Meet the Librarians: Hollie Gardner

What do the graduate student lounge, the chairs, and the Fondren library website all have in common? The User Experience (UX) Librarian and Marketing Team Lead Hollie Gardner.

Gardner started her journey as a librarian as the morning and, later, the night supervisor in the music library at the University of North Texas where she got her bachelor’s degree in music. “I ended up making the UNT music library my home throughout my undergraduate career,” she said. “Even though I was shifting around in my majors and trying to figure out the rest of my life, that was the one consistent thing [in my life]. It was always my happy place.”


As an UX librarian at Southern Methodist University, Gardner spends most of her time revamping the website.

“Whenever I think of user experience in the library, I think of all the different touchpoints,” she said. “You’ve got the obvious one like the website, which is the thing that first comes to mind. You’ve also got the facilities [such as] the chairs. I’ve had multiple samples of chairs [come into my office], and people sit in the different chairs to test them out. Then we have them vote for which ones are the best for the work that you’re going to do.”

Her hard work pays off when she hears stories about those who spend their whole day at Fondren Library, seeking out different spaces to study and work. “We have different spaces that meet different need states,” she said. “But that’s exactly what we wanted, making the most of the space in the ways they need to.”


Outside of curating spaces, Gardner spends her time working with the Director of the Master’s in Design and Innovation Programs (MADI) Jessica Burnham.

“I’ve been working with [Burnham] to design assignments, figure out the best places to go for research, not only inside the library but outside the library. That’s kind of one of my big things is whenever students graduate they won’t have access to the same types of resources, so I want to make sure they are able to find relevant work to support their work in the not university world and that they know the resources they still have access to as alumni here at SMU.”


Ultimately, Garden’s job can be summed up with the quote on the whiteboard in her office: “If you want people to do something, make it easy.”

For Gardner, that means simplifying things as to make them more accessible. “If you want people to use good information, then make it easier for them to get good information,” she said. “If you want them to cite things correctly, then make it easier for them to cite things correctly.”


Interview conducted by Author Wren Lee, SMU ’22 Creative Computation and Film and Media Arts Pre-Major and Fondren Library Marketing Department Student Assistant

Meet the Librarians: Julia Stewart

Government Information and Social Sciences Research Librarian Julia Stewart started her path to librarianship with a unique first step.


Stewart worked in the publishing industry at Harcourt Brace College Publishing where she first got interested in working with a subject. “From working with college texts, books, I knew it would be interesting to read, to work with a subject in depth, so I like the idea of being a subject specialist,” she said.


Stewart also has a background in teaching. She was a language arts teacher at R.L. Paschal High School in the Fort Worth Independent School District.

The transition between working with high school and college-age students has been interesting for Stewart. At her high school, she had a busy schedule dealing with students all day.

“You’re taking role, going to faculty meetings for your campus policy, trying to enforce dress code, trying to teach whatever’s needed for the state test at the time, and working more with a giant class. You’re with seven classes of 30 every day for five days a week,” she said. “It’s a really hectic pace. You’re also working with their parents. It was very people intensive.”

Comparatively at in a college library, students are more hands-on in their own learning. “With college, [the students] have so much more freedom, and they’re organizing their time, trying to be cognizant of that. They’re still trying to fulfill goals and look at the future,” she said. “You’re dealing with them more directly; they’re taking more interest. In the high school, it seems like the parents are more involved. [In college,] it’s [the students] you’re working with.”


Now that Stewart is at Southern Methodist University something that she enjoys about working in college is that it is never boring. “Especially in the library, there’s been so many changes. The library was renovated a few years ago, so the building is a whole different building to me than when I started. [It is] much more useful and gets more usage from students. It’s very interesting to see [that change].”


Part of the appeal for SMU for Stewart is the location. Located in the heart of Dallas, SMU offers access to everything from Mockingbird Station to the Farmer’s Market. “I like Dallas. It’s nice to be at one of the main universities in Dallas as the city’s been changing so much, so I guess it’s just it’s a good fit for me,” she said. “There’s always something to do. There’s always something happening.”


