Introducing…Marcelo Rodriguez as the May 2020 FCIL-SIS Member of the Month

elevator_Marcelo1. Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Caguas, Puerto Rico.

2. Why did you select law librarianship as a career?

I’ve always been interested in the law and legal research without ever wanting to be a lawyer. Law librarianship seems like the perfect fit.

3. When did you develop an interest in foreign, comparative, and international law?

My upbringing and language skills have always seemed a natural fit for any FCIL research questions. I’d like to think that my open mindedness and keen observations also play a part.

4. Who is your current employer? How long have you worked there?

I currently work as a Research and Training Librarian at the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit located in New York, NY. I have been in this position for the last two years.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

Spanish is my mother tongue. Besides English, I also speak French very fluently. And I have some reading fluency in Hebrew and German.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

In the last two years, I have managed to coordinate 4 panels for the AALL Annual Meetings. This coming summer, I may be coordinating 4 more. Not only it has been a significant professional achievement, it has also been a transformative experience to network and exchange ideas with people equally passionate on the rule of law and legal information.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Pizza. I can eat pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner and even in between meals. Please do not share this questionnaire with my mother or my doctor.

8. What song makes you want to get up and sing/dance?

Si tú te vas by Juan Luis Guerra. It’s the best thing ever! It reminds me of Puerto Rico in the early 1990s, friends and family gatherings.

9. What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)?

American Sign Language (ASL). I would love to one day begin classes and become somewhat fluent.

10. Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you can’t go a day without?

Coffee. No sugar, no milk, no nothing, just pitch black coffee. I can always drink coffee and for all kinds of reasons either because I have to stay awake or even after a meal to just soothe myself.

11. Anything else you would like to share with us?

If anyone is interested in Puerto Rican literature, I’m happy to recommend the following: Macho Camacho’s Beat by Luis Rafael Sánchez, Sirena Selena by Mayra Santos Febres and/or Eccentric Neighborhoods by Rosario Ferré and in Poetry: anything by Julia de Burgos.

Introducing…Maggie Adams as the April 2020 FCIL-SIS Member of the Month

MaggieAdams

1. Where did you grow up?

Newark, Delaware where I continue to live today.

2. Why did you select law librarianship as a career?

 
I  have always enjoyed doing research and have several family members in the legal field so I applied to the law school library when I was looking for my first library job.

3. When did you develop an interest in foreign, comparative, and international law?

 
Part of the fun of being a law librarian is the breadth of topics you get to research. We have several faculty members who research and write on foreign and international law topics and their projects are always challenging and interesting to work on.

4. Who is your current employer? How long have  you worked there?
 
I work for Delaware Law School, Widener University. I’ve been here for 20 years, starting as a library assistant.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?
 
Unfortunately not.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?
 
Helping to develop the curriculum for and teach legal research labs to our first year students has been very rewarding.pastries


7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Pastries! 

8. What song makes you want to get up and sing/dance?

Any pop music from the 80s [Here’s a YouTube compilation!]

9. What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)?
 
The ability to sing well. I’m married to a musician so it would be nice if we could sing harmonies together but I cannot carry a tune to save my life.

10. Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you can’t go a day without?
 
Coffee!

11. Anything else you would like to share with us?
 
I really enjoy being a part of a profession that is so willing to help, teach and collaborate.

Introducing…Errol Adams as the March 2020 FCIL-SIS Member of the Month

Errol Adams 120619-3

1.  Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Georgetown, Guyana – a country located in South America.

2. Why did you select law librarianship as a career?

I selected law librarianship as a career after a former supervisor at the New York Civil Courtreferred me to a full MLS scholarship (law focused) at St. John’s University. She told me to apply for a scholarship. I had been working as a Senior Law Librarian at the Civil Court of New York City without a MLS degree. I successfully completed the program and received my MLS.

3.  When did you develop an interest in foreign, comparative, and international law?

I developed an interest in foreign, comparative, and international law when I was hired as a law librarian at the College of the Bahamas, now University of the Bahamas in Nassau, New Providence, The Bahamas. I attended the Caribbean Association of Law Libraries Conference and that propelled me into this arena as most of the countries in the Caribbean follow/ed the UK legal system.

4.  Who is your current employer? How long have you worked there?

My current employer is Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University Law Library.  I have worked there for six months, but prior to this position, I was at Pace Law School Library for three and a half years.

