Today we meet law librarian Ciara Ward.
What do you do at the Northumberland County Law Association?
I am the Librarian. What my job entails varies day-to-day; I am in charge of managing the Library Budget we are given every year through LibraryCo, and also the managing of the Law Association’s Budget, I also organize and run professional development programming for local lawyers, complete queries, and retrieve case law, along with all the “regular” things a librarian does (weeding, cataloguing, collections development etc.).
Why did you choose this career?
Working in a special library is similar to the research aspect of being an archivist. In the past I did work as an archivist and completing research queries was the best part for me, so making the switch made sense.
What is your favourite part of your job?
Learning new things; it’s great to acquire new skills and learn new research methods! I also enjoy (much more than I thought I would) learning more about our legal system and how it works/is applied in practice. I have a lot of opportunity to speak to lawyers working in different areas of law, as well as judges, and that is always interesting. It’s not really information that can leave my office, but I still enjoy hearing about it.
What do you find to be the most challenging part of your job?
Being a law librarian is very challenging – switching from assisting patrons with genealogy to assisting patrons with laws and regulations was tricky; legal databases are understandably different than using Ancestry or LDS – even if the methodology of searching is similar. I have an MLIS, and some library experience (much more now, obviously!), so I knew the basics of how to be a librarian and how to develop collections management strategies and run a budget, but researching law is difficult. I am so fortunate to have a lot of support from the Ontario Court House Librarians Association, and I’m learning more every day.
How did you get into the field?
As I mentioned, I have an MLIS from Western, so I’ve known (and been committed) to working in Information Sciences. I just kind of wandered over to being a special librarian from being an archivist. I worked several archives contracts over the years, and as anyone who has had to contract hop knows, it’s exhausting. I started looking at more library jobs while I was on maternity leave because I had the time, and when my current position came up, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make the switch to libraries – I have been very, very lucky!
Do you have a favourite artifact/ collection?
I have two favourites! In our lounge we have a collection of historic photos of judges and lawyers – they are pretty neat. Occasionally lawyers will donate more photos they have kicking around their offices and we add to our (very small) collection. We also have the “archives” of the Northumberland County Law Association which include handwritten minute books from the mid-1800s, as well as a few hand written diaries that belonged to County Judges. Those are an interesting read!