Most of us are familiar with the idea that when Hawaiians use the word “aloha,” they can intend it as either a greeting, a farewell or an expression of gratitude. According to teachings in the practice of Huna, there is a code embodied in the word “aloha,” which translates something like this: “A” or “ala” indicates alertness; “L” or “lokahi” indicates working with unity; “O” or “oia’I’o” indicates truthful honesty; “H” or “ha’aha’a” indicates humility; and the final “A” or “ahonui” indicates patient perseverance.
The Board of Trustees and the staff of the Public Law Library of King County would like to wish Stephen Ellis a heartfelt aloha, with perhaps more of an emphasis on the gratitude aspect of the word, for the years he devoted to helping us manage and guide our operations. Recently, Steve retired from the Public Law Library Board of Trustees after seven years of service. In everything he did as a trustee, Steve exhibited all of the qualities embodied in aloha.
He was always alert to the problems on hand in day-to-day operations, but equally so to the need to direct our energies toward the bigger picture issues facing all public law libraries such as ours. These include the need to balance electronic and paper resources, as well as the often competing needs of a diverse patron base, and in particular retooling to better serve a growing number of pro se litigants.
Steve was always a straight shooter who presented and, when need be, defended his ideas honestly; but he also understood the importance of being a team player and the value of compromise when it suited the law library’s best interests. Though he might with tongue in cheek argue otherwise, Steve always tempered even his most passionate ideas — and there were many — with a humility born in part from his extensive private practice experience, but also from a genuine love of books, writing and learning. This humility also helped to support his patience; change, even welcome change, can come slowly to an institution with a small staff, with a tight budget, working within a shifting library service environment.
The Rita R. Dermody Legal Help Center (“LHC”) launched its services in pilot mode in January 2016 and we celebrated its official opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in April. It is the brainchild of its namesake, former Law Library Director Rita R. Dermody, and it exists because of the hard work of all of our trustees, Rita and our public services attorney, Marc Lampson.
Patrons who attend an LHC session receive free, direct assistance from Marc and, if appropriate, additional reference service help from our staff. The clinic operates three days a week in our Seattle branch and one day in our MRJC branch.
A great deal of the credit for its success, particularly in the early stages of design, rests with Steve. In many cases, shoulder to shoulder with Rita, Steve helped bring the notion of a new service that marries traditional library reference services with hands-on legal clinic processes to fruition. His mantra — “let’s keep the law library relevant” — and his positive spirit kept our spirits up and focused as we worked to launch a service that has only a couple of equivalents across the country.
Aloha, Steve. Farewell and pardon us if we hold out the hope that we’ll be able to work with you again on the new law library projects that lie ahead.
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