Sunday, July 09, 2006

Chicago Association of Law Libraries' Community Service Committee Receives 2006 Spirit of Law Librarianship Award

by Nina Wendt

Chicago Association of Law Libraries' Community Service Committee (CALL-CSC) is this year's recipient of the Spirit of Law Librarianship Award for its outstanding accomplishments in actively supporting a wide variety of local and national charities. Roy M. Mersky and Richard A. Leiter established the award in 1991. Alert Publications, Inc., publisher of The Spirit of Law Librarianship: A Reader (2005), sponsors the Award.

The CALL Board's nomination letter states that, "[t]he goal of the Community Service Committee is to help a broad spectrum of organizations. From all accounts, CALL-CSC has met its goal spreading much kindness. It has inspired CALL members to become involved with charities in the Chicago area.

Specifically nominated were the 2004/2005 and 2005/2006 committees, chaired by Julie Pabarja, Research Librarian at DLA Piper Rudnick and Holly Lakatos, Director of Public Services at Chicago-Kent College of Law Library respectively.

Here Holly and Julie talk about the work of CALL-CSC:

Holly: At the beginning of the CALL year, the committee members plan what we're going to do for that year. We have a list of charities that we've developed over the years. We pick event coordinators for each event who will contact the charity and arrange for pick-up or delivery of goods. Before each meeting, we let the members know what charity we'll be supporting and what we're collecting. At the meeting, we collect the goods from the members and deliver them to the charity. One of the most amazing things I've seen is that for each event, members who cannot attend the meeting arrange to drop-off goodies in advance so that they can still participate.

Julie: We also organize at least one "give your time" event each year where members volunteer together after work or on a Saturday, such as answering the phones for the local PBS station or cleaning up a park.

Holly: Charities are selected from a list that changes from year to year. We've gotten some referrals from other area groups that have heard about what we've done, and we always get ideas from CALL members. We try to focus on groups that have a significant local impact, though we did collect funds for hurricane disaster relief last year. When we choose charities that we've already sponsored, we take member participation into account. For example, the committee decided that we would start each CALL year off with the same project—a school supplies drive for the Chicago Public School's Homeless Education Program. The participation rate for this project has been very high for the past two years.

Julie: The most memorable experience was the very first project we did. We collected school supplies for homeless children in the Chicago Public Schools. The response was overwhelming and exceeded all of our expectations. We delivered over 100 boxes of school supplies to the Homeless Education office that day.

Holly: In March, we conducted a toiletries drive for the Greenhouse Shelter, one of the few shelters in Chicago that will take battered women with older children. When we delivered the donated items, the staff told us what our toiletries were going to do. My heart broke as we listened to tales of how the women got to the shelter, sometimes leaving in the middle of the night without anything but what they were wearing: no toothbrushes, no extra underwear, and no teddy bears. I was so proud of CALL members for giving so much to these women who were rebuilding their lives from nothing.

Julie: Community service through CALL has given me opportunities to give back to the community and help organizations that I wouldn't be able to do on my own. It's great to see librarians get together and support an organization. The projects give CALL members something to do as a group. All our projects have been successful because of the joint effort of people in the association.

Holly: My community service involvement has allowed me to work with some great law librarians I otherwise would never have met. I also think that these small projects we do help strengthen the reputation of law librarians in the area. We work with so many groups that have little to do with lawyers or law schools who become aware that there are more types of librarians other than Ms. GreyHairBun doing story time at the local public library.

Julie: This award is really for the entire membership. CALL members, as a whole, have made significant contributions. We took a chance with a new idea to get the projects to the members and the response to each project has been overwhelming.

Holly: We get from 75%-100% participation from meeting attendees in each drive. This support and enthusiasm have made our projects possible. Also, we have tremendous support from our parent institutions, and we've also been fortunate to have several CALL meeting sponsors support our projects when necessary. For example, CCH paid shipping for 252.2 pounds of goods we sent to downstate Illinois.

Members of the 2004/05 CSC were Jennifer Bartlett, Nicole Casner, Elaine Dockens, Valerie Krabill Kropf, Holly Lakatos, and Katie Leonard. Members of the 2005/06 CSC are Anne Abramson, Kathleen Bruner, Nicole Casner, Stephanie Crawford, Kevin McClure, Julie Pabarja, Susan Retzer, and Susan Schaefer. JoAnn Hounshell is the Board Liaison for both committees.


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