npr report on clark atlanta

NPR’s All Things Considered reported this evening on the closing of Clark Atlanta University’s LIS program.

NPR’s All Things Considered reported this evening on the closing of Clark Atlanta University’s LIS program. I wrote a longer commentary when word of the closing hit the librarian newslines last year.

“In a cost-cutting move, Clark-Atlanta University plans to shut down its library sciences program. The program is one of only two in the nation at historically black colleges and universities, and since 1941 has graduated more black librarians than any other institution. Emily Kopp of Georgia Public Broadcasting reports.”

minority librarians

My reaction to Clark Atlanta University closing their library science program.

According to a posting on LISNews.com, Clark Atlanta University is closing their LIS program (along with four other programs) due to budget problems. I nearly applied to Clark Atlanta when I was shopping around for library schools. I’ve never lived in Atlanta, so that was one of the appealing factors. When I told my parents my top five list of schools, they were shocked that Clark Atlanta was on it. That was the first I had ever heard that this school is one of the historically black schools. That shouldn’t have made a difference in my choices, but for some reason, it did.

In college, I spent two months in a West African country as a part of my studies; so I was already familiar with what it is like to live in an area where I am a racial minority. However, I have since discovered that the things that set me apart from my Ghanaian friends were not so much race as culture. I am a North American from the Midwest and they are West Africans. Here in the U.S., the differences in culture are less and it becomes more about race. I realized that I was afraid to go to a school where most of the students are black. I was afraid that I would be rejected and excluded socially because I am hopelessly not black. And that, my friends, is a stupid reason to cross an institution off of your list of graduate school possibilities.

The closing of the LIS program at Clark Atlanta concerns me. The library profession in the U.S. is, for the most part, overwhelmingly white. If I was uncomfortable with going to a school where I could possibly be the only person of my race, I can only imagine what minority students considering librarianship must be feeling like. At least Clark Atlanta University’s program offered black students an opportunity to attend a graduate LIS program where they would not be a minority.

There are two things that I see happening as a result of this closure:

  1. Fewer black students consider a career in librarianship.
  2. Other LIS programs experience an increase in black enrollment.

Frankly, I hope it’s #2.

Please feel free to correct any misconceptions expressed in this entry. I know very little specifically about Clark Atlanta University, it’s now defunct LIS program, or the position of black librarians in the profession beyond my limited experience. All comments expressed in this entry are a reaction to the news item read on LISNews.com and are not researched. If any offence is taken, please remember that none is intended. I welcome all opportunities for enlightenment.