IMLS funds partnership


FPL logoThe Free Library of Philadelphia and the School of Information Sciences will form a partnership supported by funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).  In June 2007, the IMLS awarded the Library $999,980 to fund 25 students (over a two-year period) as they earn their MLIS degrees via the FastTrack MLIS online education program.  FastTrack MLIS offers the ALA-accredited master’s degree program through Web-based asynchronous delivery.  Students from more than 26 states have participated in the on-line educational opportunity since its inception; in fact, in 2005, IMLS funded a similar partnership between the University of the Virgin Islands and SIS. 

The grant will be used to recruit and support 25 current staff members at the Free Library as they earn their MLIS degree. The staff members will be drawn from three different applicant pools:  full-time paraprofessional staff; library interns; and part-time or seasonal staff.  SIS and the Free Library leadership will design a special program of study that will focus on public librarianship, with an emphasis on services to children and youth, in an urban setting. 

Project organizers hope that this program will do more than just increase the number of minority librarians, specifically youth librarians, working at the Free Library.  Additional goals of the program include increasing the number of current and future library leaders and growing their leadership skills through a mentoring program and active participation in state and national professional organizations.  At the end of the grant period, it is to be hoped that the project will have created a replicable model for an environment that supports community based librarians that could be adopted by other library systems, particularly those in large urban areas.

This grant is part of the IMLS’s multi-million dollar initiative, LAURA BUSH 21ST CENTURY LIBRARIAN PROGRAM to help offset a shortage of professional librarians working in underserved communities.  The Institute’s approach to creating the next generation of librarians is to support a wide variety of initiatives including tuition assistance, curriculum development, service expectations, job placement, recruitment of non-traditional library students, and support of doctoral candidates in the library sciences field. 

Pitt’s MLIS degree program is ranked seventh in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.  Students are admitted to the FastTrack MLIS program as a cohort that will move through the program together, allowing for peer interactions and support similar to that found in the on-campus program.  Students will participate through asynchronous course delivery, real-time conferencing with other students and the faculty, and face-to-face learning experiences throughout the time of study.

For more information about the FastTrack MLIS program, please visit