National Thank Your Mentor Day – Guest Author Mary Jane Kelsey

Guest Author – Mary Jane Kelsey, Associate Law Librarian for Technical Services, Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library

By the time that Morris Cohen arrived to head Yale Law Library in 1981 he was preeminent in law librarianship, having previously been director of the libraries at Harvard, Penn and SUNY-Buffalo. The remarkable thing about Morris given his status was his approachability and interest in people, even those of us who were rather inexperienced librarians.

Morris Cohen

Morris’ mentorship was both oblique and pushy. His technique was oblique in the sense that if you succeeded at a project, you’d get another one. You were meant to learn and grow by doing and produce quickly although he never set timelines. Morris inspired your best efforts. His pushiness prodded a number of us to acquire additional degrees and to become professionally engaged. Morris expected ambition in his people.

I consider myself very fortunate to have experienced Morris’ patience with rookie missteps, his advice and example. Among the many lessons he taught: If you don’t know something, just say so. Return all calls promptly. If patrons are irritated by small problems with library service, they won’t appreciate the big things. So, make sure the photocopier is always working.

The more power you have, the more restraint you need. Be aware of the limitations of your own perspective when contributing to problem solving. Stay curious about people. Never stop learning. Give him lots of chocolate. But no nuts.

Morris Cohen passed away on December, 18, 2010.

Mary Jane Kelsey

Mary Jane Kelsey is the Associate Law Librarian for Technical Services at Yale University


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