5.  Do you speak any foreign languages?

Not really. I do understand some French and Spanish, though.

6.  What is your most significant professional achievement?

Graduating law school almost immediately after migrating to the U.S.

7.  What is your biggest food weakness?

Almost any kind of lamb…

8. What song makes you want to get up and sing/dance?

Too many to list.  I do like a variety of music, including Bollywood music…[editor’s note: here are some Bollywood music listicles :)]

9.  What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)?

The ability to fly a plane.

10. Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you can’t go a day without?

Actual sugar.

11. Anything else you would like to share with us?

Yes. I love to travel. I am very passionate about diversity initiatives. I created the first diversity & inclusion committee at the Law Librarians Association of Greater New York. I will be leading a panel discussion on cultural competence at AALL’s upcoming conference in New Orleans.

New FCIL Librarian Series: Q & A

By Janet Kearney

This is the third in a series of posts documenting my experience as a new FCIL librarian. I started as Foreign & International Law Librarian at Fordham University School of Law in February 2019.

Happy work anniversary to me! A year ago this month I officially became an FCIL librarian for the first time. To commemorate this date for the blog, I decided to do a Q & A with some other FCIL librarians to discuss how they got started, their favorite FCIL-SIS volunteer activities, and a few other questions I’ve had on my mind.

Thank you very much to the librarians who entertained my questions:

  • Loren Turner, Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Librarian at the University of Minnesota Law School and our fearless FCIL-SIS chair. (LT below.)
  • Amy Flick, Foreign and International Law Librarian at the MacMillan Law Library at Emory University School of Law, member of the FCIL-SIS Nominating Committee and editor of the International Calendar for the International Journal of Legal Information (IALL) (AF below.)
  • Marcelo Rodriquez, Research & Training Librarian at the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals Library, FCIL-SIS Latin American Law interest group chair (MR below.)

The comments below have been edited for grammar and style, and I’ve emphasized some of the takeaways.

 

Tell us a bit about yourself – where do you work? How long have you been an FCIL librarian, officially or unofficially?

LT: I am the official FCIL librarian at the University of Minnesota right now. I’ve been here for almost 4 years. Before that, I was an unofficial FCIL librarian at the University of Florida.

AF: I have worked for the Hugh F. MacMillan Law Library at Emory University since 1994, full-time since 1996. I have officially been the FCIL librarian since 2013. Unofficially becoming the FCIL librarian was more of a gradual process.

MR: I’m Marcelo Rodriguez, Research and Training Librarian, US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, NY. We don’t have an official FCIL librarian. However, we do receive a few FCIL-related research questions either related to the fact that two of our Circuit states, New York and Vermont share borders with Canada, and New York City’s prominent role in international trade and finance.

 

How did you get involved in FCIL librarianship?

LT: I have always wanted to be a FCIL librarian. I studied Latin/Italian in high school/college and then international law in law school, so as soon as I decided to become a law librarian, I decided to pursue FCIL librarianship. When I was at Northwestern’s law library, I met Heidi Kuehl, who later recruited me to be a co-Chair of the FCIL-SIS publicity committee and it was through that service that I met the FCIL-SIS community and started developing the niche.

AF: I started as the GovDocs librarian, so I got the questions about treaties and our EU docs, and the UN document questions because faculty thought we were a UN depository. (We weren’t, but the main Emory library had a large UN document collection.) Foreign law questions came later, as more knowledgeable librarians at Emory retired or left the library. I knew almost nothing about international or foreign law back then, but I learned international law librarianship along the way. So, if you’re a new FCIL librarian and don’t always know what you’re doing, you’re still doing better than I did back then.

MR: Once I realized that I wanted to become a librarian, FCIL librarianship felt like a natural path to me. I have always been interested in international relations and foreign languages. My initial career goal was to become a diplomat or work in an international organization. I did get to intern at the Library and Archives of the International Criminal Court at The Hague, Netherlands and the Central Library of the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium. More than any other area of law librarianship, FCIL librarianship forces the law librarian to think outside the box, and to take into consideration some many other variables, which may fall under the realm of non-legal. Every time I get a FCIL-related question, I’m eager to use my knowledge on geography, history, languages, international relations, and also be able to learn something else. Every FCIL question feels like a learning opportunity!

