Librarian’s reach goes beyond county’s law library

HOLLIDAYSBURG – There’s the lawyers, law clerks and other court staff that Lucy Wolf helps as part of her job as the Blair County law librarian.

But there’s also people like the woman who called last week looking for a lawyer because she was having debt problems and didn’t know which one to call. She ended up in tears while talking to Wolf.

“She just needed someone to talk to,” Wolf said.

That’s part of her job, referring people who call to one of the many lawyers in Blair County. To be fair to all the lawyers, she gives the callers five names at a time based on their legal specialty, and she rotates the names of the lawyers.

Sometimes the people on the phone or those who come into the law library will ask whom she’d choose for a lawyer. For many years the library has been open to the public, and a lot of people come in to use the law books. But she has a sign in the library that says the law librarian doesn’t give legal advice, and Wolf sticks to that, even when a person pushes her on it.

“I cannot tell them what to do; I’m just a lawyer referral service,” she said.

Wolf, who has overseen the law library in the Blair County Courthouse in Hollidaysburg for 18 years, grew up in Pittsburgh but later moved to Hollidaysburg. She attended the Penn State Altoona Campus where she received an associate’s degree in arts and letters then moved on to Mount Aloysius College and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in professional studies. She later took courses at Penn State to become a paralegal.

But she’s never wanted to go further and become a lawyer herself, and neither has her son, Jay, although he has worked at several law firms in Washington, D.C. A graduate of Juniata College, he’s currently a project manager at a large law firm in the nation’s capital, Wolf said.

“I’m very happy with what I’m doing now,” said Wolf, who has done volunteer work at several area libraries and is on the boards of Hollidaysburg Area Public Library and the Blair County Systems Library.

It was at Mount Aloysius that Wolf started working in a library, which had a section of legal books, she said. After graduation, she heard about the job of law librarian at the Blair County Courthouse. At that time, the law library was in the Highland Hall annex.

Even after the library was moved to the older part of the main courthouse, the quarters were cramped, she said. Books were stacked everywhere, and often lawyers would be consulting with clients in the law library, she said. Many times Wolf would have to serve double-duty for the court as an unofficial gopher.

“So I was kind of the runner in those days,” she said. “I would get a call from one of the judges who would say he was looking for attorney so-and-so, so if you see him, tell him I’m looking for him.”

Things have changed since the library has moved into the newer section of the courthouse and Wolf has more space. She still keeps a lot of law books on hand, some dating back to 1886, which lawyers continue to use to look up cases for civil matters especially such as real estate issues, even though much can be found on computers these days. The library also features some portraits of past county judges and a few photos of the Blair County Bar Association, the oldest taken in 1896. Wolf is executive secretary for the bar association, which calls the library home because it has no other headquarters.

Wolf’s other duties include making sure lawyers get copies of the judges’ opinions and scheduling arbitration hearings, which have cut down on the civil trial calendar. If people choose arbitration, they have a panel of three lawyers decide their cases instead letting their cases go to trial. Wolf is responsible for lining up the lawyers on the panel and scheduling the hearings. She’s also administrative assistant to the county’s Inns of Court branch established by Judge Hiram Carpenter, which is an educational organization for lawyers.

James Adams is a local attorney who is currently president of the county bar association. He said in the 18 years he’ s worked in the county as a lawyer, he’s seen a lot of attorneys “come and go at the courthouse, but one constant has always been Lucy’s welcoming presence in the law library.

“Lucy is an invaluable resource to the bar,” Adams said. “She keeps the law library running smoothly and works with the court in managing the arbitration process.”