In addition to being the birthplace of William Faulkner, New Albany, Mississippi is also known as the “Fair & Friendly City,” and was recently named “Best Southern Small Town” for 2017 by USA Today. It should come as no surprise that New Albany is also the birthplace of one of UA SLIS’s most esteemed and beloved former faculty members, Dr. Annabel Stephens, who has always delivered upon the warm, friendly reputation of her hometown, both in and out of the classroom.
Annabel’s mother was an avid reader who encouraged reading and learning. At the local public library where her great-aunt was librarian, Annabel felt at home and would devour biographies and junior mysteries, like Nancy Drew. In college, she planned to be a teacher, but needed a minor for her degree in English. Knowing her love for reading and libraries, Annabel’s father suggested Library Science as a minor, a field that, surprisingly enough, she adds, she had not even considered. After her first course in reference, Annabel was hooked for a career in librarianship – a decision that changed her life and the lives of so many Library Science students to come. “It was like a treasure hunt,” she said. “I knew this was something I could really do, and that I had something to offer.”
Dr. Annabel Stephens received her MLS from the George Peabody College and a DLS from Columbia University. Before joining the UA SLIS faculty in 1985, Dr. Stephens directed the public library in New Albany and held professional positions with library systems in Tennessee and Alabama, which offered many rewarding experiences, as well as a first-hand understanding of challenges facing public libraries. Dr. Stephens literally “wrote the book” on library planning, The Public Library Planning Process, which was based on her dissertation research. Although she loved public library work, referring to herself as “a public librarian with a doctorate,” Dr. Stephens also cherishes her time working at UA. She believes that SLIS afforded her more influence and opportunities to help public librarians across the state and beyond. Her tenure as a professor and researcher in SLIS allowed her to combine her strengths and work closely with the Alabama Public Library Services as an LSTA council member and advocate.
During her years at UA SLIS, Dr. Stephens received many professional awards and accolades. Since her retirement in 2007, and subsequent ongoing service as an adjunct faculty member, the awards just keep coming. She has received the Humanitarian Award, Eminent Librarian Award and Lifetime Achievement award from the Alabama Library Association. Most recently, Dr. Stephens was awarded the 2016 American Library Association Beta Phi Mu Award and in 2015, was inducted into the University of Alabama College of Communication & Information Sciences Hall of Fame. As the ALA awards committee noted, “Her devotion to teaching generations of librarians has made Stephens a prominent leader in the field.”
While all of these awards were appreciated, Dr. Stephens says that the biggest rewards she receives are the relationships she has built and maintained with her students. She loves to see and hear from former students about the amazing work they are doing. More than a job, Dr. Stephens says that SLIS offered her a welcoming, inclusive, professional home. “SLIS accepted me, and through that position, I have been able to offer my support to all of my students, including my LGBT students. I knew I had a place at SLIS and could contribute to the profession.”
Dr. Stephens invests in more than just the education of her students, but also in their lives. She advises SLIS students to, “Get to know your professors as people. Observe what is going on currently in libraries. Read professional and academic literature and get involved with ALLA and other professional organizations. Observe the library world through internship opportunities so that you can find your place in the field.”
In her retirement, Annabel now devotes much of her time helping others as a hospice volunteer. She and her wife, Pat, also remain very involved in the food ministry program that Pat began in their church. Dr. Stephens says that volunteering in the community is now fulfilling her desire to help others and make the world a better place.
The Library School Association of the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alabama is pleased to announce the 2017 recipients of its Distinguished Alumni Award. The joint recipients this year are Irene S. (Renee) Blalock and Timothy Alan Lewis.
The award was created to recognize alumni of the School 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 award are judged on the full range of their professional accomplishments.
Irene S. (Renee) Blalock received her MLS in 1981. She 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, she 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. He 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, he advises and assists county law librarians with legal information needs, and he provides leadership to the law library community in Alabama. He 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 he 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. There is no requirement that the award be given annually. 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 the Library School and the recipients will be recognized at Alumni Day, which will be held at the Gorgas Library on Friday, November 10, 2017.
At the 2017 Annual Conference in Chicago, the American Library Association’s Committee on Accreditation (COA) voted to continue accreditation of the University of Alabama School of Library and Information Studies’ Masters Degree in Library and Information Studies through 2024. This is exciting news for both faculty and students of the SLIS Master’s Degree program, as well as the UA College of Communications and Information Sciences.
For the past year, UA SLIS has undergone a comprehensive accreditation review of the MLIS program. SLIS faculty and staff prepared a thorough self-study in preparation for an evaluation visit by an External Review Panel (ERP). “In the spirit of continuous improvement, the accreditation process involves the strategic assessment and evaluation of a program as well as the enhancement of program operations,” stated Dr. Ann Prentice, Interim Director of SLIS.
The American Library Association Committee on Accreditation (COA) is responsible for “the execution of the accreditation program of ALA, and to develop and formulate standards of education for library and information studies for the approval of council (ALA, 2017).” The COA develops standards for accreditation through a consensus-building process that involves various communities of interest, including educators, students, and professionals in library and information studies. Throughout the standards-development process, the COA seeks, receives, and uses comments and suggestions from library and information studies communities in both the United States and Canada (ALA, 2017).
As part of the mission to develop and formulate standards of education for library and information studies, the COA reviews the Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies on an ongoing basis. The 2015 Standards were adopted by approval of the Council of the American Library Association on February 2, 2015.
Congratulations, UA SLIS, on this momentous accomplishment of reaccreditation for the MLIS program through 2024!
The faculty and staff of SLIS, along with our partners in the College of Communication and Information Sciences, welcomed our thirteenth national online cohort last week.
The three-day, intensive orientation gave students an opportunity to meet the faculty, bond with one another, and learn more about their chosen program and university. By all accounts, this year’s orientation was a success. It is a SLIS tradition that incoming cohorts choose their own collective name. This year is if our pleasure to introduce you to the newest cohort, “Thirteen Going on Nerdy.”