Introducing…Joan Sherer as the January 2019 FCIL Member of the Month

01.19 Joan Sherer

1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Kresgeville, PA. It is a very small village about 30 miles north of Allentown.

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

A family friend, who just happened to be the secretary at my high school’s library, suggested I consider librarianship.

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

It wasn’t until I started at the State Department that I really delved into it.

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

I work for the Department of State and I’ve been here 20 years.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

Not really. I had Spanish in high school and college, but my knowledge of the language is rusty.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

I think landing the position of Law Librarian at the State Department. This has been a wonderful experience and I feel fortunate to serve the Department in this very small capacity. It still amazes me when I get research requests from our embassies all over the world.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

While I hate to admit it, but it’s peanut M&Ms. I just love them.

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

I have two, Happy by Pharrell and September, by Earth, Wind & Fire. As I was driving home last night and Happy came on the radio. While I couldn’t get up and dance, I did sing along.

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

I admit I am a mediocre cook. I would love to be able to have the skills of a gourmet chef.

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

I would be lost without a good book to read. I have a never ending reading list of both fiction and nonfiction books that I hope to read one day.

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

This is a good venue to announce that I am retiring on December 31st.  In fact, if you are reading this after that date I am already retired. As much as I love my job, it is time to move on to other things. I’m looking forward to moving back to Pennsylvania next summer and spending more time with friends and family. Incidentally, it may take several months until my position is posted, but if you are interested in a federal government position working with a stellar group of librarians, check in the coming months.


Top 18 Posts of ’18

By Alyson Drake


It’s that time of year–when we reflect back on all the wonderful contributions from our members over the past year.  2018 has been an amazing year for DipLawMatic Dialogues.  Not only was it our best ever year in terms of readership, but we actually more than doubled our number of views and visitors, topping out at over 29,000 views and over 17,200 visitors for the year.  We also nearly doubled the number of posts we had last year with 131 posts, more than two per week on average.

This would not be possible without all of you who volunteer to write posts and recaps for us.  (Remember, we’re now actively looking for contributors for 2019, so let’s keep this streak going!)  Susan and I are so grateful for your willingness to keep DipLawMatic Dialogues full of fresh content all year long!  If you’ve volunteered before, we hope you’ll agree to do a post for us this year; if you haven’t written for us yet, join this great community of bloggers and contribute in an easy way to our fantastic SIS.

Thanks to all of this year’s amazing bloggers, many of whom contributed multiple posts over the course of the year:

Jennifer Allison * Charles Bjork * Kate Britt * Anne Burnett
Meredith Capps * Sherry Xin ChenCatherine Deane * Yemisi Dina
Alyson Drake * Shay Elbaum * Gabriela Femenia * Amy Flick
Marisol Floren * Erin Gow * Julienne Grant * Susan Gualtier
Marci Hoffman * Caitlin Hunter * David Isom * Sarah Jaramillo
Lora Johns * Benjamin Keele * Tarica LaBossiere * Jootaek Lee
Evelyn Ma * Taryn Marks * Mike McArthur * Yasmin Morais
Mariana Newman * Lucie Olejnikova * Katherine Orth * Carlos Pagan
Jessica Pierucci * Joan Policastri * Marylin Raisch * Brooke Raymond
Sarah Reis * Mary Rumsey * John Scherrer * Rachael Smith
Beau Steenken * Stacia Stein * Loren Turner * Dan Wade * Alex Zhang

And very special thanks to our two all-star bloggers who both contributed eight or more posts this year:
Lora Johns and Jessica Pierucci!

Now for our top 18 of ’18!

18. From the Reference Desk, by Lora Johns
17. Crafting an FCIL Research Niche (When You’re NOT an “FCIL Librarian”), by Alyson Drake
16. MHz & Me: How a Crime-Solving Priest Saved by Italian, by Julienne Grant
15. Acquiring Foreign and International Law Materials with a New Collection Development Focus, by Joan Policastri
14. Teaching Religious Law as Part of Comparative Law: Focus on Jewish Law, by Marylin Raisch
13. AALL 2018 Recap: CONELL (Conference of Newer Law Librarians), by Tarica LaBossiere
12. Getting to Know the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals, by Marci Hoffman
11. Comparative Laws and the Lies of Donald Trump, by Mary Rumsey
10. New FCIL Librarian Series: Collection Development in 2018, by Jessica Pierucci
9. New FCIL Librarian Series: Creating a New Research Guide, by Jessica Pierucci
8. Law Firm Impressions After One Complete Year, by Catherine Deane
7. From the Reference Desk: When Librarians Google, by Lora Johns
6. Using the “A” Word in Legal Research Instruction, by Alyson Drake
5. What Helped Me Transition to the Law Firm, by Catherine Deane
4. 7 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Teaching, by Alyson Drake
3. AALL 2018 Recap: Impostor Syndrome, by Jennifer Allison
2. AALL 2018 Recap: 25 Free Technologies, by Brooke Raymond
1. Transition to Law Firm from Academia, by Catherine Deane



Call for Bloggers for 2019!

