Look Up and Look out - Librarians Are Not Alone; the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Makes a $15-Million Investment in Human Resources for Information Systems Management

Article excerpt

The library community is focused with grave intensity on the challenges of the Information Age. ALA has found much-needed direction in Goal 2000, with its strategies for ensuring the public's right to a free and open information society. Library education programs are retooling. Library workers are recruiting advocates to tell a new library story.

The W. K. Kellogg Foundation also has taken action: a $15-million investment titled "Human Resources for Information Systems Management" (HRISM).

Emphasis on staff

HRISM aims to bring about positive professional and institutional change in the field of library and information science by increasing the ability of professional staff and public institutions to meet the information service demands of their communities.

The rapid explosion of information at the end of the twentieth century has challenged society. Democratic institutions require the free flow of information that creates an informed citizenry. However, the systems, institutions, and professions that have traditionally managed information are not adequately equipped to uphold the democratic ideals of access and equity. Society is increasingly becoming polarized between the information rich and the information poor.

Electronic technology offers a potential solution. But so far, advancements in technology have outstripped our human capacity to utilize technology to keep pace with the rapid growth and changes in the knowledge base.

New models and approaches must be developed for organizing, searching, retrieving, analyzing, packaging, delivering, and preserving relevant information. And new types of service professionals are needed to develop and implement these new models and approaches.

Although public- and private-sector investments are financing increasingly sophisticated integrated digital technologies, the investment in meeting the information needs of communities is still inadequate.

The Kellogg Foundation is taking on the problem by awarding 19 grants for two-to-five-year projects in the three HRISM strategy areas: 1) Reforming professional education, 2) Redefining community library service, and 3) Strengthening the voice.

"The hope is that these grantees will create new, innovative models for the education of library and information science professionals and for service delivery at the community level," says Gail D. McClure, Kellogg Foundation vice president for communications and strategic planning, "and that they will build the capacity of leaders to participate in the information policy dialogue at the local, regional, and national levels."

McClure built the HRISM initiative on a tradition of Kellogg investment in communities and libraries. Obviously, a $15-million investment suggests an informed faith in our resilience. McClure explains that "the values of librarianship are needed to guide the transformation to the electronic Information Age."

A key word in the HRISM initiative is "human." Librarians are seen as the solution because we have human service skills. The focus is on people and on filling the gap between technology and peoples' ability to use it. The Kellogg Foundation has chosen librarians rather than computer scientists as the best hope for leadership.

The foundation was launched in 1930 by W. K. Kellogg, the founder of Kellogg Company, a pioneer in the ready-to-eat breakfast cereal industry. McClure says the foundation's long interest in libraries began with Mr. Kellogg's habit of sending checks to support book purchases for community libraries in Michigan.

From its elegant new headquarters in downtown Battle Creek, the foundation's current funding priorities include higher education, youth, leadership, community-based health initiatives, food systems, rural development, and philanthropy and volunteerism.

The Kellogg Foundation has also consistently been involved in issues of new technology, information systems, and distance education. …