Tell us a little bit about your professional background and areas of focus.
Professional practice: I spent 15 years in professional practice, including my own consulting business. My first job out of my MSLS was as Business Information Center Manager for a publishing company that published Esquire magazine; followed by six years at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), heading up an in-house consulting company that provided information professionals to work on dedicated single, long-term projects for scientists and engineers.
When I started my family, I worked part-time as the Chemistry Librarian. Having never had a chemistry class in my life, I spent time with chemists in their labs, read textbooks, and attended multiple training courses in molecular structure searching at Chemical Abstracts in Columbus. I learned lots from the chemists who loved to share their work (and letting me participate) in their experiments!
I left ORNL to head up a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract with a private company called Information International Associates, Inc. There we abstracted and indexed up to 32,000 scholarly articles per year to enter into the Department of Energy’s Energy Science & Technology Database. I also worked on contracts with the U.S. intelligence community and private business. I left to pursue my PhD.
My PhD research brought together my B.S. in Human Development (i.e., developmental psychology), my MSLS, and my PhD focus of Communications/Information Sciences with a concentration in Information Economics. I investigated the economic, social, political, and cultural impact of information and communication technologies on global development. Since then I have focused on the ways in which information changes behavior, beginning with a multi-study over several years in Uganda, to explore how they were successful in reversing the spread of HIV through behavior change. My doctoral student at the time, Dick Kawooya, is from Uganda, and we were able to secure funding and a research team on the ground in Uganda, to complete multiple studies, the last one working with the Uganda AIDS Commission. Ask me about it and I’ll tell you what we learned!
I then took what we learned and with my colleague, Dr. Karen Gavigan at the University of South Carolina, worked with incarcerated young men, ages 15-17, at the South Carolina Juvenile Justice Department to write a graphic novel about AIDS prevention specifically for African-American teens in the state which has one of the fastest growing rates of HIV increase in the U.S. The result was AIDS in the End Zone, a story of football mayhem and treachery in a South Carolina high school. It was written up in the New York Times and interviews were picked up by the press, including USA Today on their website. We tested the knowledge gains of teens, ages 15-19, and found that it had a statistically significant increase in knowledge over materials created for teens by the CDC.
In my academic career, I’ve had the opportunity to live and work in three countries: the U.S. (U. of Tennessee, U. of South Carolina), England (U. of Sheffield), and Georgia (former Soviet Union – the Georgia Institute of Public Affairs). These experiences have enriched my understanding of people; our similarities and differences. Of all my professional and academic experiences, the knowledge I’ve gained from travel is the most valuable. I strongly encourage students to pursue study or work abroad.
Describe recent projects or research that you’ve been working on.
As the recently appointed Goodyear Endowed Professor in Knowledge Management (KM), my focus is shifting to research in this area. Currently, I am working with a team of researchers across the world; our original focus was to investigate KM programs offered around the world. What we found when we started is that KM is a very fluid term and hard to define and measure. We decided to take a step back and review a large amount of KM literature and develop our own understanding of what KM is, and the criteria that exist to define and recognize it. We built a taxonomy to represent our collective understanding, which is currently being finalized. Our next step is to refine our original criteria for identifying programs in KM so that we can proceed to catalog those programs around the world. There are additional offshoots to this work that are also proceeding. This is a long-term body of research that will benefit from the efforts of many people involved in the project.
What is your favorite part of teaching?
It is very easy to say that it’s working with the students. But in order to do that well, developing a sound and interesting course is the best place to start. So while it may not be glamorous, building a good course with the students’ interests in mind is a very important part of teaching. Especially in an online environment, finding ways to convey knowledge that are both helpful and interesting is certainly a challenge!
Do you have a favorite teaching moment?
I do! It happens when a student has been struggling with a particular issue and suddenly the light bulb comes on for them and you can see or hear it in their work, in their postings, etc. That is what makes it all worthwhile.
How have your professional experiences influenced your teaching?
The best thing about having professional experience is that it allows me to give concrete examples to illustrate points for students and makes it easier for them to understand.
What issues related to information interest you most?
The answer to this changes day to day, hour by hour. Our field is both expanding (i.e., interdisciplinary), and fragmenting (going in many different directions), making it difficult to choose which direction to go. I believe students have a similar experience when trying to select their courses to take each semester, which is why having an advisor is really important. My general interest is in understanding how information is used to improve the quality of life for all people.
Are there any websites, apps, podcasts or other resources you’d recommend students explore?
This year, there is a lot of focus on the role of information and professionals in contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. See how information professionals are responding:
• asis&t Annual Meeting 2020
• IFLA: Libraries, Development and the United Nations 2030 Agenda
• EBLIDA: SDGs and Libraries – First European Report
• ALIA: Support the Sustainable Development Goals
• Libraries Aotearoa: Libraries and UN 2030 Agenda SDGs
• Informative Flights: SDGs in the Library
• 2017 Mortenson Center Associates
If you had one superpower:
Hahaha….not needing sleep!
How do you like to spend time outside of work?
During the pandemic, it’s just to get outside. Biking, walking, hiking, tennis, anything that gets me moving is how I like to spend my time.
Do you have any advice for students?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and speak your mind. If you are in the MLIS profession, you are an advocate by choice. Remember that advocating for freedom of expression and freedom of access to information are core to a democratic society and you play an important role in ensuring that freedom is preserved.
What class(es) are you teaching for Kent’s iSchool?
LIS 60030: People in the Information Ecology
KM 60304: The Information and Knowledge Economy
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Have fun while doing good work.