I'm writing this as the US and the world are being ravaged by COVID-19, a difficult time to be hopeful about the future. I find myself looking hopefully toward the coming months and years, though, as I share the news that I have officially accepted a position as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I have been working so hard for the past several years with this goal in mind, and now I can only feel truly fortunate that both my wife and I have secure employment and sound health while so many are experiencing economic hardship, psychological struggles, and personal loss.
In the face of these challenges, I'm finding solace in being hopeful about the future. I know that my ability to take this perspective is a privileged one right now, and I also know that in the coming months, I may be hit more directly by the impacts of this terrible virus.
That said, I'm so excited to be joining a remarkable faculty in the LIS department and the School of Education at UNCG. During my campus visit earlier this year (seems so long ago now for so many reasons...), I was inspired by the faculty's deep commitments to student success and community engagement. At a time when many Library and Information Science programs are falling over themselves to remove 'library' from their names, curricula, and mission statements, I was heartened by how much value everyone at UNCG places in libraries (and archives and museums) as social institutions.
Libraries are among the strongest and most popular institutions -- a truth that is only becoming more clear as libraries are proactively closing their phsyical spaces now for the benefit of public health -- and I feel honored that I will play a part in training future generations of professionals who will keep libraries vital to our communities.
I decided to pursue a PhD in LIS a couple years into a three-year dual degree LIS/Art History Masters program (and I've successfully completed the Art History MA half of that, too, thanks to support from my academic mentors and dissertation committee members Cary Levine, Cal Lee, Ryan Shaw, Denise Anthony, and Amelia Gibson, along with enduring support from family and friends). After earning Bachelor's degrees in Religious Studies and English and a Masters degree in Creative Writing (yeah, yeah, yeah... I think I'm sufficiently educated), I found an intellectual home in Library and Information Science -- though I should have seen that coming when I got my first job at 16 working in my local public library, the Yankee Clipper branch of the Grand Rapids Public Library...big shout out to my first librarian mentor Kayne Ferrier). I have come to appreciate the inherently interdisciplinary nature of LIS, which attracts folks from the humanities and social sciences, along with people from computer science and IT fields. I have most come to appreciate the deep social obligations and duties driving the field.
While LIS boasts a deep and rich scholarly discourse, LIS scholars speak the strongest when they're oriented toward the professional mission of librarians, archivists, and other information workers. Librarians (in the broadest definition of that occupation) perform critical functions across society, adapting their missions and day-to-day work in response to changing technologies and societal needs. I count myself in this lot, and I can't wait to bring more into the fold.
On top of joining a great, welcoming faculty, I feel blessed to stay in North Carolina. My wife and I have already put down roots in Chapel Hill, and we have daydreamed about staying in this area throughout my job search process. Few academics get to decide where they want to live, more often than not having to move to some strange new town to pursue the lure of a tenure-track position. We have come to love North Carolina, and now we get to call it home for good. Maybe by the time our daughter, Nottie, is old enough to follow basketball games, UNC will actually be winning a few of them.