Meaghan O'Connor: A world of difference

meaghan-oconnor.jpgSenior Program Officer, International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX), Washington, D.C.

Meaghan O'Connor became interested in international librarianship when she helped create youth literacy programs while spending a year in Serbia. Now, the former children's bookseller brings her vision for access and equity to the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX), a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization. As a senior program officer working with 2,000 libraries in Romania and 1,600 in Ukraine, O'Connor is doing her part to bridge the information divide.

A powerful mix: O'Connor came to Simmons because of its excellent curriculum in library management and international and public librarianship. She was particularly intrigued with the work that Simmons faculty and students had done with libraries in Vietnam, Iraq, and Kosovo. Once enrolled, O'Connor contributed to GSLIS's global efforts. As a Fellow for Dean's Initiatives, she traveled to Jordan to coordinate a training program for Iraqi librarians and helped launch a study-abroad program in Seoul, South Korea, in partnership with Yonsei University. Recognized as an ALA Emerging Leader, she also served as co-chair of GSLIS's international librarianship student group.

"I received an incredible foundation at Simmons," says O'Connor. "I can now take that knowledge to ensure that our work is in line with international standards and on the cutting edge of librarianship."

Cultural considerations: At IREX, O'Connor strives to fulfill the specific, often very different needs of the communities she serves. For instance, in Romania, the program helped one librarian offer a baker's certification course so that patrons could review trade guidelines and learn to knead dough -- right there in the library. As a result, participants were able to secure professional positions in bakeries.

Life-changing results: Active in the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), O'Connor conducts presentations and publishes research related to her work. However, she is most proud of an innovative training course that teaches librarians about needs assessment and service development -- an idea that grew out of her Organization and Management of Public Libraries course. "Nothing is more exciting for me than seeing a program make an impact," she says.

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