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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

URI Prism Fellows to make information available to all

KINGSTON, R.I. -- October 13, 2000 -- Corrina Alves of Barrington, Shirl Johnson of Newport (recently from St. Louis, Mo.) and Weimin Zhang from East Greenwich are learning to help diverse people get the information they need to live and thrive.

The three University of Rhode Island graduate students were selected as Prism Fellows in the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies (GSLIS) this fall.

While Alves, Johnson, and Zhang work toward a master's degree in URI's library and information studies, they won't have to worry about paying tuition. A $232,646 federal grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services pays their tuition and fees, and supports each fellow with $17,600 in wages and stipends.

GSLIS was awarded the grant this summer to recruit students from diverse backgrounds, support them in a program of study, and involve them in developing programs to prepare librarians to work with diverse populations. Three additional Fellows will be selected for the spring semester.

"This project enhances our recruitment of underrepresented graduate students, and allows us to prepare graduates to play an important role in library outreach to diverse populations," noted Dr. Winifred Brownell, dean of URI's College of Arts and Sciences. GSLIS is a school within the college.

"We live in a society that is rapidly becoming multicultural," said W. Michael Havener of Kingston, director of URI's Graduate School of Library and Information Studies. "In fact, it would be wiser to say that we are a multicultural society." Havener wrote the grant with a team of GSLIS faculty members: Naomi Caldwell of Barrington, Donna Gilton of Peace Dale, and Yan Ma of Kingston. Assistant Professor/Reference Librarian Mary MacDonald of Wakefield is also a member of the project team.

"Information empowers. Librarians strive to empower by helping all people locate information that will meet the needs of life. It is our function to help people find, evaluate, and use information," said Havener.

"Research tells us that we are most comfortable with people we know, people who look like us and talk like us. When we are in a setting where we feel different, we may not fully disclose our needs and get the information we seek. One of the goals of this project is to increase diversity within the profession. We are especially interested in training African-Americans, Asian- Americans, Hispanics, and Native-Americans to be Fellows," the director said.

The three goals of the grant are:

1. To increase the diversity within the library and information science profession.

2. To prepare a cadre of new information professionals to take leading roles in bringing information literacy instruction to diverse populations.

3. To create and evaluate a model student support structure that can be adapted by other schools.

In addition to course work, Prism Fellows are expected to work 10 hours per week in the Reference Department of the URI Library, work with high school students during summer 2001, complete field work in a public library, and attend professional conferences.

The Prism Fellows were required to submit a two-page essay outlining how the applicant's acceptance as a Fellow would support the project's goals and explain the applicant's interest in information literacy instruction and information services to diverse populations.

Requests for more information about the program can be made by e-mailing or by calling Jennifer Legare at 401-874-2878.

For Information: W. Michael Havener, 401-874-4641,
Jan Sawyer, 401-874-2116


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