“To connect, you have to listen”

Bringing real-world social justice experiences into LIS education





soft skills, field-based experiences, cultural competency, reflexivity, communication


Library and information science (LIS) scholarship has increasingly become aware of disconnects between the traditional curriculum and real-world soft skills employers value in future public library professionals, particularly in regards to being able to engage with underserved communities. To address this gap, MLIS students at two iSchools participated in a field-based social justice assignment that required them to identify an underserved community group they wanted to learn more about, and then collaborate with and interview a member of the group or a community organization that was working with the group. Students completed a written reflection about the experience that the researchers analyzed to understand how a field-based social justice assignment can foster soft skill development for LIS students. Findings indicate that the field-based assignment supported students’ development of three soft skills important for both LIS careers and social justice work: cultural competency, communication, and reflexivity.

Author Biographies

  • Jacqueline Kociubuk, School of Information, University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Jacqueline “Jacquie” Kociubuk, MLIS/MEd, is a PhD student in the Information School at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research focuses on understanding the role of the public library as an informal learning and community space and place for children and families. Her work has been published in the Journal of Research in Childhood Education, Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, and the Library Quarterly, among others.

  • Kathleen Campana, School of Information, Kent State University

    Kathleen Campana, PhD, focuses her research on understanding the learning that occurs for children, youth, and families in informal and digital learning environments and how those environments support and impact the learning process. She is the Principal Investigator for Project VOICE and Project SHIELD, both funded by IMLS, as well as Read Baby Read, funded by the William Penn Foundation. Her work has been published in Library QuarterlyJournal of Librarianship and Information ScienceInformation and Learning Sciences, and Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, among others. 

  • Michelle Martin, School of Information, University of Washington

    Dr. Michelle H. Martin is the Beverly Cleary Professor for Children and Youth Services in the Information School at the University of Washington, where she teaches youth services and children’s literature courses. Her research focuses on African American children’s literature and other youth literature from diverse backgrounds. She is the co-founder of Read-a-Rama (www. Read-a-Rama.org), a non-profit organization that uses children’s books as the springboard for summer and year-round programming for children ages 4-11.

  • J. Elizabeth Mills, Webjunction at OCLC

    Dr. J. Elizabeth Mills is a research consultant. Her research explores the nature and role of reflection in the ways public librarians plan, deliver, and assess storytimes for young children. With Dr. Katie Campana, Elizabeth has conducted several research studies, including librarians’ use of new media with young children and the role of social justice, value-centric outcomes in public libraries’ outreach efforts with families and young children. She has extensive experience presenting at both academic and professional conferences and workshops, as well as offering research-based training to practitioners. Additionally, she has taught and developed materials for synchronous and asynchronous online courses for masters of library and information science students. Elizabeth is co-author and co-editor of Supercharged Storytimes: An Early Literacy Planning and Assessment Guide and Create, Innovate, and Serve: A Radical Approach to Children’s and Youth Programming.


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Juried Papers