From Idea to Reality: The Library and Gus Speth’s Lecture Series

Vermont Law School Professor of Law, Gus Speth, kicks off his three-part lecture series “America, Rising to Its Dream: Charting Passage from Today’s Decline to Tomorrow’s Rebirth” today at 5:15 PM in Oakes 007. The Faculty Research Assistance Program (FRAP), administered by Lawyer Librarian, Cynthia Lewis, at the Cornell Library, was responsible for hundreds of hours of research in preparation for these lectures.

Cynthia Lewis launched FRAP in 2007. Librarians hire and train Research Assistants (RAs) to perform specialized research on behalf of faculty members. Librarians then review student research, memos, and bibliographies before work is submitted to faculty members. RAs have diverse backgrounds and educations and they assist with projects diverse in nature.

In January 2011, Environmental Law Librarian Christine Ryan first met Professor Speth about this lecture series—Ryan noted this was a very unusual project in scope. Over the following eight months, Christine facilitated the research and coordinated the project with Speth’s right hand man, Christopher Brooks, Associate for Environmental Policy and the New Economy.

Brooks commented on Speth’s research strategy, noting that he already had a sense of the arc of lecture, and therefore understood the data he needed. Speth even had his own data collected from diverse sources.

RAs first organized Speth’s collection of sources which were huge stacks of clippings from newspapers, magazines and journals. Speth’s collection also included books. It was the work of the RAs to organize this information.

Brooks noted this was no easy task and was not glamorous. RAs organized myriads of articles by topic, and subtopic, and identified the most important components of the articles and books. By doing this, Speth was able to find and use information with greater ease.

Brooks noted that Speth went to South Carolina last spring with the seven binders which the RAs had prepared—a couple months later, Speth had an 80 page draft of the first section of his book.

RAs also performed cite checks, collected data and synthesized information for Speth. RA, Paige Davis MELP/JD ’13, said working on this project with Professor Speth and the librarians, was a great learning opportunity and also fun. Paige not only learned new research skills and became more familiar with the non-legal resources at the library, but she also learned how to interact with professors in a more professional work setting.

Professor Speth noted that the work of the RAs “has been excellent” and they have “helped me get it right.” Brooks echoed the sentiment, noting that this project was not possible without all the help of the RAs.

So, as you are sitting in the lecture tonight, remember, it took a lot of effort to make Speth’s original idea a lecture, and the library has far more than books and databases!

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