March 11, 2021— The HBCU Library Alliance and the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) are pleased to introduce three highly skilled and knowledgeable consultants/researchers who will lead a series of focus groups and interviews with HBCU library leaders and staff. Their work will help the HBCU Library Alliance to envision how its 76 member institutions can work together to preserve, describe, and digitize their unique collections. Selected through a highly competitive process, these researchers will work closely with Sandra Phoenix, executive director of the HBCU Library Alliance, throughout the project. 

The results of this study will contribute to the articulation of common values, priorities, and needs for describing and managing special and archival collections for the HBCU Library Alliance community.

Sharon Freeman: Focus Group Facilitator 

Sharon Ferguson Freeman holds a doctorate in professional studies in higher education leadership from Delta State University. After earning her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer science from Tougaloo College, Freeman began her career in higher education as a systems analyst in the James Herbert White Library at Mississippi Valley State University, where she currently serves as the assistant vice president for institutional research and effectiveness. She has taught research methods at Delta State University while also serving as a competitive grant program evaluator for the U.S. Department of Education.  

With a focus on informed decision-making, Freeman has extensive experience in the fields of strategic planning, data analysis, institutional effectiveness, outcomes assessment, and higher education quality assurance. She currently serves as an evaluator and university liaison for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the regional accrediting body for southeastern states.

As an HBCU graduate and former library systems analyst, Freeman has a clear understanding of and appreciation for the unique challenges faced by libraries. She has recently worked as a statistician with the HBCU Library Alliance on their Expanding Library Support for Faculty Research project, which aims to assess and strengthen library services in support of faculty research. She is excited to return to her roots in the library to work with one of the HBCU Library Alliance’s most recent endeavors to expand access to cultural archives at its member institutions.

Synatra Smith: Interviewer

Image of Dr. Synatra SmithSynatra Smith earned her PhD in global and sociocultural studies with a concentration in anthropology from Florida International University. Her research focuses on the creation, perpetuation, and transformation of the sociopolitical intersectional Black cultural landscape with special attention to the ways in which virtual and physical space are used to conceptually and practically transform Black identification processes, and the material culture that contributes to this phenomenon. She has been working in the galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAM) field for the past five years, officially in museum education, but she has also curated exhibits, worked in collections, and managed an outreach initiative, among other activities.

Smith is currently a CLIR postdoctoral fellow for digital curation and scholarship in African American Studies at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Library and Archives and the Temple University Libraries Loretta C. Duckworth Scholars Studio, where she is exploring the myriad ways in which Black artists and scholars in Philadelphia reimagine and conceptualize their communities. She is working on capturing a broad spectrum of materials, from murals, zines/comics, posters, fashion/cosplay/textiles, and performance art, to 3-D models of sculptures and monuments and using linked data and mapping tools for data visualization. Outside of this fellowship, she is working on a multi-chapter report to historically contextualize the use of racially restrictive deed covenants in Hyattsville, Maryland, as a federally sanctioned method of residential segregation during the first half of the twentieth century.

Portia D. Hopkins: Interviewer

Image of Dr. Portia D. HopkinsPortia D. Hopkins holds a doctorate in American studies from the University of Maryland (UMD), College Park. As the 2020-2022 CLIR/DLF postdoctoral research associate in data curation for African American studies at Rice University, she teaches workshops, conducts outreach about data curation to African American activist groups in Houston, and assesses and inventories local data collections. She is currently leading two oral history projects about African American life in Houston.

Hopkins is the recipient of the Bode-Wise American Studies Fellowship and the Wiley Dissertation Fellowship at UMD. Before pursuing her doctorate, she earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Texas Christian University in 2006 and a master’s degree in American Studies from the University of Alabama in 2008. She is interested in oral history research, grassroots social movements, and the ways in which African American history is remembered in the twenty-first century. She has taught courses at the University of Alabama, University of Maryland, University of Houston-Clear Lake, and in the Honors Program at Lee College.

The team will share updates about their work with HBCU Library Alliance members throughout the project.

Skip to content