Celebrating 20 years of the IFLA/OCLC Fellowship Program

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Who would have imagined that the program announced at the 1999 IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Thailand would have such an incredible, far-reaching impact? That’s exactly what the Jay Jordan IFLA/OCLC Fellowship, an education and professional development program for early career librarians from developing countries, has done. Twenty years later, the program has realized the potential noted by Jay Jordan, OCLC’s fourth President and CEO, in the program’s inaugural announcement, “to positively affect individuals, their institutions, their countries, and the global knowledge management practices of the future.”

As OCLC’s Program Director for Education and Professional Development, I’ve had the good fortune to be involved with the program since its inception. What a joy it has been to work with IFLA and the 95 remarkable early career librarians from 42 developing countries selected for program participation! And how rewarding it is for everyone involved in this partnership between IFLA and OCLC, as demonstrated through the work and dedication of the Fellows.

Accomplishments: breakthroughs in librarianship worldwide

Where are the Fellows now and what are they doing? Energetic, enthusiastic, and engaged, these library leaders are developing and implementing best practices and making significant contributions to librarianship. Many have assumed leadership positions in libraries and professional associations in their countries. Others have earned advanced degrees and are teaching in library schools, mentoring young professionals, and partnering on collaborative projects.

Some are directly involved in global collaborative work, such as Tuba Akbayturk (2001 Fellow, Turkey), one of the first four, original IFLA/OCLC Fellows who is now Director of the Koc University Library in Turkey. Tuba served as an OCLC Global Council delegate from 2017–2019.

Rashidah Bolhassan (2001 Fellow, Malaysia) also was one of the original IFLA/OCLC Fellows and today is CEO of the Sarawak State Library in Malaysia. J.K. Vijayakumar (2002 Fellow, India) is the Library Director of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia.

The Fellows continue to receive awards and recognition for their innovative ideas and professional contributions. In short, they’re amazing!

Next steps

Much has changed in the technology and information landscape since the first class of Fellows arrived at OCLC headquarters in Dublin, Ohio (USA), in 2001. Online learning opportunities, especially in developing countries, were minimal. Social media platforms were in their infancy. Face-to-face convenings were crucial for networking and learning. Today’s environment offers many more options for scaling library learning and fostering global library cooperation. Given these changes, we are evaluating the program this coming year to consider new opportunities. As we do so, we celebrate the accomplishments of the outstanding Fellows and the work of the countless supporting individuals and organizations.

Congratulations and thank you

Congratulations and thank you to the Fellows and to all who have contributed to their professional development success for the past 20 years. As the Fellows advance in their careers, they are advancing the sharing of knowledge around the globe.

Skip Prichard, OCLC President and CEO, noted, “It is wonderful looking over all that the Fellows have achieved. We thank them for enriching OCLC with their experiences and perspectives. They have helped us understand the incredible variety of ways in which libraries impact their communities and we are very grateful for their generosity and collegiality.”

Vesna Vuksan, 2009 Fellow from Serbia and now IFLA Strategic Projects Manager, might have said it best: “I believe that IFLA and OCLC, the leading organizations in the library world, are helping to build young librarians into skilled, daring leaders who are changing their communities for better—and, consequently, the world.”

Additional information about the Fellowship Program is available here.