 

What is the best way to get involved in professional organizations? Do you think it’s important for newer FCIL librarians to participate in these groups?

LT: The best way to get involved in professional organizations is to put yourself out there: email anyone you know who serves in a group that interests you and/or just show up at group meetings during conferences. Don’t be shy! The FCIL-SIS is always looking for volunteers to develop new projects and maintain current ones. And, I think it is important for all FCIL librarians – newer or otherwise – to participate in these groups. None of us know everything. There is just too much to know. So, active participation in professional organizations keeps your skills and your connections fresh and there is an incredible community of FCIL librarians to meet.

AF: Just do it! If you see an announcement seeking volunteers – writing, presenting, being part of a committee – and it fits your interests and skill set, you’ll be welcomed. But make sure it won’t overwhelm you fitting it in with your regular responsibilities. I think it’s better to start small and do the job well than to overcommit. Professional organizations like FCIL-SIS and IALL are great for newer FCIL librarians. Besides building your resume, you make contacts that you’ll want when you get difficult questions.

 

Do you think it’s more important to develop specialties (like human rights, international arbitration, etc.), be a generalist, or both?

LT: In my experience, specialties develop over time based on the community you serve. When I was at the University of Florida, I developed a specialty in international commercial arbitration because I was recruited to co-coach a Vis Moot team (I had zero experience in international commercial arbitration before that). When I got to the University of Minnesota, however, I didn’t serve faculty or students interested in international commercial arbitration. Instead, my new community specialized in international human rights law, international humanitarian law, and national security/laws of war. And, through repeated faculty and student interactions, I’ve started to develop specialties in those areas. If there is a particular specialty that you have always wanted to pursue, then go for it! But, I recommend learning as much as you can about general international law (sources, databases, etc.) first so that you have the foundational knowledge you’ll need to have anyway for a career in FCIL librarianship.

AF: Being the Foreign and International Law Librarian is already a specialty within most libraries. There are few law libraries where you can spend the better part of your time in foreign and international law, much less specializing beyond that. But you will develop at least a little expertise in the subjects where your law school or firm has specialists. Emory has an IHL Clinic, so I get student questions on international humanitarian law and the law of war. And we have legal historians among our faculty who periodically send me requests for 19th century English cases or for 20th century State Department documents.

 

Are there any special skills that you think are critical to doing FCIL research?

LT: I’d say: curiosity and tenacity, which are critical skills for any librarian, but FCIL research can be tough. The answer to many FCIL questions may very well be: “I’m sorry, but that thing [English translation, speech transcript, etc.] is not available.” And, yet no one wants to give that answer! The FCIL librarian has to be willing to scour for a result long after others may have given up.

AF: Foreign languages would help, but I don’t have that. And good research skills in general. It’s more important to have an interest in the subject, to enjoy looking for obscure documents, trying different databases, and reading enough news and professional literature to be able to interpret FCIL questions.

 

Do you have a strategy or approach to continuing education?

LT: My strategy is to do it! There is so much to know as a FCIL librarian and I’m not even close to knowing it all or even most of it. I try to attend as many conferences as my budget allows, and I volunteer for many different organizations so that I maintain my network and remain “in the know.” Also, now that the FCIL-SIS has started to produce free continuing education webinars (thanks to Caitlin Hunter), I watch those, and, when my schedule allows, I also attend free conferences or programs on international law at the University where I work. Also, I read/skim every issue of the American Journal of International Law and the FCIL-SIS Newsletter.

AF: I attend conferences and webinars, of course, and I read about legal research and international law. But I learn the most while preparing for classes, a reminder that experiential hands-on learning is the most effective kind.

 

What is your favorite FCIL resource (for example, Foreign Law Guide, GlobaLex, Justis, Max Planck, Darts IP, International Encyclopedias)? Why?

LT: I love the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law. I always try to start every new project with it because it forces me to stop and think and put the legal question(s) I am trying to answer into context. It strengthens my vocabulary and helps me refine my keywords before hopping onto Google or one of the many FCIL databases. It is always the first database I highlight whenever I am covering background sources for my classes, workshops, or guest visits.

