At the University of Illinois iSchool, I teach two courses related to comics and youth services librarianship on a regular rotation: IS5551 Youth Services Librarianship (Fall semesters) and IS590CR Comics Reader’s Advisory (Spring semesters). On occasion I teach other courses including a course on cataloging for school librarians and a special collections course focused on comics. I also teach an undergraduate class for the University’s Honors Program on race, gender, and sexuality in US comics.
In Sometimes a Shining Moment: The Foxfire Experience (Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1985), one of the texts that has informed my teaching practice, Eliot Wigginton recalls the point in his first year of teaching when nothing was going right. He began asking his students to write about their memorable experiences—positive or negative—they had in school; Wigginton then did the same. What he found in analyzing the responses is positive events connected the classroom with the world outside, allowed students to have an audience beyond the teacher, and gave them independence to engage in complex intellectual or creative pursuits.
As a teacher, I strive to provide the library and information science students with whom I work similar positive learning experiences. For that reason, I try not to confine learning experiences to the classroom. I see value in students exploring their communities. I want them to examine institutions and services in new ways. I am not a fan of textbooks. Instead, I want students to read the “real stuff”—such as blogs, journal articles, grey literature, trade books—as much as possible, so that they are immediately engaged in the conversations taking place in the professional community. I deplore being the only audience for student work, so as much as possible I have students create products that are addressed primarily to outside audiences.
Although I have long strived to engage with issues of diversity and inclusion through my teaching, in the past five years I have become more intentional about teaching and learning as a means of enacting equity and social justice. I draw on intersectional, anti-racist, feminist, and similar approaches to help students understand the work they will do in libraries, schools, and communities, especially with young people and their families. Some of the texts I have found essential to this aspect of my pedagogy include bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (Routledge, 1994), Derrick Jensen’s Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution (Chelsea Green, 2005), Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me (Random House, 2015), and #NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women, a collection of poems, art, interviews, and essays edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale.
Thesis, Independent Study, and Practicum Supervision
I also work with graduate and professional students on practica, independent studies, and thesis and dissertation research. I have been the faculty supervisor for practicum student placements in areas such as children’s and teen library services in public libraries as well as popular culture library work in academic libraries, and comics special collections. I have supervised independent studies on topics including cultural competence for youth librarians, comics librarianship, video gaming and boys’ leisure reading, and STEM programming in libraries. I advise and direct doctoral students working in areas such as libraries and intellectual freedom, informal learning in online communities, librarians’ roles in supporting young children’s information seeking, representation of African-American males in contemporary young adult fiction, reader and author communities in comics, and comics and political philosophy.