PUBLISHED:August 23, 2021

Zhang, veteran law librarian and scholar, named new director of Goodson Law Library


Alex Zhang, who previously directed the law library at Washington and Lee and held positions at Stanford and Michigan, will also be the Archibald C. and Frances Fulk Rufty Research Professor of Law and associate dean of information services.

Alex Zhang Alex Zhang

Alex Zhang, a veteran law librarian and scholar of legal information and access, joined the Duke Law faculty July 1 as Archibald C. and Frances Fulk Rufty Research Professor of Law, associate dean of information services, and director of the J. Michael Goodson Law Library.

Zhang previously directed the Wilbur C. Hall Law Library of Washington and Lee University School of Law since 2018. She has also held positions in the libraries of Stanford Law School and the University of Michigan Law School.

“A nationally recognized leader in law librarianship and a well-respected scholar, Alex Zhang is an excellent choice to head the Goodson Law Library,” said Kerry Abrams, James B. Duke and Benjamin N. Duke Dean of the School of Law. “I feel confident that Alex will continue Duke Law School’s long tradition of excellence and innovation in library and information services.”

Zhang can trace her career back to law school at the University of Kansas, where she worked as an assistant in the law library while a JD student. She followed her interest to graduate school in information science at Michigan, where she once again worked in the law library as well as in the university’s library system and its Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, which hosts data and provides services and education for social science researchers at 750 academic institutions and research organizations.

Following graduate school, Zhang spent seven years at Michigan as a foreign, comparative, and international law librarian, and then moved to Stanford, where she was the law library’s head of public services.

At Washington and Lee, which like Duke boasts a small class size, she worked closely with faculty, staff, and students as well as the university’s library system. She and her team also collaborated with the school’s academic technology group and the university’s architecture office to keep the school’s library open during the COVID-19 pandemic and serving the need for digital access to materials.

“Professor Zhang has extensive experience in supporting a range of faculty and students’ research needs,” said Clinical Professor Jayne Huckerby, who directs Duke’s International Human Rights Clinic. “She as well has an impressive track record in operating at the cutting-edge of developments in law library leadership, from focusing on international and comparative law to integrating new technologies to realizing diversity, equity, and inclusion commitments.” 

As a scholar, Zhang has pursued a wide-ranging agenda that includes legal information and technology and foreign, international, and comparative legal research. Most recently, she is the co-editor of Global Animal Law Research: Strategies and Resources (Carolina Academic Press, forthcoming), and contributed chapters on mainland China and Taiwan to editions of Foreign Law Guide. An ongoing research project is looking at open access to legal information in China.

She has also written on information and library management. In one recent article, "The Gaps Model and Faculty Services: Quality Analysis Through a “New” Lens," 112 Law Library Journal 95-115 (2020), Zhang and co-author Sherry Xin Chen of the Boston College Law Library used a popular management theory to assess how well law libraries serve a key clientele. “That would be an area that I would like to look into to see if there are any other management or business theories that we can use to see how to make library management and information management more successful,” she said.

Zhang is a past chair for the American Association of Law Libraries' Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Special Interest Section and its Innovations in Technology Award Jury. She is currently a co-president of the Chinese American Forum on Legal Information and Law Libraries, an international organization striving to promote intellectual exchanges among law librarians and legal information professionals in the U.S. and China. She is also a co-chair of the International Legal Research Interest Group of the American Society of International Law.

“Alex is an exciting new director,” said David T. Zhang Professor of the Practice of Law Lawrence Baxter, who chaired the search committee. “She brings not only a deep commitment to the profession but also a strong concern for the development of her staff, varied experiences at top law libraries like Michigan and Stanford, an exciting role in her previous position, and the perspective of a true international scholar. She aims to place the Goodson Law Library at the top of the rankings in the United States, and I am confident she will achieve this goal.”

Zhang said she is excited to work with the library’s staff. Her goals include providing individualized research support for faculty, expanding services such as support for empirical research and data visualization, and better understanding the needs of students with respect to physical space and intellectual engagement.

“This is an extremely talented group, they are super collegial, and they have a diverse set of expertise, knowledge, and experience levels that is pretty amazing,” she said of the staff. “I feel very, very lucky to be able to join a team like this.”