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SILS team led by Brian Sturm will use $150K IMLS grant to help transform LIS youth services education

Brian Sturm, Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS), has been awarded nearly $150,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to help facilitate a national conversation about enhancing education for library professionals who intend to serve young people.

Headshots of Brian Sturm, Sandra Huges-Hassell, Casey Rawson, and Sayamindu Dasgupta
Top photo: SILS Professor Brian Sturm. Lower photos, from left:
SILS faculty members Sandra Hughes-Hassell, Casey Rawson,
and Sayamindu Dasgupta

The project will culminate in a two-day symposium where innovators, scholars, and practitioners will explore developing trends in youth services in public libraries and identify needed changes in library and information science (LIS) program curricula.

SILS Professor Sandra Hughes-Hassell, Assistant Professor Sayamindu Dasgupta, and Teaching Assistant Professor Casey H. Rawson are co-investigators for the “The Future of Youth Public Librarian Education” project.

With input from a nine-member advisory board that convenes in October, the project team will gather data on young people, analyze research and recommendations from professional organizations, host social media discussions, and conduct surveys of librarians and library administrators. This first phase of the project will begin the national conversation about youth and youth librarians’ needs and will help shape the symposium’s focus and discussions.

“Our goal is to create a deeper understanding of the youth of today, their lived experiences, their challenges and aspirations, and what that means for the education of public librarians serving youth,” Sturm said. “We intend to provide a platform for youth experts and advocates to engage in zero-based thinking, so that future curricular decisions are guided by, but not limited by, past directions. We wish to be future-oriented and innovative in our approach to education while still being guided by the profession’s core values.”

Public libraries are evolving “from information centers to community engagement centers of experiential, connected, and informal learning,” and serving an increasingly diverse population, according the project’s preliminary proposal.

In response to these changes, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)(link is external) have revised their professional competencies to include youth and family engagement, cultural competency, and equity of access. They have also developed continuing education programs that focus on topics such as career and college readiness, media literacy, connected learning, and coding.

In 2019, Hughes-Hassell, Rawson, and their team completed work on the IMLS-funded Project READY, an online professional development curriculum to address gaps in cultural competency and equity of access among youth services librarians.

“These programs are incredibly valuable, but they are almost always ‘opt-in’ offerings,” Sturm said. “We hope that this project will spark a reevaluation and reimagination of the LIS curricula on a national scale, so that all youth librarians can begin their careers with the knowledge and awareness needed to best serve their communities.”