Dr. Michael Stephens Joins Advisory Board for IMLS Grant on Civic Engagement


Dr. Michael Stephens, associate professor at the San José State University School of Information, was invited to serve on the advisory board of a recently funded Institute of Museum and Library Services Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program project: Training Future Librarians for Civic Engagement and City Collaboration. The project focuses on civic technology, an emerging set of practices in using information, and communication tools to foster civic engagement in local geographic areas.

The three-year project aims to create opportunities for students intending to work in public libraries or other cultural institutions in the future by training a new generation of librarians who are mentored by professional librarians, experienced in leveraging cutting-edge skills in civic settings, and equipped to promote greater civic engagement. As part of the program, students pursuing a Master of Library and Information Science degree will work under the direct supervision of city staff on civic engagement projects

Stephens will provide crucial feedback on the educational products being created and participate in assessing the impact of the effort for fostering more civic engagement education among public librarians, and the graduate programs that train them. His input will help to guide MLIS students who will develop capacity and leverage their skills and knowledge in civics, community engagement, user-centered practice, information management, and IT in collaboration with established University of Michigan School of Information partnerships with city governments in Jackson, Ferndale, and Lansing, Michigan.

In advance of the board’s first meeting, Stephens said, “I believe that the resources developed through this project will offer support and learning opportunities for future librarians to enhance the relationship between citizens and their local government.”

Among the products created by the project that Stephens’ feedback will help inform are a package of educational resources that will be made available under a Creative Commons license, and two massive open online courses (MOOCs) on theories and methods relevant to civic engagement; one course will be oriented to public librarians and the other will be to people working for city governments.

Stephens, who received his PhD in Information Science from the University of Texas, joined the San José State University School of Information in 2011, and will bring his extensive background in online education to the project’s external advisory board. He has designed courses utilizing open pedagogy and open educational practices, developed the Hyperlinked Library MOOC in 2013 for library staff professional development, and currently teaches INFO 200 – Information Communities and INFO 287 – Seminar in Information Science [The Hyperlinked Library: Emerging Trends, Emerging Technologies] 100% online.

Stephens has received several awards for delivery and engagement in the online environment, and has delivered keynotes, papers, and workshops throughout the US and internationally on topics related to creative and open uses of technology to support and drive library services and learning. His research and teaching focuses on information communities, evolving library service, and reflective practice for librarians.

Since 2010, Stephens has written the monthly column “Office Hours” for Library Journal, exploring the issues, ideas, and emerging trends in libraries and LIS education—he also self-publishes at Tame the Web, which provides information and discussion through blogging on emerging technology, socio-technological trends, the evolving hyperlinked library, LIS education, and human-centered services for LIS students and information professionals in the field.