The Legal Division is proud to feature Bobbi Weaver in its June/July Profiles in Law Librarianship series:
A Little Bit About Bobbi:
I am a native of Southern NJ, but I now live and work in San Diego. I earned my J.D. from Temple University, and worked for the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters after law school. While working and living in the D.C. area, I attended and earned my M.S.L.S. from The Catholic University of America. I have been working as a reference librarian at California Western School of Law in San Diego since October 1997. Currently, I am the Foreign & International Law Reference Librarian. I’ve also held part-time librarian jobs at area community colleges.
I’ve been involved in SLA since library school. I am a past-president of the San Diego Chapter, and a past-chair of the Environment & Resource Management Division (ERMD). Currently, I serve as the newsletter editor for ERMD. In 2009, I was awarded the Business & Finance Division’s Distinguished Leadership and Service Award for my volunteer work with Haiti Reads, a nonprofit organization which operates a small community library in Carrefour, Haiti. I am currently the Library Consultant and Vice-President of Haiti Reads, and I spend my limited free time working on cataloging the library’s collection remotely and helping with fundraising events.
My interests lie mostly in environmental and animal protection. In the past, I’ve assisted with legal research for organizations with missions in these areas. Last October, my bibliographical article on pet food safety and regulation was published in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Information. In 2002, I wrote a bibliographical article on animal law from an international perspective, which was published in the International Journal of Legal Information.
A Few Questions for Bobbi:
What brought you to the legal information industry?
I’ve been working in the legal field for many years. After graduating Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ with my B.A. in Communications, I spent one year in retail management. Not finding much fulfillment in that field, I enrolled and completed a program for paralegal training in Philadelphia. I worked as a paralegal for a legal database company in Trenton, NJ. I became more interested in the law, and applied for law school.
After graduating from law school, I found a job as a regulatory analyst at the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, DC. I attended library school part-time at Catholic. While at the Coast Guard, I organized a small library for our department’s staff. The department in which I worked was responsible for environmental regulations, and our staff consisted of attorneys, economists and environmental scientists. Shortly after completing my studies at Catholic, I was offered a position as a reference librarian at California Western School of Law, so I moved from Northern Virginia out to the West Coast.
Where do you see our industry in 10 years?
For academic librarians, I think there is going to be an increased use of distance learning as well as more part-time programs for working students. Professional school students and some undergraduates are now dreading the loan payments they face upon graduation. Enabling students to earn a full-time income while studying to advance will alleviate some of these financial concerns. I obtained both of my graduate degrees while working full-time, mostly because of financial reasons. That was many years ago, but I found it frustrating that I often could not consult with a professional librarian when doing research or attend to administrative matters after traditional work hours. We are going to have to learn more ways to deliver information remotely to distance-learners, and we are going to have to make adjustments to support more non-traditional students.
What are you doing to get Future Ready?
The best way to stay Future Ready is to continue to network with other professionals so that you can stay on top of new developments in the field. Since the law is becoming more and more cross-disciplinary, I’ve found my membership in SLA to be the most beneficial. The annual conferences provide a wide variety of programs where I can obtain useful information that I can share with my employer, patrons, and students.
I think books are still going to be around in the near future, but I think there is going to be an increased use of electronic resources, especially for distance-learners and for our other patrons in foreign countries. My biggest problem with electronic resources in the recent past has been the lack of good indexing. However, some services are making improvements in these areas. As information professionals, we should communicate with our vendors to help make electronic interfaces more seamless in the future.
Do you have any advice for people looking to break into the legal information industry?
Get work experience, even if you won’t get paid for it. It took some researching on my part, but I was able to find an internship at the George Mason University Law Library where I could work on Saturdays. If you’ve already graduated, seek volunteer opportunities with non-profit organizations. Many that deal with the environment do have a need for volunteers to do legal research. Some communities also have public law libraries that could benefit from the use of volunteers. Even if organizations do not actively solicit volunteers in the legal information field, call them and inquire. Do not just email prospects. Emails are too easy to delete or get lost in cyberspace. A good place to search for volunteer opportunities and jobs in the nonprofit arena is Idealist.org. Also, if you are interested in environmental issues, check with your local chapter of the Sierra Club. Even at the local level, this organization is often involved in environmental protection through litigation or through promoting legislation. The funding available to many non-profit organizations is especially tight right now, so an offer for free help might be well-received.