Barberousse brings rich life lessons as doula, mother to her LIS studies

Imani Barberousse

Snakes and bullies initially drove Imani Barberousse to the school library when she was a child.

"I was deathly afraid of snakes, and still am. The kids found out and used to throw snakes on me and put garter snakes in my pencil holder just to see me freak out," said Barberousse, a first-year student at the iSchool. "I began helping in the library at my small Catholic school to avoid recess and kids."

Libraries became her safe space, her refuge, and when she was older, the site of dates. 

"As I grew up, the library was just my solace—the Newberry Library, the Chicago library before there was a Harold Washington Library," she said. "I was allowed to date early, like thirteen, and that is where we were allowed to go on dates, to the library. That was my foundation, fast forward to being a model, a wife, and a homeschooling mother of five—I have spent so much time accessing what I need in a library."

This deep, emotional connection to libraries forged a path that would lead Barberousse to pursue a degree in library and information science at the iSchool.

"I love the friendliness, the access, the type of research I am learning," Barberousse said of the iSchool. "I am interested in education in the medical field and how education is being disseminated to people who lack the social skills to care for human beings."

Her interest in medical librarianship is a natural extension of her thirty years of experience as a doula and mother. She believes that collecting and disseminating birthing stories—especially those from women of color—can help inform and improve current medical techniques to reduce the maternal and infant death rate in the United States. 

"I believe African women, in particular, have been the backbone of birth work, and their stories hold a key to helping to stop the deaths/morbidity of women in general in this country, as the death of all women rises at birth," she said. "I also understand that the technique of birthing is being lost by technical interference. Where much technical support saves lives, we need to draw a line where it becomes detrimental."

In addition to her coursework, Barberousse carries a full load outside the classroom. She has four adult children, a teenager with differing abilities, and two grandchildren. She also runs her own business called EVERYTHING IMANI, where she advises her clients on birth, food therapy, curriculum building, and homeschooling. She is pursuing research assistantships and was recently elected as the 2022-2023 student representative for the iSchool's MS/LIS + CAS Program Committee. 

After earning her master's degree, she would like to begin working toward her PhD in information sciences at Illinois.

"I would like to focus my PhD on creating and using my collection of birthing stories for future research to close the gap between U.S. birth and morbidity. By sharing how we care for women before, during, and after delivery, we can make a change, resolutions exist," Barberousse said. "The answers may lie in our archive's birthing stories."

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