“I was working here as a library assistant when our past Library Director, Eileen Cooper, encouraged me to pursue my Master’s in Library Science. She was a real mentor to me and gave me assignments that would help me succeed,” says Maggie Stewart Adams of the start of her career as a Widener Law librarian.
As a Reference Librarian, Maggie has a variety of responsibilities. “I assist students learning to do legal research, give in-class presentations on research techniques and resources, conduct Research Assistant Training, respond to research requests from faculty, staff the reference desk, and respond to inquiries from students, the public, and outside attorneys, and librarians,” says Maggie.
Maggie enjoys being at the reference desk and helping patrons, especially students. “I like working with students to help them understand the legal research process. Our students are intellectually engaged and it is a pleasure to help them excel.” One aspect of this work that she is particularly proud of in the Research Assistant training program for students hired to work with faculty members. “This has been very rewarding and accomplishes two goals: students learn in-depth research techniques and faculty get top notch research assistance.”
“The law touches every aspect of life, so there is a lot of diversity in what I get to do,” says Maggie, but there are some challenges that come with the job as well. Not being able to assist all patrons in the way they would like can be a particular problem. “Because the law touches every aspect of life, and we are open to the public, members of the public come looking for legal advice,” she says, adding, “We aren’t able to offer that but can only help people learn to use the resources here. That can be heartbreaking especially when the stakes are very high or the person doesn’t have the time, resources or background to do in-depth legal research.”
Then there are also the challenges presented by changes occurring in both the legal profession and in libraries. “More information is available electronically which allows a wider distribution, but that also creates access and preservation challenges,” states Maggie. “In the past, we would buy a title in print and we would own it. Now it’s more like we lease access to it electronically. If we stop paying for a database, we no longer own those titles.”
No matter the challenges, however, Maggie is happy to do her part to help Widener Law’s students excel.