2013 January Newsletter

Fall 2012 was a time of completing projects and getting ready for new ones in the Mortenson Center.


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – Global Libraries (GL) project for public libraries in Latvia and Romania is in its final stage. Susan Schnuer has written the final report.  Small projects implemented in these libraries had larger impacts than anticipated, garnering public recognition for the public librarians in their communities and greater civil engagement.  These projects included the purchase of cameras for the public to use in documenting community events and issues, a teen room to draw teenage users into the library and training for librarians, who in turn trained others. Mortenson Center staff will meet with the Gates Foundation staff in January in Seattle to review the project.


Barbara Ford in ChinaThe IMLS China grant with the Library Society of China and the Chinese American Librarians Association was completed and the final report submitted to IMLS. The training that was done as part of the project was very well received and staff from the library continue to be engaged in activities in China.  Barbara Ford was invited to be the keynote speaker at the 5th Information Technology in Education conference, “Libraries as Community Education Centers,” sponsored by the Hangzhou Public Library and Evergreen education Foundation in Hangzhou, China in November.  She spoke about how libraries build inclusive knowledge societies by serving as community education centers.


The Mortenson Center participated in the Beyond Access Conference ( www.beyondaccess.net ) in Washington, D.C.  Susan was invited to work with other library organizations on a curriculum called “Development 101” to help community libraries partner with development organizations.  This led to an invitation to the Mortenson Center to participate in the Beyond Beyond Access LogoAccess conference in Washington, D.C. and to present a “Development 101” workshop.  20 countries were selected to participate in the conference and discussed how libraries power development. The conference provided a networking opportunity for foundations to connect with libraries for the funding of future projects.  Susan is continuing to work on the curriculum with other library organizations.


During the fall, Mortenson Center staff visited Russian public librarians in Kazan, Perm and Moscow.  We were also at the 90 th anniversary celebration of the Library of Foreign Literature which has been a long time partner of the Mortenson Center. It Library Group Kazanwas a successful visit and in July 2013, the Mortenson Center will host a group of Russian public librarians. The Center began its work in 1995 with programs for Russian libraries and we are pleased to again be working with Russian libraries. This program will focus on teen and young adult services. The new commissioner of the Chicago Public Library is interested in working with the Mortenson Center and the library will provide special programming for the visiting Russian librarians. Some of the Russians will also give a presentation at the American Library Association annual meeting.


There are a number of new projects at the Mortenson Center for 2013.

The Gates Foundation has provided support for the evaluation of the Mortenson Center’s past 10 years of programs, including their impact on the careers of the participants and wider library innovations to support library users set into motion by the experience at the Mortenson Center. The goal is to better understand what makes the Mortenson Center and its programs successful. Arabella, a consulting group, is set to visit the Center in January to begin their initial assessment.  We hope to finish the project with an evaluation model to use in the future for projects. Jen-chien Yu has agreed to help with the project.


The Gates Foundation will also fund a review of Mortenson Center promotional materials to be developed by Studio 2D. In order to compete on an international stage, the Center needs to maintain a public image, but has used the same logo and type of information materials for twenty years. Studio 2D will develop a new look and graphics package for promotions and informational materials. The Mortenson Center will provide the content. Printing costs are not included in the funded project.  Heather Murphy has been very helpful in moving this project forward.


Read Global homepage


A new project with READ Global ( http://readglobal.org/ ) is set to begin in February. Barbara and Susan will visit Nepal, India, and Bhutan for an in-country evaluation of staff needs in community libraries. READ Global helps communities in these countries to set up community libraries and businesses to fund these libraries. The Mortenson Center may bring in partners from Haiti to help design and implement a suitable training program. A group of librarians will most likely visit the Center in September 2013.


Susan is a member of the planning committee for the next Gates Foundation Peer Learning Meeting in South Africa in April. The 3-day meeting brings together teams from partner countries and the U.S. in order to compare different perspectives of shared challenges.


The Mortenson Center Summer Associate application process is now complete. Over thirty librarians from all over the world (Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Egypt, Ghana, India, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korea, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uganda) have submitted application materials. The challenge for a number of the applicants will be finding the funds to participate in the program. This year, the program will run from May 30 – June 25, 2013. The group of Russian public librarians mentioned above will then be at the Center from July 1-13, 2013.


Future projects being investigated include possible grants from the Open Society Institute for a library project in Turkmenistan. The Center is waiting on government approval for such a project. There is a possible library association project for training in Mauritius. Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan is interested in a 2014 training project.
We are always interested in new opportunities to work with international colleagues.  If you have any suggestions please contact bjford@illinois.edu or schnuer@illinois.edu .