Category: SLIS News

Artist Ben Blount’s Visit: Printing in the Present Tense

SLIS Assistant Professor Sarah Bryant and Associate Professor Miriam Sweeney hosted celebrated book artist Ben Blount over Zoom for a well-attended lecture, “Printing in the Present Tense,” on Friday, March 5. Blount is a Detroit born artist, designer and letterpress printer who loves books, type, and putting ink on paper. His work often explores questions of race and identity and the stories we tell ourselves about living in America. Ben is a believer in the power of the printed word and shares his passion for print and design speaking to students and educators around the country and as a board member of Artists Book House and Fine Press Book Association. His artists books and prints are included in prominent collections including The Newberry Library and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ben currently prints out of MAKE, his storefront studio in Evanston, IL. Learn more about Blount at his website.

SLIS Students Shine at Discerning Diverse Voices Symposium – March 3, 2021

This week was the annual Discerning Diverse Voices Symposium (DDVS) on Diversity hosted by the University of Alabama College of Communication & Information Sciences. Created to harbor and promote diversity and inclusion, it is meant to serve as a forum for the sharing of ideas from researchers, faculty, staff, alumni, student, and diversity thought leaders from around the country. Now in its 12th year, the DDVS featured several students, alumni, and faculty members from UA SLIS. Dr. Miriam Sweeney served on the DDVS organizing committee this year. Both Dr. Sweeney and Dr. Bharat Mehra served as moderators for sessions throughout the conference.

One group of students were featured on a panel at DDVS. Current SLIS students Alyx Kim-Yohn, Dolores Peralta, Greg Peverill-Conti, and Lauren Tubbs-Ezell were panelists in a discussion titled “Libraries Today and Tomorrow: Graduate Student Perspective Conversations with MLIS Graduate Students on Issues of EDI [Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion].” They discussed essential EDI issues in the field of librarianship that the next generation of library professionals must actively address to meet the needs of the diverse communities they will serve as professionals.

Photo 1 Current SLIS students Alyx Kim-Yohn, Dolores Peralta, Greg Peverill-Conti, and Lauren Tubbs-Ezell in a Zoom Panel meeting, moderated by SLIS faculty member Dr. Miriam Sweeney.

Many other SLIS students had solo presentations. Emily Reynolds presented in two sessions, a paper presentation titled “Perspective Shift: Women’s Photographic Records as Archival Objects” and a Research-In-Brief session, with her section titled “Records of Society, Records of Self: Queer Women’s Photography in the Archive.” Several other papers were presented by students during the DDVS, including Meaghan Cash (“Archival Diaspora and its Effects on Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific Northwest”), Erin Brooks (“Symbolic Annihilation of Minorities in Library and Information Sciences”), and Kaitlyn Lynch (“Public Libraries as Safe Spaces: Digital Activism of Alabama Public Libraries During the Black Lives Matter Protests of 2020”). Recent graduate Juliana Mestre (MLIS, 2020) also presented a paper at DDVS, titled “A September Attack: LIS and the Fight Over Critical Race Theory.”

Photo 2 A screen-capture of Emily Reynolds’ presentation “Records of Society, Records of Self: Queer Women’s Photography in the Archive.”


We applaud these students, alumni, and faculty members for their demonstrated commitment to issues and conversations centered on diversity, equity, and inclusion!

Alumni Feature – Jennifer Powell (MLIS ’15)

Jennifer Powell, MLIS '15

This month, SLIS alumna Jennifer Powell was interviewed for our alumni web feature. She graduated in May 2015 with an MLIS and certificate in School Library Media. Currently, she works as the school librarian for Tarrant High School, located in Tarrant, Alabama. Jennifer serves students in grades 7-12, and says she has a lot of roles and responsibilities in her work. “I manage my library collection, but also handle all building technology. I’m … very involved in classroom curriculum and work in close collaboration with my teachers to provide students with resources, integrate technology, and design units of learning.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has left no facet of life untouched, especially those working in institutions of education. Powell elaborated immensely on how drastically the virus has impacted her work as a school librarian. All her collaboration with classes in-person was nixed entirely. “I normally do many hands-on lessons in the library that, because of COVID restrictions, I was not able to do this year,” Jennifer explained. But she has seen this obstacle as a challenge to her abilities as a school librarian. “[COVID-19] has forced me to be more creative with how I still promote the library and stay involved with classroom learning.” She elaborated on using the new class management system, Schoology, to create an online library group to promote new books and resources, as well as other pertinent information to students and teachers. Powell has also made video recordings of herself teaching essential researching skills so teachers can still “have her in class” without physically being in the classroom.

At the beginning of the academic year, Jennifer’s school was completely virtual, or remote learning based. She implemented a curbside pickup service at her school, and also offered book delivery service to other locations around the city. “I wanted to make sure my students had access to books, and since the public library was closed, I created a system that best served my kids. COVID has definitely forced me to stretch my creativity, but in a good way.”

Jennifer was asked “If you could come back to UA and take any class, what would it be and why?” She responded, “The obvious answer for me is cataloging. Even though a majority of library software imports MARC records already created, there are some definite ins and outs of cataloging that I wish I would have been formally taught – I really like to know the rules before I start breaking them!

Her advice for current and prospective students can be found in a blog post she made last year, titled “Things They Don’t Teach You in Library School (but they probably should have).” The blog provides some insight about what unexpected challenges Jennifer experienced when she started as a school librarian. However, she also went on to say in the interview that students should “remain student-centered and be their champion. Spend time getting to know your students. Learn what their perceptions of the library are when you walk in the door, on your first day. Ask them what they need the library to be. And then create that space for them.  Advocate for them, always. Focusing on student needs will help you with collection development AND with establishing collaborative relationships with teachers.” She also highlighted the importance of Twitter, even for those who don’t tweet anything. “There are so many fantastic librarians and educators and authors who share ideas and books and programs.” Jennifer has asked us to share her twitter handle in hopes of connecting with other MLIS students. You can add her @Ace_Librarian7.

The American Library Association (ALA) Core Value that most inspires the work Jennifer does is Diversity and Inclusion. She had a lot to say about how having this tenet at the forefront of her decision making has drastically impacted what kind of work she does and how she does it. “From day one of my professional career, I have been an advocate for diverse books. I have spent the last couple of years presenting at conferences and leading professional development about the importance of diversifying your library shelves. I read diverse books, I celebrate diverse books, and I share diverse books. Why? Because every child deserves to see themselves represented on the library’s shelves. And it shouldn’t just be one book – they should be able to see themselves in MANY books on your library shelves. Diversifying your collection takes work, and it takes intention. But students deserve a librarian who is willing to put in that work.”

We appreciate Jennifer taking the time to talk about her journey beyond UA SLIS and we are thrilled to have an alumna that represents our program with class and an attitude of advocacy. We also celebrate her recent recognition as a Volunteer of the Year for the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association!

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.