Tag Archives: Susan Catterall

Partnering to Promote Professionalism

At Charlotte School of Law, we embrace the idea of “interdependence.”  I recently attended the Southeastern Chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries conference, which was held in Lexington, Kentucky.  I had the privilege of presenting, as part of a panel, on the topic of “Partnering to Promote Professionalism and Effective Practitioners: What Every Law School Graduate Should Know.”  My co-panelists were law firm librarians.  In addition to having been friends for many years, we each, at some point, had been responsible for training and coordinating the training of young associates.

Law firm librarians have always played an indispensable part in the nurturing and development of new associates.  They still do, but as the hiring practices of “Big Law” firms have undergone a change, the responsibility of providing students with the practice-ready professionalism, the technology skills and the business acumen necessary to succeed has shifted back to law schools. The message that I, an academic librarian and former law firm librarian, and my two law firm librarians attempted to impart was that we are more effective when we work together.

In order to prepare for my portion of the presentation, I drew upon the first annual BarBri “State of the Legal Field” survey, Wawrose’s, “What Do Legal Employers Want to See in New Graduates? Using Focus Groups to Find Out” 39 Ohio N. U. L. Rev. 505 (2013) and Stouffer’s “Closing the Gap: Teaching ‘practice-ready’ legal skills,” 19 AALL Spectrum 10 (February 2015).  I also interviewed Associate Dean Michael Farley, Director of the Center for Professional Development Aretha Blake, and Program Coordinator for Process Excellence Krystyll Gardner in order to gain an overview of the Charlotte School of Law “Student Success Initiative.”   The CSL library staff also implemented its own projects and while those projects contributed to the goal of focusing on professionalism, GRIT and relationship-building, it was clear that greater inroads were made when the library partnered with other departments.

Likewise, when law school librarians join forces with their counterparts in firms and government libraries, the impact is greater than when they work alone.  My co-panelists discussed the “Business Side of Law Firms” and “Making the Transition” from law student to practitioner.  We encouraged all attendees to work with each other, not only for the betterment of their own employer, but for the greater good that can be achieved.  To quote Mark Shields, “There is always strength in numbers.”

~Susan Catterall~

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Charlotte School of Law Librarian, Susan Catterall, Named Best Blogger/Writer of the Year by PLL

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Congratulations to our very own Susan Catterall on being named Best Blogger/Writer of the Year by PLL for her professional advice column, “The Reference Desk,” published monthly in AALL SpectrumPLL is the Private Law Libraries Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL).  The PLL Best Blogger/Writer award is designed to recognize a member who has made significant blogging/writing contributions to the Private Law Librarians Special Interest Section and/or law library profession and who demonstrates outstanding potential for continued service.

Susan created “The Reference Desk” about five years ago when Mark Estes (former AALL President and editor of AALL Spectrum) asked Susan if she would be willing to write an “advice” column for AALL Spectrum.  AALL members had suggested that such a column would be a valuable resource for the law librarian community and Susan rose to the challenge.

The first column was published in the September/October 2010 issue of AALL Spectrum.   The monthly column addresses professionalism subjects such as appropriate dress and use of technology, as well as training matters and succession planning.  Susan sometimes addresses the questions on her own, but she often consults other librarians and taps into their greater expertise. Their contributions not only make for a richer more credible column but also provide an opportunity to identify authorities within our profession and make the column more relevant.

In addition to the advice of former AALL Board members and Presidents and librarian colleagues from all types of libraries, Susan has also asked for assistance from library consultants, information vendors and several human resources specialists.  In particular, she has reached out to Liz Johnson, Reference Librarian at Wake Forest University Law and former Reference Librarian at Charlotte School of Law, and Jeremy McCleery, Health and Wellness Counselor at Charlotte School of Law.

Stop by the library to congratulate Susan and to wish her well as she travels to the annual AALL Conference in Philadelphia this summer.

Want to know more?  Learn about Susan and all of the Library Staff in our Meet Our Librarians and Staff LibGuide

We are proud of you, Susan!

Below are links to some of Susan’s blogs:

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More Advice from “The Reference Desk”

“The Reference Desk” is a regular column featured in the AALL Spectrum.  The column below originally appeared in the May 2015 issue and is reprinted here with permission.

