Aug. 2, 2005 The nation's librarians - including those of the Virgin Islands - are growing older. In what's called the "graying" of the profession, the issue has reached national concern, and the University of the Virgin Islands is doing something about it.
UVI has just received an almost $1 million grant that will be used to train 25 librarians over the next three years. Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., who introduced an amendment in Congress last month to expand loan forgiveness for librarians, said, "Librarians are facing a dire shortage across the nation. The numbers represent that 47 percent of our national librarians are expected to reach retirement age by 2008."
Jennifer Jackson, former UVI director of libraries who is currently on sabbatical, said Tuesday that she is the coordinator of the program to administer the $952,000 grant. Jackson said the territory is lamentably short of librarians in public schools as well as public libraries. The shortages are caused both by funding and a lack of qualified applicants, Jackson said.
This shortage prompted UVI's librarians to submit a grant proposal last December to the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, an independent federal grant-making agency.
UVI learned in June that of 87 institutions submitting grant requests, it was one of the 37 recipients of the award, the school said in a release.
UVI currently employs seven full-time librarians, along with part-time workers who may be retired librarians or UVI students, Jackson said. Although seven is the full complement of librarians for both the St. Thomas and St. Croix campuses, Jackson said, "We are always in need of part-time employees because the libraries have long hours, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m."
There is no shortage of potential librarians interested in the current program, Jackson said. "We have 52 persons now who have expressed an interest."
The program will start in May 2006. It is an online distance-learning program run by the University of Pittsburgh. The grant will cover tuition fees for the university's two-year Fast Track Masters in Library and Information Sciences program. Students will be selected by the University of Pittsburgh, Jackson said.
This is the third time in less than eight years that UVI librarians have obtained grants from IMLS. The first, in 1998, provided for continuing education of librarians in the territory, and the second helped to create a digital library for the V.I.
Applications are due in mid-February 2006, Jackson said. Applicants may apply to the University of Pittsburgh now at its website, but Jackson said the university is working on a special website where V.I. students may apply. Jackson may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 692-4003.
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