Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Do you have a privilege card, ma'am?

Women’s rights have come a long way from its beginnings and struggles at the start of the 19th century. Yet a large population of women is still struggling for their rights and privileges. While those who have come to their own rights and privileges through the efforts and sacrifices of the pioneers do not appreciate and can not seem to understand what they have.

I know of librarians who do not attend council meetings because they think they do not get anything from these meetings. They call these meetings a waste of time and financial resources. They do not know or choose to forget perhaps that had it not been for these seemingly wasteful meetings, librarians nowadays would not have enjoyed the privileges of being a “professional librarian”. Someone even went so far as to say she won’t attend meetings anymore because she is no longer an officer.

Far worse than these kinds of librarians is the librarian who thinks her co-librarian is wasting company time and resources when and if that fellow librarian is performing council officer’s tasks, duties and responsibilities during work hour.

I ask then, when is the proper time to be president, secretary, treasurer or even a mere member of one’s council? After 5 p.m. and before 8 a.m., when offices are closed for the evening? Had the librarians’ early movements been successful because their supervisors and employers forbid them to use typewriters, telephones, fax machines, etc. during office hours?

Maybe I am just an ignorant fool who does not know the ways of the world. Maybe PLAI is what it is today because the pioneer Filipino librarians did what had to be done for the profession and the association after 5 p.m. only; diligently, conscientiously never using company time and resources for personal gain such as pushing for the professionalization of librarianship, and working for the establishment of the PLAI and its regional councils.

The fight for our rights does not end. We have to be always vigilant because there are those who wish to bring us down and sometimes they are our own kind.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Now for the money

A room of one's own is a book by Virginia Woolf. This is one of my favorite books. It is doubly treasured because it is the only book I have that has a dedication—from my brother. It can be downloaded subject to copyright; you might like to read the whole book.

The book is basically about: "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." But it could be about women who love to dance, paint or cook, become a lawyer, doctor or first-class pilot. Women nowadays are better educated and have more options in life than in her time, but there are still girls left behind. As with any era, it is the women from wealthy families that are able to explore themselves for talents and abilities and are able realize their full potentials if they choose to do so.

The poor girl who is able to enroll in college could have excelled in academics but we’ll never know because she has to work for her living too. She maybe able to earn a degree but she has deferred other dreams for herself because she had to support her younger siblings through school if not become the breadwinner for the whole family. Or she herself has become a mother and if she is the kind of mother Virginia Woolf talked of: “What had our mothers been doing then that they had no wealth to leave us? Powdering their noses?", then the cycle of women poverty will continue. The glimmer of talents she may have could never be developed because she does not have the time or the money to enroll in extra classes and extensive trainings: ""then the thought of that one gift which it was death to hide—a small one but dear to the possessor—perishing and with it my self, my soul,—all this became like a rust eating away the bloom of the spring, destroying the tree at its heart." Most of them do not even have a space of their own to relax, think, or just be; they have to share rooms with other women in cramp lodgings.

But for the exceptionally talented, she does not have a hope because our nepotistic system forbids her to. Sometimes even outstanding talent does not bring her anywhere without endorsements.

Saddest of all reasons why some women do not realize their potentials is not the patriarchal society that some of them still has to live in, but that some women just absolutely detest other women and will do anything in their power to put down possible contenders: "To begin with, always to be doing work that one did not wish to do, and to do it like a slave, flattering and fawning, not always necessarily perhaps, but it seemed necessary and the stakes were too great to run risks."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Librarian: idol, star, hero, etc.

Twice this semester I inspired awe, the positive kind, which usually isn’t. I felt like an idol. A fraction perhaps of how idols all over the world felt but I must say it was uncomfortable.

As it has been impressed on me time and time again by some librarians and by other people that my being a librarian and a reader and a lover of books do not make me special, that a well-trained librarian could do what I am able to do just a well. I never say I am exceptional, only that my being a reader and a lover of books make my job as a librarian all that much easier. I’d rather everyone; students mostly go on taking my particular and personal help for granted, something that I do because I am trained to do it. But some people are more impressionable than most.

When students come to us asking about particular authors and titles, our standard answer is “have you consulted the card catalog?” Our next action depends on the answer. But what if you are pre-empted by the statement, “I have checked in the card catalog but have not found what I am looking for”. Sometimes we searched the card catalog ourselves to make certain at other times we say “if it’s not represented in the catalog then the library does not have it”. But what usually do we do when confronted with: “I am looking for this chemistry book whose author I do not remember but its cover is blue”. I am sure any librarian would have launch into a lecture regarding the merits of remembering a book by its cover, shape and size alone.

This was somewhat how the cases of hero-worshiping came about.

