Going Global: The Colorado Connection


It's a small world, after all. Advances each year in transportation, technology and communication have made the world smaller, indeed, and brought the many people of the world much closer together. China leads the pack for Internet usage with a whopping 1.3 billion users (31.6% of population), followed by 300 million users in the United States (77.3% of population).1 The entire continent of Africa has 111 million users (10.9% of total population), located primarily in Egypt, Nigeria, and Morocco, an increase overall of 2,357% since 2000. Growth in recent years has accelerated due to improvements in infrastructure, the arrival of wireless access technologies, and lower tariffs. The information divide is still real, but it is diminishing.

Despite coming from a landlocked state, Coloradoans have heard the call to service and ventured to the four corners of the world. Perhaps it is that western spirit that draws us to adventure, discovery, and a sense of purpose. Did you know that the University of Colorado at Boulder produced more Peace Corps Volunteers than any other school in 2010 with 117 volunteers? It ranks fifth in the nation with 2,269 volunteers in its lifetime. Other Colorado schools that ranked high this year include Colorado State University, University of Northern Colorado, and Colorado College.2 But it is not necessary to join the Peace Corps to provide service and exchange ideas with fellow librarians around the world. This issue of Colorado Libraries highlights some of the projects in which Colorado librarians are involved. It also points out professional library organizations and their committees that focus on international aspects of librarianship.

Janet Lee, Technical Services Librarian at Regis University and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer-Ethiopia, returns to her adopted home to oversee the establishment of the Segenat Children and Youth Library in Mekelle, Ethiopia. In "8000 Books Ethiopia Bound: The Colorado Connection," she describes how Coloradoans aided her in meeting the challenges and successes in setting up a library in a developing country that has great hopes and great needs. Ethiopia has one of the lowest Internet access rate of just .5% of its total population and very few libraries.

There could not be an issue of Colorado Libraries discussing international librarianship without drawing on the expertise of Nancy Bolt, retired Colorado State Librarian. In “Cooperation through International Partnerships,” she describes the processes for seeking and establishing a partnership program, best practices to maintain such programs, and the rewards for both parties in the partnership. Perhaps a Sister Library is in your future.

Jane Mirandette and Hannah Miller write about experiences of opening up library services out of Mirandette’s hotel in Nicaragua in “Skill-Share Programs: Sustaining Grassroots Libraries in Developing Nicaragua.” Though not a trained librarian, Mirandette gained the necessary library skills through hard work and networking. She founded a non-profit organization, the Hester J. Hodgdon's Libraries for All Program, to fund the operations and she has encouraged many library school students and volunteers to visit Nicaragua and share their experiences with others upon their return.

Joan Weeks, Instruction Librarian at the Library of Congress, shares the history and benefits of membership in the International Sustainable Library Development Interest Group in "Catch the International Library Development Bug...It's Highly Contagious at ALA." ISLD began as a group of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who wanted to share their experiences in developing sustainable libraries with each other and with others in a more formal manner. What began as a Saturday luncheon at ALA is now a very active Interest Group with informative programs.

If a large international organization is more to your liking, check out Jina Choi Wakimoto’s article, "International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions: A Personal Narrative," on the benefits of membership to IFLA, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. She compares her experiences attending the American Library Association conferences with the three World Library and Information Congresses in Korea, Canada and Italy. Through her personal reflections, we too can experience the excitement of traveling to another land and networking with our international counterparts.

Wrapping up this issue is Helen Reed's photo essay “Sharing Cultures of Education: A Nigerian-Colorado Partnership” that describes the development of a partnership between the University of Northern Colorado and Tai Solarin University of Education in Ogun State, Nigeria. She outlines the evolution of the collaboration which began in 2007 including highlights of the Memorandum of Understanding. The article includes a series of photographs depicting the similarities and differences between the institutions as well as highlights of the four exchanges that have taken place to date.

We hope this issue on international initiatives sparks the travel bug for all of our readers. In celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Peace Corps, we invite libraries and librarians to consider programming around this major event. Invite a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer to speak of his/her experiences to an interested group. Contact the Peace Corps at http://www.peacecorps.gov/wws/speakersmatch By the count of the numbers, Colorado has many potential speakers.

Notes

1. Top 20 Countries with the Highest Number of Internet Users, Internet World Stats, http://www.internetworldstats.com/top20.htm

2. Peace Corps Announces 2011 Annual College Rankings, Peace Corps, http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.media.press.view&news_id=1701