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Humanists Win Major Grant to Explore the Future of the Historical Record

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 14:54:45 +0000

press release courtesy of Illinois Program for Research in the HumanitiesThe Humanities Without Walls Consortium, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, fosters interdisciplinary, collaborative research, teaching, and scholarship in the humanities, sponsoring new areas of inquiry that cannot be created or maintained without cross-institutional cooperation. On December 14, the Consortium announced the results of its latest research challenge initiative, "The Work of the Humanities in a Changing Climate." It awarded one of these grants—a multi-year investment of $138,360—to a team of humanists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Michigan State University, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The award will support their multi-year research project, titled "The Classroom and the Future of the Historical Record."  This project will investigate recent, profound shifts in how the sources of our knowledge about the past are made. Mobile digital technologies have allowed documentation to become an ubiquitous practice that extends far beyond traditional memory institutions such as libraries and scholarly presses. The Internet is not an archive in a professional sense, but it is filled with a vast panoply of artifacts—images, sounds, films, texts, and data—digitized by people around the world, from originals of their own choosing. Many of these sources can be difficult to interpret or cite, however. Digitization often results in radical de-contextualization, with provenance and proof of authenticity being lost along the way. Much of this new historical record is being built on proprietary platforms provided by IT corporations (Facebook, Twitter). Their primary aim is to commercialize private data, rather than to preserve and sustain knowledge of the past as a common good. Over the course of the three years of the study, students, faculty, and staff from the three participating universities will explore how higher education should respond to this shifting environment for the production of history. They will develop education-based practices for documentary and data literacy work in the 21st century, and partner with students to create better models for producing, preserving, and publishing the past.  At Michigan State University, Sharon Leon and Brandon Locke from the Lab for the Education and Advancement in Digital Research will develop a curriculum to teach students how to produce and analyze historical data. At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Patrick Jones, William G. Thomas, and Aaron Johnson will work with K-12 teachers to bring their innovative digitization project "History Harvest" to Nebraska public schools. Scholars at Illinois, including iSchool Associate Professor Bonnie Mak, Kathryn J. Oberdeck, Daniel Gilbert, and John Randolph (Principal Investigator), will build a curriculum that works across the entire life cycle of sources, from their initial identification, to their preservation and publication, to their use within education, research, and public history. Humanities Without Walls funds will be used to support the work of graduate and undergraduate students on the project. In particular, graduate students will be made lead researchers on the project, as part of a special Graduate Laboratory Practicum. Working as a cohort, they will collaborate across institutions to develop documentary applications, skills, and practices that they can carry over into their post-graduate careers, in a range of fields. Over the course of the project, these funds will also allow the team to convene for workshops where they can discuss the results of their local experiments and prepare for joint presentations of their ideas. The group intends, as well, to share its applications and model curricula through journal publications and open educational resources. [...]



Bulletin announces 2017 Blue Ribbon winners

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 14:14:35 +0000

The staff at The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (BCCB) has announced the 2017 Blue Ribbons, their choices for the best of children's and young adult literature for the year. Blue Ribbons are chosen annually by BCCB reviewers and represent what they believe to be outstanding examples of fiction, nonfiction, and picture books for youth.

Thirty-two titles received Blue Ribbons for 2017, and the full list is available on the BCCB website. "The Blue Ribbons are a testimony not only to the literature's quality but to its breadth," said Editor Deborah Stevenson. "We've got a heartbreaking novel inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement; a compelling poetry collection built on a dialogue with poets of the Harlem Renaissance; sophisticated nonfiction presenting Vincent Van Gogh in a way never seen before; and a gentle picture book presenting a long family car trip in the rain."

Founded in 1945, the BCCB is one of the nation's leading children's book review journals for school and public librarians.




