UNCG Distance Education Librarian Beth Filar-Williams has recently completed working with Iskander Rakhmatullaev of Tashkent, Uzbekistan on the first virtual internship program of the Digital Library Learning Program of the Erasmus Mundus of the European Commission.
Throughout the month of February, intern Iskander Rakhmatullaev worked to convert the Instructional Technology Toolkit, which Filar-Williams developed as a website for UNCG librarians and library students, into a LibGuide. This toolkit was born out of an idea to create a place where library staff and students could learn more about new software tools for use at school, work and personal life, as well as collaborate and share these tools with others beyond librarianship. LibGuides which are more flexible and easy for collaborators to update, are being used for many classes at UNCG and other universities.
Iskander identified two principal benefits to his internship. First, he says he learned more about the LibGuide tool, which he hopes to adapt for use in Uzbek libraries, and about several other cutting-edge technology tools in the toolkit. He also found the experience of international collaboration beneficial, and hopes that more joint projects between the U.S. and Uzbekistan will follow.
The Digital Library Learning Program (DILL) is itself an interesting international collaboration between universities in Italy, Norway, and Estonia. At one point, the nineteen students in the DILL program represented 16 different countries. Students take residence for at least one semester at each university en route to a four semester degree in library studies. DILL students generally also do an internship, but up until now they had always been at a physical location and always in Europe. Once he visited the UNCG Libraries’ website and earned about some of the interesting and innovative experiences offered users here, he said he found it easy to decide that he wanted to work with Filar-Williams.
For her part, Filar-Wiliams learned of the DILL program from Clara Chu in the Library and Information Studies program at UNCG, and volunteered to take on an intern. “Why not?” she remembers asking herself. As the distance education librarian, she is very familiar with many of the tools and techniques of library service for distance education, and believes strongly that mentoring is an important role that library professionals need to offer to students. Practical applicaton of theory, she says, is an important service to the profession. Filar-Williams had previously worked with virtual and other interns in the United States, and was excited to work through the challenges of creating an environment for this kind of international mentoring and exchange. For a library that values diversity, such as the University Libraries at UNCG, she thought her doing so was a natural progression. Despite the challenges of a ten hour time differential, sometimes balky technology, and the working out of details for this first of its kind relationship, she is glad to have experienced it, and hopes the project will pave the way for others at UNCG to do more such projects.
On March 2, Filar-Williams invited and recorded virtual presentations using Skype by both Iskander Rakhmatullaev and Elena Coradini of the University of Parma, one of the universities involved in DILL, to librarians, library students and LIS faculty at UNCG.