A Faculty of One: Navigating the Complexities of Interdisciplinary Work

“A Faculty of One: Navigating the Complexities of Interdisciplinary Work” Dominican University’s McGreal Lecture. Chicago, IL.

Abstract: A discussion of how institutional structures need to match a call for greater interdisciplinary faculty work. The case study of information science is given.

Slides: Lecture Slides
Video: https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&q=https://livestream.com/dominicanuniversity/mcgreal2016&source=gmail&ust=1473341215302000&usg=AFQjCNHlnQ_DX1x6attb8vTL0dJG93JCxw

Being Truthful, Not Neutral

[The following is a column I wrote for the College of Information & Communications eNews]

In a recent interview Christiane Amanpour of CNN challenged one of the underlying principles of both journalism and librarianship by calling upon journalists to be “truthful, not neutral.” She talked about how attempting to appear neutral can lead to the creation of false equivalencies, and it is better to be truthful, even if that appears to be taking sides. This idea of intellectual honesty is at the very core of scholarship as well. Scientists seek to apply objective methods in fields they are passionate about. It is not unusual to hear a chemist, a botanist or, indeed, an information scientist recall a story from their childhood that led them to academia and research.

These ideas are very much in the forefront of my thinking upon joining the University of South Carolina. The fact that the university is ranked as a top research institution and noted for community engagement was a major reason I chose to join the faculty. Good scholarship is instrumental in an ongoing effort to improve our communities and society as a whole. When a school, college or, indeed, a university is at its best, it provides an open and diverse platform for exploration. It is a place for undergraduates to learn and question everything. It is a place for professors to explore the reaches of the heavens and the extent of our humanity. It is a place where society can bring its thorniest problems for reflection and examination. A good university, like a good library, is a safe place to explore dangerous ideas.

This is certainly true of the College of Information and Communications. In our labs and classrooms, scholars, practitioners, staff and students all are continually learning to navigate the delicate route between a search for truth and a clarion call for action. A good librarian, a good journalist, a good information scientist are never neutral: they are principled. We prepare ourselves, our students and our communities not into an ideology, but a constant quest to do both well, and good. We prepare people for the job market, but also as citizens in a marketplace of ideas. We arm them not with ideology, but with perspective and healthy skepticism. And it is here that I must ask for your help.

I am convinced that the best learning happens in the richest information environment. Diversity is the key to both validity and social responsibility. As the new director of the School of Library and Information Science I need your help in building a diverse learning space. In the classroom and labs and the halls of Davis College the faculty and I seek to facilitate a rich tapestry of ideas and viewpoints. We need the experiences of alumni and practitioners. The faculty, staff, and students of the school need you to share your passion and your truths. A school, a college, a university, indeed every organization is a conversation. It is a series of voices seeking action and outcome, be it profit, or literacy, or valid study. In the fields of library and information science it is a conversation that started millennia ago with the first libraries in Mesopotamia and that continues today in the work of Google and the Library of Congress alike.

Be a part of that conversation. In the coming months keep an eye on the school website. We will be posting opportunities for speakers and projects. We plan on hosting get-togethers for alumni and partners across the state and the country. But you don’t have to wait to be asked. Find us in Davis College, or on the web, or social media.

Cocky Reads: Librarianship in Action

Cocky LogoAs you probably know by now, I’m headed to the University of South Carolina. I’m very much looking forward to joining the School of Library & Information Science as director. A lot of folks have asked me why South Carolina. The simple answer is the amazing staff, students, and faculty and their desire to make a difference. During my research and visits I was struck by good people doing good work to make a real difference in people’s lives. It really does represent information in action.

One very clear example of this is Cocky’s Reading Express. For the past 10 years the school has been teaming with the University of South Carolina’s athletic department to travel around the state promoting literacy. It has all the hallmarks of active community-based librarianship. Partnerships with schools and communities; going out to the community; and engaging people (kids and their parents) in learning.

There is a myth that active and innovative library service is all about technology, or only for a certain type of library institution. Cocky’s Reading Express demonstrates that good ideas grounded in the community can make a difference in a building or with a bus. Good librarianship can be about learning code or learning to read. Innovation doesn’t have to be about dollars and startups, it can be about tapping into community resources (a mascot, a place, students, community members) to make great things happen.

The program is currently looking for resources to expand and maintain the program. I am asking you to support the project and spread the word. Yes, I am asking you to support my new school, but I am asking because it is a good project that deserves attention and support.