Justin Hoenke, the director of Gardiner Public Library in Gardiner, Maine, has been talking to all types of library staffers for A Day in the Life, his column in Information Today. Among other things, he asks them about their typical days, moments that made them proud, their current projects, and how they see the library field evolving. Here’s a look at his columns from July/August 2021 to January/February 2022, which have been lightly edited and condensed for the web.
Here are the previous parts of this series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
You can read the full interviews in Information Today, starting with the September 2017 issue.
If you’re doing something exciting at your library that you’d like to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @ITINewsBreaks.
Moving From Public to Law Libraries
When we get down to the core of what all types of libraries do, it always comes back to the same thing: We want to have a positive impact on the community. I don’t know much about law libraries, but I was super curious to learn, so I connected with the great Genesis Vanderhorst Batista, an up-and-coming law librarian at Middlesex Law Library in Massachusetts who’s working her way through library school.
WHAT ARE THE SKILLS YOU NEED TO BE SUCCESSFUL AS A LAW LIBRARIAN?
Working as a law librarian is not much different from working in a public library. Our patron base is largely made up of individuals in the legal profession. Our primary users are judges and lawyers. My library is located within a superior court, and assisting judges or lawyers is common. We also serve the public. However, public patrons are usually individuals who have a pending case and need help acquiring the forms for it. We don’t often get public patrons who just wish to peruse our stacks or check out the library. A common misconception that public patrons have is that law libraries are largely reserved for lawyers or students, and this is not the case. We are a public institution, just like any other public library. I like to say that the only real difference is that our collection consists mainly of legal materials. Our purpose and goal is to assist our patrons with their needs, and, more often than not, their legal needs.
TELL ME ABOUT WORKING AT LAWRENCE PUBLIC LIBRARY IN MASSACHUSETTS.
The collection in that public library was large and encompassed many different genres and topics. What I most enjoyed about working there is the creative element. Because of its vast collection and the different departments that you can work in, as an employee, you can delve into projects that encompass the sciences or the arts.
WHY SWITCH TO LAW LIBRARIES?
I wanted to work at the law library because I wanted to expand my reach. I live in an underprivileged community, and I wanted to be able to assist the citizens of my community with their legal questions and redirect them to resources that could help improve their lives. Working at a law library, you’re working with real-life cases, real-world issues, and problems that can affect the course of a person’s life for the rest of their life. What you can provide a patron can really influence what happens next.