July 20, 2009
SHSU Media Contacts: Jennifer Gauntt
Forty school libraries in the Rio Grande Valley will benefit from an almost $900,000 grant Sam Houston State University’s library science department recently received as part of the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program.
Distributed through the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the federal grant provides full scholarships for South Texas teachers who would like to pursue a Master of Library Science degree. This is the second such grant the department has received.
“It’s not every day that you’re offered the opportunity to get a free master’s degree,” said Tricia Kuon, assistant professor of library science, who serves with assistant professor Holly Weimar as principal investigators for the grant.
“Not only will this provide a free, quality education people are paying thousands of dollars for who are in our program, it will provide them with the opportunity to travel, pay for them to attend state and national conferences, plus all of the expenses that go along with college: books, a nice laptop computer, and an eBook reader,” Kuon said. “It’s really a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Applicants must have at least two years of teaching experience; reside in Educational Service Center Regions 1, 2, or 20; meet university requirements for admission to the graduate program; submit writing samples; and participate in personal interviews with faculty.
Being bilingual will be considered favorably for applicants because the “grant stems from them possibly serving the Hispanic community,” Weimar said.
SHSU’s library science department has been teaching in the Rio Grande Valley for more than 35 years. Last spring, nearly 80 percent of the department’s students were from the area when including San Antonio, Weimar said.
“They have a great need for trained librarians, and they get a lot of federal funding for their libraries down there, for books and technology,” Kuon said. “They’re well funded, but they’re a little shorthanded in the school library field, so we’re trying to fill in the gap there.”
The combination of a great need for public school librarians, with almost half anticipated to retire within the next 10 years, and the “strong” program SHSU presented after receiving the grant for the first time in 2007 were two reasons for receiving the second grant.
“We had about 90 to 100 applicants for the last grant, for 20 positions, so we had strong justification for moving forward with this,” Weimar said. “The response we had was that they were very appreciative of the type of program we were going to offer and how we were going to reach out to develop leaders in the community; the bilingual aspect seemed to be important to them, the overall program was important to them.”
In addition, in Texas, all librarians must have a master’s degree, or be in the process of obtaining a master’s degree, which may contribute to the shortage of school librarians.
SHSU was one of only two Texas universities amongst the 33 institutions nationwide to receive the IMLS grant for 2009.
“We feel honored to be recognized as a quality program comparable to other quality school librarian programs in our state in much bigger institutions than ours even,” Kuon said. “I feel like it puts us on level with the best that Texas has to offer for this degree.”
Those interested in applying for the scholarship must do so by Sept. 8. The program will begin in the spring with two cohorts that will be taught in “hybrid” online and Saturday classes held in the area.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Its mission is “to grow and sustain a ‘Nation of Learners’ because life-long learning is essential to a democratic society and individual success.”
Applications are available online at www.shsu.edu/~lis_www/.
For more information, contact Weimar at firstname.lastname@example.org or 936.294.3158.
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