Abandoning Overseas Fellowships Is Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

By Kniffel, Leonard | American Libraries, April 1997 | Go to article overview

Abandoning Overseas Fellowships Is Penny Wise, Pound Foolish


Kniffel, Leonard, American Libraries


The USIA-funded, ALA-administered Library Fellows program all but died at the Midwinter Meeting in Washington (see p. 6, 73). Certainly the funding base as we knew it is dead, and that's a shame. There were probably no more efficiently utilized and wisely invested federal dollars anywhere.

As we go to press, however, there is reason to believe that the program may at least be on a life-support system, in the form of a compromise negotiated between ALA and the United States Information Agency.

ALA President-elect Barbara Ford and others met with USIA Director Joseph Duffey after Midwinter and came away with a compromise offer: USIA will continue cooperating with ALA, if the Association can raise half the money (some $225,000) needed to run the program.

Undervalued investment

We reported in February (p. 49-50) on the closing of USIA libraries around the world over the past two years. Retired USIA foreign service officer Mark Lewis believes that traditional library services (read people) are being replaced by electronic information networks. Faced with a 38% budget cut imposed by Congress, the USIA Information Bureau seems to be making choices in keeping with this trend.

USIA liaison Pamela Smith, who broke the bad news at Midwinter, told me that the decision was made "with a great deal of regret and discomfort," and I don't doubt it. These are whopping cuts and have to come from somewhere. Still one must wonder why this program and not another.

What can you say to good friends who make bad decisions? You try to warn them, but they've made up their minds. You try to persuade them, but you're afraid they'll get insulted. Perhaps the best you can do is remind them of how successful they were when they made good decisions.

The Library Fellows Program has offered a group of carefully selected librarians the opportunity of a lifetime - to concentrate on an area of specialization, to use language skills, and to make a difference in libraries and lives around the word as ambassadors of American ideals.

During the life of the program, which began in 1986, some 147 fellows have benefited, as did the publics they serve and their colleagues abroad and in their home institutions. …

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