Ehsan Mohammadi with students

Happy New Year, The SLIS Mission Continues

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Happy New Year. It is a time many take stock and resolve new actions for the coming year. This is particularly true for SLIS. In my Thanksgiving message, I talked about some of the great work and achievements of SLIS over the past year. For the new year I’d like to talk about resolve, and moving ahead.

Many see a school as a sort of repetitive machine that offers classes, graduates students, and then starts again. SLIS is not such a machine. SLIS is on a mission. We seek to improve the world one community at a time. To a group of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and partners on a mission a new year is a time not to dwell on the past or seek to tinker with a process – it is a time to rededicate ourselves to our endeavor.

We improve communities in our classrooms preparing a missionary force of librarians, information scientists, and scholars that will go out into society and help businesses, towns, government, and more make smarter, more knowledgeable decisions. We do this in our offices, centers, and studies seeking to understand how the world operates and improves. We do this through our literacy efforts bringing the power of reading to our most vulnerable citizens – children. We do this in talks and papers and lectures and videos and books.

Being on a mission is hard work. It takes constant effort to seek out the new and better. It takes work to face down the problems of the world and seek solution. It is a hard choice we make. Librarians see our communities struggle and yet must still see the hope in their aspirations. Our information scientist must constantly weigh what is technically possible with the costs of preserving privacy, security, and our ethics. Scholars must seek the truth in a world too ready to dismiss expertise for self-interest. And yet we must continue to do so. We have a mission.

The mission needs all of you. In the weeks and months ahead you will hear a steady stream of calls for help and unity.

You will hear about a new Library Scholar program we are beginning with the Charleston County School District. SLIS is partnering with the Charleston schools to prepare a cohort of school library leaders focused on Charleston’s school libraries, but connected internationally. We hope that Charleston Library Scholars will be joined with cohorts from other school districts, public libraries, and other institutions across the state and nation.

You will hear about a process to examine our LIS curriculum. Librarianship is a living and vibrant profession. It serves communities in constant flux. Our curriculum must continue to be dynamic and rigorous. We will be reaching out in the coming months to alumni, students, and our partners to ensure a responsive and innovative program. We seek to marry theory and practice in a true learning laboratory.

You will hear about an effort to restructure our National Advisory Board. While all of you are encouraged to share your thoughts and ideas, the NAC has served a vital formal role in the school. At the urging of the NAC we are going to set up a more structured and powerful advisory system.

You will hear about a new mentoring program for our library students. Our Diversity Leadership Group has already begun this work, but it needs all of our involvement. We will connect incoming students with our school, public, academic, medical, and special librarians as well as creating deeper connections into archives and cultural heritage.

You will hear about a growing undergraduate program. Built on the foundations of our library program, the undergraduate degree expands our footprint on campus, provides resources to the entire school, and prepares the CIOs, the mayors, the provosts, and professionals that in turn support our librarians. In a year the program has doubled, and this year we will be expanding the minor in information science to explore emerging opportunities in the Information Age such as data science, social networking, and the implications of large scale algorithms.

And yes, you will hear about calls for support. Your generous contributions support scholarships, help develop new scholars, and bring much needed service to needy schools.

So, here’s to a happy new year. Here’s to an ongoing conversation that we call a school. Here’s to a mission that can sustain us in good times and bad. This year and the years ahead will see new faces join the mission, and familiar colleagues take the mission to new communities. That is how it should be. The mission is larger than any one of us.

Today we celebrate, remember, evaluate, and rest. Tomorrow? Well, we have a world to save…one community at a time.