Lawrence Public Library wins grant to create diversity-based internship program

Lawrence Public Library, pictured Aug. 20, 2015.

The Lawrence Public Library has received a nearly $100,000 grant to fund an internship program that will pay for master’s degrees for people of color who want to work as librarians.

“Historically, library professionals have been overwhelmingly white,” said Brad Allen, executive director of the Lawrence Public Library. “There are a lot of barriers to entering the profession, especially for marginalized folks. The goal of this program is to break down those barriers and help recruit and retain a diverse workforce that reflects and represents our community.”

The Lawrence library has been awarded $93,500 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to fund a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) pilot program for northeast Kansas residents.

The program will pay for two BIPOC community members to obtain their master’s in library science from Emporia State University. In addition, the individuals will receive paid internships at the Lawrence Public Library for two years. While part of the program, participants will get hands-on work experience and also visit other library systems, such as those at the University of Kansas, Haskell Indian Nations University and the Northeast Kansas Library System.

Frankie Haynes, the Lawrence Public Library’s diversity and equity coordinator, said a goal of the pilot project is to show that such internship programs can be successful at other libraries.

“I hope that we can set an example for other libraries and show them that investing in diversity pays off,” Haynes said.

Haynes said the program will be open to residents throughout northeast Kansas, not just Lawrence and Douglas County. However, applicants will need to have an undergraduate degree in order to be admitted to the library science school at Emporia State.

Application materials will be posted on the Lawrence Public Library’s website in August, Haynes said. The program will pay for the entire tuition for the master’s degree program. In addition to the $93,500 grant, the partners in the program — which includes KU, Haskell, Emporia State and the Northeast Kansas Library System — will provide about $20,000 in matching funds and support for the project, Haynes said.

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