Heba Mohamed Ismail | Movers & Shakers 2019 – Educators

Heba Ismail wants to have a positive impact on people’s lives—especially her public library colleagues across the Mid-East and North Africa (MENA). “The library environment in the Arab region suffers from the lack of training for librarians in light of decreasing budgets,” Ismail says.

Heba Mohamed Ismail

CURRENT POSITION

Libraries Technical Manager, Egypt's Society for Culture and Development, Cairo

DEGREE

PhD, LIS, Cairo University, Egypt, 2017; MLIS, Cairo University, 1995

HONOR

Dr. Shawky Salem Award for “Ideal Egyptian Librarian,” Egyptian Library Association Conference, 2018; honor shield from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo in recognition of the effort exerted in civic engagement in the first Annual Alumni Award, 2014

FOLLOW

heba.ismail.100 (Facebook); linkedin.com/in/heba-ismail-345a773b

Photo by Khaled Abdeen

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Capacity Booster

Heba Ismail wants to have a positive impact on people’s lives—especially her public library colleagues across the Mid-East and North Africa (MENA). “The library environment in the Arab region suffers from the lack of training for librarians in light of decreasing budgets,” Ismail says.

Since 2011, Ismail has been the libraries technical manager at Egypt’s Society for Culture and Development, an NGO that operates ten public and children’s libraries. That same year, she began to boost her own leadership skills in teambuilding, risk management, conflict resolution, and more when she participated in an International Network of Emerging Library Innovators (INELI) online training program funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries initiative. The program aims to create an international network of future library leaders to build and sustain public libraries worldwide.

After completing the two-year program, offered through the Arab Federation for Libraries & Information, Ismail took the lead on writing a grant proposal to create the INELI program in the MENA region. In 2015, the grant came through, and Ismail became INELI-MENA program manager. It was the first time an online leadership program was available to these librarians.

From 2015 to 2017, 31 librarians from public and national libraries in Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Qatar took part.

The training included innovation, change management, and advocacy. Finally, participants were asked to implement a program in their libraries, such as developing a marketing plan, creating a preschool program, or hiring.

“We gave them a firm footing…in order to benefit more librarians within their countries and…to meet the needs of the community,” says Ismail. “Innovators in Tunisia, Egypt, and Sudan are replicating the training program. Algeria, Lebanon, and Bahrain are on their way to implement[ing] their own national networks.”

Many have subsequently gotten promotions and won grants and scholarships, she notes.

In 2018, Ismail was also the manager for a 12-week online program that trained the same 31 MENA librarians to work together to raise awareness of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

According to Mona Aly, Ismail’s colleague at Egypt’s Society for Culture and Development, “The program made a tangible change in the librarian community all over the Middle East.”

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