From handling the earliest printed books to preserving born-digital materials, Rare Book School at the University of Virginia provides continuing education to library professionals. The program will boost that mission with the help of a new grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services through its Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program.
The almost $300,000 grant will fund a fellowship program to help educate and contribute to the professional development of early-career special collections librarians, with an emphasis on recruiting participants from backgrounds that are currently underrepresented in the field.
“We need to invite a more diverse group of highly trained librarians into the conversation,” said director Michael F. Suarez, an English professor, University Professor and Honorary Curator of Special Collections, “so that every member of the profession becomes a more compelling educator and a more attractive model for future special collections librarians in the generations to come.
“Special collections librarians from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds will be sensitive interpreters of an array of materials that is dizzying in its variety,” he said.
Over the next two years, 20 fellows each year will be able to attend Rare Book School and a pre-conference of the Rare Books and Manuscripts section, part of the American Library Association. Rare Book School courses are usually held in the fall and summer at the program’s headquarters in Alderman Library and other select venues, such as Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania and the Smithsonian Institution.Applications for the first cohort of fellows will be accepted this fall for the summer of 2015. They will work on building the skills, knowledge and professional networks necessary to bridge the gap between their education and the requirements for positions currently available in special collections libraries.
The grant also funds a replicable, longitudinal study of the program’s impact on the professional development and career growth of its participants.
“Rare Book School is honored to receive this vote of confidence from one of the most prestigious organizations in our field,” Suarez said. “We very much look forward to putting the granted funds to good use to help ensure the long-term stewardship and mediation of cultural heritage in the United States for this and future generations.”