Retiring Member Profile: Gretchen Van Dam

In December 2020, Gretchen Van Dam retired from U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Court Library after 20 years.

The CALL Bulletin interviewed Gretchen upon her retirement to ask her about her experiences and find out what CALL has meant (and continues to mean) to her.

Why did you decide to choose a career in law librarianship?

During law school I worked at a big Detroit law firm and got to know the law firm librarians. They enjoyed their careers very much and as research was the part of the job I enjoyed the most, they encouraged me to consider getting an MLS after law school and entering the profession.  I’ve never regretted it!

What about librarianship changed the most during your career?  Also, what about librarianship stayed the same during your career?

One of the biggest changes has been in the way law librarians do research – moving so much online. Lexis and Westlaw were in their infancies when I started and while we did some online research (remember UBIQs?), everything was very print focused.  It’s also impressive how our profession has adapted and evolved over those years; redefining and reinventing our roles and value to our organizations.  What has stayed constant is our commitment to service and professionalism.

What made you decide to join CALL in the first place and stay in CALL?  How has CALL helped you throughout your career?

I joined CALL when I came to Chicago in 1993 to work at Chicago-Kent.  I had been an active member of the Michigan Association of Law Libraries and knew how valuable chapter membership can be to professional success.  And I wanted to meet my new Chicagoland colleagues! I’ve learned so much from CALL members over the years.

I do plan to stay a CALL member post-retirement. Retiring from a position doesn’t mean one is retiring from interest in the information profession and chapter membership keeps one informed and connected.

What will you miss most about being a librarian?

I don’t think any of us every stop being a librarian!

What is one piece of advice you want to share with your fellow CALL members?

Participate. Membership in any type of group is enhanced by active participation. You will form fast friendships, be constantly learning, and become better at whatever work you are doing. Importantly, active participation and involvement keeps things in balance and brings happiness and satisfaction.

Gretchen can be reached at gretchenvandam (at) (link not included to prevent spamming)