Featured Member – Elizabeth Lukes

Elizabeth Lukes began her library career at the Baltimore Sun, where she started as an intern and later moved into a position in the library. While she enjoyed news research, through her work at the Sun she developed an interest in legal issues and law librarianship. After seeing an advertisement (in the Sun of course!) for the librarian position at the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), she applied, and has been in that job since 2006. She studied for and obtained her MLS in Florida State University’s online program.

Currently a one-person operation, the library at OAH serves a number of functions. Much of Elizabeth’s time is spent conducting administrative and legislative history research for the Administrative Law Judges (ALJs).  There are about 65 ALJs, a number which has increased since the OAH began handling foreclosure mediations in 2010.   In cooperation with a paralegal for Quality Assurance, Elizabeth also monitors changes in various agency regulations and procedures and apprises the ALJs of them. The variety of agencies, and their differing policies and practices, make this a challenging but rewarding endeavor.

The OAH has a number of interns from law schools every summer, who shadow the ALJs and help them research and write their decisions, and who no doubt find Elizabeth a valuable source of information and support.

In another aspect of her job, Elizabeth oversees the library’s print collection, as well as filing and maintaining the collection of signed ALJ decisions that are kept for seven years according to internal policy. The number of signed decisions varies widely depending on agency policy and practice. Some agencies reserve the right to reverse ALJ decisions, and others do not.

Also, the OAH library is open to the public. To view ALJ decisions requires advance filing of a Public Information Act request in order to protect the confidentiality of many opinions. Dealing with these requests is another aspect of Elizabeth’s job.  She recalls one patron who brought in a scanner to assist with his research.

Drawing on her experience producing focus group videos in a previous position at an ad agency, Elizabeth has also taken on the task of assisting other OAH staff members with preparing presentations. Recently Elizabeth chaired a committee that developed a video to assist people who wish to represent themselves in administrative hearings. A production crew from another state agency filmed and edited the project. The two-part video is about 30 minutes long and covers one Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) and one non-MVA hearing. This video is available from the OAH Web site.

When she isn’t wearing one of the many hats she wears for her OAH job, Elizabeth works as a wedding videographer on the weekends. She and her husband have been pursuing this for about five years. She describes this as a “high adrenaline” endeavor which draws upon both her physical stamina and entrepreneurial interests. Often obtaining clients by word of mouth, she has worked with a number of ethnically diverse weddings, which she describes as fascinating to film.  She sees this work as an enriching experience and one that effectively counterbalances her “day job” in library work.

Elizabeth enjoys knowing the policies of the various agencies and being a conduit of information for the staff of the OAH. Further, she looks forward to managing the transition of OAH library as it moves from print to digital information.