NC Program works to end shortage of Black librarians

In preparation of an anticipated shortage of library leaders across the board due to retirement, and to address the long-standing scarcity of library school faculty and librarians, there are efforts in place throughout the country to train individuals to fill the gaps.
Locally, UNC Greensboro recently received an $862,014 Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program Grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The university will use the award to recruit 12 minority students to attend the school’s two-year graduate library and information studies program beginning in 2009.


I plan to cling to my job for as long as I can. I don't know where these people are looking to see this scarcity of librarians, but they're not looking at libraries. We can't afford to hire for any positions, so the positions go away.

So they want to recruit a bunch of minority kids and waste 2 years of their lives to earn a degree that guarantees them no job. When they could be earning a medical certification that could provide them with a lifetime of good pay. Good use of money.

What can a black librarian do that a non-black librarian can't do?

Why is this legal?

By the way there is no librarian shortage.

If I cared about the profession, black people, white people, IMLS grants, my tax money being wasted; I would write my elected officials, but since this is less than one cent of the >18K I paid in taxes last year, and because the profession is already shot to hell, I don't care about many people, and because it would be a waste of a stamp I am not going to bother to write any more than this.

Thank you.

Your reading comprehension is way off. There is a shortage of MINORITY librarians. And to respond to your question...what can a black librarian do that a non-black librarian can't do? Well, for starters, there's the issue of empathy. I am a black paraprofessional. I wish I had a dollar for each time in the past year that I've been approached by black patrons who bypass white librarians to avoid condescension and indifference. We know how it feels to be talked down to. Also, there are issues that some blacks only feel comfortable discussing with people who've shared their experience.

I don't talk down to library patrons. I work for them, heck I even like them more than most library staff members why would I talk down to them. I treat everyone the same. I spent a decade and a half as an ER nurse before I was a public librarian - everybody is the same - we all have the same hopes, fears, desires, and needs.

There is nothing a black librarian can do that I cannot do. There is nothing that a white librarian can do that I cannot do.

Issues blacks only feel comfortable discussing with people who have shared their experience...what a load of crap. You are only saying that to hide the fact that you are a racist.

I am a minority librarian, there is no shortage of minority librarians. A disservice is done to black college graduates by recruiting them into library school, not that it is done just to black college graduates, but telling any college graduate that there is a shortage of librarians -black, white, or navy blue - is simply not true. There is no librarian shortage. To lie to someone to fill a made up quota is simply wrong, to encourage these young men and women to select a particular course of study is simply terrible. Any young person should be provided with the truth about job prospects, professional growth, and probable remuneration. Employers can't pay their employees differently becuase of what race they are, they cannot hire based on race, they cannot promote based on race so to suggest that being a minority librarian is an advantage is simply a lie.

A bright young man or woman with an undergraduate degree should be encouraged to follow the career path they choose, without some library school recruiter lying to them about the profession. I can think of many better career choices for high performing students. MBA, a natural science Masters, an engineering graduate degree, architecture: all of these start at 2x the salary of an entry level librarian and no one is telling them lies that being black will be a benefit.

If you think there is a shortage of minority librarians, why are you not in library school?

I'm sorry your patrons are racist, but I am not giving you a dollar for each time you deal with a racist, that would simply be rewarding improper behavior.

I am cheered by mdoneil's pronouncement that we are all the same. No doubt the fact that he treats everyone the same means that all people treat their fellow man the same.

I am further edified that his experiences as a nurse, cop, librarian, organ grinder, burlesque performer, soda jerk, cowboy and ninja assassin (w/ Master's degrees in same) qualify him to expound upon the black experience on a personal level.

Chuck, did I meet you at ALA. No, I don't think so.

I am black.

"Well, aren't I the f*cking as*hole." - Col. Nathan Jessup

You didn't really fall for that did you?

I am indeed black.

Think Shaquille O'Neal.

Why are you so offended by the fact that some people feel more comfortable speaking with people who look like them? I agree that many white people I meet assume that i want urban novels upon seeing me. Do you assume that a 24 year old white woman is interested in Sophia Kinsella or do you ask her what she would like to read? Unfortunately people continue to work based on assumption, and often times misconceptions. There is no need to be angry. It is a fact. Quite frankly you seem upset that you didn't get to go to school free.

How do you know I didn't get to go to school for free? The public library at which I worked does pay for their library assistants that wish to attend library school. It is a program that is offered through the Friends organization, of which I am a member.

I was not employed at any library when I went to library school. It was slightly over seven thousand dollars at FSU. I fell it was money well spent.

Anybody who guesses what a patron wants to read by the way they look is an idiot. I never did, and truthfully I really don't understand how someone could. When I was a public librarian, I worked for the patrons. I never assumed what my bosses want, I ask them how I can help them.