One student was looking for Machiavelli’s The Prince. He said he had searched the card catalog but had not found both author and title. I know. So I did not have to consult the catalog thinking he might have gotten the spelling of the author’s name wrong especially since he pronounced it as “me-tsa-veli”. But I know too that we have this set called “Great Books” by Britannica. It is a 60-volume collection. I directed the student to it. Individual authors and titles in the collection which includes more than fifty authors and their works are not represented in the card catalog but I had read some of them and I was certain Machiavelli was in it. Like they said a well-trained librarian could have found the book just as well, but it is my being a lover of books and a reader which made my job in this case very, very, very easy.

The other case came to me like this: “I have seen this book a few weeks back but I did not borrow it because I was busy. I can remember its cover which is red. I can’t consult the card catalog because I can’t remember its author and I only remember a fraction of its title. I have looked and looked for it at the shelves but it is not in the “P” section anymore”. So I asked the student if she was sure it was a book that belonged to the “P” section because sometimes books are misplaced. She was sure because it was a collection of short stories. I asked next what the fraction of the title was and she gave it. It is a book some of our staff are reading and re-reading and which I have read too so I was able to give the girl the author and complete title: The next 500 stories by Frank Mihalic. Had I not read the book it would have been very difficult for me to help because the fraction she remembered was the 500 which is in the middle of the title itself.

It was the start of the bowing and the endless looks of idolatry and the ever grateful smile that is star-struck in essence. I noticed because like I said students more often take me for granted or pointedly ignored me.

I may not have even noticed the hero-worshiping look, had it not been accompanied by a slight pause and a bow. I could take star-struck smiles thrown my way maybe. It was the bowing I can’t handle. And bow they both did every time they met me in the lobby or anywhere else inside and outside the library. I know they were responding to the excellent librarian they saw in me in those instances but it was only so because of my being first and foremost and always a reader.

I’m glad the semester is over. I hope the break will cure them.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Digital divide: I, on and have the smaller portion

You may remember me blog about job interviews.

One of the questions of the interview I had in Cebu two years ago was about digitization. I was asked what would I say or do if my chief librarian would tell me that for the next ten years she plans to entirely do away with books and to digitize the library 100%. After the interview I felt such a total idiot for the answer I gave especially since it was suppose to be a job making electronic abstracts and providing electronic news, newsletters and such to executives and other people online. The feeling of being an absolute ignorant persisted longer than it should because one, I did not get the job and two, I immediately researched online about digitization and read about the collaboration between Google, Stanford and research libraries in the US and UK.

This is the gist of my idiotic answer: “I would tell my boss that first she has to send us or provide us her librarians with trainings and up-to-date education regarding computers and computerization, the internet and digitization in general. But a ten-year digitization plan might be too ambitious because of the reality regarding digitization efforts that are going on in the world. But let’s just say that a country like the United States is already digitizing old titles and old editions of books and publishes books in the traditional forms yet at the same time putting out the digital form, I can say with conviction that Philippine publishers are not doing it. And unless there is an equal effort in the Philippines for the next ten years to digitize then the library digitization plan will be a failure because Filipiniana books and journals will not be represented. Philippine publishers may not be too keen on publishing the traditional and digital forms of a book because of the very limited market of both forms. Ordinary Filipinos can not afford to buy the hardware to make e-books and digital books readable.” I said more of course but I really forgot.

On page 11 of Newsweek September 28, 2009 issue, there is an information aside that says: "The percentage of books in European National Archives that have been digitized: 1% (one percent)."

Some of the books in these archives might already be represented in the libraries in the US and therefore may already be digitized, but countries in Europe are publishing their own literature in their own languages which may or may not be translated into English and therefore may or may not be digitized and it is a very controversial and complicated issue besides…. What I am trying to say really is that Europe is rich and we are poor and they are yet at 1% or 5% Europeana.

I feel a little validated in my views regarding the digitization efforts in the rest of the world. Then too the Newsweek article says much on the availability and affordability of e-book readers. And really I should not have felt such idiocy because I was giving an answer basing from my situation and my experiences.


Still seeking validation and yes I was not too far out after all. Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google laments: "But despite a number of important digitization efforts to date (Google has even helped fund others, including some by the Library of Congress), none have been at a comparable scale, simply because no one else has chosen to invest the requisite resources."

I am making it clear though, I am not against digitization. I am all for it. What I am seeking validation of was my view of the digitization efforts in the world.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mga Kwentong Barbero

There is a popular belief that we tell our barbers everything. In barber shops everything and everyone are discussed and in some areas of the world barber shops are even the primary sources of news, not just gossips. Maybe it’s about trust, if you can trust your neck to a person with a sharp scissor why not your secrets, eh? Try to watch the old Johnny Depp movie Sweeney Todd if you do not agree with me.

