As of September 2023 I am an Associate Professor Emerita in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. I continue to advise four doctoral students and keep going on at least two projects.
One, Community dialogues plus a writing prize on climate crisis and inequality -- in the Texas county that refines and ships the most oil nationwide. This will soon be the subject of a special issue of The Texas Gulf Historical and Biographical Record, as well as an October 28, 2023 event: http://ancienttothefuture.org. I began this with the Fall 2021 minitalks on Libraries and Climate.
Two, Community cultural heritage: a Freedom Corridor taking shape with Black and Abolitionist memory institutions and others across West Central Illinois, coming out of a book connected to my husband's ancestor's town which was just named a National Park: http://newphiladelphiail.org.
My pre-emeritus academic life was a wonderful 28 years teaching, learning, writing and traveling -- at U of I for 16 years and before that at Dominican, Michican, Toledo, and to start with Devry in Chicago where I taught Technology and Society. Plus time in China. Thanks to all my students and colleagues.
My pandemic information work included heightened health information seeking, like many of us; curating informational email blasts to friends and family; zoom talks, especially about New Philadelphia, Illinois, the subject of my 2018 co-authored book; and the free publication A Workers Guide to Meatpacking/Guía para Trabajadores sobre la Industria de Productos Cárnicos. Three challenges hit at once—COVID-19, the much-needed Black Lives Matter movement, and joblessness at the level of the Great Depression. In "Communities in Disasters: Helpless or Helping?" Aiko Takazawa and I explain that actions by the most affected are key.
The overarching question that drives my research is this: Is community possible in the digital age? In posing this question, I follow in the footsteps of the early urban sociologists, who debated whether community was possible in the industrial age. In other words, I am asking to what extent are local communities sustainable in the information age, and how will they continue to support our lives. Answering this question requires insights into how and under what conditions people and institutions in local communities are using computers and the Internet—for community development, economic advancement, health, culture, and the myriad activities of everyday life. One specific aspect of this research is highly relevant to graduate library and information science education: What is the role of the public library in this process?