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Behind Every Case: Celebrating National Library Week with Law Firm Librarians


National Library Week, hosted by the American Library Association, is an annual celebration of everything libraries, and it’s one of our favorite weeks here at HeinOnline! This year, National Library Week is being celebrated April 7-13 with the theme of Ready, Set, Library—exploring all of the gifts that libraries offer to the community, and all of the adventures that lay within their walls.

Last year, for National Library Week, we spotlighted four academic librarians to share what they do and why (you can check out that post here). This year, we reached out to law firm librarians, who provide the essential research necessary for attorneys and their clients to succeed in their cases. Keep reading to learn more about these five amazing law firm librarians who aren’t afraid to find answers to obscure research questions!

Meet the Librarians

Mari Cheney, Perkins Coie LLP
Librarian for 16 years

Christine I. Dulac, Bernstein Shur Sawyer & Nelson
Librarian for about 22 years

Mark Gediman, Alston & Bird
Librarian for 34 years

Cindy Guyer, O’Melveny & Myers LLP
Librarian for 17 years

Catherine R. Mulla, Miller Canfield Paddock and Stone, P.L.C.
Librarian for 22 years

What made you want to become a librarian?

Mari: Legal research during my 1L year, plus Advanced Legal Research and working for the director of the law library during law school. It seemed like the perfect fit for my interests: research and writing!

Christine: Before going to law school, I took a work-study job at the law library at the Univ. of Maine School of Law—to see what law school would be like. I loved it. So after I graduated from law school and failed the California Bar twice, I decided to go to library school and get my MLIS, knowing I wanted to work at a law school library, in public services, and eventually as a director. I did that for 20 years before going to Bernstein Shur.

Mark: I really enjoy researching obscure points and ensuring that the attorneys have the right resources that best support their practice. Seeing how a good library/research services department can make the difference between a good firm and a great firm has reinforced my choice of librarianship as a career.

Cindy: I was one of those early, voracious readers who spent many hours at my local public library—such fond experiences. Being a law librarian allows me to combine my interests in law, information services, and technology. It also provides plenty of opportunities to help and teach others, which are two of my core values.

Catherine: My thirst for knowledge. I love research and learning about all things. I also have a need to share knowledge and help others. It is a good feeling when you learn something from someone that is actually beneficial to you. The circle of life is a wheel of knowledge and education.

What drew you to working at a law firm?

Mari: The WIDE variety of research questions; that what we do directly impacts our clients; the attorneys and paralegals appreciate our help; and I get to work from home!

Christine: My law library career started in a law firm library while I was in library school. After 20 years in academia I felt like I needed a change, another challenge, and I enjoyed my time working at the law firm so I decided to go back there.

Mark: I grew up working in a small law firm. I spent summers as a teenager working in my grandfather’s law office in a small town. He showed me the personal impact the law can have. The respect and gratitude he would get from people as we walked down the street made a big impression on me.

Cindy: After being an academic librarian for 16 years, I was seeking to grow professionally. But I was very selective in choosing my next step. I’m grateful this step is at the award-winning global law firm O’Melveny, where I’m challenged and continue to learn every day. Moreover, I was drawn to O’Melveny in particular because its values of community, culture, and collaboration align with my own.

Catherine: Prior to going to Wayne State University to obtain my MLIS, I worked as a paralegal for 14 years. Preparing for trial and having direct contact with clients was exciting, but 96% of the cases get settled out of court, so all the hard work poured into the process was filed away. Transferring those research skills to assisting attorneys and staff along with training them on databases provided a path to more satisfaction and eventually advancement opportunities. I looked at it as a way of continuing to utilize my skills and making a difference to others, and ultimately, I’m working for the client. I’m constantly learning more facets about the law, which seems to be evolving. I started in technical services cataloging material and updating the library intranet. It was enjoyable putting all the pieces together and making the tools and material accessible to the firm. AI is the latest in technology and there are many resources and tools to keep up with. One is constantly learning. I like to keep growing.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Mari: Answering legislative history questions! I love deep dives into messy research questions.

Christine: What I have loved about returning to the law firm is the research I get to do, that I had moved away from as I moved up in academia. I love the challenge of finding the answers to the questions the lawyers ask—finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Mark: Finding the proverbial needle in the haystack when researching difficult questions.

Cindy: Defining just one favorite part of my job is too hard! What makes me excited each day is knowing that I’m going to help someone with their information needs, while also learning something new myself. I also enjoy connecting with O’Melveny’s Knowledge & Research Services team across the country. In an often fast-paced, demanding work environment, I’m very grateful to be part of such a supportive team.

Catherine: I was asked this question at the Leadership Academy at AALL in 2019. My answer is the same as it was then. There are three areas I love: Summer Associate orientation (train them well and they become your greatest advocates later), acquiring new resources to facilitate the research and train the staff, and National Library Week which is huge at our firm. It provides a chance to familiarize the staff with the resources and tools the firm provides. The best part of the job is working with a great team!

What is your favorite HeinOnline database?

Mari: This is hard question to answer. I’m a big fan of the National Survey of State Laws and the Subject Compilations of State Laws because these are such time savers when I’m looking for 50-state surveys. I also love the Federal Register Library for its archival coverage.

Christine: That’s a hard question—so many. I love the U.S. Federal Legislative History Library—especially Sources of Compiled Legislative History. It makes legislative history research just a little bit easier to have this resource available online.

Mark: Sorry, I can’t limit it to just one. I love the congressional records AND the State Attorney General Reports and Opinions databases. I have been able to track down testimony from the early 1900s and obscure AG opinions that proved very valuable to statutory interpretation.

Cindy: Again, I can’t just name one! I do love a challenging legislative history question. So the State Statutes: A Historical Archive is a must for those questions. And for pro bono cases, the topical ones are fabulous, like LGBTQ+ Rights and Immigration Law & Policy in the U.S.

Catherine: I love the Law Journal Library, followed by the Session Laws Library. Both are invaluable resources. I also have a personal interest in the histories that come out in the Hein Blog, (i.e., How the Kingdom of Hawai’i Became a State; The Arrest and Trial of Lizzie Borden).

Adventure Awaits at the Library…and in HeinOnline

So what are you waiting for? Ready, set, go to your local library this week and see what stories and adventures you uncover. Or, dive into an extensive library of scholarly journals, government documents, case law and more at the touch of your fingertips by logging into HeinOnline. You never know what you’ll learn next!

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