November 21, 2017

Paul T. Jaeger | LJ/ALISE Excellence in Teaching Award Winner 2014

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You’d think Library Journal and ALISE (Association for Library and Information Science Education) had Paul T. Jaeger in mind when they wrote the criteria for the LJ/ALISE Excellence in Teaching Award. Jaeger, associate professor, College of Information Studies (CIS), University of Maryland, College Park, is the winner of the 2014 award, sponsored by ProQuest, which merges the LJ and ALISE honors for the first time. Jaeger clearly “illustrates student-­centered thinking” in his teaching. His contributions to curriculum design at CIS display his expertise and command of new developments. Current and former students enthusiastically tell of Jaeger’s work as mentor, career builder, and collaborator in their working lives. Teaching the core values of the profession comes easy to Jaeger, because his commitment to them is rooted in his early personal and academic life.

That deep tie to those values leads Jaeger to integrate ­theory, practice, research, and innovative instruction with library and information practice in the most forward-thinking, technologically cutting-edge ways. His impressive record as a champion of access to information as a human right earned him this much deserved award.

Access for all

Jaeger has had a significant visual impairment for his entire life. “When I was young I learned the importance of access for diverse populations and as a teenager became interested in advocacy. When I got to college, I got involved in educational advocacy and that matured into the realization that I could do that work to help others,” Jaeger says. Since 2009, he has served as assistant MLS program director for the unique CIS master’s specialization in information and diverse populations (IDP). In 2011, he added the post of codirector of the CIS Information Policy and Access Center (IPAC) to his duties. Promoted to associate professor in 2012, Jaeger later that year was named diversity officer at the college.

Diversity defined

Jaeger has designed or collaborated on dozens of courses, including two of his favorites: “Information and Human Rights” and “Inclusion, Literacy, and the Public Good.” They are among the five-course sequence developed for the CIS specialization Jaeger created in IDP, which prepares students to work with any and all the varied populations they might encounter as information professionals.

“They learn to be culturally competent and inclusive throughout the program, to work with populations with different socioeconomic status, geography, origin, orientation, ability, age, language,” Jaeger says.

A leading scholar on diversity and information access, ­Jaeger was a key figure in the development of what nominator and CIS doctoral candidate Natalie Greene Taylor calls “the theory of information worlds that looks at information through the lens of access.”

He has championed the idea of libraries as the primary access point of e-government when people don’t have other means of getting to it. “That adds a tremendous amount of work and a need for new knowledge to the job of libraries and the way they can serve,” Jaeger admits.

He has also written, cowritten, or edited over a dozen books, conference papers, and hundreds of articles expanding on these issues. Jaeger was instrumental in the formation and activities of ­iDiversity, the CIS organization for students who want to work at increasing diversity and diversity awareness in library and information practice and LIS education.

“He has acted as a mentor, an advisor, and in other support capacities for the students to learn and develop as advocates for the disenfranchised in our society,” says former student Diane Travis.

Teaching and the law

Jaeger earned the degree of Juris Doctor (with Honors) at Florida State University’s (FSU) College of Law in 2001.

“In law school I quickly realized I’d be a terrible lawyer, because my interest is in what is socially just, not just what is correct under the law,” Jaeger says. But his legal education was far from wasted: law school gave him a fine “intellectual toolkit” and taught him how to teach through “guided questions rather than statements” and help people learn by leading them to make their own discoveries.

A legal perspective also helped him understand that context of information policy. “I knew I could use the law background to understand policies that effect access to information, and that drove me to information studies,” Jaeger says. He earned his MS in 2003 and his PhD in 2006 at the College of Information at FSU.

The impact of the law on access to information is the subject of Public Libraries, Public Policies, and Political Processes: Serving and Transforming Communities in Times of Economic and Political Constraint, a book by Jaeger, John Bertot, Ursula Gorham-Oscilowski, and Lindsay C. Sarin, out this year from Rowman & Littlefield.

