Photos: 1. Grace Jackson-Brown
2. L620 Class Trip to Louisville, KY
Grace Jackson-Brown is Collection Manager and Subject Librarian for the IU African American Culture Center Library, and the Journalism Library. She is teaching SLIS L620: African American Information Sources and Services during Fall 2005.
In a recent interview, she answered some questions about the African American Information Sources and Services (SLIS L620) course, and about her career.
Tell me more about the course. Why were you inspired to design it? What do you hope that your students gain from it?
The goal of the course is to prepare students with basic knowledge about African American resources and services so that they will be better prepared in many different areas of librarianship including reference, collection development, and public services. Populations are becoming increasing diverse in the United States so interest in African American literature and culture is at a high point today in public and academic libraries. In addition, as academic disciplines are becoming more interdisciplinary and cultural studies as an area of study becomes more popular, this has led to an increase in research and publishing about African American culture.
Tell me more about the L620 class field trip to Louisville, KY and how it fits into the goals of the course. Note: The pictures with this story are from this fall class trip.
In addition to studying about the state of African American resources and services today, I also teach the students in my class about the history of the origin of African American libraries and major African American collections. We study about early African American bibliophiles such as Jesse Moorland and Arthur B. Spingarn who began collecting in the late nineteenth century. They eventually donated their collections to Howard University, and their donations became the foundation of the wonderful Moorland-Spingarn Library at Howard University.
I teach about the racism that existed in the public library system in the U.S., which led to segregated libraries that were poorly funded. But, some of these originally segregated libraries in African American communities not only survived but thrived-- an example of one such library is the Western Branch of the Louisville, KY, Public Library. My students and I had the privilege of visiting this library in September on the occasion of its "100 Years of Service Celebration." The first director of the Western Branch, Thomas Fountain Blue, began the first library training program that was open to African Americans.
In what ways does your teaching inform your professional work and vice-versa?
I have been a librarian for about twenty years, mainly as a reference librarian and library collection manager for African American Studies. I have a Bachelor's degree in English, a master's degree in library science, and a recent Ph.D. in mass communications. As an African American librarian, I have always had a personal interest in African American literature and African Americans in media. I have developed my knowledge of African American resources and services throughout my professional work life, and especially as the African American collection manager here at IU where I have worked the last 16 years.
What advice would you give to SLIS students? Any particular advice for those students interested in African-American resources?
I have met many SLIS students, African Americans students as well as others, throughout my years at IU with an interest in African American Studies librarianship and/or African American research, and that is why I am thrilled to finally have an opportunity to teach the course on African American Resources and Services and pass along some of what I have learned. When I came out of library school it was more acceptable to get your MLS and practice in the field of librarianship as a generalist. But, now I think that those librarians with a second subject master's or a specialty in technology are more marketable. If you're interested in African American librarianship, consider getting a double Masters' degree here at IU in Library Science and from the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies.
What book(s) are in a place of honor on your bookshelf?
In 2005 some African American ancestors and historical sages have died. I would recommend reading biographies or some books about these persons, including John H. Johnson who wrote about his life in the book Succeeding Against the Odds (1989), and Quiet Strength (1994) by Rosa Parks.
Posted November 16, 2005