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Magazines > Information Today > December 2012

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Information Today

Vol. 29 No. 11 — December 2012

FEATURE
Good Will Funding
by Barbara Brynko

Using technology in a public library to promote literacy may sound like a pretty basic service, but to 11-year-old Lucy, it’s much more than that.

Lucy is a familiar face at the Ngwerere Lubuto Library, one of two indigenously designed libraries that are part of the Lubuto Library Project, an ongoing international development initiative launched in 2005 in Zambia dedicated to serving its most vulnerable children. Lubuto, a Zambian word for “light” or “enlightenment,” provides a ray of hope for many underserved children.

Lucy’s life hasn’t been easy; she lost her mother, school was hard, reading was a challenge, and she was quickly falling behind in her studies. At her young age, Lucy knew that reading was essential, even in mathematics. So as the library in Ngwerere was being built, she counted the days until it was finished and was one of the first to cross the threshold into a world of books. Not only have her reading skills improved, but she’s also found a place to study and participate in LubutoArts, LubutoDrama, LubutoMentoring, and LubutoStorytime, all initiatives created by Jane Kinney Meyers, founder and president of the Lubuto Library Project.

The Lubuto Library Project is just one of the many thriving initiatives that the information industry has created over the years. Call them what you will, whether they fall under the category of international development, corporate responsibility, or corporate philanthropy, these programs come in all sizes to fit needs large and small. They don’t depend on seasonal good will; they are alive 24/7/365 and serve everyone from students such as Lucy in Zambia to library patrons in rural America and many more in between.

The Lubuto Library Project was one of 32 recent winners of an All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development grant. The 2-year grant, which is a collaborative effort of USAID, World Vision, and the Australian Agency for International Development, will be used to fund LubutoLiteracy. Meyers considers the World Vision-funded grant to be an affirmation of the work Lubuto is doing in Zambia.

“The education stakeholders in Zambia are very enthusiastic about our All Children’s Reading award from USAID and $300,000 in funding for our winning project from World Vision,” says Meyers. “But to be honest, Zambian leaders are much more enthusiastic about our work to preserve their lost literature (www.lubutocollections.org)” and the new partnership with the Zambia Library Service to create programs designed to meet society’s needs.

It’s been a challenging journey for Meyers and her team, but it’s one that continues to build on the past. Establishing a digital infrastructure in the Lusaka libraries was critical to creating sustainable programs in Zambia. And the One Laptop Per Child program came to the rescue in 2009, laying the groundwork for LubutoLiteracy. This pioneering program teaches children to read materials in Zambia’s seven major mother tongues on a sustainable and low-cost platform. Local teachers and youth were the ones who helped develop the interactive materials for 700 reading lessons in Zambia’s languages in keeping with the national curriculum. In turn, library staff members were ready to provide access and support for the interactive, computer-based lessons.

Meyers enlisted the help of volunteers from Special Libraries Association chapters in the Washington, D.C.-area to add sound files to complete each of the 700 lessons. Other colleagues stepped in to help develop the LubutoCollections.org website to distribute these lessons.

For Meyers and her worldwide team, their hard work is paying off while opening the door to even bigger changes. The All Children Reading grant gives Lubuto a chance “to improve and extend the LubutoLiteracy literacy program throughout the country and provide an effective model for other countries and regions,” says Meyers, who is making a difference one step at a time.

Gale, Part of Cengage Learning

On the homefront, Gale, part of Cengage Learning, works on myriad levels for libraries, from mobile apps (AccessMyLibrary for iOS and Android devices) to broader brushstrokes that reach out to the community at large (National Library Legislative Day and GaleProMo, which enables librarians to create their own promotional materials). In a crisis, Gale is there with resources and funding; the company has already donated $50,000 to the American Red Cross after Hurricane Sandy.

