Asia-Pacific Library and Information Conference 2018, 30 July - 2 August 2018 Gold Coast: Roar Leap Dare
This conference poster presentation outlines the fieldwork experience of an information professional in the Philippines.
What does it mean to be an information professional? My understanding of this question was recently challenged during a student fieldwork placement at Tondo Congressional Library, located in an impoverished area of Manilla in the Philippines. In Australia, a library fieldwork placement is an opportunity for students to develop their information management and knowledge skills in a real world setting. However this fieldwork experience taught me there is more to being an information professional than just these skills. The outreach service provided by Tondo Congressional Library included activities such as reading stories to sick children in hospital, highlighting a deep awareness of meeting humans at their point of need, and demonstrating a different professional capacity beyond traditionally valued library skills. This presentation will explore my inner and outer journey during this fieldwork placement and how I now conceptualise what ‘be’-ing an information professional is, not just ‘do’-ing.
A focus on customer service has been core to my work experiences in Australian libraries and how this is defined has varied depending on the institution involved. Prior to my experience in the Philippines I had a preconception that libraries with the best resources offered better customer service as the information and resource needs of customers are met beyond expectation. However since my fieldwork placement in the Philippines I have come to realise that a library with very limited resourcing can still provide quality customer service. My experience taught me that library patrons have other needs that go beyond information needs. As part of this fieldwork placement I read stories as an outreach activity to street children who could not afford to go to school and it was common practice to provide complimentary food (a basic need) as part of the library’s mission. From this experience I have come to understand that a holistic approach to customer service is valuable no matter where in the world this service happens.
Immersion into a world where information needs are secondary to that of basic human needs made me question what it means to serve customers. Tondo Congressional Library provides the same standard library services as what you would find in other public libraries around the world. They provide information and literary resources to customers, connect them in a digital world and answer standard directional enquiries such how to find the nearest toilet. However their outreach programs involve services going above and beyond what would be considered standard service in Australia. Some may view these outreach activities as not core library services, but I believe it is relevant to acknowledge the humanity and life experiences of every library customer.