SILS 2016 Highlights

December 16, 2016

Thanks to the consistently excellent work of our faculty, staff, and students, and the generous support of our alumni and friends, 2016 has been a great year for SILS. Watch this video for highlights, and read below for additional details, videos, and links to more information.


In January, SILS professor and Carolina Health Informatics Program Director Javed Mostafa became editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST). Assistant Professor Rob Capra received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award to support his research for the next five years on a project that will test novel techniques to capture, share, and re-use knowledge from past searches to improve future search success. Capra joins SILS Assistant Professor Jaime Arguello, who received the NSF award in 2015 to support research on ways to make aggregated search results more effective. 

March was an incredibly busy and exciting month at SILS. On March 1, we presented Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musician Roger McGuinn with our inaugural Digital Preservation Under the Radar Award in recognition of his dedication to the Folk Den, a rich online archive of folk music hosted on, which McGuinn has methodically developed over the last 20 years. We hope this new award will help spotlight digital preservation pioneers who have made significant contributions in unique and unusual ways.

March also saw the launch of the Research Data Management and Sharing MOOC. A collaboration between UNC’s CRADLE team and the MANTRA team at the University of Edinburgh, the RDMS MOOC is designed to help both LIS professionals and researchers learn best practices for data curation. SILS Alumni Distinguished Professor Helen Tibbo delivers four of the five sets of lessons for the course. Dr. Tibbo’s experiences creating videos for the MOOC was excellent preparation as she leads efforts to launch SILS first Professional Science Master’s program in Digital Curation. This new online degree–the first of its kind in the U.S. and one of just a handful in the world–will help professionals and organizations contend with the so-called data deluge of the 21st century. We hope to start enrolling students in 2017. 

March also gave us a big reason to cheer in the form of the Conference on Human Information Interaction and Retrieval, or CHIIR, which brought more than 130 information experts from all over the world to Chapel Hill where they shared and discussed research on the user-centered aspects of information interaction and information retrieval.

Author Matt de la Peña, who early this year won the Newbery Medal for his book Last Stop on Market Street, gave the 2016 Susan Steinfirst Memorial Lecture in Children's Literature on Sunday, March 13, at the Durham County Public Library. This year’s lecture was special not only because it was held at an off-campus location, which helped draw a larger crowd from the community, but also because it marked to launch of the Steinfirst Artist-in-Residency Program. With support from a gift by Susan Steinfirst’s niece, Julia Howard Steinfirst and her husband, John, SILS professors Brian Sturm and Sandra Hughes-Hassell took the lecture beyond the podium and into the classroom. De la Peña spent a week working with students at Mt. Vernon Middle School in Wake County where SILS alumna Julie Stivers (MSLS ’15) is the librarian. The project also received support from the Drs. Barbara and Robert S. Martin Research Assistant program, which provided an assistantship to SILS master’s student Glenna Matteson, who helped coordinate de la Peña’s residency. Short term, de la Peña’s mentorship helped build the students confidence in their writing and the importance of their voices. Long-term, he helped broaden their horizons and career prospects. Dr. Hughes-Hassell has documented the project at so that other school and public libraries can follow the successful model.

Things didn’t slow down in April, as Professor Hughes-Hassell received a grant from Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for “Project READY: Reimagining Equity and Access for Diverse Youth,” which will develop and distribute a continuing education curriculum that will enable school librarians to become more culturally competent educators. SILS alumna and post-doc scholar Casey Rawson (MSLS ’11, PhD ’16) is co-pi on the project.

SILS Associate Professor Ryan Shaw will serve as co-pi on the IMLS-funded PeriodO2 project, an expansion of the PeriodO tool, which eases the task of documenting how scholars define historical, art-historical, and archaeological periods differently. Assistant Professor Mary Grace Flaherty received a Fulbright Teaching/Research Award for travel to Malawi in 2017, where she will study how HIV-positive individuals acquire and evaluate health information sources.

Our students showcased their innovative work at the SILS Project Fair on April 15. Projects explored a wide range of topics, including generating salient thumbnails for digital archival collections, Hispanic and Latino students’ attitudes toward academic libraries, the Ferguson Library’s use of twitter during the 2014 civil unrest, and crowd sourcing sound recordings on social media.

Rounding out the month, our Undergraduate Student Coordinator Tiffany Harris received the Student Undergraduate Staff Award. Only one staff member from the entire University is selected for the award each year based on student recommendations.

Unfortunately, April also marked the loss of two great friends of SILS. SILS Board of Visitors member William H. “Bill” Graves passed away, as well as SILS alumnus, former dean, and professor emeritus Raymond Leonard Carpenter Jr. Earlier in the year we had been saddened to learn of the passing of former SILS Associate Professor David Carr, and many former students and colleagues have shared memories on Dr. Carr on our website. We extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends of all SILS alumni and friends who passed in 2016.

May meant spring commencement, where we celebrated the achievements of our BSIS, MSIS, MSLS, and PhD graduates, as well as honoring distinguished alumnus Tim Shearer, and the 2016 Deborah Barreau Award for Teaching Excellence recipients Ron Bergquist and SILS doctoral candidate Emily Vardell. Also in May, Professor Sandra Hughes-Hassell was elected to lead the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), and SILS Assistant Dean of Administration Tammy Cox received the University Manager of the Year Award.


In June we hosted our annual reception at ALA Orlando. It was great to see so many SILS alumni from around the nation. There were terrific anecdotes about Manning Hall ranging from the days of the ‘block’ to more recent experiences with our curriculum, wonderful stories of professors past and present, and even some good recruiting for open library positions. We’re looking forward to another great event at ALA in Chicago next year. SILS could not maintain its tradition of excellence without the ongoing support of our alumni. Whether they are providing financial resources, contributing time as a mentor, arranging a field experience, delivering guest lectures, participating in career development activities, or simply serving as an ambassador for the School by excelling in their careers, they are an indispensable asset to SILS, its faculty, and its students.   

