2020 The Agnes and Harvey Reid Honoree: Clare Willis

The Agnes and Harvey Reid Award for Outstanding Contribution to Law Librarianship is presented annually to librarians who have provided outstanding service to the chapter during the previous year or for contribution to law librarianship.

The 2020 Winner is Clare Gaynor Willis.  Please learn more about Clare and help us wish her a well deserved congratulations!

Clare Gaynor Willis

I’m a product of Chicagoland and Illinois through and through.  I was born in Park Ridge and have lived in and around Chicago except for one weird year that I lived in Georgia and my years in Urbana-Champaign.  I got my undergrad at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I attended law school at Chicago-Kent College of Law. Following graduation, I served as a law clerk to the Honorable Sophia H Hall in the Chancery division of the Circuit Court of Cook County. After clerking, I decided to go back to school to get my Masters of Library and Information Science. To get that degree, I returned to the University of Illinois.

While I worked on my degree, I worked as a graduate assistant at the law library and was lucky enough to stay on as a reference librarian after I graduated. In 2011, I started at Chicago-Kent, where I stayed for five great years working alongside CALL luminaries like Debbie Ginsberg and Scott Vanderlin. I started at Northwestern in the fall of 2016. I currently serve as the Research and Instructional Services librarian. In that position, I am fortunate to teach an Advanced Legal Research course and also teach guest lectures in the first year research and writing program.

How has CALL helped you in your Career?

CALL has been an immense help in my career! CALL has allowed me to expand my network far beyond the individual library where I happen to be working. It has given me leadership opportunities both as a committee chair and on the board. I think this is important because a lot of law libraries have a relatively flat organizational structure and librarians don’t necessarily get an opportunity to have formal leadership positions within their own organization. This makes service to professional associations all that much more important. I have gained valuable leadership experience through CALL, which has given me the confidence and skills to lead projects at work and in other organizations (I served on the Young Professionals Board of the Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation for several years).

I have also made wonderful friendships with fascinating people in CALL. I have learned so much from my colleagues. It’s amazing and to me and not at all surprising at all to see how many leaders in AALL have come from CALL. We don’t get the recognition that we deserve for being such a nurturing place for library talent!

What is one of your outstanding contributions that you are most proud of?

As CALL deals with the serious ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic, there are two related contributions that I am very proud of. The first is that during my term as President I started allowing for conference call meetings of the executive board. I know this seems very small and tiny now that we’re all doing so many things via Zoom, but for CALL to be able to have that in place before everything changed I think was really important to the continuity of our organization. The decision to allow for remote meetings also allowed us to recruit and retain talent who might not have been willing or able to make the commitment to be in a conference room downtown for an hour plus once a month.

The second thing that I’m very proud of right now is that, as Nominations and Elections committee chair, I worked with my committee to find an absolutely amazing slate of candidates for this year’s election. The winners of that election are absolutely fabulous library innovators and those who did not win that election would have been equally fabulous.  2020-2021 will be an exceptionally challenging year for CALL. But I truly believe that our leadership is going to guide us through this very well. And I’m very proud of the small part that I can say I played in that in recruiting those individuals to run for CALL leadership.

What does this award mean/would you like to thank anyone?

This award means a great deal to me! It does make me feel slightly old to be getting an award for achievement, but I’ll get over that. This award lets me know that my ability to reach people and help the legal information profession extends further than just the institutions where I’ve worked. It also suggests that people like the job that I did as Secretary and President! Sometimes it can be hard to know whether or not you are doing a good job. It’s nice to have some feedback.

Overall, I have to thank Keith Ann Stiverson for always encouraging me to get involved with CALL and other professional associations. She was and is an amazing mentor to me.

On a similar note, I must thank Jamie Sommer for her continued support of my work in CALL and, of course, for being a part of that dream team slate of candidates that I mentioned before! And I have to thank Scott Vanderlin being a supportive friend and colleague who encourages my ambition, but makes sure I don’t take it all too seriously.

Really, there are so many people who have made my time in CALL extra special. Too many to name. Law librarianship is a very special profession and it’s even more special in Chicago.