Showing posts with label Responding to Challenges in Library Space. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Responding to Challenges in Library Space. Show all posts

My United Board Fellowship Program: Japan Experience

My second program as a United Board Fellow took place at the International Christian University in Osawa, Mitaka, Tokyo, Japan from May-July 2012. My experience in Japan has been very enlightening. Indeed,  it was culturally, professionally, educationally and technologically challenging too.

Let me share a short background of ICU. ICU came to life from the ruins of World War II and as founded amidst the post-war yearning for reconciliation and world peace. It is ICU’s commitment “to nurture graduates who contribute to the peaceful development of humanity, transcending differences in nationality, race, religion and culture”. This commitment and dedication is manifested in the curriculum and instruction, and activities. This is also evident in the ways how the university serves both students and personnel. It is also being manifested on how academic constituents communicate and speak about to and with each other. It is worth mentioning that ICU’s advocacy for reconciliation and world peace are also being done where exchange is active through the Rotary Peace Program and the Japan Grant Aid for Human Resources Development Scholarship Program (JDS). Whereby accepting students from the International community and other domestic exchange scholarships like ICU Peace Bell scholars and consortia. In building reconciliation and peace, it is indeed important for people to have access to education, however, what, and how these are taught is equally crucial.

The Changing Context of Library Environment

Aside from learning about governance and management of the university, about the selection and recruitment of administrators, faculty and staff and learning other services, I also concerted on the library and information technology management system. ICU library is the first library in Japan to have an automated storage system which has become an answer to their space storage problem. I was able to learn the approaches on how to restructure library services and the organization of the so called “hybrid library environment”. Along with the installation of the ICU library’s automated storage system, space-saver compact shelving and how these systems work, I had seen the effectiveness of these technologies as applied to the library setting. I consider ICU library as having a hybrid library environment where a large collection of printed, with rich online databases, digital and other electronic resources are made available. Operations in the library as well as in other service units of the university mostly are mechanized.

After having visited several libraries and museums in Tokyo, the perceived conflict between the “virtual world of information” and the “physical world of the library” to me is not really a conflict and would never be a conflict. The virtual library or the advent of information technology has not influenced my cultural and traditional understanding of libraries and of librarians. Libraries and librarians seem to be losing their important roles in this information or knowledge society. However, to me definitely these will not fade away as many people thought and afraid of due to the changing formats of library materials from traditionally printed to electronic formats. Several professionals even said that libraries and their services are no longer needed this time were information are readily available online in the World Wide Web specially now that the so called “libraries without walls” is gaining its popularity. To me, though the library without walls has become a reality and formats of library materials and resources have been changing, librarians of today will remain true and even become more librarians of tomorrow. 

What is then needed of me as a librarian is to refocus my values to enhance my workplace and my role as an information provider and communicator of knowledge. I believe that technology has not changed what libraries do, it just simply changes the way things and operations are done in the library. Ultimately libraries today demand more managerial ability than before. To be truly called librarian and information professional and to be visible in the information world, I, for one am compelled to continue both being a custodian at the same time mediate access to electronic and information systems to cater the needs of library clients.

My first program was equally very enriching, nourishing, and scholarly as in my second program. Both programs complement each other. What I have learned from the two prestigious universities in two powerful countries such as the Valparaiso University in Indiana, USA and the International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan gave me new ideas. However, to compare the learning I had varies in terms of setting, ways and other things differ to some degree. In my first program, I had a regular meeting with mentor and regular social hour with my coordinator and other visiting professors in the university. My mentor and coordinator prepared the program plan for the field trips and other activities for me to learn more and to enrich my stay in the USA. Thus, what I learned and experienced in my first program gave me ideas and insights how to do things in my second program in Japan. In my second placement, I am also developed, and my standpoint in relation to leadership is enhanced, not from a formal class setting but in my own ingenuity and initiative of learning through research and readings, observations, attendance to various seminars and symposiums, formal and informal meetings and interviews with people in the universities. It is just fair in saying that my first placement had prepared me for my second program. In my second program, I had meetings and interviews, I sit-in to selected classes and had field trips with library personnel. 

