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An Interview with Jason Zarin, Legal Reference Librarian

Jason Zarin in his Law Library of Congress office.

Today’s interview is with Jason Zarin who joined the Public Services Division of the Law Library of Congress last fall. Due to the pandemic, Jason has been onboarded almost entirely remotely but he was able to spend one day in his office so far.

Describe your background.

I’m originally from Texas but have lived on all three coasts of the United States. Life and work keep bringing me back to the Washington, D.C. area, and this is now the third time I get to call this area home.

What is your academic/professional history?

I graduated from Tufts University with a degree in economics, went to law school at the University of Southern California, and later received an LL.M. degree in taxation from Georgetown University Law School. I practiced federal tax litigation for nearly a decade, mostly for the Tax Division of the United States Department of Justice, but also in private practice for law firms in D.C. and Texas. Having always enjoyed the research and “teaching” aspects of law practice, I decided to change careers to law librarianship, and earned a master’s degree in information science from the University of Texas in 2011. Before starting with the Library of Congress, I worked as an academic law librarian. This year, I have officially worked longer as a librarian than a lawyer, which is worth celebrating!

How would you describe your job to other people?

I connect people to the resources they need. Being a librarian combines detective work and teaching skills, and a little bit of boosterism as well — how can people find the resources they need if they don’t even know about them? In addition to assisting members of Congress and their staff with research, I also work with members of the public who ask questions through the Law Library’s Ask A Librarian service. One of my favorite parts of the job is teaching patrons about the Law Library’s unparalleled collection of legal resources and how to access them. I’ve led virtual training sessions for congressional staff, members of the public, and guest-lectured on researching constitutional law in a university political science course.

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

As both a lawyer and an academic librarian, I frequently used the unique resources of the Law Library of Congress (particularly the collection of foreign laws). After a career in academia, the chance to not only return to public and government service, but also to work at the greatest library in the world, was a perfect opportunity. I have enjoyed all the work I have engaged in since starting a few months ago, and look forward to the day I get to work in the library onsite when we reopen to the public.

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

The Law Library of Congress has such a huge impact on many people’s lives. I am amazed at the sheer variety of questions we get from members of the public with legal issues they are facing and I’m glad to help them identify resources they have access to that can answer their issues. Due to the pandemic, I onboarded remotely and have worked the entire time for the Law Library from home. My colleagues have been amazing helping me learn about the Library, especially considering that I’ve not yet had a chance to meet most of them in person.

What is something most of your co-workers don’t know about you?

I’m a supporter of the English soccer club Tottenham Hotspur and try to watch their matches whenever they’re broadcast on local TV. Since I’ve been working from home the entire time I’ve worked for the Law Library, I’ve worn out my collection of Marvel Comics t-shirts. One of the best things about returning to D.C. from the New York City area is having a backyard, as I enjoy grilling outside.

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