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Professor Lemmer Serving as Senior Library Fellow at LRC in South Africa

09/30/2013

Catherine LemmerRather than lamenting the fact that she and her husband had a case of “empty nest syndrome” if they chose to indulge in it, Professor Catherine Lemmer instead decided to pursue an academic adventure.

With her daughter off at New York University, Professor Lemmer applied for the position of Senior Library Fellow at the Legal Resource Centre (LRC) in Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa. The fellowship is for six months.

She got the fellowship, and is now working to modernize LRC’s libraries, organize the collections, and procure the technology lawyers get accustomed to using in law school and require for practicing law. In addition, she will negotiate with technological infrastructure and legal resource vendors and help LRC staff redesign their libraries, with the goal of making them efficient and modern.

The LRC is South Africa’s largest and oldest national public interest law organization. When the organization opened in 1979, its lawyers challenged apartheid – including the pass laws, forced removals, and unlawful detentions – through South Africa’s courts. As the nation moved toward the end of apartheid, lawyers from the LRC played critical roles in drafting the new South African Constitution and crafting a new legal framework for the young democracy.  Nelson Mandela appointed LRC’s founder, Arthur Chaskalson, to serve as the first president of South Africa’s Constitutional Court in 1994.

“The LRC lawyers are advancing important social causes,” Professor Lemmer said of the LRC. “The LRC libraries need to modernize to support this work. Lawyers want and need to practice law with the robust print collections and electronic resources that they had access to in law school. Creating a modern library with the right resources will work to ensure the lawyers have access to the legal information they need to support their important work.”

Today, the LRC employs more than 75 lawyers and staff, and provides free legal services to the poor and vulnerable in the areas of land and housing rights, children’s rights and education, environmental justice, HIV/AIDS, health and other social services, refugee matters, and women’s equality. Janet Love, National Director of LRC, has been a part of the anti-apartheid movement since 1974. She spent 10 years in exile and worked inside South Africa as a member of the African National Congress underground. She is also a Commissioner on the South African Human Rights Commission. The LRC is supported by the South African Legal Services Foundation, which is based in Washington, D.C.

Professor Lemmer is a natural fit for the work that’s needed at the LRC. She is the Head of Information Services for the Ruth Lilly Law Library at IU McKinney. As part of the library’s administrative team, she supervises the public services division of the law library and participates in managing library operations. In addition to her administrative duties, she teaches the second year legal research course; legal research in the first year LARC classes, and in the LL.M. program-American Law for Foreign Lawyers. She administers the library research assistant program, serves as a faculty research liaison, and provides general reference and research support to faculty and students.

Professor Lemmer plans to keep the law school updated on her progress at the LRC through her blog and via Twitter @catherine.lemmer.


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