Category: SLIS News

Faculty Spotlight – January 2021

Happy New Year! We are excited to usher in a new beginning after the rollercoaster of 2020. Several faculty members at SLIS have recent publications to celebrate.

Dr. Bharat Mehra published several chapters with multiple co-authors. Dr. Mehra and Communication and Information Sciences doctoral student Baheya Jaber published a “Opioid Consumer Health Information Literacies (o-CHIL) in Alabama’s Public Libraries: An Exploratory Website Content Analysis” in Roles and Responsibilities of Libraries in Increasing Consumer Health Literacy and Reducing Health Disparities (Advances in Librarianship Series, Volume 48). It was edited by Beth St. Jean, Gagan Jindal, Yuting Liao, and Paul T. Jaeger. Another chapter Dr. Mehra co-authored with Joseph Winberry that was recently published is “The Ivory Tower’s Gray Library: Evaluating Services for Older Adult Students in Academic Libraries” in Underserved Patrons in University Libraries: Assisting Students Facing Trauma, Abuse, and Discrimination. It was edited by Julia Skinner and Melissa Gross. Dr. Mehra and Keren Dali published a chapter, “Extending the Framework for the Benefit of Praxis: A Strategic Literacy-Based Approach to Diversity Education (SLADE)” in The Information Literacy Framework: Case Studies of Successful Implementation (Association for Library and Information Science Education Book Series), edited by Heidi Julien, Melissa Gross, and Don Latham.

Dr. Jamie C. Naidoo had two publications released since December – a book chapter and a peer-reviewed article co-authored with current SLIS student Kaitlyn Lynch. The book chapter is a part of a larger work, Serving Rainbow Families in School Libraries. Dr. Naidoo’s co-authored article has been published in Bookbird: A Journal of International Children’s Literature and is titled “Global Rainbow Families: Examining Visual Depictions of Same-Sex Couples in International Picturebooks.” Their article “provides insight into how children’s books from specific countries depict physical contact between same-sex couples in picturebook illustrations and how this may influence understanding of LGBTQ+ families.” A link to this article can be found here.

Dr. Miriam Sweeney had an article published, titled “Alexa, Are You Listening? An Exploration of Smart Voice Assistant Use and Privacy in Libraries,” and can be found in the Information Technologies and Libraries journal. Co-authored with recent SLIS graduate Emma Davis (MLIS, 2020), the article explores the use of library voice assistants and the threat this technology poses to data privacy of patrons. A link to their article can be found here.

Congratulations to our faculty members!

Alumni Spotlight – December 2020

Dennis T. Clark (MLIS ’97) is joining the Library of Congress as the new chief of Research and Reference Services in early 2021. He is currently the Dean of Libraries at the University of Arkansas.

Hannah Hurdle (MLIS ’20; now working with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock) and Benjamin Steck (MLIS ’19; now working with the Library of Virginia) recently presented at the annual Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) conference that was held virtually from November 12 – December 2. Their presentation on November 20, titled “From a Distance: Video Capture Station Training for Remote Fellowships,” focused on the impact of COVID-19 and how moving image archivists work remotely. Each of the panel’s four presenters were former Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship fellows and discussed the challenges of institutions sending digital preservation equipment home with students to work remotely, as well as the challenges of setting up and troubleshooting a videotape capture station. Hurdle and Steck served as fellows during their time as MLIS students at SLIS.

Mike Selby‘s (MLIS ’13) book, Freedom Libraries: The Untold Story of Libraries for African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement, was named an Outstanding Academic Title by Choice and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). Selby’s local media covered the exciting news here.

Susan Zana (MLIS ’08) began her new role as Education Specialist for Library Media in the Instructional Services department of the Alabama State Department of Education on December 1. She had previously served as a school librarian at Vestavia Hills High School.

Faculty Spotlight – December 2020

Professor Sarah Bryant has been named a 2021-2022 Faculty Fellow of the Collaborative Arts Research Initiative (CARI). According to the press release, “These fellows will participate in a collaborative arts research community for the next two years. The CARI Faculty Fellowship aims to help fellows diversify the impact of their work and to develop new interdisciplinary research.” Learn more about CARI fellowship here.

Dr. Bharat Mehra is a featured speaker in a workshop on December 16 offered by the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs and Naseej Academy. Titled, “Webinar on Infodemic, Info-Vaccine and Libraries during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” the event also features library leaders from Kent State University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Dr. Jeff Weddle’s book Bohemian New Orleans: The Story of the Outsider and Loujon Press is being reissued in paperback. Initially published in 2007, the hard cover book was published through the University Press of Mississippi. More information on the title can be found here. Dr. Weddle also has a brand-new publication that should be available in the coming month. A poetry collection, There’s More To It Than That, is being published by Poetic Justice Books.

