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March 8, 2011

IMLS Press Contacts
Natasha Marstiller, [log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]> 
Mamie Bittner, [log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]> 

March 2011 Project Profile: Multicultural Internship Program Mentors and
Inspires Teens to Seek Library Careers 


Pictured: Photo of the Multicultural Internship Program (MIP)
coordinator and a MIP intern. Photograph by Gregg Richards.

"When you give teens opportunities, and especially meaningful
opportunities, they will exceed your expectations. 
It's part of that larger youth development project."
-Shelia Schofer, Coordinator of Young Adult Services at the Brooklyn
Public Library

A Commitment to Serving the Needs of the Diverse People of Brooklyn
One of the goals of the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program is to
attract a new generation of diverse and creative people to
librarianship. With 37% of its community foreign born and 47% speaking a
language other than English at home, the Brooklyn Public Library serves
one of the most diverse areas of the U.S. The BPL's innovative
Multicultural Intern Program (MIP) was designed with this diversity in
mind. The three year program's goal was to expose teens from a range of
ethnic, cultural and linguistic backgrounds to library careers through
structured paid internships. Thanks to the interns' range of
backgrounds-year two's group of 60 speaks 19 languages fluently-interns
and staff were able to work together to reach out to lower-income new
Americans and recent immigrant communities. Teens worked on a variety of
projects ranging from work as translators to designing library
programming like weekly Chinese language story hours.


Click on image to access video (YouTube) 
The Multicultural Internship Program Opening Forum - Highlights 

Mentoring, Open Communication and Community Involvement
Kerwin Pilgrim, Coordinator of Business and Workforce Development, feels
that much of the success of the project rests in "paying attention to
communication and trying to change things as we go along to make the
program better." Dialogue between the library and teens started with
information sessions on the program prior to the application process.
Staff made sure that students knew the library was looking for real
community involvement-this wasn't just a job. Once selected, students
were paired with a staff mentor at their branch. 

"The whole program is set up to encourage that positive feedback loop of
sharing ideas and keeping in touch," says Elizabeth Lewis, Director of
Literacy Program & Volunteer Resources. Both students and mentors
expressed interest in sharing day-to-day experiences with the group, but
coordinating the schedules of 50 students and their mentors proved to be
a challenge. Instead, program coordinator Jennifer Thompson relied on
variety of tools for communication including email, a blog
<>  and an internal wiki
<> . The wiki, with its ability to be updated
by all program participants, quickly became an online "social gathering

Teens Aspire to Careers in Library Science and Become Community Leaders
The program has inspired the entire library staff. "It pushes other
librarians to embrace the concept of listening to what teens want even
if they don't have interns at that branch," remarks Elizabeth. The
biggest impact, however, has been on the students themselves. "We have a
handful that are definitely going to be librarians. The other day I
heard one of our first years joking with a friend saying, 'Well, when I
become a librarian I'm going to show you how to do that.'" says
Jennifer. For those students who aren't considering LIS careers, the
internship has still meant a new dedication to their community through
the library. "They want to be a go-to-group," Jennifer explains, noting
that many students continue to participate in library advocacy events
and book drives after completing their internships. 

Interns have also spread the word about the library to other teens in
the community, bringing them to classes on college application writing
and financial management. For some, the program has created lasting
friendships with students from other backgrounds. At the Education and
Job Information Center, the program purposefully paired Portia, a very
outgoing and savvy student with Ali, a student who, as a recent
immigrant, is still learning the ins and outs of the community. "On the
surface, if you were to look at them and their interview applications,
you would think 'they would never be friends outside of this program'",
says Jennifer, but at the library they are, "two peas in a pod." 

Mentor-to-Intern Relationships and Full-time Participation Facilitate
For institutions hoping to create a similar program in their
communities, the staff at the BPL have a number of suggestions. Most
importantly, the project needs a dedicated coordinator. "It will not
survive if someone is doing this part-time," says Thompson, "I couldn't
imagine working a reference desk and trying to run this program."

Mentor-intern relationships are key to keeping interns supported and
motivated. Evaluations from year one showed that the students were
happiest when they felt they had a say in the projects they were
undertaking. As for marketing the program to teens, Kerwin advises,
"Deliver a quality program and you will not have problems filling the
slots. In the second year we had more applications than we anticipated
because of word of mouth...You don't have to spend a huge amount of
money on marketing."

Measuring Impact 
BPL hired an outside evaluator to conduct evaluations and surveys
throughout the course of the project. "Anything the students had
comments about or suggestions for, we gave it a shot," said Jennifer. In
year two, these comments have meant a greater emphasis on social
gatherings and bonding experiences for interns and mentors alike.
Whereas year one only had two meetings for the whole MIP group, this
year the program team is making an effort to get the group together
multiple times throughout the course of the internship.

Planning for the Program's Future. Reaching More Communities through
Experience and Best Practices
BPL has already begun considering ways to continue the program beyond
the three years funded by the IMLS grant. Additionally, efforts have
been made to broaden the program's impact by presenting its success to
the public. At the 2010 National Diversity in Libraries Conference,
Jennifer's presentation of a poster created by the teens sparked a great
deal of interest from other librarians. 

She was invited to take part in a panel discussion on multicultural
issues at the 2010 New York Librarian Association Conference. Thanks to
this publicity, the library has received calls from communities across
the country hoping to replicate the program. Currently, the team is
exploring the possibility of bringing the third year of teens to the
Public Library Association Conference in 2012, allowing them the chance
to speak to a wider audience about the program's impact on their lives. 

Tips for Teen Programming

*   Develop methods to get feedback from participants throughout the
program and apply what you
     learn right away. 

*   Be clear about program requirements. 

*   Make it fun, opportunities for face to face socializing are as
important as online networks. 

*   Provide staff time for project management and build in
communications loops. 

*   Teen social networks will help market your program. 

*   Empower teens with knowledge so that they can be resources for

*   Deliver a quality program and you will reap the benefits. 


About the Institute of Museum and Library Services 
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of
federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums.
The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that
connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the
national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to
sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and
innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about
the Institute, please visit <> .