It is the time of the year to have my hair cut but I’ve been putting it off. I’m afraid to lie to my barber again. Not that I have a regular barber but the thought of telling tall tales to such nice people with sharp scissors make me wary. The lie I usually tell the barber is the reason for my not so secret life. It’s not so secret because you can actually see my head. What’s secret about it is the reason behind the balding spots.

Anyway, most of them immediately conclude upon seeing my thin hair that I suffer from falling hair. I just agree with them. And then they recommend all sorts of hair gels, hot oils, scalp lotions, hair treatment processes, switching to a gentler shampoo, etc., to repair the problem. The funniest if not insulting conclusion is about dandruff. Dandruff is supposed to make hair fall because as the dandruff grows thicker on the scalp, the hair has less hold on its roots. Then the spiel about dandruff shampoos. There is also the advice on how to massage the shampoo on the scalp versus scratching the scalp while shampooing which aggravates the problems with the scalp and hair roots.

To the hair dresser who bothered to ask why my hair is damage, I tell the half-truth. That I shampoo twice a day, but it is only half the reason why my hair is brittle. And why my head has stumps and little stubby hair underneath the longer hair. Which leads to the advice that I can never seem to remember, that shampooing one’s hair is supposed to be done only twice a week or three times was it? Shampooing once a day is even disastrous for the hair and one must absolutely moisturize the hair at least once a week. And one must pat not rub the hair dry, do not brush or comb wet hair thoroughly, etc.

The color of my hair which is a dark brown is also attributed to the constant shampooing, damaging its supposed beautiful black color. Ah, well what am I suppose to say to that? That some members of my family have the same if not lighter hair color so why can’t I. No one would believe me. I just meekly say to the really nice man or lady with the sharp scissors and really big and broad hands some of them have, yes I will come back next week for the hair spa and meanwhile I will follow all your advice.

My family and some friends who know better think that if my mania will just be cured, then everything else will follow in the cure. The dry hair will become shiny again. The thin hair will become thick and the brittle hair will become strong again. And the premature white hair will stop growing until the right time for it to be on my head. My hair is on a protest for maltreatment, they say.

I am thinking that maybe the next time I am going to the hair salon which I must soon, I will tell the truth about my very bad habit. That way I could educate some hair salon worker who might become sensitive and perceptive enough in the future about this particular subject. It is said that people with this disease usually try to keep it a secret. They cover it with scarves, funky hair cuts, etc. But for the really extreme cases it can be. And when it can no longer be, some of my kind withdraws from the public. When it comes to that, I may just go bald and become the first bald female librarian. It might actually go well with a digital library.

My crowning glory for the moment to the rest of the public is not so glorious simply because of bad genes, as in tsk, tsk, tsk, maybe it is her genes to have thin hair. So the public will just have for the time being go on tut-tutting over my poor hair.

As for the cure maybe I am on the right track. Without knowing it, family and select friends have already made some sort of patrol as to where my hands are when I am with them. But then I am not with them 24/7. And then also some people look better bald.

Meanwhile I am fortifying myself. Or maybe I will give a seminar about this topic to all hair salon workers in exchange for a lifetime of free haircuts or until there are no more hair to bother with.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

evrlibrarians.blogspot.com, GONE!

We can no longer open our evrlibrarians blog. It has been used in a reprehensible way by we know exactly what kind of people. The last time I and the evrlibrarians blog administrator opened it was sometime after July 25, when were thinking about a possible blog entry. Two weeks ago when I made my “out of the blue” blog, I noticed on my dashboard that the other blog is no longer there. It was only this week that the administrator of the blog has time to check on what happened.

We hope everyone will remove their links and bookmarks to evrlibrarians.blogspot.com as soon as possible.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The lure of librarianship

My brother, my number one fan, has a mathematics degree. He is at the moment a lowly cook, lowly meaning long and hard hours and small pay, in a Condé Nast type cruise ship but he feels he’s at the end of that particular road. He plans to enroll in library science when he comes home this September.

I have discouraged him.

I’m sure my brother would make a fine librarian. He is very intelligent and has become very good with people, what with his experience in open kitchens. Am I afraid my brother would make a better librarian than I? No, certainly not. I already know he is a better person than I am. So what’s with this feeling of sadness every time I think about him being a librarian?

Mostly I think it comes from my general experience as a “stamp-in, stamp-out” kind of librarian. I don’t know if the term is understood by everyone, I just made it up. Or it is an approximation of the term my brother’s Sociology professor in college thought about librarians. That all day long librarians do nothing else but stamp due dates and stamp returned on books. And it has been my life for the last five years of so. The bulk of my job is exactly that, that when I was interviewed for the supposed promotion, one panel interviewer seemed shocked at the kind of work I do. She said it is all mechanical and routine that it could be assigned to a student assistant. Unfortunately the reality of being a librarian in a government owned university is so very different from all the wonderful theories learned at library school. For student assistants in a university such as ours do not have any other compensation but the hourly rate they would earned at the end of the month. They are not even obliged to end their one semester contract if at the end of say two months they feel they can no longer fulfill their duties. So the librarians in our university do the actual circulation procedures, unlike in other universities.