Student Spotlight – December 2020

Anita Delp, a current student at UA SLIS and employee of the Cecil County Public Library in Maryland, and her team were awarded Employee of the Year by the Citizens for Maryland Libraries. Additionally, Katelyn McLimans (MLIS ’18) is the Youth Services supervisor for the library! A link to the Facebook post can be found here. We are proud to have motivated and successful librarians that are #BuiltByBama.

Juliana Mestre had a paper from Dr. Elmborg’s Professional Paths class in Fall 2019 published online on November 26. Mestre’s essay critiques technology-centered makerspaces, highlighting potential drawbacks such as cost, threats to library autonomy, and “an adherence to design epistemology that overvalues the monetization of knowledge products.” The essay can be found here.

Greg Peverill-Conti, a first semester MLIS student, working with his business partner Adam Zand, have achieved non-profit status for their new initiative The Library Land Project. This achievement was featured in Library Journal here.


Alumni Feature – Amanda Jackson (MLIS ’03)

This month, SLIS alumna Amanda Jackson was interviewed as our first monthly alumni web feature. She graduated in 2003 and her area of focus was management/administration. When asked why she chose that specific area, Jackson said it was about, “knowing myself, and knowing strengths and weaknesses.” She cited her skills to manage responsibilities, as well as her power to advocate and change things. Jackson currently works as the Director of the Chesapeake Library System in Chesapeake, Virginia. They have seven branch locations and serve nearly a quarter of a million people. Some of the responsibilities she has are managing budgets, strategic planning, city management, but those change nearly every day.

It is no secret that the world is in a current state of crisis as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. When asked how COVID-19 has impacted the services her library system provides, Jackson firmly stated, “The pandemic really was the defining point where the library determined what it was going to be.” Prompted to explain further, Jackson said that the library is meant to serve the community – even calling it the heartbeat – and that the library is meant to uphold and promote democracy. Through the actions carried out by Jackson, she wanted to show the community the value of the institution. However, as an administrator, she cited the need for balance in her workplace. “Number one, I need to take care of my people. Number two, I have to identify the vitality [of the library] to the community and put value on library services.” The coronavirus made the library system ask themselves what they needed to do to remain engaged and relevant to the community. As far as specific measures, her library system started offering curbside service, a feature not uncommon with many businesses since the COVID-19 outbreak. Additionally, Jackson was keenly aware of the PPE (personal protective equipment) shortage and immediately saw an opportunity to help the community she serves. More than 4,000 masks were sewn, as well as 100 gowns for first responders with sewing machines that had been purchased for sewing classes pre-pandemic. Her staff used those machines, as well as ones brought from home, to supply the approximate 5,000 city employees of the City of Chesapeake so they could return to work safely. The libraries were also utilized as absentee and early voting sites for the presidential election. While other libraries in the area shut down, Jackson and her team saw the needs of the community they serve and have worked ferociously to meet those needs.

Amanda was asked “If you could come back to UA and take any class, what would it be and why?” Surprisingly, she said she would probably not take an LS (library science) class, but rather a business class, such as accounting or business economics. She has considered getting a second master’s in public administration or in business, as the position she has now as the Director of the Chesapeake Library System frequently calls on the skills and jargon from those areas of study. She said if she could offer one piece of advice to current or prospective students, it would be “know yourself – know your strengths. The library world is huge! Figure out what you love to do and find a space for that. Libraries are always evolving.” Jackson also said that sometimes you need to be innovative to enact changes or to make a space to do what you love. She pressed further and said she had originally never wanted to be a librarian, as her mother was one. The semester of her graduation, she was greatly second-guessing herself regarding choosing library science, but after working in the field for so long she said that she would not have chosen anything else. One of the programs that Amanda has created is through working with local jails to create a short stories program. Essentially, the inmates are recorded reading children’s stories, and those recordings are mailed to their children. Jackson said that the program has been wildly successful and made a substantial impact on the lives of the inmates and their families.

The last question that was asked of Amanda was “Which ALA Core Value most inspires the work you do?” She pondered and responded confidently, “Equity.” Jackson firmly believes that equity is a massive piece of the commitment to diversity and inclusion. She further explained that for upper- and middle-class families, the library is a different place for them but that the library is the great equalizer for all who enter through its doors. “I don’t have a vision [for the library], but my mission is to make sure there is a space for the poor mother, the young man with intellectual disabilities, and the refugee seeking asylum. It is vital to show disenfranchised individuals that they have a space where their voices can be heard.”

At SLIS, we are extremely proud to have an alumnus that represents our program so well. Congratulations on all your success Amanda, and we wish you the very best through these ever-changing times!

Note: These features, and most SLIS new items, are being written by Elizabeth Meads, MLIS student, with assistance from Dr. Yates.