Questions with Puron: June Featured RIPS Member Stephen Parks

Compiled By: Cassandra Patterson

Stephen Parks, State Librarian at the State Law Library of Mississippi. 

“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 a month, our beloved penguin mascot poses a series of questions to one of the many librarians who make up RIPS. This month, Puron talked with Stephen Parks, State Librarian at the State Law Library of Mississippi. 


Puron: What brought you to law libraries?

Stephen: I did not set out wanting to become a law librarian.  Throughout my three years of law school, I did work in the library as a circulation assistant, but I did not consider it as a future career.  I graduated and began to study for the bar exam, not knowing what I planned to do after the bar.  As it turned out, my former supervisor at the law library was moving to another job that summer.  The law library director reached out to me to see if I might be interested.  Needing a job and a paycheck, I jumped at the opportunity.  It was one of the best decisions I have made.  I have thoroughly enjoyed being a law librarian the past ten years and am excited about the next ten years and more. 

Puron: What’s a recent photo you took that makes you smile?

Stephen: This picture makes me smile as it includes both my pet pig Charlotte and my growing collection of plants.  Charlotte is definitely not a typical pet, but she brings a lot of joy, and sometimes frustration, to my life.  She will be four years old this August.  She is a potbelly pig that lives inside of my house.  As you can see, she’s eying some of those plants.  I have to watch her!  I am trying my best to grow a green thumb.  I’ve had a few plant deaths along the way, some from death by pig, but so far this year, my plants are thriving.  It could be from the extra attention they’re getting from me during this COVID time.

Puron: What’s something interesting about your work that most people outside the field wouldn’t know?

Stephen: When I took on my current position at the State Law Library of Mississippi, I did not realize how much historical knowledge of Mississippi and its Supreme Court I would be expected to know.  The State Librarian is looked to by our Court to serve as a historian and archivist for the Court. Thankfully, I love history and am a quick learner. 

Puron: Favorite movie?

Stephen: Clue is my favorite movie, even though I have never played the board game.  It is extremely quotable, and the cast of characters is perfect.  It has one of the best ensemble casts.  Eileen Brennan as Mrs. Peacock, Madeline Kahn as Mrs. White, and Leslie Ann Warren as Miss Scarlett make the movie.  While I would like to see an updated remake, I do not think any remake could match the hilarity and genius of the original.

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Law librarians monitor how Latin America and the Caribbean are responding to Covid-19

Guest post by: Ulysses Jaen

When the opportunity to work on this project was presented by Marcelo Rodriguez, a fellow AALL Latino caucus member, I was very grateful. México and Central América are major hotspots for coronavirus these days. It is both sad and frustrating to see it develop at very different rates in different countries because of their governments. As the alarming news of Covid19 ravaging the region were shared by social media and independent news sources, we knew this tragedy should be recorded. We must also learn from comparing how the United States actions, or lack thereof, have affected the region so severely.

Ulysses N. Jaen Director of the Law Library & Associate Professor of Law

I am a first-generation immigrant from Nicaragua, and with my mother stranded there alone for the last five months, this is always on my mind. She had to go to back to close our family’s business interests after the Ortega government continues repressing the people since April 2018. The economy has completely collapsed, and since the pandemic, Nicaraguan bordering countries have closed their borders and air travel to the US has been restricted to a handful of sold-out charter flights in May with the rest of pending flights cancelled for now. Our family is very concerned because the Nicaraguan health system is unable to cope with the overwhelming demand.

Because Mexico and Central America is such a big area and had such different individual country responses to the crisis, I decided to ask the Ave Maria School of Law library team to help me research. As librarians, they began to compile spreadsheets full of news sources, links, and dates, showing the devastating toll that Covid 19 is causing. You can find the insightful reports and learn for yourself at this great site that Marcelo created: Monitoring the Legal Response to COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean.

As law librarians, we strive to be useful. As Latin Americans with an emphasis in the Americans in us, we want to be good neighbors. Unfortunately, the vast resources available in the USA are not remotely available for some Central American countries. However, we learned that despite limitations, countries such as El Salvador and Costa Rica imposed strict restrictive measures, whereas countries such as Nicaragua and Mexico failed to respond in time or played down the epidemic. The results seem clearly in favor of those communities who have imposed tighter measures.

I will continue to monitor the region very closely. I hope to be able to determine what strategies are working and which ones are not. I feel that it is crucial for us to learn all that we can about the government responses to Covid-19. We know that we will be facing more pandemics in the future. Knowledge can save lives and we can compile, analyze and share with bright individuals such as yourselves to help us disseminate the information and find ways to be better prepared.

