Saturday, February 28, 2015

Filipino Librarian of the Month: Candy May N. Schijf

Candy May N. Schijf is a graduate of Saint Louis University in Baguio City. Her work experience for over a decade now made her a well-rounded professional not only in the different areas of librarianship but also in documentation. She is currently affiliated with the De La Salle University Library where she has been entrusted with several positions, each of which she has shown commitment to and excellence. She is also a member of various professional organizations. Her research interest is in collection management, program assessment and information literacy. She endeavors to finish her masters degree the soonest and pursue further studies afterwards.

What's your lib story? Describe how you made the choice of majoring in LIS and what college life was like for you as an LIS major. You can cite challenging stories and success stories while studying the course. 

I dreamt of being an architect when I was a little girl because I used to tag along with my Tatay in construction yards. I wanted to become an architect to fulfill my Tatay’s dream of me becoming one.  In my fourth year in high school, it was then that I realized architecture won’t be happening due to my family’s financial standing. Because of these constant financial shortcomings I was deprived of books during my childhood as well. I remember how I loved reading them, but I wasn’t able to have any books myself. As a little girl, I felt sad not to be able to have any books.

 My Nanay then suggested that I should take up a bachelor’s degree in Education.  So there I was, thinking, why would I study to become a teacher when I have this eternal love story with stage fright not to mention practice teaching in an all-boys high school.  That was a dilemma I had to face and I desperately wanted to be saved.  And then Sonny Boy Manalo happened.  

It was one afternoon while I was in a long queue of students borrowing textbooks from our Library. When finally it was my turn, I gave him the list of books I needed to borrow. He started the conversation by asking, “Anong course mo?” I replied,”Education po.” Then he said, “Magmajor ka na lang ng Library Science, kaunti lang kumukuha nun makakahanap ka agad ng trabaho pagkatapos mo grumaduate.” He continued telling the advantages of taking Library Science, I listened, took my books and left. Little did I know that he was the savior, I was looking for.  

I was 16 years old then, fresh from high school and, to be honest, I really didn’t take any of what he was saying seriously because I heard the word LIBRARY.  I imagined boredom instantly. I remembered those librarians in my school who often scolded us in the library and I remembered that they never lend us the books we needed because the cabinets were locked and they didn’t have the keys. On days that they had the keys and we were able to borrow books they would say that the books are for room use only.  

On my second semester at the university, I was accepted as a Library Working Scholar. It was just a matter of time before I would meet Kuya Sonny again because, like me, he was also working in the Library. It was around this time that I decided to take a fork in the road and study Library Science. 

Life in the university was rough; I had to juggle work and studies. Time management was essential.  Financial limitation was a constant thing.  Being a working scholar, I also needed to keep my grades afloat to prevent losing my job thus my education in turn as well.  That was also a challenge, considering that Ms. Thelma Kim, the only Library Science teacher at Saint Louis University, has a reputation to uphold (ha-ha sorry Ma’am Kim).  Kidding aside, she trained me very well. Thank you, Ma’am Kim and Kuya Sonny for being instrumental, for motivating me and inspiring me.

A huge blow during my studies happened in September 2000.  That’s when I lost my Nanay.  I wanted to stop going to school.  I was grieving.  My Nanay was my greatest inspiration in finishing my studies, without her I thought of not moving on.  My grades were at an all-time low, but luckily I still managed to pass all my subjects that semester. With a lot of encouragement from my family and friends, in 2002, after 5 years in the university, I graduated. The first place I went to after the graduation ceremonies was my Nanay’s grave where I dedicated my first success in life to her.

The year 2002 was the beginning of a new adventure. I soon realized that what started out as a half-hearted decision in taking up Library Science turned out to be one of the best choices I made as it brought me new challenges in life.  

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? 

During my first year working professionally as a librarian, I was an idealist.  Fresh innovations, new ideas and information technology up my sleeves; I was ready to be one epic librarian.  I wanted to be the contrary, to the “serious” stereotype that often dogs our profession.  

Like any other profession, librarianship is not a walk in the park.  It is also a cutthroat profession, where some librarians resort to spreading false rumors just to advance themselves and pull others down. Usually they do this out of fear for the person they debase because they feel threatened to be outperformed. It is not a “silent” profession; politics also come into play.  I was on the receiving end of this phenomenon.  It became a challenge for me to stay in the profession because of this experience.  I want to believe that I am a survivor, I am always eager to push my limits in search of new opportunities to learn, grow and face new challenges.  

