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Michigan library offers scholarship aimed at diversifying librarians

The Amanda Green Scholarship from Kalamazoo Public Library is part of a bigger push to get more librarians of color across the country.

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In Kalamazoo, Michigan, the local Kalamazoo Public Library has begun a new scholarship program aimed at diversifying librarians. 

The scholarship assists recipients in obtaining a master’s degree in library science.

“Our goal is to inspire future KPL librarians, but the hope is to attract more people of color to library work overall — wherever they may end up professionally,” Kalamazoo Public Library Director Ryan Wieber told MLive. 

The program, called the Amanda Green Scholarship, is named after an associate of Kalamazoo Public Library, who worked at the location from 1988-2012. Green passed away in April 2016, at the age of 66.

She was known as a dedicated library worker who spent many hours working in teen services at the library branch.

The Amanda Green Scholarship is also the result of a 2016 social justice resolution intended to act upon a commitment to addressing institutional racism, racial justice, social-economic divisions, and other issues through programs, services, policies, and practices.

The recipients of the Amanda Green Scholarship are chosen with the goal of diversifying America’s librarians. The Kalamazoo Public Library hopes to support the hiring and training of more librarians of color. 

Recipients will receive $5,000 per semester of an attended master’s program ($2,500 per semester if part-time). The first recipient of the scholarship is local student Theodore “Theo” Gill from Kalamazoo.

A 2019 Department for Professional Employees study claims only 3.5% of librarians identify as Asian-American or Pacific Islander, 5.3% identify as Black or African American, and 7.1% identify as Hispanic or Latino. 

The Kalamazoo Public Library is not the only organization supporting diversity in the library. The American Library Association claims diversity as a fundamental value of their association and its members. 

The association pushes the message that libraries should “play a crucial role in empowering diverse populations for full participation in a democratic society.” The ALA Office of Diversity serves as the liaison for a collection of affiliated ethnic librarian groups.

Included is REFORMA, a group dedicated to promoting library and information services to Spanish-speaking communities. 

Some more of the ALA’a diversity services can be found here.

Scholarship-recipient Theodore Gill said the Amanda Green Scholarship’s mission helps to make community resources more readily available and approachable for people of color.

“When I work at the service desk — I remember being sometimes hesitant going up to those desks — but I felt when I worked at different locations, [Black children] felt more comfortable coming to the library and asking me a question,” Gill told MLive.

“I got to really see the work that librarians did and how they really helped the people that lived on that side of town and really strengthened that community,” he continued. “Because a lot of people depended on the library for the computers, for movies, for entertainment, for literature.”

Gill was chosen out of five candidates. For consideration, he submitted a personal essay, took part in interviews, submitted a letter of recommendation, and showcased a history of excellent library work.

He started his career in the library as a library aid. In 2017, Gill began working at the Alma Powell Branch Library while studying public health at Western Michigan University.

The Amanda Green Scholarship fund relies on public donations. To donate, visit kpl.gov.

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