Outreach and Diversity

state of america's libraries: a report from the american library association

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Profession expands efforts to make its ranks more accessible to minorities


The library profession continues its active efforts to make its ranks more accessible to members of ethnic and racial minority groups and to strengthen its outreach efforts to these underserved populations.

The American Library Association’s Spectrum Scholarship Program, for example, awarded 75 scholarships in 2010 to members of underrepresented groups to help them pursue master’s degrees. The Spectrum program also provides access to a network of library professionals, ALA support in finding a position in the field and free admission to national and local professional development events.

Spectrum’s professional development and leadership components draw together advocacy efforts across many library organizations, providing a model and mechanisms by which they can diversify their membership and involve proven new leaders with diverse perspectives in their programs and initiatives. Eighty-five percent of Spectrum graduates are working full time in a library or information setting; they include the library director for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the manager of rare books and special collections for the Princeton University Library, the director of diversity programs at the Association of Research Libraries and the librarian in a Bureau of Indian Affairs school on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico.

The Spectrum program has received significant support in the past several years from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), an independent federal grant-making agency, which has allowed it to double the number of scholarships since 2006. In addition, a new IMLS grant will provide for recruitment efforts to ethnically diverse high school and college undergraduate students, in order to expose them to the rewarding career opportunities within libraries.

The ALA announced the Spectrum Presidential Initiative in 2009 as a special campaign to raise $1 million for the Spectrum Scholarship Program. Through this initiative, ALA aims to meet the critical needs of supporting master’s-level scholarships for students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

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New literacy efforts for adult English-language learners


Seventy-five public libraries, in large cities and small towns in 24 states, received support to develop innovative and exemplary literacy services for adult English-language learners through the American Dream Starts @ your library® literacy initiative. The libraries are using their grant funds to build innovative literacy services for adult English-language learners and their families by expanding their print and digital literacy collections, offering instruction in ESL (English as a second language) and citizenship, holding conversation clubs, developing mobile tech labs and reaching out to community partners. Especially notable about the 2010 round was the awarding of grants to support mobile outreach to immigrant communities, especially bookmobile service. More information about the initiative, which is funded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and administered by the ALA, is available at www.olos.ala.org/americandream and www.americandreamtoolkit.org.

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ALA initiative puts focus on family literacy


Also in 2010, ALA President Camila Alire launched the Family Literacy Focus, an initiative to encourage families in ethnically diverse communities to read and learn together. The ALA’s five ethnic affiliates received funding to develop innovative, culturally focused family literacy programs emphasizing oral and written traditions and exploring new literacies.

  • The American Indian Library Association and the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association combined their resources and created Talk Story: Sharing Stories, Sharing Culture .
  • The Black Caucus of the ALA held an author-centered intergenerational literacy program for Grand Families @ your library.
  • The Chinese American Librarians Association brought generations together through literacy and cultural activities by Bridging Generations, a Bag at a Time.
  • REFORMA: The National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking created Noche de Cuentos to support storytelling and oral traditions and to preserve cultures.

By June 2010, 16 public libraries in diverse communities had held 21 family literacy events. These events were attended by 1,117 children, adults, and elders. More information is available at www.ala.org/ familyliteracyfocus.

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Bookmobiles carry library services to new corners and communities


National Bookmobile Day, which saw its first celebration on April 14, 2010, recognizes the contributions of the nation’s bookmobiles and the dedicated professionals who make quality bookmobile outreach possible in their communities. Bookmobile use has surged during the economic downturn, paralleling the increased use of fixed libraries and often providing services not just to schools but to targeted groups such as senior citizen homes, pre-school children, adult education centers, drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities and correctional facilities.

The range of materials that bookmobiles circulate has expanded with their more varied destinations. Many bookmobiles have low floors for easy entry, and many also provide Internet access.

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The fourth annual Parade of Bookmobiles, held at the 2010 ALA Annual Conference, featured 12 vehicles from across the country. The parade provides an opportunity to showcase libraries’ ability to reach rural and other communities where access to conventional library facilities is a challenge.

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First Stonewall book award for literature for children and young adults


At its Midwinter Meeting in January 2011, the ALA announced the winner of its inaugural Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award: Nick Burd, for his young-adult novel, “The Vast Fields of Ordinary” (Penguin Group). The award is administered by the ALA’s Stonewall Book Awards Committee of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Round Table and is to be awarded annually to English-language works for children or teens that are of exceptional merit and relate to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience.

