Spectrum’s $1-Million Challenge

September 23, 2009

The Spectrum Scholarship Program is one of the more successful programs initiated by ALA. It began as part of then- ALA Executive Director Elizabeth Martinez's vision to recruit more minorities into the library and information management profession. Betty Turock turned that vision into a reality in the late 1990s during her ALA presidency.
Spectrum's mission is to improve library service at the local level through the development of a representative workforce that reflects the communities served by all libraries.

The program includes strong leadership development and mentoring components. It has now expanded to support minority doctoral fellows who will eventually serve as LIS faculty role models for minority students.
Now, more than ever, we need to make sure that this program continues.

Our nation's changing demographics demonstrate that we must have not only a literate but also an information-literate populace. Getting non-users into the library-public, academic, and school-can be strengthened by having librarians who serve as role models.

ALA Immediate Past President Jim Rettig, President-Elect Roberta Stevens, and I are working together on a new Spectrum Fundraising Presidential Initiative. It is only fitting that Turock is leading this effort as chair. To date, we also have well-known author Rudolfo Anaya and Harvard University law Professor Charles Ogletree as honorary cochairs.

The goal is to raise $1 million. ALA membership exceeds 65,000. Imagine if we could get at least 50,000 members to pledge $10 each; we would reach one-half of our goal. We intend to also aggressively cultivate corporate and foundation funding for a major portion of the scholarship funds.

Spectrum has been very successful in propelling librarians of color into the workforce to serve as role models for others. Here are just a few of the many successes:

  • Rita Pino-Vargas (1998 scholar), librarian at Sky City Community School, Pueblo of Acoma, New Mexico, has served on ALA's Association for Library Service to Children's Newbery, Caldecott, and Pura Belpré award committees. She is also pastpresident of Reforma's New Mexico chapter.
  • Alanna Aiko Moore (2004 scholar) serves as the sociology, ethnic studies, and gender studies librarian at the University of California at San Diego. She is speaker coordinator on the Spectrum Leadership Institute Planning Committee and a member of ALA's Joint Conference of Librarians of Color Publicity Committee.
  • Carol Levers (1999 scholar) was nominated by a patron and selected as one of 10 Carnegie Corporation of New York/New York Times I Love My Librarian Award winners this year. She works as community services librarian at Kansas (Kans.) Public Library and serves as chair of the Kansas Library Association's Cultural and Ethnic Diversity Committee. Levers assisted faculty at Emporia State University in obtaining an $858,000 grant to recruit minority students for its MLIS program.
  • Mark Puente (2003 scholar) is director of diversity programs at the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). He is responsible for providing leadership for a range of initiatives that recruit people from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups into careers in research libraries and eventually into leadership positions in ARL libraries.

We have made great strides with our Spectrum Scholarship Program over the years, but we still have a long way to go in making our own profession more racially and ethnically diverse.

To learn about more specifics of the program, contact ALA Development Office Director Kim Olsen Clark at kolsen-clark@ala.org.