Libraries the Role of Library Media Centers Thesis

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Libraries

The Role of Library Media Centers in a Native American Community

Nearly two million Americans identified themselves as Native American during the United States census in 1990. One third of those people reside on over 300 Indian reservation while the remaining live in urban or rural settings. When compared to the total population in the United States, there were more young Indians, under the age of 10, and fewer older Indians, 70 years and older. Fewer Indians 16 years and older were likely to be employed; and, if employed, they were more apt to work in service areas, farming, forestry, fishing, production, or as operators/laborers. For every $100 in income that a family in the general U.S. population receives, Indian families receive $62. Almost one out of every three American Indians lives below the poverty level. A smaller amount of American Indians graduate from high school compared to the general population. Fewer hold bachelor's degrees or advanced degrees and yet, while many in the Indian population are facing socioeconomic stresses, currently there is a growing cultural and educational renaissance taking place (Roy, n.d.).

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Indians are starting to rediscover their culture by establishing genealogy records, reading and inventing literature, reclaiming their Native languages, and becoming involved with political and social issues. They are doing this by engaging in natural resource management, reclamation and reburial of human remains, and protection of treaty rights. This rebirth is due in part to the work of the American Indian library community, which has labored for many years to find support for Native American educational needs (Roy, n.d.).

Thesis on Libraries the Role of Library Media Centers Assignment

The relationship that exists between Native Americans and libraries is fundamentally different from that of other ethnic groups. Native Americans are different in that their tribal governments have a formal relationship with the U.S. government that is set forth in the Constitution, in treaties, statutes, and court decisions. No other minority or ethnic group in this country has this relationship with the nation's government. The relationship that exists between the federally recognized tribes and the federal government is that of a government-to-government relationship. According to a treaty agreement, the United States will provide certain benefits to tribal groups, including health, education, and general welfare (Patterson, 1995).

With the passage of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act in the mid 1970s, tribes began to manage their own affairs and have some positive effect on library development on reservations. In 1994, Congress passed the Tribal Self-Governance Act which allowed tribes to negotiate annual funding agreements, permitting them to have greater involvement in program management and operation. Tribes now have the ability to plan and set priorities for themselves. In many cases having a library is high on their list of things that they would like to have. Unfortunately, libraries must compete for scarce funds. They have to compete with roads, utilities, and other basic services on reservations. In those places where libraries do exist, most are staffed by non-degreed personnel who often have little or no training in operating a library. Even in the cases where there are professional librarians available, tribes generally cannot afford to pay adequate salaries to attract qualified personnel. This leaves large segments of native people on reservations without adequate library services (Patterson, n.d.).

Tribal libraries are a relatively recent development. No reliable history of them has ever been written, but it is widely known that, as early as 1958, the Colorado River Tribal Council in Arizona established a library. Another began in the Southwest when, Vista volunteers placed small collections of donated books in tribal buildings where they could be accessed by tribal members, in the 1960's. The Mohawks in New York State and the Shoshone-Bannock on the Fort Hall Idaho reservation also initiated efforts to establish libraries in the late 1960s (Patterson, n.d.).

A study done in 2000, on tribal libraries in Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona found that tribal libraries tend to be geographically inaccessible. This is not the case for most tribes in Louisiana. These tribes are often located near small to medium sized towns or cities in Louisiana. They have the same access to major roads and public services as the non-Indian population in Louisiana. The geography of the land where the tribes are located ranges from bayou country to forests and hills. Three of the federally recognized tribes are on reservations, all of which have casinos, making them even less isolated (Beck, 2002).

The first recorded library that was developed specifically to meet Indian information needs was established by the Colorado River Tribal Council in 1957. The year's between1957 and 1973 was a period when American Indians and librarians worked to identify the domain and major dimensions of American Indian library services. It was not until January 4, 1975 that the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act gave the right of Indian citizens to control their own educational activities. With the passage of this Act came funding, and so a growth in the number of publications on Indian libraries during the mid to late 1970's. With more publications came more awareness and more libraries (Beck, 2002).

In 1978 there was a White House Pre-Conference on Indian Library and Information Services On or Near Reservations held in Denver. It was the first known national Indian meeting concerned with library and information services. The Indian conference assembled a widely diverse group of American Indians to discuss the needs of Indian communities on or near reservations about their need for library, media, and information services. At that time there was a widely recognized necessity to explore the information needs of reservation Indians across the United States. The conference specifically covered federally recognized tribes because the pre-conference was funded by the Office of Indian Education Programs and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) which are federal departments. One of the outcomes of the conference was the suggestion of the National Indian Omnibus Library Bill (NIOLB) which provided for training for Native American library workers, materials, construction or remodeling of libraries, technical assistance, support for Indian studies programs in institutions of higher education, support for information needs surveys, and special purpose grants (Beck, 2002).

A study done on the Native American Libraries in the state of Louisiana showed that library services transpired in a variety of ways. Funding came from a variety of sources but was generally insufficient. Libraries were often located in the same space with other tribal offices. Libraries were often staffed by only one person who had only a high school degree. In 1980, there was little known about the library and information needs of Native Americans. It seemed that Louisiana's tribal libraries were in the same place as the rest of the nations were twenty years before (Beck, 2002).

The library at the University Of North Dakota School Of Communication, the Native Media Center, was founded in 1990. It has a long history of teaching communication skills to Native Americans. The Native Media Center serves as a source for news, features, and other information about Native peoples within an online newsmagazine, called The Red Nation News. The center was founded on the premise that a huge disparity in the number of Native American media professionals existed (about 2.5%) (Welcome to the Native Media Center!, 2007).

"The Native Media Center's mission is to promote diversity in the field of communication by increasing awareness of American Indian issues among mainstream media professionals, attracting Native students into journalism and communication careers" (Welcome to the Native Media Center, 2007). The vision of the center is to become the primary source of communication education, training, and technical assistance for Native American communities by working in partnership with the School of Communication, the University of North Dakota, area secondary schools, mainstream media, American Indian reservations, tribal colleges and other Native institutions in the Upper Midwest region. They want to build a future of leadership that is prepared and ready to face contemporary challenges of Native Americans. " Building strong leadership skills in Native American youth is achieved through the Native Community Studios, a two and a half day workshop that teaches youth, tribal college students and media professionals skills they can take back to their communities and share" (Welcome to the Native Media Center!, 2007).

Upon interviewing the library media specialist at the Native Media Center it was found that the library contained over 2,500 volumes on Indian life and culture. The library's collection features an extensive Indian collection of fiction, nonfiction, reference, legal books, and documents, Indian newspapers and letters. There is a well-rounded collection of books, magazines, newspapers, cassettes, and videos that is continuously growing. They also have a bookmobile service and newsletter service, along with educational programs, and computers. The library has eight Apple microcomputers that are for public use, all with Internet access. The center also offers many cultural studies including classes on beadwork, pottery, corn husk doll making, leather work, silver, and feather work. Other services that they offer include community meeting rooms, senior citizen book delivery, and special services… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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