iSchool Faculty Members Win Three ALISE Awards


The Association for Library and Information Science Education honored two San José State University School of Information faculty members with three of the organization’s 2021 slate of awards.

Assistant Professor Michele Villagran received ALISE’s Norman Horrocks Leadership Award, while Assistant Professor Darra Hofman, who is also the newly appointed coordinator of the Master of Archives and Records Administration program, won the Eugene Garfield Doctoral Dissertation Competition. As a team, Villagran and Hofman also won a $5,000 research grant to support their investigation into how library and information schools educate their students to manage privacy issues specific to sexual and gender minorities.

ALISE is a non-profit organization with an international membership that promotes excellence in the field of LIS education through advocacy and research.

Michele Villagran and Darra Hofman

The Norman Horrocks Leadership award honors a new ALISE member who has shown leadership in professional ALISE activities. Villagran joined ALISE in 2018, and “I just threw myself in and became very involved” she says. She presented at conferences, gave webinars, led a session at ALISE’s leadership conference and served as co-chair for juried panels among other activities. “I just love the organization,” she says. “I feel like it’s a space that you’re with peers that care about your research.”

Villagran will co-chair the 2022 doctoral dissertation competition that Hofman won this year. The dissertation competition awards $500 and ALISE membership to the author of a dissertation that addresses substantive issues related to libraries and information science.

Hofman’s prize-winning dissertation, Between Knowing and Not Knowing: Privacy, Transparency, and Digital Records, examines the relationship between privacy and digital workers. “I looked at things like federated machine learning, zero knowledge proofs, all kinds of super-techy type stuff from a very humanist lens,” says Hofman, summing up her 350-plus page paper. She earned her PhD in Library, Archival and Information Science from the University of British Columbia last year.

In the west, privacy is framed by notions of rights and consent, Hofman suggests, describing how historically records were concerned with the rights of the aristocracy. Now records have become a mechanism for confirming a person’s right to citizenship or services. “Part of what drew me to archival science in the first place is the role that records play,” says Hofman, who teaches a course on digital curation.

The research grant that Hofman and Villagran share supports their exploration of another aspect of privacy. Educating for Equity?: Sexual and Gender Minority Privacy in Library and Information Science Education looks at the impacts of COVID-19 surveillance on the privacy of sexual and gender minority people. The $5,000 will help fund initial research to discover how LIS programs are preparing students to meet the needs of LGBTQ+ patrons when it comes to complex questions and information policy.

Villagran and Hofman hope to expand their research beyond LIS programs to examine privacy issues in the context of the sexual and gender minority communities themselves, and to include in their focus other minority populations. “We need to equip our students to handle the ethical complexity of the topic,” says Villagran.

“I think it’s just going to get more complex,” Hofman says.

The pair joined forces when Hofman became interested in exploring privacy in the context of sexual and gender minorities and reached out to Villagran, seeking her expertise in cultural competence, diversity, equity and inclusion. “And it’s really just blossomed into this wonderful relationship,” she says.

Villagran jokes that she and Hofman are “twinsies” with their shared background, interests, and love of research. Villagran is a former law librarian while Hofman once practiced as a lawyer. Villagran values research as a way to give back and have an impact on the profession. “And I think it will have an impact on the actual population,” she says of the grant-funded project.

The pair plan to hire a research assistant; iSchool students interested in exploring the world of scholarly research will have an opportunity to get hands-on experience with an award-winning team.