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PSU receives Laura Bush 21st Century Library grant

May 30, 2013 8:15AM

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Pittsburg State University has announced the receipt of a major grant from the Laura Bush 21st Century Library program to train and mentor master’s-level library media specialists for school libraries serving the nine Native American Tribes in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri.

PSU President Steve Scott, tribal chiefs and other officials from the university and the tribes made the announcement at the Inter-Tribal Council Building in Miami, Okla., on Monday, May 13.

“As a lifelong educator, I know that libraries are the beating heart of any school,” Scott said. “They are also the repository for our culture and our history. This project will help us train a new generation of specialists who can provide information that is critical to individual success and also respect and celebrate the Native American history and culture of the region.”

The three-year grant, for $487,212, will pay for books and tuition, a laptop computer and a stipend for 25 students in PSU’s master of science in Educational Technology - Library Media Specialist Program. In addition to an online, two-year course of study beginning this summer, students will complete a year of mentorship.

This program is designed for the working professional. In fact, program officials said, being employed in the public schools or the tribal museums/libraries enhances the interactive learning opportunities of this program.

Ron Sparkman, chairman of the Inter-Tribal Council, Inc. said, "I'm very pleased that the Inter-Tribal Council can be a part of the education of our young people."

The program, which is titled the 21st Century Library Alliance, is a collaborative effort between PSU, the nine Native American Tribes, 16 school districts with Native American student populations greater than 10 percent, and the American Indian Center for Excellence (AICE) at Northeast Oklahoma A & M.

The schools that joined in a collaborative agreement are: Afton ISD, Bluejacket ISD, Commerce ISD, Fairland ISD, Grove ISD, Jay ISD, Ketchum ISD, Miami ISD, Quapaw ISD, Turkey Ford ISD, Welch ISD, White Oak ISD, Wyandotte ISD, Seneca R-7, Fort Scott USD 234 and Pittsburg USD 250.

“A primary focus of the grant is to provide 25 library media specialists with a specially designed curriculum that empowers Native American scholars,” said Sue Stidham, a professor in PSU’s Department of Teaching and Leadership, who will administer the grant. Stidham further stated that, “by modifying the current library media specialist program, the hope is to heighten cultural sensitivity and strengthen the focus on how to provide services to Native American children and adults. The program will also educate media specialists in the organization, management, and preservation of materials in 21st century Native American heritage institutions.

This project will also provide a collaborative environment for these media specialists to work with Native American tribal members, who can encourage cultural change and ensure an unbiased climate and curricula in school libraries and classrooms.

“The practicum is an important part of this program. In order to learn more about the tribes, candidates will not only spend time in school media centers, but will also spend 30 hours in tribal libraries and museums,” she said. “The candidates will learn the tribal culture first hand, establish networks, and in return bring the latest technology skills for preserving and locating current and past documents to the tribal libraries and museums.”

President Scott said he hopes the new library media specialist program is just the beginning of greater collaboration between the university, the nine tribes and other entities.

“There are a number of opportunities for us, working together, to make a difference in the lives of Native Americans in the region,” Scott said. “We expect this project to open doors for even greater collaboration in the future.”

The Laura Bush 21st Century Library program is underwritten by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The PSU proposal was one of 21 grants approved out of 81 applications.

For more information: http://www.imls.gov/

©2013 Pittsburg State University