By Alyson Drake


It’s that time of year, again, folks–when my co-editor, Susan Gualtier, and I start soliciting for volunteers for DipLawMatic Dialogues for next semester. We have a few of our returning series’ bloggers coming back for the spring semester, but we have lots of weeks (seriously, y’all, a LOT of weeks) that need to be filled with excellent content from FCIL-SIS members.

Here are my top ten reasons why you should submitt a blog post to DipLawMatic Dialogues for spring 2019:

  1.  You LOVE FCIL-SIS and want to contribute in any way you can!
  2. You read DipLawMatic Dialogues each week and haven’t contributed yet–your unique voice will be a great addition!
  3. There’s a topic that hasn’t been covered on DipLawMatic Dialogues yet that you’d like to see covered.
  4. You just read a great FCIL-related book.
  5. You want to impress your librarian colleagues.
  6. You want to impress your law school’s administration and faculty. (We can help with this by linking to your school when we share the post on our social media.)
  7. You have a niche interest in some area of foreign, comparative, or international law that you could share with the group.
  8. You don’t want to see grown women (Susan and me) cry because don’t have weekly coverage. 😉
  9. You’re new to FCIL-SIS or law librarianship and you’re looking for ways to start getting involved.
  10. You love to write.

What are some topics you could post on?

  • Did you get a interesting FCIL reference question recently?  Write a post on how you handled it.
  • Are you teaching an FCIL class in the spring?  Or did you teach on this fall that you can reflect on?  You can write on one cool assignment or aspect to the course that your excited about!
  • We love book reviews! Feel free to read any FCIL-related book and write up a review for us.
  • We’d love to hear from FCIL librarians in different settings, especially our less-often-heard-from firm and government librarian colleagues.  Catherine Deane’s posts on academic law librarianship have been two of our most highly read posts this year, so if you’re wondering if there’s an audience for the FCIL work you do in those settings, there definitely is!
  • We’ve had a request to do a blog post on FCIL collection analysis, particularly if you’ve data to do your analysis.  Other topic of interest include collection development, cataloging FCIL materials, acquisitions work, special collections projects, etc.
  • Is there an FCIL resource you just LOVE to use?  Tell us about why it’s so great.
  • Issues posts:  Are you passionate about international environment law?  International human rights?  British law?  Roman law?  Customary international law?  We’d love to have a post or series of posts on your favorite topic!
  • Just about anything FCIL-related.  Some of our best posts have been suggestions by prospective bloggers, so please tell us your ideas.

To our readers, what types of posts would you like to read that you haven’t seen on the blog yet?  Are there any topics or aspects of FCIL librarianship that you’d like to see on DipLawMatic Dialogues in the new year?

Volunteer to blog with us or send your suggestions for topics on posts to Alyson Drake, co-editor of DipLawMatic Dialogues,, and she will try to find authors on these topics.

Introducing…Kevin Rothenberg as the December 2018 FCIL Librarian of the Month

Kevin Rothenberg Photo
1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Cary, North Carolina which is just outside of Raleigh.  
2. Why did you select law librarianship as a career?
While I was in law school at Wake Forest, I worked in the library’s RA pool under the supervision of the fabulous Liz Johnson.  I loved that job. The work was varied and interesting, my supervisors were all wonderful, and several of us RA’s were close friends to begin with, which made it all the more fun.  By the end of my 2L summer I was pretty sure that I wanted to be a law librarian, so after I graduated I took a fellowship in Wake Forest’s library and enrolled in library school at UNC Greensboro just down the road.  After about 2 or 3 months in the fellowship, my mind was totally made up. I really owe a great deal to the staff at the Worrell Professional Center Library, who graciously and patiently guided me into this amazing career. 
3. When did you develop an interest in Foreign, Comparative, and International Law?
I learned a little bit about FCIL librarianship while I was a fellow at Wake Forest, but it wasn’t until I came to the Robert Crown Law Library that I really got interested.  The faculty, staff, and students here are actively researching and writing on certain FCIL topics, so I think my interest sprang from necessity, and also proximity to such enthusiastic and well-informed people.  
4. Who is your current employer?  How long have you worked there?
Currently, I work at the Robert Crown Law Library at the Stanford Law School.  I’ve worked here for a little over 6 months now. 
5. Do you speak any foreign languages?
“Speak” would be a stretch.  I took 4 years of German in high school and a semester of it in college, so with a dictionary and a little brushing up, I can puzzle through some German texts.  But my spoken German is pretty rusty.
6. What is your most significant professional achievement?
That’s tough.  If I had to pick one thing, I would say the article I wrote for the most recent issue of AALL Spectrum.  That was the first time I had ever written something that got published like that.  It was a very gratifying experience.
7. What is your biggest food weakness?
French fries, hash browns, tater tots: basically, anything in the fried potato food group that can be smothered in molten cheese sauce–which is also a food weakness of mine.
8. What songs make you want to get up and sing/dance?
I’m not much of a singer/dancer, but “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show.  Growing up in and around Raleigh, I was basically duty bound to sing-shout the line, “And if I die in Raleigh, at least I will die free,” every time.  Also, “Whoomp! There It Is.” Which is unrelated to North Carolina, as far as I know.
9. What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)?
Fluency in a second language.  Or reading proficiency in a few languages.
10. Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you can’t go a day without?
Reading a good book.  Or cooking something.
11. Anything else you would like to share with us?
I’m the current chair of the Customary and Religious Law Interest Group (CARLIG)! If you have any interest in customary or religious law topics, consider joining the group, or reaching out to me at

