Amanda Watson: Find out more About...

Figuring out if law librarianship is for you...

Amanda found out about law librarianship when she worked as a student assistant at the Ole Miss Law Library as a law student. She recommends student work as a great way to learn more about being a librarian.

I think if there’s a place where you can go and volunteer or be a student worker and actually get time in the library to make sure that it’s actually what you want to do. Whenever I interview [candidates] for jobs I always have people that are like, “I love to read so I’d love to work in a library.” I think, “you’re not going to have time to read; it’s not going to be like you’re just reading for pleasure while you’re at work.” See if there’s somewhere you can volunteer or work as a student so that you can see what it’s like day in and day out. 

Law librarianship has a professional organization called The American Association of Law Libraries and they have a student membership, so you can join and understand a little bit about the larger profession without getting in, and I think student membership is super reasonable.

Different type of law librarian jobs...

Law librarians can work for law firms (usually big ones), all levels of government, and for law school libraries. Because Amanda has worked in all three sectors, we asked her what the major differences were and what she liked or disliked about each one.

Working at a law firm:

I think the best thing about firm librarianship is that you have a pretty nice budget so you don’t have to worry about money all the time. You actually get to work on real files which is fun, like you get to see things through. So a project that you work on, you get to know what happens to it later, which is challenging and interesting.

Probably the worst part about working corporate are the hours: you just work a lot. The lawyers are on call and they expect you to be on call as well, so I definitely had times where I would get a call from a partner and I could tell they were at a baseball game. I could hear the baseball game behind them and they’re telling me, “I need you to get up to the office and prep this, this and this for tomorrow at 8 a.m. That was not workable for me once I had kids. I just needed to kind of shift down, but it was certainly a great start. I wouldn’t change starting in corporate for anything.

Working for the government:

Amanda worked for a little more than a year as the State Librarian for the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Government is hard because you’re always asking for money, or at least that’s how I felt. You have to be part tour guide and part, I don’t know, beggar because you’re asking the legislature to fund whatever you’re asking for. You’re asking for grants, writing different grant proposals, just trying to continue giving people services. That doesn’t leave a ton of time to actually be a librarian and stay up to date on what’s current and help people with their reference questions so that’s difficult.

It is really gratifying in that you get to work with the public a lot so you have a lot of people who really do need a lot of help and can’t afford help coming in. That’s something I had been missing that I really wanted. I really did actually get to the few people who probably wouldn’t have gotten free help easily somewhere else. That was nice.

Working for a law school:

Then schools, it depends on the school. I have so many colleagues that would probably completely make a different list, but I really like being able to experiment with things. We have enough of a budget that we can say, “okay, let’s try this and see if the patrons like this,” or “let’s roll out this program and see if it goes” which certainly would not have happened anywhere else because you had to just like go full-barrel ahead with whatever was working.

The downside is that we don’t usually get to see people to completion. We have these students, we process them, and then they go off to their careers. Or we have people who might come in from the outside and ask us for help, but we may help them one or two times. We don’t really get that relationship where we see what happened to their case very often.

Read our interview with Amanda and check out her reading picks.