American Library Association honors VCU Libraries’ public affairs expert for her work with government documentsFebruary 10, 2023 Photo by Katharine Derosa
VCU’s Public Affairs Librarian Nia Rodgers is the recipient of the 2023 “Documents to the People Award” given by the Government Documents Round Table of the American Library Association (ALA). The award honors an individual, library, institution or other non-commercial group that has most effectively encouraged the use of government documents in support of library service.
“To most, government documents are difficult to understand and do not necessarily seem exciting,” said Head of Academic Outreach Bettina Peacemaker. “To Nia Rodgers, they tell a compelling and important story, one she has worked hard to share.”
Her public teaching mission is evident in Civil Discourse, a podcast she created with a political science faculty collaborator John Aughenbaugh, Ph.D., to showcase government documents and explore the inner workings of government. Through engaging conversations, government information moves out of the library and into the classroom and the community. The podcast gives “listeners an opening, an invitation if you will, as to how government documents, processes are available to the public, why the public should want to use them, how said documents/processes can inform and enrich the lives of the citizenry, and how it is essential for a healthy democracy to have its citizens want to have conversations and even disagree” said Aughenbaugh.
The Civil Discourse podcast was one of the first of its kind on the Virginia Commonwealth University campus and an early entry in the library podcast lineup. Starting in August 2019, it recently surpassed 14,000 downloads with more than 150 episodes. A mix of history and current events, the podcast has covered a multitude of topics--federal budgets, national parks, the post office, elections, COVID-19 vaccinations, and even NORAD’s Santa tracker. The content is presented as a conversation in accessible language, and as one listener commented, it’s “informative, interesting, and just fun to listen to." Civil Discourse is available on most podcast platforms. Information and episodes can also be accessed at https://guides.library.vcu.edu/discourse.
Rodgers’ podcast work has been recognized in the government documents community. She has presented at several national conferences including an invitation from the Federal Depository Library Program to share her podcasting experience as a webinar (Podcasting Using Government Documents).
Rodgers is also known on campus for her Constitution Day programming. She partners with local experts to engage the community in discussions around key constitutional issues situated in a current context. Her enthusiasm for sharing the importance of government documents is evident in the lively exchanges she facilitates and the audience she has built for this annual event.
She is dedicated to her students. “Nia is an unwavering champion – supporting students in their quest for important information available through governmental data and documents to answer complex societal issues, questions of efficiency, effectiveness, economy, and equity,” said Lindsay Evans, Ph.D.
Finally, Rodgers’s genuine passion for advancing students’ research and curiosity contribute to her receipt of the award. Laura W. Gariepy, Ph.D., associate dean for research and learning at VCU Libraries, shares the following: “People come away from interactions with Nia and the programming she creates with a deep appreciation for library services and government information, and for her. Her warmth, humor, and limitless energy result in engaged, curious researchers who have a newfound appreciation for government documents. Her passion for them is contagious, and I cannot imagine anyone with the ability to inspire people to engage with government information more than Nia.”
The award will be presented to Rodgers at the Government Document Round Table Awards Ceremony June 25 in Chicago as part of the ALA’s annual conference.
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