Member Profile of Catherine Deane: A Servant-Leader, Focused on Facilitating Change and Empowering Others

We are continuing our coverage of the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) inaugural Diversity Summit, hosted in conjunction with the Black Law Librarians (BLL) Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). The Summit’s theme was “From Difficult Conversations to Collaborative Action”, and the session, “Diversity Shares: Listen to Learn”, featured three members of the law library community as panellists, Ramon Barajas, Catherine Deane and Kim Nayyer.

This profile is on Catherine Deane, who goes by Deane, and uses the pronouns they/them. Deane has been a law librarian for over 10 years. Most of their career has been in major cities in California. They also spent 4 years working at Vanderbilt Law Library in Nashville, TN. They have experience in both the academic law library and a law firm library environment and they are currently available for management or senior positions at law libraries in California. They have recently become a facilitator for Come Abide Here LLC, a provider of racial intelligence coaching to White members of diversity, equity, and inclusion committees, strategic planning committees, and other organizational leadership groups that seek to achieve true effectiveness and transformation around diversity, equity, and inclusion within their organizations.

Answers compiled by Megan Moltrup, Librarian at Baker & McKenzie LLP in Washington, DC.

What is your role at your dream job?

My dream job at the moment would be a management position. I would love the opportunity to create a culture of respect for human dignity at work. I would like to foster a workplace where you can bring your whole self to work and where I play a servant-leader role, ensuring that everyone has the support and autonomy they need to do their best work.

How has your role as a facilitator impacted you?

On the weekly podcast that I do with Bathabile Mthombeni of Come Abide Here, we strive to be welcoming and accessible. We are in service to the White community of individuals who choose to do the tough inner work necessary to effectuate lasting and impactful change.

I feel grateful for this opportunity to be the change that I want to see in the world. There have always been White people fighting alongside other races for racial equality. It is a gift to get to support them in their evolution and to empower them to shift paradigms. We offer a dinner conversation where they can express in a safe container their feelings about race based on their personal experiences. They may arrive at the dinner believing that they are allies in our fight. My only goal is to provide guidance so that they can move towards a paradigm where they see that the same systems that oppress marginalized communities, also oppress them. So this is just as much their fight as ours.

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Member Profile of Ramon Barajas: A Nimble Leader, Open to Change and Lifelong Learning

We are continuing our coverage of the Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLLIP) inaugural Diversity Summit, hosted in conjunction with the Black Law Librarians (BLL) Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). The Summit’s theme was “From Difficult Conversations to Collaborative Action”, and the session, “Diversity Shares: Listen to Learn”, featured three members of the law library community as panellists, Ramon Barajas, Catherine Deane and Kim Nayyer.

This profile is on Ramon Barajas, a Library Manager in the Los Angeles office of Alston & Bird. Ramon has been a law librarian for over 15 years working exclusively in law firms. Prior to joining the world of big law, Ramon was a branch manager of a small rural public library in Central California where he worked primarily with public outreach and children’s services (yes, he did story time).  As the first member of his family to attend college, he earned a B.A. in English from CSU Bakersfield and his MLIS from San Jose State University.  Ramon has been an active member of the Southern California Association of Law Libraries (SCALL) and AALL and served as SCALL chapter president from 2017-2018.

Answers compiled by Megan Moltrup, Librarian at Baker & McKenzie LLP in Washington, DC.

What is your role at your law firm?

I am the Library Manager for the firm’s California offices and also play a role in many of the department’s larger functions such as vendor contract negotiations and managing staff. I also participate in interdepartmental committees working to advance the firm’s initiatives.

What do you believe is the value you and your team bring to your firm?

Research is the backbone of the practice of law. As research professionals and the gatekeepers of information, our value cannot be understated. The library team at Alston & Bird has been especially instrumental during the pandemic in helping the firm make the transition to a digital work environment.

What has been the biggest single change you have seen in the industry?And what changes do you see ahead?

The pandemic has accelerated many of the changes that were slowly taking shape within our industry. In the years leading up to the pandemic, we saw things trending towards flexible work schedules and the move away from print. In the last twelve months we were all forced to completely work remotely and to make the shift to digital libraries. I see many of these changes becoming permanent. Digital libraries will continue to evolve and improve. In the near future, printed legal treatises and practice guides may be completely gone.

Name one thing that you or your team is doing this year to meet the challenges ahead.

We are working hard to streamline access to our various online subscriptions. Attorneys need resources to be as easily and readily accessible as possible. Converting our brick and mortar library to a digital space continues to be a challenge, but we are making strides.

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Voices Across the Spectrum, Tough Conversations About Race: Let the Book Start the Discussion

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 25, Number 3 (January/February 2021), pgs. 39-41.

By Cynthia Bassett, Collection Management and Electronic Services Librarian at University of Missouri School of Law and Kara Phillips, Law Library Director at Seattle University School of Law Library

Below are excerpts from the article, including a section highlighting how private law librarians have participated in diversity initiatives.

