Biennial Report to the American Library Association

Biennial Report to the American Library Association

Biennial Narrative Report


American Library Association Committee on Accreditation

Submitted by the University of Rhode Island (URI)

Graduate School of Library and Information Studies

Harrington School of Communication and Media

December 1, 2013



This report outlines the substantial progress made in the past two years to advance the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies (GSLIS), which is a key program of the new Harrington School of Communication and Media, which aims to become a school of regional, national and global distinction by preparing students for life, careers and citizenship in a rapidly-changing global economy. Our mission: Working together, we use the power of communication and information to make a difference in the world. In this report, we outline the major accomplishments of the GSLIS program since the 2011 Biennial Narrative Report. These include:

  • Standard I (Mission, Goals and Objectives): We fertilized synergistic and interdisciplinary thinking across our diverse community by hosting two special symposia that brought together librarians, journalists, media professionals, educators and citizens.
  • Standard II (Curriculum): We completed a comprehensive, yearlong curriculum renewal process to align the program with the Harrington School mission, creating three tracks in Library Leadership, Digital Media, and School Library/Youth Services.
  • Standard III (Faculty): We hired Dr. Lauren Mandel, who received her M.S. in LIS from Simmons and her Ph.D. in LIS from Florida State University. She is now an Assistant Professor of Library and Information Studies in a tenure-track position. We also offered a joint appointment to Dr. Valerie Karno, Associate Professor of English, who has a J.D. in law and a PhD in English to teach courses in information ethics and intellectual property. Dr. Renee Hobbs, Professor of Communication Studies and Founding Director of the Harrington School, serves as Interim Director and will be teaching courses in library services for children and youth in Spring and Fall 2014.
  • Standard IV (Students): Although we have faced a substantial decline in student enrollment over the past 5 years, student leadership initiatives have received national attention. The Student ALA hosted numerous professional development events for prospective and current students and was awarded the “Student ALA Group of the Year” award at the 2013 American Library Association meeting in Chicago.
  • Standard V (Administration and Finance): We created a new website for the GSLIS program which launched in September 2013. We replaced on-site programs in Worcester MA and Durham, New Hampshire with fully online course offerings.
  • Standard VI (Physical Resources and Facilities): We renovated Rodman Hall with the addition of a multimedia computer classroom, including 25 state-of-the-art MACs, new carpeting in faculty offices, paint and improved heating and cooling, and new office furniture in some offices. We moved the full-time Journalism faculty into Rodman Hall with GSLIS faculty in order to promote interdisciplinary collaboration.
Standard I: Mission, Goals and Objectives

Background and Context. The Harrington School of Communication and Media was conceived by URI Arts and Sciences Dean Winnie Brownell and established by a $5 million gift from Dick Harrington, former CEO of Thomson/Reuters. The school brings together six existing departments and programs at the University of Rhode Island: Writing & Rhetoric, Communication Studies, Public Relations, Film/Media, Journalism, and the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies. More than 1,300 undergraduates are enrolled in five academic programs and 200 graduate students are enrolled in three academic programs. Graduate programs include an MLIS in Library and Information Studies, MA in Communication Studies, and PhD in Writing & Rhetoric. During the 2013-2014 academic year, the faculty of the three graduate programs are developing strategies to provide interdisciplinary opportunities that maximize the synergistic relationship among library and information studies, communication studies, and writing and rhetoric. The URI GSLIS maintains it mission of  “research, service and the preparation of knowledgeable and ethical professionals who can serve the library and information needs of a diverse society.” A list of full time and tenure-track GSLIS faculty is shown in Appendix A.

Harrington School Strategic Plan. As part of the strategic planning process for the Harrington School of Communication and Media, we intend to strengthen academic programs by engaging in continuous curriculum renewal so that programs provide students with cutting-edge and relevant knowledge and competencies. Faculty advance new knowledge through collaborative interdisciplinary work in three distinctive areas: Communicating Science, Digital Literacy, and Global Collaboration, Leadership and Advocacy. We aim to connect research and teaching to help solve relevant, real-world problems. We will improve the infrastructure of the Harrington School by creating learning spaces, technology, and facilities that meet student needs and reflect the current and future value of Harrington School degrees. We will coordinate budgeting, administration, and curriculum decision-making in order to build a school of regional, national and global distinction.

Website Visibility. Information about the GSLIS program is maintained at the URI Harrington School website. For current GSLIS students, we also maintain a protected Sakai site with more detailed information on how to construct a program of study, how to prepare for the comprehensive exams, where to locate financial aid, and other matters. There is an official Facebook presence, an active Alumni Group, and a website for the Student ALA. We also created a special website to honor the alumni as part of the celebrations for the 50th Anniversary of GSLIS at the University of Rhode Island.

