Changing Perspectives through Exchange

The IFLA IMLS fellowship and mentoring program

September 22, 2017

Denice Adkins (left) and Elizabeth Jean Brumfield (far right) at an LIS curriculum committee meeting at the University of Missouri in Columbia.
Denice Adkins (left) and Elizabeth Jean Brumfield (far right) at an LIS curriculum committee meeting at the University of Missouri in Columbia.

Thanks to a $50,000 Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), 50 US librarians were able to attend their first IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Columbus, Ohio, in August 2016. A mentor–mentee program was created following the congress to help the fellows build on their experience by sustaining and amplifying their global professional engagement.

A mentor and mentee case study

IFLA IMLS fellow Elizabeth Jean Brumfield, distance services librarian at Prairie View (Tex.) A&M University (PVAMU), has been mentored by Denice Adkins, associate professor at University of Missouri’s School of Information Science and Learning Technologies. Through their interactions, they were able to view librarianship from each other’s perspective.

Adkins’s wealth of international experience includes a Fulbright scholarship to teach at the new master’s degree program at the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional Francisco Morazán in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and presentations on information literacy, reading promotion, and school librarianship in Argentina, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Nicaragua. She has led study-abroad trips to Ireland, St. Lucia, and the UK, and visited LIS programs in Japan, Scotland, Spain, and Turkey. A past president of Reforma, Adkins also presents research on information literacy, public libraries, and library service to Latino and underrepresented populations.

Brumfield obtained an MLIS and certificate of advanced studies after spending many years working as support staff in libraries. She is currently a librarian at PVAMU, one of nine historically black college and universities (HBCUs) in Texas. Prior to PVAMU, she worked at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. She has been active in the American Library Association (ALA) and an executive board member of the Black Caucus of the ALA.

Brumfield works at PVAMU’s Northwest Houston Center, a satellite campus where her primary responsibilities involve serving graduate and nontraditional students. To welcome students into the library, she hosts programs and guest speakers, book sales, and literacy sessions, and designs apps to help students and faculty explore PVAMU history and resources. Brumfield is also pursuing her PhD in educational leadership at PVAMU. Her dissertation will focus on technology, educational gaming, and library anxiety among African-American students.

University visits

Mentors and mentees were expected to connect at least once a month during the program, which lasted from November 2016 to September 2017. Adkins and Brumfield decided early on to look at diversity in the library profession and to discuss ways to improve disparities.

Brumfield shadowed Adkins at the University of Missouri while she performed various professional activities. Adkins, faculty, staff, and students were gracious with their time and shared valuable information on programming, curriculum development, and cultural activities. Brumfield lectured in Adkins’s leadership for diversity in public libraries class, participated in library and information science curriculum committee and university faculty course evaluation meetings, and attended a student government speaker series on Latinos in higher education.

Adkins visited PVAMU during National Library Week in April, where she was the guest speaker for a librarianship career panel presentation. Raquel Williams, reference and instruction librarian at PVAMU’s Coleman Library, coordinated the session to introduce students of color to a career that is not taught in many HBCUs. More than 75 students attended. Adkins also visited Northwest Houston Center where she met Gin Chong, director of the executive MBA program, which includes a study abroad opportunity for students. She was impressed by the close connections between librarians and faculty and the strong student support throughout PVAMU’s library facilities.

Continuing the partnership in Poland

Adkins and Brumfield plan to share their experience during a poster session at the 2017 IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Wrocław, Poland, August 19–25. Their poster, “IFLA Congress Mentorship Program: Reflections, Rewards, Future Goals,” will provide pictures and lessons learned, as well as the benefits of mentoring programs, meeting new people, shared learning, and an opportunity to see librarianship in a new light.


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