Faculty Research Profile: Michèle Cloonan by Jennifer Moyer

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for cloonan2011.jpgWhile most people might take a long, well deserved relaxing vacation after being a graduate school dean for more than a decade, Michèle Cloonan is an exception. As Dean Emerita and Professor at Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS), Cloonan has moved onto a variety of new projects in publishing, research, and academics.

Most recently, Cloonan became editor of the Preservation, Digital Technology & Culture (PDT&C) journal, which involved a complete redesign, title, content, and editorial board overhaul from its outdated predecessor, The Microform Review. Adding to the GSLIS repertoire of faculty-edited publications, such as the Library Information Research and Science (LISR) journal, PDT&C is an international, inter-disciplinary, quarterly, peer-reviewed journal that aims to create dialogue across a variety of disciplines about the technological, social, economic, political, and user issues arising from digital content preservation that "may not always be on librarians' and archivists' radar screens."

The first issue features compelling pieces authored by internationally recognized researchers, including GSLIS faculty members Ross Harvey and Martha Mahard who wrote "Mapping the Preservation Landscape for the Twenty-First Century." It also includes "Lessons from Archiving the Occupy Movement," by Howard Besser, Director of New York University's (NYU) Moving Image Archiving & Preservation Program and Senior Scientist for Digital Library Initiatives for NYU's Library. University of Michigan School of Information's Associate Professor Paul Conway examines the difficult questions surrounding how perfectly librarians can meet standards with limited resources in "Preserving Imperfection: Assessing the Incidence of Digital Imaging Error in HathiTrust."

A strategic communications effort is in progress to spread the journal's research messages internationally. "To reach scholars all over the world, I was able to recruit editorial board members from every continent except Antarctica," said Cloonan. To generate a constant news stream, editorial assistant Tricia Patterson is working on launching a blog that will appear on social networks, like Facebook and Twitter. Cloonan hopes the publication will encourage emerging scholars in the field to publish and engage students beyond the classroom. For example, a GSLIS doctoral candidate is currently writing an article about personal information management, which will appear in the upcoming PDT&C issue.

It also isn't enough for Cloonan that Simmons GSLIS took the top spot in archives in the latest U.S. News and World Report rankings. As the nation's only library and information science school offering more than three decades of consistent education in archives, preservation, and cultural heritage, Cloonan plans to keep GSLIS in the lead with ongoing enhancements to the program. Professor Peter Botticelli from the University of Arizona School of Information Resources and Library Science is joining the faculty and brings a wealth of expertise as a historian, archivist, and as the director of the University of Arizona's Digital Information Management (DigIn) graduate certificate program. Cloonan looks forward to maintaining excellence with the GSLIS archives team as the school continues to build upon the success of the digital stewardship certificate by "emphasizing its role in the master's, doctoral, and continuing education programs."

Cloonan also leads the little-known preservation for conservators certificate program at GSLIS.  Carrie McNeal from the University of Delaware was the first recipient of the GSLIS certificate. "There are only handful of art conservator programs in the U.S. and Canada. Attending an art conservator program is similar to attending medical school, and it is even more competitive," says Cloonan. Each school accepts fewer than 10 students per year, and students must have strong academic backgrounds in art, science, and art history. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded grants to the University of Delaware, New York University (NYU), and Buffalo State to expand their book and archives curriculums to help conservation students gain an understanding of library, information science, and archive theory and practice that will benefit the institutions where they work. GSLIS offers courses for these conservation students. The Simmons GSLIS certificate in preservation for conservators involves taking courses in preservation, archives, historic book structures, and the history of the book.

In spite of her busy schedule, Cloonan looks forward to writing and spending time with students. "As Dean, your life is scheduled to the last minute of every day of every year." She is currently writing two books. Preserving Our Heritage: Perspectives from Antiquity to the Digital Age is an interdisciplinary preservation anthology to be published in January 2014 by the American Libraries Association. Monumental Preservation examines how politics, culture, and the times we live in affect preservation decisions, and will be published by MIT Press. In addition, Cloonan is on national and international dissertation committees and is the convener for the GSLIS doctoral committee. After teaching LIS 439 at South Korea's Yonsei University during the summer, she will teach LIS 401 Foundation of Library and Information Science in Fall 2013, and plans to supervise several independent study projects.

Through her work, Cloonan seeks to explore the challenges to preservation management, including how cultural heritage "can be held hostage to political agendas" and is vulnerable to natural disasters and global warming, and how cultural policy legislates and protects historical artifacts. However, she is optimistic about advances in the field, as libraries, archives, and museums are working together to make collections available online. Their collaborative expertise in authentication (archives), education (museums), and organization and dissemination (libraries), is allowing people worldwide to gain access to various aspects of cultural heritage, as well as increasing physical attendance at these institutions.                 

Although Cloonan still has enough on her plate to keep her busy, she reminisces about her days as dean as she "enjoyed making things happen." Does Cloonan have any advice for the new dean? "She doesn't need any. Though, I might advise her to have as much fun as she can. When you are dean, it's sometimes difficult to enjoy the moment."

Faculty Profile | Infolink Newsletter | September 2013