Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Professor Spotlight: Dr. Clayton Copeland

Dr. Clayton Copeland (right) with her former elementary school librarian--and inspiration--Mrs. Ellen H. Ramsey

1. What made you become interested in the library and information science field in general?
I have always loved reading and libraries. Many of my earliest and happiest memories are in the library. I was particularly inspired my by elementary school librarian, Mrs. Ellen Ramsey and then by my middle and high school librarian, Mrs. Vicky Culbertson. Both are SLIS alums, and I count it among my greatest privileges to have known and worked with them.

From the time I was in elementary school until I graduated from high school, I worked in the school library as an assistant. I knew I wanted libraries and all that they stood for - learning, inquiry, knowledge, and opportunity - to be my life's work. The library was such a peaceful, tranquil place to me, a place where happy days were made happier and challenging days easier. No matter the burdens of my heart, somehow opening the library door, finding just the right book, and cuddling in a soft comfy chair made everything seem o.k. again. All of my worries seemed to be carried away by the gentle rustling of turning pages. My book journeys allowed me to discover both far and distant places and places within myself. Books gave me the gifts of learning and self acceptance.

Perhaps it is because libraries were the places where I came to love learning and to embrace differences that I came to love finding myself in their midst. From kindergarten forward, every spare moment was spent in the library. I joined the profession because I wanted to share all that libraries and librarians had shared and meant to my life with others.

2. Where did you earn your MLIS and Ph.D, and what did you appreciate about that program?
I earned both degrees from the University of South Carolina's School of Library and Information Science. I have always loved learning and have sought challenges and rigor, for it is through these that I believe we continue to learn and grow.

I began the SLIS program because I respected the reputation of the school, its faculty, and staff, and I have never once questioned my decision or had anything but gratitude for being exactly where I am. I have never wanted to leave, and while one can never be certain of life's journey, I hope to always be a part of the SLIS "family." The School's reputation caught my attention, and the "family" that is SLIS kept it and captured my heart. For all that SLIS has been and is to me, I want to be a part of our students' journeys and to help SLIS be all that it has been for me for others.

3. Prior to joining the SLIS faculty, do you have any other career experience in the library and information science field?
I have worked in various types of libraries in numerous capacities since I was a very young child. To this day, after more than 20 plus years of working experience in libraries and a lifetime of patronage, nothing makes me happier than seeing the eyes of a precious child light up when he or she comes into the library. For children and adults alike, the library is a magical place. People often come to the library with questions. Whether their questions relate to scholarly research or to life itself, the library has the power to help them find answers. Both as a library and information science professional and as a recipient of the power of the library to educate and help its patrons, I know the profound difference libraries can make.

4. What are some of your research interests?
Honestly, I am like a kid in the candy store, and it seems I always have my hand in the cookie jar. There are so many facets of our field in which I find interests, areas that give me pause and ignite my seemingly unquenchable passion for learning. I teach courses in information literacy, using information resources, planning library facilities, children's and young adult materials and programming for underserved populations, and Universal Design, and equity of access.

Libraries have an unmatched power to make a difference in the lives of each and every patron coming in their doors. With technological advances and storehouses of knowledge, libraries have the power to help patrons belonging to all demographics achieve their goals. My hope is that by working together and taking things one day and one step at a time, we can make libraries accessible to all members of the populous. Each and every person on earth has a mission in life – a purpose.

Cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and physical differences leave us all with unique challenges and barriers to overcome. Rather than leaving us with “disabilities” however, these differences leave us “differently able” to achieve. In future research, I hope to continue focusing on how libraries can be made more accessible and user-friendly to all patrons and library staff.

5. What advice or tips do you have for aspiring librarians in the program?
Always believe in yourselves and in your abilities. You are destined for work that only you can achieve, so always keep striving, never settle, and always, always, always keep your minds and hearts open to learning. Be the faces and the voices you want to see and hear in libraries and information centers. You are the present and the future of our libraries and information centers.

6. What do you think of student associations, such as LISSA?
They rock! Student Associations like LISSA are second to none because they help us find our professional voices and set us on the path for professional engagement and leadership throughout our careers.

7. Is there anything else you would like to say?
Thank you kindly for this opportunity. I am truly humbled and honored. Please always, always know that, along with the other members of the SLIS faculty and staff, I genuinely care about each and every student in the SLIS program. We are here to support and help you all in every way possible.