Category: SLIS News

Three MFA Book Arts Students Defend Theses

Current Master of Fine Arts in the Book Arts students Sarah Scarr, Kasey Grealis, and Christina Lilly held their thesis defenses on March 26, all presenting original works of art with their unique stories and experiences interwoven in their creations. If you were unable to attend the thesis defense, these students have also enabled viewing of a virtual exhibition of their art and is viewable from now until April 19, 2021 on .

Congratulations to these students for their successfully defended thesis projects and on creating such exceptional and beautiful works of art and further congratulations on your upcoming graduation!

A screenshot from the MFA Book Arts thesis presentation made by Kasey Grealis on March 26.


Recent Discussion with Archival Professional Features University Archivist Laken Smith (MLIS ’18)

In the latest installment of “Discussions with Archival Professionals” on March 16, Laken Smith, the University Archivist at Athens State University, spent time talking with students about her career path, her current job position now, and unexpected challenges she has encountered since entering the field. Smith is a 2018 UA SLIS graduate and it is always a delight to get updates from our alumni, and provide students the chance to interact with professionals outside of UA SLIS.

Smith provided extensive detail about her job as a University Archivist, especially during COVID-19. “We’ve been getting a lot of donations right now, as Athens State is in its bicentennial period, so there’s a lot of committee work going on and outreach too,” she explained. Smith worked in a public library for two years before becoming a library support specialist at Athens State, and then eventually transitioning to the University Archivist position. She sees a convergence of values, having worked both in the public library and in the archives, and that is to ensure representation in the collections. “It’s important to do weeding to close those archival gaps, to make sure people can see themselves in the collections.”

Smith wears many hats as the University Archivist, including being thrust into a role as a museum curator as well. Athens State University has several museums that are affiliated with the institution and Smith explained that she had to broaden her knowledge base to make more people feel represented in those spaces. “It can be a real challenge, but I like that,” she said. The MLIS degree program is a short one, and Smith explained that there were just some things that could not be prepared for through the program, namely the unique day-to-day challenges in the public library. “You never know what is going to happen or who will walk through those doors.” She talked about a course she took during her time at UA SLIS that covered homelessness in the library and how beneficial it was during her time working in a public library.

She also emphasized the importance of students being able to find a mentor to model themselves after, even citing how her predecessor as University Archivist was essential in helping her gain a better understanding of what she is and is not responsible for in her current role. Laken is excited to see how her position will change when the threat of COVID-19 has been mitigated and is less of a determining factor of in-person interaction.

We appreciate Ms. Laken Smith for taking the time to talk with current students and wish her the best in her future endeavors!

Society of American Archivists Student Chapter Recruits Members and Launches Podcast

This past February, the SLIS student chapter of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) was recognized as official student organization at the University of Alabama (UA), an action that has solidified the SAA-UA chapter. We reached out to the chapter president, current SLIS student Valeria Dávila Gronros, to get some insight and provide information for students who may be interested in joining.

1) What are the requirements for SAA-UA Student membership? Are there any fees or initiation processes?

The Society of American Archivists student chapter at the University of Alabama (SAA-UA), does not charge fees for membership. However, the SAA requires that all members of the SAA-UA chapter be either current SAA members, or become SAA members. The SAA membership for students is $55 annually, and the benefits can be seen here:

2) How do you join SAA-UA and how regularly do you meet?

Interested students become a member of SAA-UA after attending one meeting. There is no additional requirement. However, for members that get involved in projects, the expectation is that they are present, engaged, and responsive through attending meetings, providing feedback, helping to promote the activities of the chapter, and respond to emails in a timely fashion.

3) What does SAA do? Any specific activism/community projects?

