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Miles Traveled: Librarian Travels to Ethiopia to Volunteer

“Here in the United States we have a lot of resources, which sometimes we take for granted. In a poor, developing country like Ethiopia, they have a tiny amount of resources and minimal infrastructure, but they really appreciate and value what little they have.”

More than 20 years ago Marie Paiva made her first visit to Ethiopia to assist in developing libraries. Her first visit was to work in the National Library of Ethiopia located in Addis Ababa. She was able to go because she received a library fellowship from the American Library Association, funded by the United States Information Agency.

While Marie worked in several different libraries over the years, she spent the majority of her time at the Addis Ababa University. At the time of her first visit, she didn’t know what to expect, but she was eager to visit Ethiopia, learn about the culture, and help where she could.

Now, two decades later, Marie looks back on her many visits and recalls how surprised she was initially to see how much work was needed. “My work involved short-term training on how to improve customer service, acquisitions assistance, help with cataloging, library security, the Library of Congress system, and book repair, to name a few.”

“I like the idea that I’m perhaps helping the staff provide a better place for their library users. The library is so humble that it seems any bit of improvement is worth taking on.”

Over the years, as word got out, Marie was asked for help by several libraries. Marie, currently a Research and User Services Librarian at the Marriott Library and also Chair of the American Library Association’s Africa Committee, has been featured in the Dutch publication “Bibliotheek Blad” (“Library Pages”). Her story is entitled “Scout on Adventure” and it chronicles her volunteer efforts in Ethiopia. To read more about Marie’s work in Ethiopia, click here.

Marie standing next to a statue bust of JFK.
A group of people sitting outside listening to a presentation given by someone standing up.
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