After that bad experience, I decided to leave my hometown Baguio City and brave the often times chaotic life in Manila. I ventured into the nonprofit sector when I was hired by the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) in 2006. Trained in the academic setting, AFAD, a human rights non-government organization, was a whole new world as a librarian for me. It was hard to fit in. I was thrust into social and political issues that made me become more aware and sensitive to the world’s history of human rights abuses that persist to this day.  The position also broadened my skills and capacity. Moreover, the experience also brought me to see the world outside of my comfort zone.

Going back to the academy in 2011 was again another challenge for me.  I went back to the world of academic librarians which I had a break from in my 5 years of stay at the nonprofit sector. Nothing had changed, I remember one blog entry that said some librarians are really unhappy with their jobs; they attend seminars only to “catch up” on their former colleague’s life, escape the sessions to go to tourist spots and to shop. All breaks loose; they need to get their certificate just to “prove” that they attended the conference/workshop. 

I am not generalizing all librarians because that includes myself as well but this is a situation that needs to be addressed.  Getting rid of the stereotype of us just being a custodian of books in the library is already a challenge, taking an effort in advancing the profession is another story.  The institutions they are a part of are not sending them to these trainings and seminars just for the free travel and leisure time.  They are being sent to advance their knowledge in their profession and to become an even bigger essential part of the community.  As librarians there is a need to embrace improvement and take these trainings seriously.  Take the challenge!

Librarians should be at the forefront of research, innovation, education, development and information dissemination. Librarians need to take a step up in all these areas. As information providers, librarians should be indispensable partners in the community – to promote reading, writing and learning. Education is the key to a better future for all mankind, and librarians should be fighting at the forefront of that.

What is your area of expertise in LIS? 

In my 13 years of being a librarian (I feel old haha!), I have had my fair share of working for special libraries, academic libraries and school libraries. I am a master of all and none at the same time! (Yes, that’s an honest assessment of myself haha.)

I enjoy being surrounded by kids and I love being with them.  This is just my second year in a school library setting and it has been a lot of fun so far.  The big challenge is that I need to be a teacher and a librarian at the same time. I am coming into terms with my stage fright, but it is still there, being a teacher-librarian helps me overcome my fears of being on a stage.  It is another experience for me to enjoy, a new adventure for me to conquer, another challenge to overcome as a professional.

What do you think are the requirements and preparations necessary for becoming a LIS professional? 

One basic requirement I guess is being ready to embrace improvement.  I say improvement, not change, because by changing things you don’t necessarily improve them. Look at it like this, if you have a red door with a hole in it and you paint it blue, you have changed. If you fix the hole in that door you have improved. I believe that we, as librarians, should always strive to improve things.

Loving the profession is a close second.  You won’t be able to help advance the abilities of your patrons, to educate them and to provide them with the knowledge they are looking for if you despise being in that profession.  If you are now in the field and you’re reading this and you hate your job, do all readers a favor and quit.  That’s one less person pulling the patrons and the profession itself down. 

Also, in this time and era where most customers are technology literate, librarians need to be the guide for them to become information literate.  Librarians should have unconventional skills, skills that would help further the profession and increase the knowledge of their readers. We should start reinventing the profession and change the stereotype of being a librarian.

The ability to think outside of the box is essential to be able to do this. Outside of the box thinkers are truly one of a kind. Around the year 600 BC the Greek Pythagoras, a truly one of a kind philosopher and mathematician of his time, was the first to prove the Pythagorean theorem to be correct and the theory still stands today. As librarians, we should take it upon us to provide readers with enough knowledge to become out of the box thinkers. They might be the next Pythagoras, Aristotle, or more recently, Alan Turing or Albert Einstein.

What rewards have you reaped from being a LIS professional?

  • Warm hugs and smiles from little kids
  • To be able to increase the willingness of children to read books and become more information literate
  • Seeing kids with their noses in books
  • Loads of thank you and appreciation from patrons
  • Free books to read and be one of the first to read popular books  (hey hey, don’t judge me on this, I need to be able to explain the merits and the weaknesses of all the books to readers and be able to recommend them, right?) 
  • The opportunity to say “I’ve read that book” to people who are telling me about the movie or TV series they have seen
This profession has led me to live some of the best experiences and meet some of the most wonderful people in my life today.  Being a librarian is a wonderful, constant adventure which brings a lot of joy and challenges in my life.

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