Category: SLIS News

Tuscaloosa Native, Alex Smith, Steps into SLIS Leadership Roles.

 

Born and raised in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Alexandra “Alex” Smith has been fascinated with information management and data synthesis since high school. Because of the world’s large population, Alex realized that she could translate knowledge into supported statistical frameworks and then translate those findings into common language for dissemination. This realization led Alex to pursue an LIS degree and career. Alex states, “As the population and use of technology grows, verifiable information is harder to communicate and preserve so LIS professionals must step up to the plate to combat the current trends and support information literacy.”

Alex began her research and information/data management experience through her work in a clinical psychology lab, performing Fluid Dynamics research funded by the NSF and working as a research technician at a palliative care clinic. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a minor in the Blount Scholars Program. Alex is currently pursuing an MLIS with a concentration in Archival Studies. In addition to managing the C&IS Commons on campus, Alex is also the project archivist for the Betsy Plank Collection housed in the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at UA. This summer, she was chosen to work as a Junior Fellow at the Library of Congress in the Manuscript Division where she was responsible for processing the E.O. Wilson papers.

Alex says that her favorite aspect so far in her SLIS experience is the community that SLIS inspires and impacts. “Information sustainability, accountability and dissemination are applicable to every person and profession,” Alex notes. “It can be, and should be, used as a tool for social justice and public good so SLIS has a tendency to collect really inspiring faculty and students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. It’s really a special place to learn and grow as a person.”

When asked about the current and future role of libraries in communities, Alex recognizes that libraries are growing more important as physical gathering places, especially for marginalized and threatened populations to exist safely while accessing much needed resources. Furthermore, Alex believes that libraries function as resource gathering places to collocate critical services and resources that might be difficult to access otherwise. “The current social climate is full of gaps- social, financial, access- and libraries must work to be places that exist outside of these constraints and provide for all.”

Alex challenges students to talk to each other along the way, listen to each other and be an active participant in life around you. “If you do this, you will find passions and purposes you did not see before and LIS will take on a deeper and more vibrant meaning, she advises. “UA SLIS is a family, as cheesy as that sounds. The faculty and staff include experts in a wide range of research interests and backgrounds to provide a rich LIS education. Beyond the education, UA SLIS is composed of great people who want students to succeed so they have fostered a culture of open communication and support. All around, SLIS is a great place to pursue an MLIS that goes beyond the piece of paper or resume line.”

In addition to her college-wide service roles, Alex also gives of her time and energy to make a positive impact in the field of LIS on a local level. She currently serves as President of ALA Student Chapter and President of SAA Student Chapter at UA. “Both groups strive to support SLIS and UA through service to students and the surrounding community,” Alex states. “I am lucky enough to help both incredible groups of people band together to promote an inclusive SLIS environment and promote social justice.”

SLIS Professor and Alum, Dr. Jamie Naidoo

Dr. Jamie Campbell Naidoo grew up in rural Kentucky, and knew, as early as kindergarten, that he wanted to be a teacher. Although he and his family regularly used the bookmobile that served their community and occasionally used the county’s public library, Naidoo never attended story time programs at the library. “I really didn’t have a complete understanding of the public library’s role in literacy development until beginning the MLIS program at UA,” says Naidoo.

After finishing his BS in Elementary Education and working in an early Headstart program, Dr. Naidoo completed his student teaching in Tennessee where he channeled his passion for early childhood education into a dream of becoming a school library media specialist. During his MLIS work at UA, Naidoo worked as the head of youth services, serving children and young adults at the Tuscaloosa Public Library. Later, he became an elementary school librarian in the Birmingham area in a PreK-2nd grade school and also worked almost 6 years at the Hoover Public Library in the circulation department.

As an MLIS graduate of UA and a graduate of the C&IS PhD program, Naidoo states that the multidisciplinary doctoral program allowed him to complete his studies with the likes of fellow LIS cohort, Dr. Rachel Fleming May, presently at UT. While the two had completely different research areas, Naidoo acknowledges that having like-minded colleagues to share research ideas and synergize with in the program was beneficial. He also enjoyed the ability to focus specifically on children’s media while taking courses with world-renowned researchers such as Dr. Jennings Bryant. Naidoo was able to observe Dr. Bryant’s work with Sesame Street and consultation jobs he held with various children’s television program creators. Dr. Naidoo believes that working closely with and learning under the guidance of UA faculty prepared him for professional opportunities and similar experiences consulting on cultural diversity in children’s television programming.