AF: I’m guessing that “it depends on the project” isn’t a definite enough answer. For international law questions, I like to start students with the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law for background reading and a bibliography. It frequently has the citations for the most important documents for their project. Although that has to come with a reminder to check the article date. For foreign and comparative law projects, I like to start students with the Foreign Law Guide because it not only refers them to primary sources, it has citations to major statutes by subject area.

 

Me, reading all these answers:

Introducing…Anne Abramson as the February 2020 FCIL-SIS Member of the Month

02.04.20 anne abramson

1. Where did you grow up?

Chicago

2. Why did you select law librarianship as a career?

I attended a career change course at NYU and librarianship was one of the careers recommended.

3. When did you develop an interest in foreign, comparative, and international law? I have always had an interest in all things international, starting with foreign language studies before and during college and majoring in International Relations at Stanford.

4. Who is your current employer? How long have  you worked there?

UIC John Marshall (fka John Marshall) since 1997

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

French, Spanish, some German

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

I am proud of my International Legal Research LibGuide, which I am in the process of updating, as well as the International legal research class that I developed and taught for three years. The LibGuide is like a textbook for the class.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Popcorn. I can’t stop eating it!

8. What song makes you want to get up and sing/dance?

“Happy” by Pharrell Williams

9. What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)? There are so many, but I would say music (ability to read and play and instrument and/or sing) and math/science skills just for starters.

10. Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you can’t go a day without? Getting outdoors & yoga or some form of movement/exercise.

11 Anything else you would like to share with us?

I am a home cook and yogi. I love international travel especially if it includes cooking and/or yoga classes. I also love birds and nature and am trying to find ways to experience even in a big urban environment like Chicago.

Introducing…Bianca Anderson as the January 2020 FCIL-SIS Member of the Month

1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up three miles from where I work now, in Miami.  I count myself very lucky to be able to be able to not only work at my alma mater but to live in a community in which I have deep roots.

2. Why did you select law librarianship as a career?

I practiced immigration law mostly in a non-profit setting for almost ten years focusing mainly on deportation defense.  While I felt it was deeply important work that made a real impact on a personal level for my clients,  I became increasingly frustrated by inefficiency and inequity in the immigration system.  I decided it was a good time to make a career change.  My brother and sister-in-law were already librarians, and I always admired their dedication to the needs of their patrons and the contribution they as librarians could make on their patron’s lives.  I viewed law librarianship as an opportunity to use my legal education and knowledge while still in service of others, the aspect I found most appealing of my immigration practice.  The last two years, I have had the opportunity to teach an Introduction to Legal Research course tailored to non-native English speakers in our LLM programs, in addition to Foreign & International Legal Research.  Teaching is an entirely different aspect of law  librarianship, with a  whole new world of challenges and opportunities that continue to present themselves.  I am truly enjoying this new role and am more certain than ever that I made the right choice all those years ago.

3. When did you develop an interest in foreign, comparative, and international law?

As a natural consequence of my immigration practice, I often had to research foreign and international laws, particularly in regards to international human rights norms, country condition information, and foreign laws related to marriage and family.  In the years that I have been the Foreign & International Law Librarian here at UM, I have developed a deep fondness for the field.  The field is so diverse and rich, my work is never boring, and I love learning something new with every project I assist on.  I can’t deny that I also love the thrill of the chase, and I very much enjoy finding obscure materials that a student or faculty member regarded “unfindable.”  It’s a superpower!

4. Who is your current employer? How long have  you worked there?

I am Librarian Assistant Professor & Lecturer in Law at the University of Miami.  I have worked here a little over seven years.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

As the child of Cuban immigrants, I speak Spanish fluently.  My knowledge of Spanish deepened in my immigration practice as it was invaluable to communicate with my clients in their native language.  I have a reading fluency of French, having studied it for five years in high school and university.  Unfortunately, I have not had as much opportunity as I would’ve liked to improve my spoken French, but it does remain a goal of mine.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

