Five Questions for Barbara Lewis

Next month, at the Human Rights Archives Roundtable meeting at SAA, we will be hosting two wonderful guest speakers, Barbara Lewis and Max Rameau. We are so excited to have them both speak at the HRART meeting, and hope you will join us to hear about their work in providing access to human rights collections and human rights activism respectively.

Both Barbara and Max have agreed to share a bit about themselves prior to the meeting and participate in the “Five questions for…” series. First up, Barbara!

Barbara received her B.S. in Industrial Engineering from General Motors Institute and her M.A. in Library and Information Science from the University of South Florida.  After working 25 years as an Industrial Engineer and Information Systems Analyst, she needed a change and decided academic librarianship was a great fit. She writes that she’s never regretted that decision.​

1. Where do you work?

I’m the Digital Initiatives & Services (DIS) Coordinator at the University of South Florida Tampa Library.  USF serves about 48K students with 240 degree programs on 3 campuses: Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Sarasota-Manatee.  The library has about 80 full-time employees with an annual budget of about $11M.

2. How did you get there?

I started at USF as an MLS graduate student in 2003 and soon after became a graduate assistant at the Library where I worked in Reference/Instruction, Technical Services, and Special Collections.  When I graduated in December 2005, I was hired by the Tampa Library as the Outreach Librarian then moved to Digital Initiatives in December 2008 because of my IT background.  I started professional life as an engineer (15 years) then moved to IS/IT (10 years) working for General Motors, Corning, and Nortel Networks.

3. What materials/collections do you work with? Describe the materials and collections you work with on a regular or project basis.

Our digital collections consists all of the typical materials and also includes audio, video, and transcripts from our Oral History Program.  We concentrate on Florida history, culture, and development, Holocaust & genocide studies (Holocaust, Armenia, and Rwanda), dime novels & science fiction, and are growing our LGBT collections.

4. What impact do/should/could the information profession have on human rights?

The more people know about any topic, especially human rights issues, the better prepared they are to take a stand and to intelligently argue for their cause.  As information professionals, we have an obligation to make materials openly available.  For myself, working in digital initiatives provides the opportunity to make all types of materials available to the world community.  We proudly provide open access to survivor testimonies, WWII concentration camp photographs, drawings by refugee Darfuri children, Armenian refugee diaries, and Fascist magazines from the 1940s with the hope that we are contributing in a small way to the prevention of future atrocities.

5. Any advice for other/aspiring human rights information professionals and activists?

Don’t be afraid to make materials publicly available because they might be misused by deniers or the like.  The evidence of letters, drawings, photographs, the spoken word, etc. are too powerful to be hidden.


I’m very proud of some online exhibits created by students, staff, and faculty working in DIS and will be talking about them in my presentation.


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