Anne W. Grande was a sharp, vivacious librarian who lit up a room even when talking about the seemingly dull subject of the Hennepin County Law Library. She ran it so well for nearly 35 years that county commissioners renamed the top-flight library after her last fall.
The Edina woman lobbied to locate the library atop the 24-floor Government Center when law tomes were moved across Fifth Street from City Hall in 1976. She was also an innovator who won a grant to make the library one of the first to move from hardbound Westlaw books to computer databases in 1977. She was named an "Unsung Legal Hero" by Minnesota Lawyer magazine in 2008, as one of the state's top legal support professionals.
Grande, 65, died last week in Edina. She had battled brain cancer for more than two years, her husband said. She was a past president of the state Association of Law Libraries and a respected leader with the national law library association, said Kathy Kelly, a past state president who once worked with her.
"Hennepin County was the flagship of county law libraries, and that was due to Anne Grande," Kelly said.
Hennepin County Courts Administrator Mark Thompson remembers Grande's joyful vitality. "She could walk into a room and instantly lower the anxiety and raise the cooperation of the people who were in it. Honestly, that was the gift she had."
Grande kept the library updated and also started charging law firms, the biggest library users, circulation fees in 1983, which helped lighten the cost to taxpayers.
"Anne was in the forefront of making the law library accessible and useful for people who weren't lawyers," said District Judge Kevin Burke, a law library board member, adding, "She was just an incredibly nice human being."
Young attorneys relied on Grande so much that they nicknamed her library "The Anne," said her husband, Denis Grande, a trial attorney. She most enjoyed helping bewildered "pro se" litigants, usually too poor to pay an attorney.
"They would come in and say they needed to get something expunged from their record so they could get a job at McDonald's. She spent hours helping them," he said. "She was nonjudgmental, never said a bad thing about anybody, and she had plenty of reasons to be judgmental."
Besides her husband, she is survived by her children, Peter and Emily, both of Minneapolis, a granddaughter, her mother, Margaret Wilson, of Tucson, Ariz., sister Helen Chason, of Washington, D.C. , and four Wilson brothers: Edward, of Peoria, Ill.; Robert, of Appleton, Wis.; Thomas, of Edina; and James, of Haddonfield, N.J.
A memorial service will be held at noon Saturday at Lakewood Cemetery Chapel, 3600 Hennepin Av. S., Minneapolis.