New CALL Member Q&A with Michael Verderame

New CALL member Michael Verderame is a graduate student in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), and a member of the CALL Bulletin Committee. Co-editors Lyo and Kevin recently chatted with him so we could all get to know him a little better.

KM: You’re enrolled in the GSLIS program at UIUC, but you’re no stranger to the UIUC campus, are you?

MV: Yes, I know my way around the campus pretty well by now!  I’m originally from New Orleans. After finishing law school at Tulane, I taught high school and then came to Urbana-Champaign in 2006. I did my MA here, and then worked towards my PhD (almost finished) in British Romantic literature. I’ve taught ten different courses here—literature, composition, business writing, and legal research and writing—and also held a few different research appointments, administrative positions, and fellowships.

Obviously the faculty job market in the humanities is pretty tight right now, and there’s not a great deal of geographic flexibility, so I began looking for alternative careers that would allow me to stay connected to those aspects of academia that I enjoy while avoiding some of the downsides. When I started to get interested in librarianship as a career, GSLIS was a natural fit because I’m already here, and it’s the highest-ranked program in the country. I know several people who have done PhDs or MFAs in our English department and then gone on to GSLIS, so there’s a pretty close relationship between the programs.

KM: Why did you join CALL?

MV: I had thought I was leaving the law behind when I decided not to practice, but once I began exploring library and information science, I began thinking more about law librarianship. I took a law librarianship course this summer and was surprised at how much I enjoyed doing legal research again.

I joined CALL to make new contacts and learn about the different aspects of this rapidly changing field. I’ve also joined AALL, but I wanted to get involved in CALL because I felt like I would be able to do more, and form more concrete personal mentoring relationships, in a local organization. I’m also hoping to settle in the Chicago area after graduation, since I’ve really fallen in love with the city and developed a lot of personal connections here. CALL gives me a good way to learn more about the different academic, court, and firm libraries in the area.

LL-J: Are your English and JD degrees helping with library school?

MV: I think to some degree they are helpful, particularly with knowing how to formulate a research or writing project and bring it to completion. Library school, however, requires cultivating a new vocabulary and developing a new skill set.  I think my training gives me a different, although not necessarily better, perspective on some of the issues and materials. The biggest difference might be that I tend to approach issues in LIS from more of a macro-level perspective, thinking in terms of the philosophical and policy issues.

LL-J: What did you think of the law librarianship course?

MV: It was an online course at GSLIS.  Much of the GSLIS curriculum is online, so even we on-campus students must take a fair amount of online classes.  It was a very practical, very professionally oriented course, which I found particularly useful. I learned a great deal about the shape of the field.

LL-J: What’s library school like these days? (It’s been decades since I went!)

MV: The most exciting thing about GSLIS is just the breadth of LIS as a field, and the range of things people are working on.  There is a real sense of the information profession as interacting with and covering all fields of human knowledge. I have PhD mathematicians, computer programmers, MBAs, lawyers, bioinformaticians, children’s librarians, accountants, and teachers in my classes.  So discussions tend to be very interesting because we are all approaching the material from different angles.

LL-J: Do you have languages other than English, and have you traveled abroad ?

MV: I’m not fluent in any other language, but I studied classical Greek and Latin in high school, and French—reading only—in grad school.  I’ve also studied Hebrew and Italian a bit on my own. I’ve been to France, Italy, and England, and will be going to Jerusalem to study for five weeks this winter.

KM: Ok, one last question. Since you’re conversant with both literature and the law, do you have a favorite book about the law? Or conversely, a favorite case about literature?

MV: If pressed, I’d say Bleak House, which is probably the most famous novel about the law in English and which figures in my dissertation. But I’ll go with Leon Uris’s QBVII, which combines your two questions: it’s a work of literature about a legal case about another work of literature. It’s a thriller (or I guess as close to a thriller as a book can be whose subject is British libel law) that also raises important moral and historical questions.