Several patrons invited me to the Progressive Pinellas meetings, one patron called me a 'good Jew' because of the display I put up for the High Holy days. The man from CAIR who I talked with before putting up my Eid display was delighted that I called and he said he wished others would be as inquisitive. The Cardiologist from Kenya who was truly an African-American by having lived in both places, really enjoyed the Ralph McInerney mystery novels set at Notre Dame I suggested.

If you make decisions about people by their phenotype, or their dress, or their accents, or anything else without talking to them, and asking how you can help them... well then whomever does that is a jerk.

I am none of the things listed above, and yes I do feel more comfortable with people at my golf club and parhish hall, than at the Progressive rally or the Erotic Cafe However I don't choose my dentist, doctor, lawyer, cleaning person, or librarian by who makes me comfortable. I can't fathom why anyone else would. Perhaps it is because I am not black, but I think there a lot more black people like me, than those who choose a professional based on their phenotype.

I was an ER nurse for a decade, when things really matter you don't care if your doctor or nurse is black or white or spotted, as long as he is good and smart.

Cultural experience, language background, religious background--people from specific groups often have a great deal of unique, personal, and professional expertise. Librarians from any ethnic group can assist patrons/clients/customers, recommend materials, and serve customers. There is an added benefit when the professional, whether a doctor, dentist, or librarian shares a cultural experience with patrons of the same group, and offers insight to those of another group. We need African American role models for ALL young people, just as we need role models of other ethnic groups for their members, as well as for non-members. Homogeneous members of any group have a tendency to become very insulated (segregated), and often lack the insight that someone brings who has the life-long LIVED experience, as well as the academic or learned experience/information. Both are important in a world where people don't all look or think the same. This I think is the true value of a multi-ethnic society.

The internet sure is full of bitter librarians.

I'm the black paraprofessional who just posted. By the way, I am enrolled in graduate school, working toward a Master of Library and Information Science. I am in Ohio. Our unionized public libraries pay very well and the competition for positions is intense. If I'm getting extra points for being black, fine. I'm well qualified regardless.

These is a lot of jealousy over the minority recruitment effort. Too bad. For many years, black people were not even allowed to enter public libraries in many states. The ALA took a neutral position on the civil rights issue until 1961!

It is obvious that mdoneil is not black. If so, he/she would not be making such comments.

That black college graduates (or anyone else) should not be encouraged to go into one profession or another based solely on the number of X that are or are not in the profession.

That black men -who are the most underrepresented group on American college campuses - should opt for a career where the starting salaries to put it bluntly suck is an absurd premise.

You say you are from Ohio so I had a look at some representative Ohio jobs:

Columbus - Team Lead II (MLS +2yrs or undergrad &5 yrs) 48K
Toledo- AV Librarian (ALA-accredited degree and a strong background in film, music and popular culture) 39K

Cleveland - Adult Services / Technology Training ( supervisor of our technology training class curriculum. and 20 hrs/week on the ref desk) 42K

Contrast that with these jobs:
Business Analyst SAP HR ( undergrad w/ 5yrs SAP experience) $100K

Oracle DBA - 4yrs exp, 90K

CPA CPA with 1 year Sarbox experience. 70K

Design Engineer BS + 5yrs 61K

Outpatient Pharmacist Registered pharmacist, new pharmacists welcome 100K

Physical Thearpist- Youngstown. BS Physical Therapy, 1 yr, 75K

These are all in Ohio.
Do you still think we should encourage black people to become librarians because there are not 'enough' black librarians?

Don't you think black college graduates are smart enough not to buy that nonsense?

You chose this profession, allow other people to choose too. You are seriously hating for no good reason.

I am offering choices; I listed a half dozen high paying professions.

Why should my tax dollars subsidize a program to get people to go to library school based upon their ethnicity?

If we have to spend tax money to convince people to become librarians, it seems there is something seriously wrong with librarianship.

Where I work there is a chapter of the NABA. I have a degree in Chemistry, there is a group dedicated to black Chemists, and Chemical Engnieers. The National Bar Association is an organization primarily for African American lawyers and judges according to their website.

These groups are remarkably effective in showing all students, and especially minority students their respective careers, all without using my tax dollars.

Why do you not want to show all the cards, why do you not want to encourage students to explore all the possible graduate studies paths for which an undergraduate degree prepares them.

I am not hating, to use the vernacular. I don't like my tax money wasted, and I don't think library schools adequately address the real picture of librarian employment. I can get a job with a JD, a MSChem, or a CPA license today. I could not do that with an MLS.

Certainly we need librarians, but we don't need tax money used to recruit library graduate school students of any ethnicity.