One time when my brother visited me at work he saw exactly what I do. He laughed and reminded me of his professor’s sarcastic comment, that librarians can even stamp books with their eyes closed. My brother said “you may not be closing your eyes but you’re certainly not looking at what you are doing and yet you seemed to be doing it right”.

And this does not discourage him. He thinks that librarianship is still at its infant stage in the Philippines and he wants to be in the forefront of its development. He talks about what his mathematical abilities might bring to the library profession. He says he knows there are already dozens of kinds of library databases and other computer software dedicated to making library work and research easier and faster, but he knows too that he can improve upon them and maybe even come up with an original program of his own.

Maybe I do envy him for being able to easily shift between worlds. Because had I the ability I too would want a mathematics degree.

Whatever else I feel or think about his plans, I am utterly certain he would be an excellent addition to the rooster of librarians. And whatever type of library he will end up working for, he would definitely have to grow back the hair and lose the nose ring.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Out of the blue

I’ve been in a funk.

I have been a member of Facebook since early last year. But since I am not really a very sociable person and the few people I know were not on FB, I sort of abandoned that pursuit. Then sometime this year I found out that friends and acquaintances are already members of that social networking. So I started adding friends one at a time, deliberating for a very long time if it is good to add this person and that former classmate.

Then the paranoid thing I did on FB.

I opened two new gmail accounts. I added one to my sister’s account. I made the other a friend of the first account. It made that second account two friendships away from me. This second account is used to check if from that separation my profile and my wall postings are visible to the general public. The wall postings are. Then I realized why do I care if my wall postings are accessible? I am blogging aren’t I? They are more a window into my mind and heart than these wall posts, so I sort of forgot about those accounts.

Then an unexpected thing happened, somebody requested to be added to my list of friends. I did not know that person but he’s a friend of an acquaintance so I accepted his request. It was also around this time that I remembered those new gmail accounts and lo and behold when I checked the second one, two requests for friendship. The slide into the funk began then because I actually know those persons who requested to be added to that made up persona while there was only ever one request for friendship to the real me and that from somebody I did not know.

This certainly made my cynicism rose to the surface. It was partly my fault of course because I also did not put my real name on that profile (or I change my real name after it received no requests for friendship) but it has at least more personality because of the wall posts but nary a request from really literally dozens of people I know in that social networking. It was I who made all the requests. While this made-up name with a beautiful photo and zero posts received requests from friends. So what’s the draw? Aside from the beautiful photograph attached to the made-up name there was nothing on that account, therefore to my book boring. Maybe those girls think that he’s lonely with only one friend ever on his list? Or maybe girls on the prowl for boyfriends and husbands are hoping to make this beautiful male one of their prospects?

I was actually repentant for a time, not using my real name on my real account, until I recalled all the one-sided friendships I’ve made all these years. You know the kind—a friend in need is a friend indeed or whatever that cliché says. And it was never I who was in need, rarely ever. And so I said to hell with friendship.

Ironically, it was the unknown person who requested to be added to my list of friends who took me out of the doldrums. Rather it was a post on his wall, directed to who knows whom but it made me laugh out loud. It made me realized there are people who have greater relationship problems than I ever had and that sentimental and romantic outpourings if not constructed with correct grammar become ridiculous.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Imagination running rampant

The three weeks that my mother visited me with my four-year old nephew, nothing else was being shown at home but Cartoon Network. One of the shows that interest me was Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. As the title implies it's a show about abandoned imaginary friends adopted by the Fosters. According to pop psychology children abandoned imaginary friends for real friendships, because I think based on the same pop psychology again that if a child has reached a certain age and he still have these imaginary friends, then there must be something wrong with him.

Or maybe I am just reading the wrong kinds of books or admiring the wrong kinds of authors and artists and being friends and mixing with the wrong people.

The Dominatrix, one of my favorite Philippine authors certainly has imaginary friends galore. She even has an imaginary husband--Conan O'Brien. But then she never really put too much weight on people who defined themselves normal.

In Saul Bellow's novella The Actual, the main character Harry Trellman imagines a lifetime of conversation with his high school girlfriend whom he reconnected with after several decades. I'm wondering what happened to the character's imagined world. Was he able to turn away from that world which he carefully constructed for so many years? Can the mind immediately turned itself off from that? Does the reality of his marriage and love to Amy able to stand up to this other reality?--"Half a century of feeling is invested in her, of fantasy, speculation, and absorption, of imaginary conversation.”

