The Librarians Without Borders Open Forum, moderated by Holly Zerbe and (I believe) Daniel Dollar.  The session provided updates on the group’s activities and included a panel of speakers with international experience.

I got in a couple minutes late from the EBSCO Lunch & Learn, and so I may have missed a little of the update portion, but feel free to comment with anything I left out or misunderstood!


  • HINARI projects update: MLA Librarians Without Borders have been working on their Continuing Education course, and it will/might be posted online soon?  For more information about their current projects, check out the MLA Librarians Without Borders website.  Also, if you haven’t heard of the great work being done to support access to information in developing countries, check out the WHO’s HINARI website.
  • Librarians Without Borders Grant background and update: this is a $5,000 per year for 3 years grant that supports health sciences librarianship in HINARI-eligible countries.  A representative of the funder, FlySheet Med-Informatics Co., Ltd., was in attendance at the forum, which was very nice.  The grant itself is very competitive and was awarded this year to Agnes Chikonzo from University of Zimbabwe to support health literacy training.  In an update on last year winner, Grace Ajuwon used the money she received to buy computers and medical textbooks to replace 10-20 year old books.  Amazing and heartwarming pictures were shared of Grace and her work.  We were also read a note from Grace: “can’t imagine the joy & excitement.”  Students, librarians, everyone involved were excited and the materials were being used as soon as they arrived.

Panel Presenters:

Melanie Lackey – Chapel Hill (public health)

  • Julia Royall, National Library of Medicine, Chief of International Programs:

Julia started off by quoting Senator Lister Hill: “We must develop a communications system so that the miraculous triumphs of modern science can be taken from the laboratory and transmitted to all in need.”  She then talked a bit about NLM’s commitment to the idea of a two-way street: it’s an institution that not only provides information, but one that receives it, from all its users.  NLM also holds to a paradigm of collegial development, working with people rather doing things “to” or “for” them.  These guiding principles are how NLM is approaching its international (and specifically African) relationships.  But in order for NLM to make a difference, Julia emphasized that a lot of links need to be in place, from health workers to whole communities and their leaders.  It isn’t a simple partnership with individual libraries.  NLM specifically works with three main groups to create these links in Africa: medical librarians, journal editors, and malarial researchers.  The programs might be modest, but they have had amazing impacts.  She showed a picture of a group setting up an Internet receiver, and emphasized that the work is/was physical, and not just economic or resource-focused.  She also stated that the work being done is more around trying to save the lives of sick children by improving care and offering the solutions that fit, and implied that right now it’s not about making sure children are always healthy, rather, it’s about helping those who are sick get better.

She pointed out the website for the Network of African Medical Librarians and Deans and discussed the development of a medical literacy course that was the result of collaboration between NLM and African (I didn’t catch which country, if there was a particular one) medical faculty that uses artwork by local artists and that has been translated into local languages and provided in many different types of media for increased access.  Finally, she mentioned the MedlinePlus African tutorials and mentioned the impact they’ve had and ended by sharing the with us a picture of medical librarian Regina Shakakata, who passed away, but who had championed access to information and who continues to provide inspiration.

  • Anne Seymour, University of Pennsylvania Biomedical Library, Associate Director for Information Services:

Anne talked about her library’s involvement in projects with Botswana.  She first addressed how/why UPenn got involved specifically with Botswana: global engagement is part of UPenn’s compact, and there was a key relationship with Botswana in place, which has also been facing a huge health crisis: the country is about the size of Texas, but only has 1/10 of the population.  And 1/3 of the population has HIV/AIDS.  The timing of the relationship also coincided with the formation of the first medical school in Botswana.  The time-line started in 2001, when UPenn physicians were invited to Botswana to promote an AIDS intervention funded by the Botswana governement, the Gates Foundation, and Merck.  Since then the partnership has grown.  In 2004 an official memorandum of understanding was signed, and PEPFAR funding came into play.  The library got involved in 2008 when the University of Botswana (UB) invited UPenn librarians to do a review of their library.  Shortly afterward, they did an Elsevier Foundation-funded needs assessment. What they discovered was how important mobile technology was, and so they then connected with NLM in 2009 for funding to implement TextMEDLINE (a project of NLM’s Paul Fontelo).

