Bradley Kuykendall, 2011 i3 Scholar

Bradley Kuykendall has always been a man on a mission – a mission dedicated to leadership and service. Identifying the right career to fulfill that mission, however, was not always as straightforward as he would have liked. Bradley joined i3 as a member of the inaugural 2011 cohort, while completing his undergraduate education at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. Bradley studied Business Administration and Management and minored in Library Sciences. He was an active member in Greek life as a brother of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and organized professional and social events across campus. As an i3 Scholar, Bradley used his budding leadership skills and interest in the information sciences to complete a team research project investigating students and financial information literacy. It was through these experiences that a career path in librarianship and higher education began to emerge. But before Bradley could become an academic librarian and start helping students and faculty, he would need to earn a graduate degree.

I looked at Pitt, Illinois, and the University of Missouri. There were others, but those were my main options,” Bradley said, when discussing his options for graduate programs in library science. His main criteria for evaluating schools: reputation, location, and culture. The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) turned out to be the best match. UIUC was, and remains, one of the top Library Science graduate programs in the country. It also didn’t hurt that the school was close to Bradley’s home and was known for its supportive culture. “They were inviting and made me feel wanted. The weather was something I was used to and they offered me a scholarship and a diversity fellowship.” So in 2013 Bradley packed his bags and moved to Urbana-Champaign to begin his Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS).

Recognizing the highly competitive nature of the job market in librarianship, Bradley dedicated himself to his studies and work in graduate school. In a short two years, he gained valuable experience and professional development as an American Library Association (ALA) Spectrum Scholar, a Fellow in the Association for Research Libraries Career Enhancement Program (ARL CEP), and an intern at the UIUC Library of Medicine. Needless to say, Bradley would prove to be a strong candidate when he entered the job market in 2015.

Despite casting a wide net when considering jobs, Bradley was ultimately lured back to a familiar place – his alma mater, Lincoln University – to take on a full-time position as a Reference and Instruction Librarian. Since joining the academic faculty at Lincoln’s Inman E. Page Library, Bradley has continued his impressive work habits and sought out new opportunities for leadership and scholarly work. His CV now includes such accomplishments as:

  • Vice President of the Faculty Senate at Lincoln University
  • Executive board membership for the Black Caucus of American Librarians
  • Conference committee member of the American Library Association, which hosts over 50,000 attendees annually
  • Membership on the Business Reference Association in Librarianship Leadership Committee
  • Winner of the 2017 Global Financial Data Academic Business Librarianship Travel Award
  • Lecturer and research presenter at universities and conferences nationwide
  • Poll judge assisting with voter registration
  • Alumni panelist for the 2016 iSchool Inclusion Institute (i3)

Such an active list of service certainly requires discipline and resourcefulness. When asked how he juggles all of his professional commitments, Bradley says, “I live by my Google calendar. Facebook helps for quick communication. That all keeps me organized.” His i3 experience and network has proven helpful, too. “I still talk to people from i3, like 2011 alums, Marcia Macintosh and Twanna Hodge,” he noted. “We talk about classes we’re teaching and career opportunities. It gives me a good set of ideas, and we can experiment and see how our ideas work at our different schools.”

Most recently, Bradley has developed a passion for challenging the status quo of information consumption. Particularly in the realm of politics, he wants to encourage people to be more critical in their evaluation of information quality and credibility. “People can get pretty depressed,” he said in our interview, “so they need to stay positive, keep their heads up, and vote. We have access to a wide variety of information, but now we have confusion between facts and alternative facts. So make sure to do a ‘C.R.A.P.’ test [research source evaluation for currency, reliability, authority, and purpose/point-of-view.] Is [your source] credible? Which resources are being used? How old is it?” He also wants people to branch out and expand their intellectual horizons. As he puts it, “Be curious! Go to the county clerk’s office – or better yet, to your library! When in doubt, talk to a librarian. They’ll put you in the right place.”

So what does the future hold? Bradley loves his job, but he’s interested in the unique leadership challenges of running a library, possibly serving as the director of a business library. He anticipates that libraries will continue to evolve into digital spaces moving forward. “There will be fewer physical books. They won’t be gone, but once you get to the 9th grade in public school you’ll likely get an iPad or other tablet — at my campus, there’s no campus bookstore. You order your books online, so we will likely see e-books [and other electronic resources] continue to gain in popularity.”

As his career continues to develop, it is safe to assume that Bradley will be leading the charge to shape the evolving role of librarians and advocating for good use of libraries. Whether mentoring students on campus, taking on new leadership positions in professional associations, or returning to i3 to serve as a guest lecturer or research advisor, Bradley is committed to supporting and championing the next generation of information leaders. As he succinctly puts it, “the library has all the resources to be successful!”