Shannon Oltmann: 2024-25 University Research Professor Q&A

Shannon M. Oltmann
Shannon M. Oltmann is an associate professor in the School of Information Science in the UK College of Communication and Information. Photo provided.

UKNow is highlighting the University of Kentucky’s 2024-25 University Research Professors.Established by the Board of Trustees in 1976, the professorship program recognizes excellence across the full spectrum of research at UK and is sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research.  

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 25, 2024) — Shannon M. Oltmann, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Information Science in the University of Kentucky College of Communication and Information has been honored as a 2024-25 University Research Professor.

Oltmann investigates the antecedents of censorship, how and why people censor information and the effects of censorship with the goal of promoting freedom of speech in her research. She also studies information precarity — the social, political and economic barriers that often create situations where people cannot access quality, accurate, useful information.

She is the author of “Practicing Intellectual Freedom in Libraries” and edited “The Fight Against Book Bans: Perspectives from the Field.”

Oltmann joined UK in 2012 and her work has been funded by the American Library Association and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Oltmann spoke with UKNow about her latest honor as a University Research Professor in this Q&A.

UKNow: What does it mean to you to be recognized as a University Research Professor?

Oltmann: This is an incredible honor for three reasons. First, I am a first-generation college student and faculty member. My parents always urged me to follow my passion and pursue higher education, but I did not have many role models to show me the way. Thankfully, I have had outstanding mentors at every step. Second, I recognize the strong scholars who have been University Research Professors before me, and I am honored to be counted among them. Third, qualitative research is often overlooked or dismissed, so I am proud to be recognized for my body of work, which is mostly qualitative, relying on interviews with different people.

UKNow: How will the professorships program advance your research?

Oltmann: The University Research Professorship program comes with additional funding, which I plan to use in two ways. First, I want to interview librarians who have left the profession either through resignation or termination, due to book banning and censorship attempts – the numbers are surprisingly high, undocumented and unexplored. Second, I plan to study marginalized communities in both Lexington and Louisville who face information precarity in many daily life situations. In both cases, I will be able to pay research participants who otherwise probably would not be able to participate in this work.

UKNow: How does your research address challenges facing Kentucky?

Oltmann: My work on information precarity can show how institutions constrain and hinder marginalized groups, as well as how individuals respond in unique and empowering ways to solve their informational needs. This information can be used to help many other marginalized groups overcome challenges and provide evidence for changing problematic social, political and economic institutions.

UKNow: What impact will your research have on Kentucky?

Oltmann: I believe this work will improve the quality of life for many people!

About the University Research Professors

Each year, the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees approves a cohort of faculty as University Research Professors. The distinction recognizes excellence in work that addresses scientific, social, cultural and economic challenges in Kentucky and the world.

College leadership developed criteria for excellence within their area of expertise and then nominated faculty who excelled at these criteria. Each University Research Professor receives a one-year award of $10,000 and participates in other events planned around the program.


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