Black and Gabb honored with Shera Award for Distinguished Published Research

Alistair Black
Alistair Black, Professor Emeritus

Professor Alistair Black and doctoral candidate Henry Gabb have been honored by the American Library Association's Library Research Round Table (LRRT) with the 2017 Jesse H. Shera Award for Distinguished Published Research. The annual award recognizes research that employs exemplary research design and methods in the planning or initial stage of use.

Black and Gabb's research repeated a 1916 survey of American corporate libraries with a selection of today's corporate librarians to assess operations and perceived value, following nearly a century of change. Their findings, presented in "The Value Proposition of the Corporate Library, Past and Present" and published in Information & Culture: A Journal of History (2016, vol. 51, no. 2), underscored the enduring value of the corporate library.

From the abstract: Corporate libraries of the kind we would recognize today began to appear around the turn of the twentieth century. They were a response to a rapidly changing corporate and commercial environment, acting as adjuncts to both the rise of systematic industrial research and the office management revolution that accompanied the implementation of scientific management. A survey of American corporate libraries in 1916 by the British manufacturer Rowntree and Company provides a snapshot of their operations and perceived value. The survey was repeated with a selection of today's corporate librarians. Their responses are strikingly similar to those of their early twentieth-century counterparts, despite intervening technological change. As it was a century ago, the value of the corporate library, even if it cannot be quantified, is accepted.

"The 1916 survey that Alistair uncovered in the Rowntree archives provided a 100-year-old snapshot of the American corporate library. Repeating the survey with modern corporate librarians suggests that little has changed in the mission or value proposition of the corporate library in spite of a century of technological progress," said Gabb, who worked on the research with Black as part of an independent study.

Gabb is doctoral candidate at the iSchool and a senior principal engineer at Intel Corporation. He studies chemical exposure from everyday consumer products, and the first phase of this work was published in "An Informatics Approach to Evaluating Combined Chemical Exposures from Consumer Products: A Case Study of Asthma-Associated Chemicals and Potential Endocrine Disruptors." He has published extensively in computational life science and high-performance computing. He holds a BS in biochemistry from Louisiana State University, an MS in medical informatics from the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, and a PhD in molecular genetics from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine.

Black is a prolific scholar whose research on the design of post-war British public libraries was recently awarded an Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH) Honorable Mention prize for best faculty research. He is the author of A New History of the English Public Library (1996), The Public Library in Britain 1914-2000 (2000), and Libraries of Light: British Public Library Design in the Long 1960s (2017) and co-author of several other books. In 2014, he was named an iSchool Centennial Scholar for his outstanding accomplishments in the field of library and information science. He earned his master's degree in social and economic history from the University of London and his doctorate from London Metropolitan University.

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