Fertilizing Interdisciplinary Connections. In order to promote reflective thinking and planning to advance the GSLIS academic program, the Harrington School of Communication and Media hosted two symposia that brought together librarians with journalists, writing teachers, digital media literacy educators, and community leaders. The first symposium, “Convergence and Community: Preparing Future Workers for a New Knowledge Network of Libraries, Newsrooms, Studios, and Agencies,” held on January 16 and 17, 2013, brought together more than 60 participants in an effort to analyze the common values, roles and responsibilities that journalists and librarians share. This event served to kick off a yearlong process of curriculum renewal for the GSLIS program. The second event, entitled, “From Ranganathan to Read/Write: Managing Digital Disruption in Libraries, Schools and Workplaces,” attracted more than 45 librarians, educators, technologists, creative media professionals, students, and thoughtful citizens on November 6, 2013. This program explored the question: What are the opportunities created as a result of the blurring boundaries among readers, writers, librarians, technologists and creative media professionals? These two events have helped shape the direction of the Harrington School and the GSLIS curriculum renewal process.

Celebrating Our Legacy. The GSLIS program reached a major milestone on November 8, 2013 when it celebrated its golden anniversary. Over 50 years, the program has produced more than 3,000 librarians and information professionals, who were honored with a glittery gala celebration that was attended by more than 120 alumni and library leaders from across Rhode Island and the New England states. Participants included the current President of ALA, Barbara Stripling, and the Immediate Past President, Maureen Sullivan. The Beta Iota Chapter inducted eight outstanding, recent alumni into Beta Phi Mu, special awards were presented to five distinguished alumni, and the nationally recognized library advocate Joan Ress Reeves was honored.  Senator Jack Reed received a standing ovation from those in attendance and Dr. David Weinberger, author of Too Big to Know and Co-Director of the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, gave the keynote address.

Standard II: Curriculum

Rationale for Curriculum Renewal. The URI’s Graduate Program in Library and Information Studies has educated New England library professionals for 50 years, since 1963. But today, libraries and information services are transforming rapidly as a result of dynamic technological and cultural changes brought about by the Internet and the rise of digital culture. Librarians and information professionals now need a wider range of competencies in order to help address the information needs of the communities they serve. We aim to prepare librarians and information professionals who are outward-focused and forward thinking towards the future of library and information studies practice by integrating library and information studies into a comprehensive program of communication and media studies.

Curriculum Renewal Process. As part of the formal process of initiating curriculum change, GSLIS faculty participated in Camp Harrington, a summer faculty development program of the Harrington School of Communication and Media that is designed to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration. We also conducted a competitive analysis of library and information studies programs, gathered insight from a wide range of library and information professionals through hosting two public symposia, developed three tracks that represent significant areas of expertise among our faculty, identified new courses that need to be developed, and created a list of courses to be eliminated or significantly revised. We then prepared a formal written document, the Request to Revise he GSLIS Program of Studies, that will move through the University of Rhode Island approval process in 2014.

New Learning Outcomes. These learning outcomes were approved by the GSLIS faculty in September 2013:

  • Foundations: Graduates will understand the changing nature of knowledge and will know how to research, organize, and apply a broad range of interdisciplinary resources to meet the information needs of diverse users.
  • Lifelong Learning: Graduates will understand how to assess and meet the needs of users and develop community partnerships in order to empower lifelong learners.
  • Digital Media: Graduates will understand how changing media and technologies reshape information and society, applying digital competencies and critical thinking skills in order to contribute to innovation.
  • Leadership and Ethics: Graduates will understand ethical principles of global citizenship and will demonstrate leadership shills toward creating equitable access to and use of information.

Tracks and Specializations. In order to improve the program and give students more flexibility, we reduced the number of core course from eight to five and modified core courses to include more systematic focus on experiential learning, the strategic integration of digital media and technology, and emphasis on the practices of collaboration, leadership, and advocacy. Three tracks enable students to specialize in (1) Library Leadership, (2) Digital Media, and School Media/Youth Services. Each track offers students the opportunity to take 9 credits of electives. Students are not required to specialize, however, and they can design their own programs of study to meet individualized learning goals. Appendix B shows a list of the program requirements for the three proposed tracks.

Course Delivery. The GSLIS program currently uses a combination of face-to-face, blended, and fully online courses. In 2013, we eliminated Special Programs courses offered in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and now offer about 50% of courses in a fully online format. Our goal is to develop a fully online program by 2017.

Standard III: Faculty

Faculty Accomplishments. The program has a total of six full-time tenured or tenure track faculty and more than a dozen part-time faculty. See Appendix C for a list of faculty publications and Appendix D has a list of faculty presentations since January 2012. Three new faculty members were added to the GSLIS program and there was one retirement since the last ALA Biennial Report in 2011. We welcomed Dr. Lauren Mandel to our faculty in September 2012. Dr. Mandel is a research-active faculty member who has pursued research on spatial topics as they relate to LIS, including library facility evaluation, wayfinding, the use of geographic information services (GIS) in LIS, and libraries as places. Her expertise in public libraries, broadband, e-government, disaster preparedness, and library assessment demonstrates the value of library leadership in helping transform communities. Dr. Mandel also brings an innovative approach to online learning, which was acknowledged by her selection to be a Mentor for the URI Online Teaching Fellows Program. She has actively mentored graduate students in the GSLIS program and re-energized the library honor society, Beta Phi Mu, Beta Iota Chapter.