I do like to read a good love story every now and then. But I am rather of Kurt Vonnegut's school of thought about love story in that: "I try to keep deep love out of my stories, because once that particular subject comes up, it is almost impossible to talk about anything else. Readers don't want to hear about anything else. They go gaga over love. If a lover in a story wins his love, that's the end of the tale, even if World War III is about to begin, and the sky is black with flying saucer."

Alejandro Sanz, a spanish composer and singer said to a girl, who may or may not be his real girlfriend: Me paso el día planeando (I spend the day planning) Nuestro encuentro imaginario (Our imaginary encounter). So why would he say our imaginary encounter if she is already his girlfriend who's just on a really very long vacation? Shouldn't he say instead I'm imagining our re-union? Or maybe she's a former girlfriend whom he has no hope of ever reuniting with so he imagines maybe he'll bump into her in the mall...

And some Hollywood artists do admit to having imaginary boyfriends and such. And imagined love after all is a Hollywood B movie stock for obsession themed films. Usually people get hurt in these kinds of imaginations but who cares really if it is his reality?

Vladimir Nabokov said about reality: "Your use of the word "reality" perplexes me. To be sure, there is an average reality, perceived by all of us, but that is not true reality: it is only the reality of general ideas, conventional forms of humdrummery, current editorials. Now if you mean by "old reality" the so-called "realism" of old novels, the easy platitudes of Balzac or Somerset Maugham or D.H. Lawrence--to take some especially depressing examples--then you are right in suggesting that the reality faked by a mediocre performer is boring, and that imaginary worlds acquire by contrast a dreamy and unreal aspect. Paradoxically, the only real, authentic worlds are, of course, those that seemed unusual. When my fancies will have been imitated, they, too will enter the common domain of average reality, which will be false, too, but within a new context which we cannot yet guess. Average reality begins to rot and stink as soon as the act of individual creation ceases to animate a subjectively perceived texture."

This is why I read because my own imagination fails me sometimes, so I borrow or enter into the imagined worlds of others. Authors who I admit have more vivid and rich imagination than I have or if not because they are better able to put these rampant imaginations into words.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Efforts at self knowledge"

I've just finished reading Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium by Carl Sagan. It is quite an interdisciplinary book or transdisciplinary as the epilogue says. I am reminded why I read and try to take interests in all subjects, even if some of them are beyond my immediate grasp.

The book reminded me of a conversation overheard a few weeks back. Two girls were complaining about the heat. One girl wondered if there are planets that are not as hot as the Earth. She'd rather live there. Maybe she'll go to Mars or Pluto. The other girl as clueless as the first said, Pluto is a planet? Where is that? (Maybe all this was said in jest but that's another matter and another subject altogether.)

This conversation also reminded me of the why of the service courses in college. But I wonder if everyone understands the reason for these service courses because most often than not, the complaints about them are how they could be useful to one's life or one's professional undertaking. It's "what do I do with an algebra or biology subject for when my course is English?"

These subjects are taught in high school and required in college so that when we complain about the humidity and heat of the Earth we won't want to relocate to Mars or to Pluto. Or that if we are the nursing student who complains about Algebra (another overheard conversation) we won’t kill our patient when we are already a full-pledged nurse because we can differentiate a milliliter versus a fluid oz. of drugs, maybe we won’t know its exact conversion but we would know what to do.

The world has changed from our parents’ days when we are very good just at either Maths or English. Now the world requires us to have at least a basic understanding but more than rudimentary knowledge of every possible subject in the world.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Smart Asterisk

During the orientation, there were two classes I've handled all by myself that reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut's drawing of an asshole, in the Breakfast of Champions, which looked so much like a giant asterisk.

I don't know why the asshole has become an analogy for a person's generosity or selfishness but there it is, the behavior of these two groups of students has brought to mind an asshole.

One group is a tight asshole, unable to produce anything, while the other group is a smart asshole giving but one has to figure out what it is that is given.

It's a sad fact that majority of students who come from public high schools have not had any library experience, so to make the orientation about the card catalog a little lively, we usually asked the students what authors and titles of books they know. Most groups give the standard authors they've encountered in high school: Shakespeare and Rizal and Harry Potter and Twilight.

Now when I was giving the orientation to this one group, not a squeak came out. I had to prod them and challenge them and nothing. Of course there was a student who gave an answer which he obviously got from his syllabus because it was the name of a freshmen psychology book author so I had to discount that answer. I wanted an author that they know, not an author that they know of, because surely Shakespeare and Rizal and other authors have been discussed and whose works (some of their works anyway) were read or discussed in high school.

