A program at The University of Arizona that is working to improve the number of American Indian and Hispanic librarians has just received a grant of nearly $1 million.
The grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services went to the UAï¿½s School of Information Resources and Library Science, will fund the UAï¿½s Knowledge River program, which for six years has offered outreach services to the community and educational opportunities for Hispanics and American Indians seeking careers as librarians and information professionals.
Thatï¿½s just one bit of good news for the school, also known as SIRLS.
SIRLS also has finalized an agreement with the Pima County Public Library that will lead to about six Knowledge River scholars being offered assistantships.
Also, the school received a $40,000 grant from the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records and Library Services and Technology Act to place scholars in American Indian communities.
The new project, "Knowledge River II - Building Capacity for Diversity in Library and Information Science Education," will enable the school to enhance its program and provide 48 scholarships to masterï¿½s students.
"There are two key issues in librarianship: the United Statesï¿½ changing demographics and the small number of librarians from underrepresented cultural groups," said Jana Bradley, the schoolï¿½s director.
"In 2050, it is projected that we will be a nation of minorities. Libraries will be called upon to serve a huge diversity of clientele and it is extremely important that librarians are educated to be culturally fluent," Bradley added. "And it is a high priority within our school and with the American Library Association to increase the number of librarians from underrepresented groups of all kinds."
Overall, Knowledge Riverï¿½s mission is to improve the access American Indians and Hispanics have to information while also increasing their numbers in the field.
With its new funding, the school plans to offer additional courses, bring visiting lecturers to the UA, hold seminars for professionals, develop partnerships with other academic units and enhance its recruitment efforts, among other things.
The school will partner with the Arizona Health Sciences Library, the Pima County Public Library and Sunnyside Unified School District.
A description of the program that the school drafted notes that the goal of Knowledge River II is to "become a national exemplar in LIS (library and information science) education, reflecting throughout its teaching, research, and outreach the diversity of communities that libraries, information environments and cultural heritage institutions serve in Arizona and in the nation."
In a release issued this week by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the institute announced that it had awarded more than $20 million to aid librarians at 31 institutions across the nation.
The grants were awarded as part of the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program.
Since 2003, the program has awarded more than $100 million to recruit and train the next generation of librarians, Anne-Imelda M. Radice, who directs the federal institute, said in the release. "Whether working in public schools, colleges, or local public libraries, librarians are essential contributors toward student and community success."
Bruce Fulton, the schoolï¿½s communications and outreach librarian, said Knowledge River II will expand upon the existing programï¿½s strengths by embedding issues related to diversity and multicultural perspectives into the curriculum.
The program will also continue to involve its students in community service locally -- working with students and schools and by providing underserved populations with health-related resources, among other things ï¿½ and across the nation while also enabling faculty and students to research topics relevant to people of diverse backgrounds.
"The grant is first and foremost a capacity-building grant that will help institutionalize the progress made during the last five years and establish assured sustainability going forward," Fulton said.
"It establishes SIRLS as a national exemplar for our approach to addressing diversity and multicultural perspectives in our curriculum," he said,"and in our ability to recruit and retain diverse students and faculty."