The past week has been an eventful one.
Last Thursday (the last day of our work week), representatives from the one existing and planned museums under the museums authority met for our Library Work Group Meeting. Museums librarians and guests from other museum departments congregated in a beautiful library set over the Arabian Gulf. We approved the minutes from our last meeting and got down to business.
A central museum library in a recently-opened office building has work stations and shelving to accommodate 10,000 books. We have submitted proposals for collection development, but we haven’t received feedback yet. The timing of the development of this library could be crucial to my cataloging project plans. If the work stations are equipped with the LMS soon, I will be able to catalog directly into the system that will eventually be installed in my library. Although I’m a bit anxious about the probability of this happening soon, I have other options in the event that it doesn’t work out, which is a crucial component of all development projects!
We are trying to negotiate a contract with ARTstor and JSTOR right now, as well. There has been some back-and-forth about the contract. Can the museums authority be considered one entity or will each individual museum require separate licenses? The answer has yet to be officially reached.
We had a call of agreement about the book wholesaler that all of the museum libraries will use in the future. It was a milestone to come to an agreement on this matter. We circulated a tender evaluation document to sign before Eid holidays begin so that it can be submitted immediately when we return to our offices. The day off from work began yesterday, but I was able to sign it because it was in the hands of a museum employee who lives in my apartment building. I had a nice discussion with her and feel comforted by the support and intelligence of my colleagues.
The library work group discussed the problems I face due to staffing and resource shortages at present. A new member of the group, a local young woman who recently joined as the librarian for the children’s museum, offered to work overtime to help me catalog if need be. It was my first time meeting her…great first impression!
We also discussed the possibility of hiring a short-term consultant cataloging librarian to come for a couple of months. Perhaps one from the US: any takers?! Hehe.
I had only two working days since the library work group meeting: Sunday and Monday. I spent both days either meeting with the museum director and museum staff on plans or handling details for my material requests with procurement and finance employees.
I’m leaving on an 8:30am flight to Sri Lanka tomorrow morning, and I was wandering around the shops of the old souq yesterday evening in search of gifts for my Sri Lankan hosts. Due to Ramadan, shops open after sunset, by the way. I received calls from the procurement contact working on my library book order. It was exhilarating in a sense, to simultaneously make professional progress with the library while preparing for my vacation. Getting more than one thing done at once has always been a wonderful feeling for me, I guess. Ha.
After a great meal with my boyfriend at a hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant where menu items go from US50 cents to US$3, we headed back to my apartment for another library science duty. I was the guest speaker for an International Librarianship course at Syracuse.
My friend is teaching the course and asked me to speak to her students via Skype. We met each other in Lusaka, Zambia when she was in town for the Standing Conference of Eastern, Central and Southern African Library and Information Associations (SCECSAL) in July 2008. She researched community libraries in Namibia for her doctoral studies, and I was able to visit one of the libraries in the Katutura township in Windhoek, Namibia when I wound up living in Namibia for a couple of months. I was honored that she wanted me to speak to her students.
I basically gave a brief overview of my short career in various locales and then answered questions for about an hour. It was fun, although I was a little nervous and probably laughed a little too much. There were questions about finding international jobs, salary, cultural and linguistic barriers, the IFLA conference among others. One question was slightly more difficult to answer although it was very simple: Are there many librarians who move around the world?
There will always be UN librarians assigned to posts around the world.
There will always be librarians from struggling countries who move to places where they can find jobs. In fact, I think the US and Canada may be included in that category today based on the number of North American librarians who move to the Middle East for work. A friend of mine presented a paper on that phenomenon at the IFLA Conference 2009 in Milan. At that time, she was in New York working for Brooklyn Public Library, which is where I met her.
Little did I know that I would be among the librarians relocating to this part of the world at that time. I had just moved to Buenos Aires after being narrowed down to the final two candidates for positions at Yale University Arts Libraries and Columbia University and, to my surprise, was offered neither position in the end. I found my solution in jobs abroad: both Buenos Aires and my current position and, just a year after my friend presented her paper, attended IFLA myself.
Meanwhile, she had wanted to work abroad since I was in Africa, and, just last month, a year after presenting her paper on American librarians abroad, she began a new position as a librarian in Palau. I mentioned her as an example of an international librarian when I answered the question.
For me, librarianship is a career that has no borders or boundaries and is needed in every corner of the world, no matter what the social, political, or economic situation may be. I’m glad I chose this profession.
Time for me to pack for my trip to Sri Lanka! Eid Mubarak.