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Outgoing associate dean: ‘Many memorable moments over the past 21 years’
Bruce S. Johnson, the associate dean for information services and director of the Michael E. Moritz Law Library, retired on Dec. 31.
Prior to coming to Ohio State in 1992, he was director of the law library and associate professor of law at the University of South Carolina. Earlier, he had served as chief reference librarian at the University of Michigan Law Library. He has written and spoken on issues of law library management and funding, the confidentiality of library circulation records, and the use of wireless networks in law schools.
Johnson, who most recently was the Thomas J. and Mark E. Heck and Leo H. Faust Memorial Designated Professor of Law, will stay on with the Moritz College of Law as professor emeritus. He teaches Legal Analysis and Writing, Property, and Wills, Trusts and Estates.
Before departing for a brief hiatus from the college, he sat for a quick question-and-answer session looking back on his first 21 years with Moritz:
What was the most unforgettable moment of your 21-year career at the Moritz College of Law?
There have been many memorable moments over the past 21 years; these are a few which I think have particular resonance.
- The opening of the addition to the law library in early January, 1992. This was the last, and largest part of what some of us still think of as the "new building" to open. The transformation of the library was dramatic, and Gunnar Birkerts' architecture continues to work well, esthetically and substantively, two decades on. I still find the linking of the old building to the new at the grand staircase within the law library, the best part of Birkerts' design.
- Michael Moritz's gift of $30 million to the college of law. It is impossible to overstate the impact that this gift has had on all areas of the law school and our community of faculty, students, and staff. I had the good fortune and privilege to know Mike and have appreciated the ongoing support of his wonderful family for the college.
- The Lawrence Stotter (Class of 1958) gift to the Moritz Law Library. Larry Stotter's donation of his rare book collection, focused on English language works on the law of the family and women, is the gem of our rare book holdings. There are a few titles which Larry did not acquire, and it has been a pleasure to find and purchase them for the collection.
The book B or two or three books B that have influenced you most in your life?
I have always been an avid reader and it is hard to select from among the many books read over many years, but here are two.
- The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age by Sven Birkerts. This remains the best work I have read on how the shift from printed books to electronic formats has changed the way in which we read. The author is, by the way, the son of Gunnar Birkerts, the architect of the 1992 addition to Drinko Hall.
- Katherine Swift's The Morville Hours: the Story of a Garden. I spotted this at Blackwell's in Oxford this past summer and, as I enjoy gardening, bought it. It is an eloquent and moving essay on the author's creation of a large, many-faceted garden in Shropshire. Swift ties the growth of her garden over seasons and years, to the history of that particular place, her family and childhood, and the medieval hours of devotion.
What technological advancement of the last 20 years has, in your opinion, revolutionized law libraries and legal research the most and why?
There are two, among many, developments of the last 20 years worth noting.
The first is the emergence of the Internet and the AWeb@ as one of the most important tools used by law librarians in support of faculty and student research. There always has been a vast sea of information/documents/publications of great interest to legal scholars; the Web has made finding particular items within this sea much easier. No law librarian today can do their job well without access to the Internet.
Second, and paralleling the rise of the Web, has been the significant increase in the number of law-related electronic databases (other than Westlaw, Lexis and, now Bloomberg). This has both expanded the amount of material readily available to faculty and students and accelerated a shift in library acquisitions from purchase (or subscription) to licensing.
The technological advancement you hope will be made in the next 20 years?
As more and more of the sort of publications which research law libraries have traditionally bought are Aborn digital,@ the question of how to preserve these becomes very important. Several organizations are doing very valuable work in this area, and I expect and hope that an efficient scheme for preserving electronic publications over the long-term (i.e. centuries) will be in place by 2034.
The greatest lesson you have learned as a professor?
Two lessons. The first came from a Moritz colleague admired for his skill as a teacher: Be yourself in the classroom since the students will spot a Aphony@ (I think that was the word he used) in a flash. The other lesson is that as our students learn from us, we learn from them. Without fail, in every course I have taught, at least one student (and usually more) will ask a question which either raises an issue I had never thought of or forces me to rethink something. This alone makes teaching at Moritz exhilarating.
Interview by Monica DeMeglio