One of the more innovative efforts at attracting new, ethnically diverse groups of employees to libraries will formally end in Spring 2008, but plenty of online documentation will remain for those interested in trying this successful model.
Initially started in 2003 by the Urban Libraries Council (ULC) with Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) funding, the project was simple and easy to replicate. Students interested in careers as librarians were cultivated at a couple of levels: tuition reimbursements while they were earning their MLS/MLIS degrees, and “Big Picture” sessions which would give them first-hand knowledge about issues of importance to urban libraries.
The San Francisco Public Library system, one of 12 chosen for the first 18-month project from 2003 – 2005, used staff as speakers for the 90-minute Big Picture sessions which were held approximately once every six weeks. The Library opened the sessions to any student currently enrolled in a library studies program. When the original group of 12 participating library systems throughout the United States was expanded to 23 for the second version of the project (2005-2008), Oakland, Sacramento, and San Francisco public library staff members pooled their resources to add an extra combined daylong session annually for all students who were part of the IMLS-ULC project in their region.
Staff and participants have been tremendously enthusiastic. They noted that the sessions held by the individual library systems as well as the combined Oakland-Sacramento-San Francisco group sessions, on topics ranging from administrative issues such as library budgeting and implementing a new Integrated Library System to outreach projects including serving diverse communities, library marketing, and library training programs, offered the students a chance to see each other face-to-face rather than online since most of their encounters through their distance learning programs leave them with limited contact in a bricks and mortar classroom.
Library staff interested in trying the project will find plenty of ideas from ULC’s list of big picture sessions as well as ideas on how to recruit participants through the Urban Libraries Council website: http://www.urbanlibraries.org.