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The Daily Wildcat

96° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Turning the page

    Sol A. G
    Sol A. G

    The UA is working to reshape the image of librarians.

    The stereotype of the grumpy middle-aged white woman is being combated by the Knowledge River program, based in the School of Information Resources and Library Science. The program offers financial assistance to Hispanic and American Indian students pursuing master’s degrees in information resources and library science. And, yes, the group includes men.

    By graduating more minority librarians, libraries are better able to work with a community’s needs and create a more equitable access to information, said Patricia Montiel Overall, an assistant professor of library science.

    The need for more minority librarians is evident.

    American Indians represent less than 1 percent of all librarians and Latinos represent only 2 percent, according to a diversity report issued by the American Library Association based on the 2000 U.S. Census.

    Graduates of the UA’s library science program are a youthful, more technology-oriented group, said Jessica Hernandez, a Knowledge River student. Alumni have created a group through which they can blog about their experiences.

    Commitment to community is a value many of the librarians share, Overall said.

    “”Generally, our students are very committed to community, social justice issues,”” she said. “”You get a cadre of people who all just support each other in trying to improve social issues for everybody.””

    Since its inception in 2001, the program has also been working toward bridging the gap in information access.

    Knowledge River student Paulina Aguirre hopes to use her degree to improve the lives of those in her native Hopi

    “”We don’t have a library, a fully functioning and operating library on the Hopi reservation, so I figure I could do something about getting one,”” she said.

    In the Sam Lena-South Tucson Branch Library, where Knowledge River student Sol Gomez works, it can be difficult for Spanish-speaking adults and children to learn computer skills when classes are taught in English.

    Gomez works on developing programming for the mainly Hispanic South Tucson community, including computer classes in Spanish. Gomez had never considered a career in librarianship until he heard of the Knowledge River program from his sister-in-law, a graduate of the program.

    “”I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but once I did, I was very happy I did,”” Gomez said. “”I was always into working with the community, so once I was in library school, I thought this was the place I belong.””

    Knowledge River also helped Aaron Valdivia find his place in the Tucson community.

    Valdivia, a Knowledge River student from Phoenix, is working alongside six other program students and a group of 12 Sunnyside High School students to develop presentations and posters about common health issues students in Southern Arizona face, with a focus on Hispanics and American Indians.

    Because the School of Information Resources and Library Science offers distance courses, Valdivia said, he could have completed all the work from Phoenix.

    Knowledge River required him to take classes in Tucson, and he’s glad he did.

    “”It’s like I actually see the effect I’m having on the community, rather than just sitting on the computer,”” Valdivia said.

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