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“Libraries in Bloom” cultivates a diverse library workforce

Libraries in Bloom (LIB) is a grassroots organization whose mission is to cultivate a diverse library workforce by providing professional pathways for young adults of color and elevate innovative and equitable library practices that serve communities more fully. A building block to their mission is their inclusive library apprenticeship initiative.

The initiative provides selected young adults of color with the opportunity to explore community-engaged librarianship and develop professional skills. The young adult becomes the apprentice and is paired with a library professional who shares similar identities, lived experiences, and/or interests. The library professional acts as the mentor and their place of employment becomes the host library. The objective of the apprenticeship is for the mentor and apprentice to design and implement a data-informed, community-focused program that serves the community more fully. The apprenticeship is paid and lasts 12 weeks for a total of 120 hours.

LIB received a Community Vision Fund grant from the Community Foundation for Fox Valley Region earlier this year to support the library apprenticeship initiative. With this support, in addition to other funding, three apprenticeships are taking place this year in several local libraries.

Moua Yang

Moua Yang is a Hmong American student at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay studying English with a minor in secondary education. Moua wrapped up his library apprenticeship with the Elisha D. Smith Public Library in mid-October. He worked with his mentor, Kirk Moore-Nokes, a programming supervisor, to design the workshop, Character Creation, that advanced the library’s makerspace and hands-on learning philosophy. Character Creation was a one-day workshop where school-age students worked with Moua to build characters for their fantasy fiction stories. Participants drew their own characters and learned how to use AI to generate ones. The program idea was an expansion of Moua’s love of reading manga and writing stories.

(Left) Amari Brown with Adriana McCleer, community partnerships supervisor

Amari Brown is a second-year student at UW-Oshkosh, originally from Atlanta. She is a business management major who aspires to obtain the necessary credentials to practice corporate law. Amari is completing her library apprenticeship with the Appleton Public Library, where she works with her mentor, Yee Lee, a community engagement librarian, to advance the library’s Small Business – Big Impact Initiative. Amari connected with local BIPOC business owners and facilitated meaningful conversations around financial education. From their responses, Amari is creating a financial resource guide for business owners and a financial literacy program for teens. Her apprenticeship came to a close in October.

Camille “Katahtu’ntha” Billie

Camille “Katahtu’ntha” Billie is an artist from Oneida and a recent graduate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a degree in fine arts with an emphasis in designed objects. Currently, she is a visitor services specialist at the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian in Chicago and an Artist-In-Residence at the Newberry Library for their 2024 Exhibition Indigenous Chicago. Camille started her library apprenticeship with the Kaukauna Public Library at the beginning of October. She will work closely with her mentor, Kim Cackowski, the library assistant: programmer, to apply her knowledge and interests in critical ecology, linoleum block printing, beading, and illustration to support the library’s indigenous programming.

All of the young adults will share their apprenticeship experiences with listeners on LIB’s podcast. Episodes drop monthly starting in November. The library apprenticeship initiative has provided young adults of color with professional opportunities to develop their job skills, confidence, leadership, and network, which helps prepare them for a career in libraries or propels them to make wise decisions about their education and career paths. Click here to learn more.

Pa Ja Yang, a community engagement librarian with the Elisha D. Smith Public Library in Menasha, and her husband, Andy Draheim, created Libraries in Bloom.

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