Inside the SGR Library

We take you inside one of the oldest and largest law firm libraries in Atlanta.

Smith, Gambrell & Russell has one of the largest libraries by square footage of any law firm library in the Atlanta area. Most of that space, plus satellite libraries outside of attorney offices and in case rooms and smaller library spaces in our offices in Jacksonville, New York and Georgetown, is filled with books and looks very much like what most people think a library should. However, a law library is worlds away from your local public or college library.

One major difference is that there is no “shushing” in the SGR library. The space is alive with people checking out the latest Atlanta Business Chronicle or Daily Report, attorneys discussing case strategies, librarians discussing various research methods and how to find what seems impossible, or attorneys and staff taking real books off of real shelves and using the information to provide the best service for our clients.

A huge part of what makes the library hum is the people who staff it. Betty Wright has been with the firm for nearly two and a half years and serves as Technical Services and Reference Librarian, meaning she does all of the cataloging work associated with libraries, as well as providing outstanding research services to attorneys and staff. Betty first found out about law librarianship as a work-study student assigned to the law library at Georgia State University. After receiving her bachelor’s degree, she applied to Valdosta State University’s library program and graduated in 2009, all the while working at GSU and learning from their excellent staff of reference and technical services librarians.

Sarah K.C. Mauldin is the Director of Library Services, and has been with SGR for nearly five years. Sarah attended the University of Oklahoma as a National Merit Scholar and decided to be an archivist, using her powers of persuasion to gain a summer internship at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, just a few miles from her childhood home. After graduation, the archivist’s dream pulled her to Austin, where she enrolled in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Texas (an odd choice for a Sooner). Within the first few weeks of class, she was converted to a full-fledged law librarian wannabe after meeting the dean, Roberta Shaffer, formerly Director of the Library at Covington & Burling in D.C. and later Law Librarian of Congress and currently Associate Librarian for Library Services at the Library of Congress. Her stories of the fun to be had having very smart people ask very hard questions that need an answer far sooner than later was just too great an idea not to pursue. Before joining SGR, Sarah was the Atlanta Branch Librarian for Chamberlain, Hrdlicka, White, Williams & Martin and the Director of Library Services at Lionel Sawyer & Collins, then the largest law firm in Nevada. Indeed, Sarah was the only law firm librarian in Nevada!

Now, on to a typical day. Both Betty and Sarah have administrative work and long-term projects to do, but that is happily interrupted by a phone call, e-mail or personal visit to discuss research and how to do it best. The staff takes on projects ranging from pulling cases from a brief to compiling a 50-state survey of the laws on the licensing of professional engineers. Most projects are somewhere in between, and mean the librarians may need to show someone how to use a new electronic resource, show a summer associate how to use a print digest or find a local law, research a business or industry for marketing or a meeting with a potential client, or hunt down English case law or a statute from Togo. The work lives of law firm librarians are very rarely dull.

As a team, Sarah and Betty work to help everyone in the firm to be better at doing what they do, while the librarians themselves find ways to do just about anything faster, better and cheaper, providing the best possible value for our clients.