Questions with Puron: Featured RIPS Member – Patrick Parsons

Questions with Puron: Featured RIPS Member – Patrick Parsons, Coordinator of Reference and Instruction Services, Georgia State University College of Law Library

Compiled by: Jessica B. Almeida

Questions with Puron is an interview series launched by the RIPS PR & Recruitment Committee to highlight the diverse views and professional strategies of the constituents of Research Instruction and Patron Services Special Interest Section (RIPS-SIS). Twice per month, our beloved penguin mascot poses a series of questions to one of the many librarians who make up RIPS. For this installment, Puron talked with Patrick Parsons of the Georgia State University College of Law Library.

What’s a professional achievement you’re proud of?

For the past three years I did what I’ve started calling the Librarian Leadership Triathalon – I was a Chapter President (Atlanta Law Libraries Association,) an SIS Chair (PEGA-SIS) and the Chair of the SIS-Council.  It was a really busy three years, but I can say that it was a really great way to get a whole lot of professional and organizational experience in a short amount of time.

What does reference look like to you?

It really depends on your intended audience.  At Georgia State, we funnel our faculty questions and projects through a faculty services librarian, so our reference desk tends to be more student-focused.  In terms of students, I think reference is tremendously important.  The average number of required legal research credits in American law schools is definitely less than two.  Practitioners always describe legal research skills as some of the most important for new attorneys.  So, we have this situation where we have almost no required credit hours, a few advanced courses, and a lot of ground to make up in terms of legal research skills.  I think there are a lot of non-curricular ways to do this, but I think the reference desk is one of the most important.  If we work to establish a relationship with our students, and they see librarians and the reference desk as THE place to get help with research tasks, we can teach a lot of different sources and strategies to students as they need them – think on demand legal research lessons.  If you’re proactive and engage students, they’ll always talk about what they’re working on, which opens the door for you to tell them how they’re doing it wrong and save them a ton of time (in the nicest way possible.)  Being present in the library at the reference desk creates a lot of opportunities for micro-lessons that wouldn’t exist otherwise.  Sorry.  That was more than you were looking for.  I get wound up (relatively speaking) about reference and library relationship building.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I really want to go to the Faroe Islands.  They’re these small islands that are in between Iceland and Great Britain.  I try to go on a long, 5+ day backpacking hike every year to somewhere kind of crazy.  I went to Glacier National Park this year, and places like Newfoundland Ca, Vancouver Ca, Isle Royale National Park, and the Desolation Wilderness by Lake Tahoe in the past.  The Faroe Islands are way up on my list because I feel like they haven’t been overrun by tourists (mainly because they’re really hard to get to) and you can go and see people and sights that haven’t been cultivated specifically for visitors.  That’s something I really look for in travel opportunities.

What is your favorite book?

That I tell everyone – Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy – It’s legit awesome.  I love how he writes.  But, it’s impossible to read this book regularly – it’s dark as hell.

Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien.  I’ve probably read through the series like five times.  It’s like the book version of watching old sitcoms.

If you could have an unconventional super power what would it be?

I’m taking this as handy but not a world-changing superpower.  I want to be able to play any instrument.  There are legitimately people who can just pick anything up and be able to play – I want to be one of them.  Like, I WANT to be able to play the tuba, but if I’m dedicating the time to learning more instruments I’m picking something more generally applicable (no offense law librarian tuba players – you’re so much cooler than me.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Is it Possible to Spread Empathy Through the Library?

As Martin Luther King Jr. Day approached last week, I found myself thinking about my university’s theme for forum addresses this year, “Creating a Beloved Community,” an idea that Dr. King did not invent but frequently referred to in his work. The “beloved community” is a Christian ideal that resonated with Dr. King’s spiritual beliefs and social goals as a minister in the Baptist church. In September, Martin Luther King III spoke on our campus about continuing his father’s legacy: “Love can break down the most formidable of barriers and overcome the most difficult of obstacles in interpersonal, intergroup and international relationships.”

There’s been a lot of discussion over the years about cultivating empathy in law students, such as through reading (a great idea that our law school uses). But I find myself starting to feel cynical about it. it doesn’t seem like things are getting any better, at least in the mainstream and social media voices that surround us. Law students are probably much better at empathy than I am—years of working with sometimes challenging people and seeing “the bad guy” win because they have money and power wears you down.

Like us today, many people who listened to Dr. King talk about the beloved community in the 1950’s and 60’s also became cynical. See, for example, the article “Black Consciousness” in the May 1966 issue of The New South Student by activist Ed Hamlett (in Gale’s Making of Modern Law: American Civil Liberties Papers part 1). But when we become cynical, it’s easy to give up or return unkindness for unkindness, creating a vicious cycle.

