Magazine article American Libraries

President's Message: Reaching out to the Underserved

Magazine article American Libraries

President's Message: Reaching out to the Underserved

Article excerpt

Outreach through library services to our nation's most underserved communities remains a challenge for many of us. Yet there are some shining examples of efforts that provide valuable guideposts for addressing this issue.

In an effort to strengthen its resources in this area, ALA will publish a new book this summer titled From Outreach to Equity: Innovative Models of Library Policy and Practice: Something for Everyone @ Your Library! Edited by Robin Osborne, outreach librarian at Westchester Library System in Ardsley, New York, the book is a collection of effective library outreach practices with special emphasis on reaching traditionally underserved populations. It includes key examples of how librarians can organize to better prepare all of our patrons for the 21st century, especially those we call "underserved."

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One of the most neglected among the underserved is the tribal community--a group that is often underrepresented within the larger society. Efforts to bring their issues and concerns to the forefront in library services also remain an uphill battle. There have been strides, however, especially in the area of recruitment, with a number of excellent opportunities for scholarship assistance for American Indians. These include "Knowledge River," a University of Arizona School of Information Resources and Library Science program that focuses on library and information issues from the needs and perspectives of Hispanics and Native Americans; internships at the Center of Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado; and "Honoring Generations," an Institute of Museum and Library Services-funded grant project for students entering graduate library studies this fall at the University of Texas at Austin.

Many librarians who work on American Indian reservations attend the National Advisory Council on Indian Education Annual Meeting held each fall. The event showcases model programs, such as "If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything," a national reading club for Indian children directed by University of Texas at Austin Professor Loriene Roy.

Tribal community libraries also suffer from poor budgets and the lack of adequate technology, but with the help of private organizations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the funding roadblocks are being addressed. …

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