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Professor James J. Owens Wins American Library Association Award

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

Literacy Nonprofit Co-founded by James Owens Gains International Recognition

June 26, 2012

A literacy charity begun by James Owens, associate professor of clinical management communication at the USC Marshall School of Business, was recently singled out by the American Library Association (ALA) with a Presidential Citation for Innovative International Library Projects. The World is Just a Book Away (WIJABA) was one of just four enterprises recognized for the 2012 honor, which recognizes the most innovative examples of library projects that are sustainable, make a difference to their citizens and connect the international community in genuine and new ways.

WIJABA focuses on inspiring and educating children in developing countries by providing books, building libraries and developing curricular programs. Founded in 2008 by Owens and established in Indonesia with the help of Andru Subowo, a USC Marshall IBEAR MBA alumnus and resident of Indonesia, as well as support from USC alumni clubs across the world, the charity counts several USC faculty, including Marshall Dean James G. Ellis, among its advisory board members.

“The USC Trojan family has been a big part of the success of this whole organization,” said Owens. “We have a lot of great people involved on our board and on our advisory board who put a great deal of strategic thinking into how we wanted to develop and evolve and partner with communities. Our goal is to have very measured growth that is focused on long-term success and long-term partnerships with communities.”

Owens was on hand to accept the ALA award during a special presentation at the ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim, Calif., on June 25. To date, WIJABA has launched 49 libraries, 26 parent libraries and two mobile libraries in Indonesia, to serve more than 27,000 children. In 2012, the nonprofit will begin working with children in Mexico.


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