Newsletter of the Association of Library and Information Science Students (ALISS)




 title of the newsletter: The Silverfish


April/May 2004

Vol VIII Issue IV

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Law MLIS Student Profile: Stacy Etheredge

By Phoebe Ayers, MLIS Day

Edited for length and for clarity. Thanks to Karen Estlund for helping to transcribe this.

Recently I interviewed Stacy Etheredge, a first year law librarian, outside on one of the recent warm spring days. We chatted about her decision to go to law school, reference work in Gallagher, and the pros and cons of taking such an intensive program.

SF: Why do you want to be a law librarian?

SE: I always wanted to be a librarian when I was growing up, but when I went to college, (believe it or not it was back in the early 80’s) I thought it was more important to [have a career with] a non-traditional role for women instead of being a librarian or a teacher, which is what I really wanted. So I decided to go to law school… I was interested in the law, so I wasn’t making a mercenary decision or anything, but I just thought it was more important to do it, to try and make a big stride for women. Of course I kind of missed the whole point of equality. To me, equality is…to do whatever you want to do, whether it’s being a librarian or an airline pilot or a ditch digger or whatever. If I was really true to myself, I would have been a librarian. So I went into law, but I never did practice because I knew it wasn’t for me. I went into legal publishing because I was always more interested in the information part of it – the research part of it. I worked in the legal publishing field, including for the biggest legal publisher, West Publishing, for six years, and did some other things, and then finally I came back here to my home state. [I] ended up being laid off a couple times, in early 2000-2001, and then finally I thought “that’s the last layoff, this is it, it’s time for me to do what I really want to do and be a librarian.” I had been thinking about being a law librarian for probably five or six years before a made the decision…I like the law, and I’d always wanted to be a librarian, so it seemed like a perfect fit together.

SF: What do you want to do after you graduate?

SE: There are several kinds of law libraries you can work in – there are academic law libraries, which are law school libraries, court libraries, county libraries, state law libraries or law firm libraries. There [are] also law libraries in major corporations – like Microsoft [which] its own law library. …I’ve always wanted to be in the academic law library. I’ve also wanted to work in a place just like Gallagher here on campus at the law school. I’m going to have to move, probably, because nothing is really going to open up here. But my goal is just to wind up at some law school somewhere where I can do reference….

In my dream – I don’t know if this is possible – but if I could I [would] …spend half my time doing reference and half my time doing cataloging. I’d be happy as a clam, because I have …both sides of that personality – the one that wants to talk to people and the one that to sit aside and just put the pieces together. But I’m not sure if that job exists anywhere out there.

SF: Do you feel that you’re getting the training here in the program to do what you want to do?

SE: Yes, especially for reference... The neat thing about this program…is an internship which is probably like [what] a lot of students have, but it’s ten hours a week working, starting right off the bat in Sept-Oct. Five hours a week [are] on the reference desk throughout the entire year, and the other five hours, half the year are spent in circulation and half the year are spent in technical services. So you get a terrific work experience in all really aspects of the library…the primary part being reference but also the other parts as well which has been really fascinating.

SF: So you’re working in Gallagher right now?

SE: Exactly – I already finished the circulation rotation and now I’m on tech services. Of course, the reference was horrible at first! Just because it was scary – I mean it was exciting and challenging and scary and nerve-racking all at the same time, as I’m sure anyone who’s ever sat at the reference desk knows. You always feel like you are not prepared for it and you probably aren’t, but I guess the best way is to learn by doing and that’s what I’m doing – hopefully learning, but it is a little bit challenging at first.

SF: What do you like and dislike about the program? What do you think of it?

SE: It’s a very intensive program in that it’s all in a year or more like ten or eleven months – and so it can be very stressful and it can be very intense. In a perfect world, I probably would rather it be a two-year program, but a lot of the interns, though, don’t think so – the money [would] prohibitive if it was a two-year program. It’s set up the way I think it has to be set up – it’s just that getting through it can be a very stressful thing.

…. I guess probably everyone thinks it’s very stressful getting through the year but at the end of the year everyone’s happy that it just took a year and now they’re out ready to go on their career change – and most likely, I think that this might be a career change for a lot of people. …You already have to have a law degree to be accepted into the program, so you’ve already spent three years in law school anyway – maybe that’s part of the thinking. …They make no bones about it so…you come into the program with your eyes open. …You do have an extreme amount of support and encouragement and resources to get through the year, nothing is a surprise. It’s just a haul….

SF: How many people are in your group? Is it small?

SE: …. Basically there [are] six. We’re a pretty tight group. We all get along really well which I think is really important because you are thrown in together for this year long thing and it is just – it’s been fantastic to have such a supportive group – there’s no competition, there’s none of that kind of thing ….

SF: So do you take the same core classes as the regular MLIS students?

SE: Yes…. we take 500, 510, 520, 530, 540, 550, and 560. We take 7 strict library science classes over here and then we take 5 classes really designed for the law librarianship. Legal Research 1 and Legal Research 2 [are] two quarters of intense legal research classes. [The other] three [are] really designed for law librarianship – Current Issues in Law Librarianship, Selection and Processing in Law Libraries (which is like collection development) and then there’s another one this summer [called] Law library Administration. It’s a nice mix.

"I had been thinking about being a law librarian for probably five or six years before a made the decision…I like the law, and I’d always wanted to be a librarian, so it seemed like a perfect fit together."

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