Two tenured faculty members were invited to participate in the GSLIS program in 2013. Dr. Valerie Karno, Associate Professor of English, has accepted a joint appointment in the GSLIS program. She is a specialist in critical race and legal theory and visual culture with a special interest in information ethics and intellectual property. Dr. Renee Hobbs serves as Interim Director of the GSLIS program and is Professor of Communication Studies and Founding Director of the Harrington School. Hobbs is an internationally recognized expert on digital and media literacy who co-edits the Journal of Media Literacy Education, an open access online peer reviewed publication that is an official publication of the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE). She served as an ALA Digital Literacy Fellow in 2012. She has published more than 150 articles in scholarly and professional journals. In 2013, she received a $50,000 grant from the Rhode Island Foundation for the Digital City Initiative. In October 2013, she received a $50,000 planning grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Studies (IMLS) for the Media Smart Libraries program, which brings children’s librarians together with media professionals who create media and technology for children and youth.

After more than a dozen years of distinguished leadership and service, Dr. Gale Eaton, former GSLIS Director, retired in Spring 2013 after receiving the “Sweetheart of the Year Award” from the Rhode Island Coalition of Library Advocates.

Staff Support. In the fall of 2013, we hired Stefanie Metko, a full-time Program Coordinator who specifically addresses the needs of prospective and current students. A recent graduate of the URI GSLIS program, the Program Coordinator works individually with students on career development and assists with life after graduation in an effort to increase employment prospects for students.

Standards IV: Students Student Leadership

The Harrington School of Communication and Media emphasizes student leadership as a major feature of all its academic programs. That is why we were delighted that the Student Chapter of the American Library Association at the University of Rhode Island has moved out of hibernation to become highly active in promoting the social, cultural, intellectual, and professional growth of its members and support the Harrington School’s GSLIS. Field trips, career development events, and social gatherings build a spirit of camaraderie and fellowship designed to encourage the development of outward facing, community active future librarians and information professionals. For these reasons, the Student ALA was honored to accept the “Student Chapter of the Year” award from the American Library Association in 2013. The group’s numerous career development events featuring local and regional librarians and professionals, including a day-long conference in Spring 2013, have created important opportunities for students to learn beyond the classroom.

Enrollment Decline. The economic recession had a negative impact on the GSLIS program, which has limited scholarships and no Research Assistantships available for promising potential students. The program is completely reliant on tuition revenue. Cost of tuition and fees for an in-state student is $12,900 annually; the cost for out-of-state students is $24,900 with reduced rates for regional students of $18,600. In part because of a lack of expenditures on program visibility and marketing, the program’s enrollment shrunk from 220 students enrolled in 2008 to 97 students in 2013. Undoubtedly, the GSLIS program has benefitted from the process of curriculum renewal and its alignment with the Harrington School of Communication and Media. We anticipate robust growth in the program once the University of Rhode Island approves the GSLIS Proposal for a Revised Program of Studies. At the present time, the University of Rhode Island is the only state university in New England to offer an ALA-accredited program in library and information studies.

Standard V (Administration and Finance)

As recommended by the ALA COA in 2011, we replaced on-site programs in Worcester, MA and Durham, NH with fully online course offerings, thus reducing unnecessary travel costs. We also created a new website for the GSLIS program which launched in September 2013. Over the next few months, we will be adding additional informational content about the program in order to support the needs of prospective and current students. In September 2013, the Harrington School hired a full-time fiscal clerk to support administrative and fiscal tasks; this individual fully supports the needs of the GSLIS program. Over the next years, we hope to gain administrative and budgetary synergies through additional types of interdepartmental collaboration. 

Standard VI (Physical Resources and Facilities)

We renovated Rodman Hall with the addition of a multimedia computer classroom, including 25 state-of-the-art MACs, new carpeting in faculty offices, paint and improved heating and cooling, and new office furniture in some offices. We made a comprehensive inventory and assessment of technology equipment stored in Rodman Hall and identified quite a bit of outdated technology that needed to be removed. Remaining usable equipment was moved to the HUB, a technology access facility located in Swan Hall. The HUB is staffed from 9 am to 9 pm six days per week, enabling GSLIS students to have more convenient access to digital video, audio, and lighting equipment. We moved the full-time Journalism faculty into Rodman Hall with GSLIS faculty and created the Collaboratory, a flexible meeting space for student and faculty interaction. The Collaboratory has been fitted with a combination lock so that graduate students may access the technology and resources during hours when the room is closed. In Spring 2015, the Harrington School will open a new facility on the first floor of Ranger Hall.

Proposed GSLIS new curriculum

GSLIS Faculty Productivity 2012-2013