Albert Brecht: Obituary
4/2/2012 12:50 PM
A leader in the field of law librarianship and pioneer in the use of technology for legal research
Albert Brecht, associate dean, chief information officer and John Stauffer Professor of Law at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, passed away at his home in Los Angeles on March 26, 2012. He was 65.
A trailblazer in the field of law librarianship and the profession's advancement through technology, Brecht was appointed the director of USC's law library at the age of 30 in 1975. In an interview with the Southern California chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries (SCALL), he said that "Supervising staff who were significantly older than me was a big challenge, and it was scary at first, but when I reflect back, how did I manage to be director so young - youthful ego and at the right place at the right time!"
Brecht was a pioneer in ushering in the use of information technology in the field and specialized in computerized legal research and the expanding role of law librarians in the scholarly pursuits of faculty.
"During these nearly 40 years, Albert transformed how we think of law libraries through his singular focus on service," said Robert K. Rasmussen, Dean of USC Gould. "Albert was the gold standard of both librarians and friends. He will truly be missed."
Brecht never hesitated to mentor, encourage and support new law librarians. In 2002, SCALL awarded Albert its highest honor: Rohan Chapter Service Award for his outstanding service and contributions to SCALL as an active member and a mentor to many newer law librarians who went on to oversee law libraries across the country.
"Albert was my boss, mentor, colleague and friend," said Pauline Aranas '81, associate dean and acting dean of library and information technology. "He had a gift for hiring the best talented young professionals and giving them the guidance and creativity to grow and develop as leaders in law librarianship."
Brecht took the lead in two major renovation projects at the law school including a complete remodel of the law library in 2005.
Brecht did not know anyone in California when he arrived at USC in 1972. He credited the Trojan Family for welcoming him to its campus and returned the favor by being an active member of its community. Provosts and presidents appointed him to a number of university committees including the University Budget Advisory Committee, the Provost's Committee on the Reorganization of ISD and the Joint Academic Senate/Provost Committee on Library Services (2007-08).
Brecht was an early member of USC Lambda LGBT Alumni Association and served two terms as its president. He oversaw the inaugural scholarship fundraising campaign, netting the association its first $20,000. He also launched signature events such as a campus wide run/walk fundraiser and an annual picnic at the Hollywood Bowl, a favorite tradition to this day. In 2008, his service to USC Lambda was recognized with the USC Alumni Association President's Award.
Brecht served the law library profession as a past president of both the American Association of Law Libraries and the Southern California Chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries. He also chaired many AALL and SCALL committees.
"I am deeply saddened to hear of Albert's passing, and the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) community will miss him greatly," said Darcy Kirk, President of the American Association of Law Libraries. "Albert was devoted to the profession of law librarianship, serving as president and an active member of the Social Responsibilities Special Interest Section. The many law librarians who worked with him and mentored will also remember him fondly through his leadership."
Brecht earned his B.A. at North Texas State University and his J.D. at the University of Houston. He developed a strong interest in law librarianship when he was working as a part-time student assistant in reference while attending law school, and he later earned his master's degree in law librarianship at the University of Washington. In 1973, he was appointed assistant law librarian at USC under the direction of Francis Gates. In 1975, after Gates left to head Columbia Law Library, Brecht was appointed director of USC's law library.
A memorial service to be held at USC will be announced soon.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations may be made to the USC Lambda LGBT Alumni Association's scholarship endowment to fund an award in Albert's name. Please contribute via http://alumni.usc.edu/lambda20/ or make checks payable to USC Lambda and send to USC Lambda LGBT Alumni Association, 3607 Trousdale Pkwy, TCC 305, Los Angeles, CA 90089-3106.