Date November 8, 2021
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Brown Library, HBCU Library Alliance awarded grant to create library leadership program

With a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Brown’s library will partner with the HBCU Library Alliance and its member institutions to help library professionals become culturally sensitive, socially conscious leaders.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — A new grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal funding agency, will allow the Brown University Library and a national alliance of libraries at historically Black colleges and universities to create a leadership development program for emerging librarians.

With a $100,000 award from the institute’s Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program, library experts from Brown will join with the HBCU Library Alliance and its member institutions to create a two-year program called “Stronger Together, Leading Through Community,” designed to help library and archives professionals become culturally sensitive, socially conscious leaders.

Brown’s University Librarian Joseph S. Meisel said the grant will provide crucial support for the library’s long-term commitment to building equitable partnerships with HBCUs. In 2020, Brown became the first non-HBCU member of the HBCU Library Alliance, which supports collaboration among library professionals who provide resources to strengthen HBCUs and support their academic communities. Brown’s membership has already resulted in internships for students interested in library careers, professional development for library administrators and collaborative research ventures. 

“The support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services is a wonderful recognition of our partnership and the goals we share for advancing the next generation of academic library leaders,” Meisel said. “Combining the distinctive strengths of the HBCU Library Alliance, its member institutions, and the Brown University Library on the basis of genuine reciprocity is a very exciting prospect.”

The pilot program will engage six aspiring library leaders from HBCUs and Brown in a unique curriculum that blends virtual and in-person programming, personalized mentorship and an immersive site visit. Throughout the pilot, the initiative’s leaders — Sandra Phoenix, executive director of the HBCU Library Alliance, and Amanda Strauss, associate university librarian for special collections at Brown — will determine how the program can be scaled up in future years for broader impact.

The leadership development program will include:

  • a unique, specially designed leadership curriculum;
  • access to formal mentorship during the program and beyond;
  • support to create a personalized leadership development plan;
  • opportunities for cohort members to connect with one another, both in person and virtually;
  • a multi-day, immersive site visit at a Brown or HBCU library, tailored to each cohort member’s individual leadership development plans; 
  • and an invitational leadership symposium where the cohort of emerging leaders will partner with instructors and curriculum designers to share their learning outcomes.

Phoenix said that two principles will guide the program: the importance of building equitable partnerships across communities, and a recognition of the unique value of HBCUs in stewarding and preserving African American history and culture.

“Collaborating with Brown University to support leadership development and to continue our mission to strengthen HBCU libraries and their staff sets the stage to advance our work together,” Phoenix said. “We are grateful to IMLS for funding the ‘Stronger Together, Leading Through Community’ leadership development initiative. It is our goal to share skills and talents with Brown; create and cultivate a diverse space for mutual teaching, learning and healing experiences; and develop high-caliber library leaders to meet the needs of our communities.”