They also were able to get funding from the Elsevier Foundation for a 6 month internship for a UB librarian to come to UPenn (she was in the audience and is apparently almost done!).  Upcoming work includes an IT assessment at UB in June 2010, which they found funding for by approaching the dean (I believe?), who still had PEPFAR money to spend.   They are hoping to pilot a smartphone project, where smartphones loaded with medical tools are given to residents (and eventually will be used by medical students).   UPenn will also continue to help Dineo (the current intern) and the other UB librarians.

Anne shared her keys for success in international projects, which resonated with me.  The first is sustainability and the prioritization of lasting relationships. Next is the ability to create a model that can be used in other locations and finally, the partnerships have to benefit all parties.  And the UB partnership has indeed been beneficial to UPenn.  Their intern has been helping them with projects, and they’ve been learning from her at the same time that she’s learning from them.  They’ve also been able to increase their own knowledge of working with mobile technology.  They’ve worked on developing clinical resources.  Finally, they’ve built connections not only between the institutions, but also at each institution, increasing visibility for both sides.

  • Mellanye Lackey (@mellanye),  University of North Carolina Health Sciences Library Liaison to the School of Public Health

Mellanye started off with a spoiler: there’s a “Global Office” coming to the UNC Health Sciences Library!  (She presented her portion as a story a la Daniel Pink, and had no slides.)  The office is the result of an edict/initiative from UNC, which emphasizes “global” rather than on international, abroad, or overseas to create focus on one single community.  Julia and others noted the importance of Mellanye’s definition: “Global is one community working all together around the world.”  The report that came of this initiative mentioned the libraries…but not in the best way: it stated that there weren’t enough global resources.  Of course, no one actually contacted the library!  However, the library director got involved as it was felt that this movement was important strategically for the library as well as simply important.  They started off by performing what was basically a SWOT analysis: what has the library already done, what are its biggest challenges?  They realized that whatever they were going to provide also had to fit the UNC mission/identity.  After/during their own internal analysis, they undertook an environmental scan, writing to AAHSL directors to get a lay of the land.  They had a 43% response rate, and asked about priorities on global health, what’s already be done, how long has it been going on, and how it’s being supported.  They heard a lot of creative ideas, and also something that was not surprising: everyone is dealing with the loss of funding.

They also looked at websites of libraries with global health programs (e.g. WHO), to get an idea of what was out there in a different way (this was what I interpreted from Mellanye’s story; if I’m wrong, please correct me!).  From this work, they’ve put together a white paper, which will be put out in the fall, and will include what they identified as the challenges, threats, and opportunities, as well as the results of the scan and some recommendations.  The final recommendation was that the library needed to have a global presence, too.  But they would need official designation, to systematize what the liaisons are currently doing individually.  This will allow for the streamlining and targeting of efforts, as well as the prioritization of services, and finally, who gets access.

There is already one effort in Malawi (where UNC has a strong partnership): they’ve set up a partner library for members of the Malawi school.  When a student there logs on to a computer in the library, it looks exactly the same as if s/he were at a computer at UNC, with the same access rights.  Mellanye mentioned that there is also a poster presentation in the lightening rounds on this project.

She raised a question for the future: will it make sense to do this in another location, considering cultural/environmental/research needs?  They have good support and a champion in Malawi, but there needs to be strategic movement.  The office mentioned at the beginning will be doing this work, coordinating interviews, etc.  They are also currently putting on a “road show” to global health researchers.  They’re focusing on keeping communication open and making sure that there is true collaboration. The library also wants to develop a more robust IT platform for Malawi to help the researchers, but funding and support are issues.

The ending to Mellanye’s story: The new library global office itself will have a website in the fall.  But in the meantime, they want to collaborate with librarians at other institutions who are doing global work.  “If  you didn’t have a web presence, you fell off the scan, but know you’re out there!”  She also tied in Anne’s thought that all partners need to benefit, and talked about the benefits for UNC/the library: they’ll have a real office (although they’re looking for good acronym!).  There is support amongst the global researchers (and they’re hoping that the next step will be to be included in grants and funding opportunities).  And, finally, they found out a lot more about what was actually going on within their own library.