Alumni Short
A Passion for Legal Research: Bitner Fellow Jingwei Zhang LL.M. '11 Ithaca, NEW YORK, Sep 5, 2014

In August 2013, Jingwei Zhang LL.M. ’11 of Shanghai, China, returned to Cornell Law School as the 2013 Bitner Research Fellow for the Cornell Law Library. Having become interested in the role and function of the Law Library during her time at Cornell, Zhang had gone on to pursue a Master of Library and Information Science from Rutgers University. As the Bitner Fellow, her experience and understanding of the student perspective in the research context proved to be an invaluable asset.

Zhang began her fellowship shadowing the work of Cornell Law librarians, immersing herself in all aspects of the law library’s operations. She performed reference and circulation services along with creating various research guides designed to help first-year and international students’ become familiar with the law library. She also expanded her work beyond traditional library roles by collaborating with the Legal Information Institute to develop a Chinese language component of its online legal encyclopedia, “Wex.” She also assisted in teaching the research portion of the LL.M. curriculum.

Zhang concluded her fellowship by conducting a law library workshop in January 2014, exhibiting her work and discussing the information needs of the student body, particularly those with diverse cultural backgrounds. Highlighting the challenges and barriers international students face when arriving on campus, Zhang outlined a plan to meet their information needs through proactive engagement, encouragement, and small group or individual instruction.

Zhang ended her workshop by touching on her inspiration for entering the field of law librarianship, her passion for legal research, and the role Cornell played in shaping her path. She expressed gratitude to the Cornell Law librarians’ for originally inspiring her as a student and for providing the opportunity to learn from them as a fellow member of the profession.

“When I first arrived back here . . . it was emotional,” she said. “To be able to come back to the place that originally inspired me, it was very exciting.”

The Bitner Research Fellowship was established in 2002 to provide opportunities for foreign and US librarians and researchers to receive instruction in effective legal research methodology by expert Cornell Law Library specialists. The endowment is funded by Lorraine and Richard Gilden ’71, the daughter and son-in-law of Professor Harry Bitner, Cornell Law Librarian from 1965–1976. The fellowship carries on his legacy and contributions to the Cornell law community and to the field of law librarianship.

Following her Fellowship, Zhang accepted a position as the reference and instructional technology librarian and assistant professor at the University of Tennessee in June 2014. Her learning experiences and contributions perfectly capture the spirit of law librarianship the fellows program were designed to foster and serve as a lasting tribute to the legacy of Harry Bitner and the Cornell Law Library.