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MSIS Student Rachael Murphy Uses Practicum to Explore Diversity & Inclusion in Hodges Library

MSIS student Rachael Murphy started an assistantship at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Hodges Library in fall 2019, conducting a “kindness audit.” The audit takes an inventory of all the signage throughout the library to assess what kind of messages or ideas are being communicated to those who walk into the building.

“We’re looking at, do they feel comfortable, do we create spaces that make them want to come back? We’re taking into consideration people who have disabilities or marginalized identities, things that people may not consider when they think of a library,” Murphy said.

They underestimated the work the audit would entail, and what started as an assistantship last semester, has turned into a practicum this semester. Teresa Walker, Associate Dean for Learning, Research & Engagement at Hodges Library, connected Murphy with Ingrid Ruffin, Student Success Librarian for First-Year Programs to do the audit. Murphy picked up where another student had left off with the audit, and not only did they conduct the audit, they also were part of a presentation to the library assessment group.

“I got to participate in every single aspect of the project. It was really nice to be involved in every aspect and spearhead it with Ingrid and see it come to fruition,” they said. “It was nice that they asked questions and wanted to know what I thought. It was nice to bring the theory into practice.”

Murphy came into the MSIS program as part of the User Experience Assessment cohort, which is a grant-funded program intended to train information sciences professionals to perform assessment and UX research in both libraries and science-intensive information environments.

Murphy would like to work in public libraries after they graduate, and they’re especially interested in diversity and inclusion, and helping marginalized communities.

“I think public libraries is what I want to do becauseI think there is often a more diverse user population at public libraries. I took a class on homelessness, and that cemented my leaning towards public libraries. It was the first class that was explicitly about working with marginalized identities,” Murphy said of one of the special topic classes offered by lecturer Julie Winkelstein.

The practicum is a required part of being in the UXA cohort, but Murphy recommends the experience to any student who is able to undertake it.

“It’s nice that it’s a full course credit, and that instead of being in a classroom, I can go get hands-on experience,” they said. “I was able to get all that foundational knowledge in the courses and then apply it. I think a practicum is great for something you can put on a resume and gives you a lot of transferable skills and knowledge.”