PHILADELPHIA, July 23, 2007 - Thanks to a grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Free Library of Philadelphia is launching a new master’s level education program this fall to promote community-based librarianship and increase the number of minority and children’s librarians in the Free Library system.
Building on a previous IMLS-funded program, the Free Library’s Growing Our Own: A Model for Community-Based Librarianship will use $999,980 in granted funds to recruit and support 25 internal candidates with bachelor’s degrees from three different applicant pools: full-time Free Library paraprofessional staff, Free Library interns, and part-time or seasonal Free Library outreach staff. With all tuition expenses paid by the IMLS, students will earn master’s degrees in Library and Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh through its online “FastTrack” program. The program’s specialized curriculum will focus on public librarianship in an urban setting, with an emphasis on youth services. Upon graduation, these new librarians will better reflect the neighborhoods they serve and will be better equipped to meet the diverse needs of children, teens, and adults in the Philadelphia region.
“A public library’s ability to serve the needs of its community depends on its ability to recruit and train knowledgeable and committed staff,” said Free Library of Philadelphia President and Director, Elliot Shelkrot. “At a time when there is a national shortage of librarians, this grant will provide professional education for staff who already know and love Philadelphia and its neighborhoods.”
Hedra Packman, Director of Library Services, seconded Shelkrot’s sentiment, adding, “Our staff are dedicated to the Free Library and to the communities we serve. We are thrilled that this grant will afford those who have already demonstrated a commitment to librarianship the opportunity to earn the credential that will allow them to advance in their careers.”
Twenty candidates are registered to begin the new Growing Our Own master’s program this coming fall, with five more scheduled to enroll in 2008. More than half of them have received, or will soon receive, their bachelor’s degrees with assistance through the Free Library’s previous IMLS-funded program, Growing Our Own: Cultivating Future Librarians and Library Leaders.
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The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Its mission is to grow and sustain a “Nation of Learners” because life-long learning is essential to a democratic society and individual success. Through its grant making, convenings, research and publications, the Institute empowers museums and libraries nationwide to provide leadership and services to enhance learning in families and communities, sustain cultural heritage, build twenty-first-century skills, and increase civic participation.
The Free Library of Philadelphia system consists of 49 branches, three regional libraries, the Central Library, and the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. With more than six million visits annually, the Free Library is one of the most widely used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia.