Working on the “pipeline problem” in librarianship

The lack of diversity in librarianship is stark and well-documented. Before speculating on how to change things, it seems wise to document efforts already in place. Below are some of the efforts I know of to increase diversity in MLS/MLIS programs – in other words, efforts to deal with the “pipeline problem”:

Project IDOL (Increasing Diversity of Librarians):

a collaboration between the Wayne State University School of Library and Information Science and theHistorically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Library AllianceWSU SLIS and the HBCU Library Alliance have received funding from the IMLS Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program to increase the diversity of the library profession.  In this 3-year project, the two partner organizations will recruit, mentor, and provide an online Master of Library and Information Science degree to 10 students from historically underrepresented groups in order to achieve greater diversity among practicing library professionals. SLIS will provide the education with its online MLIS format and the HBCU library alliance will assist with recruitment and retention through mentorship of the selected students by library professionals with senior level experience and prior mentorship training.

LAMP (LIS Access Midwest Program):

The LIS Access Midwest Program (LAMP) is a regional network ofacademic libraries and information science schools dedicated to promoting careers within the field of library and information science (LIS). The program accomplishes this goal by encouraging promising under-graduate and incoming graduate students to participate in activities and events designed to increase their awareness of the profession and provide support for subsequent graduate studies in library and information science. LAMP specifically seeks to encourage the participation of students from statistically and historically underrepresented populations in LIS.

i3 (iSchool Inclusion Initiative):

The iSchool Inclusion Institute (i3) is an undergraduate research and leadership development program that prepares students from underrepresented populations for graduate study and careers in the information sciences. Each year 20 undergraduate students from across the country are selected to become i3 Scholars. Those students undertake a year-long experience that includes two summer institutes held at the University of Pittsburgh and a year-long team research project. Although an intensive and challenging program, i3 prepares students for the rigor of graduate study and research in the information sciences. The U.S.-based iSchools value the preparation provided by i3 and actively recruit i3 Scholars to their graduate programs.

Knowledge River:

Knowledge River is a Tucson-based educational experience within the School of information Resources and Library Science (SIRLS) that focuses on educating information professionals who have experience with and are committed to Latino and Native American populations. Knowledge River also fosters understanding of library and information issues from the perspectives of Latino and Native Americans and advocates for culturally sensitive library and information services to these communities.  Since its inception, Knowledge River has become the foremost graduate program for training librarians and information specialists with a focus on Latino and Native American cultural issues. To date, over 145 scholars have graduated from this program. This was and still is a nationally unprecedented milestone that can be attributed to the outstanding support that scholars are provided with.

I’m still pretty new to looking at, writing about, and trying to work on diversity and social justice issues in/of/for libraries, and I confess that I didn’t know about these programs until recently. I thank my twitter colleagues for keeping me honest and informed. If there are programs designed to recruit, retain, and support librarians from underrepresented groups that I’ve left out, please let me know.

I also have to add that although these programs all sound fantastic and deserve support, even combined they barely make a dent in the overall whiteness of librarianship. Also, most of these programs are grant-funded. What would it take to get permanent funding for a really big, consequential diversity initiative in librarianship? I guess that is the big question.

10 Responses to “Working on the “pipeline problem” in librarianship”


  1. 1 Charlie March 10, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    Thanks for the article, Emily. I would agree with you that it’s not just a pipeline problem. I know several people who went through the diversity programs and then had more trouble getting hired than they should So make of that what you will.

  2. 2 debbiereese March 7, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    I’m finishing up a MLIS at SJSU in a grant funded project called CIRCLE OF LEARNING, approximately 20 Native people getting the MLIS. Info here: http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/col

  3. 3 Ray Heigemeir March 3, 2014 at 11:05 am

    I just returned from the Music Library Association Annual Conference, where I was fortunate to chat up the young librarians participating in our diversity effort:

    http://www.musiclibraryassoc.org/?page=ARLMLADiversity

  4. 4 Patricia Hswe March 2, 2014 at 9:23 am

    Good folks to talk to about diversity initiatives – Mark Puente at ARL and Gwendolyn Prellwitz at ALA. Also, Minnesota has a program for early-career librarians from underrepresented groups: https://www.lib.umn.edu/sed/institute. You may be aware of diversity resident librarian programs – many academic libraries have had them (Penn State currently does). There is actually an interest group in ACRL focused on resident librarian issues: http://acrl.ala.org/residency/ – might be a good source of conversations.

  5. 5 Emily March 1, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Robert Reid-Pharr has a recent great post about how this is more than a pipeline problem, though certainly that too. Worth a read in this context. http://reid-pharr.com/the-open-lie-about-diverstity/

  6. 6 Bergis Jules March 1, 2014 at 11:18 am

    I hadn’t heard of a couple of these. Thanks for sharing.

    The Association of Research Libraries has a number of diversity recruitment initiatives that have been pretty successful. http://www.arl.org/leadership-recruitment/diversity-recruitment

    The ALA Spectrum Scholarship Program is also a strong one. http://www.ala.org/offices/diversity/spectrum

    SAA recently revamped their Mosaic Scholarship Program and received an IMLS grant to enhance program components. This is a partnership with ARL. http://www.arl.org/leadership-recruitment/diversity-recruitment/arl-saa-mosaic-scholarship-program

    There are several others out there but these are some of strongest programs.

  7. 7 Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe March 1, 2014 at 11:17 am

    The Spectrum Scholarship program, which includes the Spectrum Mentors program … http://www.ala.org/offices/diversity/spectrum


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