When asked what drew him to the University of Alabama, Naidoo credits the willingness of faculty to advance the education, research and professional goals of students. “UA SLIS is student centered. We truly care about the success of our students,” says Naidoo. “Our students have diverse backgrounds and unique experiences that enrich our program. Along with this diversity, comes the need for specialized attention to educational needs. I provide that to my students and I would like to think that other UA SLIS faculty members do, too. Our face-to-face and live online courses are taught by passionate faculty invested in helping students obtain their educational goals through a degree that infuses equal parts theory and practice.”

Dr. Naidoo recommends that students searching for a graduate program get to know the research of the current faculty in CCIS to identify common areas of research interest. “You want to study in a place with faculty, both within your college and other colleges on campus, with shared or common research interests that will be open to researching with you as well as serving on your program and dissertation committees,” Naidoo advises. “As a student, you may have a refreshing research idea that dovetails nicely with a new area of faculty research. Also, faculty research is organic, changing as we grow as engaged researchers through our teaching, research, and service.”

Now a full professor and holder of the Foster-EBSCO Endowed Professorship at UA SLIS, Dr. Naidoo has found an avenue for sharing his passion for children’s education and enthusiastic approach to learning in ways that reach children in communities across the country. “While I enjoyed working in libraries and miss working with children, I relish the opportunity to energize MLIS students to become youth services librarians passionate about serving the culturally diverse children and teens in our communities,” says Naidoo.

Dr. Naidoo enjoys working with children’s book, digital app, and television program creators to help them develop culturally responsive media that authentically represents our culturally pluralistic society. In addition to consulting with educational media companies, he has evaluated and edited content in digital apps and in children’s book manuscripts. “The topics of cultural responsiveness, social justice, and inclusivity are extremely important to me and I enjoy fostering rich discussions of those topics in all the courses I teach from storytelling to youth programming to public library administration.”

“Overall, in the field of children’s literature and publishing, there is a severe lack of diverse children’s books and often librarians and other educators use what books are available without deconstructing the social messages these world of words share with readers,” Naidoo notes. “As such, I am interested in the representation of cultural diversity in youth literature (children’s and young adult) and digital apps and the ensuing messages they send to readers about a particular cultural group.” Dr. Naidoo’s current research has focused on social messages in multicultural digital apps as well as library services and collections to specific populations such as Latinx children and LGBTQAI+ (rainbow) families with children. He has found that while there is a growing number of quality titles available for LGBTQAI+ teens, few quality titles in the United States exist for younger children who may identify on the rainbow spectrum or live in a rainbow family. His present research-in-progress is a book that critically examines queer children’s picture books published around the globe in numerous languages.

Dr. Naidoo continues to advocate for inclusive literature, education and issues of diversity as a consultant and guest speaker at national and international conferences and trainings. In addition, he has published and/or edited numerous books, peer-reviewed articles, papers and book chapters. Dr. Naidoo has received multiple international honors and awards over the years. Most recently, he was the 2016 American Library Association Achievement in Library Diversity Research honoree and received the 2015 Humanitarian Award from the Alabama Library Association. He was an invited keynote speaker at the Turning the Pages of Diversity, 28th Annual Conference on Children’s Literature in 2015 and is founder and co-director of the National Latino Children’s Literature Conference.

By Jessica Ross

Dr. Miriam Sweeney awarded ALA Diversity Research Grant 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Miriam E. Sweeney, and research partner Dr. Nicole A. Cooke (University of Illinois, Urbana – Champaign), received a Diversity Research Grant for 2017-2018 sponsored by the American Library Association’s Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services.

This grant will support Sweeney and Cooke’s research project, “Minority Student Experiences with Racial Microaggressions in the Academic Library.” This study uses surveys and focus groups to garner further insight into the specific experiences surrounding racial microaggressions directed at racial and ethnic minority students in the context of accessing library spaces and services on campus.

The grant consists of a one-time $2,500 award for original research. Recipients will conduct their research over the course of the year, are expected to compile the results of their research into a paper, and will be asked to present and/or publish the final product in conjunction with the American Library Association.

Sweeney and Cooke are also co-editors of the recently published book Teaching for Justice: Implementing Social Justice in the LIS Classroom (2017, Library Juice Press).

Congratulations, Dr. Sweeney!

Dr. Annabel Stephens – A Heart for Students and Service

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.