Long-Time Member Profile -- Jean L. Willis -- AALL Technical Services Special Interest Section (TS-SIS)

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TS-SIS Long-Time Member Profile:
Jean L. Willis

Place And Date Of Birth

date?? I am a woman of the world who is vastly amused by the likes of Iron Butterfly’s “Inna Gadda da Vida” shilling stuff like retirement financial Management planning to aging ‘60s radicals. Gotta laugh, or you’ll cry (actually I did burst into tears the other day, when I saw how oooold Paul McCartney now looks. James Dean was too right)! I was boooorn♫ in the yew-ess-aaaaaayaaayyyy♪♪

Educational Background

  • All that jazz on AALLnet.


Skiing in its many, lovely formats. Hiking. Mountain climbing (when I have the time to train for it). Reading. Bleeding edge, lefty politics (I love being on a liberal list-serv sponsored by one of my law librarian mates downundah). Travel. Yoga. Watching and critiquing movies. Shooting the breeze with my pals either in person or online. Golfing. Being silly and foolish. Breathing. Taking risks. My guy.

Inspiration For Becoming A Law Librarian

I dunno. At the time, it seemed like I’d make more money if I went into law, rather than public librarianship. I think that’s probably true. Now I combine law with public librarianship, and I am happy as a clam. So sue me! I was single, wanted to travel, and needed some bucks. Laughably, it seemed like the path of least resistance! I call it the folly of youth.

Here I am with my current boss, the ever incredible Coral Henning (otherwise known as the fountain of knowledge), and my other partner in crime, Kelly Browne. Sacramento County Public Law Library operates from the former Sacramento Police Dept headquarters built in 1916. I like this photo because I am actually the tallest in the bunch!! Yay!

My mentor is, very sadly, no longer alive. Lynn Pollack is/was/will always be for me a law librarian nonpareil. Lynn was the Director of the Law Courts Library from the 1970s through sometime in the 1990s. . Lynn was one of the most dynamic, hard working, innovative and forward-thinking law librarians I have ever had the pleasure to know. Lynn was an early adapter of the entrepreneurial approach to managing a law library, as well as an early adopter of the newly emerging technologies of the late 70s/early 80s. Lynn took an extended leave from her position in the early 1980s, and I had the honor of temporarily holding down the fort for her. It was an exciting, scary, challenging, rewarding, breathless opportunity for me. I learned and grew so much from her stewardship and assistance from afar. Sadly, Lynn passed away from ovarian cancer in 2004. I still miss her friendship and wonderful insights every single day.

Another wonderful law librarian, who provided me with much positive influence, is another Aussie, named Rob Brian. At the time that I lived and worked downundah, Rob was the Director of the University of New South Wales Law School Library. Rob later became the New South Wales Parliamentary Librarian. Rob is a true gentleman, a scholar, a tireless advocate and a wonderful person. I feel blessed to know him. We still correspond.

And I have to thank yet another law librarian downundah, my former boss, Margaret McAleese, who was and is the Director of the University of Sydney Law School Library. Margaret was also a mentor, remains a good friend, and I am grateful to her for continuing to forgive me for being a Yank!

I tip my hat to two other law librarians who have helped me out frequently, offered excellent advice and been great friends: Regina Smith, Director of the Jenkins Law Library in Philadelphia, and Jill Kremer, currently working for Dialog in North Carolina, but formerly a law librarian in Philly.

Current Position Challenges

Looking fabulous and being extremely competent at the same time. It’s so hard to juggle competing demands, don’t you think?

Prior Positions/Employment

  • Too many to mention & most too boring to remember. Favorite office ever was a corner office on the 12th floor of the NSW State and Australian Federal Courthouse in centre city Sydney. The full width of two sides of the office had large windows. One side provided views all the way out to the Blue Mountains to the west. The other side featured a lengthy view of the incomparable Sydney Harbor, including the Bridge, out to the North and South Headlands.
  • A current job that I enjoy is working part-time for Weight Watchers, which I’ve done for over 8 years in both Sacramento and San Diego.
  • Next to worst job ever: bussing tables on a split shift – early breakfast and dinner – six days per week at the AFRC Shermanplatz hotel in Garmisch-Partinkirschen, West Germany in the late 1970s. Serving young GIs on vacation wasn’t too bad, but my work schedule left me with little free time to enjoy the Alps. Very frustrating! Plus the work was slog and low pay, and my cranky German boss abused me constantly for how I said “ja.” Go figure! If I never hear the song “You can take this job and shove it” ever again, it will be too soon. Those GIs played it endlessly on the jukebox. Yeeks.

'Crazy' Non-Professional Activity

Only one? Which to choose: attempting rock climbing in El Dorado canyon without instruction or equipment? befriending a “lady of the night” in Jogjakarta, Indonesia and accompanying her back to a brothel/gambling den in the red light district to drink tea? apologizing to Isabelle Allende for the CIA’s complicity in in overthrowing her uncle’s legally elected government, which resulted in his untimely death and her exile from her country? belching so loudly that it brought the entire college cafeteria to a dead silence and then resulted in the animal house providing a standing ovation? Hitch-hiking alone across Europe in my youth? climbing Mt. Whitney in a day? working as an IT manager in a law firm? falling madly and recklessly in love at 50? living with a Kashmiri family on their donga boat on Lake Nagin in Shrinagar, India for six months? riding the “chicken bus” through the Meseta Tarasca, Michoacán? arriving in Sydney with $100 to my name (and ending up working there for six years)? Etc.?

Life's Passion

Probably skiing followed closely by my sweetie-pie, honey-bunch (but, shhhhh, don’t tell him that. He thinks it’s the other way around!!!!).

Earliest Childhood Memory

Having a GIANT screaming argument with mother about what I was gonna wear that day, circa 3 years of age. And guess what? no lie: that ridiculous argument continues today (well over 50 years and counting) when I visit mom at the “happy acres” retirement home. They have THE MOST stringent dress code that you can ever imagine. They actually hand out a spreadsheet with EXACTING details of what can and flip-flops are forbidden foot ware? That blue jeans and cargo pants are ? It provides my mom with endless opportunities to brow-beat me about every item of clothing that I visiting her, and my her Deborah Tannen’s new book this year for Mother’s Day. It is appropriately titled: You’re Wearing That? As the froggies love to say: plus de choses changent plus qu'elles restent la même chose.

Where In Five Years?

Doing something fabulous in an exotic locale, sweetie. Dubai, anyone??

I hear you can make megabucks there, AND they have largest indoor ski mountain in the world, and it’s in the desert, no less. I gotta ski that! I’m also gonna need to make some serious cash to purchase that hippy-trippy retirement planning stuff (… ♪♪♫inna gadda da vida baby♪…).


  • Ho-hum. Numerous memberships in various organizations. Lots of library stuff, as well as the “other” ALA – Association of Legal Administrators


  • some years ago when I did IT work in a law firm. Some awards here & there for various “do good” things. My favorite membership is in the Sierra Club; I have belonged for almost as long as I’ve been a law librarian. When I lived in Fresno, CA, in the 1990s, I led numerous hikes in the high Sierra. Such bliss!