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July 2016
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Rima Kupryte, Dorothy Eneya, eIFL, and Ada Lovelace Day

To celebrate the first (hopefully annual?) Ada Lovelace Day, I’d like to highlight the work of two remarkable women who work with an organization called Electronic Information for Libraries (eIFL), which exists to enable and sustain access to knowledge by library users in developing and transitional countries. The organization does this by helping member nations build sustainable national library consortia, negotiating with publishers of electronic journals and databases for affordable prices and fair terms for access, providing education about Intellectual Property and advocating for IP treaties that take the needs of developing nations into account, advocating for Open Access Publishing, and (near and dear to my heart) increasing the capacity of member nations to use and develop open source software.

Rima Kupryte is the director of eIFL. In 1995 she started working with the Open Society Institute‘s Network Library Program, and in 2003 this group became an independent entity, with Rima at the helm. In 2008, Rima was awarded the IFLA Medal, one of the highest honors given in the field of librarianship. I can’t say this better than Hannie Sander did, so I’ll quote:

“eIFL is extremely fortunate to have had Rima at its helm”, said Hannie Sander, Chairperson of the Advisory Board. “Rima has worked with amazing energy to build eIFL up from a small project into a global network encompassing 50 countries and more than 4,400 libraries. Under her leadership, program areas have expanded from bulk licensing of e-resources and support for the development of sustainable library consortia, to advocacy and capacity building in open access and local institutional repositories, fair copyright laws and the benefits of open source solutions for library management systems. Her total commitment to levelling the playing field for librarians and their users in transition and developing countries has led eIFL to where it is today, a vibrant knowledge-sharing network with an impressive array of programs and capacity building events each year”.

Dorothy Eneya has been trying to reach similar goals, but on a more local level. She is the eIFL-FOSS country coordinator for the nation of Malawi. Dorothy is a systems librarian, which is a challenging job under the best of circumstances, but for the past several years her library has been facing a particular crisis: the commercial Integrated Library System that the University of Malawi started using in their first attempt at automation was unsupportably expensive. What do you do when your university library is already automated, to shut down the ILS would mean that the library could not function, and yet there is no money to pay the software license? They migrated to Koha, and you can read all about the adventure in a paper Dorothy wrote about the experience: A LONG WALK TO AUTOMATION: EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MALAWI LIBRARIES (which, ironically, I cannot find from an OA site, so hopefully your library has a subscription to one of the databases that have it).

You can hear some brief interviews with some eIFL folks in this podcast, btw. An interview with Dorothy starts at 58:33.

Rima and Dorothy are inspirational to me, and I just wanted to take a moment to applaud their work.

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