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Archive for June, 2010

I am not a natural born blogger and far more people than me have written eloquently and passioantely about our profession as librarians. I just wanted to tell you a true story.

I went on holiday to Vietnam recently and while we were there I had an ao dai made in Hoi An. A huge treat and somtehing I will treasure for many years. The electricity went off during the day (a frequent occurrence in some areas due to the drought affecting hydro-electricity production). This meant that the tailor had to finish the garments by hand and there was a delay. I was asked to wait while this was done, and one of the young women came to sit with me and chat. She wanted to improve her English and I wanted to learn a little more Vietnamese.

As we talked my husband arrived and was also invited to join in the general chat. We talked about the heat, and generalities. then the conversation turned to education. It transpired she was working towards a degree in Economics. It had taken her a long time to achieve as she had to work to fund the course, so was a part time student but she had just completed finals. There is no help with the cost of HE for the majority of the population, but most people aspire to a degree. Her boyfriend is a teacher, a very highly respected profession. He had three jobs whilst he qualified. Getting on average three hours sleep a night so he could study, work and attend University. They both felt it was worth the sacrifices.

Then she politely asked my husband what job he did. He said he worked in IT and she smiled and said that was a good job. Then it was my turn. I said I am a librarian, currently working in a University. Her eye widened. She gasped “A librArian?”. I thought she was teasing me. “Yes” I said waiting for the inevitable shhhh jokes. They never came. A librarian, she told me, is very highly respected and a profession she had aspired to but wasn’t able to get a place as they were so highly sought after. Doctor, teachers and librarians, she said, are the most soought after qualifications and librarians are very very special. She herself could not have completed her studies without their help and guidance.

Her eyes sparkled and she stroked my arm as if I was somebody very special to her. We chatted on about films, books, families and other trivia until my ao dai was ready, and we had to leave. She and Ihugged and wished each other good fortune.

My husband turned to me as we walked down the street and said “Wow, that must make you feel good.” It did, and we agreed that it was the opposite to the reaction we usually get. His job is seen as the impressive one and I get the blank looks and stupid jokes. I explained how it had suddenly made me remember why I gave up being an IT Consultant and became a mature student on the Library and Information Management BA 16 years ago, and why what I do is important. Now when people ask me if I can research a topic, define a policy or help somebody learn how to find, use and evaluate the information they need I think “Yes, I can, for I am a LIBRARIAN, and I bestride the world of information”. Then I giggle at msyelf and get on with it.

But I will never forget my friend in Hoi An, and how she made me feel so proud of my profession. Maybe I should ask her to write to KPMG and the Government and tell them, too.

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