At SMU, Stewart is in charge of the government documents collection. As the librarian in charge of that collection, Stewart has had the opportunity to expose herself to many different rare U.S. documents. One of her favorites is the World War II collection of documents on creating victory gardens. “There are pamphlets for how you can plant your Victory Garden,” she said. “[Back then,] you’re trying to save food and trying to be supportive of the war effort. It seems like you can see a window into a different world of people trying to come together during the war to be sufficient and plant a garden on their own.”


One of the political science projects she has worked on involved collaborating with the Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School and one of the political science professors at SMU. “[At Irma Lerma Rangel, the professor] was able to start an internship for some students at that school, some of the seniors, and it was a research internship. I was able to provide some of the research instruction and the information literacy instruction for them on their project. Their project had to do with the Center for presidential history, and I was the one who helped them use the library resources to do the project. It went back to having worked in high school. I felt like this is really perfect, because it’s got library stuff; it’s got students involved; it’s something with Dallas.”


Interview conducted by Author Wren Lee, SMU ’22 Creative Computation and Film and Media Arts Pre-Major and Fondren Library Marketing Department Student Assistant

Meet the Librarians: Megan Heuer

For Head of Information Literacy and Communication Arts Librarian Megan Heuer, there is no such thing as a typical. She spends her time working with professors and students in the communication arts majors, managing the other librarians in Fondren Library, and working with the guides team.


Heuer got her start as a librarian at the age of 35, but it was love at first page. “As soon as I started library school, I just fell in love with it; I was one of those super library nerds. I just loved library school,” she said.

Her first job out of library school was at a school of only 300 students. “It was a tiny library in a tiny school, so I ran everything,” she said. “I did everything for that library; I had my finger on everything sort of thing. I got to experience all of librarianship at once, and probably my favorite part of that was working with students and faculty and thinking about education. I’m a naturally curious person, and I love to learn, so the educational side of librarianship is a very natural fit for me.”


One part of her job is managing the Fondren librarians. “Managing is helping somebody; thinking about what’s going on in their job and what goals do they have; and trying to remove the barriers that they have,” she said. “Sometimes it’s just listening to [them] and being empathetic or making suggestions or helping them connect with people who could help with any challenges that they have. It’s talking through more kind of areas of personal development they might want to take on or what more they should take on.”

As a subject librarian, Heuer knows what her fellow librarians go through.

“I think [being a subject librarian while being the other subject librarians’ manager] is really important because I have to be able to walk the walk. I feel like it’s really important because it gives me empathy for what I’m doing,” she said. “In any organization, the higher up you go, the farther away you are from the front line. I would say I am in the middle. I am that person who is seeing both sides of the coin. I see like things from the management side, but I am on the front lines as well. And that is very important to me personally that I do that. And I’m not ready to give up working with students and faculty directly, so I don’t want to give that part up.”


Another part of her job is heading the information literacy efforts. Information literacy is important on a college campus, and Heuer defines it as “the ability to use information for whatever needs that you have. It’s a set of understandings about information use, and those sets of understandings really are dependent on the context of how you’re using [the information].”

Information literacy isn’t limited to academic research papers, though. For Heuer, she says It touches all parts of your life.

“[It’s] not just how do you find information for paper or knowing what a scholarly article is and how to recognize it,” she said. “That’s sort of the traditional way [of thinking about information literacy], but how do I evaluate information that I’m using for researching things for my personal health? Or how do I think about the news media?”


Heuer has designed workshops on fake and biased news in the past. She has noticed trends in how society consumes media and finds this problematic. “I think the biggest problem is that the way we consume news is very casual and quick,” she said. “As you’re cycling through your newsfeed on social media, you’re flipping through, and you see something that catches your eye. Take the time to investigate or dig down a little bit. Try to find a story from the other from another perspective or try to find a story that’s from a different kind of publication than you usually read. Just think through and apply analytical skills to what you’re reading. But I think a lot of us don’t take the time to do that because we’re inundated with all this information all the time. But just slow down and really think about what you’re looking at.”