Get to know Miguel Ruiz (MS '13), Latino engagement librarian

Tue, 09 Jan 2018 13:59:27 +0000

Evanston, Illinois, has a growing Latino population—over 10% according to 2015 figures. Building connections with the Latino community served by the Evanston Public Library is what Miguel Ruiz likes best about his job. Where do you work and what is your role? As the Latino engagement librarian, I connect with our Latino community in order to develop relevant resources and services. It’s truly an amazing role that fits my skill sets and interests exceedingly well. Previously, I was the e-learning librarian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I managed the library system’s online instructional design and information literacy portfolio.  What do you like best about your job? I truly enjoy connecting directly with our residents throughout the community. I spend a lot of time outside of the library learning about their lives, interests, values, and families, which makes me feel connected to our community both personally and professionally. My position provides the flexibility to dive in and learn about the authentic needs of our community in order to set the library as a community leader and expert.  Why did you decide to pursue a degree in LIS? I am privileged and fortunate to have had incredible mentors throughout my life. I started as a shelver at my hometown library, the DeKalb Public Library, at the age of 16. The director at the time was incredibly insightful and helped me understand librarianship as a profession. I had similarly encouraging and supportive mentors at the University of Illinois as an undergraduate student, where I worked at the Undergraduate Library. These experiences, along with internships and informational interviews throughout my undergraduate career, solidified my interest in the profession.   How did the iSchool help you get to where you are today? The School and University provided access to numerous opportunities in the form of internships, professional development opportunities, graduate assistantships, an extensive alumni network, and great professors. I received theoretical and practical experiences through my coursework (a special shoutout to Dr. Nicole Cooke and Dr. Robert Burger) that I transferred directly to work experience in the form of a graduate assistantship at The Career Center Library.  The iSchool's career advisors, in tandem with its alumni network, connected me to meaningful opportunities, which helped me land my first professional job after graduation.   What advice would you like to share with iSchool students? I strongly urge all students to seek volunteer opportunities, practicums, graduate assistantships, and/or other work experiences related to information science that complement their coursework. On that note, students should find ways to connect their coursework (projects, assignments, or the literature) to their work outside of the classroom. These are the type of experiences that not only engage students deeper in their understanding of the coursework and their development as a future information professional but are also key additions to their portfolio that they will be able to build on for years to come, especially as they pursue job opportunities and promotions.   What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? I enjoy running and biking along the Chicago Lakeshore. As a designer in a previous life, I also enjoy spending time developing my amateur photography and graphic design skills. During the week you'll find me listening to podcasts on my commute to work, or hitting the arcade for my skee ball league. During the weekends, you’ll likely catch me enjoying a cold craft beer in a beer garden or catching a local festival. Chicago winters mean lots of Netflix and catching up on my favorite books—narrative non-fiction and post-apocalyptic novels.  [...]



Schneider receives NIH funding for biomedical informatics research

Thu, 04 Jan 2018 15:00:00 +0000

Assistant Professor Jodi Schneider (MS ’08) has received funding from the National Institutes of Health to develop a series of automated informatics tools for reviewing medical literature more quickly and easily. The project, “Text Mining Pipeline to Accelerate Systematic Reviews in Evidence-Based Medicine,” was funded through a subaward from the University of Illinois at Chicago that will cover $228,006 in direct costs. Schneider is co-principal investigator with Neil Smalheiser, associate professor of psychiatry at UIC, and Aaron Cohen, a professor in the Oregon Health & Science University’s Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology.

The team is currently testing three informatics tools: a meta-search engine for finding articles in medical literatures across different databases; an automated randomized control trial (RCT) tagger for identifying human randomized controlled clinical trial articles; and an aggregator tool that clusters together RCT articles predicted to arise from the same underlying clinical trial.

"Our evaluation work will help improve tool development and find new directions for it," said Schneider. "In the long-run, this work could help automate the process of conducting systematic reviews, perhaps not only maintaining but also even improving their quality."

