February 17, 2018

Ann Peterson Bishop | Movers & Shakers 2002

Grass Roots in Action

Bridging the digital divide

For Ann Peterson Bishop, a career in librarianship seemed inevitable. “I became increasingly interested with each library experience,” she recalls, “as a public and academic user, as a cataloger at Cornell University, and as a student at Syracuse University, where I was exposed to an exciting array of professional issues.”

Today, Bishop’s work is earning more than just the respect of her colleagues–it is making a difference in people’s lives.


Current position: Associate Professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Degree: MLS, Ph.D. in Information Transfer, Syracuse University, NY

Web site: Cofounder of prairienet.org

Bishop is a pioneer in examining issues of social justice in the information profession and in developing socially grounded information systems, as well as the means to evaluate them. Her current research, the Afya project, is a “participatory action research project,” funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, in which African American women are working with healthcare services and information providers to develop online health information.

In the age of the Digital Divide, Bishop’s work is the kind of endeavor that upholds the truest ideals of librarianship, empowering people by connecting them with information. More than that, her work is empowering entire communities, by helping each to develop information systems, especially systems and networks for and by marginalized groups in our society.

The Afya (Swahili for “health”) project is a prime example of how librarians can bridge the Digital Divide, says Bishop, by collaborating directly with local grass-roots organizations to develop solutions to critical problems, such as health and well-being, local development, and problem-solving. “I see the potential for tremendous impact at the community level,” says Bishop, “if we can just find more ways of unleashing library resources and staff for direct engagement.”