Making Diversity a Reality: USF SI and the Spectrum Scholarships

By Alicia Long and Sylvia Martinez

The American Library Association (ALA) established the Spectrum Scholarship Program as part of an effort to increase diversity in the library professions.  Spectrum does this by recruiting and providing educational funding for students from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds so that they may become librarians.  The mission of the Spectrum Program focuses on “Improving service at the local level through the development of a representative workforce that reflects the communities served by all libraries in the new millennium” (American Library Association [ALA], 2011a).

The Spectrum Scholarship Initiative was implemented for the first time in 1997 during Betty Turock’s preside

ncy at ALA. Turock “credits friend and mentor E. J. Josey with the impetus for the Spectrum Initiative; expressing frustration and ‘disgust’ for the lack of diversity in the library profession, Josey stated that ALA only recruits one minority librarian per year and thinks that’s progressive,” reported one of Spectrum’s Doctoral fellows, Nicole Cooke. She continued: “Determined to change this trend, Turock decided that ALA should recruit at least 50 minority librarians per year. And so Spectrum began” (Cooke & Edwards, 2010, n.p.).

To date, Spectrum ha

s provided over 680 scholarships to promising library and information science students from some of the traditionally underrepresented groups in the profession.  The USF School of Information has been home to as many as 24 Spectrum Scholars since its inception (all of the Scholars are listed on the school’s Diversity page). Alicia Long and Sylvia Martinez are fortunate enough to be two of those 680 scholars.  We are writing today to share with students, faculty and alumni some information about Spectrum and to inform the USF community of how we can support the Spectrum Presidential Initiative: National Initiative for Inclusivity in American’s Libraries (SPI), a special campaign led

by ALA Presidents past and present:  Roberta Stevens, Dr. Camila Alire, Molly Raphael, and Dr. Betty J. Turock.  The SPI seeks to raise $1 million to the Spectrum Scholarship Program.  Although the ALA does work with external donors, they have asked for our assistance in spreading the word on how anyone can support Spectrum.

Being chosen as a Spectrum Scholar has many benefits. The most obvious one is financial support. Scholars receive funding for one year’s study at the ALA accredited MLIS program of their choice. In addition, some of the universities match the scholarships with other support, which at USF means the possibility of being accepted as a Graduate Assistant.  Spectrum Scho

lars also receive travel and housing for the Leadership Institute that takes place at the ALA Annual Conference.

However, these are not the only rewards. Spectrum Scholars receive leadership training, networking resources and professional mentoring. Once named a “Spectrum Scholar,” a whole world of possibilities opens up for those select students. All around the profession, Spectrum is recognized as a source of well-prepared leaders and as such, scholars are well respected.  Finally, scholars are given the opportunity to form relationships with other members of their cohort, which creates a network that spans across boundaries of race, gender, age, type of library, and state of residence. Being a Spectrum Scholar makes you part of a class and professional community that has many opportunities.

Diversity is the first of seven Key Action Areas established as part of the American Library Association’s mission (ALA, 2011b).    The presence of a diverse workforce in all areas of an institution affects how the organization operates, what their priorities are, and how well it serves the users. The need for recruitment and support of students of color in library studies is, therefore, imperative. The future of libraries needs more diversity in the profession, but, as the Spectrum slogan says, “The Future is Overdue.”

Diversity in the workforce presents inclusion and tolerance in society by way of example.  Libraries have long been at the center of the communities they serve.  What better way to serve those communities than to promote the professional growth of its members?  The Spectrum Initiative’s recruiting campaigns help to do just that.  “Each trained librarian represents an investment that returns a lifetime of benefits to the community” (Spectrum, 2011).  Each scholar knows the responsibility entrusted to him or her by Spectrum.  As Spectrum Scholars, we all feel the call to giveback to the program that saw such promise in us.  Perhaps this is why many Spectrum alumni become leaders in their communities and libraries, as well as mentors to aspiring librarians.

One of the highlights of being a Spectrum Scholar is the opportunity of attending the Leadership Institute taking place each year right before the ALA Annual Conference. Spectrum scholars are invited to attend this three-day program with all expenses paid, right before the ALA Annual Conference.  Shalu Gillum and Alicia Long attended the last Institute on June 2010 at Washington DC.

This wonderful experience of socializing and learning begins from the moment we start planning the trip, finding roommates, and sharing rides from the airport. These may seem like trivial things, but they create a sense of camaraderie, and friendships begin to form. Gwendolyn Prellwitz and Miguel Figueroa, from the ALA Office for Diversity do a great job of planning the program. During the Institute, we are exposed to many important speakers and receive excellent advice for our careers. Some of the professionals that we met with during the sessions last year were the then ALA President-elect Roberta Stevens, and then President Camila Alire, as well as Betty Turock and other  “champions” of Spectrum scholarships.  Many of the sessions provided us with guidance on leadership and career, including revision of résumés and cover letters, and a mock interview with some top library directors playing the role of the recruiters about to hire us… or not!  The Leadership Institute was a great learning experience and social networking opportunity. All the Spectrum Scholars left the Institute with a renewed sense of the important role we have to play in order to make diversity in librarianship a reality.

As the current representatives of USF’s very own Spectrum Scholars, we are grateful for this opportunity and we would like to support the ALA’s efforts to recruit even more minority students to the profession. For that reason, we extend an invitation to all of you here at USF to collaborate in making diversity happen.

For those who would like to support the Spectrum Presidential Initiative, please come to the USF School of Information on April 13, 2011 for the SOLIS Brown Bag from 1:00-2:00 P.M. in CIS 2020, or the SOLIS After-Dark Panel Discussion on the Future of Libraries, from 6:30-8:30 P.M. in USF Education Building – Room 103.  We will be collecting cash or check donations at both events to be sent to Spectrum in the name of USF.  If you are unable to attend these events, you can mail a check to the University of South Florida, School of Information, ATTN:  SOLIS, 4202 E. Fowler Ave., CIS 1040, Tampa, FL 33620. Checks should be made payable to the ALA Spectrum. Every amount counts!

There are other methods to contribute to the Spectrum Presidential Initiative, as well. Checks or pledges can be sent directly to the ALA Development Office, Spectrum, 50 E. Huron St., Chicago, IL 60611.   If you are already a member of ALA, simply checking the Spectrum box on your ALA membership renewal form is another easy option.  Lastly, an online credit card donation is available through the GiveALA website.  If you would like to donate directly to ALA, please send an email to Sylvia Martinez (sylviam@mail.usf.edu), as we would like to include your donation as coming from USF.   When donating through the website there is no area to select that it is from USF.  We have a form we will send to Spectrum listing all the donations made by the USF community.  Spectrum and ALA may then announce the amount USF contributed on their various social media outlets.

Remember! Come and hear about Spectrum from USF’s very own Spectrum Scholars!

  • April 13th, 2011  /  1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. in CIS 2020
  • Spectrum Lunch
  • Food with a multicultural theme will be provided, or bring your Brown Bag
  • Donations for the Spectrum Presidential Initiative will be accepted ($5/$10 suggested).

References

American Library Association [ALA]. (2011a). Spectrum Scholarship Program. Retrieved from: http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/diversity/spectrum/index.cfm

American Library Association [ALA]. (2011b). Key Action Areas. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/missionhistory/keyactionareas/index.cfm

Cooke, N., & Edwards, S. (2010). The Spectrum Doctoral Fellowship Program: The future is overdue. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 51(3), n.p. Retrieved from: http://jelis.org

Spectrum Presidential Initiative. (2011). Our Vision.  Retrieved from: http://spectrum.ala.org/our-vision/.

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