iSchool Faculty Members Meet the Knight Foundation Challenge to Improve Libraries


In response to a new opportunity to garner grant funding to improve libraries, two faculty members at the San José State University (SJSU) School of Information met the Knight Foundation’s challenge head-on in hopes of turning their ideas into reality. The challenge was to answer the question, “How might we leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgeable communities?”

Dr. Michael Stephens, an assistant professor at the SJSU iSchool, submitted a proposal aimed at improving professional development for librarians. Recognizing how important continuing education is for librarians, Stephens points out that “many existing professional development programs are unaffordable or inaccessible.” The goal of the project Stephens envisions is “to create a new model for professional development, where experts can rapidly develop affordable, engaging, interactive online learning experiences for librarians, and where the learning that takes place is shared broadly.”

The concept submitted by Laurie Putnam, an instructor in the iSchool’s MLIS program, focuses on the creation of a website that will act as a “hub for library innovation.” Dubbed LibraryShift, the website would provide practitioners and educators with resources and innovative approaches to assignments, courses, and continuing education programs. If funded, Putnam would serve as the site curator, and other iSchool faculty members would lead the site’s education section. LibraryShift would be an extension of PBS MediaShift, which explores the ways that traditional media are evolving “for a more mobile, networked world.”

In an open grant seeking process, all entries are available on the Knight Foundation website. Anyone can “applaud” an idea, post questions, and offer feedback. The deadline to provide feedback is October 21, 2014.

The Knight Foundation will select grant recipients and announce their decision in January 2015.