UA School of Information Resources and Library Science Has New Director

This October, P. Bryan Heidorn started his new job as the director of the University of Arizona School of Information Resources and Library Science (SIRLS).

Prior to coming to the UA, Heidorn was a faculty member of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For the last two years he served as a program manager of the Division of Biological Infrastructure at the National Science Foundation.

Heidorn holds a B.S. in psychobiology, an M.S. in information science, and a Ph.D. in information science from the University of Pittsburgh.

His research areas include natural language processing, text mining for metadata, and information retrieval, particularly in biodiversity literature and museum informatics.

“With a long list of grant and contract awards and a strong list of publications in both librarianship and information science, Heidorn is well poised to lead SIRLS in educating the next generation of librarians and information professionals,” said Tom Wilding, a SIRLS professor who served as interim director of the School.

Heidorn was drawn to SIRLS because of its faculty and its innovative programs. “Knowledge River was certainly one of the largest and most interesting initiatives for me,” said Heidorn. “Another exciting program is the digital curation program – DigIn.”

Knowledge River, which is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), fosters an understanding of library information issues from the perspectives of Hispanic and Native Americans and advocates for culturally sensitive library and information services to these communities. Each year, the program selects a cohort of students to be Knowledge River Scholars.

The DigIn graduate certificate program, which is also supported by IMLS, combines intensive, hands-on technology learning with a thorough grounding in the theoretical principles needed to manage large, complex digital collections. The program can be completed online by working professionals. 

Heidorn, who was active in digital data policy issues at the University of Illinois and at the National Science Foundation, believes there are continued opportunities for the School in the field of digital curation, especially with the growing amount of large data sets, such as those created by genomics and earth sensors.

“Traditionally, library schools have dealt with paper documents, but increasingly scientists rely on data from other scientists,” said Heidorn. “This data is being generated at a rapid rate (terabytes per day) that far outstrips our ability to index, access and store it.

“It is the role of libraries and library researchers to organize and provide access to society’s knowledge,” adds Heidorn. “We need to develop new data curation standards including new metadata standards, as well as data management and preservation methods. We must then educate the library community about the use of these methods.”

Digital archives is another area that Heidorn would like to expand as an area of study.

“One of the big problems that libraries have to solve is how we are going to provide access to materials over the long haul,” said Heidorn. “Formats expire at a very great rate. How do you take a heterogeneous set of materials, provide pointers and access to them and refresh them. It’s a big challenge.”

Heidorn is optimistic about the opportunities for those choosing to enter the information resources and library science field.

“The information revolution is creating a good number of jobs, and we can be sure that the information industry is going to continue to grow and expand,” said Heidorn.

SIRLS is also well-positioned to help library professionals who want to refresh their skills. The School, which is the only library school in the state and only one of five accredited library schools in the western U.S., is a leader in distance education, providing many online classes.

“Under Professor Heidorn’s leadership, I know SIRLS will continue to be on the cutting-edge of the library and information field and provide students with the skills necessary to thrive in today’s marketplace,” said Beth Mitchneck, interim dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “In addition, his focus is not only on the unique programs at SIRLS, but also on the connections that the School can foster, both across campus and with our off-campus constituencies.”