Faculty Voices: Nancy MacKay, Lecturer

Faculty Voices: Nancy MacKay, Lecturer


What were you doing before you joined SJSU’s School of Information?

I was working at the F.W. Olin Library at Mills College as the Head of Technical Services (that is, all the tasks behind the scenes in a library). Though my primary responsibility was cataloging, over the 22 years I worked there, I did a share of pretty much everything — reference, serials, automation, and special projects. I also set up and ran a small oral history program. Much of my real-life library experience at Mills College informed my teaching at the iSchool.

What experiences led you to your professional area(s) of interest?

On one hand, I think a lot of it is circumstance. I needed a job at a certain time and place, and accepted what was available. On the other hand I am a natural behind-the-scenes person and feel comfortable in academic settings, so maybe there was some unconscious force that led me to my job at Mills College. There was certainly something that made me stay all those years. I have a great deal of faith in the power of luck, and tend to keep doors open in all areas of my life, and to recognize and follow up on opportunities as they come along.

Describe your favorite or least favorite LIS professor. What did you learn (or miss out on learning) that shaped you into who you are today?

I graduated from UC Berkeley library school in 1983, so it has been a long time. The professor I remember most is Michael Buckland, not because of his teaching (which I do not even remember), but because he was an inspiration in his life and work. I especially remember our seminar in comparative librarianship where we did a comparative study of libraries in two countries. I chose Uganda and Zambia. On a whim, I sent my final paper to Makerere University in Uganda, and they offered me a job to set up a library school!

I have a more personal memory of Dr. Buckland. He was dean of the school when I attended. I was in the midst of a personal transition and needed an emergency loan. I went to him in his role of dean and explained my circumstances. Without blinking an eyelash, he not only provided a small loan for continued tuition, but also gave me a job as a research assistant until I got back on my feet.

I should also add that computers were just beginning to be used in libraries when I got my degree. I took a very interesting but impractical track, studying printing and literacy history, and I did not touch a computer the entire time I attended school (though I paid my expenses by doing “retrospective conversion,” typing the information from catalog cards into MARC format in the computer.).

What do you find most challenging about teaching or researching your area of information science?

Keeping up with technology.

Where do you see the future of LIS education and professional research going, and how do you hope to shape the evolution of LIS studies during your career?

Online LIS education is probably here to stay, but to be really effective and to keep faculty and students engaged and accountable, I think a face-to-face component is necessary. It could be local study groups, required practicums or internships, or a required in-person class meeting once a semester. I am not sure. This is my seventh year teaching online, and though I understand enormous practical advantages, I find the job less and less satisfying because of the lack of face-to-face contact.

What is your favorite Banned Book? Why?

I checked the 2000 – 2009 ALA Banned Books list, and I could not decide between The Kite Runner, Snow Falling on Cedars, and House of the Spirits. If I were pushed to choose one of these it would be Snow Falling on Cedars.



Please view Lecturer MacKay’s faculty bio here.