The blog's Filipino Librarian of the Month is Melissa Odono Naval, school librarian at Southville International School and Colleges. Known among peers and friends in Southville as Ms. Mel, she is a very colorful personality in the community and has earned the school's admiration and respect because of her dedication towards her work. She was second place in the recently concluded Search for Outstanding Librarian in the Consortium of the South.
Staying in the library as a custodian or a full-time librarian did not cross my mind more so becoming a licensed one.
Yes, I have not asked myself what made me stay in the library for more than 10 years. If I am into superstitions, I would say it is my good luck staying in the library but unfortunately, I strongly believe that it is really God's plan that he put me in the field of librarianship for a greater purpose.
Let me share with you my short story.
This happened when our librarian in my previous work resigned and there was no one to stay or take care of our library then. As tradition dictates, books were returned at the end of the academic year, clearing of teachers' accountabilities by the assigned librarian. Since no one would do that anymore, books returned were placed anywhere in the library. My heart felt bad seeing books scattered anywhere. Without any knowledge, nor skills, I volunteered to our principal to fix the returned books while teaching, monitoring and mentoring faculty in the department. Even during that time, there was really a scarcity of licensed librarian and not one has applied yet for the position.
Lack of knowledge or lack of skills did not stop me to help and serve. A great opportunity came when a PAASCU accreditor recommended that, at least, someone who has units in the field could man the library.
I embraced this new challenge and took units after finishing my Master's in Filipino. At that time I was already in paper writing. I saw the urgency and weighed the need for our school. In the journey of studying, I thirsted for more and little by little, I applied all the learning and skills from my professors but most especially from my classmates whom I shared the same plight. I have realized, am I enjoying every bit of work, every bit of challenge and empathised with my friends and acquaintances' stories in the library.
With passion, grit and determination, I was ready to move forward so I decided to take the board exam for librarians (which our batch was the last to take the exam as non-BLIS graduates). As I have mentioned, it was indeed a God's plan because I passed the board exams. I even pushed more for a bigger challenge and inspired by Sir Johnny Buenrostro, I enrolled in MLIS in Baliuag, Bulacan until I finally finished and graduated my MLIS in 2012.
In the year 2010, I have decided to leave my previous work. I applied for a teaching position in various schools but there was no vacancy in my field of expertise. So I decided to apply as a librarian and Southville International School & Colleges gave me the opportunity to truly experience the role of a librarian in different facets. I have been an academic librarian and presently a school librarian. Being a librarian is challenging, yet fulfilling and exciting.
2. What have you learned from years of experience working with students and teachers?
Working with students and teachers in the library have taught me the real meaning of service on a wider scope and with greater responsibilities. Customers are different and unique in so many ways. I have learned to tailor-fit the library services and activities on their needs and types. Working with students in the library gave me the opportunity to wear different hats: a teacher, a friend, a parent, a counsellor. Working with teachers/faculty have taught me to improve and work on my relationship with them, to provide for their teaching needs and to always be on my toes. To give in on their request without bending the library's policies and procedures but to meet them half-way. Working hand in hand with them made some of my work easy. I have gained partners in promoting everything about the library and on personal note, I have even won friends.
Working with Southville’s students and faculty have taught me to develop, hone and live the true value and meaning of 5Cs, Competence, Character, Collaboration, Creativity and Commitment to Achieve.
What is the greatest challenge school librarians face in this day and age?
Based from my experiences and conversations with colleagues, the greatest challenge of school librarians are budget related, manpower and support from management.
How can this challenge be overcome?
a. In order to get support from management, librarians must make a noise in the community to show and let everyone be aware that the library exist. Forward to them all seminar invites pertaining to administration for them to attend and be with other administrations so they could understand little things about the library. Involve them in all the activities.
b. If budget is really limited, work and coordinate with different publishing companies and initiate book fairs. Entice these publishing companies on different student-centered activities on major library celebrations. Launch a book drive donation from students, teachers or parents. Benchmark with other schools and coordinate for possible book donation.
c. For lack of manpower, librarians can coordinate with teachers or discipline head of the school and open the possibility of the library as a venue for students to do community service, SHS service learning and immersion.
Think of something we do not know about Melissa yet. How can this “hidden” self be a gift to PH LIS?
I am a passionate librarian and an event organizer. I think, if I will be given the chance to be one of the organizers of any organizations, I could apply the skills and training I had with Southville.
I always wanted to turn my weaknesses into strength. I am scared of deep water however, I am doing ways to conquer my fear of water by going to beaches and pools and learning to swim with my loved ones. Turning my weakness/fears into strength can be a self gift to the LIS profession because it helps people in unlocking their potential and it makes them a successful one in every aspect of their lives personally or professionally.
Others would see me as a happy individual, very jolly, likes to mingle and entertain everyone, with a strong will and determination. Others even perceive me with a strong personality. But behind this, like any other human being, I am also vulnerable. However this won't stop me from doing my passion to serve others, to inspire and encourage people around me especially colleagues in the field of teaching and of librarianship.
Despite many challenges as a librarian, we can all soar high amazingly and conquer our fears and weaknesses to be servants of God. Be a blessing to every all.