The Muse Law Library and all of us at Richmond Law wish Paul Birch a happy retirement!
Paul has been with the Library for 32 years, and it is bittersweet to say goodbye. I spoke with Paul about his tenure at Richmond as our Computer Services Librarian. I especially wanted to hear about all the technological changes he has seen in the library over the past three decades.
Paul started at Richmond on the eve of the Internet boom as the Associate Director of Public Services. He has spent the vast majority of his career in his current role, where he has been responsible for a variety of computer-related projects. He has taught legal research and managed the ins and outs of programs like Blackboard. He also coded several important web apps, including the faculty fan-favorite seating chart maker, and the student fan-favorite form used to change a low grade to a “pass.” He has loved the variety in his job description, as it required him to develop and maintain a broad skill set.
In 1989, Paul interviewed with then-law school Dean Joe Harbaugh, whom he credits with the foresight to invest the University of Richmond in the burgeoning tech boom. Dean Harbaugh was looking to wire each individual carrel for internet access and require students to own their own laptops. In the words of Dean Harbaugh, “There’s this thing, it’s called the internet, it’s gonna be big!” At the time, Paul wasn’t even sure there was enough useful content on the internet to justify requiring students to shell out $3,000 on a laptop. If he could talk to his younger self, Paul would say “Harbaugh was right!”
Now, Paul and his wife, Linda, plan on taking life one step at a time. A bluegrass fanatic, Paul spent 15 years playing mandolin for the band Copper Ridge. Although informally disbanded during the pandemic, Paul has toyed with getting the band back together to make some music once again. But in any case, Paul and Linda will be busy taking care of their horse, Pablo, and donkey, Dan (who prefers to go by Danny), and working outside around his 12-acres of land.
Paul wanted to share some advice for today’s Richmond Law students. “Pay attention to and keep in mind the legal research tools your instructors give you in your first year. As a 3L, you may forget them. Know that all these tools have a place in legal research.”
Paul also shared this tongue-in-cheek story about why he chose now to retire: “Maybe fifteen to twenty years ago, Information Services started to get appropriately serious about passwords—their makeup, length, and how often they must be changed. Immediately, I decided to make up something adequately strong and hold on to it through the years by incrementing up the alphabet a couple identical letters every time a password changed. I started with ‘a’ and asked myself what I would do when the ‘z’ password expired. My answer to myself was simple: retire!”
Well, Paul finally hit password “z”, so we have to say goodbye, good luck, and congratulations on 32 years of dedicated service to the Muse Law Library!