Dr. Andrea Jamison, assistant professor in the School of Teaching and Learning, joined the College of Education in Fall 2020. Having spent 17 years in elementary classrooms and libraries in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the Calumet City School District, Jamison is embracing her new role at Illinois State University. We recently had a chance to sit down with Jamison to find out more.

Tell us a little about you.

I have a master’s in teaching from Concordia-River Forest and a master’s in library information science from Dominican University which was completely covered by a scholarship I earned. I also completed the coursework for my Ph.D. in information studies from Dominican while serving as a Diversity Fellow at Valparaiso University, and defended my dissertation during my first semester at ISU. 

I started off teaching fourth grade before getting more involved in libraries where I really found my calling. I love to write and have always been fascinated with the written word. Being in the library just seemed so natural.

What made you want to transition into working with college students?

I wanted to explore academia and started working as an adjunct professor in the library at Prairie State College. It was fulfilling to be able to help those students answer the questions they had. From there, I made the move to Valparaiso which really made me want to stay in academia.

What do you teach?

I teach one library science course in the fall and spring, and then two in the summer.  I also teach some of the elementary education courses, one as part of the PDS program in Palatine and Arlington heights where I help students with social studies methods in their clinical placements. With my background, I’m flexible enough to work within both programs. I love it because I’m able to learn more about the College of Education and work with more faculty as well. 

What are your research interests?

My research interests really started with my own personal history growing up in a socially and economically disadvantaged community. When I was younger, I always loved reading and as I got older, I came to realize that I had never read any book that featured a person of color.  At age 14, a cousin of mine gifted me several books that featured characters that looked like me, and I started seeking out more and more of these books.

This really stuck with me as I got older and once I became an educator, I realized that my experience was very common for other students of color as well. I noticed the limited resources at my school, so as the librarian, I made it my goal to bring more diverse books into our library. I started applying for grants and was able to receive over $100,000 in grants during my first year as a librarian.

In my research, I wanted to examine the lack of representation in children’s literature.  For my dissertation, I looked at the collection development policies of academic libraries, and the extent to which those policies address diversity. I’m specifically interested in what libraries are doing to increase the number of books that reflect diverse characters to address issues of equity and even did a TEDx talk based on my research. My next step in the research will be to ask how policies influence or continue to perpetuate inequities in the libraries.

My research focus has also enabled me to get involved in other areas. Dr. Krista Aronson, the founder of a diverse book finder’s tool, reached out to me about my research. She was interested in expanding her tool beyond children’s books to young adult books, and I was able to collaborate with her on a grant she submitted to help train librarians in the use of the tool, which was recently approved.

After I presented at the Library Assessment Conference in 2020, I was also offered a book deal by the national library honors society, Beta Phi Mu. They asked me to write a book based on my research for their scholar’s series, which should publish in June 2022.

Why ISU?

It felt like a perfect match in the dual role, with my experience as a librarian and a teacher. Plus, the reputation of ISU is tremendous. Even though I started during the pandemic, ISU has been very welcoming. I’ve tried to get involved and have gotten on several committees and boards on campus, which has helped me to really connect with the college as a newer faculty member.

What is something fun that people would be surprised to hear about you?

I’ve written a few short films. I have one now called Requiem for Black Love which has won some festival awards and can now be found on Amazon Prime. I even have my own IMDB page. It’s not a top ranking, but still! I also share an affinity for desserts and Marvel superheroes with my almost nine-year-old son. I’m a pretty good baker (peach cobbler is a favorite) and would love to open a bakery or cupcake truck when my career in academia is complete.