Schneider studies scholarly communication and social media through the lens of arguments, evidence, and persuasion. She is developing linked data (ontologies, metadata, Semantic Web) approaches to manage scientific evidence. She holds a PhD in informatics from the National University of Ireland, Galway. Prior to joining the iSchool in 2016, Schneider served as a postdoctoral scholar at the National Library of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, and INRIA, the national French Computer Science Research Institute. She recently received an XSEDE start-up award for her research in biomedical informatics.




iSchool alumna named director of education for SAA

Wed, 20 Dec 2017 14:08:26 +0000

(image) Rana Hutchinson Salzmann (MS '05) has been appointed director of education for the Society of American Archivists (SAA), effective January 2, 2018. She will be responsible for the design, development, marketing, implementation, and evaluation of SAA’s continuing education offerings and resources for archivists and other related professionals.

"Rana brings to her new position many talents and an eclectic background as an education specialist, interdisciplinary technologist, and project manager," said SAA Executive Director Nancy Beaumont.

Previously, Salzmann served as director of library and information technology at Meadville Lombard Theological School, where she led library, archives, and technology initiatives for a hybrid, distance-learning graduate program that trains students to become community leaders and social justice activists. In January 2016, she served as project manager for the inaugural livestreaming of the school's signature event.

In addition, Salzmann worked for almost six years with the American Planning Association in a variety of interdepartmental roles to devise training tools, curricula, and publications for member planners. She worked with subject matter experts and vendors to create continuing education webcasts, conference programming, and special events to meet members’ in-person and distance-learning credentialing needs. Among her achievements there, she developed the association’s first streaming media continuing education lecture, its first unconference, and its first résumé clinic. 

Salzmann has also worked as head of reference and electronic services for the Brookfield (IL) Public Library and has taught composition for first-year college students in the Chicago area. 

Founded in 1936, the Society of American Archivists is North America's oldest and largest national archives professional association. SAA's mission is to serve the educational and informational needs of more than 6,200 individual and institutional members and to provide leadership to ensure the identification, preservation, and use of records of historical value.




Wickes elected to Carpentries executive council

Mon, 18 Dec 2017 16:05:38 +0000

iSchool Lecturer Elizabeth Wickes (MS '16) has been elected to the 2018 Executive Council for the Carpentries, the first joint steering committee for the merged organizations of Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry. The Carpentries is a volunteer community of instructors, more than one thousand worldwide, teaching scientists basic lab skills for research computing. 

Since completing her instructor certification in 2015, Wickes has served as an instructor for local workshops and was the lead instructor at several digital humanities workshops that utilized Carpentries materials. In addition, she has adapted several of the core Software Carpentry lessons for use in her own classes.

"The local Carpentries community at the University of Illinois has grown over the previous two years," said Wickes, "allowing my role to shift from instructing two to three times a semester to being a mentor to new instructors and focusing my instruction efforts on instruction training events, both remote and local. As a board member, my goals are to represent non-STEM domains, work with the assessment group to understand what we are doing well and where we are needed most, and help the joint mission of Software and Data Carpentry find its voice as a merged group."

Wickes joined the iSchool in June 2017. Her experience includes work as a data curation specialist for the University of Illinois Library and as a project coordinator, data curator, and curation manager with WolframAlpha in Champaign. Since 2013, she has served as co-organizer of the Champaign-Urbana Python User Group. 




New curriculum will equip students when faced with ethical dilemmas in cybersecurity

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 14:06:57 +0000

Whether you're a cybersecurity student, researcher, or professional, you are likely to confront difficult ethical dilemmas that can have significant implications. Equipped with skills like malware knowledge and hacking techniques, those in the field of cybersecurity have inside knowledge that can be powerful and potentially dangerous. There is a growing need to tether this power to an awareness of the complex web of potential consequences, critical ethical reasoning skills, and perhaps most importantly, a sense of social responsibility to ensure this power is used for the greater good.

To better prepare cybersecurity students to manage the heavy burden of responsibility that comes with access to information and technological skills, University of Illinois researchers, including iSchool Assistant Professor Masooda Bashir, are working to develop an academic curriculum focused specifically on cybersecurity ethics. A key goal is to get students to think through ethical challenges inherent in cybersecurity at the same time as they are developing technological skills.

