In observance of half a century of teaching, leadership, scholarship, and service, the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Library and Information Studies marked its fiftieth anniversary by looking fondly upon the past, recognizing the present, and addressing the challenges of the profession’s future at a Gala Celebration on November 8, 2013 at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick, Rhode Island.
In order to celebrate the core values of the GSLIS program, the Gala celebration honored alumni for three characteristics: leadership, innovation, and service. According to Cheryl McCarthy, a professor in the GSLIS program at URI, the best way to honor past alumni was to request online nominations from the profession to choose the top 50 alumni for the past 50 years. One alumnus from each decade of the program’s existence was chosen from the top 50. In recognition of the scholarship of recent alumni 2012-2013, Professor Lauren Mandel inducted eight people into Beta Phi Mu, the honor society of the library and information science profession, through a ceremony that involved “lighting the lamp of knowledge.” The eight inductees were as follows: Katherine Boden ’13, Sarah Naomi Campbell ’13, Kimberlee C. DeWall ’13, Dominic LaFlamme ’13, Anthony Loffredio ’12, Stefanie Metko ’13, Kathryn Jane Powers ’13, and Angela K. Walker ’12. Two current GSLIS students also received scholarships: Alison Courchesne and Alexa Roy.
“As librarians, we are committed to seeking the truth,” McCarthy said. “We are a profession that helps people to not only find the best available information, but also how to evaluate, analyze, and synthesize it. With that in mind, we wanted to name the top five alumni who have best met this overarching goal of librarianship and who were leaders, innovators, and provided service to library communities and the profession.”
Dr. Nancy Mattoon Kline, a 1973 graduate, was chosen from the GSLIS program’s first decade. During the 30 years she worked at the University of Connecticut Library, she was innovative in helping academic librarians to reach out to transform their instruction programs. Dr. E. Gale Eaton, the second decade award winner, is a 1974 graduate, best known as the Director of the GSLIS Program at URI from 2006-2012. She is currently the chair of the Rhode Island Coalition of Library Advocates, and was a pioneer in online education for youth services.
From the third decade was Dr. Fred Stielow, a 1980 graduate, the Vice President and Dean at the American Public University System. A major innovator in online education and distance librarianship, Dr. Stielow’s work consists of over 100 scholarly articles and a dozen books. Janice McPeak, a 2000 graduate and the Public Health Advisor at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, was chosen from the fourth decade, and has worked on projects such as Docline, MedlinePlus, NIHSeniorHealth and GoLocal. From the last decade, Ed Garcia, a 2008 graduate, was awarded for his work as an innovative Director of the Cranston Public Library, which became a pilot site for a digital literacy initiative that was made possible through a partnership with Broadband Access Rhode Island. Garcia was also named a “Mover and Shaker” by the Library Journal and an Emerging Leader by the American Library Association.
The last award of the night went to a woman who McCarthy described as a “true gem,” and Rhode Island libraries are lucky to have her. Joan Ress Reeves, a committed library leader and advocate, dedicated to making sure all people have access to libraries, won the “Lifetime Recognition Award” for her work. Her dedication to libraries has increased library legislation both locally and nationally, increased financial aid for libraries and has proven how essential libraries are to the communities as a whole. Dr. Renee Hobbs, Director of the Harrington School and Interim Director of the GSLIS program, presented the award to Reeves, praising her devotion to the profession.
Carina Cournoyer, a Social Sciences Librarian at Brown University who was named a Fifty for Fifty alumni, was especially honored to be awarded at the Gala. “The award is a reminder that I am continually indebted to all of my colleagues and teachers at every turn, and that I cannot possibly do my job without them,” Cournoyer said. “I can say without a doubt that behind the successes of each of those Fifty, are innumerable others. The award is representative of all of our collective successes.”
While the Gala was a time of reflection on the past and the present, it was also a time to look towards the future with how information is being transformed by the vast resources on the Internet, which was highlighted in a keynote address by Dr. David Weinberger, of the Harvard University Library Innovation Lab. According to McCarthy, library and informational services will continue to play a vital role in society, where technology gives anyone with access to the Internet a wide wealth of knowledge. According to McCarthy, “libraries have stepped up to the challenge by not just being a place of information, but also a space for collaboration, to share ideas, and to have conversations which can lead to a richer exchange of ideas.”
“Libraries are the cornerstone of democracy,” McCarthy said, “where librarians help people who are trying to find information for their particular need, whether that need is for personal, professional , or business use. There’s so much out there on the Internet, but it is important to know what sources are the most accurate and reliable.”
In order to keep up with the demanding pace of evolving technology, the GSLIS program has also evolved over its fifty years of existence. According to McCarthy, the program has recently completed a curriculum revision, has a new group of core courses, and most importantly, has made professional field experience a requirement for any student in the GSLIS program. Previously, only school library media students were required to have field experience before graduation, but now a Professional Field Experience (PFE) is mandatory for graduation. These changes have helped the GSLIS program stay up to date with technological changes, and the evolving world of libraries and information services to keep current in this digital era.
“Our role as professional librarians has transformed library communities” McCarthy said. “We are more than librarians because we are also educators who are instructing and teaching information literacy in libraries. As we go out into the field with our students, we find ourselves learning from them, and with them, as well. That is one of the best joys about this program. In this profession, if you’re not in the field, then you’re not learning.”
By: Kimberly DeLande Edited by Cheryl A. McCarthy