UMD Libraries host second Diversity Immersion Institute
Posted: July 12, 2018
Beginning Sunday, the University of Maryland Libraries will host a weeklong institute designed to build professional skills of future librarians as they work with pre-college students from underserved communities.
The program has two complementary goals: to provide graduate students from the university’s College of Information Studies with a deeper understanding of issues of diversity and inclusion; and to expose local high school students to college life and various career opportunities in the field of library science.
“A unique aspect of the institute is that it gives current library school students an opportunity to work with people whose life experiences are very different from their own,” says Tahirah Akbar-Williams, the librarian who founded the program in 2016 and is co-director this year. “We hope to prepare future librarians to be advocates for diversity and inclusion in the workplace by working not only with pre-collegiate students, but also with colleagues and professional librarians.”
The Diversity Immersion Institute is divided into two parts. First, the iSchool graduate students will collaborate online and convene on campus to discuss topics ranging from race relations and civil rights to program planning and management. Second, the students will welcome high school students to campus for a three-day immersive experience designed to introduce emerging technologies, library collections and services, and the university itself.
High school students from DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland, and Life Pieces to Masterpieces, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C, will participate. In addition to attending education programs co-taught by iSchool students and faculty and staff volunteers, the students participate in a techonogy “boot camp.” Additionally, they will learn about 3D printing, GIS, media literacy and more, all while getting acquainted with campus and eating and living in residence halls.
The institute builds on key elements of the University Libraries Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan, which documents an organizational commitment to creating an inclusive environment for its community through respect, education, innovation and professional development. Institute co-director Sharon K. Epps also serves as diversity officer for the University Libraries.
Akbar-Williams, librarian for the subjects of education and African American studies, organized the first institute when she recognized a need to provide hands-on, practical training to help others understand the benefits and applications of diversity in the workplace. “We have to do more than talk about these issues,” she says. “We need to provide experiences for greater growth and understanding.”
“My goal from the outset,” she says, “is to build a community that embraces and empowers us all.”