The other group was a delight because no standard answers or authors were given. One student answered Charles Dickens, it was unexpected so praises were given (and it became the signal for the smart assess too.) I told the group that some Dickens are in the library. They'll just have to learn how to use the card catalog to find him and his works. Encouraged one student said Bob Hope, taken by surprise this time, I said I was not sure if the library has any Bob Hope but if they really are interested in him, they could just check the card catalog later.

Guffaws and catcalls and all sorts of noise. I would have been insulted but everyone had their eyes on one classmate.

"Me: well what's so funny about your classmate?"

"Them: his name is Bob Hope."

"Me: so you're calling him Bob Hope because he is funny? That's good! "

"Them: (Guffaws again) no, his name is Bob Pag-asa and we call him Bob Hope, you know hope equals pag-asa."

"Me: oh I thought you're all calling him Bob Hope because he is funny."

"Them: he is funny but his name is still Bob Pag-asa."

So there I was trying to calm the class down and at the same time trying to explain who Bob Hope was and trying to move the orientation along despite the occassional snickers.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What's in the broth?

For the last three weeks, I have been trying to read The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. It is an interesting read but I always seem to find myself drifting, contemplating. So in effect I'm barely one-fourth of the book.

As far as I've been able to read in the book, its main theme is the survival of the gene. Human beings are just but survival machines for the gene. Almost always it is the gene that dictates our action in its effort to preserve itself. While other survival machines may have managed to rebel against the designs of the selfish gene, the gene somehow always manifest itself in other ways.

Take for example people like me who have not reproduced any offspring, so my gene will not get passed on, but the gene recognizes (?) that it has kins, so in its effort to replicate itself, it will take care of its kin. Its effort to maximize itself does not necessary mean its passing on the "good gene", it just means that it is able pass on the gene that makes a prefect copy itself.

Had I read this book two years ago when I first took interest in it, I would not have put much thought to this premise or thesis. Two years ago, I was contorting myself to avoid any sort of responsibility for my nieces and nephews.

But now, I am taking care of a nephew because somehow his mother is not psychologically or emotionally able to take care of him or so I let myself believe. But in all probability it is the selfish gene that is dictating this odd behavior.

Or maybe not so odd, I have after all been taking care, in one or other ways, of my younger siblings since they were in grade school then in high school and even now when they are all grown-up themselves.

Dictates of society and humane behavior and religious beliefs probably have nothing to do with why people take care of its own; it's the gene pure and simple.

Monday, June 29, 2009

How do you want to be addressed, Ate.

Filipino customs and traditions dictate that we address anyone older than us, people we deemed to have high social status, strangers and family with terms of respect. We call members of our family with whatever is deemed appropriate, taking into account rank in the family, dialect used inside the family, etc.

In a more formal setting I call strangers Ma'am, Miss and Sir. I never call anyone Ate unless invited to do so in as much as I never want to be called ate because it is an intimate term to me, a term that signify friendship and trust.

In our university, the people handling the dormitories are encouraging the students to call them ate's and kuya's. It's appropriate because they are after all dealing with student security and comfort.

However, the custom has spread out to other offices. Older clerks (of retirable age), professors and phd's unknown to some students are called ate's and kuya's. Maybe they don't mind. But I do because it always evokes in me a feeling of intimacy which neither I wish nor have with any students. Being called ate makes me feel like lecturing and hectoring students about proper behavior which if I do would just get me another nasty title, that of an interfering librarian.

There are some instructors who encouraged their students to call them by their first names. I rather prefer this kind of practice; it is more egalitarian, more in tune with a university setting, supposedly liberal. Maybe their is a contradiction here somewhere, but my point is the intimacy of the term. It makes the hairs on my nape rise, every time.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Do we have to...?

My mother is reading again. After so very long she's picked up a book again. The last time I saw her read was when I was a teenager. Now I could already have a teenager of my own or been a teenager twice over.

The first books she's read is The Great Gatsby. And what did she do the moment she finished reading the book was discuss it and I have completely forgotten the details of the book so I was in panic but then I did not have to because all she wanted was to be listened to. Although her discussion bored the hell out of me first then annoyed me later, I am still thankful that she's reading again.

Wretched daughter that I am what bored me was her discussion about love. Nothing to get my hackles rising but make the idea or concept of erotic or romantic love an excuse or the reason for everything evil or good in the world. Or having that kind of love the only reason why human beings are alive and life as it is is worth living for. What a lot of crap!

But still whatever make her read again and whatever make her believe in her intellectual abilities again. If I have to read all the romantic nonsense in the world I'd do it just so I could keep my mother reading again.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Selling the Library 2

It's been four days of almost non-stop library orientation. English instructors have alloted an hour of their classes for library orientation.

My part of the one-hour orientation is usually to talk about the Circulation unit and its resources and the Borrowers Card. But this week I've changed my tactics somehow. I've emphasize the importance of library and its resources to the students' life than on how to acquire and how to use the borrowers card.

