November 21, 2017

Maria Anna Jankowska | Movers & Shakers 2002

A Librarian and a Scholar

A librarian and a scholar

When she was a guest scholar for the Woodrow Wilson International Center at the Smithsonian in 1985, Maria Anna Jankowska was amazed by the easy availability of resources for her research on human behavior and economics systems; it had taken her almost seven years to gather comparable research materials for her doctoral thesis in her native Poland. Her admiration for the openness and accessibility of American libraries led her to become a research librarian, a decision she has never regretted because, she says, “my research interests synthesize my academic training in economics with my professional work….”

As a reference network resources librarian at the University of Idaho Library, Jankowska has been teaching students about electronic information resources since 1994. She realized early on that information technologies had the potential to aid economic development and the establishment of democracy in her homeland and the other newly liberated republics of Eastern Europe; indeed, in 1991 she taught a seminar on “Computer Technology in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union: Obstacles to European Integration.”

She has written and presented numerous papers on the need to improve libraries and the information economy in Eastern Europe. Aided by international agencies and a number of grants, she has worked with Polish librarians to give them access to the global information highway and make their collections widely accessible to others. One of the results of this work is her Electronic Guide to Polish University and Research Libraries.

Jankowska also recognized the possibilities of map browsers and other visualizing software for making immense quantities of data intelligible to mathematically unsophisticated people. That’s why she and her husband, geography professor Piotr Jankowski, planned and carried out an incentive grant that created the new Idaho Geospatial Data Center and made it available on the Internet.

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Current position: Research Librarian with the rank of Professor, University of Idaho, Moscow

Degrees: Ph.D., Economics, Poznan University of Economics, Poland, 1983; MLIS, University of California-Berkeley, 1989

Active in: Founding Member, ALA’s SRRT Task Force on the Environment; Idaho Library Association, Beta Phi Mu

Founding Editor: Green Library Journal (now known as Electronic Green Journal)

Her other passion has been the environment. “I have always felt that being a librarian put me in a special position to make extra efforts in building a better world by protecting the environment,” she says. As part of ALA’s Social Responsibilities Round Table’s Task Force on the Environment, she founded the Green Library Journal (later the Electronic Green Journal) in 1991 and distributed it for free to countries considered environmentally at risk. She has edited and contributed to the journal ever since. As part of Jankowska’s environmental commitment, the journal has been published fully electronically, preventing the unnecessary waste of money, paper, ink, and other natural resources.

After attending the American Library Association (ALA) workshop “Libraries Build Sustainable Communities,” Jankowska shared what she learned with a group of Idaho public librarians at a summer institute. Libraries, she believes, are themselves a perfect model for sustainable communities, founded on the premise of sharing, reuse, and free and equal access to information, and she would very much like to see ALA continue to push for environmental issues. Since citizens need solid information in order to think about complex policy issues, she also believes librarians have an obligation to identify and publicize the most trustworthy environmental resources.

As an academic librarian, Jankowska combines the best of both worlds. Her standing as an internationally recognized scholar has given her the clout to win grants and advance her ideas within her university and her profession. Her devotion to providing service to the public and to democracy has benefited libraries in this country and abroad.

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