Australian Librarians in Developing Countries

On the evening of Tuesday 12th of May, the ALIA New Graduates Group hosted an exciting opportunity to hear two of its member speak about their experiences working as a librarian for a year in a developing country. A sizeable group congregated at RMIT Library in Melbourne, where Romany Manuell (who you might recognise as our Group Secretary), and Susanne Newton (member of the ALIA New Generation Advisory Committee) talked about the work that they did with the Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development (AYAD) program.

Susanne spent a year based in Apia, Samoa, where she worked at the National University of Samoa, where she worked with the law collection, reviewed and developed library policies, trained local library staff, educated library users, and provided research and reference services. She also talked of the other opportunities that arose locally, such as attending conferences in the pacific region, and being involved in projects with the Library Association of Samoa. Susanne was also in Samoa during the tsunami in September 2009, and spoke about that experience.

While Susanne was in Samoa, Romany Manuell had quite a different experience, working as a Teacher Librarian in the remote village of Ulei in Vanuatu, where she worked in setting up a school library, teaching the students how to use the library, and training staff in library management. Being in a remote location created a different set of challenges (i.e. no electricity in the library, let alone computers!).

It should also be mentioned that both Susanne and Romany were both new graduates, relatively fresh from their librarianship courses, when they set off on their overseas assignments, so it was very interesting to hear not only of their learning curve in adapting to very different cultures and professional attitudes, but also how they used these opportunities to establish and develop their own professional skills as librarians, which they have done impressively.

And, finally, for those of you who might be interested in working overseas as an AYAD, there is a current assignment on offer, working in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, as a librarian at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, which was set up for the purposes of prosecuting the leaders of the Khmer Rouge for war crimes committed during their regime in the 1970s. If that sounds like your kind of adventure, go and check it out here. But get cracking – applications close on May 28th. That’s THIS FRIDAY!

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