April 19, 2018

Lilia Pavlovsky | LJ Teaching Award Winner 2012

A passionate professor who ­mentors students in the program and long after they graduate

“She is the epitome of a cutting-edge professor,” says the first letter nominating Lilia Pavlovsky, professor at the School of Communication and Information (SCI) at Rutgers University, NJ, and the winner of the 2012 LJ Teaching Award, sponsored by ProQuest.

“She engages students in issues facing today’s librarian and stretches us to learn in creative and collaborative ways while in an online environment,” continues the letter from Anita O’Brien, director of the Little Silver Public Library, NJ. O’Brien was enrolled in four courses taught by Pavlovsky in the online program at Rutgers. Her last one, Social Informatics, was completed in May, when she finished her MLIS studies.

“Pavlovsky’s work is distinguished in many ways,” says Claire R. McInerney, associate dean at SCI. “She mentors students as they prepare for professional practice. Students form a bond with her that lasts well beyond graduation.”

Even in a telephone interview, Pavlovsky’s passion for her teaching and research, her love of the students, and her joy and enthusiasm for her work are striking. She is an exciting personality, a deeply knowledgeable scholar, and a cheerleader for the application of information technology to life and work rolled into one charismatic professor and performer.

Pavlovsky’s work with each student and her interest in their career preparation resulted in her appointment to lead the SCI department’s new requirement that students create an e-portfolio to cap their studies at Rutgers. She led the faculty task force that developed e-portfolio guidelines, redesigned the entry-level Introduction to the Library and Information Professions course, and articulated it with the department’s Colloquium Series and Eportfolio Capstone course, which she designed. Pavlovsky took charge of these efforts, enlisting the expertise of colleagues and using her own skills in project management.

Focus on the students
To her students, Pavlovsky serves not only as a key teacher but as a mentor and professional colleague. She delivers the message that new information and communication technology can be used effectively in academe, K–12 schools, libraries, and any and all information environments. In her courses, she incorporates wikis and Skype in addition to video, voice-over slides, and a host of other tools to keep teaching fresh and interesting. Both the on-campus and distance students love the curriculum. “She is an exemplar of the teaching professor,” says McInerney.

“Professor Pavlovsky used the best of technology and showed me how to use it, not only in class but in my professional life as well. She inspired creativity and interest through the collaborative learning approach she uses in all of her classes. I was able to shape my learning so that it became relevant to my professional life,” O’Brien wrote after graduating.

Pavlovsky’s research is focused on social informatics, and she teaches a course by that name to both undergraduates and graduate students. It examines “the pros and cons of technology and its effect on society, education, and library science,” said O’Brien. “We shared journal articles that pertained to the topics of discussion by using Diigo, a social bookmarking website that fosters collaborative learning within the class, which is crucial to engaging students with one another in an online setting. We discussed important issues facing 21st-century librarians, including privacy, censorship, the digital divide, physical vs. virtual communities, authority, and social media.”

Enrollment in the course has exploded since Pavlovsky began teaching it. She also teaches Human Information Behavior and developed the popular Competitive Intelligence (CI) course in response to student demand.

“[Pavlovsky] introduced us to the process of value-added research: developing strategic searches and analyzing information based on the needs of the organization. The class was an amazing blend of theory, research, and practice,” writes former student Anne Elliott Paige about the CI course. “My classmates were diverse: some interested in academic librarianship, others in working for nonprofits, others in special libraries in medicine or law. Professor Pavlovsky allowed us the latitude to explore our own areas of interest but tied learning into accepted practice and current trends. Moderated discussion forums and team projects helped us learn from [one another], but she always returned our discussions to the service that we, as information professionals, would bring to our various roles as librarians. We delved into the theory, laws, and ethics of the practice but were also given assignments that require applying it all to real-life situations.”

“What CI really means,” Pavlovsky said, “is providing information into the decision-making process that will help the organization’s decision-makers decide appropriately.”

Pavlovsky recently worked with retired professor Stew Mohr, who still lectures part-time at SCI, to revise completely the Principles of Searching course; in this autumn’s first offering of the rebuilt course Pavlovsky remains actively involved with the class.

