Barbara Immroth, a professor renowned for her research of children’s libraries and literature, has retired.
A faculty member of the School of Information since 1980, Immroth won numerous state and national awards for her service to the library field. She has also shaped the careers of librarians throughout Texas and the United States.
“Barbara has been a national leader in children’s librarianship for many years and a tremendous servant to the school, the state and the profession,” said Andrew Dillon, iSchool dean and professor. “She has taught and advised generations of students here at Texas and is a much loved figure among our alumni.”
Immroth is the author or co-author of more than half a dozen books. In 2009, the Texas Library Association awarded her its Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2007 she also received the American Library Association’s highest honor, the Beta Phi Mu Award for distinguished service to education for librarianship.
But Immroth said she is especially proud of the quality of students who have graduated from the School of Information. “I’ve had so many alums who have gone on and done good things, whether they have high-visibility jobs or they are working hard with kids,” she said.
The Austin Independent School District loves hiring Immroth’s alumni, according to Elizabeth Polk, an former student of Immroth’s and the assistant director of library media services for AISD.
“Once when Barbara visited one of our professional development sessions for Austin ISD librarians, I asked the group, ‘How many of you have been in one of Dr. Immroth's classes?’” Polk recalled. “Over half and maybe three-fourths of the group stood to their feet and cheered.”
Immroth began her “accidental career” in libraries when she was an undergraduate student at Brown University. She later taught at the State Library of Pennsylvania, was a children’s librarian at Carnegie Library, and earned her doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh.
Professional opportunities for women were far more limited in those days, she said. After joining UT Austin, Immroth became the first woman to advance from assistant professor to full professor in twelve years at what is now the iSchool.
Among her other accomplishments, Immroth has donated thousands of books to help build the University of Texas Libraries’ youth literature collection. She also taught librarians to work with traditionally underserved populations, including children who are non-native English speakers.
“That’s always been my underlying mission,” she said.
Looking back at her career and pondering the future of her field, Immroth said that libraries’ mission remains as vital as ever.
“People are always going to have children. They always need people who want to care for them and interact with them and teach them skills, and librarians have been part of that for well over 100 years,” she said. “There are endless possibilities for the future. I’m very hopeful.”
Alumni praise for Professor Barbara Immroth
“Barbara is that rare combination of pure academic researcher and staunch advocate for school librarians, whose work consistently benefits those working in the field. Active in regional, national and international professional associations, Barbara has worked tirelessly over the years to develop initiatives that have an impact on the library profession. Her students and colleagues respect and admire her, and I feel very fortunate to have her as my mentor, friend and colleague.” — Belinda Boon, assistant professor at the Kent State University School of Library & Information Science
“Without Dr. Immroth, I wouldn’t be here today. She was always thoughtful and knew just what her students needed.” — Sara Stevenson, O. Henry Middle School librarian
“Barbara is intelligent and is devoted to lifelong learning. As I have become better acquainted with her, I have come to admire her for many other characteristics. She is a sweet, considerate, empathetic person. Her students love her because she brings out the best in them. She is genuinely interested in her students as well as her friends, and we all know that. We are important to her.” — Elizabeth Polk, assistant director of library media services for Austin ISD