Forward Thinker Comes Full Circle – Michael Chiorazzi Leads Law Library as New Director


Michael Chiorazzi

Michael Chiorazzi

When Mike Chiorazzi arrived as a freshman at the University of Miami in 1973, he was sporting a huge afro and had dreams of swimming with tropical fish as a marine biologist.

Chiorazzi recently returned to the UM as associate dean for information services and Dean’s Distinguished Director of the Law Library at the School of Law. 

“I am excited to come back to Miami, where, as an undergraduate work-study student, I worked in the law library,” said Chiorazzi. “I feel like I’ve come full circle.”

His hair is greyer now but no less wild than in the days when Henry King Stanford reigned as president of the University and the Hurricanes still played in the Orange Bowl. Then, as now, fellow New Jerseyan Bruce Springsteen was and is a rock legend. (He has seen “The Boss” in concert 28 times.)

Though organic chemistry dashed his marine biology career, a degree in political science stood well in its stead at UM, and Chiorazzi went on to receive a J.D. at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, and a Master in Law Librarianship from the University of Washington in Seattle.
It would seem that the library and law school seed was planted at Miami Law, but what Chiorazzi liked most about his work-study job was that it allowed him to get paid to study in a quiet air-conditioned environment. "The emphasis was definitely on study. My job was to check people's briefcases—there weren't backpacks or security then," he says. "I probably studied for 40 minutes out of every hour.”

His post-undergraduate job was for the New Jersey Department of Consumer Affairs in the automobile division, something he still associates with The Angels’ song, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.” Going west was intriguing and he soon found himself a 1L work-study in the Gonzaga law library. 
“Through the librarians there, I learned that there were people with law degrees working in law libraries,” he says. “And I liked the thought of working at a university. And UW has a law librarianship program and I was eligible for in-state tuition.”

Path from Library Student Worker to Dean

Prior to joining Miami Law, Chiorazzi was associate dean, professor of Information Resources and Library Science at the School of Information, and James & Beverly Rogers Professor of Law at the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona. He began his career as a reference librarian and senior instructor in legal research at Duke University School of Law. Subsequently, he served as the deputy director of the Law Library and legal research instructor at the Boston College School of Law.

Chiorazzi’s research interests include legal history, issues in law librarianship, and the use of technology in the teaching of legal research. Since 1999, he has served as the editor of Legal Reference Services Quarterly.

Most significantly, he was awarded the 2007 American Association of Law Libraries’ Joseph L. Andrews Bibliographic Award (with Marguerite Most), which recognizes important contributions to legal bibliographical literature for their editing of the book “Pre-Statehood Legal Research: A Guide to the Fifty States, Including the District of Columbia and New York City.”

In July 2012, Chiorazzi was inducted into the American Association of Law Libraries Hall of Fame, and received the AALL Distinguished Lecture Award, in 2013. He presented his paper, "Mentoring, Teaching and Training the Next Generation of Law Librarians: Past and Present as Prologue to the Future" at the annual meeting of AALL, in Seattle, Washington. The paper was published in the Law Library Journal.

As founder of the nationally renowned Law Library Fellows Program at the UA, he mentored many law school graduates into the law librarian profession throughout the country, including Nicholas Mignanelli, Miami Law’s librarian assistant professor and reference law librarian.

Bringing Expertise to Miami Law

“Michael is widely regarded as one of the preeminent and farsighted law librarians in the country,” Patricia D. White, dean of the law school said. “He will be able to lead our library with creativity and distinction as it faces the significant challenges and equally great opportunities of these times.”

Chiorazzi was attracted to Miami Law. “Applying for the position at Miami seemed like a no brainer. I’ve come back to campus a number of times for Homecomings and reunions; I have a great affection for the university and Miami,” he says. “I have known Sally Wise for over 35 years and whenever we talked, she expressed her love of the law school and the respect and appreciation she had for her staff and librarians. It just seemed like the perfect fit at this point in my career.

“And there is an opportunity to rethink parts of the law library physical plant to meet the challenges of the evolving digital legal information world and reimagine student workspaces and faculty support,” Chiorazzi says.

Music remains an abiding mainstay in Chiorazzi’s life and serves as the one motivator to get his workaholic wife, Vickie, away from her work as an attorney, who specializes in legal research and writing for other attorneys. They had already rocked 40 concerts this year before coming to Miami.

“We will miss the music scene in Tucson, where I served on the Board of Directors of the non-profit music venue, the Rialto Theatre,” he says, against his office’s backdrop of autographed concert posters and musician bobbleheads and action figures. "In Miami, we've seen Steve Miller at the Hard Rock and Sam Lewis/Donavon Frankenreiter at the Culture Room. And in February, we made my annual pilgrimage to Tampa for the Americana music cruise Cayamo,” he says. “And of course, we'll see the Rolling Stones in April.”