What can those of us in libraries do to build and maintain empathy and compassion for others? Unlike courthouses, boardrooms, and sometimes classrooms, libraries are uniquely positioned to be judgment-free spaces, provided we fight off the cynicism to maintain a kind attitude. Here are some simple ways librarians keep things kind:

  1. Stay humble. Even when we have heard the same question a bunch of times before, librarians listen and get the full story before answering. We don’t assume we know what people need or how they are feeling. We ask good questions and listen before we talk.
  2. Compliment others sincerely. Who doesn’t feel lifted up after receiving a thoughtful compliment? The world needs more compliments, as long as they are appropriate and not creepy (obviously!). I teach legal research to international students, who are used to receiving excellent grades in their home countries but often don’t perform as well here as they’re used to, usually due to language. But they’re super smart and deserve to know when their work is excellent. Could I do an LLM in another country? No.
  3. Treat everyone as a VIP. Law is big on hierarchy, and most law libraries have groups of patrons who are a higher priority than others—but library patrons should never feel that difference. Librarians give each patron their full attention.
  4. Ration the amount of negative media we expose ourselves to. No one can avoid negativity, and it’s important that librarians engage with current events. But too much negativity wears on the soul. One of my self-care practices is to curtail social media and negative entertainment. It’s a constant struggle to not feel burned out.

Empathy is tricky—do we really ever understand how others feel, even when they face the same challenges we have? But librarians can treat others with kindness and humility and make libraries a community safe space. Maybe our kindness will rub off and inspire others. People still come to my office a few times a year looking for the retired librarian, whose office I now have, because he was so kind to everyone. What a legacy to leave. I suspect you are already doing all these things, and if you are–take heart, you are making a difference!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

RIPS-SIS 2022 AALL Leadership Academy Grants Available

The RIPS-SIS Grants Committee is pleased to announce that applications are now open for the RIPS-SIS 2022 AALL Leadership Academy Grant. Funding for two grants are available. Awarded grants can reimburse up to $1500 worth of registration, travel, accommodation, and other costs associated with attending the 2022 AALL Leadership Academy. Please note that only individuals accepted to and attending the 2022 AALL Leadership Academy are eligible. 

Applicants also must be RIPS-SIS members to be considered for a grant. Non-members can join RIPS-SIS here, www.aallnet.org/ripssis/about-us/join, and become eligible for grant consideration. Please share this information with any friends and colleagues who may be interested in applying .

Completed applications are due by January 26, 2022 and require:

A completed application form;

A personal statement; and

A letter of recommendation.

The application form and additional information are available at www.aallnet.org/ripssis/awards-grants.

Please submit applications via email to Paul Riermaier (prierma@law.upenn.edu), current RIPS-SIS Grants Committee chair. Please also direct any questions to the same address.  

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Is it February 3rd Yet?

It’s a new year. A new semester. A new COVID.

But everything feels the same.  Actually, not the same, worse?  Omicron has made the past few weeks feel like a traumatic retelling of Groundhog Day, minus the quirky smalltown and love story.  This timeline is all Ned Ryerson.

2022 has been a real downer so far.  COVID cases are surging, highly anticipated events are being cancelled, and we are again being pushed into forced isolation.  We’ve been through this before, so why does it feel so much worse this time?

There are a confluence of factors contributing to our collective ennui.  The pandemic has dragged on for years.  We are at peak time for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  And generally, spring semester is just harder on our psyches than fall semester.  It’s even harder on our students: graduation chaos; stress over summer positions; and the honeymoon period of the fall is long gone, weeks of work and reading stare us down with only the respite of spring break to alleviate the stress. It all feels like a progression of days remarkably the same, but demanding more and more from us and our students.  The days are the same, but we feel worse as we repeat them with no real end in sight.

When faced with a never-ending repetition of the same circumstances in the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character Phil Connors progresses through Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ model of the five stages of death and dying until he lands on acceptance and finally wakes up to a new day.  It is by changing his perspective and learning resilience that he finally changes his circumstances.  When he accepts he cannot change his external situation, only his internal response to it, Connors finally emerges on the other side.

The pandemic continues to rage, we can’t change that.  But we can develop resilience and teach it to our students.

There are many definitions for resilience, I favor this one from INEE, “Resilience refers to a process by which individuals in adverse contexts recover and even thrive.”  Simply put, resilience is our capacity to adapt.

Law school already demands a certain level of resiliency, the intellectual toll and time requirements of first year alone create a compressive stress which not all students can handle.  But if they can learn the techniques of resilience, these students go on to thrive: at summer jobs; in clinics; and even into practice.  There won’t always be a pandemic, but attorneys will always need to manage stressful situations, the emotional toll of client interactions, and work-life balance.  Teaching them strategies for resilience while in law school will develop the skills they need to prevail in life.

