Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Newsletter Interview #2: Interview with Head of Public Services, Alena Wolotira


This is our latest interview in a series of UW Law School faculty and staff interviews. Each interview will be highlighted in the Gallagher Law Library's *new* Newsletter. Keep your eyes out for our new back-to-school edition coming out soon!

Interview #2 Alena Wolotira, Head of Public Services        


Can you introduce yourself and your role as Head of Public Services at Gallagher Law Library?      

I am Alena Wolotira, Head of Public Services at Gallagher Law Library. I oversee the operations of the reference and circulation functions of the library. I supervise all of the reference librarians and am in charge of the facility. Overseeing the policies and the people of the front-facing side of the library is probably the best way to put it. 


So, how can the library help students? Has anything changed now that UW Law has gone virtual? 
There are a few things that have changed. Obviously, there isn’t the facility available. Which really stinks because our library was a really wonderful space to get work done in. It’s quiet, there’s lots of great seating. And so it’s a bummer that we don’t have that right now, but we’re going to open it up as soon as we can. 

As for the rest of our services, they’re totally the same! We’re still available to help people find information. We’re still available to get people access to books. We’ve shifted our recent collection expenditures to acquire more eBooks since the pandemic hit, so that’s great. We’re there for research help and that’s totally do-able remotely. So, that’s good, too! 


Are there specific services that would be helpful for students working on law journals?  
There are! This summer I actually started a liaison program. Basically, I reached out to all of our law journals and asked them how the library can better help them in their work. So, we’ve opened up really good channels of communication between the library and the journals. 
I’ve been doing Bluebooking office hours for when they’re in their QA Process, which is quality assurance: double checking Bluebooking citations in articles they are trying to prepare for publication. That’s been really successful! We’ve had a lot of student editors attend and try and stump me. So far, I’ve only had one or two stumpers but I’ve been able to handle everything else. I’ve also been working with them on how they can do source gathering in a remote environment. So, it’s been good!

I would also like to add that any time a student has a question about the Bluebook or source gathering, lawref is there to help them. They can just email lawref and anybody on my team would be happy to help! 

A new edition of The Bluebook came out this year. Are there any new changes or specific updates that stick out to you? 

Yeah, there are! Check out the video I made for the full scoop.. But the big ones are that you are no longer required to use the year in citations to the US Code. And then T-6 and T-13.2 have combined. Big Stuff! And the final thing is that T-2, Foreign Jurisdictions, is now online on the Bluebook’s website. 


When was the first time you used The Bluebook? How do your blue booking skills now compare?  

I first used the Bluebook when I was a 1L in LRW, or LARW is what it’s called at UW, and I found it really confusing and difficult. I pretty much had no idea what I was doing. I would write my papers and then go in with, you know, 15 minutes to spare before the deadline and quickly and inaccurately approximate what a citation should look like. Then I was on two journals later in my law school career and that’s when I really learned the beauty of the Bluebook. I came to understand that the rules are there for a reason and the point of the Bluebook is to help your reader find the source that you’re citing and evaluate the accuracy and determine whether or not the author has accurately characterized it. Uniformity in citations helps readers understand the types of sources that are being cited, and helps them easily locate the source themselves. 


So, would you say that your Bluebooking skills are a little bit sharper now, than they were then?  

Yes, definitely! After I finished law school, I also was the Bluebook editor for the Journal of Legal Education for a year. So, I did all of the work that a law student editorial team would do just by myself for that journal. I think I did three issues and that definitely sharpened my skills as well. So now, I would say… I don’t know if there is ever a Bluebook expert because there are so many rules, but I would say I’m coming close.  

The Bluebook and legal citations can be intimidating. Can you help students get used to the format and develop their own blue booking skills? 

Yes. So, we have the Bluebook 101 Guide. It is designed to help people get their training wheels and learn the underlying spirit of The Bluebook. Then, you know, librarians spend a lot more time with The Bluebook than the average student. So, we are here to help with those tougher questions.  


This month sees a new class of students entering UW Law. Is there something you wish someone told you when you were first starting law school? 

Get in a study group! Don’t be shy! I know it’s harder with the pandemic when you’re not seeing people in person, but these are difficult concepts that you’re learning. The casebook method is very confusing at the beginning because you’re learning how to to think like a lawyer. But having other people who are the same level of expertise as you to talk to, talk through concepts, bandy about the terminology, and get used to talking like a lawyer is really really beneficial. And there are a lot of studies showing that students are a lot more successful when they are able to work in student groups to get through assignments and concepts. I didn’t join a study group because I was too shy, and I had a lot of Imposter Syndrome in law school and so I didn’t want to bring anybody down with my “inferior legal mind”. And that was stupid because I could have benefitted so much from working with other people. I would even go so far as to say they could have benefitted from working with me.   


Finally, as this blog post by Mary Whisner explains, reading for fun can help folks improve their writing, stay informed and motivated on issues they find important, and bring some pleasure to their days. As a librarian, is there a book you’ve read for fun recently and would like to recommend?  
 
I recently read The Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. It’s about, you know, all of the secret houses at Yale like “Skull and Bones”, well this imagines that there is a ninth house and that magic exists. So, the ninth house’s job is to keep all of the other houses from misusing their magic. It talks a lot about New Haven and what it’s like to be a student at Yale because the author did go to Yale. It’s fun and very dark but good. 

I’m also taking a course on anti-racism in libraries. There’s a PhD student, Samantha Hines, at Peninsula College who has put together a four week online course for Pacific Northwest librarians who are supervisors to learn more about anti-racism in a library setting. The book that’s assigned for the course is How to be an Anti-Racist (by Ibram X. Kendi).  So, I’m working my way through that. 

There’s another one I’ve read. The Last Tribe (Brad Manuel). It’s about a pandemic and a family finding each other. It’s a positive pandemic apocalypse story with a happy ending.


Is there anything else you would like to mention? 

The library is here to help. Even if you don’t know if it’s a library-appropriate question, just ask it. We’ll tell you if we can’t help you but there are a lot of ways. Librarians are resourceful! We know a lot of things about how law school works, how UW Law works, how libraries work, about the legal system. So, we can connect people with the resources they need. They just need to ask us! And it’s our favorite thing to help students!

No comments: