Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Filipino School Librarian: Rosal Yniguez Bulaong

The blog's featured Filipino School Librarian this month of April is retiree, Madame Rosal Yniguez Bulaong. She's been a librarian for nearly five decades and her septogenarian wisdom shines through this article she wrote for Inquirer's High Blood section on December 11, 1996. She was a high school librarian at the International School Manila (ISM) for 21 years and became consultant for the University of Asia and the Pacific. Prior to working at ISM and UAaP, she has 17 solid years of library experience in Maryknoll College (Miriam College) and a year at the UP Main Lib/MassCom Library.

In a time when computers and information technology were rocking the profession to experiment and innovate, Mrs. Bulaong and her colleagues at ISM rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Theirs was the first school in Manila to automate its library and implement ITC in the daily library routines and programs. Her trailblazing exploits in school librarianship is made colorful by a graduate thesis she wrote on school library instruction.

Mrs. Bulaong is a proud graduate of Library Science from the University of Sto. Tomas. She holds a Master in Library and Science at the University of the Philippines.

I have gone through so many uneventful birthdays but had long looked forward to my 60th not because it was inevitable but for the anxiety of what will preoccupy me after this, my last school year of being a licensed professional librarian at the International School Manila. For 39 years I have been blessed working in schools that provided excellent support to their libraries including Maryknoll College and the University of the Philippines. These places provided me with an extraordinary chance to put into practice my ideas and theories learned from library schools of the University of Santo Tomas and the University of the Philippines. Working in these libraries gave me access to a very considerable and exciting wealth of reading materials.

It was a great chance to select and buy books on topics and issues while they are still hot and timely . I have cataloged and browsed through works of philosophers, historians, scientists, artists, literary writers and sociologists. I have enjoyed reading biographical and informational books on geology, history and culture of countries, environmental and other social issues among others . I used to finish reading a romantic Gothic fiction of Victoria Holt and the juvenile writings of Judy Blume and sci-fi of Ray Bradbury before sleeping.How I wish I have a photographic mind, then I could literally be a walking encyclopedia!

What sort of reference questions do we receive? Where is the almanac or dictionary is not all there is to it. I have been asked to locate the map of the original esteros in Manila drawn by architect Burnham after whom the Baguio's Burnham Park was named. This was because a certain government agency was studying the flood control program of the former first lady. I was asked the name of the horse of a Roman emperor for a high school assignment. It’s a great feeling when a shy freshman comes back to say she enjoyed the novel I had given her to read. There have been thousands of questions asked, most of them repetitive, but I have continuously learned from these questions. I could always know how and where to locate most of the information needed if I did not have the answer right off.

But finding the information for each library user would be too tedious so we make sure that the students learned how to look for it themselves. We would show the class at the start of their research how they would locate materials for their topics. It could be a simple assignment on the ethnic music of their own countries or individual help on their research for an International Baccalaureate extended essay. Not being a teacher with a regular classroom setup, we only get to know the best and the worst users of the library. I am glad to see the student who would take piles of books to read for enjoyment. And we would try our hand on being counselors for those who prefer to enjoy the prime of their social lives in the library. I get to be friends of these young readers whom a Maryknoll Sister surmised would be " wives of leaders of the Philippine government and industry, if not the country’s leaders themselves".

A school librarian is not only a teacher but also a good manager. I will miss going through professional magazines and book catalogs to select the best titles to buy with more than a million-peso-budget for new books. And what about maintaining the good relationship among the staff ? There is the everyday problem of keeping the library spic and span and the whole operation efficient like sending an overdue notice to the wrong person and getting irate phone calls from parents. We must also be able to communicate to the administrators what good things we had been providing for our library clientele.

I have worked with top professional Filipino librarians and with six professional American librarians. Together we have maintained efficient staff services for libraries we can be proud of. Sharing my expertise with other professional librarians is also part of my memories. I considered them not as students but my colleagues with whom I share my latest experiences. Now they are part of the library leadership of this country. It was also a privilege and a fun activity to be part of the leadership of national library organizations. As it is often quoted in the teaching field we must "publish or perish". I did have a published article in a professional magazine and have edited a Philippine index to magazines.

When the technology leap happened, we were quickly at the forefront. I am part of a team which had its library among the first to be fully computerized. The computer never really scared me - but I must say I am always learning a new technique everyday. I must thank the school’s professional development program and its mission to make every faculty and staff member computer literate. Think about being one of the first in school - or in the Philippines?- to browse the World Wide Web! As librarian, I have ordered books on the Net and have professionally interacted with other librarians of the world. The Internet will now be a part of the resource to be investigated to answer reference queries.

Retirement is a welcome chance for me to wake up mornings and not deal with the traffic. I can again have the chance to attend mass every day. It should give me a chance to play with my grandchildren. There have been lots of things I had not really done for my family working all those years. It could also start for me another decade of exciting professional experience apart from my being a school librarian. How about being a consultant to those schools who would like to have their libraries fully computerized or selling books through the Internet? Or how about starting to learn how to play the piano or drive the family car? It will also be a big endeavor to learn how to swim!

But I will surely miss my library! I hope I have also convinced a good many of my readers that a librarian’s job does not begin and end with the stamping and checking out of books to patrons!


M. Swist said...

Rosal taught me a lot about excellence in librarianship —and always with a warm smile for everyone-- while I had the pleasure of working with her.

Christine said...

Thanks for posting this Zarah! It was a pleasure reading this blog, more so because Rosal has been my inspiration since I set foot on the University of the Philippines to take up my first degree on LIS. My bubbly Lola will always be my North!

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