Friday, April 15, 2011

National Library Week 2011

All this week libraries across the country have been celebrating their awesomeness and the joy they bring the communities around them as part of National Library Week.

CNN Librarian Kerith Page McFadden wrote a nice post about librarians being the master of the information universe.  Looking through the Google News feed and the #nlw11 tweets it seems like the celebrations are going strong this week in various ways.  

Yesterday was International Special Librarians' Day and we held a little celebration at work due to that and also our wiki hitting 250,000 page views. It was nice to see the staff members we serve or interact with everyday visiting our desks - which are spread among 5 floors - and saying thank you.  Of course I'm sure the free goodies helped to get a few folks to stop by, but just the effort they took to say Thank You was a nice gesture.

I also attended a DC/SLA program that highlighted three librarians who have done international work. 

Allan Overland, Library Director at Democracy Resource Center which is part of the National Endowment for Democracy, explained a grant funded project to create a digital library of democracy related materials.  They decided due to budget and time constraints to just focus initially on the content that was born digital.  They expanded out their current library catalog and made a basic search interface.  They are working with other countries who are democratic to show them how to make a simple digital library for their collections as well.

Edna Reid has spent time working in Singapore and Malaysia. In Singapore, she helped build a library school and also worked at Nanyang Business School.  After working for in Singapore for a few years, she decided to just take a year off and enjoy herself in Malaysia.  But as she started to reach out to colleagues and other contacts she realized she was doing consulting on the side and decided to start her own consultant business.

Edna mentioned that part of her experience abroad was learning about the cultural intelligence and how to work around the society rules. She encouraged librarians who might be interested in an abroad position to think about framing their skills with a mindset of what they could bring to an international setting.  She challenged us to think about what domain knowledge we have that is on demand in other countries.  She suggested looking at the hot issues & discussions happening in other countries as well.

Dr. Sohair Wastawy was the last speaker.  She was the Chief Librarian of the Library of Alexandria in Egypt from 2004 - 2010. Currently she is the Dean of Libraries at Illinois State University.  She talked to us about how the information world is changing and how libraries are transforming to meet those needs.  I was impressed with the ease that she spoke about the different statistics regarding social media trends, wireless and communications overall.  She showed us designs of new & existing library buildings around the world that are transforming to be more than a place that houses books.  One library that caught my eye during the presentation was NC State's Hunt Library.

Dr. Wastawy then transitioned to sharing a little bit about that goals and programs that the new Library at Alexandria offers.  The library building itself is very impressive and they are reaching out to many different types of people - young, old, mentally handicapped, etc. The new Library of Alexandria was built in 2002, but has already made a huge impact on the surrounding communities.  During the recent protests in Egypt, young people linked hands around the library building for hours in order to make sure no harm was done to this place of learning and community.

What I learned from all the speakers last night is that you need to take risks and step outside of your comfort zone when entering into a international librarianship position. Living and working abroad has always been a goal of mine, but at this point in my life I'm not sure its realistic. I was encouraged by an opportunity that Edna mentioned in which the US State Department is looking for short-term assignments for persons with particular skills.  Perhaps that is how I could get my feet wet in international librarianship in the future.

Happy National Library Week!

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