And given Gale’s vast global reach, each office is in charge of managing its own efforts, customized to the needs of its own region, whether in the Middle East, Asia, Australia, or the U.S. and Canada, the latter of which is Nader Qaimari’s domain. As senior vice president of marketing, Qaimari keeps his eyes on the domestic (and Canadian) library landscape and makes sure the voices of librarians are heard from the rural farmlands to the steps of the capitals.

Take the Small Library Support program, for example. Not long ago, many rural areas didn’t have internet connectivity, so having access to the libraries’ digital resources just wasn’t an issue, says Qaimari. But now, since people have DSL and cable at home, they are looking for access to these resources via their local libraries.

“We originally were looking at Gale customers on the print side,” says Qaimari. “Given that these libraries were in rural areas, patrons can’t come in to the libraries all the time.” So, Gale made the process easier by slicing its prices so small libraries could provide extensive digital access to many of the same resources as larger libraries. Qaimari says Gale partnered with The Association for Rural & Small Libraries to sponsor its conference and extend Gale’s reach to help these small libraries serve their patrons on the public library side.

“These are the people who need it the most,” says Qaimari. “The uptick was actually greater than we anticipated.” Many of these libraries are extremely innovative, but they just don’t have the resources or capabilities that larger libraries have. At a smaller facility, one person can wear many hats, as the director, the reference librarian, and the circulation librarian. The rural libraries welcomed the opportunity to get a wealth of resources at prices they could afford.

The Librareo program was another hit for Gale. Students attending library and information sciences (LIS) programs can access a free web-based community that supports future librarians and librarianship. It gives students free access to the resources they will be using as librarians and the ability to tap into a network of library thought leaders and LIS faculty.

As part of its underlying mission, Gale wants people to think “advocacy” when they think of Gale. “It’s a very important component of our brand,” says Qaimari. “We test our brand against EBSCO and ProQuest every year. We ask librarians what comes to their minds first when they think of Gale. Advocacy is always No. 1 with Gale, and we always want to maintain that.”

Qaimari likes to point out that without libraries and librarians, Gale could never exist. With that mantra in mind, he ensures that new programs are developed every year to help libraries and librarians continue to prosper, no matter what the economy or the latest budget trimming. Advocacy is important, but so is being a thought leader in the industry.

For example, what difference does a library make in a person’s life? That’s the question that drives Qaimari in his quest for new initiatives. “I can tell you about circulation, how many times patrons visit, usage statistics, but those are just outputs,” he says. He looked for the bigger picture and realized that librarians hold the keys to their own futures. There’s a special value in teaching libraries how to tell their stories about their impact on others. A library can share these stories and the value it brings to the community with sponsors, funders, and legislators who don’t understand the full gamut of the resources that libraries provide.

Educating lawmakers is a critical part of the equation, says Qaimari. “Many people view libraries as just stacks of books or a place where you can go to entertain yourself with leisure activities or join a book club,” he says. But libraries also hold resources for finding jobs, securing scholarships, or rallying small business support. “Even continuing education is often overlooked or unbeknownst to most legislators,” he says. And this circles back to the value of libraries knowing how to tell their stories; in their own voice, they can tell legislators about the impact these resources have had on the local economy and in their own community.

“But honestly, the program we get the most thanks for is the bus program,” says Qaimari, which certainly isn’t the one that gets the most promotion. For librarians making the trek between their hotels and convention centers at an ALA or SLA conference, Gale provides free shuttle buses for attendees, and it’s a program that Gale intends to keep. After all, it was Gale founder Frederick Gale Ruffner’s wife, Mary, who first noticed conference-goers walking from the local Detroit hotels to the convention center and said it would be nice if there were shuttle buses available. Ruffner took note of his wife’s suggestion, and the rest is history.

“Obviously, we believe in libraries, we believe in librarians, and we recognize that they hardly have enough time to do their jobs let alone advocate for themselves,” says Qaimari. “We have the capabilities and the resources, so it would be irresponsible for us not to do so.”

Elsevier

When it comes to philanthropy and matters of corporate responsibility, David Ruth, senior vice president of global communications for Elsevier and executive director of the Elsevier Foundation, says the company does a fair amount of work for causes in the U.S., but by the nature of the business, its reach extends around the globe, especially in developing nations.