And I am hoping that they have actually listened to me talk on and on about how they could actually learn more from the library than from their instructors. It's not that I was putting the instructors down but that an instructor's time is limited in a classroom setting.

I am not tired, just very tense. You have to be very careful regarding the information you try to impart.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Selling the Library

The CHED memo regarding the postponement of the start of classes came late so the university has started on its annual freshmen orientation. The usual university wide general orientation was changed this last two years to college wide orientation. Instead of just the university librarian to attend and speak at the university orientation, all of us, librarians now have a responsibility to speak at the different colleges to introduce the freshmen to the library services. Aside from this college wide orientation we also conduct a one-hour orientation arranged by the freshmen English instructors.

This has always been one of the ways on how we sell the library but I feel that it is not enough. During English class orientation I always emphasize the role of the library as support for their class instruction. That classroom instruction is just but a small percentage of the bulk of a particular subject or knowledge. And instructors can’t be expected to discuss everything in a semester and that students owe it to themselves to research and read on their own to supplement classroom instruction.

We find ways to attract students to library. We modify personal attitudes and change our demeanor to be more welcoming and approachable but at the end of the day, however proactive librarians are, whatever librarians do to sell the library and its services, the library is just but a passive function and service. It’s not like we can put sanctions to the students for not using the library resources. But even then, sanctions are still ineffective if students do not value their education. Penalties have not stopped students from skipping classes and/or failing exams or entire subjects.

Feel free to air your thoughts if you disagree with my conclusion.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My cave dwelling

I and three others live in a basement of a government housing. Each one of us occupies only a single room but the whole place is bigger compared to the rooms upstairs because we have our own common sala and kitchen and individual cr/br.

The problem with our accommodations is that every now and then creepy crawlies visit us. There have been several times snakes were killed in our cave and the latest was last night. I did not sleep the whole night watching the snake, afraid where it might crawl and hide next; however come daylight I lost sight of the brownish/reddish snake.

So tonight it would be the 'lantay' in the sala for me. I would not dare sleep in my room again until that snake is killed or removed from my room.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Censoring myself

I've been composing about certain topics these last two weeks but did not post them in the end because once again training and inclination forbid me to.

I've been trained by my parents and paternal grandparents to step back and observe before making any comments or decisions about things. And if silence is better for everyone involved then silence should be the proper option. Inclination to be cool and sometimes even cold about things on the other hand is something from my maternal side.

So there it is, after I wrote about something I just keep it to myself for fear (?) of offending more people than I already offend in the normal course of day. Life as it is is already very difficult without me satirizing people in a very public blog. I know I have very few reader, but who knows who might stumble into this blog one of these days.

What does not kill me... etc.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Talk about mastering the alphabet

I’ve finally finished reading Nausea by Albert Camus and it is suppose to be the diary of a M. Roquentin. The setting of the supposed diary is 1920’s France. In one of his entries, he wrote about an acquaintance the Self-Taught Man who he noticed reads books according to how the books are arranged on the shelves, alphabetically by the authors’ family name. The Self-Taught Man was already going through the "L" when this was noticed by the diarist.

It made me review my history of classification and cataloging. I know for certain that LC and DDC were developed in the 19th century but can’t be sure of the years. I know too that before standard classification systems were developed there were many ways of shelving, storing and stacking library books, one of which is arranging the books alphabetically by author. Somehow an account of a library setting from the perspective of a library user rather than a formal historian is more appealing and oddly more believable.

But in my daily library functions, I can't say I've really mastered the alphabet. We are using the LC classification system and when arranging book cards or arranging books on the shelves I can't automatically say that PG comes first before PJ. I always seem to go back to basics and think G, H, I, J...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dashed dreams of public librarianship

While still in library school, a family friend came to visit me in Cebu to borrow my notes on library science. He was appointed by their town mayor as municipal librarian with a salary that I, even now is not earning. He stayed with us for a few days because he also wanted some instructions especially on indexing which at that moment was mostly what he was trying to do in his library. I told him to enroll in an MS degree in library science so he could have the post permanently. He was not interested, he felt too old at 36 to get another degree, and he already had two besides. He said instead that he'll hold the fort for me until I'm able to take over and he'll be just as happy as my assistant. He died of heart attack (may he--André rest in peace) even before I graduated.

A classmate in the review for the board, who heard of the post from her sister who married somebody from that place, applied for the post but she never heard anything from the town officials. The post died with him I suppose. Or until such time as the town officials become politically motivated to resurrect the position which by law should be available.

