When she was a girl, Keith Ann Stiverson’s weekend routine was not built around going to the movies, the park or the pool.
“We went to the library every Saturday,” said Stiverson, raised with her two brothers by their divorced mother.
“I didn’t realize it was inexpensive entertainment.”
Stiverson’s devotion to libraries started during those childhood visits to the public library in Columbus, Ohio. It became a career. She is now the director of the law library at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law and a senior lecturer.
And as of July 22, she is the president of the American Association of Law Libraries.
The 5,000-member organization elected Stiverson to a one-year term during its 108th annual meeting in Philadelphia.
“My theme is ‘make it new, create the future,’” said Stiverson, who has held other leadership roles in the organization.
“We have a real opportunity now to show our skills in new ways as law librarians.”
Today, those skills are primarily research-based. In an era where information is more readily available than ever before, the role of a librarian has become proactive.
“You can’t know everything,” Stiverson said, “but you can know where to find it.”
Stiverson has seen lots of change during her time as a librarian.
“Growth in a law library used to be about more volumes,” said Stiverson, 66.
“That idea went by the wayside a long time ago. Now, what we are growing is expert librarians who help faculty be more productive. That’s what we do. And help students learn the skills they need to go out and be good lawyers.”
Stiverson’s library career began at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where she earned a master’s in library and information science in 1976.
She continued her education at Georgetown University pursuing a second master’s in English literature.
She completed more than 80 percent of the degree but did not finish due to acceptance in Georgetown’s law school, where she earned her J.D. in 1983.
Her move to Georgetown Law was a result of working as a librarian at the Library of Congress.
“Law school interested me because I was already a librarian,” Stiverson said.
“It seemed a good way to specialize, because it’s a manageable field in terms of the subject area.”
In 2001, her career brought her to IIT Chicago-Kent, where she took the helm as the law library’s director.
Then-associate dean Harold J. Krent was in his seventh year at the law school when Stiverson came on board. He watched her transform her position to one of an embedded researcher, someone “on the prowl for information that may be of help to faculty” rather than a person who merely waits for book requests.
“She is at the forefront of re-conceptualizing what law libraries should be in the future,” Krent said.
Librarians are “not just a repository for information,” he said, “but rather more of an arm of research.”
Not too long after Krent became dean in 2003 — the position he still holds — he decided Stiverson could help the law school outside the library and put her in charge of hiring faculty administrative assistants.
The assignment was a result of Stiverson being “attuned to the faculty-research mission,” Krent said.
“It reflects her understanding of what makes faculty tick and trying to be helpful to meet faculty needs.”
The organization comprises about 1,800 academic law librarians, 1,600 from private law firms, 600 or 700 from corporate law libraries and 550 from government law libraries, Stiverson said.
Along with helping faculty and students conduct research, librarians have become among a law school’s most tech-savvy members, she said.
“Librarians are trained in technology, so it’s a natural thing to turn to the librarian and say ‘Will you look at this software and see if it will do X or Y?’” she said.
“The challenge for librarians now is that with the transformation of the legal community, how can we highlight all of the different skills we have to help our institutions into a new era?
“And I think librarians are uniquely qualified to be at the forefront of that.”
Professionalism for students
When Illinois law students return to school starting Monday, legal doctrine won’t be the only lessons they learn.
This week began the annual Law School Orientation Program hosted by the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism.
Among those leading orientations on professionalism are Illinois Supreme Court Justices Thomas L. Kilbride and Mary Jane Theis; Appellate Justices Shelvin L. Hall, Nathaniel Howse Jr., P. Scott Neville Jr. and Aurelia Pucinski; and U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman.
The orientation, which started Wednesday at The John Marshall Law School, is hosted at the following law schools:
- John Marshall, Aug. 14.
- DePaul University College of Law, Aug. 18 and 19.
- IIT Chicago-Kent, Aug. 19.
- Loyola University Chicago School of Law, Aug. 22.
- Northwestern University School of Law, Aug. 24.
- University of Chicago Law School, Sept. 16.
For more information, go to 2civility.org/programs/law-schools.