How librarians can support political scholarship and participation

We’re pleased to announce Julie Leuzinger, a political science librarian and the head of library learning services at the University of North Texas, as the winner of the 2017 Marta Lange/SAGE-CQ Press award. The award celebrates Julie’s support of political scholarship and civic engagement on campus and within the community.

 As part of her award, Julie receives a travel grant to the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference. Ahead of her trip, we caught up with her to learn more about her accomplishments and ask for some tips. Check out what she had to say below.

How do you support scholarship in politics, policy, and international relations on your campus?

In addition to general research assistance for both undergraduate and graduate students, I attend student poster presentations, ask questions, and provide feedback. I place a high priority on research help requests from our tenure track faculty and will meet with them within their first year at the university to ensure I understand their research area. An Assistant Professor’s successful achievement of tenure is of great importance to me as well as the department I serve. I also support scholarship in the area by co-publishing with my faculty.

What are some ways that political science librarians can promote informed political participation among students?

Any librarian can promote informed political participation among college students! That’s part of what we do! It ties into the Association of College & Research Libraries’ Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. My focus overall has been on the frame Authority is Constructed and Contextual; however, I have collaborated with faculty on student projects and activities that bring in some of the other frames. I provide students with opposing views that allow them to examine the intent and authority of the author by investigating their background and the community they are speaking to or for. This opens up discussion on becoming aware of your own biases and finding value in multiple perspectives. Encouraging our students to learn these inquiry skills helps further the civic literacy of our students, and improves information literacy as a whole. It’s all just wrapped up in the conversation of politics, voting, and advocacy.

You have been applauded for your service to the community. Tell us a little bit about your work.

I serve on the board of the League of Women Voters of Denton as the VP for Community Relations and I am a deputized voter registrar for the county. I interact with other partisan and non-partisan local organizations in both roles, which allows me to stay connected and provide information to others. For the League, I work with local candidates to create our Voter’s Guide as well as to coordinate candidate forums. As a voter registrar, I coordinate registration drives in the dorms and other buildings on campus. My passion for removing the barriers that can sometimes prevent college students from participating in elections drove me to work tirelessly to bring a polling location to our campus for major elections (this is more challenging than one might think).

In your opinion, how can librarians help students learn how to become advocates for themselves and their communities as citizens?

Librarians can help students become advocates in a few ways. First, lead by example. Your passion and enthusiasm can be inspiring. Second, get to know them and their concerns. All the networking I do for the League is for the students. It allows me to put them in contact with others who have like interests, who are already serving as advocates for their community. Third, demonstrate that advocacy is for everyone. Suggest they attend a candidate forum, a city council meeting, a town hall meeting, or a political convention. These activities are for everyone, not just politicians. Overall, use your reference interview skills! Be approachable and invite them to ask you for further help finding advocacy groups or information on issues that matter to them. Building up this social capital now, while they are in college, can show them the impacts an engaged community can make.

Heading to ALA Annual this year as well? Stop by the SAGE Booth (#1634) to attend sessions by library experts and to demo our products. Check our our full booth schedule here and follow @SAGELibraryNews for updates on our latest activities. 


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