The SAA-UA chapter is a space for archival students to meet and support each other, and to collaborate on projects. The 2020-21 cohort has been working on several things since we started in Fall 2020:

  • “We revived the chapter at UA, meaning, the chapter was operative (members continued to meet), but the chapter was inactive to UA since 2016. Reactivating it demanded an insane amount of paperwork and for the President (Valeria Dávila Gronros), Vice President, (Emily L. Reynolds), and Treasurer (Cory Driscoll) to complete a series of online training for new organizations.”
  • They also revived the existing social media platforms, which are now populated with relevant archival-related content (we share publications from SAA naturally, but also opportunities for archives students, highlight community archiving initiatives, etc.) thanks to the Social Media Coordinator, Erin Brooks.
  • SAA-UA now has a WordPress website for the chapter, thanks to current Vice President, Emily L. Reynolds.
  • SAA-UA produced an instructional video answering the question “What is an Archivist?” Former SAA-UA Vice President, Rodney Lawley, produced the video, with the collaboration of other members of the chapter who provided their vocal talents.
  • Tuesday, March 16th, 2021, SAA-UA launched its podcast, “Archives and Communities.” Producing a podcast is hard work, and they are thrilled to share this with both the student body at SLIS, and the archival community. SAA-UA was looking for projects to work on last semester with the chapter, and the idea came to Valeria after a class on community archives in Intro to Archives.

Valeria wanted to make a podcast on community archiving initiatives (defined broadly and loosely) across the US, proposed the idea, and the chapter loved it. The idea was for each member of the chapter to interview someone doing community archiving work, asking about their career path, their community archiving initiative, and their understanding of community archiving as a practice. The episodes have an oral history feel, where the narration, the voice, of the guest speaker (the person we are highlighting in that episode) is the protagonist––this was central to Valeria’s mission. The focus on diversity was also a key aspect, so SAA-UA members were encouraged to pick initiatives that had to do with their archival and professional passions and interests. As a Latina international student, Valeria is drawn to Latin America and to everything Latin American, so for the first episode, she interviewed Chicano librarian and educator Richard Chabran. Valeria excitedly explained, “There are so many great interviews coming! We’d love to invite all in the UA SLIS community to give the podcast a listen on YouTube, Anchor, or Spotify, and to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.”

Links to the episode:





SAA-UA social media platforms:

Twitter: @UAStudentSAA





4) Who do prospective students need to contact if they would like to become a member?

They can contact the chapter president, Valeria Dávila Gronros, at

Congratulations to these students for the hard work put into the revival of the SAA-UA chapter and becoming an officially recognized organization at UA. We are all excited to listen to the podcast series and will be sure to post links as soon as new episodes are released. Well done!

Archives and Communities Podcast

Dr. Dimitrios Latsis Joins SLIS Faculty in Fall 2021

Dr. Dimitrios Latsis
Dr. Dimitrios Latsis will join the SLIS faculty in Fall 2021


SLIS is pleased to announce that Professor Dimitrios Latsis will join our faculty in fall of 2021 as Assistant Professor of Digital Preservation and Curation and coordinator of the EBSCO Scholarship program in Audio-Visual Preservation and Archiving.

Dr. Latsis is a historian and digital humanist working at the intersection of archiving and visual culture. His work on American visual culture, early cinema, archival studies and the Digital Humanities has been supported by the Smithsonian Institution, Domitor, Mellon and Knight Foundations and Canada’s Social Studies and Humanities Research Council, among others. He has published and lectured widely in these fields, including co-editing a special issue of The Moving Image, the journal of the Association of Moving Image Archivists on the topic of Digital Humanities and/in Film Archives and an anthology on documentaries about the visual arts in the 1950s and 60s for Bloomsbury Academic.

He is currently finishing a monograph on the historiography of American cinema during the early and silent years. He has consulted for a variety of national and international projects in digital archiving and serves on the scholarly advisory board of Library of Congress and WGBH-supported American Archive of Public Broadcasting, and on the technical working group of the Canadian National Heritage Digital Project. He was part of the inaugural cohort of Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows in Visual Data Curation sponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources during which he was appointed as film curator at the Internet Archive and visiting research scholar at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Before joining UA SLIS, Dr. Latsis served as Assistant Professor in the School of Image Arts at Ryerson University in Toronto where he taught and supervised students in the graduate programs in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections Management, and in Communication and Culture.