Her Story 2015

Director has championed Maurer law library resources over four decades

Linda Fariss stands in front of a large bookshelf at the law library
Linda Fariss

With light-filled windows that overlook Dunn's Woods in the historic Old Crescent, the library effectively functions as the heart of the IU Maurer School of Law.

It's one of the first places first-year students visit. It's where they spend hours poring over their studies. And it's where they celebrate graduation, professors and parents alike mingling over the strains of a live band, the circulation desk transformed into a bar.

Over the past four decades, one woman has been instrumental in helping the law library grow from a cramped spot with books piled haphazardly on the floor into a soaring six-story space that is home to reference books, online databases, vital legal resources and quiet spots for reading.

At the same time, director Linda Fariss has seen her library, her school, her campus unhesitatingly open its arms to women, welcoming them as administrators, as professors, as staffers, as students.

"As a librarian, I work in a female-dominated profession, but as a lawyer, I work in a male-dominated profession. Things have changed tremendously, however, in the years I've been here," she said. "When I first came here, I think there were only one or two female faculty members in the whole law school, and the student body was predominately male as well. But it's almost hard to remember that time now, I'm happy to say."

Fariss came to the law library in 1976. She'd spotted an opening at the law library for a day job managing the circulation desk and thought to herself, "I could do that." 

Fariss first came to the law library in 1976 after spending a few years at the Wells Library, working the night shift. She'd spotted an opening at the law library for a day job managing the circulation desk and thought to herself, "I could do that."

She didn't know it at the time, but she'd just found her niche. Within a decade, she would finish two degrees while climbing the career ladder and helping plan the very space she now runs.

Fariss finished her Master of Library Science and became the law library's public service librarian in 1980, then moved up to associate director in 1984. She enrolled in Maurer, obtaining her own law degree -- magna cum laude, no less -- in 1988, feeling it was important for her to learn practical legal application to round out her research skills.

At the same time, Fariss worked with then-director Colleen Pauwels on the 1986 addition to the school to house the library, helping plan, design and oversee the construction of the new space.

She's also watched the library's tiny staff grow to nearly 20 full-time employees, including 11 professional librarians, most of whom also teach in the school. Fariss herself teaches legal bibliography and law library administration through the Department of Information and Library Science, training a next generation of law librarians.

Named director in 2012, Fariss now oversees her library's continued move toward a modern-day service model. One of her first hires? Educational technology librarian Ashley Ahlbrand, whose duties include helping faculty use technology for teaching and learning, and maintaining the library's blog and Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Pinterest social media accounts. In addition, the library just unveiled a new online chat process for reference questions.

"As the way our users work has changed, the way we deliver our services has changed," Fariss said. "We have to seek ways to ensure our students and faculty members know they can come to us for help, and we have to reach out in different ways. It's a continually changing balance, and a process that I'm privileged to be a part of."

Fariss has helped turn the six-story library into a home for reference books, online databases, vital legal resources and quiet spots for reading.