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Research and development go hand in hand for Thornton

Amy Thornton - Wisconsin Department of Justice

Amy Thornton –
Wisconsin Department of Justice

Looking back it was obvious. Amy Thornton was going to be a law librarian.

But, in college, the political science major wasn’t so sure.

“I figured I’d go to law school or library school,” said Thornton, a senior librarian at the Wisconsin Department of Justice. “I love doing research. In fact, as an undergrad, I liked to do research until the last minute, and I wouldn’t give myself much time to write the paper.”

She got a glimpse of life in the law by working a few years in contracts and compliance at insurance companies. But her heart was in the library, so off to librarian school she went.

It was like the best of two worlds collided when she got work with a large law firm — an opportunity that, in 2001, led her to the state Department of Justice, where she works with about 90 assistant attorneys general in the division of legal services.

Her work is varied, which she loves.

“When an attorney walks through the door you never know what they’ll ask. And I enjoy learning about all those different things.”

It helps that Thornton knows her work is going toward a good cause.

“I enjoy working in public service. I might be asked to find information about an expert witness, and then I’ll find out the person was found guilty. It makes me feel good to support the people who might be able to put a murderer away.”

Even when the work is challenging, Thornton said, she still finds it rewarding.

“Change is constant,” she said. “And there are real pressures on balancing the physical space of the library with things being more available electronically. It’s just trying to see the constant changes as an opportunity, and not just cling to the books.”

So, when the law library was downsized last year, she tried to embrace the opportunity.

“That was obviously stressful, but it gave us some opportunity to create some spaces where people could meet and have collaborative space. It was a way to think of the library space differently,” Thornton said. “Just because books used to be there and now it’s something different, that’s not necessarily bad. As long as people know library services have value.”


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