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WFU librarian wins national innovation award


March 17, 2008

Susan Sharpless Smith, head of information technology at Wake Forest University’s Z. Smith Reynolds Library, has been selected by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) to receive its 2008 Instruction Section (IS) Innovation Award.

The award annually recognizes a project that demonstrates creative, innovative or unique approaches to information literacy instruction or programming.  Smith will receive a $3,000 cash prize and commemorative plaque June 29 during the American Library Association’s annual conference in Anaheim, Calif.

Smith was chosen for her participation as an “embedded librarian” in a sociology course called “Social Stratification in the Deep South.”  The 2007 summer course included a two-week bus tour from North Carolina through South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee to examine firsthand the race, class and gender issues that have long divided the region.  Smith helped students create online blogs, upload photographs and maintain an interactive course Web site throughout the trip.

“This library-academic partnership project demonstrates how librarians can make a positive and dramatic impact on a program,” said Susan Beck, IS awards committee chair and collection development coordinator at the New Mexico State University Library.  “The embedded instruction program from Wake Forest University serves as a model for true collaboration between librarians and faculty.”

Earl Smith, Rubin Professor of American Ethnic Studies and professor of sociology, and Angela Hattery, associate professor of sociology, had taught the course twice before and noted the pronounced difference made by Smith’s presence as an embedded librarian.

“The course was 10 times better with the technological input from Susan,” Hattery said.  “She was able to design technology that allowed us to implement course goals that are often difficult in a travel course.”

For example, daily journaling, which is straightforward in an on-campus setting—students can e-mail journals, upload them using Blackboard software, or even hand them in on paper—becomes problematic when students are traveling or in venues eight to 10 hours a day and staying in hotels that often have limited Internet access.

“The integration that Mrs. Smith created between text and images made the course come alive not only for our own students but perhaps more importantly for those following our journey—those back home and those we met ‘on the road.’” Earl Smith said.

Wake Forest Provost Jill Tiefenthaler welcomed the library award and attributed it to Wake Forest’s commitment to cross-campus collaborations.

“Susan Sharpless Smith’s innovative contribution to this sociology class exemplifies Wake Forest’s ability to deploy the resources of a major university across all of its departments while providing students with the personal instruction associated with smaller collegiate settings,” Tiefenthaler said.

For her part, Smith said she gained lasting memories on the trip.

“This was the most rewarding professional experience I’ve had since entering the library field,” Smith said.  “It was the perfect opportunity to integrate our ideas about enhancing collaborative learning through technology with the ability to assess their effectiveness throughout the actual course.  Having this unique environmentto foster close relationships with the course’s students and faculty was an unexpected bonus.”

Smith holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland at College Park, a Master of Library and Information Studies degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a master’s degree in educational technology leadership from George Washington University.

ACRL is a division of the American Library Association representing 13,000 academic and research librarians throughout North America with programs, products and services that support the role academic libraries play in teaching, learning and research environments.

Z. Smith Reynolds Library opened on the Wake Forest Reynolda Campus in 1956 and today houses more than 1.4 million volumes in 173,000 square-feet.  More than 50 full-time library staff and 150 student employees each semester provide round-the-clock services five days per week.

Press Contacts:

Eric Frazier
(336) 758-5237


Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237


Susan Sharpless Smith, head of information technology at Wake Forest University's Z. Smith Reynolds Library
Susan Sharpless Smith, head of information technology at Wake Forest University's Z. Smith Reynolds Library
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