Interview conducted by Author Wren Lee, SMU ’22 Creative Computation and Film and Media Arts Pre-Major and Fondren Library Marketing Department Student Assistant

Meet the Librarians: Rafia Mirza

In Fondren 104C, Humanities Librarian Rafia Mirza sits surrounded by figurines and posters of Kermit the Frog, Wall-E, Ms. Marvel, and the Powerpuff Girls.


As reflected in her choice of decoration, Mirza is interested in popular culture. In college, she studied pop culture, media, and the public memory at the State University of New York College at Buffalo. “I was really interested in ideas around public memory, and how we use popular culture to think about national identity,” she said. “When I started American Studies, I was studying action films and science fiction films, and sort of the ways in which we talk about who’s a part of the nation, who’s not a part of a nation, and how we sort of think about certain things. I was interested in not just external events but also ways in which we think about memory or talk about certain events because that shapes how people think of events.”

She chose American Studies because it combined historical and cultural studies. “For historical studies, you might look more at legal cases or historical events,” she said. “But in cultural studies, you look at that, but then also what’s the popular media of the time. For example, how are our films reflecting or talking about that? Cultural studies are in between the historical aspect but also the literature and film aspects.”

Originally, she wanted to be an American Studies professor, but her career plans changed due to the limited American Studies programs in the U.S. “I thought about what are the things that I like, that maybe I could do a different path,” she said. “A lot of [being an academic librarian] was very similar. I’d still be involved with the university and still do instruction. I’d still be able to do some research, but it would be a slightly broader field.”


Her fascination with pop culture is reflected in her work as a librarian.

For example, she has studied and written a paper on how female and male librarians are depicted in the media. “There is this one sort of popular culture representation of librarians,” she said. “People think about librarians as a very female-dominated profession. But then most pop culture depictions of librarians are men, right? So like Giles and a couple different movies.”


Beyond pop culture, Mirza is interested in digital humanities. Mirza defines the digital humanities (DH) as using computational methods to investigate a humanities question.

She got involved in digital humanities by wanting to find a way to use technology to help aid in research. “I got interested and involved in DH because I thought about these different ways of looking at and thinking about what you are studying and how you might visualize or analyze them,” she said. “There are interesting things you can do. That’s also the thing about digital humanities, like how you might play around with these different tools to look at or approach questions in a new way. And sometimes you’ll do stuff where it allows you to ask new questions, but you still have to think more and work with people to find an answer.”

Currently, she is working on the Digital Humanities Research Institute (DHRI). Applications for this summer program close on April 22. Click here to learn more.


Interview conducted by Author Wren Lee, SMU ’22 Creative Computation and Film and Media Arts Pre-Major and Fondren Library Marketing Department Student Assistant

Meet the Librarians: Jonathan McMichael

 User Experience Librarian

Originally a teacher, User Experience (UX) Librarian Jonathan McMichael found his interest in librarianship while getting his Master’s in Education. “In my first year of real teaching after student teaching, we had to take classes to get a Master’s degree, and they were night classes,” McMichael said. “In between teaching and [my classes], I fell asleep in the library, woke up, and heard somebody asking about UN documents. I heard the librarian ask a bunch of questions. As a teacher, I know asking a bunch of questions is an effective strategy for getting people to think. [The librarian was] asking these questions in very specific ways that made me realize that they were helping this person realize what they actually needed and figuring what their information need was. And I thought, ‘This is really fascinating’.”

McMichael’s background in education has strongly impacted his time here at Southern Methodist University. His desire to be a librarian stems from a similar love for teaching. “I teach because I want to work with people who are genuinely curious about finding and using information,” he said.

Teaching has even bled into the UX work McMichael does. “Teaching is so much about empathy,” he said. “Everybody makes sense of the world in a different way. When you can start to realize that and see the nuances of how people work it out in their mind and appreciate it, your prior knowledge changes the way you would make sense of it. It means that if you’re going to have a UX design, it’s not going to be one size fits all because people bring so many different things to the table. But you can notice patterns, and you can notice trends on how people are making sense of things.”

For McMichael, UX design is strongly tied to designing curriculum and working with the professors to help guide their students through research. Not only does he work as an UX librarian, but he also works as the DISC librarian, helping the first-year students.

