Compiled by: Jenna Pontious
Questions with Puron is a social media series launched by the RIPS PR & Recruitment Committee to highlight the diverse views and professional strategies of the constituents of Research Instruction and Patron Services Special Interest Section (RIPS-SIS). Twice per month, our beloved penguin mascot poses a series of questions to one of the many librarians who make up RIPS. For our first interview of February 2021, Puron talked with Lisa Foster, Reference Librarian for Education at the San Diego Law Library.
Puron: What brought you to law libraries?
Lisa: Prior to becoming a law librarian, I was a practicing attorney in San Diego for 24 years. At my last job with a law firm, I was responsible for maintaining and improving the firm’s library in addition to my client-related responsibilities. I enjoyed working with the firm library and the vendors so much that when I started thinking about a second career, law librarianship was a natural choice.
Puron: What are some patron services your library provides?
Lisa: Currently, our library branches are closed to the public due to the pandemic, so we are providing almost all of our services virtually. These include reference by phone and email, as well as participation in a statewide chat reference service. We have a “Virtual Front Desk” on Zoom two hours each weekday where patrons can use a link on our website to join a librarian on Zoom for reference service. We have negotiated some remote database access for our patrons and we also provide document delivery from sources that the patrons cannot access remotely. We provide referrals to legal service providers to patrons who need legal advice or representation. Our CLE programs for attorneys are now being provided exclusively by Zoom webinar, which has been very popular with our patrons. I expect that we will continue providing some of these virtual services after the library reopens because of their popularity. The only in-person service that we are currently providing is pick-up book circulation, which we provide one day per week.
Puron: What’s something interesting about your work in a county law library that most people outside the field wouldn’t know?
Lisa: People outside the profession would probably be surprised at the variety of patrons that we serve and at the overwhelming unmet need that exists for help with civil legal problems. The library’s patrons include many non-attorneys. These patrons are primarily self-represented civil litigants who cannot afford attorneys to help them with matters such as landlord-tenant and family law matters. Unlike criminal defendants, people with civil problems are not entitled to an appointed attorney, even for serious matters such as evictions or child custody disputes. Although there are legal service providers in San Diego that can assist some of these people, there are not enough services to go around, and many people end up at the library looking for information so they can represent themselves.
Puron: What do you love about being a law librarian?
Lisa: I like being able to use my legal research skills and the library’s resources to help people solve problems.
Puron: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Lisa: I love dogs and I’m passionate about dog rescue. I have two dogs of my own, I’m involved in dog agility, and I’m a volunteer dog walker for the local German Shepherd rescue group.
We hope you enjoyed getting to know Lisa. If you would like to hear from more members, join the conversation on our Twitter RIPS-SIS (@RIPS_SIS) or connect with us on Facebook facebook.com/PuronRIPS/. The PR & Recruitment Committee will also be reaching out to select members for participation in this series. If you would like to be featured, or want to recommend someone, please email Emma Wood at email@example.com.