“The demand for quality GLBT books for youth continues to grow as the nation becomes more diverse,” ALA President Roberta Stevens said as the award was announced. “According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 14 million children have a gay or lesbian parent, and the most current U.S. Census data show that one-third of female-partner households and one-fifth of male-partner households contain children.

“Books for youth regarding the GLBT experience are critical tools in teaching tolerance, acceptance, and the importance of diversity,” Stevens said. “Our nation is one of diverse cultures and lifestyles, and it is important for parents, educators and librarians to have access to quality books for youth that represent a spectrum of cultures.

“Not every book will be right for every reader, but the freedom to choose for ourselves from a full variety of possibilities is a hard-won right for every American.”

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The ALA’s GLBT Round Table celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2010 and received a congratulatory resolution from the U.S. House of Representatives. The Round Table is one of the first professional GLBT organizations in the United States.

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First Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee presented the inaugural Coretta Scott King– Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement to Walter Dean Myers, an acclaimed African-American author of more than 50 novels and non-fiction works for young adults. The annual award will be presented in even years to an African-American author or illustrator for a significant body of published books for children and young adults. In alternate years, the award will honor a practitioner for substantial contributions to youth education using award-winning African-American youth literature. Virginia Hamilton was herself an award-winning author of more than 40 children’s books, including “M.C. Higgins, the Great,” for which she won the National Book Award in 1974 and the 1975 Newbery Medal.

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Virtual Library of Cherokee Knowledge


With the support of a $150,000 enhancement grant from the Institute of Library and Museum Services, the Cherokee Nation, based in Tahlequah, Okla., is establishing the Virtual Library of Cherokee Knowledge, which is designed to provide Cherokee citizens and the general public access to a comprehensive digital repository of authentic Cherokee knowledge related to the Nation’s history, language, traditions, culture and leaders. The grant will enable the tribe to secure professional consultation services from digital library specialists, historians and museum and library professionals and to obtain the technology, software and equipment necessary for scanning, digitizing and cataloging many of the tribe’s most significant documents. The Virtual Library will serve as a source for educational programming to promote cultural literacy among tribal members.

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Other outreach efforts target various audiences


For the second year in a row, Univision Radio, the nation’s largest Spanish-language radio broadcaster, aired Spanish-language public service announcements about the value of libraries and librarians. Launched at the September 2008 conference of REFORMA :the National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking, the “en tu biblioteca” campaign encourages members of the Latino community to use their local libraries. More about the campaign, which communicates how libraries create opportunities for Latino adults and their children by providing help from librarians and free public access to information, is available at its Spanish-language website.

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A new toolkit, “ Keys to Engaging Older Adults @ your library,” responds to the concerns of librarians across the country who provide services for the ever-growing older-adult population in their communities. In addition to a print version, the toolkit is available for free download, both in regular and large print formats. The toolkit has been requested by more than 600 libraries to help in the expansion and improvement of library services to older Americans.

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In April 2010, ALA Editions published “Public Library Services for the Poor: Doing All We Can,” by Leslie Edmonds Holt and Glen E. Holt, which shows how the five key action areas adopted by the ALA Council (diversity, equity of access, education and continuous learning, intellectual freedom and 21st-century literacy) apply to this disadvantaged population. The book, available at the ALA Store, motivates librarians to use creative solutions to meet their needs.

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The 13th Annual Diversity Fair, held at the 2010 ALA Annual Conference, showcased 28 participants celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The event, organized by the Office for Literacy and Outreach Services and sponsored by DEMCO, celebrates extraordinary examples of diversity in America’s libraries and demonstrates possibilities for other libraries in search of “diversity-in-action” ideas.

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In rural America, only 60 percent of households use broadband Internet service, according to a report released in February by the Department of Commerce. That is 10 percent less than urban households. In Thomasville, Ala. (population 4,422 in 2009), Gina Wilson, director of the public library, noticed that people would pull into the parking lot after hours to try to use the library’s wireless signal, so she started leaving it on all night. She even posted a sign on the library door with the password: “guest.”

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The Leroy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund, founded in 1970 to help librarians who have been denied employment rights because of their defense of intellectual freedom or because of discrimination, marked its 40th anniversary during the 2010 ALA Annual Conference at a celebratory dinner at the world-famous Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

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On the other hand, an era ended for blind listeners in Utah when, after 34 years, the Utah State Library for the Blind and Disabled’s radio reading service went off the air in April, a victim of budget reductions. About 100 volunteers contributed, many reading Utah’s daily newspapers from cartoons to obituaries, as part of a menu of programs that included “Cooking in the Dark” and old-time radio shows. The library provided blind listeners with a special radio that allowed them to hear the broadcast, which was not accessible by the general public.

 

 

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