The Illinois researchers received a $277,000 grant from the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense, which is interested in developing innovative approaches to cybersecurity education. In addition to Bashir, who is co-principal investigator on the grant, the team includes Jane Blanken-Webb, postdoctoral research associate in the Information Trust Institute, and Roy Campbell, computer science professor and associate dean for information technology. They are working with Nicholas Burbules, education professor and education director and principal investigator at the National Center for Professional and Research Ethics.

The team plans to launch a class in 2018 that primarily will consist of case studies based on cybersecurity topics, such as misinformation, professional versus societal obligations, privacy versus security, and implications of big data. Some of the case studies will be hypothetical, but the researchers are also pulling from actual events and are working with the community, professionals in the field, and an advisory committee to develop realistic and challenging scenarios.

In the future, the entire curriculum will be adapted for community colleges, graduate colleges, or as continuing education for those currently working in the field. 




Hoiem awarded NEH Fellowship

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 15:06:04 +0000

Assistant Professor Elizabeth Massa Hoiem is one of six Illinois faculty members who have been awarded National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships for 2018. It is the third year in the last four that the Urbana campus has garnered more fellowship awards than any other single institution.

In addition to Hoiem, fellowship recipients include Donna Buchanan, a professor of music; Candice Jenkins, a professor of English; Paul Kapp, a professor of architecture; D. Fairchild Ruggles, a professor of landscape architecture; and Craig Williams, a professor of classics.

"Congratulations to our NEH Fellowship recipients. It is gratifying to see these exceptional scholars recognized for their academic achievements," said Chancellor Robert J. Jones. "These prestigious fellowships are highly competitive, and for Illinois to have six faculty members named NEH fellows this year indicates the excellence of the scholarship in humanities on our campus."

The U. of I. fellowships were among $12.8 million in grants awarded by the NEH for 253 humanities projects across the nation. The fellowship program supports advanced research in the humanities, and the recipients produce articles, books, digital materials, or other scholarly resources.

The NEH has received an average of 1,178 applications per year for fellowships in the last five rounds of competition, according to the NEH website. Over that time, it awarded an average of 80 fellowships per year for a funding rate of 7 percent, making the fellowships among the most competitive humanities awards in the country.

Hoiem received the fellowship for her book project, "The Education of Things: Mechanical Literacy in British Culture, 1752-1860." Using children's literature and material culture, this book investigates ways that children learned directly from the physical world through object learning or "the education of things." This mode of learning promised to develop what Hoiem calls mechanical literacy, a fusion of reading and writing with manual tinkering and scientific observation that was mythologized during the industrial era as indispensable for social advancement. She argues that learning-by-doing also blurred boundaries between educational play and work, and thus offered an empowering pedagogy for affluent children while justifying child labor as educational.

Hoiem teaches in the areas of reading and literacy, history of children's literature, and fantasy literature. In her research and teaching, she explores the history of technological innovations in children's literature—from early children's books and toys to contemporary applications of digital pedagogy—analyzing lesser materials discovered through archival research. In addition to her book project, she is currently investigating how information is organized in nineteenth-century children's nonfiction according to children's cognitive development and spatial orientation, as well as how children's nonfiction addresses ethical questions about who makes things, under what conditions, and for whom. Hoiem holds a PhD in English from Illinois.

The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent federal agency, and one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States.




Get to Know Amanda Weber, MS student

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 19:08:40 +0000

(image) Last month, first-year master's student Amanda Weber presented her research at the Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL). During FIL's International Librarian's Colloquium, she talked about the power of bilingual children's literature and how it plays a role in identity formation and affirmation. Weber had researched and written about the topic for her undergraduate thesis at DePauw University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Spanish. "When picture books are culturally and linguistically appropriate, accurate, and affirming, they represent children's realities and inspire them to discover, create, and celebrate their identities," she said. It was this interest in children's literacy that led her to the iSchool.

Why did you decide to pursue an LIS degree?

I am passionate about literacy and education, and an LIS degree will allow me to use my diverse interests and talents in order to serve people and help them find their voice and write their own story.
 
Why did you choose the iSchool at Illinois?

I chose the iSchool at Illinois because I felt comfortable here, and it allowed me flexibility with classes so that I could explore what interested me.
 
