Occidental College Receives Grant to Improve Librarian Recruiting
Occidental College has been named one of six academic libraries – and the only institution west of the Mississippi – that will share a $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to encourage more people to consider a library career, particularly ethnic minorities at the undergraduate level.
The award is payable over two years.
“There’s a real shortage of librarians now and at issue is the graying of the profession,” said College Librarian Shirley Hallblade, principal investigator for the grant. “Our primary goal is to interest students in the possibility of library and information services as a career. This effort can be an important way of highlighting a somewhat hidden profession.”
Occidental, which joins the major project in part because of its diverse student body, shares the award with the libraries of Mount Holyoke, Oberlin, Swarthmore, and Wellesley colleges and of the Atlanta University Center (serving Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse and Spelman colleges).
The grant will fund programs to familiarize undergraduates with challenges facing the library profession, draw their attention to librarianship as a potential career, and alert them to internship opportunities. The initiative also is designed to broaden the racial makeup of academic librarians to better serve increasingly diverse populations. All four federally defined underrepresented groups – African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos and Native Americans – are seriously underrepresented among practicing librarians.
Furthermore, research shows that 60 percent of current librarians will reach retirement age by 2020. “This problem will reach crisis proportions unless effective measures can be taken to increase the numbers of those pursuing library careers,” said Ray English, project coordinator and director of libraries at Oberlin.
This fall, Occidental will launch the project with programs on the controversial Patriot Act and its implications for libraries. Also in the fall, Occidental’s library staff will begin to recruit student interns who will explore aspects of librarianship careers. Beginning this spring, the paid interns will shadow key library personnel and work on special projects. Summer interns will work in the Occidental library, and take field trips to other libraries. They also will study the global information environment, acquisition and preservation of collections, the potential loss of cultural and intellectual heritage, the importance of information literacy, and values that relate to librarianship.
“The Mellon project presents an exciting opportunity for students to explore the library and information sciences,” says Marla Peppers, library acquisitions manager and local coordinator for the project. “I am encouraged that a program such as this will help bring attention to librarianship as an attractive career choice.”
For more information about Occidental’s participation in the grant project, call local coordinator Marla Peppers at (323) 259-2965.