Attendees at this year’s Special Libraries Association (SLA) Annual Conference & INFO-EXPO, held June 12-16 in New Orleans, supported the Haiti Reads library project with a book and fund-raising drive. More than 3,400 special librarians, knowledge professionals and information industry representatives attended the conference in New Orleans. Attendees purchased children’s classics in New Orleans area bookstores that carry French and Creole titles to send to Haiti Reads and its new library.

In Fall 2009, Haiti Reads ( established a community library in the Delmas 24 neighborhood in Port-au-Prince. While the building remains standing after the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010, it has been declared “unsafe,” and the Haiti Reads library needs to relocate. The books collected during SLA 2010 in New Orleans will be delivered once Haiti Reads is able to secure new facilities.

Jeanette Alfred (formerly Attisso), founder of Haiti Reads, was one of two featured speakers at the SLA International Information Exchange Caucus breakfast on Wednesday June 16. Alfred told those assembled of the philosophy of the project: Haiti Reads can change the literacy rate in the communities it serves by teaching free basic literacy classes to children and their parents. “It is our belief that those who have the chance to take advantage of these free classes will be able to teach what they have learned to others in their community,” said Alfred.

Alfred shared with those present a brief history of Haiti Reads; some of the pictures she showcased during that meeting can be viewed at In addition to the books donated by individual members, two SLA chapters donated funds to the organization. Leigh Hallingby, president of SLA’s New York Chapter, and Claudia J. Dold, treasurer of SLA’s Florida and Caribbean Chapter, were recognized for their chapters’ donations to the organization.

The second speaker featured at the International Information Exchange Caucus was Dr. Sohair Wastawy, the new dean of libraries at Illinois State University. Until last month, Dr. Wastawy was executive director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina ( Dr. Wastawy spoke of her six years at the library in Egypt, giving a brief history of what libraries meant in ancient times, and now, and regaling meeting attendees with her experiences working with librarians throughout the Middle East.