m honored and humbled to be friends with you.


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