Category: SLIS News

Get to know Dr. Jennifer Steele! 

SLIS News caught up with the most recent alumnus of the SLIS/CI&S PhD program, Dr. Jennifer Steele, for a post graduation interview at the ALISE Annual Conference in Denver, Co. While attending ALISE, Dr. Steele presented her dissertation work, which was selected for entry in the ALISE Doctoral Poster Competition. Her dissertation research focuses on the censorship of information and information access, specifically in public libraries, and examines the role of librarians as “gatekeepers” of information.

Dr. Jennifer Steele was born in Tuscaloosa, but grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. She attended the University of Montevallo, where her interest in LIS and her introduction to academic librarianship began. Jenn says, “My freshman year, I started working as a student worker in the campus library and worked there until I graduated. It started out as a college job, but little did I know it would turn into my profession!” Dr. Steele then completed her MILS at UA, where she continued immediately into the doctoral program for LIS in the College of Communication and Information Sciences.

Dr. Steele’s MLIS advisor and dissertation committee chair, Dr. Laurie Bonnici, has remained a constant throughout the MLIS and doctoral programs at UA. Jenn notes that, “As an advisor, Dr. Bonnici is always willing to go above and beyond to help a student with whatever they might need. As a committee chair, she is always willing to do whatever it takes to help her student produce their best possible work.”

Dr. Steele initially chose UA SLIS because of the inviting, uplifting environment she observed when visiting the program. “The faculty, as well as my fellow students, have always been supportive and encouraging, and everyone genuinely wants you to succeed,” says Jenn. “This positive atmosphere has stayed consistent throughout my years in the department as both a master’s and doctoral student. In addition, with our ties to Tuscaloosa, my family has a long history with the University. We have many UA graduates in the family, and I am proud to be one of them!”

When asked to offer advice to LIS students, Dr. Steele suggests that students remain open minded regarding what area of librarianship they want to pursue. “You might have a specific plan when you are first starting out, but that might change as you gain new experiences and progress in the program,” Jenn suggests. “Do an internship! I was fortunate enough to be able to serve as an instruction intern for Gorgas Information Services and the experience was invaluable. The skills I learned during my internship are skills that I use every day in my current position. Internships are also great in that they can help solidify what areas of librarianship you want to pursue, or what areas you don’t.”

Dr. Steele is currently working as an academic librarian at a small university in Mississippi. She says this position has allowed her to wear many hats and widen the breadth of her professional experiences. “I am responsible for all of our library’s electronic resources, which is an aspect of librarianship that I did not consider myself pursuing when I first started as an LIS student,” she mentions. Jenn also provides reference assistance as well as instruction, which she says is her favorite aspect of her job. “Instruction has really become my passion as I am progressing in my career, states Dr. Steele. “I joke that I have worked with every department in our library except for cataloging. Kudos to all of the LIS students who have the desire to be a cataloger! As far as my future path, I want to continue to be involved in academic libraries in some way, such as being an administrator one day, or potentially working as an LIS educator. I feel very lucky that I love what I do every day and that UA SLIS provided me with the knowledge and opportunities that have allowed me to get where I am today! ”

Congratulations, Dr. Jennifer Steele! 



UA SLIS Represents at 2018 ALISE Annual Conference

Current faculty and students and recent alums traveled to Westminster, Colorado, to represent UA SLIS at the 2018 ALISE Annual Conference, which focused attention on The Expanding LIS Education Universe. SLIS Director Dr. James Elmborg, Assistant Director Dr. Ann Bourne, and faculty member Dr. Jamie Naidoo attended the conference, and Dr. Laurie Bonnici, Dr. Miriam Sweeney, Dr. Tonia Sutherland, and Dr. John Burgess gave several panel presentations. Recent SLIS PhD graduate Dr. Jennifer Steele participated in the Doctoral Student Poster Competition and current doctoral candidate Jessica Ross presented a Works In Progress poster. For more information on SLIS faculty presentations at ALISE, please visit

Dr. Tonia Sutherland and colleagues facilitate a panel discussion, “A Critical Dialogue: Faculty of Color in LIS.”

Dr. John Burgess (above) and Dr. Miriam Sweeney present as part of a panel on “Teaching for Justice.”

Most recent graduate of the CIS PhD program, Dr. Jennifer Steele, presents her dissertation research in the Doctoral Student Poster Competition.



MLIS Student Catherine James Published in Public Services Quarterly 

SLIS MLIS student Catherine James recently had an article published in the Future Voices column of Public Services Quarterly. “Trigger Warnings: To Label or Not to Label?” explores what trigger warnings are and specifically how they are emerging ethical dilemmas for academic libraries. Her article also discusses existing library standards related to trigger warnings. Catherine is a member of the 11th National Online MLIS Cohort and will graduate in December 2017. James’ article may be found at the link below. 

Congratulations, MLIS Student Catherine James!

MLIS student Catherine James recently had an article published in Public Services Quarterly 13(4): “Trigger Warnings: To Label or Not to Label?” (

From the introduction: “Her essay examines trigger warnings and their impact upon the higher-education community, specifically as emerging ethical dilemmas for academic libraries. She discusses existing library-based standards related to trigger warnings and concludes by suggesting alternative perspectives through which academic librarians should view trigger warnings to arrive at the most beneficial outcome for all concerned.”

DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI AWARD 2017 – Renee Blalock and Tim Lewis 

On Alumni Day, Friday, November 10th, the Library School Association of the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alabama awarded the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award to Irene S. (Renee) Blalock and Timothy Alan Lewis.

This award was created to recognize SLIS alumni who have made an outstanding contribution to the library, information, media, or book arts professions and have achieved distinction in their field.  Those considered for the Distinguished Alumni Award are judged on the full range of their professional accomplishments.

Irene S. (Renee) Blalock received her MLS in 1981.  Renee spent her entire professional career at the largest public library in Alabama, the Birmingham Public Library, serving in the Literature Department, Southern History Department, as a Branch Head, Collection Department Manager, Regional Coordinator, Operational Coordinator, Associate Director, and finally Director from 2009 to 2014.  In her many years of active service, Renee became an indispensable part of the volunteer community in Birmingham and was involved in many community activities and affiliations.  Examples of her professional leadership include President of the Jefferson County Library Cooperative, the Jefferson County Public Library Association, and the University of Alabama Library School Association.  Further, she has served on committees of the American Library Association and was on the Board of the national Public Library Association.

Tim Lewis received his MLS in 1983 and his law degree from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1984.  Tim has spent his professional career at the Library of the Supreme Court, first as Reader Services Librarian, then Associate Director, and finally as Director of the Law Library and State Law Librarian from 1992 to the present.  He is responsible for the management of the largest public law library in Alabama, advises and assists county law librarians with legal information needs, and provides leadership to the law library community in Alabama.  Tim has served as President of the Alabama Bench and Bar Historical Society, the Law Library Association of Alabama, and is on the Board of Directors of the Alabama Center for Law and Civic Education.  Tim has shared his experience by authoring numerous articles concerning legal information and has made more than two dozen presentations at seminars and other programs on this topic.

The Distinguished Alumni Award was established by the Library School Association in 2000. With the announcement of the 2017 honorees, a total of 15 alumni have been recognized with the award.  The name of each recipient is placed on a permanent plaque displayed at SLIS in Gorgas Library.