Saturday, January 31, 2015

Filipino Librarian of the Month: Willian San Andres Frias

Willian San Andres Frias is in her 20th year of being a librarian. She finished her bachelor’s (1992) and master’s (2002) degrees in Library Science in UP Institute of Library Science, now School of Library and Information Studies. She has worked in several positions in De La Salle University Libraries, namely: periodicals librarian, collection development librarian, technical services coordinator, public programs librarian, assistant director for support services, and currently, head of DLSU’s Law Library. Her strength as a librarian lies in collection management, particularly collection assessment. She has produced close to 30 assessment studies that were instrumental in developing collection development programs of different academic libraries. She has also been invited as resource speaker by PAARL, PLAI-STLRC, PNULISAA, SMEC, and the like. She is now focused in honing her skills in law librarianship and sharing her advocacy, which is sharing collection management skills with fellow librarians.

What's your lib story? Describe how you made the choice of majoring in LIS and what was college life like for you as a LIS major. You can cite challenging stories and success stories while studying the course.
Being a librarian was never an option for me when I was young. In fact, I spent most of my idle time in high school sleeping inside the library instead of doing research and observing how librarians provide service to their students. That's why I got used to the "why's" of my former classmates when I tell them I am a librarian.
I started college in Leyte (Visayas State College of Agriculture, now Visayas State University) taking up Bachelor of Science in Experimental Statistics. But due to health reasons, I was forced to go home to Muntilupa and transferred to UP Diliman, where I was offered three possible courses, Public Administration, Mass Communication and Library Science. A typical promdi that I was, I chose the course which did not entail facing people that much – which is library science.  I planned to shift back to Statistics after a year, which did not happen, because I fell in love with my teachers who treated their students like their own children, my classmates who became life-long friends and my course, which promised a lot of possibilities during that time .  The passing of RA 6966 made my final decision to finish the course and become a librarian.
In college I was just a typical UP student. I joined rallies (anti-US bases was very active then), watched frat wars, engaged in organizational activities, and the like. I was helpful in UPLISSA activities especially in fund-raising activities like selling flowers on Valentines' Day and playing Bingo before Christmas Party. I was not able to join most of the students' activities because I had to go home to Muntinlupa every single day of my student life. Maybe that was why I often used the maximum number of absences per class and was always ready to miss the final exams if my tentative grade would at least be 2.5 - I believed it was enough for me to pass for I do not know what to make use of the rest -aanhin ko pa ang sobra? (This is a self-philosophy which is well-kept from my children). It was also the reason why I was already on my last semester in UP when I enjoyed being a college scholar.
I was a summer graduate of 1992, a semester late in taking the first librarian licensure examination.  Thus, I worked without having a license at first. It only took a referral letter from Dr. Ursula Picache for me to be accepted in De La Salle University as an assistant librarian.  Whatever Dr. Picache wrote in her referral letter must have impressed Ms. Perla Garcia, then the DLSU Library Director, to accept me, even without experience, with not-so-outstanding grades, and dressed with the typical tattered jeans during the interview.
Because I know I have to redeem myself, for Dr. Picache and for the rest of the faculty and staff in ILS, I tried my very best to be a good librarian.

Photo source: P Rex M. Molina
What has been the greatest challenge you've faced so far as a licensed and working librarian? Why do you say it's a challenge? 
I could say that my road to professional career had been smooth. I successfully passed LLE without enrolling for a review class, while master’s degree was handed to me like a silver platter via DLSU’s nomination for a fellowship grant from DOST.
Being an information professional for 20 years, I have been through many challenges – job rotation, being an administrator, program/project/committee headship, etc. But I think it is only now that I am facing the greatest challenge in my career: the shift from being a traditional service-oriented information specialist to a full-fledge research professional.  As DLSU shifts to being a research university, we, DLSU librarians, have to go with the flow – and thread our way towards scholarship by conducting and writing researches.
This is a challenge because we do not just do research overnight. Research is a skill that we hone as days pass by. Added to it, we, librarians, are paid to primarily to do library service and not to conduct researches. Meaning, we have to perform our librarian duties first, and do research after office hours.

What is your area of expertise in LIS? 
I spent about 8 years of my professional career as a collection development librarian. I started as such even when college classes for collection development were still called “Selection and Acquisition”. In fact, I could claim that I am the first full time collection development librarian in the country.  I would say that my expertise (I got goosebumps using the word expertise) is a part of my work as collection development librarian – Collection Assessment.
I love conducting collection assessment. In fact, I have accepted some consultancy and outreach work (with my superior’s blessings, of course) on assessing collection.  Through it, I get to know the collection strengths of the libraries, assess, and gauge their capabilities in providing for the information needs of its clients. Through collection assessment, I get the chance to recommend various strategies in strengthening weak collections, and maintaining the strength of those already strong. And because it involves working with quantitative and qualitative data, collection assessment gives me a chance to get closer to my first love, which is statistics.  

What do you think are the requirements and preparations necessary for becoming a LIS professional? 
Aside from innate service-oriented quality and knowledge in LIS, additional/advanced knowledge in IT should give an LIS professional an edge.  Reading is also a basic requirement, because reading broadens knowledge on the field, and prepares one to tackle what lies ahead.  An LIS professional should also be flexible and willing to reinvent professional self, for there are so many possibilities the profession can offer. Lastly, in the midst of ASEAN integration, an LIS professional should be research-oriented.
What rewards have you reaped from being a LIS professional?
I reap rewards everyday as an LIS professional. The “thank you” of every client, commendations from faculty members, and even just the nod of appreciation of DLSU administrators are the rewards I reap everyday.  
But the more tangible rewards that I reaped were the (1) nomination for fellowship grant which led to earning my master’s degree in 2002, (2) written commendation letters from big bosses which I usually receive once a year; (3) research incentives that I usually receive once a year; (4) attendance to conferences and trainings; and recently, (6) my nomination and election to PAARL office (I am the 2015 PAARL Secretary-elect). I know my good performance as an LIS professional made it possible for me to reap such rewards.

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