Featured Member: Kate Martin

San Diego native Kate Martin had a variety of jobs before finding her path in law librarianship, from rare book dealer, to – somewhat more unexpectedly – customs inspector at the Tijuana border and at LAX. When she started in customs, she was only the second female in a group of 180 officers, which presented some unique challenges. She recounts a number of colorful stories including the discovery of several brown paper shopping bags filled with human bones.  It’s easy to understand why Kate came to regard library work as “somewhat tamer than law enforcement.”

Not that library jobs were that easy to come by. Kate attended library school at UCLA, and her graduation roughly coincided with California’s passage of its Proposition 13. This cap on property taxes had an impact on many professions; Kate recalls that Los Angeles County fired thirty percent of its librarians during that era.  Although the job market was “even worse than it is now,” Kate eventually landed an internship at the Smithsonian. She found the East Coast much friendlier to an aspiring librarian; she remembers seeing more librarian positions advertised in the Washington Post in one weekend than she had seen in three months in California.

Kate subsequently worked in a number of law firm library positions, including doing interlibrary loan at Morgan Lewis and loose-leaf filing at Hughes Hubbard & Reed. She also worked at the LC’s Congressional Research Service. She eventually rose to the position of National Director for Libraries for McKenna Long & Aldridge, a position she held for 10 years. After the demanding atmosphere of law firm librarianship, Kate was ready for a change of pace, and in early 2011 accepted the position of Director of the Montgomery County Circuit Court Law Library.

Kate has found the change “invigorating.” She loves the increased freedom and personal interactions that characterize her new position.  She has enjoyed working with a more diverse group of library patrons, and expresses great admiration for the collection and for the stewardship of her predecessor librarians at Montgomery County. Among the initiatives Kate has instituted are a branding initiative for the Library, a recurring column in the Montgomery County Bar Bulletin, and Coffee Break events at the Library on Fridays for all courthouse staff and attorneys. She looks forward to continuing the outreach activities that the Library has already been pursuing. Active in both AALL and LLSDC, Kate developed the idea for the very well received Private Law Libraries Summit this past July in Philadelphia, and envisions developing a similar summit for court librarians.

 Kate enjoys playing Scrabble, reading, and adding to the “embarrassingly large” collection of teapots that she has built over the past 20 years and that is displayed around her Montgomery County home. Acquired during her various travels, Kate’s 450 teapots include a 19th century Limoges teapot, several Chinese Yi Xi teapots, and many animal shaped teapots including four Noah’s Ark themed pots. No doubt her experience as a customs inspector has made her an expert at bringing teapots back from everywhere that she has visited! She has offered to host a “teapot tour” as a LLAM program.                 

Kate describes herself as “still passionate” about law libraries after 32 years in the field. We’re very pleased to welcome Kate to LLAM!