“Research4Life continues to be important,” says Ruth. “We’ve added a lot of content, including 7,000 books. It keeps growing.” Elsevier is one of the founders and the largest publishing partner for Research4Life, a collection of four public-private partnerships that provide critical scientific research: HINARI (health and clinical information), AGORA (food and agricultural development), OARE (environmental issues), and ARDI (science and technology). Research4Life’s mission is to attain six of the United Nations’ eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015, ultimately lessening the gap between the developed and developing worlds. Research4Life brings the contents of more than 10,000 peer-reviewed scientific journals and about 18,000 books to researchers in 109 countries in providing free or low-cost access to more than 8,100 scientific journals, books, and databases. “Clearly, this has become a main source of research for these countries,” he says. Incoming content is the big story here, which “makes it more of a go-to place.”

Likewise, Elsevier funds Librarians Without Borders, an organization that trains people in STM research best practices. Although the infrastructure is improving in many developing countries, mobile often bypasses many other traditional modes of communication that rely on electric power, which can offer big advantages for researchers, says Ruth.

Ruth says the Elsevier Foundation receives RFPs through the Innovative Libraries in Developing Countries program for the “strongest and most compelling” incoming projects. One initiative with the Royal Tropical Institute adds an element of training to the mix. This collaboration is a pilot project in eight African countries that promotes evidence-based healthcare in treating tropical health issues. “We’re teaching physicians, nurses, and other health professionals about evidence-based healthcare,” says Ruth, “how they access information, evaluate it, accept it, retrieve it, and then implement it for public health.”

Philanthropic Players

You can’t put a price on supporting a good cause that provides hope and supplies to those who need it the most. Check out these organizations with enterprising programs that keep on giving.

Better World Books (BWB) focuses on three P’s: people, planet, and profit. This for-profit bookseller focuses on social change and makes it a practice of giving back 6%–8% of its revenues to libraries and literacy initiatives, says John Ujda, vice president of marketing.

People can purchase or donate books on the BWB website, a process that helps the four nonprofit literacy programs that BWB supports: Books for Africa, Worldfund, The National Center for Family Literacy, and Room to Read.

So far, BWB has raised more than $13 million for libraries and literacy and has donated 6.5 million books, according to Ujda.

The Computers With Causes (CWC) director, Vincent Everett, saw too many computers that could have been put to good use being destroyed. That’s exactly how CWC was started. “[W]e work on being a good steward of those things we are given and pass them on in a responsible manner,” says Everett.

CWC wipes residual data from equipment and devices before it finds them new homes. Donations can stay in local communities (upon donor request); some hardware is also given to U.S. soldiers returning from duty.

CWC sends equipment to U.S. schools, shelters, foster homes, community centers, or anywhere in the world via CWC’s Global Education Computer Assistance Program. The largest portion of equipment shipped overseas is sent to U.S. troops serving in Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan, so they can set up workstations for children in the villages where the soldiers are deployed. CWC is part of Works of Life International Ministries, Inc.

- Susan Brudno and Barbara Brynko

Two other recent projects involve preserving historical information that would otherwise be lost. One in South Africa, in conjunction with the University of Cape Town Library, is developing a primary source archival library covering the HIV/AIDS crisis. The documentary video collection tackles the crisis from social and political angles, capturing 3,000 hours of video footage since 1998, which will be curated and archived to preserve video accounts of the African AIDS experience.

Another preservation initiative deals with the Marshall Islands’ Nuclear Claims Tribunal, documenting records about the massive nuclear testing in the late 1940s and 1950s. The most powerful detonation was equivalent to 1,000 Hiroshima bombs, says Ruth, who points to the unique value that such data holds for the research community. At the close of 2003, the tribunal had awarded $83 million in compensation for personal injuries as a result of the nuclear testing and more than $1 billion in property damage. “This collection of records on nuclear testing is deteriorating, and outside of the lawyers who had access to it, it had never been used by researchers,” he says. Such depth of resources and documentation could easily be lost without a commitment to preservation and archiving.

