Ms. Angela Fisher Hall is the 2020 recipient of the SLIS Outstanding Alumna award. She graduated from SLIS in December 1986 with a concentration in public libraries. After completing her degree, her first job was in a public library where she worked part time in a reference department. “The work was so engaging – searching for an answer to the most obscure questions… After working in this environment for several months, I knew that a career in libraries was right for me.”
Angela currently works as the Regional Librarian for the Alabama Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (BPH), a division of the Alabama Public Library Service (APLS). As head of the BPH, she provides leadership and support for planning, development, and improvement of statewide library services for citizens of Alabama who are blind, have visual impairments, or have a disability and cannot read or hold standard print. Supervision and coordination are critical in her position, as she ensures all specialized services comply with both APLS and the National Library Service (NLS)/ Library of Congress rules and regulations. “Currently, I supervise a staff of seven who are all engaged in providing our library patrons with the best in braille and audio books, as well as magazines. We serve patrons in 64 of Alabama’s 67 counties. BPH is part of the NLS network of 55 regional libraries serving all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. BPH provides books in braille or audio, delivered to an individual’s door, or downloaded instantly. Best of all, there are no subscriptions, overdue fines, or service fees—it is a free service for eligible borrowers.”
The COVID-19 pandemic had a brief, yet substantial impact on the services provided at Ms. Fisher Hall’s institution. “All items in our collection are mailed directly to a patron’s home address.” The agency was closed for seven weeks, beginning in March 2020, and the staff worked from home while contacting patrons via phone. Her staff was able to mail audiobooks to patrons, but not close to the number of items they were sending out pre-COVID. The BPH had a recorded message for their phones during the time they were not in the building, explaining that staff were not in the building due to the heightened concerns over the coronavirus. One patron left a voicemail stating, “I don’t know what this COVID has to do with me getting my books, but I need more books.” Angela and her staff had to find a way to continue providing patrons with books.
If she could come back and take any class at UA, Angela would like to take a course on digital preservation. “As organizations grow and individuals leave or retire, it will be vitally important to store records and photographs in a format that does not require floor space or more shelving. Having items stored digitally is extremely important when it comes to preserving information, making that information accessible, and storing the information in a safe format.”
Ms. Fisher Hall’s advice for current and prospective students is to make certain you can be flexible in your environment and learn to grow. “Libraries are great places to work and to grow as an individual. Whether you are in public, academic, school, or special libraries, you will encounter people, questions, and experiences that will expand your world and knowledge exponentially… My advice for current and prospective students is to make certain that you can be flexible—not only in your way of thinking but also in your willingness to have varied experiences.”
The American Library Association (ALA) Core Value that most inspires the work Angela does is access. “When I was in the graduate program at UA, the buzzword at that time was “information superhighway.” The expression focused on a future where computers and other telecommunication devices would be used to access information with the tap of a key. Today, I feel as though access is still elusive to so many. In working with individuals who have physical disabilities, I am reminded daily that simply printing an item or distributing it by email does not give everyone access. Instead, in order for that access to be equitable, I have to make certain the document is available in a readable text that can be read using a speech synthesizer (narration software); available in braille, and in audio formats where possible. Only then will all of my patrons have access at the same time to a wealth of great information.”
We are grateful to Ms. Fisher Hall for granting us time to learn more about her and the wonderful work she has been doing and continues to do as a SLIS graduate. Congratulations on being named the SLIS 2020 Outstanding Alumna and we wish you continued success in your work!
Professor John-Bauer Graham, a SLIS alumnus and member of our adjunct faculty, serves as the Dean of Library Services at Jacksonville State University (JSU). Graham was recently promoted to Distinguished Professor and is the first JSU Dean to achieve this highest faculty rank at the university. Congratulations Professor Graham!
Dr. Bharat Mehra published a paper entitled “Enough Crocodile Tears! Libraries Moving Beyond Performative Antiracist Politics” in The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy. A link to his publication can be found here.
Dr. Jamie Naidoo was presented with the University of Alabama Excellence in Community Engagement Award for his work with “SLIS Book Bonanza for the Black Belt and Beyond.” Since its launch in 2009, the Book Bonanza has provided brand new children’s and young adult library books for more than 70 schools around Alabama. We are incredibly proud of Dr. Naidoo’s achievement and his dedication to community outreach and engagement!
