LEEP student prepares children for responsible citizenry

Originally posted by the University of Illinois School of Information Sciences

For Julie Knutson, the iSchool’s online MS/LIS program is “incredibly convenient,” allowing her to continue authoring children’s nonfiction while working toward her goal of becoming a school librarian.

“My first job out of college was at Temple University’s Paley Library. After that experience, I kept returning to the idea of school librarianship. Really, the best I can describe it is as an unshakable drive to work in this space—with kids—to help them not just find books they love, but also to develop into discerning consumers of information, passionate researchers, and empowered makers,” said Knutson, who holds a master’s degree in education and art history from Rice University, master’s degree in political sociology from the London School of Economics & Political Science, and a bachelor’s degree in cultural studies from New York University.

Knutson’s passion for global citizenship, world history, and human rights stems from her academic experiences and from her time as a classroom teacher. Her first nonfiction series for children, “Nature’s Makers,” was released in the spring of 2019. The set of six books focuses on agricultural “microproducers,” people who manage all aspects of production. Her next series “Parallel Lives in History,” released in April 2020, examines overlaps and intersections in the lives of 16 individuals (e.g., Martin Luther King Jr., Anne Frank, and Harvey Milk) who “used their voices to change the world.” “Changing Spaces,” a series that was released in August, looks at the transformation and adaptive reuse of a range of architectural locales, from New York’s High Line to Seattle’s Gas Works Park to Newbern Library in rural Alabama.

Knutson’s latest book, Global Citizenship: Engaging in the Politics of a Changing World, was released in September.

“I wanted to give young readers a resource that provided history and context for a range of intersecting global issues, while offering actionable steps that were structured around the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals,” explained Knutson. “The book touches on so many issues with which we are struggling as local, national, and global communities, from the pandemic to climate change, and from ethno-religious violence to persistent gender wage gaps. Kids can’t afford not to pay attention to these concerns. Our world is so interconnected today and will become increasingly more so in the coming years.”

She has two more books coming out in 2021—on the topics of Marie Curie and World War I—as well as a new series, “Unnatural Disasters: Human Error, Design Flaws, and Bad Decisions,” which will be released in January.

Knutson has been impressed by her experience as a Leep student.

“I’ve been floored by the attentiveness of faculty and staff across the board, all of whom work in concert to really prepare students to enter librarianship as responsible and responsive professionals,” she said.