Summer brought promotions, transitions, and honors for our faculty. Ron Bergquist was named Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in July, and Ryan Shaw was named Undergraduate Program Coordinator. Arcot Rajasekar became Director of the SILS Doctoral Program. Cal Lee was promoted to full Professor, Zeynep Tufekci was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure, David Gotz, Associate Professor and Assistant Director for the CHIP program, received tenure, and Ryan Shaw was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure.

Zeynep Tufekci continues to be a go-to source for media outlets looking for insights on the impact of social media and the growing influence of machine algorithms, particularly in relation to this year’s presidential election. She wrote several timely New York Times op-eds this year including, “WikiLeaks Isn’t Whistleblowing,” “The Election Won’t Be Rigged. But It Could Be Hacked,” and “The Real Bias Built in at Facebook.” Her most recent TED Talk from June, which can now be viewed online, explored how intelligent machines can fail in ways we won’t expect and can’t anticipate, making human values and ethics more important than ever.

Brian Sturm was appointed Francis Carroll McColl Term Associate Professor for 2016-2018. Sturm has distinguished himself through his leadership in children’s services and his community outreach through Story Squad, a literacy initiative Sturm founded and directs. Story Squad delivered over 175 performances and workshops in 2015-2016. His work with Estes Elementary was highlighted in a UNC video and feature story, and received support from author James Patterson and Scholastic Reading Club.

The end of summer meant saying goodbye to some of our faculty members. Professor Reagan Moore retired. Professor Diane Kelly accepted a position as Director of the University of Tennessee School of Information Sciences. And lecturer and SILS alumna Ericka Patillo left to become Associate Dean of Libraries at Appalachian State University.


We welcomed a great cohort of graduate students to SILS this fall, as well as an impressive roster of guest speakers. Most notably, SILS hosted the 2016 Kilgour Lecture in September with HCI and information visualization pioneer Ben Shneiderman discussing his latest book, The New ABCs of Research: Achieving Breakthrough Collaborations. Also in September, Bebo White, Departmental Associate Emeritus at Stanford University’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, gave a talk on Bitcoin and Blockchain. In October, SILS alumnus Cassidy R. Sugimoto, Associate Professor at the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University Bloomington, delivered the 2016 Henderson Lecture, which examined gender disparities in scholarly communication, with a particular emphasis on metrics of production, impact, and innovation. All three talks are available to watch on the SILS Youtube channel.

October also brought new funding for some exciting faculty projects. SILS Professor Arcot Rajasekar received a planning grant from the UNC Research Opportunities Initiative to start a Smart and Connected Communities (S&CC) Initiative in North Carolina. Assistant Professor Amelia Gibson was selected to receive the 2016 Eleanor M. and Frederick G. Kilgour Research Grant Award from SILS. Gibson’s project, “Know That! Young Black Women and Personal Geographies of Information Seeking,” is intended to serve both as an examination and a validation of diverse ways of knowing, information seeking, and being in information spaces (such as the library) engaged by a group that is often marginalized in librarianship.

A $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will support BitCurator NLP, a project that will develop software and protocols for the application of natural language processing methods to born-digital library, archives, and museum collections. SILS Professor Cal Lee is PI on the project, working with co-PI and technical lead Kam Woods, SILS alumna and software developer Sunitha Misra, and SILS doctoral student Jacob Hill.

On the staff side, Brian Nussbaum, SILS Desktop Support and Help Desk Manager, received the 2016 UNC Information Technology Award at the Carolina Technology Consultants retreat on October 14.

Near the end of October, we announced a historic commitment by two UNC alumni, Charles B. Lowry, a 1974 graduate of the SILS MSLS program, and Marcia Duncan Lowry, to establish the Duncan-Lowry Deanship at SILS. Their commitment is the largest in the School’s history and the first at Carolina to be designated for a deanship. SILS hosted a public celebration in the lobby of Manning Hall on the morning of October 27, as well as a private dinner later than evening in the SILS Library. Charles and Marcia have not only committed financial resources to support SILS, but they will be serving as co-chairs of the committee that will help steer SILS’ efforts during the university-wide capital campaign. They have set a wonderful example of doing things, as former SILS Dean Edward Holley put it, “for the good of the order,” and we look forward to meriting their trust, as well as that of our other alumni and friends. 

Throughout the year, our students earned recognition from state and national organizations in the form of scholarships and fellowships, best paper awards, and travel grants to support attendance and participation at conferences. Check out past editions of news@sils for more information about their numerous honors. SILS student organizations have also been very active, coordinating fundraisers and community service activities, arranging professional development opportunities, hosting events to raise awareness and give students an outlet for their concerns, and organizing social events that helped strengthen our sense of community. Again and again, our students reveal themselves to be dedicated emerging professionals, innovative thinkers, and compassionate individuals who will not only help shape the future of information science, but also the world. We could not be prouder of them.

The last few weeks of the fall semester brought even more good news for our faculty. Professor Barbara Wildemuth was honored by the New Jersey Chapter of ASIS&T with its 2016 Distinguished Lecture Series Award. Amelia Gibson received a UNC Junior Faculty Development Award to support her research in 2017, and two SILS assistant professors were selected to receive University Teaching Awards. Jaime Arguello won the 2017 Distinguished Teaching Award for Post-Baccalaureate Instruction, and Mohammad Hossein Jarrahi won the 2017 Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

We ended the semester on a high note with the fall commencement ceremony, which included recognition of 2016 SILS Distinguished Alumnus Xin Fu (PhD ’08).

Thank you for your interest in SILS and best wishes for a terrific 2017!