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Hicks Award Caps Law Librarian's Distinguished Career

Margaret A. Leary retires this summer, but will collect honor first

June 23, 2011
Contact: John Masson, 734.647.7352, jpmasson@umich.edu

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Michigan Law's veteran law librarian, Margaret A. Leary, may be riding into retirement this summer, but she found out recently that she'll get to do so with an impressive award tucked under her arm.

The Frederick Charles Hicks Award honors outstanding contributions to the improvement of academic law librarianship. Colleagues say Leary, who has run the Law Library since 1984, practically personifies the award description.

"Margaret Leary is the quintessential law librarian," wrote Penny Hazelton, the University of Washington School of Law's Associate Dean for Library and Computing Services, in nominating Leary. "Smart, visionary, focused on outstanding service, not afraid to tackle the tough problems of our profession, curious, flexible, and a model to those in academic law librarianship."

The Hicks Award's sponsoring organization, the American Association of Law Libraries, hasn't yet told Leary many specifics about her selection. She hopes it has something to do with one of her earliest achievements, and among her most significant: the Law Library's Faculty Research Service, which Leary invented during her first year as librarian. The service, which employs librarians who also hold law degrees as well as well-trained law students, now helps Michigan Law faculty members with more than 500 academic research projects every year.

"Michigan was the first, and as far as I know is still one of only two libraries that have a whole unit set up to carry that out," Leary said. "And it's great for the students, who get training in real academic research."

Leary added that her investigation indicates the research and document delivery services have helped Michigan Law faculty become more productive. But ever the librarian, she agrees the evidence is not 100 percent conclusive.

"We can't prove cause and effect, but there's certainly a correlation there," she said.

For the library, it's been a good year for awards—in March, librarians and communications staffers received first-place accolades for producing the best public relations toolkit, also from the American Association of Law Libraries.

"I'm very proud of it," Leary said of the earlier award. "The PR campaign established some new habits for us. Librarians, and I include myself when I say this, tend to be introverted. We like to do research, we like to organize things, but we're sometimes too shy, and it's hard to develop the habit in the staff of putting forward what you can do."

Leary plans to accept the award at the AALL's 104th annual conference next month in Philadelphia.

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