Q: I’m a director at a law school library, and I’ve heard through the grapevine that one of my staff members may be in the process of transitioning. I don’t know this person very well, but, even so, I know that I can’t question this individual directly. Not only is it none of my business at the moment, but I’m not sure what I can do. I anticipate, down the line, that this person may approach me and let me know (his/her) choices. I want to eliminate as much awkwardness as possible for everyone, including myself, and would like to know what kind of training or assistance I should provide.

A: You’re correct in that you can’t do or say anything at the moment and that you need to be cautious in your anticipation of any changes. If what you anticipate occurs, it will be your human resources department that will need to take the lead. There are confidentiality issues involved here, as well as potential changes to insurance documents and updates to business systems, such as email addresses. I am sure that your H.R. department will involve you to the appropriate degree when the need arises. However, it may not be too soon to focus training initiatives on how to ensure that your work culture is one of respect, inclusion, safety, and compliance. Many schools are conducting training workshops and informational sessions on The Gay Alliance’s SafeZone Program, which was created to develop and maintain environments in workplaces, schools, and other social settings that are culturally competent and supportive to LGBTQ populations. I’ve asked Joshua Burford, assistant director for sexual and gender diversity at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, to share his insights. Josh has more than 15 years of experience working with the LGBTQ populations in the south and also has his MLIS. I was privileged to attend one of Josh’s presentations on the SafeZone Program.

Josh has shared the following:

“The support of our trans colleagues is an important part of the 21st century workplace.  Too often, cisgender people (non-trans-identified people) feel that they will make “mistakes” with names and pronouns, and, because of this, they have a tendency to ignore the challenges faced by the trans people sharing their spaces. We never want to render trans people silent simply out of fear or lack of knowledge. It is important for cisgender people to understand the privileges that they themselves experience every day. Once cisgender people can understand how freely they are allowed to move through their world, it will help them understand the challenges trans people face every day.

“The best way to support your trans-identified colleagues in the workplace is to take a twofold approach to making your environment as affirming as possible.

“Part one is a wholesale review of all your procedures, processes, and physical spaces in your workplace. This can mean checking your forms, applications, and online language to make sure that you have spaces for individuals to identify as transgender. If you are forcing people to choose from lists that only have “male” or “female” options, then you are limiting the ways that individuals can identify. Substituting a fillable blank space can work wonders.

“Any review of policy must include an update of your workplace’s nondiscrimination policy. If your workplace is truly a space where your trans colleagues can be their whole selves, then you need to have this reflected in a policy that includes ‘gender identity/expression’ and make certain that the policy is public. A review of your procedures and policies is tough work, but it shows a commitment to the well-being of everyone in your office.

“When you are reviewing your physical space, it is important to consider what your public space looks like. Do you offer gender-neutral or all-gender restrooms in your building? If the answer is no, what can you do to remedy this? Having a plan to address this can really show your trans colleagues that you are serious about their safety in your spaces.

“Part two is education. There are countless resources available online to get your staff up to speed on the nuances of trans identity. It is vital that your staff be up to speed about the use of correct pronouns and names for the individual(s) in your workplace who are transitioning. Asking the right questions is necessary. It’s important to remember that mistakes can be made, but if the process of education is ongoing, then they will happen less and less. Using the resources of the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project can help your workplace develop individual cultural competency around issues of trans identity and can be the springboard to the creation of a permanent SafeZone Program in your office. A SafeZone Program centralizes the available resources that are offered in your institution as well as provides current and future allies with the knowledge they need to be good trans allies.”

Thank you, Josh.  You’ve provided some thoughtful and sensitive insights. When employees feel included and respected, they are happier and more productive, and our workplace is all the better. I’ve always said that we librarians are a resource for each other. The AALL Social Responsibility Special Interest Section’s Standing Committee on Lesbian and Gay Issues embraces the diversity of sexual orientations and gender identities. I wish you the best and encourage you to contact this committee directly (www.aallnet.org/sections/sr/lgissues) if you have any additional questions.

~Susan Catterall~

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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!

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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”

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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.

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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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