WestPact 2018 Recap: Charting the Legal Systems of the West Pacific Islands: Tracking Down Primary Documentation

By Shay Elbaum

WestPacIslands.jpgVictoria Szymczak, Director of the Law Library and Associate Professor of Law at the University of Hawai’i William S. Richardson School of Law, led off the “Teddy Talks” segment of the program with a look into the process of creating her research guide, Charting the Legal Systems of the Western Pacific Islands, recently published by Hein. This guide grew from Szymczak’s collection development work in this area. Hawai’i is, of course, a Pacific island itself, and the mission of the UH School of Law expressly recognizes a responsibility to the Pacific region. As the only American academic law library in a region especially vulnerable to climate change, the library’s work with Pacific island legal systems is particularly timely. The uniqueness of these legal systems also drew Szymczak to this work; rather than “mixed” or “pluralist”, these systems are best described as “hybrid”, merging elements of indigenous and Western systems into a unified whole.

Two major challenges Szymczak faced were the complexity of Pacific island legal systems and the differences among them. Nearby islands can have vastly different legal systems, depending on – among other things – whether they had been colonized by France, Britain, or the United States; whether the indigenous culture was Melanesian, Micronesian, or Polynesian; and what the colonial status of the island was. Szymczak chose to focus only on five former British colonies for this guide, but still had to grapple with the differences between colonies, protected states, protectorates, and condominiums, the many name changes as islands went from independent to colony (or protectorate, or…) and back to independent, and the frustrating lack of citations to primary sources in many of the works she consulted.

The result is a detailed and eminently usable guide to researching the legal systems of Tonga, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands. Szymczak helps the reader navigate through those complexities and more, and gives us the tools to identify, access, and interpret the relevant primary sources. In her presentation, she highlighted the many different lawmaking authorities in each nation during the colonial era, each with different powers and producing different kinds of law depending on the unique features of their nation. She also discussed some particularly useful sources, such as Hertslet’s Commercial Treaties; Hertslet’s contains primary documents relating to British commerce, and includes many Pacific island-related documents because of their locations along major trade routes.

Szymczak closed with some illustrations of the unique blend of customary and British law found in these legal systems. She gave the example of the Solomon Islands’ constitution, which provides for the continuation of certain colonial laws where not inconsistent with customary law. As a result, the courts of that nation must interpret and apply customary law alongside other sources of law.

This presentation packed quite a bit into the half-hour “Teddy Talk” time slot. I enjoyed learning about what goes into creating a resource like this – and now that I know about this guide, I’m looking forward to having an opportunity to use it!

Introducing…Melissa Abernathy as the November 2018 FCIL Librarian of the Month

2018.11 melissa

1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Monterey Park, CA, a suburb about 10 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.  Monterey Park is known for having a vibrant Chinese-American community, producing several Chinese-American mayors and one U.S. House Representative (Judy Chu).  It’s also home to the best dim sum, hands down.

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

As a second year law student at Lewis & Clark I worked as a faculty RA, Westlaw student rep, circulation desk worker, and was very involved in law review.  Between those four positions I spent a LOT of time in the law library.  One day, a reference librarian and I waded through the CIS index and down into the bowels of the microfiche collection, on the hunt for some legislative history I needed for cite-checking.  I have to admit I shot her a few dubious glances as we dug deeper and deeper, dutifully writing down SuDoc numbers.  Like magic, she unearthed the item we needed and loaded it onto the microform machine.  Color me impressed! By my third year I was hanging around the reference desk enough that the librarians began mentioning the possibility of library school.  Many of them had matriculated through Penny Hazelton’s program at the University of Washington so I applied straight away and was accepted.  As they say, the rest is history.

