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.

3 thoughts on “minority librarians”

  1. I hope that your assessment of 1. leading to 2. does bear out–I know very little about the situation as well, but what I do know is that LIS school closings cannot be good. What a shame…

  2. As an African American who attended the U. of Pittsburgh and was the only African American in that particular class of graduates, while it is sad that Clark Atlanta University is closing, it continues to be even sadder that in this multi-cultural society, those of us who are African American with credentials are still considered anomalies by our peers and by the general public. We still do not have the same freedom to move around within the profession as our colleagues in many cases; unless in many instances, there is a position vacant in a distressed neighborhood of an urban city. It is assumed that we are the only ones who know how to deal with patrons who are not affluent. Untrue of course. Also, in many cases, our mere names and what professional organizations we belong to or undergraduate school attended, excludes us from being selected even before we are given a chance to rightfully compete for certain vacant positions across the United States. In short, we are excluded in the preliminary process of submitting our application/resumes alone. Unless we can remedy these realities of the profession, along with the general ones effecting us all, while it will be a significant loss that there is one less incubating sanctuary for any one who wishes to attend in an historically Black institution, unless the other issues are addressed, what viable reasons do we have to give those who might want to enter the profession even if there is not an institution open to hone and encourage them to become librarians in the first place? We continue to be in a profession for the most part that has still some way to go in practicing what for centuries seems it diligently preaches.

  3. I was encouraged by your attempts to remain abreast of the changing dynamics within the African culture. However, after your immersion in a program where you were the minority, it seems that you were allowed to return to the culture of your ancestors and assume a librarian position. It is important to note that librarians of color cannot easily step out of their diaspora and then move back into someone else’s domain with such ease. We are constantly reminded of our place and our ethnicity on a constant basis.
    Much dialogue should be held between librarians who are at the forefront of their careers, and between those who can’t even step foot into a librarian job,without all of the entrapments that accompany us on a daily basis. Kudos to you and good luck.

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