Media librarian Jason Evans Groth builds bridges between traditional scholarship and multimedia projects to give North Carolina State University (NCSU) students and faculty the tools to grow their digital media literacy. As a result, they’ve been able to reach a larger audience beyond traditional research papers and journals. “If we attempt to harness the power of digital media, we can use it to make learning more interactive and impactful, teaching more interesting and engaging, and research sharing more applicable to our audiences,” Evans Groth says.
When Beth-Ann Ryan started at the State of Delaware’s Division of Libraries (DDL) in 2008, the Delaware Library Catalog included half the public libraries, a handful of academic libraries, and a couple of schools. Since then, it’s grown to a statewide single system that includes every public library, six academic libraries, seven school libraries, and 13 special libraries. As deputy director of DDL since September 2011, Ryan has been instrumental in making this connectivity happen.
It only takes about four seconds of talking to Rebecca Blakiston to get a glimpse of the passion that drives her and has made her so successful as user experience (UX) librarian at the University of Arizona (UA), Tucson. She has revolutionized how usability testing is carried out, created a role for a content strategist on her team, and still finds time to teach classes on usability testing, content strategy, and writing for the web. In addition to the many tasks she tackles daily, Blakiston develops goals and strategies for UA’s main website, which sees nearly three million visits per year.
Librarian by day and award-winning filmmaker by night, Ashley Maynor combines the skills of both professions to create transmedia projects that offer new perspectives on librarianship and storytelling. Her 2015 web documentary The Story of the Stuff explores the fate of thousands of letters, cards, teddy bears, and other items sent to Newtown, CT, following the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting. The outpouring of mail and donations can easily overwhelm local resources, says Maynor, digital humanities librarian at the University of Tennessee (UT), Knoxville. Her experience living in Blacksburg, VA, during the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre informs her work as well. “I saw how few resources exist for those who are trying to archive in the aftermath of tragedies,” she says.
When only one student in a seventh and eighth grade assembly answered yes to having used an ereader, Jessica Bratt realized students in Grand Rapids faced a deep technological gap. “I asked what the schools needed and built interest in how the library could meet their needs,” she recalls. Leveraging her enthusiasm, flexibility, and improvisation skills, Bratt initiated DigiBridge, a formal partnership between Grand Rapids Public Library (GRPL) and Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) that connects students and educators to the library’s online resources and technology.
It started with Mr. Crittenden at Freeport High School, NY. “He was the first African American librarian I had ever met, and that was a big deal. His presence meant that librarianship was an option for someone like me,” recalls Syntychia Kendrick-Samuel, now head of young adult services at Uniondale Public Library, just a few miles from her old high school.
“One of my favorite questions is, ‘Why is there a kitchen in the library?’ ” says Elizabeth Fitzgerald. “There is such an opportunity [here] for advancing literacy.” As culinary literacy specialist at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s (FLP) Culinary Literacy Center, a commercial-grade kitchen classroom that seats 36, Fitzgerald teaches “reading (recipes), math (measuring), and even chemistry through cooking,” says nominator Donald Root, FLP chief of Central Library public services.
For Chris Brown, being a librarian is about providing “what[ever] information is most valuable and impactful to the public,” something that changes from community to community. While he was working in Contra Costa County, CA, in 2014, that concept led to his finding innovative ways to assist veterans recently returned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who were having trouble readjusting to civilian life.
Kathy Shahbodaghi, Columbus Metropolitan Library’s (CML)director for youth and teen services, had her aha moment long ago when she visited a school in a low-income neighborhood where student performance was poor. When her colleague showed kindergartners David Shannon’s book No, David! (Scholastic), several eagerly raised their hands. The teacher confided, “Those are the children who had been read to before they started school. I had to teach the rest howto listen to a book.”