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An Interview with Andrew Winston

Today’s interview is with Andrew Winston, a legal reference librarian in the Public Services Division of the Law Library of Congress.

Andrew Winston / Photograph by Donna Sokol

Andrew Winston / Photograph by Donna Sokol

Describe your background.

I grew up in Virginia and went to college and law school there.  I studied Ancient Greek and Latin as an undergraduate, went to law school and practiced law, and then went to library school and began a career in law librarianship.

What is your academic/professional history?

I went to college and law school at the University of Virginia.  After law school, I practiced corporate and securities law, first at Cahill Gordon & Reindel and then at LeClairRyan.  I later decided to pursue a long-held interest in law librarianship and studied library and information science at Drexel University.  I then served as a law librarian in the American Law Division of the Congressional Research Service under CRS’ Graduate Recruit Program.  After working at CRS, I served as Research & Instructional Services Librarian in the University of Richmond School of Law’s William Taylor Muse Law Library before joining the Law Library of Congress.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I help people find the legal information and knowledge they seek.  Reference librarians at the Law Library of Congress field an incredible range of questions from patrons in Washington, D.C., across the country, and around the world.

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

The Law Library has the largest and most comprehensive collections of legal materials in existence, covering not only the United States, but also all of the other jurisdictions of the world and many former nations.  Although a wealth of legal information resources are available online for free, like the U.S. and foreign legal materials that are in the Law Library’s Guide to Law Online portal, or in subscription databases available in the Law Library’s Reading Room, the Law Library holds many materials available only in print or microform.  The Law Library’s collection enables me to engage with and resolve legal reference and research questions that I would not be able to answer anywhere else.  I also have the opportunity to work with and learn from a team of law librarians who are among the most talented and experienced in the profession.

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

The Law Library is a closed stacks library, which means that nearly 99% of its print collection is housed in compact shelving in cavernous underground storage rooms covering an area nearly the size of two U.S. football fields.  Patrons desiring to review books held in the closed stacks simply submit an online request for them; requested materials are usually delivered to the Law Library Reading Room for use within approximately an hour.

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

I once lived in London and tended bar at a traditional Irish pub in the Kennington neighborhood.

I am also a descendant of Henry Clay, U.S. senator, member of the House of Representatives, diplomat, and secretary of state.  The Library of Congress has an extensive online collection of digital resources relating to Clay’s political career.  This collection includes, among other things, an account of a duel fought by Clay documented in letters from Devall Payne to his wife Hannah.  Readers of In Custodia Legis will know that, by doing so, Clay, who practiced law in Kentucky, violated the laws of that state; perhaps his actions also contributed to the oath against dueling lawyers in Kentucky have been required to swear since 1891.

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