UMSI alum picked for Chelsea-Cape Town library exchange

UMSI alumna Emily Meloche (MSI ’12), Adult Services Librarian at the Chelsea District Library, will be the first to represent her library and her hometown community in a professional exchange program between the Chelsea (MI) District Library and the Masiphumelele Community Library in Cape Town, South Africa. While Meloche spends May 21-June 18 in South Africa, Masiphumelele librarian Nosiviwe Lutuli will spend that month at the Chelsea District Library.
The exchange program was inspired by an April 2013 trip to South Africa by Bill Harmer, director of the Chelsea District Library. At a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Peer Learning Meeting he met Susan Alexander, director of the Masiphumelele library, and learned about the outreach work she and her staff were doing for the community. That sparked the idea to create a professional exchange program between the two libraries.

“Masiphumelele Community Library is redefining how public institutions such as libraries can strengthen the foundations of community and civic engagement through volunteering, participating in civic and social organizations, participating in public dialogue and problem solving sessions, and working to make a difference in their community,” said Harmer. “The community of Chelsea will benefit from this partnership as we integrate new views and material into our service scope, promote study abroad, practice cross-cultural sensitivity in our daily interactions and lead the way in appreciating the diversity of people and cultures.”

“It's incredibly exciting, and still doesn't quite seem real, even though it's been in the works for nearly two years,” said Meloche. “The more I learn about the Masiphumelele library, the more eager I am to spend time working and learning with them.  It's a library truly connected with its community, and I can't wait to be a part of it for a month!”

During her stay, Meloche will not only serve as an ambassador for Chelsea, meeting with leading experts in her field to gain new insights and approaches to creating positive and sustainable change, but she and Lutuli will have an opportunity to learn about life in the U.S. and South Africa, respectively, by staying with host families during the four weeks.

“We chose Emily as our first participant because she is adaptable, outgoing, and confident and will be a brilliant ambassador for Chelsea,” Harmer said. “It’s an exchange we’re hoping to duplicate in the future, so having someone with demonstrated community leadership skills is key to establishing the program.

“Exchange programs are important because library professionals need to be successful in a business world that is globally competitive. Interacting with new professionals offers a perspective on your identify as a librarian, teacher or administrator in a global community.”

Posted March 19, 2015