Recently I joined the International Librarians Network and took up the option to participate in the Peer-mentoring programme. This is an opportunity to be paired up with a librarian from another country who has similar interests to you, but inevitably there will also be plenty of differences and points for discussion.
I have been paired with a librarian in Greece. She is sole charge in a small library, and has been working in libraries since she was 19. There is a daily threat of closure and the hard economic times in Greece are really taking their toll on libraries and librarians. However, she says that libraries in Greece have always been poorly funded, their staff under-trained and unsupported which has lead to very low expectations regarding their output and commitment. In a strange way though, the economic downturn has highlighted the necessity of libraries, and she feels that librarians are having to work harder and smarter to ensure that they keep their jobs.
A network called Future Libraries has been formed to help get libraries into action in an organised way. They are offering marketing options and massive campaigns and activities within library spaces which is helping libraries become better known in their communities. The Association of Librarians and Information Scientists in Greece ((EEBEP) has also started a petition which asks for:
the citizens of Greece, Europe and the world, to sign this petition in order to help us highlight the significant contribution and necessity of our libraries.
In her job as sole librarian, my partner does a bit of everything, including cleaning as the economic crisis has deprived her of the cleaning services as well. She rarely buys books and actually hasn’t bought anything new since 2008! This is so hard to imagine. She relies instead on patrons donating their used books to the library. The differences between our expectations and experiences is quite extreme and it has made me feel incredibly grateful for the fact that we are well-funded and that library services in New Zealand are respected and hugely appreciated.
I am really enjoying this experience so far. The INL provides discussion topics if you need some help to get chatting (via email), but so far there has been no problem finding things to talk about. For round one there are 392 participants from 40 countries which has created 196 partnerships, and the INL facebook and Twitter pages are busy with librarians enjoying the contacts they have made. Check out the INL blog to keep an eye out for the next round.