Gates Foundation to support librarian training

Gates Foundation to support librarian training

URBANA – The Gates Foundation will help the University of Illinois train librarians from around the world.

The two-year, $484,000 contract with  the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will support a training program for public librarians in other countries.

The Mortenson Center has already worked with librarians from more than 80 countries, and the money will expand that work to two more nations selected by the foundation, said Barbara Ford, director of the Mortenson Center.

The Global Libraries initiative works with countries that demonstrate a need and a readiness to help public libraries provide free access to computers and the Internet, and training on how to make use of these tools.

For the current project, the foundation is looking at Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Chile, Mexico and Botswana.

"This (contract) is for working with public libraries, which often don't have the high level of support as in our country. We will help them move into the digital age," Ford said.

Susan Schnuer, the associate director of the Mortenson Center, said the program will bring foreign librarians to this country first.

Training includes a three-week program in the United States, then a one-week visit to another country with exemplary libraries.

Then UI librarians travel to the assigned country, often working through interpreters.

The libraries are sometimes well-equipped, but staff members are not always fully trained in making the best use of the facilities, Ford and Schnuer said. The trainers work to help library officials learn how to implement new techniques, including use of the Internet.

In other countries, the infrastructure itself is lacking.

"In Nigeria, one library used five cows and their manure to generate power for a room," Schnuer said. "People are very creative."

The Mortenson Center for International Library Programs is the only one of its kind in the world and was established in 1991. It is a nondegree program that seeks to strengthen international ties among libraries and librarians, regardless of geographic location or access to technology.

For more information, visit online mortenson.

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