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Questions with Puron: June Featured RIPS Member Tina Dumas

Compiled By: Jessica Almeida  and Cassandra Patterson




Tina Dumas, KM (& Library) Manager at Nossaman LLP in San Francisco, California. 

“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 a month, our beloved penguin mascot poses a series of questions to one of the many librarians who make up RIPS. This month, Puron talked with Tina Dumas, KM (& Library) Manager at Nossaman LLP in San Francisco, California. 


Puron: Share your favorite new (or new-to-you) resource for 2020!

Tina: Not really new, but thistothat.com. It tells you what kind of glue or adhesive to use to glue two surfaces together. It hasn’t been updated in a while, but there is still really good information there.

Puron: What does reference look like for you?

Tina: Much of the reference I do is pulling documents from dockets, but then sometimes there’s the odd request to find a deed from the 1940s or if a survivor of a helicopter crash is still alive (wrongful death or personal injury?).

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

Tina: Recently, I calculated the linear footage of my Los Angeles Library (while working from home in San Francisco) by using photos provided by our Office Services manager. My boss noticed that the photos included the ceiling tiles, and he knew that they were 2 feet wide, so we used that to measure. In the more distant past, I planned and executed a successful 1.5 day Spring Institute for my local chapter of AALL (NOCALL) with an infant at home. 

Puron: Do you have any advice for new or aspiring law librarians?

Tina: Get involved in local and national associations. And never stop making new connections. They will last throughout your career. You can start small – volunteer for a committee that only needs to meet a few times, but go big when you are ready!

Puron: What does instruction look like for you?

Tina: Instruction for me these days, is mostly new hire orientations. I do them all online, even before Shelter-in-Place. I introduce them to the department, show them library resources available on our Intranet, discuss Lexis and Westlaw pricing, and then give them a tour of our Intranet (which my department manages). I also handle more in-depth Summer Associate orientations/trainings. Occasionally, there is a need for one-on-one training, which involves remotely accessing the patron’s desktop or sharing my desktop.

Puron: Favorite book and movie?

Tina: The Princess Bride. Runner up books: anything by Terry Pratchett!

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Teaching in the Fall (at least as of Today!)

Emory Law is planning on having at least some classes on campus in the Fall and faculty and staff have spent all Spring working hard to figure out how to make this happen. Safety is the top priority and anything can change at the drop of a hat based on the pandemic, but right now, we plan on having mainly the 1L classes on campus with many of the upper level classes being taught remotely. The 1L class will be divided up into groups with the classes being taught in the larger classrooms (with social distancing) on alternate days. For example, a Monday + Wednesday “come to campus” group, a Tuesday + Thursday group, and a Saturday + to be determined day group.

The professors will be “simulcasting” their classes, where they are in front of a live class giving a lecture, with some students also taking the class remotely at the same time. Both sets of students will be on Zoom and there will be a screen behind the professor showing the Zoom screen and chat box along with all of the remote and physically present students displayed in their “Brady Bunch” styled boxes. The class roll of all students will be taken, and students will still have to show up for class during the allotted time and will be expected to participate during the class. The use of headphones by the live students in the classroom during the simulcast class will help eliminate excess noise and feedback since all involved with be on Zoom using their laptops.

The faculty and librarians have had two wonderful sessions so far, taught by the ELS Executive Director of Online Learning, to help us learn tips and techniques for how to make these Fall semester simulcast and Zoom classes a reality. I’ve learned that while TAs know the subject matter of a class, having a TR (which stands for “Technical Rep” or “Zoom Assistant”) for these online and simulcast classes may actually be more ideal if you can get one. TRs can run a professor’s Zoom polls, manage online breakout groups, manage the Zoom chat function for questions and troubleshoot microphone, camera and computer problems during a class. I’ve also learned it may be good to have someone other than the professor, manage and assist with the chat function during a class for additional class management and learning purposes. The assistant can post additional content and tidbits in the chat during the class thus keeping the students challenged and requiring them to pay closer attention. By expecting the students to focus on the chat as well as the Zoom lecture, they will also have less time to zone out or do other things online during the class.

I also have learned the importance of “Attention Checks” to keep students paying attention and engaged during the class. One good way to do this, is to set up and assign random buddies in the class. These peer checks allow students to check in with each other during the class by text or chat to make sure they are each following and understanding the subject matter. Before the students can ask a question, they are told to check with their class partner to see if they can help figure it out before asking the professor. The professor need not monitor this buddy system, but it does add some “social pressure” during the class to keep the students learning and engaged.

To my knowledge the faculty members at Emory Law are very supportive and interested in these new ways to deliver material and teach. The proverb “Necessity is the mother of invention” comes to mind. Although the reliance on teaching classes online is considered by many to be temporary measures adopted during a pandemic, I wonder if not all law students will want to completely go back to in-person classes when they can.

My Aunt, an extremely intelligent and hip retired librarian, told me a couple of years ago that colleges and graduate schools should embrace and learn how to offer more classes online. Her grandchildren were in their early 20’s and preferred taking some of their classes online. She told me that “Many students want to be able to learn anywhere, to be able to travel and take their classes on the beach if they want to or take them while comfortable in their own homes.” She said younger students want the “freedom to learn while being wherever they choose” that “offering only in-person classes can be so limiting”. My Aunt is in her late 80’s, but maybe she was right. Who knows? If the law students end up liking the freedom remote class options can bring and the ABA was okay with it, this may be the beginning of a new era in legal education.   

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Summer Reading

I want to take a minute to bring to your attention one of my favorite library journals: In the Library with the Lead Pipe. It’s a fully online and open access journal that publishes about two articles per month on all things library. Rather than talking about why I like it, I played grad student and made an annotated bibliography. There are too many excellent articles to call out, so below I listed some that are personal favorites. These are all articles that deal at least in part in examining racism in libraries and have challenged me to consider my role in perpetuating it.

Ettarh, F. (2018). “Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves.” In the Library with the Lead Pipe. http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2018/vocational-awe/

Here, Ettarh creates the term ‘vocational awe’ and describes how it is harmful to library workers. “’Vocational awe’ refers to the set of ideas, values, and assumptions librarians have about themselves and the profession that result in beliefs that libraries as institutions are inherently good and sacred, and therefore beyond critique.” Ettarh also examines why vocational awe has contributed to librarianship’s lack of diversity. “Not only were white woman assumed to have the innate characteristics necessary to be effective library workers due to their true womanhood, characteristics which include missionary-mindedness, servility, and altruism and spiritual superiority and piety, but libraries have continually been ‘complicit in the production and maintenance of white privilege.’”

Hathcock, A. (2015). “White Librarianship in Blackface: Diversity Initiatives in LIS.” In the Library with the Lead Pipe. http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2015/lis-diversity/

Hathcock looks at whiteness, defined in this article as “not only to the socio-cultural differential of power and privilege that results from categories of race and ethnicity; it also stands as a marker for the privilege and power that acts to reinforce itself through hegemonic cultural practice that excludes all who are different” and examines why librarianship is overwhelmingly white. Despite diversity initiatives, our profession hasn’t improved diversity because the application process effectively screens for whiteness. “[D]iversity initiatives in LIS that are meant to benefit members of underrepresented groups require lengthy applications that many individuals from diverse backgrounds may not be equipped to complete…applications are created particularly to recruit for whiteness and require the ability to play at whiteness in order to succeed. For example, applicants are required to submit resumes detailing their work experience, but an applicant from a working-class background may not have the requisite experience, either through work or volunteering, to place on a resume.”

Galvan, A. (2015). “Soliciting Performance, Hiding Bias: Whiteness and Librarianship.” In the Library with the Lead Pipe. http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2015/soliciting-performance-hiding-bias-whiteness-and-librarianship/.

Galvan examines the false neutrality of libraries and how librarians must perform whiteness even when recruited as part of a diversity initiative. “The idea of library-as-neutral is seductive because of its usefulness and minimal intellectual effort required from white librarians: neutrality is the safest position for libraries because it situates whiteness not only as default, but rewards and promotes white cultural values.” The structure of the application process and job requirements mean that the privileged have better chances of getting job offers. “Competitiveness in the current job market requires at minimum a well-placed practicum experience conducting librarian level work, but only students with access to money can afford to take an unpaid internship. Galleries, libraries, archives, and museums throughout the United States continue exploiting unpaid labor, insuring the pool of well-qualified academic librarians skews white and middle class.”

de jesus, n. (2014). “Locating the Library in Institutional Oppression.” In the Library with the Lead Pipe. http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2014/locating-the-library-in-institutional-oppression/

In this article, De Jesus examines how the values of the enlightenment translate to libraries playing their role in oppression. “When we look into the collections, the actual ‘information’ contained in libraries and how it is organized, we can see that it (surely by accident) somehow manages to construct a reality wherein whiteness is the default, normal, civilized, and everything else is Other. In so doing, libraries very much participate in a larger imperial project that justifies war.” This article also criticizes the alleged neutrality of libraries. “many have taken it as axiomatic that libraries are neutral institutions and that any failure of libraries to be neutral is largely the fault of individuals failing to live up to the ideals or ethics of the profession, rather than understanding the library as an institution as fundamentally non-neutral. Libraries as institutions were created not only for a specific ideological purpose but for an ideology that is fundamentally oppressive in nature.”

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