Since I began my new position in a school library last fall, I have been excited to find any professional opportunities related to school librarianship. Last fall, I saw that the CLA made a call for volunteers interested in various advisory committees:
- Copyright Advisory Committee
- Information Policy Advisory Committee
- Intellectual Freedom Advisory Committee
- Library Services for People with Print‐Disabilities Advisory Committee
- School Libraries Advisory Committee
Despite many Canadian librarians being rather jaded with the CLA of late, no one can deny that one of the CLA’s most important functions as a national association is its role in advocacy. People recognize the need for a strong national voice on issues essential to the values of librarianship such as intellectual freedom and copyright. If Canadian librarians cannot present a united front to policy makers to provide information and influence them on these important issues then who will? And if it is not the CLA influencing policy makers, then there is no guarantee that those who are share our librarianship values. As I’ve mentioned I think that it is essential that librarians get involved on a larger scale in issues that they are passionate about. Anyone who is passionate about the issues covered by the advisory committees should definitely look into joining these committees for the next term.
I was impressed that such a CLA advisory committee would exist for school libraries. I submitted an application to the CLA to volunteer my time on this committee and I was pleased when my application was accepted and I was named a member of the CLA School Libraries Advisory Committee for 2012-2013. After a bit of a slow start, we had our first teleconference last week. It’s extremely interesting to be put on a committee with people from across the country with different backgrounds and levels of experience. I have to admit that I felt a bit overwhelmed; certain names of people and acronyms of associations were mentioned as if we all already knew about them but were unfamiliar to me. I was sitting at my laptop simultaneously listening to the conversation and looking up groups/websites as they were mentioned. Although I am extremely passionate about school libraries and the policies that need to be put into place and the advocacy that needs to be done, I realized that my passion can only carry me so far. I really need to read up on a lot on the actions already being carried out by various organizations (provincially, nationally and internationally) and the evidence-based research that has been conducted in this field.
As a committee we are still discussing what our specific course of action will be. The instruction we’ve received from the CLA is basically our terms of reference :
Terms of Reference for CLA School Libraries Advisory Committee
- To inform and support CLA responses to media coverage of school library issues.
- To educate the Canadian public about the role of school libraries and their professional staffing.
- To contribute to the continuous development of standards for school libraries and professional roles.
You can visit the CLA Committees webpage to find out more about the various CLA committees and opportunities to get involved. If you are interested in offering your help to these committees, the contact information of the committee members is listed on the sites.
It is so hard to imagine that a year has already passed since I went to Guatemala with McGill University’s Student Chapter of Librarians Without Borders. The LWB 2010 Guatemala Trip was without a doubt one of the most intense experiences of my life. We volunteered at a local school helping them create a library as well as getting a chance to soak in the culture and breathtaking landscape while traveling around the country. I am extremely excited that this year the number of students traveling to Asturias Academy has more than doubled. Also, this year in addition to the students from McGill’s School of Information Studies, the LWB volunteer group has been joined by MLIS students from the University of Toronto, Dalhousie University and the University of Western Ontario. I encourage everyone to check out the LWB Guatemela Trip 2011 blog as the students have been doing a great job of posting regularly to describe their experiences.
As I was reading this year’s blog, I definitely felt nostalgic and found myself reflecting a lot on my trip in 2010. As a whole it was an extremely enriching and positive experience. However, I thought of a few lessons that I learned that might be useful to future volunteers. In retrospect I should have posted these reflections before this year’s group left on April 22nd. Nevertheless, I would be very interested to hear upon their return if they have similar reflections or lessons and I would invite them to comment on the following.
In preparing for the LWB volunteer trip to Guatemala, I wish that I’d know the following…
You can’t anticipate how you will react when forced outside your comfort zone:
Traveling to a foreign country where you might not have all the comforts and amenities of home can definitely be challenging. I dealt with cold showers, sketchy transportation, unfamiliar foods, lack of privacy, etc. The most daunting aspect of the trip was without a doubt dealing with my fear of heights. Guatemala is a very mountainous country and I was at moments terrified for my life as we drove on winding roads along the edge of plummeting cliffs. At the time, I honestly thought that despite the beautiful scenery, the Guatemalan people and the volunteer work we were doing, I felt that my fear of driving through the mountains would prevent me from returning to Guatemala. Now a year later, I am extremely jealous of the students who are traveling in Guatemala and working at Asturias Academy but I cannot deny that my fear of heights is a huge obstacle in deciding whether I would go back.
Brush up on the language before the trip:
I took Spanish in high school and university but when I went to Guatemala it had been awhile since I had a chance to practice. Several times on the trip I felt disappointed that I couldn’t express myself better in Spanish or understand what was being said. Speaking Spanish was in no way a condition of participating on the trip and quite a few of the other MLIS volunteers did not speak Spanish at all. However, I wanted to use the bit of Spanish that I knew in order to interact directly with the people we met. I felt that this offered me perhaps more of an authentic experience although unfortunately our guide Steve usually had to step in when it became clear that people were having problems understanding my rudimentary Spanish. If I were returning to Guatemala I would definitely try to brush up more on my grammar and vocabulary before the trip.