Dr. Miriam Sweeney presented a webinar, “Listening at the Library: Surveillance in the Stacks Gets Smart” for the University of Rhode Island speaker series, Voices for Information Equality. More information can be found on Dr. Sweeney’s website, which includes a short summary and a link to the event recording.
Dr. Bharat Mehra, Professor and EBSCO Endowed Chair in Social Justice, has been invited to serve as one of the General Editors of the Routledge Library and Information Science Encyclopedia Online to be published by Routledge (Abingdon, United Kingdom). This extensive undertaking will compile significant contributions of major researchers and practitioners in the field on various historical and contemporary subjects and topics. The major reference resource will present over 225 entries reflecting current issues of relevance in the 21st century, including themes of social justice and social equity, diversity and inclusion, and community-engaged partnerships threading through the collection. It will also represent the growing convergence among the disciplines that influence information and the cultural record and include knowledge and practices from around the world.
Dr. Mehra has also been invited to serve as Series Editor of the Advances in Librarianship book series published by Emerald Group Publishing (Bingley, United Kingdom). In this role he plans to encourage authors to develop books that shift entrenched positionalities in library and information studies, making visible content related to the “margins,” and decenter canons and practices towards equity of representation, inclusivity, and progressive change. The Advances in Librarianship series has a strong reputation in publishing books with in-depth chapters on all areas of LIS and in all types of settings in which information is developed, accessed, preserved, and delivered. It aims to provide critical analyses of issues in the information world. Content is developed based on diverse viewpoints, in-depth literature reviews, and current research, with the aim of improving and producing solutions to current problems in libraries and related fields including the information industry, education of information professionals, management, and operations of all types of libraries.
Dr. Mehra published an article entitled “Elfreda Annmary Chatman in the 21st Century: At the Intersection of Critical Theory and Social Justice Imperatives” in the Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies (Vol.3) special Issue themed “Chatman Revisited: Re-examining and Resituating Social Theories of Identity, Access, and Marginalization in LIS” edited by Nicole A. Cooke and Ameila N. Gibson and can be found here.
Dr. Mehra published a chapter entitled “Overcoming Interrelated Challenges to “Diversity by Design” in the LIS Tenure and Promotion Process in the American Academy” in Humanizing LIS Education and Practice: Diversity by Design edited by Keren Dali and Nadia Caidi and published by Routledge (Abingdon, United Kingdom).
Dr. Jamie Campbell Naidoo, Foster-EBSCO Endowed Professor, was contacted by AL.com in March for an interview regarding the controversial author and illustrator Dr. Seuss and the move by Dr. Seuss Enterprises to discontinue the publication of six of his works. “Discontinuing racist books isn’t ‘cancel culture’,” can be viewed here.
Dr. Miriam Sweeney, Associate Professor, published the chapter “Digital Assistants” in the book Uncertain Archives: Critical Keywords for Big Data (MIT Press, February 2021). See more about the book here.
Kathy Brunot is a current MLIS student and was selected as a new member of the 2021 class of the Carl Elliot Society. The Elliott Society is named in honor of the late Carl Atwood Elliott, a former University of Alabama SGA President, who later became an Alabama congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives. He based his political principles on assistance to the needy, racial tolerance, and better educational opportunities to all. His works in Congress especially focused on education. The University of Alabama Carl A. Elliot Society recognizes students, faculty, and alumni who have made significant leadership contributions to the campus, community, state, and nation in areas of social and cultural progress and who portray a spirit of the ideals held by Congressman Elliott. Congratulations on fantastic accomplishment, Kathy!
Valeria Dávila Gronros, a current MLIS student, presented a poster at the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) Spring Conference (online, April 14-16) on a project she recently completed at the Oregon State University Special Collections & Archives Research Center to improve access and discoverability to oral histories of Mexican immigrants in Oregon. Her presentation was part of the poster session on Thursday, April 15, 2021. More information on Valeria’s presentation can be found here.
Peyton Deese is a current MLIS student and was selected as a new member of the 2021 class of the Blackburn Institute. The Blackburn Institute is a leadership development and civic engagement program specifically focused on improving the state of Alabama. Through its work with students, alumni (Fellows), and Advisory Board members, the institute develops a network of leaders who have a clear understanding of the state’s challenges. Selected students participate in a one-year curriculum of activities and events, after which they continue their involvement for their remaining time at the Capstone. This year’s selection process featured 6,716 individual nominations. After group interviews and essays, 100 people were invited for in-person interviews, and then 50 students were selected. Congratulations on this exceptional achievement, Peyton!