Libro Futuro

The library in Egypt, “the sacred place of the Muses”. Mario Coffa interviews Heba Ismail

Intervista in italiano

Heba Ismail works as Libraries Technical Manager at Egypt’s Society for Culture & Development (ESCD). The ESCD is one of the leading organizations, which maintains networks of public children’s libraries in Egypt and provides library service to all age groups. She holds a PhD Degree in Librarianship and Information Science. She had been selected to join the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s International Network of Emerging Library Innovators (INELI) program Cohort 1 and after the training, she wrote the grant proposal for the Arab Federation for Libraries & Information (AFLI) to conduct the INELI program in the MENA region. She is the Director of INELI-MENA program, a program funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and conducted by the Arab Federation for Libraries & Information (AFLI). She is the Secretary of IFLA’s Continuing Professional Development and Workplace Learning Section (CPDWL). She was recently selected as a member of the IFLA Middle East and North Africa Regional Division Committee.

Heba, can you briefly tell us about your work and what it means to be a librarian in your beautiful country, Egypt?

Thank you Mario for the interview! I am the libraries Technical Manager at Egypt’s Society for Culture and Development (ESCD), as part of my job I am responsible for leading the planning process within the technical services sections; coordinates all aspects of the technical workflow between the sections and ESCD’s libraries. Conducting use studies, analyzes statistics, performs research and apply measurement tools to meet the needs of users in libraries and evaluate the effectiveness of services. Participate in writing grant proposals, administers, and monitors grants and conducting staff training and workshops on Advocacy, SDGs, writing a professional CV; applying for Librarianship grants and awards. I am also part of many international and regional voluntary works, as I was the Secretary of the Continuing Professional Development and workplace learning (CPDWL) from August 2019-2021, one of the strongest IFLA sections that embraces all aspects of professional development and learning in the workplace in the period post-qualification to the end of a career.

I am a member of the IFLA Regional Division Committee Middle East and North Africa, which will focus on responding to the needs of the library field in their region. On the regional level, I am the Director of Regional AFLI Project for professionals’ excellence in university libraries. The program seeks to develop skills of library specialists from university libraries in the Arab countries.

The African sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Book Club released recently its first reading lists of African titles on 23 April 2021, it aimed to teach children at age 6-12 about the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Arabic, English, French, Kiswahili and in an honorary indigenous African language through a curated reading list of books from around the world related to each of the 17 SDGs. I am currently one of the judges for the Arabic books nominated by the African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA).

It is worth mentioning that The founding partners for the African chapter of the book club are:

Pan African Writers’ Association (PAWA), Pan African Booksellers Association (PABA), Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), African Publishers Network (APNET), African Library & Information Associations & Institutions ( AfLIA ), Borders Literature for all Nations, United Nations Information Centre Windhoek. I consider it is an honor to work in this profession and especially in my lovely country, Egypt, as you know Egypt is the land of civilization and since the very first beginning, it is well known as the country which housed the most famous library of antiquity, the library of Alexandria, it’s always a great pleasure to serve as a librarian as it is the way to serve my country and the community. strong libraries mean strong communities and nations.

You have been selected as a member of the IFLA Regional Committee for the Middle East and North Africa. What does it mean to you? What goals and plans do you have in anticipation of this assignment? 

It is a great honor to be a member of the IFLA Middle East and North Africa Regional Division Committee, I consider it a very good opportunity to serve the library field across the region, in the MENA region and to ensure that librarians in the MENA region are involved in the IFLA’s work. Being a member will help me in supporting the development and delivery of action plans that respond to the needs of the library field across the region, and will also contribute to IFLA’s overall strategy and work with other relevant committees and groups to increase library advocacy within the region.

I was struck by the presentation you made at the 2020 Sharjah Virtual International Library Forum titled Staff Development in Time of COVID and Beyond; in light of the digital revolution that has been underway for years and following the experience gained after the pandemic year, what are the skills that librarians must implement to adapt to this digital change? 

Libraries’ roles are changing globally and librarians should adapt to this change by up skilling themselves and equip themselves with different skills to support the continuous and rapid developments. Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated changes in how and where we work, and libraries should anticipate the right skills for its future and staff developments to bridge the digital divide.

Librarians should get training on developing digital literacy skills; the ability to work on different social media platforms as many libraries around the globe provided its services through different platforms remotely; ability to use open sources; be able to master the learning Management system tools, all the above skills could help librarians in advocating more for their libraries especially during this tough time.

IFLA and the National Librarians’ Associations do invaluable work in supporting libraries and librarians. Is there anything else that you think could still be done to really put libraries at the center of communities (as already happens in some realities)? 

IFLA, the regional and national library associations are the voice of libraries, they support the library field though, more cooperation between them and under their auspices should be needed for, supporting the advocacy process and providing more tools to librarians that can ease their work.

In the Ptolemaic era the library of Alexandria was an annex of the Museum, “the sacred place of the Muses”. Today we know that the sacredness of the place has evolved into functionality, the library as a social and cultural aggregator for the community. One last question: what is the library for you?

Libraries are the heart of communities, they have become cornerstones of every society; It is a place of knowledge and information and hub for learning; a relaxing and inspiring and informative place for community members; a sense of belonging, a meeting of like-minded folks, a friendly face and smile; an endless source of entertainment, education, amazement, amusement and wonder.







Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa archivista e bibliotecario, laureato in Conservazione dei Beni Culturali presso l’Università degli Studi di Perugia (2005) e diplomato in Archivistica e Paleografia presso la Scuola di Archivistica dell’Archivio Segreto Vaticano (2010). Dal 2010 Lavora per CAeB (Cooperativa Archivistica e Bibliotecaria) presso le biblioteche dell’Università di Perugia come bibliotecario e come archivista presso l'Archivio Storico del Comune di Gubbio. Si occupa di Biblioteche Digitali e formazione in ambito di biblioteconomia digitale. Nel 2014 membro del Comitato Esecutivo Regionale dell’Associazione Italiana Biblioteche (AIB) sezione Umbria, membro del gruppo AIB sul portfolio professionale e nel triennio 2017-2020 Presidente eletto di AIB Umbria. Dal 2020 membro dell'Osservatorio Formazione dell'Associazione Italiana Biblioteche. Autore di diversi articoli e interviste per Insula Europea sul tema degli archivi, delle biblioteche e del digital lending.


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