Mary Anne Nichols, M.L.S. – Faculty Spotlight

Tell us a little bit about your professional background and areas of focus.

When I look back, I have spent two-thirds of my life in library services! I began shelving books as a high school student. It was a great environment, so when I was in college and a paraprofessional job became available, I couldn’t resist. We had a rather spirited staff and I eventually met the man who would become my husband there. I received a fellowship to earn my MLS at Kent State so I took a year off and completed the program. I was then hired as a youth services librarian, but teens have always been my favorite age to work with. In addition to working as a librarian, I started teaching part-time for the iSchool in 1995. I took a break from library work in 2000 to focus on my family. In 2006 I was hired as a full-time faculty member for the iSchool focusing on youth services but also teaching courses in public libraries and marketing library services. 

Describe recent projects or research that you’ve been working on.

I am constantly trying to improve my courses, so that is always a focus. I am particularly interested in strengthening the teen services course and am working on some exciting opportunities that should allow me to take it to the next level. 

What is your favorite part of teaching?

Working with students who are passionate about the possibilities in the field. Every student has some sort of experience or knowledge to bring to the discussion. When I witness students learning from each other in addition to the knowledge gained from the course, it is a good thing to observe. It is also very rewarding to watch students learn new things and apply it to the current issues in the field. 

It is also fun when students complete the Engaging Teens class and then tell me how surprised they are at the richness in the quality of teen literature. They can’t wait to use it with teens in a work setting. 

Do you have a favorite teaching moment?

I have the opportunity to teach two core classes. Students usually take LIS 60040 Information Institutions and Professions early in their program and explore different types of information institutions and also think about where and how they best fit in the information environment. I also teach LIS 60280 Master’s Portfolio in LIS which is the last required course for MLIS students. It is rewarding to see students’ journeys through the program and how that journey culminates in this last class. Students are able to showcase their progress and highlight their knowledge and skills. It is very cool to see how students grow from their first core courses to their final one. 

How have your professional experiences influenced your teaching?

I remain active in professional organizations such as ALA’s Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). I am also connected to professionals working on the front lines (and many are former students of mine). I constantly draw upon my own experiences working in libraries – even though it was a while ago and some things have changed – the core ideas are still present. The assignments in my classes are practical in nature and help to solve questions and issues that current library professionals face. 

What issues related to information interest you most?

Advocacy is a big one for me, especially for those who have little or no voice. How can we make sure that those who need access to information get what they need, and better yet, know how to interpret and use it to make decisions? We also have to learn to advocate for ourselves and the profession so that we can make an impact. 

Are there any websites, apps, podcasts or other resources you’d recommend students explore?

I had a mentor in a leadership group say something that has stuck with me…one of the first things he read every day was job ads/postings.  He was always looking for new challenges, what skills were needed/changing and how and where he could contribute his talents. He typically didn’t stay in one place for a long time but always had an impact.

To further this thinking… complete an inventory of your skills to see what you can improve upon, including soft skills. Don’t just look at traditional institutions for jobs, think about how you can apply your skills and experience across disciplines. 

I try to read widely and keep abreast of trends and think about how they can apply to my field. Find the thinkers and doers in this world and read what they have to say. 

If you had one superpower:

I would love the ability to be in two places at once! I could get so much more done and finally catch up on things!  

How do you like to spend time outside of work?

Ha – I need to be better with the concept of time outside of work.  I like to spend time with my husband and since we have been working at home together, we usually go for long walks or watch Netflix. I work out every day. My oldest son is away and my younger son is in college, but we manage to connect somehow every day. I also spend a lot of time with my family, including my siblings and nieces and nephews. We are Italian so there is always food to make and eat and loud conversation to join. I read teen literature to stay up on authors and titles – but mostly because I enjoy it, not because it is work.

Do you have any advice for students?

One of my favorites is “never show up late to a meeting with a fresh cup of coffee in hand!” (In case you haven’t figured it out… make a good impression. The fresh coffee demonstrates that it is more important to you than the job/meeting).

But to be a bit more profound…
Be inquisitive. Be informed. Be present. Be active. Find something that you are passionate about. Join professional organizations to immerse yourself in the field and network. Start with student groups, such as the iSchool’s Graduate Student Advisory Council (GSAC) to meet with other students and make a difference.  We need new leaders to energize in the field of Information Science who can problem solve, think creatively, advocate, and continuously push the envelope to try new things. Are you up to the challenge to make a difference? 

What class(es) are you teaching for Kent’s iSchool?

This academic year, I will be teaching LIS 60040 Information Institutions and Professions, LIS 60609 Marketing the Library, LIS 60626 Engaging Teens, and LIS 60280 Master’s Portfolio in LIS.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Be good to yourself. It is hard to carve out time for yourself when you are going to school and working and have other life responsibilities. Stress affects you in more ways than you know, so be careful to take an appropriate course load that you can handle. Learn to manage stress.

