Meet SCI's New Faculty: Rebecca Morris

Name: Rebecca Morris
Title: Teaching Associate Professor
Department: Information Culture and Data Stewardship

A former elementary teacher and middle school librarian, Dr. Morris earned a MLIS and PhD at the (former) School of Information Sciences, University of Pittsburgh and a BS in Elementary and Kindergarten Education at the Pennsylvania State University, Schreyer Honors College. During the past four years while on parental leave, she served as part-time, adjunct faculty at McDaniel College and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro; at the latter, she was Assistant Professor in the Library and Information Science Department from 2013-2016. Prior to joining the UNCG faculty, she was Assistant Professor at the ALA-accredited Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Simmons College (now Simmons University, Boston) from 2011-2013. Dr. Morris and her husband have two daughters, and together their family enjoys nature hikes and being outdoors, crafting, watching sports, and beach vacations. Born and raised in the Pittsburgh area, Dr. Morris is a graduate of Penn Hills High School.

What are your research interests?
Over my career as a teacher, librarian, and researcher, I have been curious to participate, observe, and understand how school librarians contribute “today” to student learning and the community of the school, and how the capacities and relationships of a school librarian might evolve and innovate to better serve students and families, teachers, and school priorities. Some areas of research interest are the professional development of librarians and educators, and digital tools for storytelling and engaging with information. 

My scholarship encompasses publications and presentations for audiences of researchers, educators, and library science practitioners, a reflection of the particular context and needs of the interdisciplinary school and youth librarianship. An example of scholarship that speaks to stakeholders invested in, and adjacent to, the library profession is my 2015 book, School Libraries and Student Learning: A Guide for School Leaders (Harvard Education Publishing). This book aims to foster school library growth through the engagement of school principals and administrators.  

I’m curious to do more to involve young people, librarians, and educators more directly and intentionally in research projects. Toward this goal, in January 2020, I participated in a summit entitled CLASS (Causality: School Libraries and Student Success) Research Practitioner Partnerships (RPPs) in School Library Research, offered by the American Association of School Librarians. And at 2019’s iConference, I co-presented a session called, Playing Around: Informing, Including, and Inspiring Youth-Centered Information Researchers.  

Related to my research activities are my current roles on the Editorial Board of School Library Research and service in the Community of Scholars, part of the AASL Educators of School Librarians Section. I am also starting my sixth year as Co-Editor of School Library Connection, a print publication and digital platform published by ABC-CLIO. As editor, I recruit faculty and practicing librarians and educators to write for themed issues, support their submissions, write an editorial, and contribute professional development segments for video workshops, webinars, and interactives.

Why did you choose to come to SCI?
As the School of Computing and Information enters its fourth year, I am so excited and honored to be a part of the rich tradition of library and information science education here in Pittsburgh. I hope that my experience as a professor of LIS and leader in professional organizations will serve as an asset to SCI, particularly in the implementation of the newly redesigned MLIS program. As an alumna of the (former) School of Information Sciences MLIS and PhD programs myself, I am looking forward to joining the University community, meeting the students as classes and activities begin this Fall, and learning from new colleagues.

How does your research/teaching align with SCI’s mission?
As a member of the SCI faculty, I am looking forward to contributing to the School’s mission, especially in the area of building interdisciplinary partnerships. This summer, I have begun to meet faculty across the School through preparations for Flex @ Pitt. We have been sharing and discussing strategies for effective online and hybrid teaching, and it’s so interesting to see how we can draw inspiration from one another across diverse teaching topics and courses, on everything from assessment to creating instructional videos to building community in a class.  

My field of Library and Information Science is interdisciplinary by nature, and within the classroom, one of my favorite aspects of teaching in LIS is the diverse professional and academic backgrounds of my graduate students. Seldom does a person have an undergraduate degree in LIS, so the content is new for just about everyone— yet adult learners bring a range of experiences to the class community, as well as the intersection of diverse groups they may represent. I try to support students’ leadership growth and confidence in a field that is new to them by drawing upon their diverse academic, professional, and personal backgrounds, incorporating and examining authentic problems and questions, and providing flexibility and personalized learning in process and product. I hope that this philosophy, and my experience teaching online in varying formats, courses, and learning management systems, will be a helpful foundation for implementing Flex @ Pitt this year.