This summer, four Lincoln University undergraduates minoring in library and information science gained eight-weeks’ worth of hands-on learning and work experience at Washington University Libraries. The result of a successful grant application aimed at fostering diversity in the academic library, the internships wrapped up with a closing reception and project presentations by each intern--Bradley Kuykendall, Gerald Pittman, Jerrod Moore, and Billy "AJ" Allen--on Thursday, July 25, 2013.
The initiative proved valuable not only for the students but for the WU Libraries staff as well. Made possible by Washington University‘s Diversity and Inclusion Grant program, established several years ago to strengthen and promote diversity on campus, the internships included a stipend as well as on-campus housing and meals for each of the students, who arrived in early June.
Rudolph Clay, the Libraries’ head of outreach, led the program, which was developed as a response to a widespread imbalance in ethnic diversity among professional library staff. According to a recent annual survey by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), only 14.2 percent of librarians at ARL-affiliated institutions identify as Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, Hispanic, or American Indian/Alaskan Native.
In addition to rotating through the Libraries’ various units and departments, the four interns worked with assigned mentors among the library staff to develop unique projects related to some aspect of the University Libraries. Goals of the program included creating a connection between interns and the library, identifying barriers in recruitment, and evaluating the effectiveness of internships as a means of encouraging individuals from underrepresented groups to pursue graduate study in the library field.
When Clay was an undergraduate and student library worker at Washington University in the late 1970s, he was greatly influenced by Dr. Charles Churchwell, then dean of the Libraries, who remains his mentor today."He was interested in opening the academic library to a wider community," Clay says. "I carry that interest forward."