April 20, 2018

Ashley Maynor | Movers & Shakers 2016 – Tech Leaders

Ashley Maynor


Digital Humanities Librarian & Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee Libraries, Knoxville


MSIS, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 2013; MFA, Film & Media Arts, Temple University, 2008


ashleymaynor.com; @formemoriessake,
@lib_collective (Twitter); www.thelibrarycollective.org; thestoryofthestuff.com; cranesforchange.com

Photo ©2016 Shawn G. Henry

Archiving the Aftermath

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.

Maynor also conducted extensive research and interviewed professionals who preserve temporary memorials to create the online librarian resource The Story of the Stuff: Issues in Temporary Memorial Preservation. And she wrote a chapter for the Handbook of Research on Disaster Management and Contingency Planning in Modern Libraries (IGI Global, 2016). “I wanted to create those tools to help others from having to start from scratch,” Maynor says.

Realizing she could do more, Maynor collaborated with a web developer and designer to launch the community-engagement app Cranes for Change in December 2015. The app encourages people in communities affected by gun violence to contact policymakers through letters and origami cranes. Folded cranes, a sign of peace, are often sent to communities following mass shootings. “I wondered if there were a way to reverse the flow of stuff [to those communities and direct it instead] to people in positions to effect meaningful change to prevent gun violence,” she says.

Maynor’s own research and her work with students and scholars at UT reflect the ongoing shift in the humanities to adapt traditional scholarship to digital formats. Her goal is to “help faculty and students across…disciplines enhance [both] their research and teaching through new modes of inquiry and scholarly communication,” she says.

Seeking affordable, high-impact training for next-generation academic librarians, Maynor and colleague Corey Halaychik developed The Collective, a hybrid of traditional conferences and unconferences, in 2015. The Collective emphasizes tangible skills and breaking barriers between presenters and attendees; the 2016 conference was scheduled for early March. Says Maynor, “One of the attractions of librarianship is that it’s both a knowledge-creating and knowledge-sharing profession.”

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.