“I love the fact that there’s an interesting thing that is happening in colleges within first year,” he said. “People are making choices about who they’re going to be for the next decade or so in life. I think that’s a really influential time, so you get these seminal moments in someone’s life. Secondarily, it’s also where I see a lot of need. Adapting to a university environment is challenging for a lot of students, almost every student, because it’s brand new. It just so happens that the newest people to the group are the ones that don’t get it the best. If they don’t get it the best, they sometimes can become marginalized or frustrated, so there’s also probably a little bit of that.”

His love of learning has led McMichael to working at SMU. “In general, just working at universities is really fascinating,” he said. “I love the fact that there is an institution that is oriented to the generation of knowledge. I still think about it, having worked in it for 10 years now. It’s amazing that it exists. And it’s so well-funded and has such a prominent place in society, which I think is awesome. It’s just incredible [being] where learning is happening. I love being around learning. I’m addicted to the sense of people becoming the thing they’re going to be and figuring things out. It’s happening around me all the time.”


Interview conducted by Author Wren Lee, SMU ’22 Creative Computation and Film and Media Arts Pre-Major and Fondren Library Marketing Department Student Assistant

Immerse Yourself in the Digital Humanities!

SMU Libraries premieres the Digital Humanities Research Institute.

DHRI logo with SMU logoJoin DHRI@SMU, August 19-22, 2019. Apply now, applications are due April 22.

Digital humanities (DH) uses computational methods and tools to address humanities questions.What is a good way of getting started in the digital humanities? Bootcamps! DHRI@SMU offers intensive training in digital tools and skills.We will give equal focus to the digital and the humanities, while emphasizing the collaborative, interdisciplinary nature of DH projects.


Our curriculum includes:

  • defining digital humanities
  • considering what data means for the humanities
  • learning programming languages, such as git/GitHub and the R
  • discussing collaborative practices and project management
  • working with some data sets.

Meet the Librarians: Rebecca Graff

Research Librarian, Rebecca Graff’s tip to undergraduates, “Contact your librarian. Seriously. It starts to sound cliché after a while, but we can help in many ways. We can help you think about the question you’re asking and help you think about it in ways you might not have thought on your own.”

Graff understands the challenge facing student, she began began her path to librarianship long ago with a CD Rom search.

When Graff attended Earlham College for her bachelor’s degree in English literature, she often met with the librarians to work on her papers. “It happened when I was searching the Modern Language Association Bibliography on CD-Rom, and one of the librarians, Nancy Taylor, came up and was looking at my search,” she said. “She complimented me on the way I was going about [the search], the way I was using subject terms and combining them with Boolean logic. And I thought, ‘Huh, I like searching, I like teaching.’ And then it was apparent that being a librarian meant working with students and teaching a lot.”

With her hair pulled back in a stereotypical librarian bun, Graff entered a Master’s program in Information and Library Studies at the University of Michigan. Since then, she has worked at the University of Michigan, Loyola University Chicago, and Grinnell College before coming to Southern Methodist University.

Graff came to SMU 15 years ago and has seen Fondren library change over time. Beyond the physical changes, she has seen the students change. “Something that I find more surprising is the difference in the students.” she said. “When I first started, students were surprised they could check out 30 books. I heard [them ask] ‘Why would I ever need 30 books’ a lot. Within 10 years, undergrads requested for that number to be raised to 50. Students have become more studious, more engaged with what they’re learning than what they used to be. It’s impressive to me that within that short period of time the attitude of the student body has changed so significantly.”

As the student body has become more studious, it has changed the types of questions Graff has received. “When people come with better questions, it makes my job more fun,” she said. “I like a challenge. [The challenge is] part of why, among the different parts of my job, I’m the librarian for liberal studies. I learn about things I hadn’t considered before, and that’s always part of what interested me in librarians as the ultimate dilettantes. We get to know a little about everything.”

Graff’s love of working with students hasn’t changed since the early days of her librarianship, though. “I like learning about what other people find interesting,” she said. “I like helping them realize and discover what they’re trying to find and make sense of it. It’s an incredible honor and reward.”