Mentoring in every enterprise

Bertot has been Jaeger’s key mentor. He named Jaeger as junior editor of The Library Quarterly (LQ) just as Jaeger completed his PhD at FSU. The pair coedited for seven years, then Jaeger took over.

“It was a fine teaching and learning experience for me and a model I replicate,” Jaeger says, adding, “I worked at the center John Bertot and Chuck McClure ran at FSU…. Bertot is a fantastic mentor…. When you show potential, he gives you opportunities.” Bertot decided to take an opening at CIS and later joined Jaeger on that faculty. “I continue to learn from him,” says Jaeger.

Jaeger uses the same model in his own work as teacher and mentor. He in turn named as junior editors of LQ two CIS doctoral candidates: Taylor, who assembled Jaeger’s nomination for this award, and ­Gorham-Oscilowski, who endorsed it. He began working with the two women when they were getting their MLS degrees, ultimately enlisting them to work in the IPAC.

“[Taylor and Gorham-Oscilowski]…have great scholarly records of their own already, and after six months at LQ they are doing great,” says Jaeger. He views LQ, like every project he undertakes, as a tool and opportunity for both teaching and mentoring.

“As an educator it is crucial to realize that everything you do can have a teaching and mentoring function,” says Jaeger. “Any research project provides a chance to teach young scholars about the research process; any publication is a chance to teach young scholars how to write for publication, for different audiences, and to edit.”

Melding theory and practice

Jaeger was instrumental in the practice of coteaching in the CIS doctoral program, according to Taylor. He involved her in every aspect of a course, updating the syllabus, innovating assignments, teaching, and grading.

“Paul’s passion for education and learning is contagious,” says Taylor. In all of his classes, assignments are designed to be practical and engaging, well balanced between theory and practice.

The culminating assignment in one class required students to plan an information literacy program they could use in a library in which they wanted to work. One student planned a program she actually used at an overseas library, and nearly every student walked away with a plan they could present to potential employers.

“In each class, Dr. Jaeger encourages students to deepen their research and writing skills through assignments that allow them to focus on issues of particular interest. It makes the experience more meaningful,” says Gorham-Oscilowski.

“As a student, I looked forward to Dr. Jaeger’s classes more than any other part of my day. He brought real life into the classroom in a way that made subjects normally treated as abstract ideas transform into frameworks through which entire decision-making systems could be evaluated,” says former student Elizabeth Larson.

“More than anyone else,” Larson continues, “he shaped how I see the role of library and information professionals. Working with him, I was able to put theory into practice in ways that are useful every day in my current position.”

“I love to teach….”

No one sums up why Jaeger won this award better than he does himself. “I love to teach. I really feel strongly about the things I work at,” he says. “I get to do research in and teach about things that matter. I don’t do research that doesn’t have practical use. The nexus of what we do is really about rights and justice, about access, preservation, education, literacy, employment help, unity building, inclusion, helping with social services. All these things are acts of promoting life and justice in your community.”

Library Journal would like to thank this year’s judges and ALISE representatives: Linda Gann, Assistant Professor, LIS, University of North Carolina–Greensboro (UNCG); Sandra Hughes ­Hassel, Frances McColl Term Professor, SILS, UNC–Chapel Hill; LJ Editorial Director Rebecca T. Miller; Suzie Allard, Associate Professor/Associate Director, SIS, College of Communication & Information, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and winner of LJ’s 2013 Teaching Award; Clara M. Chu, LIS, UNCG; and Kevin Lane-Cummings, Senior Training and Consulting Partner of award sponsor ProQuest

This article was published in Library Journal's November 15, 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

John N. Berry III About John N. Berry III

John N. Berry III (jberry@mediasourceinc.com) is Editor-at-Large, LJ. Berry joined the magazine in 1964 as Assistant Editor, becoming editor-in-Chief in 1969 and serving in that role until 2006.

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Comments

  1. He’s way hotter than 99% of LIS profs. Nice choice.

  2. John Siegel says:

    Dr. Jaeger’s course was one of the best in library school. I appreciated his sense of humor as well.