SAA 2015: Session 107, The Association of Research Libraries / Society of American Archivists Mosaic Program: Lessons Learned and Next Steps

In advance of the 2015 Annual Meeting, we invited SNAP members to contribute summaries of panels, roundtable and section meetings, forums, and pop-up sessions. Summaries represent the opinions of their individual authors; they are not necessarily endorsed by SNAP, members of the SNAP Steering Committee, or SAA.

Since 2013, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and SAA have jointly managed the Mosaic Program, which admits five or six aspiring archivists and provides practical experience, mentoring, and networking opportunities for minority students. There have now been three cohorts named to the program, with six students selected for 2015-2016.

In her introduction, moderator Lisa Nguyen emphasized the need for programs like Mosaic. According to the 2004 A*Census, only 12% of archivists are nonwhite. This statistic may be 11 years old, but there is still a lack of diversity within the profession. In order to encourage diversity in the archival profession, the Mosaic Program takes a multifaceted approach. Participants are provided an internship, paired with a mentor, and meet as a cohort to encourage and learn from each other.

Jim Bracken, the Dean of Libraries at Kent State Universities, is active in the oversight of the Mosaic Program from the ARL side. This program is one of three diversity outreach initiatives run by ARL. The other two programs, the Initiative to Recruit a Diverse Workforce and the Career Enhancement Program, have included over 200 participants since 2000, and they have a 90% retention rate. These programs served as models for the Mosaic Program. Bracken pointed out that while only 12% of the archival profession identifies as nonwhite, 36% of the U.S. population is made up of minorities. In order to reach parity with the population of the country, archives and special collections libraries would need to hire 10,000 or more librarians and archivists of color. That isn’t going to happen right now, but it is an attainable goal.

Tom Hyry spoke about the Mosaic Program as both someone who helped create it and as someone who had hosted an intern at his repository. The Mosaic Program is modeled on the American Library Association (ALA)’s Spectrum Program. It couples with the Mosaic Scholarship, which is awarded from the SAA Foundation annually, though the scholarship recipients do not participate as fellows. This year, there were more than 80 applicants for the six spots.

There is a social justice angle to the creation and incubation of programs like Mosaic. Hyry pointed out that there is still institutional racism that exists within the United States, and we as people who espouse the ideals of justice and freedom should ask ourselves how it is that our profession is mainly white, and what is it we can do to correct it? Further, as archivists, we have a responsibility to document society and all of its complexities. We need to document more broadly, and to do this, we must welcome all people into this endeavor.

Hyry likes the Mosaic model because it offers a range of experiences to participants, but he especially enjoyed hosting Annie Tang as an intern when he worked at UCLA. This internship provided UCLA with the opportunity for organizational change. Further, he needed to make certain that the internship he provided met Tang’s needs and interests. Any good internship, he said, gives the student experience he or she could not get in a classroom, allows him or her to develop a new skill, and should be meaningful – not menial – and catered as much as possible to his or her professional interests. The needs of the repository are secondary. Approaching internships this way may be labor-intensive, but Hyry has found this usually leads to the institution receiving more useful work from interns. Hyry believes Tang received a meaningful internship, and it was a good experience for him. However, programs like Mosaic only represent part of a solution to a systemic problem.

Micha Broadnax participated in the Mosaic Program during 2014-2015. A student at Simmons, she worked at Harvard’s libraries as part of the program. Broadnax explained the requirements for participating in the Mosaic Program:

  1. Participants must identify as a minority.
  2. The program is open to U.S. and Canadian citizens
  3. Participants must be accepted to an MLIS program (or similar)
  4. They must remain enrolled for the duration of the program and maintain a 3.0 GPA

Participants are awarded $10,000 to be distributed over two years. They also are given an internship at an ARL member archive or special collections library. They participate in a mentoring program, and they receive a student membership to SAA. Finally, the Mosaic Program provides travel to SAA’s annual meeting and to the ARL/SAA Mosaic Leadership Forum, held at ALA Midwinter. The program allows the participants to grow professionally, but it also allows them to meet together as a cohort. During that time, the participants can interact with their peers and consider how they can contribute to the profession. Broadnax emphasized the importance of the practical experience, but also how important networking and peer discussion were to growing as a professional.

Broadnax feels as though the program pushed her to be a better archivist. However, we must start considering our next steps for making the archival profession a more diverse place.

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One thought on “SAA 2015: Session 107, The Association of Research Libraries / Society of American Archivists Mosaic Program: Lessons Learned and Next Steps

  1. Pingback: Year in the Life of a Mosaic Fellow: JoyEllen Freeman, Pt. 1 | SNAP roundtable

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