Alba Holgado, 'a rare workplace treasure,' wins Amy J. Blue Award

Alba Holgado, digital course management coordinator at Robert Crown Law Library, is one of three recipients of the 2013 Amy J. Blue Award. "The best part of my day is solving problems and collaborating," said Holgado, the first staff person at Stanford Law School to win the award. 

L.A. Cicero Alba Holgado

Alba Holgado, lauded for seeing the humor and positive side of work, even when the days are hectic and situations are challenging, has been awarded a 2013 Amy J. Blue award.

The path that led Alba Holgado to a career at Stanford began in 1993 with a summer job at the Robert Crown Law Library, which hired the teenager – then a student at nearby Foothill College – to place bar codes on library books.

She continued working in the law library at Stanford after transferring to the University of California-Santa Cruz, and became a full-time employee in 1999.

One of her first assignments was to help digitize hardbound volumes of final exams with model answers – books that were so popular students would stand in line to check them out the moment they were returned.

"In some sense I feel like the library adopted me," Holgado said during a recent interview, contemplating the way her responsibilities have grown over the years, from staffing the loan desk to helping faculty with web projects. "It has given me so much, and I've grown so much here."

As the digital course management coordinator for Stanford Law School, Holgado ensures that every course has an online site, a job that gives her the opportunity to work with students, faculty, the faculty support staff, the Law School's Information Technology team, the Office of the Registrar and the staff at CourseWork.

When the Law School first adopted CourseWork, Stanford's learning management system, Holgado showed the faculty how to navigate the new system, said Law Professor Robert Weisberg.

"Her technical skill, her endless energy, her collegial personality and her creativity have made her a key partner in our teaching enterprise," he wrote in a letter nominating Holgado for the Amy J. Blue Award. "We take the classroom experience very seriously at the Law School and the faculty members do it themselves without teaching assistants. But we couldn't do it without Alba. She has shepherded our pedagogy into the new millennium."

Holgado is one of three recipients of the 2013 Amy J. Blue Award, which honors staff  members who are exceptionally dedicated, supportive of colleagues and passionate about their work. She is the first staff person at the Law School to receive the award.

The other winners are Tony Gaspar, lead glazier in the Glass & Sign Shop, and Monica Moore, program administrator for three interdisciplinary programs: American Studies, Feminist Studies and Modern Thought and Literature.

President John Hennessy is scheduled to present each of the recipients with an Amy J. Blue Award at a May 15 ceremony in the Lagunita Courtyard (on Santa Teresa Street, across from Roble Field). The ceremony, which is open to families, friends and colleagues, will take place from 3:30 to 5 p.m.

Solving problems and collaborating

Holgado, who lives in Palo Alto with her husband, Ruben, along with a Persian cat named Sweetie and a Labrador-Chow Chow mix named Belle (both of which they adopted more than a decade ago), said the library is a fun place to work.

"A typical day for me starts by viewing email messages that I've received overnight and identifying requests that need immediate attention," she said.

"Throughout the day, I work on ongoing projects, assist colleagues with problems they may be having at their workstation, loan desk or reference desk, and take impromptu calls from faculty, law staff and students. The best part of my day is solving problems and collaborating."

Holgado said she's looking forward to more of the same in the years to come.

"Every year I face new challenges, and as the library's traditional needs and technology grows my responsibilities expand," she said. "In my case, the secret of my growth is the mentorship and unconditional support I get from my colleagues."

 Erika Wayne, deputy director of the law library, said Holgado sees the humor and positive side of work, even when the days are hectic and situations are challenging.

"She will say, 'Oh, we can do that,' 'Not a problem' and 'Sure thing' with such regularity that it makes everyone smile, too," Wayne wrote in a letter nominating Holgado for the award.

"The projects and tasks that some faculty have asked her to take on – from creating project web sites to digital case book support – don't always fall squarely within a job description. But Alba continues to find new ways to expand her role and the library's presence. When you work with Alba, you really sense that she feels the pride of ownership – that this is her house – and she wants to make it the very best place possible."

An "absolute whiz"

Pamela Karlan, professor of public interest law and co-director of the Law School's Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, said Holgado is not only an "absolute whiz at all things CourseWork or website related," but is also "unbelievably responsive."

"She brings imagination to figuring out better ways to handle information, or workaround to avoid problems in existing systems," Karlan wrote in a nominating letter. "I probably contact her a dozen times a year to help me with putting together materials for courses or clinic projects and every time she throws herself into the project as if she were the principal. She's now part of a team thinking about digital archives for the clinic – a massive undertaking – and her sensitivity to the ethical as well as the logistical issues makes her an essential part of the team."

Law Professor George Fisher, faculty co-director of the Law School's Criminal Prosecution Clinic, said Holgado was "a rare workplace treasure, someone always ready to stretch or break the bounds of her job description to help in whatever way and at whatever time help may be sought."

"She has taken my hand-drawn flowcharts, illustrating some arcane point of evidence law, and converted them into publication-ready diagrams," Fisher wrote in a nominating letter. "She has taken my haphazard collection of old news headlines and photographs, all bearing on an old and dog-eared evidence case, and converted them into a polished PowerPoint presentation."

Barbara Babcock, professor emerita of law, described Holgado as a "chief enabler" of the online index and notes for her 2011 book, Woman Lawyer: the Trials of Clara Foltz. Babcock also credited Holgado as one of the chief architects of the Law School's award-winning website, Women's Legal History.

"Alba has the can-do spirit, willingness to venture into new areas and the positive attitude of Amy Blue," Babcock said. "She draws in people from other departments and sections, works well with research assistants and students, bringing out their best work while offering and teaching a lot."