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!