Alissa Droog is eager to run workshops that teach NIU Huskies how to read peer-reviewed articles and how to practice academic integrity in citations.
She’s counting the days until she can welcome College of Education majors to Founders Memorial Library to teach them core skills in research methods, searching databases and evaluation information. She’s ready to shop the cute little stores in downtown DeKalb, too.
Those things are on hold, however.
NIU’s new assistant professor and Education and Social Science librarian is a Canadian citizen who’s been working since April 1 at her home in Edmonton, Alberta, where she’s been officially stuck and unable to move to the United States thanks to COVID-19.
“I’m just waiting for things to calm down,” says Droog, who visited campus last November to interview. “I’m excited to learn more about the culture and the Midwest. I don’t even know what else I’m going to learn yet, and I’m excited about that.”
But what truly excites her about coming to NIU is the opportunity to fulfill her career dream, in which she joins librarian Dee Anna Phares, who serves the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, and Meredith Ayers, the librarian for the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education. Droog is responsible for the college’s other four departments.
Droog completed her Master of Library and Information Sciences degree last April at Western University in London, Ontario. In June 2019, she began a contract job as Digital Literacies resident librarian at the University of Alberta Libraries.
“My goal was to get into education librarianship,” she says. “I’m a teacher myself. I finished my degree in Ontario, so I can teach grades 4 through 10, with a specialization in history. This NIU position came up and I was like, ‘Yep. This is perfect. This is exactly what I want to do.’ I love my job because it’s a mix of the three things I love most.”
Her recipe includes teaching, helping faculty to conduct their research and continuing to work on her own scholarship.
“I’m the face of the library. I’m the person you go to with questions and I make sure the library is being responsive to the College of Education’s needs,” Droog says.
“As researchers, I can help them find resources for what they’re looking for. I can help them choose journals to publish in. I can help them assess their research impact – how are people citing them, how do you understand that impact and then explain it to other people.”
She is also available to assist professors in creating accessible reading lists for their courses that make a greater impact on learning.
“One of the things librarians tend to care a lot about is open materials – materials that are freely available on the web, instead of using really costly publisher textbooks that students often can’t afford and, research shows, don’t actually buy,” she says.
“I’ve already helped one faculty member with choosing some open textbooks for a course. I’ve already helped a faculty member or two with journals to publish in, and also with gathering resources.”
Growing up in rural Ontario, about an hour north of Toronto, Droog always envisioned a life in education.
“I loved school, like a lot of people. I loved learning, so I knew that teaching was where I was heading. I did a lot of teaching-type volunteer work throughout my childhood and going through my degree. As I got older, I kept on wanting to work with older kids,” she says.
“When I was a kid, I thought I’d work with the primary division. By the time I was in my second or third year of university, I was pretty sure I wanted to teach grade 7 or 8, and then by the time I was in my halfway through my first master’s degree, I was like, ‘Yeah, I think I want to teach at the university level,’ ” she adds. “As my understanding of the world grew up, my want to teach also grew with that.”
Droog earned a Bachelor of Education-Junior/Intermediate Division and a B.A. in Religious Studies and History at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario.
She also holds an M.A. in Religious Studies from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, a degree that reflects the beginning of her evolving scholarly agenda.
Early work explored the history of biblical reception – “how Bible stories have been told throughout different time periods,” she says – and focused on “slightly more controversial retellings,” looking at Adam and Eve in particular.
Recent studies are examining children’s Bibles from the 1800s as well as LGBTQ+ children’s picture books, including their inclusion in libraries and evaluations of their content.
“There is quality in that genre, and a lot of people are excited because they’re like, ‘Oh, it’s new and there are books out there.,’ and they just grab one and they’re excited to use them,” she says.
“But some of the representations, even though modern, can still be harmful, so it’s important to really think about which books you’re going to include in your classrooms or in your storytimes.”
Droog also served as lead author on a paper that criticizes Canada’s scheduled 2027 destruction of documents tied to a disastrous system of residential schooling for indigenous peoples; those children experienced trauma after being taken from their parents and sent to border schools.
She currently is working on a new project related to librarianship on how students perceive research.
“We’re looking at how students draw research – and how that changes over time,” she says. “When people draw, they think outside of the box, and you can access completely different things about what they’re thinking instead of when you ask a question and you just get the report response back.”
And although Droog is thrilled that her NIU job provides time for her research, eager to continue assisting faculty and hoping to promote greater use of the Children’s Literature Collection, she’s most looking forward to her opportunity to do more than teach on Blackboard Collaborate.
“I’m excited to get back in the classroom,” she says. “Helping students succeed is something I care about.”