by Ta-Shirè Tribbett, Assistant for INALJ DC
Meet the Law Librarian: Jason Hawkins, from the Thurgood Marshall Law Library of the University of Maryland
Ta-Shiré: Please describe your educational background.
Jason: I have a Bachelor of Arts in English from Oakwood University; a Master of Library Science (MLS) from The School of Information Studies, Syracuse University; and a J.D. from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.
Ta-Shiré: Please describe your library-related work background (or any other jobs you’ve had that assist with your librarian skillset)
Jason: Currently, I’m a law librarian at the Thurgood Marshall Law Library at the Francis King Carey School of Law, University of Maryland, Baltimore. My duties include teaching legal research and providing reference assistance. Prior to coming to the Thurgood Marshall Law Library, I was a reference librarian at the Jacob Burns Law Library, George Washington University Law School.
Ta-Shiré: Did you have any work experience in libraries before you got your degree? If not, what made you decide to get your MLS?
Jason: Unlike many librarians I know, I did not have any experience working in libraries before I went to library school. After I graduated from college, I decided to go library school because I liked reading and I liked research, and I read an article in US News & World Report that librarians were earning six figures using their research skills in an emerging field known as competitive intelligence. While I was in library school, the economy went into a recession after the dot-com bubble burst, and no one was paying librarians six figures to do competitive intelligence. My first job out of library school was a two-year fellowship at Syracuse University’s Bird Library.
Ta-Shiré: Did your education prepare you for your job duties?
Jason: The School of Information Studies provided me with an exceptional preparation for my duties as a librarian generally. Big shout out to SU! However, I had to go to law school to become an academic law librarian since having a law degrees is usually preferred, if not required, for these kinds of jobs. One of my most valuable classes from SU was a reference and information literacy course. While nothing can prepare you for working a reference desk like actually working a reference desk, the professors did a great job of preparing us to consider, evaluate, and help others a wide variety of information sources. Moreover, now that I’m teaching students about legal research, I’m integrating information literacy concepts into my course plans.
Ta-Shiré: Do you have any educational/professional regrets?
Jason: I’m still fairly early into my career so it’s too soon to have regrets. However, I would like to eventually earn an MBA degree, or possibly even a PhD in Higher Education Administration.
Ta-Shiré: What advice do you have for someone looking to be a Law Librarian?
Jason: First, as I noted earlier, it is often preferred, if not required, that academic law librarians have a law degree. If this is your ambition, be prepared to get your MLS and to go to law school. However, a law degree is often not required for law librarians working at law firms. If you are not interested in getting a law degree, this may be a preferable alternative. I also know several firm librarians that have moved into academic law libraries without getting a law degree or a second master’s degree. Additionally, the legal education landscape is changing and many law schools are now offering master’s degrees in legal studies. One day, a master’s degree in legal studies may be a suitable credential for academic law librarians instead of having a three year law degree.
Second, be prepared and willing to relocate for career opportunities. As a law librarian, you have to go to where the law libraries are. Some areas like the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia metropolitan area are great for law librarians because there are several law schools, dozens of government agencies with law libraries, and hundreds of law firms with law libraries. In other places, like Gainesville, Florida, where I went to law school, there may only be one law library in town.
Ta-Shiré: Any advice for male librarians?
Jason: I have never received or given any advice specifically for male librarians. However, if I had to say something, I would remind male librarians that even in the twenty-first century males are still expected to lift the heavy boxes, so be willing and prepared when duty calls.
My name is Ta-Shirè Tribbett and I am the Marketing & Acquisitions Librarian at the U.S. Census Bureau. I graduated with my MLS from North Carolina Central University in December 2012 , and my bachelor’s in English from Virginia Commonwealth University. I have worked in libraries since the age of 15, and have experience in public, academic, law and special libraries. My professional and research interests include information literacy and library-led community engagement and innovation. I was born in New York City, but I claim Virginia as my home…for now :)