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

I got my first taste of international law working with the International Environmental Law Project during law school.  One research assignment involved endangered gorillas crossing protected areas in three countries: Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Treaties, domestic legislation, and Virunga mountain gorillas, oh my! You could say I was hooked. Several international law courses and papers later, I ended up applying to an FCIL librarianship position at the University of San Diego straight out of library school.

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

I have been with the University of San Diego, Legal Research Center since 2007.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

Sadly, I do not.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

I’m most proud of the inroads I’ve made with FCIL teaching at USD since starting here over a decade ago.  We now teach several classes in the LLM in Comparative Law Program and U.S. Law and Policy Program (foreign scholars mainly from Korea), as well as provide FCIL training for our Vis International Moot Court team and International Law Journal students. Most recently we added a 1-credit, 7-week course on International Legal Research for which I am the instructor of record.  We’ve only offered the course twice so far but the response has been very positive.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?


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

Wagon Wheel by Darius Rucker, or really any version.

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

Like many FCIL librarians, I would love the ability to speak one or more foreign languages.

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

A good belly rub for my sweet 17-year-old pup, Shadow.

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

My husband and I are expecting our first baby (a boy!) this December.

October GlobaLex Issue Now Live

By Lucie Olejnikova

The October 2018 issue features four articles: two new articles, on the Legal System and Research in São Tomé and Príncipe and a Comparative Analysis on the Restorative Justice Practices in Africa, and two updates on Bhutan and Forced Evictions and Disability Rights in Africa. Please see the table of contents below. We thank to all of our contributors for their scholarship and we welcome our new authors to GlobaLex family.

São Tomé and Príncipe: Legal System and Research by Kevashinee Pillay and Nélia Daniel Dias at

Kevashinee Pillay is an attorney in the Republic of South Africa with approximately ten years of experience in the field of human rights at national, regional and international level. She is also an author, an academic, and she writes and specializes in the areas of international law, international human rights law and international law of the sea. She holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Kwazulu Natal Durban (KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa) and a Master of Laws degree from the University of Pretoria (Gauteng, South Africa) focusing on human rights and democratization in Africa. She is currently working towards a doctoral degree focusing on the rights of small-scale fisheries fishing for food at the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth (Eastern Cape, South Africa).

Nélia Daniel Dias is a law lecturer in Angola and a licensed lawyer in both Angola and Portugal. Ms. Nelia also worked for Chevron in Luanda as a senior counsel in oil and gas and currently works for Baker Hughes, a General Electric Company as Senior Counsel with responsibilities in countries like Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Ethiopia, South Africa and Equatorial Guinea. She has published 21 books including compilations of law and has written articles about domestic and international legal issues in Angola, Portugal, Brazil, England and the Unites States. She has been teaching at the Angola Catholic University since 2007 and at the Lusíada de Angola University since 2008. She earned her law degree in civil law from the Lusíada University of Lisbon in 1995 and her master’s degree in civil law (contracts) in 2000. She is currently studying Global Business at Oxford University at Saïd Business School. Since 1995, Ms. Daniel Dias has given lectures and acted as a facilitator in Angola and Portugal.


A Comparative Analysis of Restorative Justice Practices in Africa by Julena Jumbe Gabagambi at

Julena Jumbe Gabagambi is an Assistant Lecturer in Law at the University of Iringa, Tanzania. She holds a diploma in Law, Bachelor of Laws and an L.L.M. in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice from Mzumbe University, Tumaini University Iringa University College and the University of Birmingham (UK) respectively. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the Open University of Tanzania focusing her research on the issues of restorative justice. She has worked as a Legal Officer with the National Environment Management Council and the National Organization for Legal Assistance. In addition, she has worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as a Repatriation Assistant. She teaches Criminal Law and Procedure, Transnational Criminal Law, Family Law, Law for Community Development, Child Law, and National Protection of Human Rights in Tanzania.


UPDATE: Research Guide to the Legal System of the Kingdom of Bhutan by Pema Needup and Dr. Md. Ershadul Karim at

Pema Needup is currently working for the Judiciary of the Kingdom of Bhutan as the Presiding Judge at the Royal Court of Justice, District Court, Punakha, Bhutan.

Dr. Md. Ershadul Karim is a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya, Malaysia and a non-practicing lawyer enrolled with Bangladesh Supreme Court.


UPDATE: Forced Evictions and Disability Rights in Africa by Sibusiso Nhlabatsi by

Sibusiso Nhlabatsi is Legal Clinic Principal at the University of Swaziland and a practicing human rights attorney. He holds a Diploma (Law) and an LLB degree from the University of Swaziland. He is currently doing an LLM in Human Rights Law (Course work) at the University of South Africa. Nhlabatsi is currently Chairperson of the Innovation for Change Hub Afrique’ until 2019. He serves on the Board of Trustee for Lawyers for Human Rights (Swaziland) and he is a founding director of the Institute for Democracy and Leadership (IDEAL).


For more articles on Globalex see