I am probably proudest of my role in designing the Fall research workshop series for our library.  We found ourselves without an Instructional Services Librarian one Fall, and I was asked to design and run the workshop series.  In the past, the workshop series covered mostly substantive topic research sessions based on course offerings specifically for that semester.  I designed a Fall workshop series structured around basic skills needed to conduct legal research, based on AALL’s Principles and Standards for Legal Research Competency.  I called it the Legal Research Toolbox, and offered the following workshops: Creating a Research Plan, Keyword Selection, Terms and Connectors, Citators, Using Annotations Effectively, and Weight of Authority.  I was astounded and delighted by the overwhelmingly positive response.  In  the first semester we presented the Legal Research Toolbox Series, we had 63% increase in attendance to the year before and a 127% increase to the year before that. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider that in we only offered six workshops, whereas in previous semesters we offered an average of nine.  I once again planned and coordinated the workshop series the following Fall, and our attendance levels continued to increase.  The coordination of the workshop series returned to the Instructional Services Librarian once the position was filled, and the new librarian in the role has continued to employ the structure and topics that I implemented for the Fall workshops, with the additions of workshops on Evaluating Sources, and Artificial Intelligence in Legal Research, which I have co-taught with him.  The attendance levels still continue to increase each Fall.  I am so glad to have been able to contribute to a service that students seek out and find helpful as they develop and improve their research skills.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Dessert!  I definitely have a sweet tooth and to me, a meal feels incomplete without a touch of something sweet at the end.  I have a particular weakness for lemon desserts- lemon cake, lemon cookies, lemon soufflé.  I can’t say no!

8. What song makes you want to get up and sing/dance?

I struggled way too long contemplating this, so I’ll break the rules and name a few.

My obsession over the last few years has been cast recording of the musical Hamilton.  I think Lin-Manuel Miranda is a true genius. Among my prized possessions are copies of the Hamilton and In the Heights librettos, signed by Mr. Miranda.   I’ve been lucky enough to see the show in Chicago  and on tour in Fort Lauderdale, and I have tickets to see the tour again in Miami in March! Much to my children’s shame and embarrassment, particularly my teenager, I like to break out into song, and lately, it is usually a song from Hamilton.  One of my standards at karaoke is “My Shot.”  I’ve been told it is truly an experience to witness!

Besides that I love all sorts of music- some favorites in no particular order- the Beatles, Beach Boys, Phoenix, Adele, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Iron & Wine.  There are a few songs I just can’t resist dancing to, a couple recent ones are “Uptown Funk”by Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson and “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift.

9. What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)?

Can it be a make believe skill?  I wish I could teleport.  Just snap my fingers and be where I need to be in an instant.  I have a 4 year old and a 13 year old, and, well- most parents know the drill- there are dance classes, art classes, soccer practices, baseball practices, school events, parent teacher conferences, PTA meetings, homework, and projects, that all need to be attended to- and that’s just your typical Wednesday!

10. Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you can’t go a day without?

I am a bit ashamed to admit this, but I feel like I am missing a limb without my phone.  My entire existence (and my family’s!) is kept organize on that little device- calendars, reminders, to do lists, maps, notes, photos, emails, chats, all of it!  I do try to be aware of how much I use the phone and set rules for myself that I hope my kids will emulate- 1) no phone at the dinner table- the person sitting in front of you is more important than the screen, 2) not every minute of every day needs to be captured by a photo- I’d rather experience the moment than capture a picture of it, and 3) do only one thing at a time- no driving and cell phone, no watching television and cell phone, no walking and cell phone.

11. Anything else you would like to share with us?

I very much appreciate this group and my colleagues in the FCIL-SIS.  I never fail to be awed and inspired by the work all of you do, and I count myself fortunate to part of such a collaborative and supportive community.

Introducing…Dennis Sears as the November 2019 FCIL-SIS Member of the Month

Sears, Dennis FCIL1. Where did you grow up?

Salt Lake City, UT

2. Why did you select law librarianship as a career?

I worked as a reference assistant during law school and my career headed that way soon after that.

3. When did you develop an interest in foreign, comparative, and international law?

I have always had an interest in history and the humanities, especially European.  My interest in foreign, comparative, and international law grew out of that.

4. Who is your current employer? How long have  you worked there?

My current employer is Brigham Young University,  I have worked there for thirty years.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

I speak German.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

Teaching legal research at the Law School.  I have loved teaching first year legal research as well as advanced legal research, federal tax research, and international research.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Chocolate

8. What song makes you want to get up and sing/dance?

“The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha

9. What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)?

I wish I were more creative.

10. Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you can’t go a day without?

Time to ponder.  If I don’t/can’t take that time, my day just seems to fall apart.

11. Anything else you would like to share with us?

I find working with people in the FCIL-SIS one of the most fulfilling parts of my profession.