Bob the Builder

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Fordham Law bids farewell to a constructive library leader.

When he arrived at Fordham Law in 2004, Robert Nissenbaum thought that the library felt detached from the Law School. “It was very important that the library become part and parcel of the School,” says Nissenbaum.

Integrating librarians into the life of the Law School was crucial to his vision of the Fordham Law library. “It was always my plan when I arrived at Fordham to have a relatively good faculty-librarian ratio and to have the librarians work together as a team,” he says. “I wanted the library to focus on services for faculty and students. I brought in staff who were committed to the concept with divergent views and made those views of interest.”

While Nissenbaum’s administrative and managerial skills cannot be denied, his prowess is not at all limited to information services. He was instrumental in the design of The Maloney Library and, more generally, in the construction of the new law school building, which was designed by world-renowned architecture firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. As the chair of the building committee, Nissenbaum guided the Law School community into place and advocated for the importance of the library at the heart of the building.

Nissenbaum’s experience in construction began with a project for his family. When he was in his mid-20s, his parents let him design and build an addition for their house. “I learned how to do the planning and how to work with construction people and contractors,” he says.

His building talents continued as he rose through the library ranks. Before joining Fordham Law, he served as director of the William M. Rains Library and professor of law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. In that role, Nissenbaum worked closely with architect Frank Gehry to design a new wing for the new Rains Library. (Later that year, Gehry won the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s most prestigious honor, for his body of work.) Nissenbaum was then tasked to renovate the older portion of the library and brought it into the modern age by wiring it for internet access and equipping it with generous study space, compact shelving technologies, and glass that would turn opaque at the flip of a switch.

For The Maloney Library, Nissenbaum, after considering student input, requested more informal seating, convenient access to a café, and a 24-hour study space. At the 2016 Fordham Law diploma ceremony, Nissenbaum received the Dean’s Medal of Recognition for his 12 years of dedicated service to the Law School.

Of his successor Todd Melnick, Nissenbaum says, “He’s just the hardest working law librarian I’ve ever seen. He’s so generous with his time, and he’s always risen to the challenge.”

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