Through his work at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNC-G), his service to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his involvement with professional library organizations, Gerald Holmes (MSLS '85) has encouraged individuals from underrepresented backgrounds to choose the library profession and endeavored to make that profession a more welcoming one.
The UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS) presented Holmes with its Distinguished Alumni Award during its annual spring commencement on May 12, recognizing the significant impact he has made on the field of librarianship. Holmes said the faculty and colleagues he met through SILS have played a major role in his enjoyment of his career, and provided important opportunities
“My SILS education and connections have opened doors for me that I believe would have remained closed,” he said.
Continuing to grow his network and looking for ways to extend those opportunities to others have been consistent priorities for Holmes throughout his career. “One example, meeting with recent LIS graduates to discuss the job search process and terms used in library position postings is a very rewarding experience for me,” he said. “It always brings back memories of when I was a recent graduate.”
Holmes holds a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and an MSLS from SILS. As Reference Librarian and Diversity Coordinator at UNC-G Libraries, he has served on the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, represented the Libraries on the UNC-G Race and Gender Institute Planning Committee, chaired the Libraries’ Diversity Committee, and created a Post-MSLS Diversity Residency Program. He has worked directly with library administration on university priorities related to diversity issues, and developed internal training opportunities to highlight the culture and needs of diverse populations that the Libraries serve.
Holmes has been a co-principle investigator with other librarians and faculty members of the UNC-G Library and Information Studies program on Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grants that have funded scholarships for library science students from underrepresented populations. As a credit to his work, 55 librarians who benefited from the program are now working in the field. He is currently co-PI on an IMLS grant awarded in 2018 that is enabling UNC-G Libraries to pilot a national Library Diversity Institute program.
The Libraries will develop and deliver two institutes for Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) diversity residents in an effort to improve their success in the job market and encourage professional networking. The grant will also fund the creation of an ongoing open access journal publication, titled Library Diversity and Residency Studies, and an associated webinar series to disseminate research and practical guidance.
Holmes assisted in creating the ACRL Residency Interest Group and chaired the ACRL African-American Librarians Section. He has served on the Executive Board of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) and the North Carolina Library Association (NCLA), and chaired the NCLA’s Round Table for Ethnic Minority Concerns.
He has served on the Carolina Alumni Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity (ACRED), and helped found and chair the SILS Alumni Inclusion and Diversity (SAID) Committee. He has also assisted SILS by advising leadership, mentoring students, speaking at career development events, and serving on the host committees for the SILS in Atlanta (2017) and SILS in Charlotte (2018) events.
Multiple organizations have recognized Holmes for his contributions to diversity and equity. In 2014, he received the Outstanding Service Award from the UNC-G African American Studies Program, and the American Library Association named him an Achievement in Library Diversity Research honoree. In 2015, he received the BCALA Distinguished Service to the Library Profession Award, the NCLA Distinguished Service Award, and the Harvey E. Beech Outstanding Alumni Award from the Carolina General Alumni Association.