“Think about what documentation has been lost over the centuries,” says Ruth. “With digitization, you’ve got a great opportunity to make sure that these records not only don’t disappear, but we can preserve these documents for future generations.”

OCLC

OCLC stands firm in its collective mission as “a nonprofit, membership, computer library service and research organization dedicated to the public purposes of furthering access to the world’s information and reducing information costs.” Today, 72,000-plus libraries in 170 countries and territories worldwide use OCLC services “to locate, acquire, catalog, lend and preserve library materials.”

Both the organization and its staffers practice what they preach. Just ask George Needham, OCLC vice president of global and regional councils. He can rattle off a sizable list of short-term (disaster recovery after hurricanes and tornados) or long-term (fellowships, scholarships, research, and training) initiatives.

“We’re rarely the lone ranger going in by ourselves to fix something,” says Needham. “We usually work with a partner in the area where there’s a problem and work with them to alleviate the condition.” A case in point is OCLC’s partnership with Lyrasis in helping libraries in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. And then, there are OCLC’s signature initiatives, including working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to inventory and determine the owners of about 20,000 rare books that were stolen from libraries in Europe and the U.S. OCLC also assisted the Bosnian National and University Library in creating a virtual collection in 1992 after both facilities were destroyed during civil unrest.

Needham gives a nod to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for its help in the Hurricane Katrina relief and calls the working relationship a “good example of OCLC’s collaborative spirit that continues to work with other organizations.” In the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction, he’s sure OCLC will be working with libraries to help them recover inventories of their original collections. And if libraries have kept their records up-to-date in WorldCat, he says OCLC can print an itemized list of their collections for insurance purposes, even if their own records were destroyed.

“We do what we can do to make libraries stronger and better,” says Needham, adding that OCLC lives or dies on the strength of libraries. Such advocacy, he says, not only helps the individual libraries but the communities that those libraries serve as well. He sees the sense of teamwork as strengthening librarianship as a whole. A few years ago, OCLC volunteered to maintain a global library statistics website to create a go-to site for facts and figures about libraries. Needham recalls that there wasn’t any central place with the basic details about libraries, whether it was the total number of libraries, geographic distribution, or comparative percentages about public or academic libraries. “We decided to gather all the statistics in one place,” he says.

And then, there’s career development. OCLC has an impressive portfolio of annual awards and scholarships, including the Frederick G. Kilgour Award for Research in Library and Information Technology (aka the LITA/OCLC Kilgour Award), the LITA/OCLC Minority Scholarship, the American Library Association’s Melvil Dewey Medal, and the Jay Jordan IFLA/OCLC Early Career Development Fellowship Program Initiatives, the latter of which is his personal favorite.

“For the fellowship program, we bring in five or six librarians from developing economies, introduce them to library cooperation and low-impact technology that they can use, introduce them to the Library of Congress and other associations, and visit libraries in central Ohio and the D.C. area,” says Needham, “and we’ve turned out some amazing graduates.” At least a dozen people who have finished the program have gone on to get their Ph.D.s and help build library infrastructures in their respective countries. One fellow is now president of the Indonesian Library Association, and another made sure the records of the Rwandan genocide weren’t lost.

For another fellow from Sri Lanka who returned home just days before the tsunami of 2004, OCLC and the employees came to her rescue. “Both the organization and the folks who worked here were touched by Niana,” says Needham, who admits that OCLC went “whole hog” on support initiatives, collecting money and school supplies and working with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to make sure the supplies ended up where they were needed.

“I think it’s just part of our DNA as an organization to be collaborative and cooperative,” says Needham. “It’s hard to work here and not be proud of the organization and the profession. There’s that special sense in the community that we all do better if we’re all OK.”


Barbara Brynko is Editor-in-Chief of Information Today. Send your comments about this article to itletters@infotoday.com.
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