This fall Jackson Library’s Distance Education Librarian, Beth Filar Williams, had a unique opportunity to visit the Digital Libraries Learning (DILL) Program in Parma, Italy. The DILL Program describes itself as a two-year international Master’s program for “elite information professionals” to learn valuable skills and competencies in the rapidly changing field of digital libraries. The program takes place through a series of locations, with students spending at least one semester in each of the following: Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences (Norway), Tallinn University (Estonia), and the University of Parma (Italy).
Ana Maria Tammaro, a professor and a coordinator of the DILL Program at the University of Parma, invited Filar Williams to visit the university and speak as a guest lecturer. The invitation grew out of a virtual internship last spring in which Filar Williams hosted a DILL student, Izkander Rakhmatullaev. When Filar Williams first saw the email message from Tammaro searching for someone to host a virtual intern, she saw a unique opportunity to connect on an international level.
“I jumped on the chance because I just thought it would be a cool opportunity,” Filar Williams says. Filar Williams guided Rakhmatullaev, who is from Uzbekistan, in taking the “Instructional Tech Toolkit” web page and turning it into a libguide.
After the positive virtual internship experience last spring, Filar Williams visited the DILL program in Parma, Italy, for two weeks as a guest lecturer and spoke to the students about several different topics. Meeting the students was a highlight of the trip for Filar Williams. “The students were interesting because they come from all different countries,” Filar Williams says, “Some of them are practicing librarians in some way or have some sort of degree, some of them have no background in libraries, so they really ranged in experience and knowledge but all brought fascinating global perspectives.” The students’ backgrounds included working with GIS (geographic information systems) software, working in IT, working on e-learning initiatives for a university, as well as several professional librarians.
Filar Williams’ visit occurred during the last phase of the program before students would pursue internships in their home countries or elsewhere in the world. “They were really busy, because it turned out they were in class all day long and they had projects to do in the evening,” Filar Williams says. “The weekend after I left they were all leaving to go back to do their internships,” she says. “They said the Parma part was really condensed.”
Williams was among a group of lecturers during her stay in Parma, including guests from Australia, Sri Lanka, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as lecturers from Italy. They spoke on a range of topics relating to digital libraries, including social e-reading, video creation, e-textbooks, and e-publishing.
Filar Williams presented on the digital library experience at UNCG, showing the students photos of the library and campus, explaining how the school and library are structured, describing its digital initiatives and learning spaces, and explaining her own work as distance education librarian.
“I showcased all those things and talked about how we all work collaboratively– I guess I showcased it really well because everyone said, ‘that sounds like the perfect university and library to work for,’” Filar Williams says. “They asked if there were any job openings.”
Filar Williams also presented to the students about creating e-learning objects and the instructional design process. In addition to lecturing, Filar Williams facilitated a videoconference that allowed DILL students to meet librarians at Jackson Library as well as LIS Professor Dr. Nora Bird and some of the students from her Digital Libraries class.
Filar Williams is now hosting another student from the DILL program, Annabelle Koester from Germany, as a virtual intern, and she hopes she can visit the program, and Italy, again someday.
“Parma is a great town, I would totally recommend it,” Filar Williams says. “You could walk everywhere! Everyone bikes even dressed up nice, [I] even saw some wearing heels on their bikes! ” “I loved the people, I just thought the Italian people seemed so nice and so friendly,” she says. “And of course the food and wine were just delicious.”
Irma Minerva, the mascot of Jackson Library, traveled to Italy with Filar Williams, and also hopes to travel again soon. Filar Williams is working on creating a digital version of Irma that students, staff, and faculty can print out take with them on their travels so that Irma can see the world. We wish them both more happy travels.
You can also read more about Filar Williams’ trip on the Jackson Library Professional Development Blog.