21st Annual Mortenson Distinguished Lecture

Elizabeth Pierre-Louis

Library Program Coordinator, Fondation Connaissance et Liberté (FOKAL), Haiti

Pierre Louis Photo

Title: The “Invisible” Forces of Haiti — How Can Books and Cultural Help the Reconstruction Process
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Room 126
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Reception following lecture

Read the Lecture text here
A recording of the lecture is available for download here.

In Haiti the “invisible” are the deities of the voodoo religion, the forces among us that exist but we cannot see. Powerful, these forces guide the believers all their lives. Haiti had been at the head of headlines in 2010, for the devastating earthquake that touched, killed and displaced hundreds of thousands, the cholera epidemic, the hurricanes, and now the political turmoil with the general elections and the return of Baby Doc. Little is said of the vital forces of Haiti’s culture whether in literature, painting, sculpture but also all of the related institutions, libraries, museums, foundations and individuals that strive to maintain our creativity and humanity. This presentation will focus on this sector often neglected, “invisible” but ever so present in Haiti not in the aesthetic perspective but as a force of change.

 Elizabeth Pierre-Louis was born and raised in Haiti. She is a librarian and demographer. She studied Social Science, Population Science (Demography) at the University of Paris X-Nanterre, and obtained her PhD in Demography in July 2004. Ms. Pierre-Louis also obtained her MLIS at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2003, where she received the Jane B. and Robert B. Downs Professional Promise Award .

In 1997, Ms. Pierre-Louis began to work at the Fondation Connaissance et Liberté (FOKAL), a national Foundation of the Open Society Institute, financed by American philanthropist George Soros. That same year, she also became a library trainer, after having participated in a six month long training session at the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 2003, she became the Library Program Coordinator at FOKAL, with a focus on creating a network between the 35 community libraries supported financially and technically by the Foundation. These community libraries, though dedicated to public service, received no state funding.

From 2006 till 2009, Ms. Pierre-Louis was an Institutional Member of the Executive Council of the Association of Caribbean University, Research and Institution Libraries (ACURIL), and received the ACURIL President’s Award for her work in 2007. In 2008, she was awarded the Charles C. Steward International Young Humanitarian Award given by the Office of International Programs and Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 2009, she served as a consultant at the Ministry of Culture for a public reading program in Haiti. Currently, she continues to work as Program Coordinator at FOKAL.