Three UT Professors Garner $1.6 Million in Grants to Improve Libraries

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Three professors at University of Tennessee, Knoxville, have won $1.6 million in grants that will be used to recruit and educate the next generation of librarians and faculty members, to improve library technology and to shore up the technological expertise of regional library leaders.

Associate Professor and Assistant Director Suzie Allard and Assistant Professors Bharat Mehra and Vandana Singh — all faculty in the School of Information Sciences (SIS), which is part of the College of Communication and Information — received the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The awards will be paid over the next four years.

UT is in elite company because only one other university in the nation — the University of Maryland — garnered as many IMLS awards this year, SIS Director Edwin Cortez said. He credits this, in part, to the tremendous support provided by the college’s Center for Information and Communication Studies, headed by SIS Professor Carol Tenopir.

“The quality, creativity, and capacity of our faculty to address real-world needs are remarkable,” Cortez said. “I am more than pleased to work with an exceptional faculty who continuously measure the pulse of information needs of various communities and then find solutions to address gaps in information literacy, education and technology.”

The three projects funded are:

– ScienceLinks2, awarded $711,727

“ScienceLinks2 PhD: Linking Education and Science to Develop the Next Generation of Educators for Science Librarians and Data, Information and Communication” will build curriculum, provide mentoring and support the research agendas of six doctoral students who will become educators of the next generation of science data and information specialists.

ScienceLinks2 builds on two previous science information initiatives at the school: the IMLS-sponsored Science Links, a master’s-focused program successfully completed in 2008, and NSF’s DataONE, a major international initiative which includes faculty and researchers in the UT Libraries and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Allard is the principal investigator for ScienceLinks2. Other College of Communication and Information faculty involved in the project include Associate Dean Sally McMillan; Ben Bates, professor of journalism and electronic media; Karen Hilyard, assistant professor of advertising and public relations; Lorraine Normore, SIS assistant professor; Vandana Singh, SIS assistant professor; Lu Tang, assistant professor of computer science; and Peiling Wang, SIS professor. Thura Mack, an SIS alumna, will be the library coordinator for the project.

– Improving rural librarians’ technology literacy, awarded $567,660

“Rural Library Professionals as Change Agents in the 21st Century: Integrating Information Technology Competencies in Southern and Central Appalachian Region” will help tackle lagging information technology literacy in Tennessee’s rural southern and central Appalachians.

Mehra will work with Assistant Professors Singh and Kimberly Black to recruit and mentor 16 IMLS-funded technology support librarians as they earn their master’s degrees. In addition, SIS faculty will work with three regional library systems — Clinch-Powell Regional Library, Sevier County Public Library System and the Watauga Regional Library — to offer students coursework tailored for a specialization in Information Technology and Rural Librarianship. Upon graduation, students will be prepared to assume leadership roles in their libraries and the region.

– Improve library technology, awarded $321,178

“Technical Support for Integrated Library Systems’ Comparison of Open Source and Proprietary Software” will compare the amount of technical support librarians need to operate various computer systems used to acquire, manage and circulate library materials. This research project seeks to better inform librarians about the maintenance and management costs associated with these tools.
Singh is the principal investigator on this project.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu)

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