Always Working with Communities

Clara M. Chu

Director and Mortenson Distinguished Professor,
Mortenson Center for International Library Program,
University of Illinois Library at Urbana-Champaign
Affiliated Professor, School of Information Sciences

Clara Chu

Addressing a Societal Problem to Contribute to the Public Good

Chu’s research focuses on providing access to information in underserved communities. She co-designs the research projects with members of the communities she is working with including low socioeconomic communities, immigrant communities, and linguistically diverse communities. Chu is one of the leading scholars on multiculturalism and library and information practices. She co-wrote a work exploring the value of internships as a form of experiential learning in library and information science education. Her drive to ensure equitable access to information is rooted in the idea that information is empowering.

Mutually Beneficial Exchange of Knowledge and Resources

A hallmark of Chu’s research is her partnership with communities. She developed Libraries for Peace with libraries around the world to develop a community-engaged information sharing portal to celebrate Libraries for Peace Day, Sept. 21, and learn about the work of others.

Collaboration with Communities or Organizations

Chu has countless projects wherein she partnered with communities around the globe. In Community-Library Inter-Action, she collaborates with libraries around the world to promote community conversations, resulting in social transformation. With other librarians, she conducted a conversation with vendors of a local Peruvian market who indicated their interest in processing credit card payments. With the funding from an IberBibliotecas grant, the vendors received one of 28 community project grants, which they used for a financial literacy workshop, and 11 vendors received a credit card processing machine. A project on family conflict resolution, has resulted in a Colombian community holding an annual Family Day. Because of this work, community members reported increased confidence and demonstrated pride in their accomplishments. She has replicated this project in other countries around the world.


Chu believes in public engagement in every aspect of her work, which has resulted in greater community engagement as well as access to information in underserved communities around the world.



Chu publishes extensively, including peer-reviewed publications, monographs and articles for the professional field and general public. She has published her research in multiple languages. She has been an invited keynote speaker for international conferences. She has also received several grants to support her research. Her funders include IberBibliotecas, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the American Library Association, and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. She has received the most prestigious awards in her field including the 2018 ALA Beta Phi Mu Award for distinguished service to education for librarianship, and the ALA 2008 Library Diversity Research Honor and its 2002 Equality Award.


Chu has created videos about her research; such videos have been watched by individuals around the world. She has also created information action briefs to encourage librarians across the globe to act to advance sustainable development and conduct similar projects.

Additional Resources

To learn more about Dr. Chu’s publicly engaged research, visit the links below.