Montana State University
Archived Spotlight story

June 25, 2008 -- Anne Pettinger, MSU News Service

PetersonElaine Peterson, an associate professor and information systems specialist at Montana State University's Renne Library, has won a Fulbright Senior Specialists project award to travel to Bahrain.

While there, Peterson will help develop a new national library located in Riffa, just south of Bahrain's capital city of Manama.

Peterson will be the first of four American Fulbright award-winners to assist with the set-up of the new library.

"My primary role will be to consult and advise on the organization of their information," she said, adding that she expects to address both physical and electronic materials. The library is just one part of the Issa Royal Cultural Center, a multi-purpose building housing the national library, a conference center and museum.

Peterson will be in Bahrain for just more than a month; she plans to depart for Bahrain July 10 and return to Bozeman Aug. 20.

Bahrain is an archipelago of 33 islands in the Arabian Gulf, situated between the east coast of Saudi Arabia and the Qatar peninsula. Bahrain, meaning "two seas" in Arabic, is the largest island of the archipelago.

Peterson thinks she was selected for the award, in part, because organizing information is one of her specialties.

"Very few people specialize in cataloging and classification," she said.

Peterson said she is looking forward to the assignment for several reasons.

"Starting up a library from scratch is pretty darn exciting," she said. "Especially nowadays, when you not only have a print journal collection, but also electronic (materials and databases)."

Peterson is also expected to host workshops for a group of eight university librarians from the University of Bahrain, which is also located in Riffa.

"I think the librarians really have no opportunities for professional development, so the idea is to use this as a professional development opportunity," she said. "And I've always enjoyed teaching."

Peterson said one of the reasons she is looking forward to working with librarians from the University of Bahrain is because it appears the library is similar to MSU's in both size and in the catalog and classification system that it uses.

She said librarians from the University of Bahrain have already sent questions to her.

Though her Fulbright award does not include a formal research component, Peterson envisions possible research topics springing from the experience.

"Once I'm there, there might be a research component I'll be thinking about," she said.

In addition to looking forward to her work in Bahrain, Peterson is also excited simply to visit another part of the globe.

Though she said she has been to Europe multiple times, Peterson has never visited the Middle East.

Peterson, 56, earned a Master of Arts degree in library science from the University of Michigan in 1981. She has been at MSU since 1989, where she works in collection development and cataloging, selecting and organizing materials.

The Fulbright Program, which the U.S. Congress established in 1946, awarded approximately 6,000 grants in 2007, at a cost of more than $262 million, for U.S. students, teachers, professionals and scholars to study, teach and conduct research in more than 155 countries.

In the past two decades, more than 30 Fulbright grants have been awarded to U.S. scholars to lecture in Bahrain, where they have been involved in a diverse range of disciplines including American studies, linguistics, archaeology, engineering, business administration, medical sciences and sociology.