Category: SLIS News

Invited Speaker Lee Boulie, SLIS class of 2007

Current and recently graduated students were honored at SLIS Honors Day on April 5 on the fifth floor of Gorgas Library. Invited speaker and SLIS alumna Lee Boulie (2007) traveled from Nashville to share her experiences as the Director of Digital & Library Collections at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Her address, “The Digital Information Access Revolution: Reverse Engineering Networks to Create Archival Opportunity” included discussion of academic- and practice-centric perspectives of her work in digital collections and digital information access.

At this upbeat afternoon celebration, SLIS students attended face to face and virtually via Zoom. Dr. Elmborg and Dean Nelson offered a welcome and greeting to everyone, including parents, friends, and faculty. Presentations included the Bethel Fite Endowed Scholarship to Eliscia Kinder, the Corr Scholarship to Corley May, the Faculty Scholar Award, MLIS Program, to Alexandra (Alex) Smith, Florine Oltman Awards to Karen Coghlan, Miles Kurosky, and Christine Remenih, the Raymond F. McLain Book Arts Award to Victoria Birth, the Student Paper Award to Craig Guild, and Technology Innovation Awards to Rachel Joiner and Hannah Pryor. Congratulations to all!

James Gilbreath and Sara Whitver represented the Beta Kappa chapter of  Beta Phi Mu.

Get to Know Dr. Chris Shaffer – Troy University, Dean of University Libraries

SLIS alumnus, Dr. Christopher Shaffer, may be a Troy Trojan today, but his career in Library and Information began in Tuscaloosa at UA SLIS. Drawing upon his diverse educational experiences as an international teacher, college professor, and academic librarian, Dr. Shaffer currently serves as Dean of University Libraries at Troy University. He received his BA in History from Auburn University in 1991, and earned a certificate to teach in Georgia. Before starting his career in the U.S., he chose to teach in Slovakia for a half year as an English teacher. Over the next several years stateside, Shaffer taught at the middle and high school level, with a return trip for 6 months to Slovakia, where he again taught English. During his time as a teacher, Dr. Shaffer also went back to graduate school for degrees in Social Studies Education and Administration. His wife, Amber, is also an educator, teaching high school English and the Shaffers have two dogs, Max and Dolly.

By 2004, Shaffer decided that he was ready to leave the classroom and enrolled in SLIS. Shaffer was hired immediately upon graduation by Troy University and after a year at Troy, he was named interim director of the Dothan Campus library, which became a permanent appointment the following year. Under Shaffer’s leadership, library systems on the Dothan Campus were made consistent with other University libraries. Shaffer also spearheaded a highly successful grant writing campaign that expanded the scope and programs offered at the Dothan Campus Library, culminating with the Troy University Dothan Library receiving the 2014 Alabama Library Association’s Humanitarian Award.
Also in 2014, Dr. Shaffer completed his doctorate and became dean of University Libraries at Troy, where he continues to serve students and the broader public Troy community today. Dr. Shaffer believes that libraries have an educational role in the community, stating, “From an academic library standpoint, I believe that role extends beyond the University community to the public at large. I always make an effort to let the community around our campus know when we are having lectures, exhibits, or other events.”

With his diverse research agenda, Dr. Shaffer has published on a variety of topics in both scholarly journals and edited books. His topics of interest include library programming and grants, collection development, and library administration. When asked about his favorite aspect of his work, Dr. Shaffer shared, “In Dothan, where I was director for 8 years, my favorite part of the job was grant writing and outreach programming. As dean, my priorities have changed, and I have become more interested in revitalizing and modernizing an older facility.”
Dr. Shaffer says, “For the past few years, one of my primary areas of emphasis has been to educate university administrators on the importance of libraries and librarians. As technology continues to advance, there are many people who fail to understand that the need for librarians is only increasing, because they are needed to teach students how to find the information they need. Libraries as places are equally important. Although, so much of the information we have is now available online, our library is used by students more today than in the last 20 years.”

Christopher Shaffer has transformed the Troy University libraries by bringing in programs that have opened a window to a much larger world to the students living in this segment of rural southeastern Alabama. His efforts were recognized in 2015 when he was awarded the I Love My Librarian Award, given by the Carnegie Corporation, New York Times, ALA, and NYPL.

Dr. Shaffer states, “My experience at UA SLIS was great. It was a supportive environment, and I made a network of not only connections I would use in my future career, but also genuine friends.” Dr. Shaffer offers the following advice to new LIS students:

“Seize on international opportunities when they exist. Every job I have gotten has been largely because of my international experience.”

“Listen to advice of people who are experienced in the field.”

“The wider your job search is geographically the better.”

“Reflect on your career and experiences to this point. Because of the nature of librarianship, there may be many aspects of your life that will help you market yourself to employers. As a teacher, I never felt respected, but my education and experience was embraced in the library field.”

“Be willing to consider jobs in rural areas. You will be in higher demand, and appreciated more.”

“Save any research papers that you write for classes. You may be able to submit them for publication later. My first article appeared in an Emerald journal. It was a paper I wrote in Dr. Weddle’s class. The editor accepted it with no alterations. Don’t get excited. That has never happened again in my experience!”

“Take advantage of opportunities; they may not occur again.”

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.