Member Profile of Ramon Barajas: A Nimble Leader, Open to Change and Lifelong Learning

We are continuing our coverage of the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) inaugural Diversity Summit, hosted in conjunction with the Black Law Librarians (BLL) Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). The Summit’s theme was “From Difficult Conversations to Collaborative Action”, and the session, “Diversity Shares: Listen to Learn”, featured three members of the law library community as panellists, Ramon Barajas, Catherine Deane and Kim Nayyer.

This profile is on Ramon Barajas, a Library Manager in the Los Angeles office of Alston & Bird. Ramon has been a law librarian for over 15 years working exclusively in law firms. Prior to joining the world of big law, Ramon was a branch manager of a small rural public library in Central California where he worked primarily with public outreach and children’s services (yes, he did story time).  As the first member of his family to attend college, he earned a B.A. in English from CSU Bakersfield and his MLIS from San Jose State University.  Ramon has been an active member of the Southern California Association of Law Libraries (SCALL) and AALL and served as SCALL chapter president from 2017-2018.

Answers compiled by Megan Moltrup, Librarian at Baker & McKenzie LLP in Washington, DC.

What is your role at your law firm?

I am the Library Manager for the firm’s California offices and also play a role in many of the department’s larger functions such as vendor contract negotiations and managing staff. I also participate in interdepartmental committees working to advance the firm’s initiatives.

What do you believe is the value you and your team bring to your firm?

Research is the backbone of the practice of law. As research professionals and the gatekeepers of information, our value cannot be understated. The library team at Alston & Bird has been especially instrumental during the pandemic in helping the firm make the transition to a digital work environment.

What has been the biggest single change you have seen in the industry?And what changes do you see ahead?

The pandemic has accelerated many of the changes that were slowly taking shape within our industry. In the years leading up to the pandemic, we saw things trending towards flexible work schedules and the move away from print. In the last twelve months we were all forced to completely work remotely and to make the shift to digital libraries. I see many of these changes becoming permanent. Digital libraries will continue to evolve and improve. In the near future, printed legal treatises and practice guides may be completely gone.

Name one thing that you or your team is doing this year to meet the challenges ahead.

We are working hard to streamline access to our various online subscriptions. Attorneys need resources to be as easily and readily accessible as possible. Converting our brick and mortar library to a digital space continues to be a challenge, but we are making strides.

How has your job evolved from the time you first began your career?

Naturally with seniority and growth (getting older) comes more responsibility. My role has evolved from being strictly a research librarian to someone who spends a greater part of his day handling administrative and management tasks. I keep up my research chops by taking on as many research requests as time and schedule permit.

What job would you have if you had not become a law librarian?

Middle school English teacher.

Any advice for new librarians who are just starting out?

It’s important to find a good mentor. If you’re lucky enough to work on the same team with someone you can learn from, make sure to take advantage of all the learning opportunities. Always be curious and never stop learning. You may not realize it at the time, but even seemingly remedial tasks can be learning opportunities. If you have seen the original “Karate Kid” movie, think of Mr. Miyage and his “wax on, wax off” teachable moment.

What would you name your autobiography?

“You have a long way to go”

If you could be any fictional character, who would you choose and why?

This is a tough question, but I’m going with Dr. Laszlo Kreizler from the Alienist. I read that book when it was published in 1994 and was instantly captivated by the cast of historical characters and the ground breaking work Dr. Kreizler did profiling serial killers. I know it’s dark and creepy, but this was your question not mine! 

What’s the last photo you took on your phone?

One of my pandemic hobbies has been buying/selling/trading guitar effect pedals. The last photo on my phone is my ever-changing and perpetually “in progress” pedalboard. That big empty spot has since been filled since I took the picture.

Final thoughts?

Hang in there, folks. I am tired of hearing the phrase, “unprecedented times,” but that is exactly the place and time in which we currently find ourselves. I wish I had a crystal ball and could say with certainty that things will be better soon. One thing we all know for sure is things will be different soon. Different from how they are today, and different from where they were before 2020 completely blindsided us all. Stay nimble and embrace the change.

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