What if an individual actually prefers librarianship over other careers? If so, shouldn't they be encouraged?
You see, it's really none of your business what someone else choose to do with their life.

Money isn't everything. Many people - of all ethnicities - prefer to do what they enjoy.

(And there are higher paying jobs in OHIO librarianship (and elsewhere), including knowledge management.)

I should have listened to myself when I said I was not posting anymore.

You are completely correct we should encourage all minority college students to become librarians, we should use our tax money to do it. There are not enough minority librarians.

We are awash in minority engineers, DBAs, CPAs, optometrists, otorhinolaryngologists, meterologists, architects, and actuaries. God knows we need not encourage minorities to go into those careers, and we certainly don't need to spend tax money to encourage them into those low paying professions.

We certainly need to spend $71K per student to get twelve black librarians becasue we know that only a black librarian can provide service acceptable to black patrons.

You want diversity, take what you get. When I need help from the librarian I ask whomever happens to be there regardless of race, gender, political orientation, hat size or anything else.

I don't need a librarian that can empathize with the white experience, I just want a reference question answered.

Yep spend 71K per student to recruit minority librarians, that is the best use of our tax dollars.

I feel sorry for your patrons. You obviously have a problem with reading comprehension. Fortunately, this is an anonymous forum so you cannot be appropriately identified as an embarassment to the profession.

I did not say we should "encourage all minority college students to become librarians." ALA and accredited schools are simply pushing librarianship as an option. It's about opportunity. Both corporate and non-profit organizations are recognizing the need to include diverse perspectives in their workplaces.

Your anger is your problem.

I said exactly that, everyone should be allowed to choose their career path, and that no one should be pressured to choose one over the other because of a lack of minority students traditionally in the program.

I don't support the use of tax dollars to encourage any student to pursue any career path. The ALA does a fine job of marketing the MLS, why do they need $71K per minority student to put a dozen of minority students in library school?

Let people freely choose - without pressure- and stop wasting our tax money.

Would that money not be better spent on collection development in minority areas, where students can see librarians in their daily work? I think so. Ask an urban librarian what they would rather have a minority librarian, or $71K, or even $7100. I think they will take the money to supplant their collection.

The only thing I am angry about is the waste of money these programs are. Don't spend my tax money on recruiting people; spend IMLS money on services for patrons.

Did you even read what was posted?

In preparation of an anticipated shortage of library leaders across the board due to retirement, and to address the long-standing scarcity of library school faculty and librarians, there are efforts in place throughout the country to train individuals to fill the gaps.

There is no shortage of library leaders, there is no mass retirement of librarians - in fact it is just the opposite, there is no scarcity of library school faculty or librarians. To suggest otherwise is simply wrong. Telling anyone - especially new college graduates, and those who often can't rely on the wisdom and experience of relatives who have undergraduate degrees- that there is a librarian shortage and they should become librarians is simply prevarication.

The Department of Labor states that there librarian hiring slower than expected. It cannot be made any clearer:

Growth in the number of librarians will be limited by government budget constraints and the increasing use of electronic resources. Both will result in the hiring of fewer librarians and the replacement of librarians with less costly library technicians and assistants.

ALA has a link on its web page to the AFL CIO's Library Workers' Fact Sheet. Of course they omit the apostrophe as shown above and the link is broken, but what can you expect from an organization that thinks there is a library shortage. They should hire one to fix their web page.


Nothing screams tolerance than a comment like that. I ask if you could either please calm down or please take a break. You are quite clearly overstrung and stressed. Apparently discussion hit a raw nerve with you and that is truly unfortunate.

As you yourself are preaching to the choir, what sort of active measures do you propose be taken? There is a wide range of such available. Some are illegal while some are legal.

Screaming at the top of your lungs to stop and mind your own affairs which other typographical errors arising lends you no credibility. It is hard to advocate change if you do not know what is going on in the profession at large. Unless you do not consider librarianship a profession, this sort of discussion is going to happen online and otherwise whether you like it or not. In having such online you have far more transparency compared to impromptu discussions happening in hallways at conferences.
Stephen Michael Kellat, Host, LISTen
PGP KeyID: 899C131F

Anonymous conversation do not "..hit a raw nerve" with me. Just looking to hear solutions to some of the conflicts listed. If diversity is not important to an individual, that is fine. Do not hate the persons willing to work toward a cause they believe in.

In 2008, with all the problems in this country and the world, how unfortunate that we are so easily distracted and knocked off balance by our many differences. Maybe it will take a new generation of 'professional' librarians to save our profession.

I agree!!! The new generation of 'professional' librarians may even be minorities!!

Congrats UNC Greensboro!!!

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