Talking about racism is tough. Not talking about it is not an option when people are dying. Across our country, people are having difficult conversations about the racism they see in their communities and the effects that systemic racism—racism that is built into the very structures of our society—have on people of color.

The University of Missouri School of Law has been having intentional conversations about the many ways that people in our country are treated as “other” for many years, but the need to talk about it in a new way surfaced after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, in the fall of 2014. Some of the University of Missouri Law School students called Ferguson home, and his death hit them hard. Others in the school simply could not see why people were protesting and blocking highways, which seemed to be counterproductive to their cause. Tensions rose and the school needed to find a way to talk about and understand how different members of our society experience the world.

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Jean O’Grady of Dewey B. Strategic Marks 10-Year Anniversary of Blog Covering the Legal Research Market

Congratulations to Jean O’Grady of the Dewey B. Strategic blog, who recently reached a milestone of 10 years of blogging about the legal research and information industry. Jean recalls her initial posts from 2011 in a walk down memory lane here.

The law librarian and legal information professional community appreciates Jean’s dedication to the law librarian profession, the legal industry, and to staying on top of what’s hot and what’s not in the legal research and technology world.  Jean has been, and continues to be, a great advocate for the role of legal information professionals in assessing and promoting legal research and tech products, while also being a cheerleader and “nudge” for emerging and established legal information vendors.

Jean and her blog have merited a number of honors–Fastcase 50 Award, The ABA Blawg 100, The ABA Blawg 100 Hall of Fame, ABA Legal Rebel podcast, and the AALL Private Law Librarians Blogger of the Year.  We look forward to the blog’s continued success and to future posts!

Leader Profile of Cynthia Brown: Collaboration is Key to Creative, Innovative KM

Three Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals were honored this year as part of the 2020 Fastcase 50 —Cynthia Brown, Andre Davison, and Diana Koppang. Thanks to all of them for being such great representatives of law firm librarians. This week, we have been publishing profiles on each of the honorees. This profile is on Cynthia Brown Senior Director of Research Services, Littler Mendelson

Fastcase 50 profile:

Cynthia BrownSenior Director of Research Services, Littler Mendelson

“It’s no overstatement to say Cynthia Brown is the epitome of a forward-thinking librarian leader in BigLaw’s ever-evolving push to stay ahead of research and knowledge management technology. As Senior Director of Research Services at Littler Mendelson, Cynthia’s impressive track record includes starting the firm’s legislative tracking project, as well as a digital “Knowledge Desk” that helps the firm’s many attorneys easily interface with expert librarians and the vast knowledge management resources at Littler’s disposal. In response to COVID-19 Cynthia and her team pivoted to develop a vast array of constantly-updated and public-facing employer fact sheets that have been used by businesses across the country. Cynthia has demonstrated that legal services can be more than billable hours, and that information professionals in the firm can create new, data-driven legal services for clients”

Profile by Linda-Jean Schneider, Manager of Digital Access, Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP

In these uncertain times with threats to a stable personal and professional existence, we in the legal information profession can often look to our colleagues for support and inspiration. I highly recommend spending time finding out what makes others in our field ‘tick,’ and how they found their way; much like reading biographies of others, it can inspire and motivate us to find our own path. The interview I recently conducted with Cynthia Brown of Littler Mendelson for this OFG profile provided such an occasion for me. She shared numerous insights and experiences that have created and solidified her role as a leader in the profession. Her experience is an example of how elevating our levels of service to not only meet, but to exceed expectations, can expand our ability to thrive and survive.

Cynthia is Senior Director of Research Management at Littler–a position she assumed early in 2020 after 13 years in various positions in the firm’s Library and Research operation, now part of its Knowledge Management Group. In this role, Cynthia continues to lead an exceptionally focused effort to provide essential KM support for the major labor and employment-focused firm, and to motivate and lead her staff to exceed their own expectations and those of the firm. She considers this responsibility to be the rewarding culmination of her career.

Why did you pursue a career as a legal information professional?

Cynthia’s early years in the field — first as a law student and then as a legal information provider representative — drew Cynthia toward her specialization in law firm legal information management. She discovered that the private law firm provides the environment where she feels she can have an impact and be most effective. The chance to be engaged and involved in a profession dominated by talented, collaborative colleagues, with opportunities to excel while learning and contributing to advances in legal research, was irresistible to her.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Some professionals when asked this question will focus on opportunities for advancement, the chance to expand their network, or even acquiring specific skills that could take them into another field. Cynthia names the opportunities for collaboration, flexibility, and mutual support among the firm’s administrative levels to be high points for her. She has been encouraged to identify new ways to directly integrate the research and content her team uncovers into the firm’s work-product, which provides a sense of being directly engaged in the success of the firm.

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