Assistant Professor Kate McDowell has been named the 2012-2013 GSLIS Centennial Scholar in recognition and support of her accomplishments and promising scholarship in the field of library and information science.
McDowell, a member of the youth services faculty at GSLIS, is an accomplished storyteller whose research focuses on the history of children as readers and of youth services librarianship, as well as issues of race and gender in children’s literature.
An energetic and beloved instructor at GSLIS, McDowell teaches Storytelling, Fantasy Literature and Media for Youth, Literature and Resources for Young Adults, and Youth Services Librarianship, among other courses. She has been consistently named to the campus’s “Incomplete List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent” and has also developed new courses for the youth services program including Youth Services Community Engagement, which explores how young people’s information and educational needs are met by community institutions and organizations, and the doctoral seminar History of Readers which is co-taught with Assistant Professor Bonnie Mak.
“I value engagement through discussions and hands-on exercises that move our students from theory toward practice,” said McDowell. “The practicalities of, say, being a youth services librarian entail an enormous amount of converting concepts of learning, development, and narrative engagement into practical strategies and events, from cultural programming to traditional story times.”
Recently, McDowell’s research has led her to explore history and emerging directions in the cultural spaces of youth services. In June, McDowell presented a paper at the Children’s Literature Association Conference on editing non-white descriptions of race out of children’s books in the late 1940s. “I'm looking ahead toward projects such as: how the history of children's reading intersects with children's media more broadly; a comparative study of how real or imagined races in internationally acclaimed fantasy novels are described in professional and crowdsourced reviews; and examinations of how libraries are changing to serve youth today.”
Kate has served as co-chair of the youth services SIG for ALISE as well as on the Justin Winsor Award Committee of the Library History Round Table of the ALA. She also actively reviews articles for a number of journals, including the Journal of Library and Information Science, International Journal of Library and Information Science, and Journal of Education for Library and Information Science. At GSLIS, she co-chaired the Reading Around Race Group and served as a member of the Doctoral Studies Committee and Center for Children’s Books Advisory Committee.
Since 2008, McDowell has served as director of the popular GSLIS Storytelling Festival, an annual event that brings together local storytellers from GSLIS and the community for an evening.
“Story is the central way that humans organize and convey meaningful information. This powerful tool can be used to many ends, of course, but in my work I focus on storytelling as a means of bringing literacies of many kinds to young people and conveying the power of information sources and services for the young,” she said.