Grant Project Aims to Introduce Librarianship to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color
IMLS Funds $150,000 BIPOC Become Librarians Project


The San José State University’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library and School of Information, in partnership with San José Public Library, were recently awarded a $150,000 grant from the Institute of Library and Museum Services for the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian program aimed at introducing undergraduate students who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color to professional careers in the library and information science and archives fields.

The BIPOC Become Librarians project proposal states, “Graduates of LIS programs often do not reflect the communities they serve, which impacts how librarians engage, provide services to and represent their communities.” For instance, “In 2020, just 9.5% of librarians identified as Black or African American, 9.9% as Hispanic or Latino (of any race), and 3.5% as Asian-American or Pacific Islander. The most recent comprehensive survey of the archival profession was conducted in 2006, but similarly found that just 7% of archivists identified as people of color.”

Dr. Michele Villagran, an assistant professor with the SJSU School of Information was tapped by her colleagues at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library to serve as one of four co-principal investigators for the grant. Her research focuses on diversity and social justice in library and information science and cultural intelligence phenomena within libraries. She is actively involved with REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, and serves as faculty advisor for the iSchool’s REFORMA student and alumni group. Additionally, she chairs the iSchool’s Diversity Committee.

“I hope this program will lead to more applications for our MLIS program, which will then increase the diversity of BIPOC graduates holding MLIS degrees entering the librarian and archival professions. I look forward to helping develop this program over the next few years to encourage students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds to pursue careers in LIS,” said Villagran.

Villagran’s work on the project will involve: “Recruiting BIPOC undergraduates, conducting focus groups, identifying and recruiting mentors, mentees, and trainers, and identifying internship partners; evaluating the project throughout each phase; and finalizing the curriculum and shareable resources and disseminating project results,” according to the BIPOC Become Librarians project proposal.

The grant project will be rolled out in three phases over a two-year time period. After which an open access report will be made available, with findings presented at national association conferences and publicly shared.