What particular LIS topics interest you the most?

Generally, I am interested in youth services as well as serving the Spanish speaking population. I'm in my first semester, so I haven't really had a chance to delve deeply into topics yet.
 
What do you do outside of class?

I work at Facilities and Services in the Information Resources Department, and this semester I am also the graduate assistant (GA) for the Less Commonly Taught Languages program. Next semester, I will be the School Collection GA for the Social Sciences, Health, and Education Library. When I'm not working or doing homework, I like to read, run, and talk to my best friend.
 
What career plans or goals do you have?
 
I don’t have any concrete plans yet, but I want to be able to use the knowledge I learn here at the iSchool to help connect people to their libraries and provide a place for them to learn and grow. 




Alumni receive Up and Comer Awards

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 20:15:16 +0000

Four iSchool alumni have received the Up and Comer Award from ATG Media. Sarah E. Crissinger (MS '15), Hailley Fargo (MS '16), Maoria Kirker (MS '11), and Katrina Spencer (MS '16) are among the twenty individuals who were selected for the award, which is intended for early-career librarians and information professionals.

ATG Media is the umbrella group that includes the Charleston Conference, Against the Grain, and a new series of short, open access ebooks titled "Charleston Briefings: Trending Topics for Information Professionals." The 2017 Up and Comers will be profiled in the December/January issue of Against the Grain and featured in a series of scheduled podcast interviews that will be posted on ATGthePodcast.com




iSchool experiences record enrollment

Thu, 07 Dec 2017 14:02:04 +0000

Enrollment at the iSchool has risen to record levels, due to unprecedented growth in the master's programs. Almost 650 applications were received for the Fall 2017 semester in the master's in library and information science (MS/LIS) and master's in information management (MS/IM) programs. Enrollment in these programs currently accounts for 686 of the School's total student enrollment of 746.   "This growth can be attributed in part to a coordinated effort by the recruitment and admissions team to boost acceptances among admitted students, including an email campaign connecting current students to admitted students," said to Moises Orozco Villicana, director of enrollment management. "Our School is poised to build off this record-setting enrollment by expanding on-campus, off-campus, and virtual recruitment efforts. We also plan to implement new and innovative ways to engage with prospective students beyond graduate school fairs." Among the new efforts implemented by the recruitment and admissions team was Admitted Student Visit Day in March. The attendees included Tom Kuipers, Sharon Han, and Vicki Pietrus, who are now first-year MS/LIS students at the iSchool. Kuipers earned his BA in history and sociology and MA in history, both from Purdue University. He chose the iSchool for its top ranking, alumni network, and funding opportunities as well as the University's proximity to his family. "My experience thus far has been great. The course list is exceptional, my classes are interesting, and my cohort is bright, eager, and very motivated to learn and participate," said Kuipers, who also is enjoying the Urbana-Champaign community. "There are lots of cool little shops, interesting events, and a wonderful variety of restaurants." He hopes to find employment in an academic library or archives and eventually work in library administration. Han graduated from Washington University in 2016 with her BA in archaeology and minors in art history and earth science. She worked as a student shelver at her university's library and held an internship with the Saint Louis Science Center, where she helped create educational programs. Those experiences influenced her decision to pursue an MS/LIS with a focus in public librarianship and youth services. "Visiting during Admitted Students Day solidified my decision because I learned about the many assistantship opportunities and also met great staff and other prospective students," said Han. "I have really enjoyed my time so far, including all the great lectures, talks, and information sessions. My classes are engaging, and it’s clear that the professors really care about their work and teaching the next generation of librarians. I am especially thankful for all the great conversations with my peers. Everyone has their own story to share, and I am excited to listen and learn." Pietrus earned a BA in English in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was a classroom teacher for eight years before making the decision to become a K-12 librarian, which she is pursuing through the MS/LIS program. "I was so impressed with how organized and plentiful the graduate assistant opportunities were at the iSchool," said Pietrus, who currently is a graduate assistant at University Laboratory High School in Urbana. "No other school provided nearly the same amount of opportunities to get my degree funded. Furthermore, this program had a very real feel of community, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it." Describing her work at Uni High as "my dream come true," Pietrus also plans to complete a practicum in a public library youth services department to see if that might be a good fit as well. [...]