“Lilia possesses exemplary intellectual ability demonstrated by her critical thinking capabilities, a task-focused thoroughness, and an ability to work with others, all of which she applies to her teaching. She brings a high level of energy and engagement to her participation in the work she performs ranging from committee assignments to new course development, and this involvement is most noteworthy in her teaching and associated activities. Lilia was, and remains, an exemplary instructor in both on-campus and online courses,” Mohr writes.

A woman on Wall Street
The daughter of immigrants from Ukraine, Pavlovsky grew up in farm country near Buffalo. She is fluent in Ukrainian and claims “the typical immigrant experience, living in such a tightly knit community for so long that you don’t realize that English is spoken.” She first worked on Wall Street, developing information systems for financial consultants.

“Being a female on Wall Street was interesting. In those days, typewriters and keyboards were always associated with women. Any time computer training came around, all of the ‘really important’ people felt like it was a woman’s thing, and they would send me for all the training,” says Pavlovsky. “The guys never wanted to go…. Once the connection between status and revenue became associated with the keyboard, technology became a male-dominated area.”

After she tired of that environment, Pavlovsky took a year off and became a Ukrainian folk music performer playing the harp-like bandura with its 55 strings. “I soon decided to try temporary work and got a job working for Stephanie Jones, the librarian at AT&T in Somerset, NJ.” Pavlovsky got a brief opportunity to run the AT&T library, and Jones liked her work. Jones told her friend Betty Turock, the now retired professor and former dean of the Rutgers SCI and a past president of the American Library Association. These two mentors recruited Pavlovsky.

Infected by librarianship
“Once you work for a librarian, it becomes contagious. They got me, and they wouldn’t let me go,” says Pavlovsky. She discovered that the work was a lot like what she enjoyed doing for corporate managers and information centers and libraries.

“Betty Turock is the reason I exist here,” says Pavlovsky. “She convinced me to enroll in their LIS program.” Turock convinced Pavlovsky to come back to Rutgers to earn a Ph.D. and was instrumental in getting Pavlovsky a Title IIB fellowship. As a start to teaching, Turock asked her to develop a syllabus for a management course.

“I don’t predict what will happen in ten years,” says Pavlovsky when asked to discuss where technology will take the information professions. “I watch what is happening now and keep an eye forward to see what is coming—a few years ago we had that social media blitz, and everyone focused on it. It has totally slowed down.”

“It is not about the tools,” Pavlovsky says. “If I could teach tools I would be quite happy, but that isn’t useful…. The real point is to teach what we use the tools to do.”

The online advantage
Asked to compare classroom courses to those online, Pavlovsky makes her preferences clear.

“Teaching online means designing spaces to facilitate a variety of behaviors. You can put the classroom model online, but I oppose that because the timing is so different. The reality of online is that it is the three hours of class spread over seven days,” Pavlovsky says.

“Where it is really different, if you discuss a topic in a classroom, you get the usual small group who participate. Online, everybody takes part. In discussions in online forums, you can’t sit in the back of the room and listen. You are required to show up and participate, to add value, and read what colleagues write,” she continues.

“I have been teaching Human Information Behavior for a decade, and I enjoy teaching it. But I never learned so much until I taught it online. You get ideas from 20 people coming at you all week,” Pavlovsky says.

“It is difficult to express the sincere respect and affection that students have for Professor Pavlovsky without seeming to be excessive in her praise,” writes McInerny.

“She works diligently at the craft of teaching, revising courses at each iteration, and including new examples in discussions and new technologies in the course design. As most research shows, online teaching takes more time, more energy, and more planning than a face-to-face course requires; however, Professor Pavlovsky embraces the online teaching mode and excels in the format…. Having praised her online teaching, I can say that her on-campus students appreciate the energy and intelligence that she brings to the on-campus environment as well,” McInerny concludes.

Her colleague Mohr best sums up Pavlovsky’s outstanding record of research and teaching:

“Lilia is seen as a ‘go-to’ person by many of her colleagues when there are questions or issues with classroom management or teaching, an indicator of the respect she has earned…. The work she does in the classroom is supported by her research. She focuses on understanding how people think, learn, communicate, and seek information in technologically mediated contexts such as the online classroom…. She possesses exceptional teaching capabilities, a focus on the students in her instructional performance and research, and personifies the very best qualities of the library profession.”

This article was published in Library Journal. 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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  1. I could not think of a more deserving person to receive this award. Dr. Pavlovsky has been both a mentor and inspiration to me. She is truly a remarkable scholar and teacher.