Cobourn wins Posner Award by Society of American Archivists

Alston Cobourn represented East Carolina University in winning the 2023 Fellows’ Ernst Posner Award given by the Society of American Archivists. The award recognizes an outstanding essay dealing with some facet of archival administration, history, theory and/or methodology that was published during the preceding year in SAA’s journal, American Archivist.

Cobourn is Academic Library Services’ Head of University History & Records, and earned the award for her collaborative role in the article, “Toward Metaliteracy and Transliteracy in the History Classroom: A Case Study Among Underserved Students.” It appeared in the Fall/Winter 2022 issue of American Archivist (vol. 85, no. 2).” Cobourn was joined by Jen Corrinne Brown, associate professor of history at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi; Edward Warga, library systems and discovery specialist at the St. Cloud State University Library; and Lisa Louis, director of user and research services at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi’s Bell Library.


“My colleagues and I are honored to have received this award for our article that was a long time in the making,” Cobourn said. “I am excited that our experience working with underserved students in south Texas on a digital humanities project can provide practical advice to other archivists, instructors and librarians who want to engage in such activities. We truly believe these projects are possible in some way at all institutions, and can teach students a wide variety of literacies.”

Their article is freely available in The Scholarship at

The article addresses the increasing importance of transliteracy and metaliteracy within the digital humanities, particularly for underserved students lacking college readiness. For their study, the authors used a class project from an “Introduction to Public History” undergraduate course at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi, a regional university with a comparatively large population of historically underserved students. The students established a digital home for the ongoing South Texas Stories oral history project, and they learned about primary source literacy, information literacy, visual literacy and digital literacy. The authors believe that such projects are feasible at all kinds of institutions, even those with largely historically underserved populations.

The SAA Awards Committee commended Cobourn, Brown, Warga and Louis for, “Offering practical tools and excellent advice for working with communities to put them on a path to digital literacy.” The committee found the case study presents useful approaches to teaching student populations with little or no understanding of digital literacy. As such, it is a, “Widely applicable outreach approach and a model that others could use in the development of programs to support underserved communities and to help students understand the importance of preserving their digital footprints.”

Established in 1982, this award is named for Ernst Posner, an SAA Fellow and past president as well as a distinguished author and former state archivist of the Prussian State Archives who emigrated to the United States in 1939 and joined the faculty of the American University. The award is funded by the Society of American Archivists Foundation.