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