March 22, 2018

Lorna Peterson | Movers & Shakers 2005

No Retreat


When Clark Atlanta University announced in 2003 it would close its library school, Lorna Peterson, a library educator at the University at Buffalo, NY, mounted a campaign to save the program, which has graduated more black library leaders than any other. “I did not want this to happen without a fight. It cannot be said that librarians, Friends of Libraries, the American Library Association, Georgia Library Association, just allowed themselves to be walked over,” she said.

Not letting people walk over you defines Peterson. Kathleen de la Peña McCook of the University of South Florida, Tampa, says, “Her persistence in generating professionwide concern for the closure of Clark Atlanta, her development of a service learning project to meet the needs of the homeless, and her clear vision for the future of LIS education as manifested in her work with the Committee on Accreditation have had a profound effect on the profession.”

Peterson worries that LIS education has marginalized issues of racism, “dismissed [it] as a subject area that emanates from personal characteristic and experience.” She works to rectify that. She developed a course in multiculturalism and libraries, and students came face to face with underserved people. She required students to set up a library in a homeless shelter and to build an archive of documents about Love Canal. “The individual humanity presented by the paper documents could not be ignored,” she says, “documents that detailed people losing their jobs, their families, and their health. It was a lesson in using their skills so these voices could be heard.”

Peterson says she chose LIS education because she wanted to give back to the profession. She’s already achieved that – and has just begun to fight.



Current Position Associate Professor, Library and Information Studies, State University of New York, University at Buffalo

Education Ph.D., Professional Studies in Education, Iowa State University, 1992; MSLS, Case Western Reserve University, 1980

Awards American Library Association 2002 Diversity Grant to study how well issues of social diversity are integrated into library school curricula; Institute for Research and Education on Women and Gender Grant, 2002 – 04