Amid growing concerns over the lack of diversity among prospective library professionals, the Simmons College Library, in partnership with the Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science and the University of Massachusetts Boston Library, is taking a leadership role in encouraging high school students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds to consider a career in library and information science.
The Simmons College Library will provide internships for 144 Massachusetts high school students who either are members of racial and ethnic minorities, or who will be the first in their family to attend college.
Libraries in areas with heavy populations of such students across the state are the primary targets of the internship locations.
These paid internships, some of which began this fall, are funded by a grant of $661,449 from the national Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
The grant will support the expansion of a pilot internship program funded by the H. W. Wilson Foundation into a three-year project called MassBLAST (Building Library Awareness and Staff for Tomorrow in Massachusetts). It also funds the development of a universal curriculum to provide students with a solid understanding of the roles of libraries and librarians, an overview of behind-the-scenes library operations, insights into the role of technology in libraries, and improved skills for library research.
Library leaders, both nationally and locally, say they recognize the need to recruit and retain a diverse, professional library staff. While the census reports that almost 31 percent of the U.S. population is of Black/African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Hispanic/Latino, or biracial backgrounds, the American Library Association reports that only 10-13 percent of public, academic and school librarians are of non-White backgrounds.
At its conclusion, the project will produce a curriculum, administrative and fundraising package that will be freely available as a resource to any library that wishes to run its own internship program.
For more information about the program — particularly libraries or high schools that are interested in participating — visit www.my.simmons.edu/library/massblast.
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