Alumna Katie Fortney Achieved Publishing Success While Earning Her MLIS

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Earlier this year, the Law Library Journal published Fortney’s piece titled “Ending Copyright Claims in State Primary Legal Materials: Toward an Open Source Legal System” [PDF] in its Winter issue. Fortney’s article, which began as her final paper for INFO 281 Seminar in Digital Copyright taught by Mary Minow, examines how states curtail public access with attempts to protect their own perceived copyright interests in laws.

Fortney, who graduated in December 2009, credits Minow’s encouragement with helping get her paper published. As a former lawyer who specialized in patent and securities litigation in Silicon Valley, Fortney was also able to bring her unique experience to the topic of librarianship and copyright issues.

“I took a copyright course in law school, but I really liked the idea of seeing it from a librarian’s perspective,” said Fortney, who earned her law degree from New York University. “Mary Minow’s was class terrific. It was one of the most engaging classes I took.”

Fortney also published her final paper from INFO 200 in Library Student Journal, although the circumstances were markedly different. Fortney wrote her paper just two weeks after her first child was born, and in her exhausted state accidentally submitted a paper from the wrong class. She didn’t realize the mix-up until it was too late, and she wanted at least someone to read her paper on technology education in library schools.

Fortney recently landed a job at University of California at Santa Cruz, working in the department of Teaching and Learning Services while helping out with library research services, collection development, and issues in special collections. Fortney, who previously worked as a law librarian, really wanted to transition into academic librarianship and said she hoped that having two papers published “helped me stand out a little bit” in the field.

“I really like working with students and professors in an academic library, and I like the broader range of subjects compared to law librarianship,” she said.

Fortney practiced as a lawyer for a year and a half before deciding that a lifetime of 80-hour workweeks wasn’t for her. She knew that if she wanted to trade her higher salary for a better work-life balance and more interesting job, she could either switch law specialties or she “might as well do something I truly love” and become a librarian. Her mother is a librarian and has worked in libraries since Fortney was 5 years old. Fortney jokes that it may have been “college rebellion” that led her to initially pursue a career in law.

Fortney used her librarianship and legal skills in other projects as well. As a volunteer, she contributed to, a project that involves creating a national repository of primary legal materials.