Doctoral Student Cheryl Stenström Researches Public Library Funding Decisions

Doctoral student Cheryl Stenström has served in leadership positions in several public libraries, most recently as the Chief Librarian and CEO of the South Shore Public Libraries in Nova Scotia, Canada. Her experience managing library budgets prompted her current doctoral research in the San Jose Gateway PhD program, which will examine how and why elected officials and their senior civil servants make decisions, using public library funding as a case study.

“I’m researching decision-making in order to determine what factors influence decisions,” said Stenström. “Although I’m studying funding decisions related to libraries, my research will have relevance for political science, social science, and public administration.”

Stenström’s study will involve data collection from three provincial (state) governments in Canada, including interviews with elected officials and senior staff, as well as documentation regarding public library budget recommendations and decisions. She then plans to analyze the data to identify factors involved in funding decisions and how that information can provide insight for library leaders.

Stenström is a student in the San Jose Gateway PhD program, a partnership between the SJSU School of Library and Information Science and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia. She joined the second doctoral cohort in 2009 to expand her knowledge and investigate some of the more complex questions related to library management. Stenström completed her confirmation of candidature in February 2011.

Earning her degree through the online San Jose Gateway PhD program is proving to be a rewarding experience for Stenström. “A key benefit of the doctoral program model is its flexibility,” she said. “With guidance from my doctoral supervisor, Dr. Ken Haycock, I can tailor the program to provide exactly what I need. Also, the program’s distance education model allows me to continue working, teaching, and living where I do.” With two residencies each year and monthly seminars by distance, students stay in touch with other students in their cohort and their international supervisory committee.

The online learning environment is already familiar to Stenström, who has taught LIBR 210: Reference Services in our School’s MLIS and Executive MLIS programs since 2007. She also teaches courses in the online Community Library Training Program, which is designed for staff, volunteers, and boards of rural Canadian public libraries.

Stenström’s library career began as an on-call shelver and circulation assistant in a regional public library system, where she sometimes had to drive 90 miles to reach a branch. Since earning her MLIS in 1997 from the University of British Columbia, she’s worked as a librarian and library manager in several public libraries. She has also developed and delivered sessions on library management topics, including communication, services for patrons with disabilities, and web development.

“After I got into the profession I knew it was right for me,” said Stenström. “It’s a career that lets me be part of creating a society for global literacy and democracy.”

Stenström is enjoying the opportunity to “learn intensely” in the San Jose Gateway PhD program, and hopes her degree will support a future career in research or teaching.