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