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An Interview with Joseph Kolodrubetz, Junior Fellow

Today’s interview is with Joseph Kolodrubetz, a Junior Fellow working with the Digital Resources Division on the Foreign Legal Gazettes.

A headshot of Joe, wearing a sweather adn looking into the camera

Joe Kolodrubetz. Photo by

Describe your background.

I grew up in the DMV area, and then spent college getting used to other sights and sounds while living in sunny South Florida and Latin America. My parents became natural scientists in their formative years, but my passion blossomed in social sciences, which helped me study diverse cultural data, from the power of community values in tiny Andean mountain towns to the social gravity of much bigger cities. 

What is your academic/professional history?

This fall, I start my last year at George Washington Law, and I have a bachelor’s degree in Latin American and religious studies from University of Miami, where I progressed in Spanish, French, and a little Quechua before learning Latin and Greek at Georgetown. I have held a handful of jobs, from construction to healthcare, but my favorite was research on the historical ties between the Americas and the Middle East. After completing this internship and my degree, I am thinking about studying law and information science professionally.

How would you describe your job to other people?

My job is to create metadata for unpublished Foreign Legal Gazettes to prepare them for posting online. I get to work on the data of countries as diverse as Egypt, Russia, and Mexico and create metadata using my organizational skills but also transnational (and international) literacy, as well as basic language and legal knowledge. I consider my job to be at the intersection of modern information science and the social sciences, at the point where the resources of such a great library overlap with the comparative science of international legal systems. The most fun part of the job is doing the historical work of putting foreign documents in the bigger picture of global and comparative legal history.                                                                                           

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

When I was still young, I visited the Library, and it definitely changed my life! The architecture, rare books, and incomparable scale told me that the production of knowledge can be a higher call. When I visited, I bought a beautiful book, Cartographia: Mapping Civilizations by Vincent Virga, and ever since, I have wanted to dive into the collections, mapping out the collections such as the Foreign Legal Gazettes. I knew that the collections contained a number of hidden gems, and I thought it would be exciting to unearth them to share publicly.

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

The “Jefferson’s Library” collection is shaped like a chambered nautilus, echoing a poem by another Library of Congress collections great, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., who compared human nature to the gradually growing nature of a chambered nautilus seashell. He writes, “Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul, as the swift seasons roll!” I find the design of the Jefferson collection fitting for the cornerstone of the world’s largest (and still-growing) library and the (still-progressing) society that has come so far since that cornerstone was laid.

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

As mentioned, I am a University of Miami Hurricane, but my colleagues probably do not know that I surfed (with excellent lifeguards) in the outer bands of the actual storm Hurricane Irene. Sometimes, when I think about our famous Court of Neptune statue, I like to think that riding those waves is like what I am doing here, enjoying the breakers at the edge of an unconquerable sea of peoples and laws.

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