I invite other librarians involved in Librarians Without Borders or other international volunteering to add their advice/lessons learned.
LWB Group 2010
Finally an event that combines my two passions: literacy and running!
This past weekend I had the pleasure of participating with a fellow librarian and McGill SIS alumni in the Legs for Literacy 10km run. Legs for Literacy is a weekend of road racing in Moncton, New Brunswick raises money and awareness for local school literacy programs. The distances include a 5km, a 10km, a half-marathon, and a full marathon. This year 1,730 participants were registered for the event and more than $40,000 was raised for literacy programs!
Participating in this event got me thinking that a road race would be an excellent idea for libraries looking for creative fundraising projects. Runners love participating in races and are willing to pay on average $40-$100 depending on the distance and the reputation of the race. I have spent tons of money over the years registering myself in races that did not benefit any particular cause. It is however much more motivating when you know your registration money is going to a worthy cause.
There would be of course the basic costs of organizing a road race to cover. However considering the possibilities for sponsorships and the tendency for race organizers to rely on volunteers, this type of event has great potential to raise money for the library (collections, programs, renovations, etc).
A running event would also be a great way for a library to reach out to the community and people who might not otherwise donate to the library. In addition to the regular race distances, Legs for Literacy also offered a shorter race which is a great idea for libraries searching to create partnerships with schools as well as family health and wellness initiatives. The race also brought business to the downtown core as runners from outside of Moncton stayed in hotels and ate in restaurants.
This is not a new or groundbreaking idea. There are libraries that have already organized such races. In fact, this year marked Magnolia Library’s 34th annual road race. I am planning to contact librarians from Magnolia to find out more about their event, since I am also curious as to why we do not see more events like this. Considering how passionate I am about running and libraries, I am definitely going to start brainstorming of the possibilities as a fundraiser for my public library for next spring/summer. I’ll keep you posted!
Two librarians running for literacy
Tonight is my last night in Guatemala and so this blog post will be brief. It seems like yesterday that I first heard about the Librarians’ Without Borders trip to Guatemala (Thanks so much Robyn!). This trip has taught me so much and it has reinforced my passion for libraries. In fact, I was even made fun of by the other members of our group for getting overly excited at the prospect of Guatemalan children using the school library for homework research! I will definitely be sharing lessons learned in the near future on both my blog and the LWB Guatemala trip blog.Thanks to everyone who has been so supportive of me and of the LWB McGill Crew.
The past few weeks I have been going a bit crazy trying to finish my final assignments in order to complete my MLIS degree! If I had more time, I would blog about our preparations for the Librarians without Borders McGill Student Chapter’s upcoming 10-day trip to Guatemala. I can’t believe we leave in six days! Luckily Jen Cyr, the only professional librarian to join our group of McGill MLIS students has written a great summary of our eminent trip on her blog A Canuck Librarian. Check it out and feel free to post comments on her blog or mine! You can also check out more information on the LWB Guatemala Trip Blog.
Today at lunch time, the McGill Librarians without Borders student group hosted Marjorie Gagnon, a librarian who volunteered for 5 months in Zambia. During her stay in Zambia, Marjorie participated in two library projects: The Book Bus and the Lubuto Library Project. Many students in librarianship have a burning desire to help people (even those stuck cataloguing in a back room want to help people find resources more efficiently by doing a good job classifying). Marjorie argued that because she stayed for 2 months at each project, she was able to observe the difference that books made in the lives of the African children who she was working with. By the time she left, she was able to see the progress in their reading skills, which is pretty rewarding! Many college/university students participate in this type of project during their “gap-year” when they embark on whatever volunteer-tourism program sounds most interesting. These student volunteers did not have the same goals as Marjorie since they had no idea what needed to be done in a library setting (Marjorie described their complaints at having to do a library inventory in the hot sun). Most of them preferred visiting the country’s touristic highlights to doing actual volunteer work. This did not faze Marjorie, she was able to draw upon her management skills from her job experience to prioritize projects and motivate others.
Marjorie did a lot of research before choosing to which projects she wanted to dedicate her time and energy. She was extremely helpful by giving us a list of other potential NGOs performing library work in Africa that she discovered during her research. This was extremely useful and I was able to copy down many of the names like Under the Reading Tree and Friends of African Village Libraries (FAVL).
We were warned that a volunteer trip like this cost a lot of money and volunteers must cover their own expenses for travel, vaccinations, visas, etc. Luckily Marjorie has been working full-time for the past ten years and could afford this trip that was taken during a sabbatical year. I’m not sure that most MLIS students would have the funds saved up for the type of trip. Okay, I know that I would not be willing to pay these expenses when I am just finishing school and I do not yet have a secured job with income. Having said this, I will be going on a less expensive library-volunteer trip to Guatemala for 10 days in April. More on this in a future blog post…