UCLA IS Celebrates 60 Years of Excellence, Innovation

Daylong event showcased pioneering work by graduate students, faculty, and alumni.

The UCLA Department of Information Studies celebrated its 60th Anniversary on Dec. 1 with a Celebration & Symposium, held on the UCLA campus. Faculty, alumni, and students gathered at the UCLA Faculty Center for a luncheon to kick off the event, with a keynote address by Professor Sarah T. Roberts titled, “Calling All Information Professionals: Our Future is Now.” Panel discussions presented by graduate students and faculty spanned topics from the value of community archives for marginalized populations, the work of preserving rare books and materials, and activism through intellectual and archival projects.

Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, Wasserman Dean of UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, hailed the assembled alumni, faculty, and students as “… a remarkable group of individuals who together are at the forefront of of theory, research, and practice in the most fundamental matters to our democracy.”

“The areas of expertise represented here are broad, interesting, fundamental: children’s services, data management, archiving the stories of people fleeing violence and dictatorship… museums and metadata, algorithmic bias of internet search engines, academic libraries, digital media from police cams, rare books, film and sound archiving, and on and on and on.”

Suárez-Orozco commended UCLA’s Department of Information Studies on its “…excellence, ethics… and it is also known as a community – perhaps thecommunity – that cares most about issues of justice and a community that welcomes the richness and wealth of knowledge and experience that comes with diversity.”

The UCLA Department of Information Studies was founded in 1958 as the School of Library Service. The first Dean was University Librarian Lawrence Clark Powell, for whom UCLA’s main undergraduate library is named. The School initially offered a master’s degree in Library Science, adding in 1965 a Master of Science in Information Science that was discontinued in 1972. That year, the school also began offering undergraduate courses in ethnic bibliography with a dual goal of serving ethnic studies programs and recruiting minority students to librarianship. The School was renamed the Graduate School of Library and Information Science in 1975 and a Ph.D. program was launched in 1979. In 1994, the Graduate School of Library and Information Science merged with the Graduate School of Education to form the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. The Master of Library Science degree was renamed Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) in the same year, and the Department of Library and Information Science became the Department of Information Studies in 1999.

Today, the UCLA Department of Information Studies is known as one of the top information schools in the world. In 2018, it was ranked #10 globally by QS World University Rankings. Its programs provide students with a blend of conceptual and theoretical knowledge and practical experience. Students acquire a solid foundation in contemporary library, archival, and information management theory, information seeking and retrieval skills, and information technology expertise. The department trains dozens of graduate students each year who go on to work in the vast field of information science, joining entertainment companies like Disney, social media platforms such as Google and Facebook, government and academia, and libraries.

The work of faculty and scholars in the department is broad and deep, ranging from the preservation of ancient documents, rare books and images, to the collection and preservation of records about migrants and refugees and data about climate change. Scholars are deeply engaged in the analysis of systems of access to information ranging from the study of classification systems that determine library content, privacy and access, the exploration and use of archives, the content moderation practices of social media platforms and the impact of policy issues such as net neutrality.

Professor Anne Gilliland, who was appointed Associate Dean for Information Studies this fall, welcomed the assembled guests and noted the vital service that UCLA students and graduates contribute to the local and international public.

Anne Gilliland, Associate Dean for Information Studies, welcomed attendees to a celebration of the 60th Anniversary of UCLA Information Studies. Photo by Todd Cheney, UCLA

“These are important times for the information fields, the kinds of fields that our programs and our alums represent, and the services and insight that they provide to communities here in Los Angeles and globally,” she noted. “[These fields] have always been important … but I think the importance of them has been recognized for decades now, given the ever-evolving and expanding information media and communications world and all of the new accessibilities and opportunities.

“Today, the information fields are particularly important for another reason, because it is their challenge and their responsibility to respond knowledgeably, innovatively, critically, equitably, passionately, and with agility and strong voices to the many challenges to equity, to access, to accountability and to the reliability of the information we manage… in this country and around the world,” said Gilliland.

Johanna Drucker, UCLA professor of information studies and the inaugural Bernard and Martin Breslauer Professor of Bibliography, shared the history of the establishment of the UCLA School of Library Service in 1960, which was authorized to offer a PhD program in 1979, and was combined with the UCLA Graduate School of Education to form GSE&IS in 1994.

Professor Sarah T. Roberts, whose groundbreaking work on commercial content moderation inspired the award-winning documentary, “The Cleaners,” said that she wanted to celebrate the department and the professions that it serves. She stated that UCLA IS students are highly employable and prized for their innovative research and high-level preparation, which lands them jobs in leadership positions in a wide range of information fields, including architecture, museums, and entertainment.

“I want to put out today a sort of rallying cry for all of us, wherever we are in the field, whatever point we are in our careers, because I believe that … this is a critical moment for engagement of people like us, with the professionalization that we have and with the communities with whom we engage,” Roberts said.

“We must enact and ensure our commitment to enlarging representation and access to this field,” she said. “We need a greater diversity of voices and experiences at the table to bring equity and access and a broadening of ways of knowing and understanding information to the fore. This of course, includes greater inclusion of underrepresented people in racial, socioeconomic, gender and sexuality, ability, and other realms. It means shifting and decentering normative, privileged positions that are a part of our field, our history, and our contemporary practice as well. We need to make … a powerful case for our field, for its value, and for its values, to those that need it, and that may constituencies that don’t realize that they do.”

Panel discussions included “Emerging Issues in Information Studies, moderated by Professor Gilliland; “Community Archives,” moderated by Professor Michelle Caswell; and “Rare Books – Why? Now? Yes!” moderated by Professor Drucker. A panel by UCLA IS PhD students titled, “Doctoral Leadership in Pioneering Intellectual Initiatives,” was conducted by Sakena Alalawi, Gracen Brilmyer, Jonathan Calazada, Maria Montenegro, and Peter Polack. A poster session displayed in Royce Hall featured work by IS students and faculty. A reception was held in the Powell Library Rotunda.

“The Year of the Book,” a series of events continues in celebration of the 60thAnniversary of UCLA Information Studies. For a complete list of events, visit this link.


Above: Alumni, students, and faculty from 60 years of Information Studies at UCLA gathered on Dec. 1 on campus to celebrate excellence and innovation. 

Photo by Todd Cheney, UCLA