Be good to others….even when you don’t agree with them. 

Alex Bell, M.L.I.S. – Alumni Spotlight

iSchool Graduation Date


Professional Organizations/Affiliations


Current responsibilities/How are you using your information skills?

I’m a children’s librarian in a public library, responsible for the collection development of our World Languages collection and programs such as story times and author visits. I also help develop our Educator and Student cards, services, and outreach for the local school districts and private schools.  In 2019, I was the drivers and hospitality volunteer coordinator for the University of Illinois’ Youth Literature Festival and while at Kent State, I was able to help at the Church and Synagogue Library Association Conference and Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Literature for Youth, and I volunteered at the Ohio Educational Library Media Association Conference. I’m currently serving on the 2021 Notable Children’s Books Committee and am always looking for ways to be a part of professional library work within city, state (including Kent State!), and national organizations too.

What is the best professional advice you can give?

Know yourself – think of your passions, what skills you feel most comfortable using, and what you might need. Find ways to use that knowledge in your professional life. Be willing to work hard, listen well, think through things in unique ways, and grow. 

How do you encourage innovative ideas?

Lots of ways – I like finding and sharing similar resources, using collaborators, infectious enthusiasm, imagining the outcome and working toward that visualization of success, or sometimes plain persistence and elbow grease. I also use humor to help make any massive task, as innovative ideas often are, more palatable. I don’t think you have to be a children’s librarian (although it’s amazing!) to throw out a wonky joke or silly imaginative moment to change the atmosphere into a more positive one. Smiling and laughing obviously makes doing the work more fun. For instance, although the changes a young patron was talking to me about (not going to the pool this summer, having to wear a mask in school) aren’t “innovations” per se, I tried to help. When she changed to the topic of not always listening to her parents, except about brushing her teeth because she loves her toothpaste, because “it’s strawberry and so good. And it’s red!” I tried to run with that for a moment. “Oooh, I’m so glad it was red! I think if it was strawberry toothpaste but it looked green, I would expect it to be mint and then – bleck!” She laughed and said, “yeah, or it could be green but really be orange *holds up hands like the fruit.* THAT WOULD BE WEIRD TOO!” We agreed we were being silly, and then began talking about the changes coming up again for a minute. Although she went off to find the DVDs she’d come up for help finding in the first place, I think we both benefited from that humor in helping us adjust to the “innovations” our society is going through right now. Leave space to let out some steam. Be compassionate to yourself and others through change. Try to make the work involved in that innovation itself as fun as can be. 

Do you have a mentor? How have they influenced you?

Dr. Harper was a mentor to me during my time as her graduate assistant, which is one of the positions I am proudest to have held. She really modeled how to have a caring approach in professional settings and how to combine a happy demeanor with successful outcomes and real change. Working with her gave me a wonderful example of establishing good communication, productivity, and support. I look for that in my colleagues and try to be more like her in my own work too.

What do you wish you had done earlier or more often?

Acknowledged hard work more positively – I often pushed myself and had high expectations of others without enough perspective and enough pause for celebration of success along the way. I would take more work and break it into smaller chunks.

How and where do you find inspiration?

Books! 😀 Reading articles online, listening to music, daydreaming, talking with friends and coworkers. 

To what values are you committed?

Being caring and working toward a continually more welcome, safe, innovative, and diverse community. Valuing childhood and the rights of children to be free, have fun, and be welcomed as their authentic selves in their personal lives, in schools, and in libraries. 

How do you balance your work and home life?

I’m thankful that my library has a strong union and an ingrained sense that personal lives should be given time and attention too. I try to check in with myself on whether I’m getting too overwhelmed, or not whelmed enough. I also try to delegate tasks or ask for help when I need it and be flexible with changes I need to make in expectations. 

What are some challenges that today’s information professionals will face? And tomorrow’s?

Explaining our current work and our ideas in development, and advocating for our right to do it with respect and support. Being supportive of each other rather than competitive. Staying steady through rocky times. 

How can the library remain important to the community?

Be authentic members of the community. Be transparent and proactive in communication. However, I don’t worry that we might not remain important. People need a sense of community, need the space, and need the services libraries provide. 

What websites, apps, podcasts, or other resources would you recommend to explore?

Speaking to other youth services folk: I love the ALSC blog, the Future Ready Librarians group on Facebook, and resources on the ALA and affiliated websites the most. Some of my favorite kids apps are the Endless apps, like Endless Alphabet. For more general skills: I love Duolingo for language learning (not ashamed to say I got my dad to start and he has FAR surpassed me, as of 7/31/20, on day 1,057 of continuous use!) I like the Calm app to stay centered and practice SEL skills. 

What is a book you like that you have to defend liking and what is a book you dislike that you have to defend disliking?

There are tons of quirky kids’ books from the 80s and 90s I like but might have to defend (although I don’t actually use them with kids) – “It Zwibble, the Star-touched Dinosaur” and “The Treasure Tree: Helping Kids Understand Their Personality” come to mind. 

