iSchool Professor Dr. Michael Stephens Returns to Australia to Give Closing Keynote at an International Conference

Community Profile

“Any exposure a soon to be information professional or information professional can have to international librarianship issues in global settings is wonderful. If you are lucky enough to go, whether for a formal or informal experience, you will learn so much.”

Dr. Michael Stephens
Associate Professor in the San José State University School of Information
Traverse City, Michigan

Ten years ago, iSchool Associate Professor Dr. Michael Stephens took an epic trip to Australia to share his research on the hyperlinked library in five different cities. This summer Stephens came full circle and returned to Australia to give the closing keynote speech for the 2018 Asia-Pacific Library and Information Conference (APLIC) as well as spend a two-week stint at the University of Southern Queensland as part of the Eminent Visiting Scholar Scheme program. Stephens was coming off of a sabbatical during the spring of 2018, so this trip provided a bit of adventure before his return to teaching in fall semester 2018. “The trip to Australia I made 10 years ago was the start of the hyperlinked library. That’s when I put it all together,” said Stephens. “It paved the way for the class and much of my future research. On this trip I was able to talk to people who saw me back then, and they reminded me of how far things have come in the past 10 years. Ten years ago the focus was on using the social side of the web to extend the library, but now our conversations were about being present, meeting people in physical space and virtual, and finding balance.” 

The National Library of Australia and University of Southern Queensland
One of the highlights of the trip was presenting at the National Library of Australia in Canberra. The presentation and discussion, on the current and emerging trends related to U.S. librarianship and professional development, provided an opportunity to connect with Australian information professionals in the largest reference library in the country. Stephens then traveled to Townsville, Queensland to present a similar talk for CityLibraries Townsville, the site of a 2009 research project Stephens conducted with Warren Cheetham, Coordinator Planning and Business Development. Next on the agenda was spending time in Toowoomba, Queensland at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ). As a visiting scholar, Stephens was asked to take part in a workshop on the role of libraries in digital life at the Digital Life Lab. Stephens co-facilitated this workshop with Dr. Kate Davis from USQ.

Stephens also gave a presentation titled “Telling Your Research Story: Reflective, Connected, Open.” During his time at USQ, he met with academics and innovators for individual meetings. He also hosted a strategy session for members of the Digital Life Lab. USQ’s Digital Life Lab hosted Stephens as part of their salon series where he gave a talk titled ‘The Hyperlinked Campus’. This talk highlighted how educators can move their classrooms into the virtual space, with engaging and collaborative learning experiences.

Stephens describes having various “aha” moments during his time at the Digital Life Lab at USQ. While there, Stephens spent time with academics and scholars in addition to information professionals and librarians. He also presented or talked with people about the following topics:

  • Research agendas for public libraries in Queensland and Australia.
  • Social media and open platforms regarding research.
  • How his website, Tame the Web, is an example of connection between research and social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter.
  • Ways for researchers to create a social media presence and how to go about creating one if lacking.

The Asia-Pacific Library and Information Conference (APLIC)
After the first week as a visiting scholar, Stephens left USQ in route to Brisbane “I was very immersed in Australia, both the tourist side in Brisbane and Sydney, and Toowoomba, an Australian regional city – the restaurants, the culture, and I was even able to see a play one night. I loved every minute of it. It was so interesting,” Stephens said. He then traveled to the APLIC on the Gold Coast of Australia, outside of Brisbane. Stephens was asked to give the closing keynote speech for the APLIC months ago, a huge honor, and his speech was titled “The Heart of Librarianship: Finding Balance in Challenging Times.”

In addition, Stephens presented a paper at the APLIC titled “Professional learning experiences of Australian public library staff.” This paper was co-written with Helen Partridge, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education) at USQ, and Kate Davis, both from Australia. They plan to continue doing research together in the future.  “The trip was very cohesive. I felt it all went together really well which was very professionally rewarding to me,” said Stephens, “I am bringing back all of the stuff I soaked in throughout the trip at the various libraries and the conference. This really informs my teaching.” Stephen’s research and teaching have been impacted significantly by the process of engaging on an international level. His work highlights the importance of information professionals traveling and collaborating globally when and where they can.