A federal grant of $446,574 will help fund the training of nine students in library science education at MU.
The allowance is part of a grant of a little more than $14.7 million, given to 26 library schools and library service organizations to counteract what the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) called “a looming national shortage” of librarians.
MU professor John Budd, who will oversee MU’s use of the grant, said that the money will go toward training future educators of librarians.
The students will be recruited and prepared to earn a doctoral degree in library sciences by the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies, in collaboration with the Truman School of Public Affairs.
Budd said that IMLS grants were spurred by the dearth of librarians and students of library science.
The shortage is projected to continue as one-third of the current working librarians are expected to retire in the next five years.
“There’s a shortage of working librarians as well as a shortage of faculty like me,” said Budd. “So we proposed to educate people, especially in the public sphere.”
Budd portrayed the shortage as a problem with complex origins, rather than an indicator of a dying breed of professionals.
“It’s a bit complicated,” Budd said. “Over the past 20 years, there have been some closings of library science programs, so there are fewer places that educate librarians, while there is a great need for librarians.”
MU Director of Libraries James Cogswell also attributed the scarcity to several reasons, but pointed specifically to the dot-com boom of the early 1990s.
“In the nineties, a lot of people who would have gone into the library science professions put off their graduate studies, when they may have gone to library school, to make money,” Cogswell said. “What we want to do now is see if we can attract some of them back to the profession.”
Cogswell and Budd both agreed that the scarcity was due more to reasons such as economic circumstances rather than lack of interest in or obsolescence of the library science professions.
IMLS, an independent federal grant-making agency, was inundated with 65 grant applications that collectively requested more than $34 million.