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Launching a legacy: Checking in with new Augusta Baker Chair Nicole Cooke

Posted January 15, 2020
By Maria Jutton, Dean's Communications Fellow

Last fall, SLIS welcomed Nicole Cooke as its new Augusta Baker Chair in Childhood Literacy. In this position, she advances the school’s literacy efforts through teaching, speaking engagements, advocacy and more. She also introduces her audiences to Augusta Baker, the trailblazing African American librarian and storyteller for whom the chair is named.

Since joining the faculty, Cooke has drawn from her extensive research in the areas of diversity and social justice in librarianship to expand the position’s scope.

In her first semester on the job, she has already represented the university at several conferences, given keynote speeches and won two awards. 

“I feel like I haven’t stopped moving since I got here,” Cooke says. “But after all, this position is all about outreach.”

Here are some highlights of what Cooke has accomplished so far and a glimpse into her next steps.

A recap of fall 2019:

  • Presented at International Society for Research in Children’s Literature conference in Stockholm, Sweden.
  • Delivered the keynote address at the South Carolina State Library’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion day.
  • Received the Excellence in Teaching Award from the Association of Library and Information Science Education.
  • Presented at the Library Research Services conference that was hosted by SLIS and the University Libraries.
  • Gave a keynote speech at South Carolina Library Association conference.
  • Delivered the keynote session at an all-staff training day at Charleston County Public Library.
  • Presented at the Association for the Study of African American History and Life conference in Charleston.
  • Received the Intellectual Freedom Award from Illinois Library Association for her work on combatting online bullying and harassment.
  • Participated as an expert scholar and advisory board member for the American Library Association’s Media Literacy for Adults Initiative.
  • Gave a keynote speech at Georgia Public Library Service’s consortium for the public library system.

What she’s looking forward to this spring:

  • Traveling to Antwerp for an immersive children’s literature institute.
  • Two keynotes with South Carolina Association of School Librarians.
  • Attending the SxSW conference to represent CIC and attend sessions on storytelling and media literacy.
  • Keynoting the 12th Annual Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies Graduate Student Conference and Workshop at the University of New Mexico.
  • Presenting the inaugural Augusta Baker Lecture in coordination with the Annual Baker’s Dozen Storytelling Festival.
  • Presenting at the Children’s Literature Association conference.
  • A community reception to welcome Cooke, which will include Augusta Baker’s family, at Richland Library in February.

Cooke hopes to increase awareness of Augusta Baker’s legacy through working with Baker’s archives, writing articles and potentially a book exploring her accomplishments. She will also continue to extend SLIS’ commitment to community literacy and to make it the destination program for students of color.  

“My day-to-day work is getting more folks to the library school and meeting colleagues in the community when I give talks and presentations,” Cooke says. “It’s really about raising the profile of the profession nationally and globally.”

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Maria Jutton

 Maria Jutton is a fourth-year journalism student and Dean's Communications Fellow at the School of Journalism and Mass Communications. She is especially passionate about international communications and will pursue overseas work after she graduates in May 2020.

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