SLIS alumna encourages students to seek international perspectives

School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) alumna and former faculty member Heidi Julien says that a library and information studies degree is a passport. Looking at her CV, it would be easy to take Julien’s assertion literally.

Along with her decade teaching at SLIS, Julien’s credentials have taken her to posts in New Zealand and the Maritimes, with a stop at the University of Alabama before she arrived at her current position as professor information science at the University of Buffalo Graduate School of Education in 2013. But there’s a figurative sense to her remark in how an LIS degree opens a world of possibilities.

“The skill set you learn in LIS is widely applicable in almost any organizational setting where information needs to be organized or shared or archived or managed—what organization doesn’t have those needs?” Julien said. “So don’t feel limited to traditional positions. There are lots of opportunities.”

That skill set, she added, is enhanced by cultivating an awareness of LIS scholarship from around the world.

“Make sure you take an international perspective on the field and your practice because lots of interesting and useful work goes on beyond your immediate context,” she said.

To that end, Julien has established a scholarship for MLIS students at the University of Alberta to support their ability to attend conferences in the post-pandemic world in order to enrich their understanding of the field and extend their scholarly networks.

“I want to give something back to an institution that gave me so much and I hope that it makes a difference to students moving forward,” Julien said. “Conferences have been a key part of my scholarly identity, so I want to encourage students to take those opportunities. And I hope to encourage my peers to think along the same lines, to consider giving back to the institution in a way to support students.”

Julien said that LIS has always been ahead of the curve in terms of pioneering work involving digital technologies, for example, and in advocating for equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in academe, which has progressed to promoting anti-racist scholarship in recent years. Given the rapidly evolving information environment and the need to promote digital literacy, LIS as a discipline continues to become more relevant. But like a passport, Julien noted, an LIS education needs to be updated regularly to maintain its value.

“Make sure you continue to engage in lifelong learning, because there’s always lots to learn,” Julien said.