By Loida Garcia-Febo, IFLA Governing Board Member, Action for Development through Libraries Programme (ALP) Chair, New Professionals Special Interest Group Co-Founder
New librarians are doing great things around the world. Recently I met two very active Presidents of library associations who also are new librarians. I was glad to meet Luc Steve Honore, President and Founding Member of the Association des Bibliothécaires Documentalistes et Archivistes d’Haiti (ABDAH), and Jonathan Pleitez, President of Asociación de Bibliotecarios de El Salvador (ABES). They are the future and also the present of our profession.
I met these enthusiastic librarians this past April in Panama during a special week hosted by IFLA’s Latin America and Caribbean Section and IFLA’s Management of Library Associations Section. The week included a scientific seminar, a BSLA workshop and IFLA LAC and MLAS midterm meetings.
The level of engagement of these librarians confirmed once again outcomes of studies I’ve carried out about new professionals and library associations where results revealed that new professionals are increasingly participating in library associations (Garcia-Febo 2007, p.77; Garcia-Febo and Kear 2012, p.122). Meeting Honore and Pleitez confirmed to me, once again, that we need more of their type of energy and engagement in our different regions to continue strengthening our profession and moving forward the library agenda. Therefore, in order to share their experiences, I interviewed them via email.
“The purpose of this piece is to continue motivating new librarians and decision makers which can have significant impact in opening doors and growing leaders” (Garcia-Febo and Kear 2012, p.3).
Both Honore and Pleitez have worked in libraries for seven years. Honore is the Head of IT at the National Library of Haiti. Through his work with librarians in Haiti, Honore realized the need to unify librarians, archivists and information specialists under an association that benefitted everyone. After many conversations with his colleagues, they founded ABDAH and Honore was elected president on August 30, 2015. He cites as motivating factors to decide to run for President,
“a call of duty for a younger generation to contribute to the emergence of an enlightened leadership to transform our country through libraries in the aim of building a fair and peaceful society promoting access to development and information (Lyon Declaration).”
It is encouraging to see how these beliefs go along with Pleitez’ views. Pleitez is the Director of the Library at the Asociación Promotora de Centros Educativos (APCE) Colegio Lamatepec in El Salvador. He has been involved with ABES since he was in library school when he started collaborating in initiatives including El Casero del Libro, funded by IFLA, bringing books to diverse communities. He was an Assistant Treasurer and rapidly moved to Treasurer, was elected President in 2014 and reelected to another Presidential term in 2016. Pleitez believes that:
“it is not so much to decide which position you would have, the crux of the matter is to assume the challenge it represents. Life presents opportunities and your role is to take them, transform them and share them.”
Currently, ABDAH is working on structuring its organization to increase membership and continuing education programs. The members are planning the first news conference and assembly for August 2016 which will include exhibits and forums about reading, literacy and development through libraries. They are also participating in a project from IFLA LAC, Impact of copyright legislation on libraries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Some challenges faced by this new association include raising funds for operational expenses related to office space, transportation and meeting venues, and obtaining LIS scholarships to further the education of its members. Related to these, ABDAH and its President are developing a Summer University and an International Symposium on Access to Information and Development for 2017 with the goal of helping colleagues to obtain degrees in Library and Information Sciences.
ABES continues coordinating various initiatives such as El Casero del Libro, the Salvadoran Cultural Library Weeks, renewal of its institutional brand, promoting reading in the northern side of the country and the project Datos Abiertos El Salvador. These initiatives are part of their priorities related to research, professional development and strategic alliances. Pleitez is also a Co-Coordinator of BSLA for El Salvador, and coordinates ABES first newsletter, the Commission of Publications, Capacity Building and Innovation, and a Special Copyright Commission.
As we can see these Presidents are working hard to meet their goals and in the process have acquired experience they can share with others looking into leadership roles. Honore advises other new librarians embracing this profession to heed the call to build literate, informed and participative societies, promote equitable access to information and knowledge, and safeguard cultural heritage in its diverse forms of expression which are relevant to leadership roles. He says his is “a call of duty for the new librarians to become leaders within their communities and countries where at times the profession becomes part of one of the most neglected budget areas within the state, and therefore may produce systematic refusal of youth to orientate themselves towards libraries and information professions.”
Pleitez advises to “trust yourself, you can do anything you set your mind to. You can work to benefit the people around you. Learn to not settle for anything until you achieve each one of your goals partnering with strategic allies. There is no greater satisfaction than to work towards changes that would help many people understand our valuable profession. Associations could be the vehicle to achieve goals, elevate the visibility of librarians, institutions and as a results, users. Never say no. Surround yourself with people that brings light and inspiration into your life. Your process might not be an easy one and although at the beginning you could fail, shake it off and keep going until you achieve all your goals. Live each day as if it was the last day, with intensity, passion and be happy to give everything you have.”
When asked about the type of support they have to continue moving forward, Pleitez shared that his family, friends and colleagues always encourage his library and non-library initiatives. His work place, APCE Colegio Lamatepec supports his involvement in many projects. Former and current association officers are equally important pillars for him as well as international colleagues. Pleitez stays in touch with college classmates from the Universidad de El Salvador where he graduated Cum Laude and with Honors. He especially thanks his long time mentor, Helen Guardado.
Honore credits many mentors for supporting his plans and vision. “The main one was a former director of the National Library of Haiti whom show me the path, hired me at the National Library and allowed me to discover this noble profession. The second one to whom I go for advice is the Head of Collections at the National Library, and the most recent one is my former roommate on the last BSLA Workshop in Panama, the President of Library Association of Cameroon. Their advice and mentoring are priceless.” He believes that he is the future of our profession as one his mentors said to him.
These newer librarians are making things happen in their country and their region. I hope their views, experiences and plans encourage many newer colleagues to continue moving forward with their own goals, and encourage decision makers to provide new opportunities for them. We need each other. Together we can make great things.
Garcia-Febo, L. and R. Kear. 2012. New Librarians Worldwide: mapping out the future. Keynote presented at the Management of Library Associations Section programme during the IFLA WLIC 2012, Helsinki, Finland.
Garcia-Febo, L. and R. Kear. 2012. “Worldwide Perceptions of New Librarians.” In Wolf-Fritz Riekert and Ingeborg Simon (Eds.), Information in e-motion Proceedings BOBCATSSS 2012 – 20th International Conference on Information Science. Amsterdam, 23-25 January 2012. Bad Honnef, Germany: Bock+Herchen Verlag, p.122-125.
Garcia-Febo, L. 2007. International Perspectives in the New Librarian Experience. Feliciter Canadian Library Association magazine, 53 (2): 77-79.