To some extent, students are already exhibiting resilience. They continue to show up and do the work.  They can identify the blessings in disguise of these difficult years.  In a preprint study of graduate students, a limited pool of participants were able to recognize positives that came from a semester within the pandemic and exhibited characteristics of resilience without external skills coaching.  Students interviewed as part of a study in the Netherlands indicated that what they needed from instructors was positive reinforcement and a greater emphasis on growth mindset. They needed their teachers to exhibit resilience.  However, resilience is not something we are born with, it is a skill honed over time.

So, how do we as instructors gain the power of resilience and how do we instill it in our students? 

We can endorse self-care and the power of failing well.  Failing well theory attempts to reframe the idea of “failing” and therefore change our perspective of ourselves and our lives when outcomes are not what we would consider optimal.  “The Best” becomes “The Best I Can Be” and then “The Best I Can Be in the Circumstances.”

We can follow the example of Professor Laura Reilly at the University of Buffalo, who begins each of her Legal Analysis, Writing and Research classes with a ten-minute lesson on resiliency.  Every class of the semester.  That might seem like a great deal of time devoted to something outside of routine instruction, but in the words of one of her students:

                “It serves no purpose if you can write a perfect twenty-page memo on an ideal day, if you can barely scrape together two words on days you are stressed. Why? Because law school and internships are one big ball of deadlines, imposter syndrome and long hours (I suspect being an attorney is the same), leaving little time to work in ideal mental conditions. Unfortunately, this means you need to be able to work even when everything else is working against you.”

Some keys strategies or topics Reilly recommends include:

  • Practice four-count (box) breathing.
  • Create self-affirmations.
  • Abandon the fiction of perfection.
  • Sleeping, eating and connecting with others gives us the energy and grounding to be resilient.
  • Reframe internal narratives, thinking, phrasing; i.e., “I get to go to law school,” instead of “I have to go to law school.”

We can explore the training materials of Nikita Gupta, Resilience Coach; her methods are thoughtfully explored by Tarica LaBossiere in this RIPS post from 2019.  Finally, we can practice kindness, as recommended by Ashley Arrington in this RIPS post from 2020.

Practicing kindness to others boosts our own resilience.  Remember, it wasn’t until Connors began to care for the lives of others, when he captured the pleasure of his same day life, that he was finally able to move on.  So yes, it feels like more of the same right now, but if we can care for ourselves and others, then maybe we can wake up to a new day tomorrow.

Posted in Career, Legal Research Instruction, Lifelong Learning, Productivity, student services, Teaching (general), Work/Life Balance | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Questions with Puron: Featured RIPS Member – Dajiang Nie

Questions with Puron: Featured RIPS Member – Dajiang Nie

Compiled by: Jessica Almeida

Questions with Puron is a social media series launched by the RIPS PR & Recruitment Committee to highlight the diverse views and professional strategies of the constituents of Research Instruction and Patron Services Special Interest Section (RIPS-SIS). Twice per month, our beloved penguin mascot poses a series of questions to one of the many librarians who make up RIPS. Puron talked with Dajiang Nie, Electronic & Digital Services Librarian at the Texas Tech University Law Library.

Puron: What brought you to law libraries?

Dajiang: In law libraries, I can help faculty with research and students to build up their practice skills.

Puron: What’s a professional achievement you’re proud of?

Dajiang: I fixed a remote access issue with the database that had bothered my library for a long time.

Puron: What was your favorite #AALL2021 session? Or a cool recent webinar?

Dajiang: Beyond Scholarship: Innovative Institutional Repository Collections at AALL2021

Puron: Will you share your favorite new (or new-to-you) resource! It could be a website, database, secondary source…really anything!

Dajiang: Lisa M. Nunn, 33 Simple Strategies For Faculty: A Week-By-Week Resource For Teaching First-Year And First-Generation Students (2019).

Puron: What is your favorite app (or what app can’t you live without)?

Dajiang: Garmin Connect. It can evaluate some important factors of sports, so it lets me know if what I am doing is in the right way.

Puron: What’s the best advice you have ever received? (And if willing to share – who gave you this advice?)

Dajiang: Thinking before acting.  My father shared it with me.

Puron: If you could have an unconventional super power what would it be? (for example- changing the nutritional value of any food, or making any clothing item fit perfectly)

Dajiang: It would be great if I had a superpower to stop wars in the world

We hope you enjoyed getting to know Dajiang. If you would like to hear from more members, join the conversation on our Twitter RIPS-SIS (@RIPS_SIS) or connect with us on Facebook facebook.com/PuronRIPS/. The PR & Recruitment Committee will also be reaching out to select members for participation in this series. If you would like to be featured, or want to recommend someone, please contact the committee.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment