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An Interview with Dasha Kolyaskina, Junior Fellow at the Law Library of Congress

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Today’s interview is with Dasha Kolyaskina. Dasha is a Junior Fellow in the Collection Services Division at the Law Library of Congress.

A headshot of Dasha Kolyaskina with a shelf of books in the background.
Dasha Kolyaskina [Photo by Kevin Long]
Describe your background.

I was born in Kazan, Russia. I moved to Lexington, Kentucky with my parents when I was four, but I grew up speaking Russian and English at home. I went through school in Lexington and then moved to Louisville for college. During my time in Lexington, I had the opportunity to spend two years conducting biomedical research on an enzymatic therapy for cocaine addiction at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

What is your academic/professional history?

After my summer here at the Law Library, I will be starting my sophomore year as a McConnell Scholar at the University of Louisville. I am studying political science and economics with course work in Spanish and Latin American studies. I hope to go to law school after finishing my undergraduate degree and pursue a career in international law.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I’m working with the Hispanic Legal Documents Collection that the Law Library acquired in 1941. The collection is an assortment of law related texts from Spanish-speaking countries from the 15th to 19th centuries. In total, there are 96 boxes of unbound legal manuscripts that include criminal suits, customs documents, public notices and official correspondences, among other subject areas. There aren’t many common threads between the documents, but there are clusters of documents from Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Peru, and Spain.

My work this summer has been to collect data points for each document in the collection–such as jurisdiction, time period, names of parties to proceedings and others–in order to create a finding aid for the collection, which would make it more accessible. From what I’ve seen of the collection so far in my work, there’s certainly a wealth of information for potential researchers.

Why did you want to work at the Law Library of Congress?

I’m very interested in the legal history of Spain and Latin America, and I thought the opportunity to work with the Hispanic Legal Document Collection would provide insight into how Hispanic law has changed throughout the last five hundred years. The collection has proven to be so much richer than I expected.

What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the Law Library?

I had no idea that the Law Library’s collections were so focused on jurisdictions outside the United States. More than half of the collection items are in languages other than English. The collections for foreign jurisdictions here are sometimes more complete than any collection in the countries that the documents come from, so the Library is able to serve as a reference to those governments. After the massive earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the Law Library was able to help the government access statutes and other legal materials that were destroyed. The Law Library had more than 800 Haitian law titles in its collection and was able to digitize them to provide the country with vital material it had lost.

What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?

I’m a huge fan of modern art, and I’ve spent nearly every free weekend in the District walking around art museums. I also compete with my university’s Moot Court team, and I’m hoping to make it to the national competition for a second time this coming season.

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