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Nicolibrarian explores the secret life of information

Leigh Estabrook – Profiles in Awesome

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When I started library school last summer, my first class was with Professor (and Dean Emerita) Leigh Estabrook. The class, LIS 502 Libraries, Information, and Society, is taught over two weeks and known as “boot camp” for the distance education (or LEEP) students. Far from being a grueling chore, it was a stimulating class and it was clear that Leigh was a woman deeply committed to fostering the development of emerging LIS leaders. Leigh sent in the following text about social justice, her life as a mother and part-time student who faced obstacles in going back to school, and her path in the LIS field. Definitely interesting to read in 2010, as a young(ish) woman pursuing information work.

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Professor Estabrook

Leigh Estabrook

In 1968, after 3 years of marriage and one child I was desperate to go back to school.  Initially I wanted to go to law school or the Harvard Education School; but neither would accept me part time.  Since my husband and I were house parents at a Radcliffe College Dorm, I wasn’t permitted (by the Dean) to go to school full time.  So the upshot was I went to Simmons College in Library Science because they would take me part time.

When we went to Notre Dame for my husband’s job in 1969, I found a job as a bibliographer; but it was deadly.  The South Bend Public Library turned me down because I had children.  So in the end I founded what I call on my resume a “community information center.”  I created a draft-counseling center for people concerned about being drafted to fight in the Viet Nam war.

My husband was fired for anti-war activities, so in 1971 we went back to Boston and I became a faculty member at Simmons College and began my doctoral studies in sociology at Boston University.  We began sharing housing with friends and their kids and continued that through several moves and added kids.  When I was denied tenure at Simmons I became a faculty member at Syracuse University where I stayed until 1986 when I became dean at the University of Illinois.

I have always felt that the field of LIS is critical:  people can die because they lack information—sometimes because they don’t know it exists, sometimes because it is hidden from them, sometimes because it is too hard to find or too expensive.  It is easy for us to forget how important our work can be.  It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work or the bureaucracies of our jobs and forget that we are called to act with virtue and with social justice.  [See https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/leighe/Virtuous.pdf]

So our major challenges involve fighting for access in all the different ways we work.  This includes every aspect of LIS including acquisition of information, and its preservation, organization, management and use.  No one of us can act in all areas; but each of us can make a difference in the places where we have talent and interest.

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Leigh can be found at her personal website or you can see some of her scholarly writings through Google Scholar.

Are you interested in being profiled in “Profiles in Awesome” or know someone you’d like to see here? Have a good idea for a question to ask? Email me at nicolibrarian{at} gmail {dot}com.

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Written by nicolibrarian

February 1, 2010 at 12:45 am

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