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Evaluating the Laura Bush 21st Century Grant Program
Posted On February 25, 2014
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Based on feedback from grantees, the evaluation team identified reasons behind effective grant activities, factors for success in academic achievement, and techniques for successful diversity recruitment, including the following:
  • Directing financial assistance provided to students through scholarships was particularly effective for minority students
  • Providing multiple opportunities for students to network with practitioners, including attending conferences and professional meetings, as well as bringing professionals to the institution or holding meetings on-site
  • Crafting structured, paid internships that are of interest to the students as well as projects that met the need of host institutions (i.e., libraries, archives, museums)
  • Experiential learning (hands-on) internships and practical experiences led to new employment opportunities
  • Distinguishing “intensives” (e.g., summer institutes and residency programs) from workshops and continuing education (CE) opportunities offered elsewhere
  • Choosing the “right” partner who’ll help institutions attract learners or fund programs
  • Treating learners as a cohort has benefits that last beyond the formal learning opportunity
  • Establishing clear expectations and commitments on the part of grantees and mentors

The ability to sustain a program beyond the period covered by the grant was considered an important measure of effectiveness. Some programs were fully sustained; others partially sustained. Some elements of funded programs were so successful that they were employed in other programs offered by the grantee institution.

Placements were also a consideration when it came to success, and grantees related stories about the nature of placement opportunities created as a result of the programs, mechanisms employed for facilitating placement, and placement rates. Grantees reported quicker job placements and positions with higher responsibility and salary following LB21 grants. Programs that included partners and internships found that these facilitated student placement.

Grant outcomes were examined with respect to changes in curriculum or institutional policies and practices as well as tracking beneficiaries to capture lasting impact from grants. Lasting effects came in the form of newly developed courses, revised curricula, and the introduction or expansion of distance education. Changes made to administrative policies had an impact on scholarship funding provided to underserved populations, and modified hiring practices were employed to attract a large and diverse candidate pool. Lack of tracking data concerning students after graduation was an issue for many programs.

The report’s recommendations targeted IMLS, to assure that future grantees are supported adequately; future grantees, as they design their grant projects; and the library community at-large:

The LB21 grants reviewed in this study point to specific ways in which libraries can help SLIS as they train the next generation, including encouraging younger individuals to consider librarianship as a career, particularly those from diverse communities, including support staff already working in libraries. …

Today’s practitioners have a vested interest in developing the next generation of librarians, archivists, and museum workers, who will be working by their side in a few short years. This includes encouraging staff to take on new responsibilities and leadership roles, particularly those individuals who have not had these opportunities in the past. While SLIS focuses on recruiting and educating librarians from diverse backgrounds, libraries themselves must provide opportunities for these stars to shine, adopting some of the innovations described in this study and testing additional approaches to transforming their libraries and communities.

This assessment focused on the impact of LB21 grants on grantees—future studies should take a wider approach, providing learners an opportunity to express their views of these efforts, comparing those participating in grant programs with those not supported through LB21 grant funding. Including employers/supervisors in the study would provide another layer to the research. Do they sense a difference in those who come through an LB21 grant program versus those who have not participated in those programs? This research should continue, presumably finding that the grant projects themselves are infinitely improved by the work of those that went before.

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Barbie E. Keiser is an information resources management consultant located in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area.

Email Barbie E. Keiser

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