About the BIPOC Become Librarians Project
San José State University’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library (SJSU King Library), San José State University’s School of Information (SJSU iSchool), and San José Public Library (SJPL) will collaborate to establish BIPOC Become Librarians (BBL), a pilot mentorship and internship program that will introduce undergraduate students who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) to careers in Library and Information Science (LIS).
BIPOC Become Librarians (BBL) responds to the ongoing lack of diversity in the library and archives professions. In 2020, just 9.5% of librarians identified as Black or African American, 9.9% as Hispanic or Latino (of any race), and 3.5% as Asian-American or Pacific Islander. The most recent comprehensive survey of the archival profession was conducted in 2006, but similarly found that just 7% of archivists identified as people of color.
Reasons for the lack of diversity in library and archives professions are as numerous as they are nuanced. Studies over the years have noted the social, economic and cultural barriers, as well as the lack of support BIPOC students face when entering library and archives professions. As a result, graduates of LIS programs often do not reflect the communities they serve, which impacts how librarians engage, provide services to and represent their communities.
BIPOC Become Librarians (BBL) will expose more BIPOC students to Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) career paths by focusing on the two areas with the most impact on increasing diversity: mentorship and internship.
BBL’s project goals will benefit from SJSU and SJPL’s location in Santa Clara County and the City of San José, the most diverse metro area in the country, which will directly enhance our ability to conduct outreach to BIPOC undergraduate students both in schools and in the community.
We anticipate 60 undergraduate students in ten focus groups during the first year of BBL. These undergraduate students will continue to the next phase of BBL in year two, where they will be paired with a mentor and an internship program.
The cohort of students who participate in our BBL mentorship program will certainly benefit from this program, but we also anticipate the beneficiaries of BBL will include our immediate partners, who will gain visibility in the short-term, and the broader community, who will gain richer engagement with more diverse perspectives in the long-term. For example, in the short-term, we anticipate our partner SJSU iSchool will experience a higher number of applications for its MLIS program, which will lead to an increase in BIPOC graduates holding MLIS degrees entering the librarian and archival professions. Our partner SJPL, along with many other library systems nationwide, will be able to recruit and hire from a larger pool of MLIS graduates who are BIPOC, which will help them increase diversity in their own libraries as well as in the librarian and archival workforce.
What is more, in the long-term, our work with BIPOC undergraduate students in BBL will help expose more students to an MLIS degree and LIS as a viable career choice. Our target group’s potential entry into LIS careers will increase diversity in the librarian profession and expand the community’s view and engagement with librarians from diverse backgrounds. Public library patrons of large library systems similar to SJPL will be able to engage with librarians who represent the BIPOC community and can bring a deeper and richer perspective to the LIS workforce. As a result, libraries overall will benefit from diversity in their workforce to meet the needs of the broader communities they serve and represent. Other sectors that hire MLIS graduates will also benefit from a growing pool of BIPOC candidates.
Project Coordinator, SJSU
Hyokyung (Carrie) Hwang
Graduate Student Assistant, School of Information, SJSU
The "BIPOC Become Librarians" project has received a Planning Grant of $150,000 from the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
The "BIPOC Become Librarians" project has received San José State University’s IRB (Institutional Review Board) approval. Such an approval is required when a project involves human subject research and/or access to identifiable private information.