Library Community Gives Back: 2023 Webinar Speakers’ Charity Picks

From clean water and medical aid to animal welfare and deforestation: Librarians are committed to many causes beyond the walls of their institutions. That much is clear from the charities chosen by the expert speakers in our quarterly librarians' webinar series.

At the beginning of 2023, when Challenging the Status Quo: Taking Libraries into the Future was on the drawing board, Andrea Gregor-Adams, Marketing Manager (EMEA) at De Gruyter, was acutely aware that the success of the webinars would depend on the generosity of the speakers. If the 11 distinguished external speakers who presented in the 2023 series had not given freely of their time and expertise, the webinars would not have been possible.

It was important that the speakers should be rewarded appropriately, but most belonged to institutions and organizations that would not allow them to accept an honorarium. We therefore decided instead to offer each speaker the opportunity to donate to a charity of his or her choice as a sincere token of thanks.

All the speakers were happy to accept this suggestion. The charities they chose varied widely: some were no surprise, others were unexpected and highly individual. We thought the librarians who follow this blog might like to know more about the charities our speakers chose and why these charities are so close to their hearts.

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Andres Guadamuz, Svein Arne Brygfjeld and Dave Puplett all feature in “Artificial Intelligence: The Great Divider”

Escalating global conflicts made the world a more dangerous place in 2023 and several choices reflected this. Five of our speakers selected charities that supply medical aid to war-torn areas. Those chosen by Andres Guadamuz, Colleen Campbell, Scott Warren, Niels Stern and Svein Arne Brygfjeld included Médécins sans Frontières, EMERGENCY, the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal and the Red Cross.

Andres Guadamuz said he always nominates Médécins sans Frontières. Svein Arne Brygfjeld said that being able to support the Red Cross “made him glad.” Colleen Campbell explained why supporting EMERGENCY is important to her:

“One of the things that inspires me most about my work is the fact that when research articles are published open access, health workers in the field can gain immediate access to – and apply – the latest methods and discoveries. My choice of charity takes a further step in support of medical personnel on the front lines. I have supported EMERGENCY in a variety of ways since its founding in 1994 by Italian war surgeon Gino Strada. Grounded in Strada’s conviction that ‘human rights must be rights for all humans, otherwise we should call them privileges,’ EMERGENCY provides free, high-quality healthcare to victims of wars, landmines and poverty, building healthcare facilities, training local personnel and conducting search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea.”

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Sophie Wennström and Niels Stern both feature in “Free the Books! The Path towards Open Access Monographs”

Other speakers chose humanitarian causes linked to public health rather than conflict. Dave Puplett asked for a donation to WaterAid, a charity whose mission is to “bring clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene to everyone.” Martin O’Driscoll chose a charity local to him which perhaps takes the prize for being the most individual of all: his donation went to Blood Bike South, an organization to whose work he has contributed as a motorcyclist for many years. Here is an excerpt from its website:

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“Our Mission is to provide a Voluntary Rider Service aiming to help relieve sickness and protect health by the transportation of blood, blood products, patient records, drugs and other medical requirements between public hospitals and blood transfusion banks, primarily but not exclusively in the Southern [Ireland] Region. We hope to take some of the pressure off our local hospitals in relation to their rising costs in transporting these goods and hope that this saved money will be redirected into primary care areas such as staffing & facilities. We also aim to relieve the use of emergency vehicles in the transport of these items meaning that they are always available and ready to answer emergency calls.”

Barbara Lison chose to donate to IFLA – where she was President when she accepted the invitation to speak in the webinar series. Sarah Thompson also settled on support for a charity within her own institution, the Equal Access Fund administered by the University of York:

Read our interview with Barbara Lison on the role of libraries in sustainable development.

“I chose it because I donate to it regularly myself. It funds three scholarships a year for students seeking asylum, providing each with an annual living costs bursary which is matched by a complete tuition fee waiver from the University. There has been so much conflict in the world in recent years and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and a helpless bystander; donating to this fund is one small thing I can do to help displaced people continue their education in a safe and supported environment and give them some hope for their future.”

Sophie Wennström, a keen animal lover, wanted to support the RSPCA:

“Domesticated animals are depending on humans to care for them to survive. I care for my animals but I also know that many suffer from abuse and neglect, not always by intention. In financially challenging times many pet owners have to prioritize, and often not to the benefit of their animals. This is why I think organizations like the RSPCA are important and should get continued support.”

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Barbara Lison and Tuba Akbaytürk both feature in “Creating a better World! How academic librarians are tackling SDGs”

Finally, here are details of another local project – this time, one focused on sustainability – that was nominated by Tuba Akbaytürk:

“I took part in the De Gruyter webinar series to talk about sustainability in academic libraries. I see Climate Action and Life on Land as two important UN Sustainable Development Goals that anyone can and should play a role in. Therefore, I preferred donating the stipend to ÇEKÜL’s 7 Tree Forests program, which is the first and largest public participation initiative in Turkey, aiming to create nation-wide awareness of deforestation and desertification. My home institution Koç University and ÇEKÜL are partnering this initiative through their libraries under BiblioPera, also known as Beyoğlu Research Centers Network.”

Brilliant choices, all. De Gruyter will continue to ask this year’s webinar speakers to nominate their favorite charities for a donation. Watch this space! We will report on the 2024 clutch of charities towards the end of the year.

The next webinar in the series is entitled “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: issues for the modern academic librarian.” It will take place at 15:00 CET time on June 20, 2024. Further announcements will be made nearer the time.

Linda Bennett

Linda Bennett is the founder of Gold Leaf, a consulting firm that provides business development and market research for publishers and the publishing community.

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