Janet Lee (Ethiopia) receives 2021 John Ames Humphry/OCLC/Forest Press Award


Janet Lee (Ethiopia 1974-76)

CHICAGO —Janet Lee, Retired, Dean/Professor Emerita, Dayton Memorial Library, Regis University Dean, has been named the 2021 recipient of the American Library Association (ALA) International Relations Committee’s John Ames Humphry/OCLC/Forest Press Award, presented to a librarian or person who has made significant contributions to international librarianship.

The award, sponsored by OCLC/Forest Press, consists of $1,000 and a plaque to be presented at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, Illinois, USA. OCLC/Forest Press donated the cash award.

In addition to her academic and professional success at Regis University, Lee is a Fulbright Scholar (2017-2018) in Ethiopia. Janet made impressive contributions in these key areas, promoting open access publishing and digital libraries, implementing a library catalogue, expanding the African Storybook Project, and assisting in the opening the Axumite Heritage Foundation Library. Janet’s ties to Ethiopia go back to 1970s when she served as Peace Corps Volunteer before beginning her career as a librarian and continues with her active role on the Denver Sister City Axum (Ethiopia) committee.

In 2018, Janet was the first recipient of IRRT’s Mission Development Grant to set up a Chromebook Lab at the Axumite Heritage Foundation Library.  The grant helped support the establishment of a lab that was comprised of 30 Chromebooks and a portable plug-and-play RACHEL (Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning) server loaded with the entire Ethiopian secondary school curriculum, plasma videos that accompany the curriculum, and content from other providers such as the Kahn Academy, Hesperian Health Guides, African Storybook, and a range of open-access textbooks.

Thanks to Janet’s fundraising efforts, which have been an integral part of the success of the Axumite Heritage Foundation Library, she has also secured donations of books and technology that have been critical to building a modern library in the region.

Janet has served in various capacities within ALA, including as an active member of IRRT’s International Sustainable Libraries Development interest group, and various other leadership roles with International Relations committees and programs.  She often presents programs and poster sessions at ALA conferences on sustainable library topics

Lee is also well-published in her field with a particular focus on international libraries and their development, including serving as editor of both print and online publications, including Colorado Libraries, IRRT’s International Leads, Collaborative Librarianship, Jesuit Higher Education, and The Herald: News for Those Who Served in Eritrea and Ethiopia. Another example of Janet’s work on behalf of librarianship, particularly international librarianship, is the number of websites and social media she moderates and the articles she writes about her work.

Moreover, throughout her 30+ years as a professional librarian, Janet consistently and passionately supported international communities not only abroad but also such communities represented in Colorado and other parts of the United States.  She expressed this commitment by advancing libraries in these communities and in promoting educational opportunities for students adjusting to life in a new country. Janet was a strong advocate for the underprivileged groups within Colorado, promoting programs and establishing a scholarship to support students in college and university.

Janet’s work on advancing librarianship and library science, literacy, and cultural diplomacy in Ethiopia has had a lasting impact.


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  • Well deserved recognition! Congratulations! My wife and I are lucky to have seen Janet’s impressive work in Axum. We admire her determination and persistence to make a difference in challenging circumstances.

  • Congratulations Janet! You have made such an incredible impact on the lives of the Ethiopian people and this award is very well deserved.

    Great work!

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