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SIS Celebrates Forty Years of ALA Accreditation

The School of Information Sciences (SIS) celebrated its 40th anniversary as an American Libraries Association (ALA) accredited school with a number of Homecoming Week events.  

The celebration began on Wednesday, Oct. 31, with the Gary R. Purcell Memorial Lecture by Biddanda “Suresh” Ponnappa, Associate Dean and Director of Medical Library and Biomedical Communication at East Tennessee State University’s Quillen College of Medicine, and culminated on Sunday, Nov. 4, with an alumni brunch and keynote speech by Marcellus Turner, Chief Librarian of the Seattle Public Library system. 

Gary R. Purcell Memorial Lecture

Suresh PonnappaPonnappa (MS/IS ’84 and current CCI Board of Visitors Member) delivered the Gary R. Purcell Memorial Lecture by sharing a series of fond remembrances of Purcell, who was Ponnappa’s friend and mentor.  Dr. Purcell was instrumental in leading the School through its first ALA accreditation in 1972, and, as the audience heard at the lecture, he also provided a vision for the School’s future. 

Ponnappa said that Purcell had very high academic standards along with a deep compassion for the students and faculty of the School.  Many of Ponnappa’s anecdotes were humorous, and some were poignant, but all of them helped those in attendance understand the legacy Gary Purcell left to the School of Information Sciences.

Dr. Bill Robinson, retired SIS associate professor, followed with his remembrances of Purcell.  He told of his early years as a faculty member and the important guidance. Purcell provided.  He outlined some of the ways in which Purcell guided the School by helping it move from only training librarians to developing a broader scope and scale encompassing modern day information sciences. 

Gary R. Purcell Reading Room Dedication

Following the memorial lecture, the Gary R. Purcell Reading Room was dedicated as a salute to the man who led the School of Information Sciences to its first ALA accreditation.  Guests of honor Carolyn Purcell and Dr. Bill Robinson performed the formal ribbon cutting to officially open the reading room.

The room is located in Room 434 of the Communications Building.  It will house samples of CCI faculty books and articles as well as current media.   Comfortable chairs, tables and interesting artwork provide an intimate place for reflection and quiet study.  It is a fitting memorial to a man who, by all accounts, encouraged, nurtured and supported the professional growth of his faculty. 

40th Anniversary Celebration and Homecoming Brunch

Marcellus Turner at 40thThe 40th Anniversary Celebration and Homecoming Brunch included keynote speaker and SIS alum Marcellus Turner (MS/ IS ’88).

Turner, Chief Librarian of the Seattle Public Library system, provided an inspiring keynote address.  He challenged the audience and those in the profession to look for new approaches to address old situations, discover new ways to deliver excellent service, and challenge the “It’s the way we’ve always done it” mentality.  He gave examples of traditional practices which are counterproductive in serving today’s library patrons. 

Turner drew upon the familiar comparison of the two soft drink giants, Coke and Pepsi.  He argued that their real competition was not for each other’s customers, but for quenching thirst.  He explained why the vertical market integration (soft drinks, coffee, water, orange juice) better addressed their competitive situation than the attempt to get customers to switch from Coke to Pepsi or vice versa.  Comparing this to the current day situation faced by public libraries, Turner said the competition for libraries is not from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or e-readers; it is from the bigger picture of information sourcing. 

The effort to stay relevant with physical facilities and tight public sector funding brings a host of challenges.  Turner explained how honestly and deliberately prioritizing and offering the most needed services with excellent customer service was paramount to ensuring a bright future for public libraries.