Cairo, Egypt was the location for an exciting workshop bringing together the talents of SILS alumni, faculty and students. “The Global Library Leadership Workshop” that took place late spring 2013, drew participants from all around the Middle East and North Africa. More than 40 middle and senior level managers, librarians and information professionals from libraries and information centers located in Iraq, Saudia Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Libya participated in the workshop that focused on developing skills in team building, collaboration and communication. One of the primary goals of the workshop was to help participants learn to think about leadership and management in new ways.
The workshop was supported by the Educating Librarians in the Middle East (ELIME-21) program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science, the American University in Cairo (AUC) Library and the Information Resource Center at the U.S. Embassy, Cairo, Egypt. ELIME-21 is a grant sponsored by the Institute of Museum and Library Services that “provides on-site and distance learning opportunities for students, helps to prepare future U.S. library educators who are knowledgeable about the Middle East and promotes collaboration among libraries in areas such as collection development and cataloging of Arabic-language resources.”
Led by SILS alumna H. Lea Wells (MSLS ‘78) and Jordan Scepanski of Jordan Wells Associates, and organized by ELIME-21 fellow and SILS doctoral student, Amanda Click, the workshop provided keynote presentations, breakout sessions, a panel, tours and social events.
Wells and Scepanski led workshop sessions on topics including succession planning, staff training, future library leadership, fostering collaboration and measuring performance.
“The workshop was an exciting and wonderful opportunity to bring together our students, alumni and friends at the American University in Cairo,” said Dr. Barbara B. Moran, ELIME-21 principal investigator and Louis Round Wilson Distinguished Professor at SILS. “All of the workshop participants were eager to learn and enthusiastic about the content presented. We came away energized and committed to continuing and even expanding our international endeavors at SILS.”
Dr. Moran gave a keynote address titled, “The Evolution of Libraries: From Clay Tablets and Cuneiform to Google, Gigabytes, Globalization and Beyond.” Dr. Aziza Ellozy, director of the Center for Learning and Teaching, AUC, also delivered a keynote presentation titled, “Wisdom of Crowds: Building Partnerships for Educational Support in the Digital Age.”
Click spent the 2012 fall semester at AUC as an intern and one of her responsibilities was to plan and prepare for the workshop. She met with people who enabled her to work on a partnership with the Information Resource Center at the U.S. Embassy, which is run by SILS alumna Catherine Marsicek (MSLS ‘99). She also worked on developing a topic and needs assessment for the workshop. She quickly found that the field of library and information science is not as highly regarded in Egypt as is medicine or technology for example, and she became determined to inspire passion about what is happening and exciting in the field. She said her goal was to create change agents! Her ambition to inspire seems to have been met during the workshop when participants came together on projects.
“I’ve never seen a more animated group of people as the workshop participants,” said Click. “They worked mostly in small groups, which required them to work with strangers–we were hoping to create new collaborative opportunities. Everyone came to the workshop with a specific project to develop during these two days. There was such a high level of energy, every table was buzzing!”
The participants were excited to work together to develop action plans to take back to their home institutions.
Click and ELIME-21 fellows and doctoral students John Martin and Jacob Hill, and graduate student Amanda MacDonald, arrived in Cairo prior to the workshop to complete internships and help prepare for the event. MacDonald, a recipient of the Baker & Taylor scholarship to Cairo, became familiar with the Reference area of AUC’s Rare Books and Special Collections Library (RBSCL). During her time in Cairo, MacDonald helped revise and re-write guidelines for reference services in the RBSCL, and planned and led a retreat for staff training that focused on improving customer service and developing a library instruction program.
“I had never been abroad, and I was initially a little overwhelmed,” said MacDonald. “It was great once I began working and interacting with the staff at AUC. Everyone there spoke English, and John Martin, who speaks Arabic, helped to translate when needed. I met amazing people, and I left the staff with what I believe is helpful, useful and adaptable documentation.”
Martin served as an intern through the ELIME-21 program in the Rare Books and Special Collections Library for six weeks. He created the front end of their Web site and provided staff training on how to use the Web site as a marketing tool. He also trained staff at AUC to understand how to use Word Press and get more comfortable with it as a method to generate content for the site.
With a Master’s degree in Islamic Studies from the American University in Cairo, and experience working in the information technology services area of the Egyptian Antiquities Museum and the American Research Center in Egypt, Martin had better than average knowledge about Cairo and the AUC.
“Our educational model for librarians and information specialists works well in the United States,” said Martin. “The profession isn’t as valued in some parts of the world and putting a model inside an institution to have professors teach in-house has great benefit. It was good to see the strengths from both inside and outside.”
He was also pleased to work with people he already knew to establish professional and personal relationships. In addition to Click, Martin, Hill and MacDonald, alumnus Josiah Drewry (MSLS 07), User Experience Librarian in the AUC main library was on-hand as well as alumnus Philip Croom (MSLS 90), associate dean of the Rare Books and Special Collections Library and Archives, at AUC.
“The strength of the ELIME-21 program is the strong relations being developed with other countries in the Middle East,” said Martin. “I’m happy to be part of the program and I look forward to moving forward to work with other SILS alumni in other countries.”
Those in Cairo who supported and others who benefitted from the workshop and student internships were pleased with the group and the results of their work.
“Working with the team from UNC was great – and, beyond, the workshop,” said Catherine Marsicek, information resource officer, Public Affairs Section at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. “They also participated in talks and seminars at both the U.S. Embassy and the Central Library at Cairo University on library trends in the U.S.”
“Both the workshop and internships with ELIME participants were excellent opportunities for our staff here at the AUC Rare Books and Special Collections Library to work closely with library professionals trained in the most effective techniques for maximizing the effectiveness of libraries,” said Croom. “Libraries in the region have traditionally most often been closed repositories to which access is usually restricted to a privileged few by staff whose first priority is protecting their information treasures. Facilitating access to those resources in a way that educates and inspires is also an important mission, however, and one desperately needed at this promising but shaky time of “Arab springs.” The activities conducted by the UNC-SILS team made this very clear and certainly encouraged our local participants to think in this direction.”