Category: SLIS News

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.”

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!