At ICU, I had a designated office furnished with telephone, access to internet, a mailbox, a University ID- issued as UBCHEA Fellow and an automated card that can access the shared photocopier and printer in the university campus. I usually search in the intranet and university website to get information and announcements about the activities and events in campus where I could participate and attend to. 
Looking and Responding to Challenges

This fellowship program gave me insights on how to make changes in my own work and in the structure or system to which I am responsible. As a faculty, I realize the need for professional growth to further my education in library and information science, to learn more, to increase my morale, increase motivation to adopt new technologies, methods and to foster information literacy and skills to my students. As to my work in the library, I planned to make a good library and information management system; empower and encourage my librarians and staff for professional development by making myself the cheerleader and master strategist.

First thing to do after my fellowship program is to assess the performance and outcome with regards to my home library services. The changes that I would like to pursue will be based practically on the result of the assessment, and then match this with the variety of information technologies that have encompassed deeply into the library world today and determine where we can fit-in in terms of space or building infrastructure, furnishing, equipment and staffing.

Initially, I thought of the following to be the main concern: to implement necessary reforms in campus and educational environment by improving the “information environment  or landscape” in order to better support the academic and research thrust of my home institution; to provide various online electronic utilities; to initiate an interactive interlibrary loan in the province; to propose advancements into electronic classrooms and to provide an area in the library for faculty to create web-enhanced courses; to establish a Writing Center as a new service in the library to strengthen the writing skills primarily of undergraduate and graduate students; and propose to build online databases with full-text contents also of all onsite research/theses outputs and other publications done by faculty, staff and students of my home institution. In so doing, the library faculty should have more knowledge and expertise than before from traditional to advanced information technologies. This is a dire need because as new services and methods will be introduced, more reinforcement in information literacy programs and electronic research skills to educate our library users.

The changes that I planned to undertake are basically to support my home institution in its academic mission and thrust both as learning, teaching and as a research-oriented organization. These planned changes may be acceptable to students, faculty and staff. Some administrators might as well welcome the idea, but I know that it is not easy to make such technological changes specially when the organization is small and has a meager income. Several difficulties can be encountered during the implementation process. Primary to this is the monetary or financial aspect to defray subscription fee to online databases, membership fee to consortium, and procurement of more electronic and digital devices, additional spaces/areas and additional human resources. On top of all these, a strong support from students, faculty, staff and administration is required. What I see essential to this is the unity of knowledge, faith and action to bring these plans to fruition with the assistance of the people in the community, grants and aids from willing individuals, alumni and foundations.

I always believe that having a close contact with people and having acquaintances with them even in three-month time stay in Japan is enough to know, to understand and to respect each other amidst likeness and differences. The United Board’s program such as this fellows program is very significant and timely in developing people and leaders. As it is said, globalization brings ongoing changes worldwide. Looking at the necessities of learning and overseas experience, I find these fellows program very essential being a faculty and director of libraries. I am able to see what is going on outside of my country and outside my home institution and in the world of librarianship. Having undergone exposures and leadership training at universities helped me become a person who is now capable to carry out strategic directions, can adjust to pleasant and difficult situations and I think am now ready to shape and manage change for the betterment of my own departments in Southern Christian College.

Learning Other Cultures 

In my exposure to the USA and Japan, I also learned how people live, how they do things in work, the ways how they relate with their families, with others, with the environment and the community and also learned their cultures and how they preserve these. Through this learning I had a better and deeper cross-cultural understanding of the diversity of other people’s lives of which are quite distinct from my own culture and tradition in the Philippines.

I was able to speak about Philippine educational system, issues and concerns in one of the meetings in the “Fundamentals of Comparative and International Education” undergraduate class under Prof. Mark Langager. That was a good venue for me to share to students from different countries vis-à-vis education in my own country. My close association with some international graduate school students had also given me the opportunity to know their own country, their ups and downs, their challenges, joys and their peculiar experiences while studying at ICU and being in Japan.

I had undergone several amusing experiences brought about by the realities of life and leaving in Japan. I got used to slight shakes and little bit strong earthquakes for six times since I arrived. It has been difficult to communicate with some Japanese people inside the campus during my meetings/interviews with them. More so outside the university, like stores, shops, etc. because of the language barrier. I have been trying to learn and speak few words in Nihonggo. However, what I liked most of the Japanese people is that they are really true to their work. Time is so precious to them. This kind of Japanese character teaches me to have a strong sense to dignity of labor and a strong sense for the love of work. 

My deepest thanks and gratitude to the United Board for accepting me to this Fellows Program, for the many great opportunities, experiences and learning of which I benefit from and have been enjoying for two years now. I take pleasure in thanking all the officers and staff of UBCHEA for having you played a big role for me to grow more professionally and for bringing out the best in me and what I am capable of. Best and more power!