Kent State Receives $553,000 Grant to Form Partnership, Recruit Future Librarians
More than 150 librarians, educators, friends and supporters gathered on Dec. 1 at the Cleveland Botanical Garden to celebrate a unique educational partnership between the School of Library and Information Science at Kent State University and the libraries of 19 educational, medical and cultural institutions in the University Circle area of Cleveland.
The collaboration is the result of a federal grant of $522,908 awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the primary source of federal funding for libraries and museums in the United States, to the school, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the libraries of Case Western Reserve University on behalf of all the library partners. It will give 72 college undergraduates a hands-on introduction to the library profession, particularly in specialized areas with a shortage of qualified people (e.g., art, health sciences, music and other specialized academic areas).
As Kent State President Dr. Lester A. Lefton told the gathering, “This remarkable project has 20 equal partners — 19 different University Circle libraries and the School of Library and Information Science. Individually and collectively, the wealth of educational, medical and cultural resources all twenty partners offer is worthy of a celebration in itself.”
Included in the partnership are the libraries and archives of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland Museum of Art, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Cleveland Botanical Garden, Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland Institute of Music, Cleveland Orchestra, Siegal College of Judaic Studies, Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) School of Law, CWRU School of Medicine, CWRU Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences and six distinct areas within the Kelvin Smith Library at CWRU.
Greg Byerly, Ph.D., associate professor in Kent State’s School of Library and Information Science and director of the project, said it will have a national impact as the partners create a model recruitment plan for attracting undergraduate college students, particularly minorities, to the library profession.
“For several years, the directors of the libraries and archives in these cultural, educational and medical institutions have been concerned about the need to recruit qualified people with appropriate background to become librarians, especially in the specialized areas they represent,” Byerly said, “and especially as there will be a great need for librarians when the baby boom generation retires in large numbers over the next 10 to 20 years.”
Initial recruitment efforts will target juniors and seniors at five different Northeast Ohio colleges and universities, although additional institutions will be added later. Over the three years of the grant, four cohorts of undergraduate students will take two three-credit courses, one each sequentially over two semesters. The first course will introduce students to the profession, particularly academic and special libraries, and the second will include a 100-hour supervised internship in one of the 19 partner libraries.
The grant covers tuition costs for the courses, which will be provided online by Kent State’s School of Library and Information Science. Students will be able to transfer the six undergraduate credit hours from Kent State to their home institutions.
The partnership with University Circle museums and other institutions also will help boost Kent State’s new museum studies specialization in the School of Library and Information Science.
“Museum studies is a growing field, and there is a need to cultivate expertise in this area,” Byerly said.
To help launch the museum studies program, the school this fall hired Kiersten F. Latham, who received her Ph.D. in library and information management from Emporia State University and has more than 20 years of experience working in museums in various capacities, as curator, collection manager, director, volunteer, program coordinator, archivist, historic interpreter, board member, exhibit designer and consultant. She will play an important role in the execution of the grant and in the ongoing partnership with the University Circle institutions.
Byerly has developed the initial course for the museum studies specialty and will be responsible for developing the two undergraduate courses for this grant project. Staff at the various University Circle libraries will assist Byerly and Latham in developing Kent State’s new museum studies program and some will serve as adjunct faculty.
“The combination of a museum studies curriculum within a library and information science school is relatively rare,” Byerly said, “and the wealth of world-class museums at our disposal will make this program that much more impressive and marketable.”
Only four American Library Association (ALA)-accredited programs nationwide have a degree or certificate in museum studies or related areas. Kent State’s School of Library and Information Science, in the College of Communication and Information, offers the only ALA-accredited Master of Library and Information Science (M.L.I.S.) degree program in Ohio.
Byerly, together with Carolyn Brodie, Ph.D., professor in the School of Library and Information Science at Kent State, has brought in more than $6.2 million in grants from the IMLS and other federal and regional sources since 1995.
“This important new partnership is a shining example of research that makes a real difference in the lives of individuals and communities — not just in Kent and Cleveland, but nationwide,” Lefton said. “It will produce a model recruitment plan for attracting undergraduates to the library profession, including the growing field of museum studies. I’m delighted to report that Kent State’s School of Library and Information Science is developing what will be a premier program in this field.”
In addition to the Master of Library and Information Science degree, Kent State’s School of Library and Information Science offers a Master of Science in Information Architecture and Knowledge Management and is part of the interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in the College of Communication and Information. The school is recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the nation’s top 20 graduate programs, and its youth librarianship program is ranked 13th. It is one of the largest library schools in the country, with nearly 700 students enrolled.
For more information about Kent State’s School of Library and Information Science, visit www.slis.kent.edu.