ALA Hosts State Department Fellow
Khadija Semlali, project manager for the Moroccan Ministry of Culture, visited ALA for three weeks as a US State Department legislative fellow.
For three weeks in October, the American Library Association served as host for a legislative fellow from Morocco in an exchange program sponsored by the US Department of State.
Khadija Semlali serves as a project manager for the Books, Libraries, and Archives Department in the Moroccan Ministry of Culture in Rabat. One of her duties is to help organize the annual Casablanca Book Fair (Salon International de l’Edition et du Livre) in February. Although 13 other fellows came to Chicago from Egypt and Morocco to learn more about community action, juvenile justice, and the media, Semlali’s major focus was reading and literacy, so she chose ALA.
Morocco does not have public libraries as we know them in the US, Semlali told American Libraries. Nor does it have institutions that encourage reading after a student leaves school, although the book fair has tried to do that for the past 18 years. She said that her goal was to set up a library and book club in a specialized children’s hospital in Rabat, where kids would be encouraged to read and could enjoy storytelling.
Semlali said the main takeaways from her ALA experience were the library advocacy programs and promotions by the Office of Library Advocacy and other ALA units, the large number of ALA book awards that serve to promote reading and literacy, and the hospitality of the International Relations Office. She also mentioned her visit to the Schaumburg Township (Ill.) District Library and gave high marks to its welcoming atmosphere, its participation as an early voting site, its computer labs, the classes for seniors and teens, and the reading room fireplace.
Funding for the exchange was provided by the US State Department for its program “Legislative Fellows: An Exchange Program for Egypt, Morocco, and the US,” implemented by Citizen Bridges International, a nonprofit organization in Chicago, in partnership with the Center for Peace and Human Development in Cairo and the Neighborhoods Association in Casablanca.