March 20, 2023
In 2020, the Albany Public Library created a paid summer internship at two of the library’s branches that was available only to black graduates of the library school program at the State University of New York at Albany. While this summer’s library fellowship program is available to students and graduates from any American Library Association-accredited school, eligibility still turns on the color of the applicant’s skin.
The application contains a race-based litmus test – it explicitly limits the fellowship to “two Black recent Library and Information Science graduates.” Simply put, graduates who are white – or any race other than black, for that matter – will not be considered.
The paid internship is called the “Touhey Library Equity Fellowship,” and is named after its financial benefactor, the Carl E. Touhey Foundation, which has a history of sponsoring race-based projects in the name of “equity.”
In a letter to the Albany Public Library (and copied to the New York State Attorney General’s Office of Civil Rights), the Equal Protection Project slammed the Albany Public Library’s fellowship program for “appear[ing] to violate a variety of state and federal civil rights laws, as well state and federal constitutional prohibitions on race-based discrimination,” and demanded that the library cease and desist using skin color as the program’s litmus test for an applicant’s eligibility.
It has come to our attention that the Albany Public Library (“APL”) is currently accepting applications for its third annual Touhey Library Equity Fellowship (“TLEF”), a paid summer internship at two of the APL’s branches that is available only to non-white graduates of library school programs. As the TLEF is racially exclusionary – only black students and black recent graduates are eligible to apply to and participate in the program – we write to express our concern and call to your attention that this program appears to violate a variety of state and federal civil rights laws, as well state and federal constitutional prohibitions on race-based discrimination.
The internship is described on the APL’s website as being open only “to Black graduates of master of library and information science … or master of science in information systems … programs at American Library Association-accredited institutions who completed their degrees between 2020 and May 2023.” The website description further notes that “[t]he paid internship gives recent Black graduates of library school programs the opportunity to gain valuable practical skills and proficiency in many aspects of public librarianship.” And, critically, the application for the TLEF explicitly restricts participation in the fellowship “to two Black recent Library and Information Science graduates,” and unequivocally states that only “Black students or new professionals” are eligible to apply.1
The purpose of this letter is to put the APL on notice of the racially discriminatory nature of the TLEF. It violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for a recipient of federal money, such as the APL, to discriminate on the basis of race.2 See 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, et seq. Similarly, racial discrimination in the context of hiring and employment transgresses Title VII. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. Needless to say, the TLEF also defies the analogous statutory civil rights protections of the New York State and Albany City Human Rights Laws. See N.Y. Exec. L. § 296; Albany City Code, Art. III, § 48-26….
Because the blatant racial classification utilized by the APL is presumptively invalid, and since the APL cannot show any extraordinary government justification for engaging in such invidious discrimination, the TLEF appears to transgress state and federal civil rights statutes and constitutional equal protection guarantees.
We thank you for your attention to this letter, and we trust that you will cease and desist from continuing to conduct the TLEF based on racially discriminatory factors. We understand that the application period is still open. Please confirm to us in writing that the APL is opening the TLEF program to all otherwise eligible applicants without regard to race, and identify the steps that the APL is taking to remedy the current application, evaluation and award process.
Equal Protection Project has sent two letters to APL regarding the discriminatory program and has not yet received a response. EPP is also the Complainant in a related matter regarding the promotion of TLEF by University at Albany; that complaint is under evaluation by the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights.