SLIS’s Project Recovery has worked tirelessly for more than two years to allow 30 MLIS students to receive invaluable hands-on experience, while assisting with the ongoing recovery efforts from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Funded in June 2009, Project Recovery was made possible by a $763,901 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, or IMLS, as part of the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program. Project Recovery recruited, educated and enabled its students to work in academic, public and private school libraries in those communities in southern Louisiana continuing to experience staff shortages as a result of the hurricanes and flooding in 2005. Following the recruitment and selection phase, its advocacy training phase began in 2011. According to Project Recovery Program Director Dr. Alma Dawson, following the hurricanes many library and school systems lost a great deal of staff due to re-locations and retirements. Project Recovery partnered with Algiers Recovery School District, Calcasieu Parish Public Library System, Jefferson Parish Public School System, New Orleans Public Library, New Orleans Recovery School District, Southern University at New Orleans, State Library of Louisiana and Terrebonne Parish Public Library System to place the 30 master’s students in these libraries and fill the empty positions.
“Cameron Parish is still rebuilding and recovering from the devastation,” said August 2011 MLIS graduate Melony LeMay. “When the hurricanes were about to hit the Gulf Coast, files were hurriedly gathered and placed in boxes and evacuated. These files were stored but had never been organized. The information the boxes contained was needed to complete the FEMA reimbursement process and locate historical information. I helped sort, weed, label and organize these files and records into new folders and plastic boxes for library archiving purposes. I found some unexpected treasures such as writings of school children and vintage photographs of Cameron Parish.”
“It was enlightening to see firsthand how Cameron Parish is rebuilding their public libraries,” LeMay added. “Four out of six of the Cameron Parish Libraries were damaged or completely destroyed. I believe that my Project Recovery work was helpful in the hurricane recovery efforts in Cameron Parish. It was rewarding to do something so important and worthwhile.”
In exchange for 10 hours of work per week, and an agreement to work in a partner library for at least two years following graduation, each Project Recovery student was awarded full-paid tuition and fees, paid memberships to the Louisiana Library Association and American Library Association, a $12,000 stipend for full-time students and a $1,200 stipend for part-time students.
“When I entered the MLIS program, I had no formal experience in libraries,” said August 2012 MLIS graduate Adrienne Johnson. “As a full time Project Recovery scholar, however, I was given the opportunity to spend 10 hours a week working on special service projects with the grant’s partner libraries. These service projects afforded me a great deal of experience, which would have otherwise been difficult to come by. My experiences supplemented my formal education in immeasurable ways and instilled in me the skills and experience necessary to become a confident and competent librarian.”
“Thanks to the two years I spent volunteering with the New Orleans Public Library, I was hired as a librarian at the brand-new Algiers Regional branch two months before I actually completed my MLIS program and obtained my degree. Without all the opportunities that Project Recovery and its partner libraries provided me, I would never have been able to achieve this,” said Johnson.
“I feel extremely fortunate to have been a part of the Project Recovery Program. The combination of academic and real world experience provided me a strong foundation of skills and knowledge that made the transition between graduate school and the library profession smooth and easy,” Johnson said.
Project Recovery is in its final phase, which includes a follow-up meeting of scholars and report, and will wrap up by late 2013.
For more information about Project Recovery, visit http://slis.lsu.edu/projectrecovery/.