Alumni selected as ALA Emerging Leaders

Tue, 05 Dec 2017 15:34:52 +0000

Six iSchool alumni have been selected by the American Library Association (ALA) to participate in its 2018 class of Emerging Leaders.

Jessica Colbert (MS '17), Aisha Conner-Gaten (MS '13), Tracy Drake (MS '15), Hailley Fargo (MS '16), Brittany Fiedler (MS '17), and Yan Liu (MS '14) are included in this year's class of fifty individuals from across the country. This leadership development initiative provides opportunities for newer library professionals to participate in problem-solving work groups, network with peers, observe ALA structure, and serve the profession in a leadership capacity.

The Emerging Leaders program will launch with events at the 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Denver, which will be followed by six months of online learning and networking activities. At the end of the program, participants will display the results of their project planning work in a poster session at the 2018 ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans.




Blake named 2017-2018 Centennial Scholar

Thu, 30 Nov 2017 19:43:15 +0000

Associate Professor Catherine Blake has been named the iSchool's Centennial Scholar for 2017-2018. The award is endowed by alumni and friends of the School and given in recognition of outstanding accomplishments and/or professional promise in information sciences.

A leading researcher in text mining medical literature, Blake has returned from a year as a faculty fellow at the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications, a research and development unit of the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). There she worked on projects in semantic knowledge representation and medical ontology research.

Blake's earlier focus on how people synthesize evidence from literature directly informs her computational approaches to accelerate scientific discovery. She utilizes her industrial experience as a software developer, formal training in information and computer science, and more than a decade of experience in text mining scientific articles in medicine, toxicology, and epidemiology. Her work has been published in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology,  the Journal of Biomedical Informatics, Environmental Health Perspectives, and elsewhere. She has also published three book chapters.

Blake is co-principal investigator on a project funded by the National Science Foundation that uses next-generation risk assessment tools to explore how the culture of an organization affects the likelihood of a disaster. She recently completed a project that analyzed data reuse at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

"I am deeply grateful to receive this award, and the timing rounds out a wonderful year while I was on sabbatical at NIH. I am very much looking forward to integrating that experience back into the iSchool and the information science research community," said Blake, who also holds affiliate appointments in the Departments of Computer Science and Medical Information Science at Illinois.

"We are delighted to recognize Cathy's work with the Centennial Scholar award," said Dean Allen Renear. "She has been pioneering new approaches to better integrate and advance our understanding of medical research results. This is enormously important work, and we are excited about both the results so far and the prospects ahead. We are also, of course, very pleased to have her back with us!"

At the iSchool, Blake serves as associate director of the Center for Informatics Research in Science and Scholarship, which studies the information lifecycle in the contexts of science and scholarship. She teaches text mining, an introductory course on databases, evidence-based discovery, and foundations of socio-technical data analytics. She also designed the School's graduate specialization in Socio-technical Data Analytics (SODA), which was funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and formed the basis of the data analytics track in the new MS in information management. 

Prior to joining the iSchool in 2009, Blake was an assistant professor in the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She holds an MS and PhD in information and computer science from the University of California, Irvine, and a BS and MS in computer science from the University of Wollongong, Australia.




Alumna teaches in Botswana as Fulbright Scholar

Tue, 28 Nov 2017 14:16:08 +0000

(image) Julie Edwards (MS '05) fell in love with Botswana in 2015 when she helped plan a conference there for the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Reference and Information Section. As soon as her conference ended, she vowed that one day she would return. She is now back in Botswana as a Fulbright Scholar for the 2017-2018 academic year.

At the University of Botswana (UB), she is teaching two courses—Understanding the User (LIS 304/LIM 300) and Information and Society (LIS 211)—working with master's students, and collaborating with library colleagues on continuing education workshops.

