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.