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Last modified: Monday, March 2, 2009

Library science funds available to minorities

March 2, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Minority students interested in a Master of Library Science degree are being asked to apply for their share of a three-year, $1 million federal grant aimed at helping Indiana University and the Indiana State Library system increase ethnic diversity in the state's libraries.

Librarians Leading in Diversity

The inaugural Librarians Leading in Diversity fellows are, from left, Bernard McFarland, Kristen Weaver, Crystal Smith, Kisha Tandy, Dayna Masih, Shanika Hatcher, Hannah Cox, Tavis Hampton and Willie Miller. LLID fellow Gail Lee is not pictured.

Print-Quality Photo

Attempting to address what researchers have called a chronic disparity between the demographics of library staff and the demographics of the U.S. population, the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services last year awarded $20.3 million among 31 institutions to fund the Librarians Leading In Diversity program.

That demographic disparity in Indiana is as evident as anywhere else in the U.S., according to Marilyn Irwin, associate dean of the School of Library and Information Science at IUPUI.

"This project provides Indiana with an incredible opportunity to increase the number of librarians who reflect the diversity of the communities they serve," she said. "This has the potential to increase library use by minority populations throughout the state as they see libraries as more responsive to their needs."

Irwin cited recent U.S. Census data showing Indiana's population as 84.3 percent white, while the state's 4,210 librarians are 94.9 percent white. Among librarians, 3 percent, or 125, are African American, and only 14 are Latino (less than 1 percent). By comparison, African Americans represent 8.8 percent, and Hispanics 4.5 percent, of the state population.

Comprising the first group of 10 Diversity Fellows were four students from Indianapolis, one each from Avon, Evansville, Fort Wayne and Muncie, and one each from Mississippi and Virginia. The fellowship guidelines allows up to two of the awards to go to out-of-state students.

Gail Lee is a current Diversity Fellow at IU Bloomington who before learning about the program was looking at years of balancing part-time schooling and full-time work as the only path to fulfilling requirements for a Master of Library Science degree. Prior to receiving the fellowship she was commuting from her home in Evansville to attend classes at IU Bloomington once a week while also holding down a full-time job.

Committed to advancing her education in order to "do more to reach out to help the underrepresented in my community," Lee was prepared to forge forward, no matter how long it took.

"I could not afford to quit my job and attend school full-time, and as a result it would have taken several years to complete, but that was my only option at the time," she said. "I have now been blessed with the opportunity of a lifetime."

Lee and other members of the first class of Librarians Leading in Diversity are expected to complete their Master of Library Science degrees in no more than 16 months.

Students seeking fellowships in the second round of 10 awards have until April 24 to submit the required application, letters of recommendation, written essay and other information. Prospective applicants hoping to attend the Bloomington campus program should visit while those interested in applying at IUPUI can visit for complete application information.

To speak with managers of the Librarians Leading in Diversity program at IU Bloomington, IUPUI or Indiana State Library, please contact Steve Chaplin, University Communications, at 812-856-1896, or