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Making a Difference: Rural Libraries Professional Program

The Mission

Information Technology Rural Librarian Master’s Scholarship Program (ITRL) and ITRL2 are two grant projects at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, that are funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program. The purpose of both projects is to recruit and train rural library professionals working in the Southern and Central Appalachian region. Participating students earn their master’s degree through the UT School of Information Sciences synchronous distance education program. ITRL began in 2009 and ended in 2013 with sixteen rural librarians and ITRL2 began in 2012 and will end in 2015 with thirteen rural library students who are taking three required courses and eleven elective courses on information technology and rural management topics.

The Partners

Community partners include the Blount County Public Library in Maryville, Tennessee, Clinch-Powell Regional Library (now the Clinch River Regional Library) in Clinton, Tennessee, Fort Loudoun Regional Library (now the Ocoee River Regional Library) in Athens, Tennessee, Nolichucky Regional Library in Morristown, Tennessee, Sevier County Public Library System in Sevierville, Tennessee, and the Watauga Regional Library (now the Holston River Regional Library) in Johnson City, Tennessee. Representatives from other regional or county library systems in the Southern and Central Appalachian region (Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia) are also involved in various grant activities. University of Tennessee, Knoxville, partners include the College of Communication and Information, School of Information Sciences.

314x399-ITRL-Student-Fairwell-rocking-chairImpact on UT

The Rural Library Professionals Program has been instrumental in developing an information science curriculum in rural librarianship that is tailored to meet the needs and expectations in local and regional communities. Lessons learned are evaluated and refined in order both to promote rural librarianship as a profession and to increase the flow of rural library professionals into accredited library and information science programs.

Impact on Community

The Rural Library Professionals Program addresses an urgent need for the next generation of rural library professionals with current information technology and management competencies. The program improves information access and use in rural Southern and Central Appalachian communities. The program also addresses the unique social, cultural, political, and economic challenges experienced in these regions. The model of integrating professional experiences and graduate instruction with a focus on rural librarianship is cost-and-time effective, since participants gain both an American Library Association-accredited Master of Science degree and continue with their part-time mentored professional work experiences over a period of only two years.

Related Story: Information is Power in Rural Librarianship Program>>



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Dr. Bharat Mehra,


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