December Update

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[As director of the University of South Carolina School of Information and Library Science I send out a monthly update to faculty, students, alumni, and partners. This month seemed like a good time to sharing them here a well.]

It is time for a December update on the school. Today marks the end of the Fall semester, and the halfway point for my first year as director. Given the end of the year and commencement is coming pardon me if I get a bit reflective in this update.

November and December have been busy months for SLIS. Here is just a taste of what have been up to:

  • Darin Freeburg had an article accepted to the Journal of Information Science.
  • Jennifer Arns presented at the Copenhagen Business School at the Design Conference.
  • Heather Moorefield-Lang had two proposals accepted at ALA Conference. By the way she is also running for AASL region 4 director, so if you are an AASL member in Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, or West Virginia please consider supporting her.
  • Cocky’s Reading Express continues to keep rolling and is the subject of a piece for ETV’s Palmetto Scene for their work with SCE&G. Also, our own doctoral candidate Liz Hartnett will join the South Carolina Center for Children’s Books and Literacy in the new year.

This month caps off a very busy semester for SLIS. Here is list of some of the things we’ve been working on this semester:

  • Began the search for 4 new members of the faculty.
  • Prepared for our ALA Accreditation by drafting a pretty hefty program study.
  • Celebrated the 10th Anniversary ALL Awards and recognized champions for literacy in South Carolina.
  • Raised the visibility of research at SLIS highlighting our research related to the 1,000 year Columbia Flood, our international work, and posting a major presence at conferences such as IFLA.
  • Built strong collaborations with the Honors program and the Schools of Education and Engineering.
  • Made improvements to Davis College including better lighting and an upgraded teaching lab.
  • Continued to work to grow our undergraduate program and improve all of our degrees with your feedback.

Not bad for a semester. And we have no plans to slow down in the new year.

I also had a great trip to Maine for the Maine Library Association Conference in November. A shout out to our Maine alums (and current students). I learned a lot about the history of bringing the South to the North.

At the conference, I talked about how these days of fake news and an unprecedented presidential election make it an extremely important time for librarians and librarianship. You can hear the whole thing here: https://davidlankes.org/?p=9050

We have all been doing a lot of thinking about these kinds of issues as we work through our Knowledge School Initiative. Through listening sessions and site visits to iSchools it is becoming more and more apparent that it is time to move the conversation of Library and Information Science as a field forward.

For too long we have participated in a semantic game with librarianship and information science. Are they separate? Is information science the evolution of library science or the transferrable parts outside the context of libraries?

Here is where I keep finding myself: library science is the soul of information science and must act as the conscience. It is the necessary question about why we organize and how we should use our knowledge, technology, and tools. It is the quest for social justice in social science.

The knowledge school we are envisioning at SLIS – that we are building in South Carolina with our students, staff, faculty, alumni, and partners – is one grounded in great scholarship that makes a difference in society. As a scholarly community, it is our obligation to identify important issues in our communities, to investigate them, and then to make our communities better with what we find.

That is the signature we have at SLIS. I am only the latest steward of a tradition that sees the role of academia to be an engine of optimism and positive change. It is a tradition that sees illiteracy and works to bring the right of reading to all. It is the tradition that sees the importance of faith communities to community knowledge and seeks to ensure those communities get beyond echo chambers of like ideas. It is a tradition that has examined the history of our profession in social movements and seeks to keep that spirit of activism alive. We marry statistics and data science with marches on the capital. We prepare students in a classroom and on the front lines. We use busses, and YouTube, and journal articles to not only hold up a reflection to our society, but to spur action.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or simply enjoy the bright lights in the dark winter day I wish you peace, and rest, and rejuvenation. Take this time to seek out and model the best of our values. You are part of an important movement and we have need of each and every one of you in the New Year.