"I have big classes full of wonderful students, and I enjoy working with them tremendously. In addition, all of my colleagues here have been so supportive, both professionally and personally, in helping me feel welcome and part of the community at UB," Edwards said. 

Next semester she will teach a special topics class based on her book, Transforming Libraries, Building Communities: The Community Centered Library, which she coauthored with Melissa S. Robinson and Kelley Rae Unger.

Her interest in public libraries and community engagement led Edwards to enroll in the iSchool as a Leep student in 2003.

"After I graduated with my master's degree in English literature, I was working in a small library in central Wyoming. It really hit me one day how closely librarianship was related to social justice work, and I loved that. I realized that there was so much potential to work with communities on issues that are important to them, and I wanted to be a part of that," Edwards explained.

She is making the most of her time in Botswana, both inside and outside of the classroom. She and her husband love to look for wildlife and explore the countryside. In the upcoming months, she hopes to get out and work with librarians in their communities.

According to Edwards, "I've never been busier, happier, or more fulfilled in my professional work as an academic librarian–I think that says it all!"




2017 Downs Intellectual Freedom Award given to the Kansas City Public Library

Mon, 27 Nov 2017 14:50:32 +0000

The Kansas City Public Library's defense of the First Amendment has earned it the 2017 Downs Intellectual Freedom Award. The award is given annually by the faculty of the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and cosponsored by Libraries Unlimited. On May 9, 2016, the Kansas City Public Library (KCPL), in cooperation with the Truman Library Institute and the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City, hosted a talk by Dennis Ross, a former advisor on the Middle East to Presidents George H. W. Bush and Barack Obama and currently a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. During the question-and-answer period, library patron Jeremy Rothe-Kushel asked about U.S. support for what he called Israel's "state-sponsored terrorism." After Ross responded, Rothe-Kushel attempted to follow up and was grabbed by a private security guard, followed by an off-duty police officer, both of whom had been hired by the Jewish Community Foundation. Steve Woolfolk, KCPL's director of programming, intervened, noting that discourse is accepted and encouraged at a public event held in a public library. He was physically injured by the officers and arrested. R. Crosby Kemper III, KCPL executive director, said the private security guard was not acting on behalf of the library and had no right to remove a patron for asking a question. When the charges against Woolfolk were not dropped, KCPL went public with the incident. In September 2017, a municipal court judge found Woolfolk not guilty on all charges. Woolfolk has been lauded for his actions by the American Library Association (ALA), Urban Libraries Council, and Missouri Library Association. He was awarded the 2017 Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity, established by the best-selling author and the ALA to recognize individuals who have "faced adversity with integrity and dignity intact." In addition, the KCPL received ALA’s 2017 Paul Howard Award for Courage, given biannually for “unusual courage for the benefit of library programs or services.” According to nominator Kate Williams, associate professor at the iSchool, "Giving the Downs Award to the Kansas City Public Library, especially these librarians, will help educate many people nationwide and beyond as to the special roles of the public library, the police, and private security forces in a democratic society, and the boundaries we all navigate to protect free speech and intellectual freedom." A reception to honor the KCPL will take place during the Midwinter Meeting of the ALA in Denver, Colorado, on Saturday, February 10, 2018, from 5:30-7:00 p.m. in Ellingwood Rooms A and B at the Crowne Plaza Downtown Denver. Libraries Unlimited provides an honorarium for the recipient and cosponsors the reception. The Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award is presented annually to acknowledge individuals or groups who have furthered the cause of intellectual freedom, particularly as it affects libraries and information centers and the dissemination of ideas. Granted to those who have resisted censorship or efforts to abridge the freedom of individuals to read or view materials of their choice, the award may be given in recognition of a particular action or long-term interest in, and dedication to, the cause of intellectual freedom. The award was established in 1969 by the iSchool's faculty to honor Robert Downs, a champion of intellectual freedom, on his twenty-fifth anniversary as director of the School. With Libraries Unlimited, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, assuming cosponsorship of the award in 2012, ABC-CLIO has been dedicated to supporting the Downs Aw[...]