Tag Archives: Susan Catterall

April Sidebar and Coffee Event in the Law Library – From Matewan to the Upper Big Branch Disaster: The historical context, and current ramifications, of Caperton v. Massey

The history of coal mining in the United States is rife with drama – mining accidents, labor disputes, environmental issues, family feuds, not to mention greed and corruption.  Please join Professor Jason Huber on April 22nd, between 11-Noon in the East Reading Room of the CSL library as he discusses Caperton v. A.T.  Massey Coal Co., the U.S. Supreme Court decision which set the current judicial recusal standards.  Professor Huber will discuss the due process violations of that case and will also trace some of the history of coal mining in the U.S. and specifically in West Virginia.

If you can’t make it to the coffee talk, take a moment to check out our latest book display in the library!



April 22nd is Earth Day. In recognition of the event, we have created a new book display in the hallway near the Library User Experience (LUX) desk. Below the “I Love You Planet Earth” poster are three shelves of books dealing with environmental law. The first highlights management of and advocacy for our natural resources. The second shelf includes books on the topic of sustainable development. The third shelf has resources concerning climate change. These materials are available for check-out.

~Susan Catterall & Betty Thomas~

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Library Sidebar & Coffee Event: “The Legacy of Justice Ginsburg: Unfinished Business for Women’s Rights”

women in the law

There is debate as to who was the first woman lawyer in the United States.  Some count Margaret Brent who served as counsel to Lord Baltimore, Governor of Massachusetts.  Arabella Mansfield, in 1869, became the first woman to officially obtain a state license (Iowa) which permitted her to practice law. According to the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession, by the late 1990s, there were nearly 17,500 women in the legal profession and there have been four women who have served as justices on the highest court in the land, the U.S. Supreme Court.

Please join Professor Barbara Bernier on Monday, March 23 between 11-Noon in the East Reading Room of the Library as she discusses the influences women have had on the legal profession and what unfinished business is left.

If you can’t attend the coffee talk, then take a moment when you’re in the library next to browse our related book display.


Above is the book display that is currently in the library hallway near the East Reading Room. The poster above the books is a photograph of women suffragists picketing in front of the White House. Next to it is a photo of the current U.S. Supreme Court justices including three women: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. The top shelf of books are from the Charlotte Law collection on basic women’s rights through history; the middle shelf highlights the biographies of women judges and justices who have paved the way for current women in the law; and the bottom shelf has books and reports helpful to women practicing law today. A Charlotte Observer article about Sonia Sotomayor’s recent visit to Davidson College has been added. The books in this display are available for check out.

~Susan Catterall & Betty Thomas~

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A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage and the Quest for the Color of Desire

happy hands and heart

Valentine’s Day has passed, but many of us are still contending with piles of ribbons, tissue paper, envelopes and confetti in various hues of rose, crimson and scarlet.  We equate these shades with Valentine’s Day, but the symbolism and analogies associated with these colors go beyond that single holiday.  Red epitomizes passion, desire, romance, danger and energy.  Frequently adjectives such as “blood”, “ruby” or “wine” further enhance the description of this color.  We probably don’t give it a second thought, but there was a time when the elusive, brilliant red was worth a king’s fortune.

Amy Butler Greenfield relates the history of the dyer’s quest for this color in A Perfect Red.  The majority of the book recounts Spain’s attempt to monopolize the production of the this vibrant red from the time Cortes invaded Mexico and his men discovered the source – the tiny cochineal insect living on the prickly pear cactus. The female insect produced an acid which not only irritated predators but was also a brilliant dye.  Soon Spain dominated the production of the red dye and guarded the secret of the cochineal. As other countries began to covet the hue, a complex web of espionage developed, including both colonial exploration and exploitation.

Greenfield intersperses her narrative with fascinating anecdotes and facts related to the color red. For example, there were rules regarding wearing the color red.  In some cultures, only royalty had the right (and could afford) to wear red.  Montezuma not only seized this right, but also demanded that his subjects pay a tax in pounds of cochineal.  Mary, Queen of Scots, was clothed in black on the day of her execution. Yet, she used the color to make her statement, removing her dress to reveal a red petticoat.  This was the symbol of Catholic martyrdom!

Eventually, synthetic dyes were perfected and the labor-intensive cultivation of plant and animal dyes subsided.  Historians and chemists may be the target audience for this volume, but this fascinating account has something to interest everyone.

~Susan Catterall~

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Advice from “The Reference Desk”

“The Reference Desk” is a regular column featured in the AALL Spectrum.  The column below originally appeared in the February 2012 issue and is reprinted here with permission.

Q: I’m part of a search team that is reviewing resumes for a librarian position. One of the candidates who applied seems to have the very job I have dreamed of. Would it be unethical to invite the candidate in for an interview so I can learn more about that job?

A: I’m not sure whether it would be unethical, but it may be very unfair—both to your present employer and the candidate. To begin with, your employer has charged you with assisting in the selection of the best possible candidate for the position—not with finding your perfect job. As long as you’re working in your current position, you shouldn’t be short-changing your employer.

If this candidate isn’t one of the top choices for the position, you shouldn’t consider interviewing him or her. Even if the applicant is one of the top choices, is it fair to the applicant to use the time during his or her interview to investigate your perfect job? Welcome to the intersection of business ethics and serendipity. Librarians understand the latter concept and rely upon it to help uncover answers. You might have run across this job posted on a professional job list, online discussion list, Facebook, or another social media site—but you didn’t. As librarians, we hold ourselves out as ethical role models. Can you perform the task you’ve been charged with and at the same time pursue your dream job?

