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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Mortenson Center for International Library Programs: Our Past Directors

The Mortenson Center for International Library Programs seeks to strengthen international ties among libraries and librarians worldwide for the promotion of international education, understanding, and peace.

Marianna Tax Choldin: 1991 - 2003


Marianna Tax Choldin is a Mortenson Distinguished Professor Emerita, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 1991 she became the founding director of the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs, which she led until her retirement at the end of 2002. As director, she developed programs that brough librarians from all over the world to Urbana-Champaign, some for short courses and some for extended periods of study. At the time of her retirement, nearly 600 Mortenson Associates from 76 countries had spent time on the campus. Under Professor Choldin’s direction the Center initiated cooperative programs with libraries, library associations, universities, and other organizations in Russia, Central America, Haiti, Georgia, and South Africa. 

Professor Choldin has traveled all over the world to work with librarians, promoting improved library services, new technologies, and especially freedom of information. From 1997 to 2000 she chaired the multifaceted library program of the Soros Foundation, which has distributed millions of dollars to libraries and librarians in more than 30 countries. 

Educated at the University of Chicago, Marianna Tax Choldin received her bachelor’s degree with Phi Beta Kappa in 1962 and her doctorate in 1979. She was on the faculty of the University of Illinois-Urbana from 1969 through 2002. She was an adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, and served as director of the Russian and East European Center and head of the Slavic and East European Library.

In her own research Professor Choldin studies censorship in Russia, the Soviet Union, and the post-Communist world. The author of numerous articles and books, she is best known for A Fence Around the Empire: Russian Censorship of Western Ideas Under the Tsars and The Red Pencil: Artists, Scholars, and Censors in the USSR (co-edited with Maurice Friedberg). In 1995 she was elected president of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. In 2000 the government of Russia awarded her the Pushkin Gold Medal for contributions to culture. In 2001 she was the first recipient of the University of Illinois’ Distinguished Faculty Award for International Achievement. In 2005 the American Library Association’s International Relations Committee gave her the John Ames Humphry/OCLC/Forest Press Award for significant contributions to international librarianship. From 2004 through 2010 she was founding president of the Rudomino Library Council USA, an organization supporting projects that promoted tolerance in Russia. In 2011 Professor Choldin received a public service award from the University of Chicago, and the Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her latest book, Garden of Broken Statues: Exploring Censorship in Russia (Academic Studies Press) was published in 2016. A Russian-language edition is scheduled for publication in Moscow in 2017 (Rudomino Book Center). 

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Video interview:

Barbara J. Ford: 2003-2014



Barbara J. Ford took the helm at the Center as its second Director and Mortenson Distinguished Professor in 2003. She built on its strong beginnings, expanding the Center’s work in East Africa and Asia. Ford complemented Tax Choldin’s work by focusing inward, consolidating relationships and the Center’s standing within the University and the State of Illinois. The Center worked closely with librarians at the University of Illinois and around the state to share expertise and enhance programs to develop librarians worldwide. An evaluation by Arabella Advisors conducted at the end of Ford’s tenure showed the Center’s strong impact on participating librarians and their respective libraries.

Prior to working at the Mortenson Center, she was the 1997-1998 president of the American Library Association (ALA) and her theme was “Libraries: Global Reach, Local Touch.”

Ford previously worked as assistant commissioner for central library services at the Chicago Public Library, executive director of the Virginia Commonwealth University libraries, and associate library director at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. She served in several capacities at the University of Illinois at Chicago, including documents librarian and audiovisual librarian. In addition, Ford was director of the Soybean Insect Research Information Center at the Illinois Natural History Survey and a Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama and Nicaragua.

She was president of the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the ALA from 1990 until 1991. She was a member of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Section on University and General Research Libraries. She previously served as the secretary for the IFLA Section on Government Information and Official Publications. Additionally, served on the Governing Board of the International Federation of Library Associations from 2005-2009

The author of many publications and presentations, Ford has traveled around the world to address topics such as information literacy, government information, the future of libraries, the role of library associations, international cooperation among libraries, and virtual libraries.

Ford earned a bachelor’s degree in history and education from Illinois Wesleyan University, a master’s degree in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and a master’s degree in library science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Additional Links​

Video Interview:

Paula Kaufman: 2014-2015




Paula Kaufman worked at the Mortenson Center for one year as Interim Director and Mortenson Distinguished Professor. With expertise as an academic library leader, Kaufman explored strategic university partnerships, including with academic libraries in Taiwan and India. Serving in a transitional role, she focused on both developing strategies emanating from the Arabella Advisors’ Evaluation Report (2013) that would position the Center for the future, and facilitating the selection and transition to the next Director and Distinguished Professor. 

Kaufman was the University Librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from September 7, 1999 until August 15, 2013 . Prior to taking this position, she was dean of the libraries at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville for 11 years. Prior to which she served at the Columbia University Libraries as Acting Vice President, Director of Academic Information Services, Director of Library Services, Acting Head of the East Asian Libraries, and Business and Economics Librarian. Ms. Kaufman also has considerable experience in the private sector at McKinsey and Company and as partner and co-founder of Information for Business.

Kaufman received her A.B. in Economics from Smith College in 1968, her M.S. in Library Science from Columbia University in 1969 and an M.B.A. in management from the University of New Haven in 1979.

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