Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Lessons Learned by Being a Librarian Abroad

For a while, I've been thinking about working as a librarian beyond my country's borders. Attending a workshop on international librarianship, where people spoke about being librarians in places like Italy and the UAE, only deepened my interest.

Working as a librarian abroad will really expand your horizons!
Image via http://www.internationalteflacademy.com

One MLS degree holder who has worked abroad is Rachel Wightman. She accepted a library position at a small college in the East African country of Uganda.

Wightman worked at a college library in Kampala, Uganda, for a year and a half. During her time there, she installed and networked computers, implemented an integrated library system (ILS), cataloged the library's collection, and taught computer and research skills to students. In addition to these valuable tasks, she also learned some invaluable lessons about librarianship.

In an article posted on INALJ.com, Wightman revealed "4 Things I Learned About Library Service by Leaving the Country." These four things are:

1. Greet people: "This made the library a more personable space and helped remind me regularly the importance of building relationships with patrons and not simply seeing them as another question to answer," said Wightman.

2. Some things are cultural, some are universal: "Every library exists within its own culture and the work I do needs to be relevant to that culture," she said.

3. Know your collection: "It wasn't uncommon for the power to go out for hours (or days!) at a time," said Wightman. "During those times, I learned the importance of knowing the library's physical collection."

4. Understand the community: "This is similar to number 2, but worth mentioning," she said. "The collections, resources, and programs are all geared toward the type of community the library serves. This lesson was especially important in Uganda."

Rachel Wightman gained some excellent knowledge during her year and a half as a librarian abroad, and I'm glad she shared her experience and the lessons she learned from it on INALJ.com. To read more about her time in Uganda, check out her article at THIS LINK. In the meantime, I'll look into getting a passport.

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