I thought we could benefit from the advice of a human resources expert and consulted Dan Quillen, division manager of human resources with the city of Aurora, Colorado. Quillen has nearly 20 years of human resources experience, including 10 years as the director of human resources at one of the largest employment law litigation firms in Colorado. Following is Quillen’s advice.

“Thanks for the opportunity to weigh in on this question, Susan. To the individual who asked this question, my initial reaction is that it would be unethical at worst and inappropriate at best for you to invite the applicant to interview just to learn about his or her current job.

“Those who interview candidates for positions within their company have an obligation to their employer to seek out and hire the best qualified candidate for the position. Sometimes that means subordinating our own personal wishes and desires. For example, if I were interviewing someone who was to be a peer, it would be unethical for me to hire the second- or third-most qualified candidate because the most qualified candidate(s) might provide stiffer competition for me in potential promotional opportunities at a later date.

“It is also patently unfair to the candidate. He or she has high hopes for this position and will prepare, worry, rehearse answers to potential questions, and get hopes up. For the candidate to learn—or even suspect—that he or she was invited to interview so you could learn about his or her current job would be a gross disservice to that person. I know I would be very unhappy if that happened to me.

“From a purely dogmatic point of view, you may wish to recuse yourself from selection of the top candidates if you cannot in good conscience make an unbiased recommendation. This might present an awkward situation; it would be tough to tell your boss you need to recuse yourself because you would like to have a candidate’s former job if they are hired by your employer. Since you are one of several individuals evaluating resumes, perhaps you merely go along with the recommendation of the other reviewers regarding this candidate. Even that scenario is less than desirable—your employer would be robbed of your insights about the candidate. But it may be the best alternative.

“If the candidate is not selected for an interview, or if they are interviewed but not the successful candidate, I think it would also be inappropriate to contact the candidate to learn more about his or her current job. It’s just one of those things that, though you’d like to figure out a way to do it, simply isn’t appropriate to do. (Then again, I get miffed at people who continue to drive in lanes that are ending in hopes of finding a slot well up the line of cars so they can slip in ahead of the rest of us who obediently stay in the continuing lane.)

“Bottom line, I think you need to treat this situation as though the person is any other candidate, make no effort to learn more about the candidate’s current position, and certainly not use your influence to change the outcome of the decision because of this factor.”

Thanks to Quillen for his very sound advice. To the person who asked this question, I would also caution you to ponder why this candidate is willing to leave what you consider to be a dream job. He or she may have logical reasons, but it may be possible you are seeing greener grass on the other side of the fence. Ask yourself why this job appeals to you. Is it the geographic location? Is it the title or responsibilities? Would it be possible to attempt to create those responsibilities within your current position?

~Susan Catterall~

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Praise for Procrastination


If you’re the type who stalls, delays, drags your feet or becomes paralyzed at the thought of turning in sub-standard work and, consequently, has been shamed into being called a procrastinator, take heart. You’ve been redeemed.  John Perry, in his book, The Art of Procrastination, A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging and Postponing has cast a positive light on the subject. Perry promotes the theory that procrastinators actually accomplish many tasks and has subtitled the book: Or, Getting Things Done by Putting Them Off.

This is a book which should appeal to all of us within the legal profession.  Our calling is comprised of proficient procrastinators.  This isn’t to say that we’re lazy; rather we’re perfectionists and strategists who are adept at juggling shifting priorities. Litigators are the prime example. A litigator will diligently prepare a case for trial, yet simultaneously plan a thoughtful settlement agreement. Sometimes this works and at other times it leads to late hours, additional staff and much coffee consumption. In an environment where litigators find themselves facing each on a regular basis, preparation becomes a well-calculated game of chicken.

Trial preparation aside, our profession is also comprised of individuals who are such perfectionists that they are reluctant to start any project, especially a project with a “fuzzy” deadline because they don’t want to start anything that doesn’t represent their best efforts. As we fret, worry and deny “that” project, we set about accomplishing many other projects, most which have firm deadlines, are routine but necessary, or which don’t so intimidate us that we become incapacitated.  Perry explains how avoiding the big “to do” task encourages us, through avoidance, to accomplish countless other tasks.  In fact, procrastination is both an art and a science.

I first heard about The Art of Procrastination when I attended a library conference in early 2012.  I was captivated as the speaker discussed Perry’s book. As he ticked off a litany of topics (i.e., making lists, structured procrastination, perfectionism, etc.), I felt as if he was reading my mind.  I could barely wait to order Perry’s book and had it rushed to me.  I dove right into it and managed to work into many conversations that I was reading this book and that I would recommend it to anyone.  I went to the CSL librarian who coordinates this blog and told her that I wanted to write about this book and how so many could identify with the subject.

As I said, that was over two years ago and I am still on page 32 of a 92 page book.  My librarian colleague has stopped asking me when I will have the procrastination article finished and has, instead, praised me for the other blog articles I’ve written, the research guides I’ve created and the other collaborations we have completed.  Never-the-less, I can only dodge my commitments for so long.  Besides, I want others who may share the shame of procrastination to understand that it is no longer something of which to be embarrassed.

I encourage you to read the book.  But don’t expect me to ask if you have read it.  Sorry.  I’ve already heard it: ”I meant to, but I haven’t gotten around to it.”

~Susan Catterall~

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