Contact any SMU Library from anywhere. Have questions or need help? Just Ask Us.

Interview conducted by Author Wren Lee, SMU ’22 Creative Computation and Film and Media Arts Pre-Major and Fondren Library Marketing Department Student Assistant

Junior Amanda Oh, the 2019 Larrie and Bobbi Weil Undergraduate Research Award Recipient.

Amanda was nominated by Dr. Kathleen Wellman, Professor of History, for her research paper, The Latitudinarian Influence on Early English Liberalism. Dr Wellman highlights Amanda’s use of SMU Libraries’ resources by saying:

“Amanda has used the works of the most prominent Anglican theologians. She made
extensive use of Early English Books Online as well as sources in Fondren and Bridwell Libraries. Amanda used the most appropriate sources to investigate her research question which queried the religious writings of bishops, theologians, and scholars to explore their influence on the development of liberalism on the eve of the Glorious Revolution. Amanda’s use of those sources not only demonstrates that she understood both content and context of those sources, but also that she was able to analyze them with a commendable degree of sophistication and subtlety.”

As the Weil Undergraduate Research Award winner, Amanda will receive a $500 prize and will have the opportunity for her paper to be published in the SMU Journal of Undergraduate Research. Amanda’s winning paper will be placed in the SMU Archives in DeGolyer Library, and in SMU Scholar, the university’s digital repository. Amanda will receive the Weil Award at Honors Convocation on April 15.

Congratulations, Amanda!

Help Shape Support for SMU Academic and Research Goals

Check your email!

SMU Libraries is conducting the first comprehensive campus-wide survey since 2011, in collaboration with OIT.  The survey opened via email invitation on Thursday February 14th and will run until Monday February 25th.  All Faculty, Staff, and Graduate Students, as well as 2nd and 3rd year Undergraduate students have been invited to participate.

The general purpose of the survey is to understand how faculty, students, and staff use the SMU libraries, and how their academic and research goals might be better supported by library and related technology services.  This endeavor is in support of SMU strategic goals aimed at advancing the overall academic quality to the level of a premier research and teaching university with global impact.  Results from the survey will be available near the end of Spring 2019. Findings from the survey will be incorporated into the SMU Libraries strategic planning process currently underway.

Questions?  Email Zoltán Szentkirályi, SMU Libraries’ Director of Assessment at

Seven Tips for Spotting False Information and Bias

Trying to determine if that news or social media story you are reading is biased? Check your emotional response, says SMU Information Literacy Librarian Megan Heuer.

“A strong emotional response to a news story, positive or negative, is a sign that a story may need verification,” she says. Heuer regularly shares tips like this in her free public workshops on the SMU campus, “Finding Balanced News in a Biased World.

For librarians, helping students and patrons understand how to evaluate sources of information has long been a key part of their mission. Their code of ethics supports intellectual freedom. “Our personal beliefs do not impact the resources we collect or recommend” Heuer says.

“Instead, professional librarians teach students and library patrons to develop information literacy – the ability to find and evaluate information, to understand how and why it is produced and to use it ethically.”




Use fact-checking sites: When in doubt, verify stories on these sites, Snopes,, Politifact, Hoax Slayer, Truth or Fiction.


Conduct lateral searching instead of vertical searching: Scan a website, then open additional websites on the same topic seeking context and perspective. Don’t limit search to in-depth vertical analysis of one website.


Check age of domain: Use WHOIS to see when the web domain for the story was created. Be wary if the domain is brand new. It may have been created to host fake news.


Conduct a reverse image source: Use Google Images to see how an image has been used in the past and to confirm if the image originated with the story.


Beware of misleading media: Question selective sourcing, opinion-writing and advertising that masquerade as news, as well as quick-fix science news.


Recognize good reporting: Good reporting is ethical, represents multiple viewpoints, identifies sources and uses commonly accepted sources and authorities.


Is your news source biased? Several nonprofit organizations evaluate news bias and fact check news stories. To evaluate a news source or particular story, visit AllSides

Politifact, Factcheck or MediaBiasFactcheck.

See a schedule of all SMU Library workshops.

Article produced by SMU Media Relations for an Official Press Release