Skip to Main Content

ACRL 2019 President's Program

Discussion, information, and additional resources for the 2019 ACRL President's Program. Opinions expressed by blog authors are their own and do not express the views or opinions of their employers or of ACRL.

New Day, New Way: Engaging HBCUs and Students of Color in Diversity Recruitment and Collaboration

by Hallie Clawson on 2019-06-10T07:00:00-05:00 | 0 Comments

This week's post comes from Tina D. RollinsDirector of the William R. and Norma B. Harvey Library at Hampton University. Learn more about our guest authors on our Featured Authors page.

Each year at almost every conference in our profession, the themes of diversity and inclusion are discussed. No matter from which angle it is viewed or how many people speak about or conduct research on this topic, the results always remain the same. Our profession still lacks racial diversity, and nothing really seems to change. Additionally, despite the best efforts of popular diversity programs by both ALA and ACRL, the number of librarians of color still remains significantly low. This could be due to persistent historical preconceived notions and stereotypes about librarianship. People are also consistently unaware of the available opportunities that intersect with many aspects of society and technological advancement.


These thoughts aren’t new, but the question still remains: How do we recruit librarians of color and truly achieve our goals of diversity and inclusion within the Library and Information Science field?


Here’s my answer: direct contact with undergraduate students of color! One of the best ways to garner interest in the profession is by introducing students to the field during their undergraduate studies. This can be done through various methods of outreach, networking and collaboration with HBCUs. Additionally, there are various opportunities for formal and informal outreach to explore at your home campus to aid in the recruitment of students of color.


Historically black colleges and universities — commonly called HBCUs — are defined by the Higher Education Act of 1965 as any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of Black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary of Education (Smithsonian NMAAHC, 2019). There are currently over 100 HBCUs designated by the U.S. Department of Education. HBCUs provide an array of academic programs across both liberal arts and sciences. Students come from the U.S. and abroad to study, learn and grow on our HBCU campuses. In 2017, there were 298,000 students in HBCUs across the U.S. (National Center for Education Statistics). The schools are conducting groundbreaking research in STEM and many other academic areas. “9 of the top ten baccalaureate institutions of African American STEM doctorate recipients from 2010 to 2014 are HBCUs" (National Science Foundation, 2017). HBCU graduates receive a holistic and scholastic education which prepares them to promote and understand diversity, inclusion and cultural awareness.


Our profession constantly touts itself as one that welcomes all majors. This assertion is rooted in the fact that the duties of our profession and functions of our libraries are continuously advancing in service, technology and research. So if these needs are changing, shouldn’t we also change the way that we approach diversity recruitment? Let’s consider the following practical strategies to connect HCBU students with LIS programs:

  • Establish initial outreach to an HBCU Library Director. Library and Information Science programs should consider making contact with HBCU Library Directors. This contact creates an avenue for campus collaboration and networking. Through this relationship, programs in LIS education can be promoted through campus presentations and visits at events such as campus job fairs. This recruitment strategy can help to inform students about opportunities within the field. A listing of HBCU Library Directors can be found at schools.php.
  • Tour an HBCU. It is important that the rich tradition and history of HBCUs is explored. To build relationships, take time to tour an HBCU and meet with faculty and librarians. The visit will help you to explore the unique treasures held within HBCU libraries. It can also serve as an avenue for collaboration on grants and recruitment strategies. If funding for travel is an obstacle, connect with an HBCU librarian by phone to begin networking.
  • Partner with HBCU libraries on grants and funding opportunities, including training and internships for undergraduate students. When funding opportunities arise for diversity recruitment and retention opportunities, consider reaching out to HBCUs to partner. One successful program has been the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, in partnership with the HBCU Library Alliance. This program provides HBCU undergraduate students interested in the humanities, arts, and sciences the opportunity to learn and practice hands-on library preservation skills during this full-time, fully-funded, eight-week internship under the mentorship of professional conservators and library staff at a host site. 2019 is the second year of funding for the program which provides seven summer internships in library and archives preservation at seven nationally recognized library preservation/conservation laboratories.

For those who do not work in LIS education or at an HCBU, you can still do your part to invite students of color to join our field. Follow these suggestions to reach out to the populations on your own campus:

  • Engage Student Campus Groups. Research student groups on campus with racially diverse membership. Groups such as ethnic student alliances, international student associations and subject-specific affinity groups are excellent avenues of outreach to students of color. Contact these groups and collaborate on a presentation to discuss librarianship and other available opportunities such as internships and fellowships available to undergraduates. Invite other librarians to allow students to hear from different voices within the field.
  • Partner with Campus Faculty. Another recruitment strategy is to partner and engage with campus faculty. Efforts can be made to reach out to instructors teaching ethnic studies courses to discuss librarianship with students. Activities such as webinars, brief presentations, or email discussion lists will help to teach and engage students about the profession. Additionally, faculty members can help share information regarding diversity recruitment scholarships and awards within the field. This method helps students to explore available opportunities and learn more about the profession.

Although these ideas might seem simplistic to some, they are actionable strategies to promote recruitment. But the key word is “action.” Our field will never advance in diversity if we don’t become proactive in recruitment. As librarians, we must become a collective force and actively recruit students of color through engaging in the strategies mentioned. If students of color don’t know about the profession, how will they know about the opportunities? If we truly want diversity it is up to librarians to connect, inform, recruit and welcome future librarians into the field.


Further Reading

Allen, W., Jewell, J., Griffin, K., & Wolf, D. (2007). Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Honoring the Past, Engaging the Present, Touching the Future. The Journal of Negro Education ,76(3), 263-280. Retrieved from

American Library Association. (2019). Diversity Counts. Retrieved from

Brown, J. & Ferretti, J. A. & Leung, S. & Méndez-Brady, M. (2018). We Here: Speaking Our Truth. Library Trends 67(1), 163-181. Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved April 29, 2019, from Project MUSE database.

HBCU Library Alliance. (2019). Retrieved from

National Center for Education Statistics. (n.d.). “Historically Black Colleges and Universities”. NCES Fast Facts Tool. Retrieved from

National Science Foundation. (2017). Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2017, Special Report NSF 17-310. National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. Retrieved from

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. (2019). 5 Things to Know: HBCU Edition. Retrieved from


 Add a Comment



Enter your e-mail address to receive notifications of new posts by e-mail.



  Return to Blog
This post is closed for further discussion.