This marks the final week of my reference internship at Maurer School of Law. While for the rest of campus this is the last week of classes, for the law school it is the first week of exams. To be honest, I was not sure what to expect: either everyone would be so engrossed in studying for finals that the reference office would be dead quiet, or everyone would be so stressed in their studies that we would be flooded with reference questions. As I learned, the former possibility prevailed.
Monday and Thursday were very quiet, with only a few directional questions asked.
On Tuesday I had a phone-in reference interaction with a law librarian at a firm in another town. An attorney in her firm was looking for a resource; she gave me the citation and a name. The citation she gave me was to a case reporter, so I assumed the name was a party to the case. But the date she provided did not match up to the reporter volume in the citation. I explained this to her and she got a little defensive and said that it was not a citation to a reporter, but rather to a law review. I checked the Bluebook (legal citation guide) just to be sure, and confirmed that she (or rather her attorney) had given me an incorrect citation – the abbreviation she had given me was indeed to a reporter, but she had intended to give me a citation to a law review. After figuring that out, the rest was easy; I tracked down the article, calculated what the charge would be to her firm for me to send them the article, and she ended the transaction gratefully.
On Wednesday I spent the bulk of my shift working on a reference question on Indiana law for a law professor. In this case I was tracking down news reports on a state constitutional amendment that had been voted on by referendum by the people of Indiana. Finding the news articles was simple, and I was able to send the professor several that answered his question. I spent additional time, however, trying unsuccessfully to track down any official explanations of the proposed amendment, generated either by a government department or agency or a citizens’ advocacy group. The librarian with whom I was working and I were surprised that our collective efforts at finding such a document still came up empty-handed. Nevertheless, we did actually supply the professor with what he requested, so the interaction was still an overall success.
Each week this semester I have ended my posts with a lesson learned that week. This being my last week, however, I would like to end with a reflection on the entire internship experience: I am surprised how natural the act of serving as a reference librarian felt for me. Since I have not had the opportunity to do much legal research in the past two years during my SLIS coursework, I will admit that I was very nervous when I first started my intern shifts; however, the beginning of the semester brought high reference activity, and there really was no time to be skittish – I just had to jump in. As it turns out, getting back in to legal research was like riding a bike. This is not say that every reference transaction was simple; that’s what I love about legal reference – the challenge! Before starting my librarianship path, I never would have guessed that working in libraries would be such an unpredictable career, but I was certainly mistaken. One of the things I loved most about my internship experience was never knowing what the next shift would bring. I worked with all nature of patrons – from the general public; to law, graduate, and undergraduate students; to professors; to judges and attorneys – on all nature of questions. And I quickly learned that in this profession asking your colleagues for help is not a sign of weakness or lack of skill, but is rather the innate nature of the profession, a sign of the camaraderie and collaborative atmosphere of librarianship. I certainly asked my share of advice from the librarians in the reference department, and they, in turn, would ask my assistance in tracking down answers to reference questions they had received.
In summary, my final lesson learned for the semester is this: After sixteen weeks of orientation to the world of academic law librarianship, I am 100% certain that this is the career path for me.