I don’t think I could publicly speak ill of any book that others like (well…I do discuss books on the Notables committee and sometimes bring up concerns about them, but always with a balance of what criteria they do well too. Our opinions are as anonymous as possible, and we are working to bring books up, not down)! There are 1-2 popular picture book authors whose books are not my taste, despite putting me into a very small minority, but I am still glad they have an appreciative audience. 😊 

Special thanks to the Kent State University iSchool Alumni Network for coordinating these profiles. Learn more about the Alumni Network on their Facebook page and group. Students are welcome to join and participate.

Belinda Boon, Ph.D. – Faculty Spotlight

Tell us a little bit about your professional background and areas of focus.

I’ve worked in the LIS field for 32 years now–that’s hard to believe! My first professional library job was as a Children’s Librarian in the Harris Co. Public Library in Houston. In the early 90s I was the director of a small community library in a town just east of Austin, and in 1993 I landed my “dream job” as a Continuing Education Consultant with the Texas State Library & Archives Commission. I was at TSLAC for 10 years, and served as the Manager of Continuing Education & Consulting for the last two. I earned my doctorate in 2006 and was offered a position as Assistant Professor at the Kent State Columbus program with a focus in Children’s Services. This became my new “dream job”! In 2015 I moved to the Kent campus. My areas of expertise and teaching are public libraries, collection management, reference services and children’s services.

Describe recent projects or research that you’ve been working on.

Over the past few months I’ve been building an online course for undergraduates called “Information Fluency in the Workplace & Beyond”. I taught the course face-to-face for the first time in fall 2019 and really enjoyed working with undergraduate students. Translating it into the online environment has been a challenge but it’s also been very gratifying.

What is your favorite part of teaching?

I’ve always wanted to make a difference in my work and teaching has been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done! I love getting to know students and helping them achieve their professional goals. 

Do you have a favorite teaching moment?

This is kind of like asking what my favorite book is! (The answer is of course, whatever I’m reading at the time. : ) My favorite teaching moment is always getting feedback from students about what they learned and how they’ll use this knowledge in their work. It makes my instructor’s heart soar to know my teaching has a positive impact on their life and work!

How have your professional experiences influenced your teaching?

Even though I haven’t worked in a library for almost 30 years, I still think of myself as a librarian. Over the years I’ve also tried to stay active in professional organizations, especially at the state level, and read widely to keep up with what’s happening in the field. My library work experiences still inform my teaching but I’m always learning something new and try to incorporate this into my classes.

What issues related to information interest you most?

The ability of librarians to change lives and empower people from all walks of life is the core of what I believe and teach. Librarianship is about service, and libraries have a powerful role to play in ensuring social justice through their programs, collections and services. But we also have a responsibility to become aware of how our organizations have participated in and sustained institutional racism over the years, and take steps to change the status quo. This is an important period for our society, and libraries are more essential than ever in ensuring everyone has free and equitable access to information.

Are there any websites, apps, podcasts or other resources you’d recommend students explore?

There are dozens! WebJunction ( is the first that leaps to mind. The free webinars listed in the Course Catalog and the professional tools in the Topic Areas section are fantastic resources. Also, visiting your professional association’s (ALA, PLA, MLA, ALSC, etc.) website and social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, is a great way to keep abreast of trends in the field.

If you had one superpower:

I feel like I already do! The power of the spoken and written word is tremendous and far-reaching, especially in teaching. My constant goal is to always use this power to make a positive difference in the world.

How do you like to spend time outside of work?

Is this a trick question? : ) Work and life are so intertwined it’s hard to separate the two! Even when I’m browsing social media I’m constantly encountering articles and professional tools to share with my classes. Of course I LOVE reading, but I also enjoy just being outside in nature. There is so much beauty all around us and every day is a blessing. I try to spend time every day noticing and being thankful for it.

Do you have any advice for students?

Stay connected with others in your field and NEVER stop learning. Also, join your state professional association and participate in continuing education opportunities (like webinars) whenever possible. Read widely and stay in touch with the folks you went to school with through social media. And be sure to practice self-care at all times. Working with the public is demanding and stressful so make sure to nurture yourself. And above all, follow your bliss–engage in work that makes you feel happy and useful because our joy feeds the soul of the world.

What class(es) are you teaching next semester for Kent’s iSchool?

I usually teach four different classes and over 100 students every semester. (This is why I don’t always know what you’re asking about when you email me. : ) In fall 2020, I’ll be teaching Information Fluency for undergrads, along with The Public Library (LIS 60608), Information Sources & Reference Services (LIS 60601) and the Master’s Portfolio course (LIS 60280).

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Yes! I’d like to take this opportunity to rave about the fantastic students we have in the Kent State MLIS program. I’m so in awe of your dedication and enthusiasm, and the knowledge and experience you bring to the table. It’s a privilege to learn from all of you!