PRBA Works with BCALA on Grant

Black Caucus The Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) was awarded an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) planning grant to explore the current state of Black History Month (BHM) programming offered at public libraries. While virtually all of the 9,000 public libraries across the U.S. conduct some programming during BHM, there has never been a systematic study to assess the content, scope, target age groups, and focus of that programming. BCALA has asked the Program for Research on Black Americans (PRBA) to work with them on this project, and assist with holding a series of focus groups on the topic, developing a questionnaire to create a taxonomy of BHM programming, and drafting the proposal (including a sampling plan) for the national research project. Dr. Deborah Robinson, RCGD Research Investigator and PRBA Assistant Director for International Projects, is the point person on this work with BCALA and sub-award. Dr. M. Belinda Tucker, formerly in the PRBA leadership and currently serving an active role in the PRBA Network, is serving on the National Advisory Committee for the initiative. Shauntee Burns-Simpson, President of BCALA, said, “We are very excited about working with PRBA and the University of Michigan. With BCALA’s 50 years of expertise, commitment, and advocacy, along with PRBA’s 44 years of research on Black Americans, we firmly believe we can improve and strengthen programming related to African Americans in all types of libraries for the next 50 years!”

Established in 1970, BCALA was formed to serve as an advocate for the development, promotion, and improvement of library services and resources to the nation’s African American community and to provide leadership for the recruitment and professional development of African American librarians. The organization is one of the American Library Association Affiliates.

The IMLS planning grant includes a strong National Advisory Committee (NAC) whose purpose is to ensure the project’s success and guarantee national impact. Besides the PRBA members, the NAC includes representatives from BCALA, key American Library Association Divisions and Offices, and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915 and created Negro History Week in 1926. This commemoration was expanded and became Black History Month in 1976. ASALH is the organization that decides on the BHM theme each year and produces materials for teachers, librarians, and others that can be used for programming.

With an increasingly diverse U.S. population and an expectation that the United States will become a “majority-minority” country by 2044, libraries must offer quality programming that recognizes and celebrates the accomplishments of its increasingly diverse patrons. This kind of programming has the potential to bring more members of the community into the library and provide for a richer exchange. The project period for the grant is September 1, 2020 – August 31, 2021.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services grant – LG-246429-OLS-20.