July 30, 2018

Janet Lee, dean of the Library, wins the Fulbright Scholar award.

For more than 40 years, Janet Lee, Dean of the Library, has been thinking about Ethiopia.

“Since the Peace Corps, not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought of Ethiopia,” she reminisced about her two years spent in Emdeber during her Peace Corps service.

This past year, Janet found herself back in Ethiopia, this time for 10 month Fulbright Scholar award based in Axum.

Axum, home of the Queen of Sheba palace and bath, rock-hewn churches, stelae, and the Ark of the Covenant, is situated in northern Ethiopia on the historic route. During her Fulbright assignment, Janet helped expand the Axumite Heritage Foundation Library, investigate open access publishing and conduct workshops on the importance of first language children’s books. The Foundation Library will serve as a model for community libraries across Ethiopia.

“One accomplishment of which I am very proud is the collaboration with English lecturer and bookstore/library owner Mezemir Girma, the Ethiopian expert for the African Storybook project. We conducted three different workshops on children’s literature and book publishing. The Ethiopian workshops were funded by a grant from the International Library Cultural Exchange Interest Group of the Colorado Library Association.” 

African Storybook is the platform for publication of children’s books in 153 African languages, including 3 of more than 80 Ethiopian languages and dialects. During the first workshop, a participant wrote the children’s book Abebech: the Female Bajaj Driver for the African Storybook. The grant also allowed for the commissioning a local artist to illustrate the story of Abebech, a woman determined to succeed in a male-dominated profession. 

Since Janet has return to Denver, Abebech: the Female Bajaj Driver has been published by African Storybook in both English and Amharic, a major Ethiopian language. This book is open access allowing anyone to read it online, download it to a device, or print it for distribution for free. By eliminating the barrier of cost and accessibility, Janet and her colleagues are bringing local language stories to children who might not otherwise be able to access or afford books.

Read Abebech: the Female Bajaj Driver in English or Amharic today.