The iSchool is excited to announce it recently earned three grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which will fund Library and Information Science projects. Two of these grants are Early Career Research Development grants, which are very prestigious. IMLS only awards a handful of these grants, and it is rare for an institution to receive two in the same grant cycle. “This is a record in the history of the LIS community,” notes Dr. Qin, director of the LIS program.

One project called Interconnected will investigate how public libraries can help communities build resilience throughout disasters. When a disaster, such as COVID-19, strikes a community, people look to libraries to provide information to help them bounce back. This project, led by Assistant Professor Dr. Beth Patin, will observe the historical role of libraries during disasters. It’ll also look at how libraries can build capacity during a disaster, what is needed to create a disaster management plan, and best practices for sectors to collaborate to build community resilience. 

Beth Patin

Dr. Beth Patin

“In 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed my library and forced me to consider how our library could support our community. My dissertation investigated how public libraries enhance community resilience. I’m thrilled that I will be able to continue that work by creating practical protocols filling a much-needed gap in disaster preparedness instruction for librarians, managers, and directors,” says Dr. Patin.

The second project, Uncovering Black Lives Project, led by Assistant Professor Dr. LaVerne Gray, will identify relationships and community structures of support for African American genealogists. This project will include analyzing collections and artifacts and capturing the stories of African American genealogical community members. It will also focus on developing a tool for libraries and archives to service African American genealogists in uncovering and sharing familial histories. Lastly, the project will develop protocols for investigating an information community of color defined by the activity of family historical research.

“My project is based on my dissertation research of my own ancestral community,” says Dr. Gray. “In the 1960s, my grandmother and a group of women campaigned for a library in their public housing community, and I thought researching how African Americans find their ancestral communities and their family collections were important for libraries. African American genealogies are different from other genealogical communities because they are descendent of enslaved people and those denied civil rights. I want to emphasize the importance of the information community activity of researching family and unique familial historic collections.” 

Dr. Gray is also on the advisory board for the third project receiving funding, a partnership between the American Library Association and the University of South Carolina’s School of Information Science. The project will work with doctoral students from Syracuse, Emporia State University, the University of Maryland, the University of South Carolina, and the University of Washington on advancing social justice and racial equity in the LIS curricula. Not only will this project focus on expanding LIS doctoral curricula, but it will also work to support faculty and students who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. 

Dr. Gray is a recipient of a previous iteration of the grant funding the partnership. She was awarded the Spectrum Doctoral Fellowship from the American Library Association and earned her Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee Knoxville. “I am excited to work with the grant to enhance both the diversity of LIS Ph.D.’s and work in partnership to develop coursework in the area of LIS Social Justice at the doctoral level,” says Dr. Gray.

Dr. LaVerne Gray

Dr. LaVerne Gray

Dr. Patin and Dr. Gray are both leaders of the Library and Information Investigative Team (LIIT), a research group in the LIS program. “We are very appreciative to all the members of LIIT, and our other colleagues and mentors, for their support and feedback throughout the grant application process,” says Dr. Patin.

“Receipts of these awards is a well-deserved acknowledgment of the work of Dr. Gray and Dr. Patin and the contributions they have already made in their field,” says Kevin Crowston, Associate Dean for Research. “The iSchool is proud of their accomplishments, and I personally look forward to continuing to support their efforts in research and watch their impact grow.”

IMLS Director Crosby Kemper mirrors Crowston’s sentiments and says, “As pillars of our communities, libraries and museums bring people together by providing important programs, services, and collections. These institutions are trusted spaces where people can learn, explore and grow. IMLS is proud to support their initiatives through our grants as they educate and enhance their communities.”