Category: SLIS News

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.

Dr. Elmborg represents UA SLIS at OK Annual ACRL Conference 

SLIS Director, Dr. James Elmborg, was recently a featured guest speaker at the 2017 Oklahoma Chapter of the Association of College and Research Libraries Annual Conference, Reaching Toward the Margins: Critical Librarianship in Academia. In his presentation, “Talking Back to the Text: Marginalia, Marginalization, and Marginalized People,” Dr. Elmborg states, “The Library is a Contact Zone, where cultures meet, clash, and grapple. The Library [also] serves and defines its imagined community and how that community relates to larger cultural narrative.” Dr. Elmborg notes that the academic library is a context for learning. “We are all educators. Educators ask questions and encourage learners to find their voices and use them.”  
For more information and full slides from Dr. Elmborg’s presentation, please visit

Congratulations, Dr. Bonnici! 

Dr. Laurie Bonnici was recently awarded funding as Visiting Scholar at the Social Media Lab at Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.  This competitive, prestigious award will allow Dr. Bonicci full access to a cadre of social media analysis software for evaluation purposes as well as any training she may wish to have in using the Lab. The Social Media Lab will host her for one month in late Spring 2018. “The purpose is to investigate and identify the best social media analysis software to inform data collection on the seeking of health information for a NSF proposal I will be applying for in the near future,” says Dr. Bonnici. “The experience of engaging with a variety of software will also inform in the development of a CCIS course on social media analysis software and methods.  In addition, the visiting scholar opportunity includes engaging in collaborative research with the Social Media Lab.  So the opportunity to engage with and collaborate with premier researchers working in social media analysis in Canada is very exciting.” 

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.”