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Mortenson Center Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes

Monday, April 2, 2007, 9:00 a.m.

Present:  Barbara J. Ford (chair), Atoma Batoma, Yoo-Seong Song, Rae-Anne Montague, John Santas, Susan Schnuer, Rajwant Chilana, Dawn Cassady

Absent:  Melody Allison, Jacques Fuqua and Janice Pilch

The meeting began with committee members and staff introducing themselves. Barbara thanked everyone for attending and welcomed ideas and suggestions from everyone.

Barbara gave an update as to who we have as visitors at this time, which includes an international visitor from Japan. He came last fall and is here for a year. We also had a South African visitor last week, but she has returned home. Barbara also gave an update as to what goes on at the Center this time of year. She explained that spring is the time when we work on our grants, go out into the field to do various projects, and get ready for the fall, which is usually our time of the most visitors.

Alex Byrne, President of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), from Australia was our speaker last fall. The Mortenson sons and their wives visited during that week as well. It was a festive and successful week. Alex Byrne went on to give the same lecture at University of Toronto. We are still finalizing our speaker for the fall 2007.

Barbara reminded staff and committee members that we welcome ideas and suggestions for future lecturers.

With these grants we are working with university libraries in Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana and Tanzania. Some of the libraries are using outdated systems and most do not have anything other than a card file system. With this grant we are working with them to get them up and running as fully automated libraries. We have been working with them for the past two years, entering into our third year. The largest problem has been finding vendors willing to work with the libraries under our guidelines: the system couldn’t cost more than $110,000 for five years, the vendor had to provide someone in country for support, the vendor had to do the training in country, and they also had to work with the libraries to find hardware. Three vendors proved willing to pursue this project, but VTLS was chosen. VTLS required that five universities commit in order to move forward. As of December 2007, five universities signed up. A contract was signed and VTLS began training. In March libraries purchased the system and are working on acquiring the hardware to move forward. Our role at this point is to monitor the training. VTLS is doing some training, but not all. Barbara and/or Susan visit Africa about every six months to work with the libraries and to train them. Success is on the horizon. We are going to request funding for an additional year or two to make sure the libraries get through the first three years of automation and then they should be fine on their own.

Rajwant raised the question of, “How many universities are signed up now?”

There are a total of five universities signed up in Nigeria and we are waiting to hear from one in Ghana.

John asked, “What costs/expenses do the foundation grants cover?”

The Mortenson Center grants cover all expenses including travel expenses, training activities, and bringing librarians to the. Money is transferred from the foundations to the African universities under additional grants, and the money spent is closely monitored by the foundations. John also asked if we were able to stay in contact with the universities due to their electricity problems. Susan and Barbara both agreed that sometimes it is a challenge, but yes, we are able to stay in contact via e-mail.

Rajwant’s question regarding who negotiates for the universities was answered by Susan. Susan explained that we negotiated on their behalf when looking for a vendor. Once a vendor was selected the contracts were then signed individually by each university, yet the universities work together.

Grant money will be available at least for a year, maybe more.

Barbara explained this grant provides funding to do a series of leadership institutes. So far, there have been two in Illinois, one in Arizona, and another is to be held in Nebraska in October 2007.

We held one in Allerton last fall and it was a success. Rae-Anne asked how long the grant lasts. The three-year grant ends in the fall, but we will be asking for a one-year extension in order to take our Associates to Nebraska in the fall.

Hilda Kriel, assistant director at University of Pretoria in South Africa, visited late in March. She was writing a proposal in hopes of getting Mortenson Center to do a leadership institute to be included with the celebration of University of Pretoria’s 100-year anniversary.

This grant enables Vietnamese librarians, mainly brand-new librarians, to come to Simmons College for academic training and to Mortenson Center to gain a variety of hands-on experience. The first group of 15 librarians was here last June and July. The second group of 15 was here during from January through early March. The librarians go to Simmons College and take classes for a semester and then come here for eight weeks to get practical, hands-on experiences. While here, they attended seminars, went on tours, participated in job shadowing, were instructed on library management topics, attended ALA Midwinter in Seattle, WA, and they spent a week at Illinois State Library doing a digitization institute. The group also visited Chicago Public Library and American Library Association. They were exposed to a variety of experiences showing how American libraries work, which are quite different from Vietnamese libraries. They were most impressed with the service ethic of American libraries. This project has greatly transformed Vietnamese libraries.

Someone asked if we will be getting more groups from Vietnam on this grant. Barbara responded that the program is over unless Simmons College acquires another grant and they include us.

This is an ongoing partnership where we take groups to visit OCLC, and in return, they have a group (the Fellows) that comes to the Mortenson Center annually. In early May there will be an OCLC/IFLA group here for two days. The group will consist of people from Ghana, Philippines, Jamaica, Brazil, and Serbia. While they are here they will be going to GSLIS and to tour Amish country. We will have another group, organized by the State Department, coming in June. This group will be coming from many different countries and staying in the U.S. for two weeks. They will visit four different locations in the U.S., ending up at the American Library Association annual conference. They will be staying with families in Paris, Illinois.

The International Engagement, Communications and Protocol office of the University of Illinois brings ambassadors and consuls general to the U.S. to raise the profile of the university. They first stop in Springfield to speak. They then come here to establish contacts for their universities back home, where they might want to place some of their students. Barbara and Susan have been meeting with them to promote our programs.

This is the time of year when we get applications for the Fall Associates Program. At this point we know we have someone coming from Korea for one whole year, and a woman from Nigeria who will be here for three months. After the program ends in early November, she will be working with Archives until the middle of December. We have received applications from Pakistan and Iraq. We have agreements with organizations in and are expecting applications from Colombia and Japan. We may have some from Russia and possibly Mexico and Latin America, if the IMLS extension comes through. One of the challenges with our program is increasing costs for hotels and transportation. We like to go to Chicago and do a lot of library visits, but transportation is becoming increasingly difficult to find. The strength of this program is getting the Associates to see a lot of different things and in doing so establish a network of contacts for them. A particular concern this year is transporting the group to Nebraska for the leadership institute.

The IFLA conference is going to be held in South Africa, August 18-27, 2007. We will do a poster session there, and Barbara and Susan will give a paper at a preconference.

We are starting a new project called MC Select. This project was started due to a huge demand for a resource compiling free electronic resources for libraries. We are developing webpages containing free resources, not only from the U.S., but from around the world as well, to meet this demand. Jo Kibbee is gathering the information for the site. Nothing like it seems to be available elsewhere on the Web. Rae-Anne suggested the site could be maintained by a GA or a group of students.

Rae-Anne brought up for discussion the fact that students are looking to do more practicums in the international setting and also study abroad with more emphasis on the library. Susan suggested talking with the University of Pretoria in South Africa. She explained that in her travels she will refer universities with teaching libraries to Rae-Anne at GSLIS.

For those African libraries we work with that already have a library management system, focus has been on digitization. Having us there to articulate and be the voice between the vendor and the libraries, making sure that everything is understood, has been a key issue in getting everything to work.

Next year, in 2008, the IFLA conference will be held in Quebec. Students might be interested in doing a poster session there.

Barbara thanked everyone for coming and giving their support. She reminded the committee that the Center always welcomes new ideas.


The meeting adjourned at 10:45 a.m.

(Prepared by Susie Durflinger)