I still had two years to finish library school when I first heard of that post and I somehow built a dream of public librarianship based upon the ideal public librarianship learned in library school. Even now I still dream of that dream--the things I could do given the right support. It is such a culturally diverse and resource-rich place, but at the rate public librarianship is going in the Philippines, there might never be a public library in that municipality.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The bubble bursts

I've only just found out during the last two years that when you are applying for a job, certain SOP's are to be followed. There is generally an interview process, a standardized IQ or psychological exams, and an imperative skills test. It was in my management class in graduate school that I learned about this. I cringed when I first heard of this because in all the jobs I applied for I never went through a skills test or an IQ or psychological exam. I've only ever been employed as a professional librarian in two institutions and in both cases I was only given an interview. On my first job, it was only the chief librarian who interviewed me and on my second job interview (my current job) I faced a panel of interviewers who if I remember correctly had not asked any difficult questions. Although I did apply for another two posts during my first job, I only ever went through an interview process.

In the past couple of years I have applied for two different jobs because I thought I would relocate. In one institution, the formal interview and the skills test were scrapped because the librarian knew my academic performance personally, but had I completed the whole list of human resources requirements, I would have taken a standardized IQ exam just to comply with requirements so the librarian said. In another job I applied for though not a librarian post I took a two-hour grammar and composition skills test, waited a week for a call to interview if you pass that exams and managed to go through a grueling 20-minute interview for each of the five individual interviewers and wait another week for the interview results. It was the first time I ever experienced that kind of procedure and it was nerve-racking. I realized then that the process I was going through was what my management professor was talking about. Even if I did not get the job I want to believe I went through with flying colors because the last time I heard from them after that difficult interview was that they have already contacted my reference persons and that I should wait for their call within the next three days. I don’t know if they did call but it was also during that week that my phone went dead. Or maybe I flunked that interview.

At the moment three of us in the library had finished with two of the three processes or procedures to a new job. There is supposed to be a promotion for one of us. We had the panel interview three weeks ago. The skills test—classification and cataloging and indexing were administered by one of the senior librarians yesterday. Within the next week or so we will take an IQ or a psychological test to be administered by human resources. Everyone in the library is surprised by this process because not one of them it seems has undergone the whole standard procedure but it seems human resources department is cleaning its act as per civil service hiring regulations. I have no big hopes for this. I got very low scores for my academic qualifications being a non-MSLS or its equivalent degree holder. But it is nice, painful but it lets you grow, to be once in a while shaken out of your complacency and taken out of your comfort zone.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Premium Services


One of the provisions of the law is: "to set up their respective service standards to be known as the Citizen's Charter in the form of information billboards which should be posted at the main entrance of offices or at the most conspicuous place, and in the form of published materials written either in English, Filipino, or in the local dialect, that detail: (a) The procedure to obtain a particular service; (b) The person/s responsible for each step; (c) The maximum time to conclude the process; (d) The document/s to be presented by the customer, if necessary; (e) The amount of fees, if necessary; and (f) The procedure for filing complaints."

The thing was, before the seminar-workshop, we were already told to prepare and make our own Citizen's Charter, present it during the workshop and expect it to be reviewed by the whole seminar-workshop attendees. While I fully appreciate their efforts to edit my presentation grammar-wise, it was weird and somewhat demeaning to be questioned about the necessity of your own procedures. As if you do not know what you are talking about or that you've been doing the wrong things all these times. I understand where they're coming from of course, nevertheless the feelings of inefficiency the nitpicking has brought on persisted. They’ve trimmed and snipped and compressed as many office procedures as allowed by the respective person in-charge. It was a good thing my boss attended the workshop with me because she had been able to defend our procedures and our Charter calmly.

The concern is that the government is not giving premium services to the public hence this law which would guide the citizens of the republic; However, changing an accepted standard of borrowing procedure or any office procedure for that matter just because an office wanted to present an efficient looking Citizen’s Charter and a seemingly short and red tape free service is not only undermining the whole service itself but its people as well. An efficient looking, seemingly red tape free Citizen’s Charter yet not a real and true to form procedural Citizen’s Charter is to my mind just as criminal as bureaucratic red tape. But since presenting a long Citizen’s Charter is viewed as another bureaucratic red tape (the citizens shouldn’t spend more time than necessary reading anything that might tax their minds) you are left to choose between the lesser evil. Any kind of Citizen’s Charter besides the real step by step, procedural one could land you in a hot seat because if the service provided is not what is stated in the Citizen’s Charter, the citizen concern could sue the office for red tape.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Book Acquisitions and the Bangko Sentral

This is how I understand our long-time secretary’s explanations of a book acquisitions practice abandoned long before I was employed here.

Our library used to purchase books directly from foreign publishers and jobbers but stopped the practice sometime in the 1990's. The reason was about a Central Bank Circular regarding the bringing in or out of the country beyond a certain amount of money. Every time we pay for the books ordered in the UK or the US that amounts to more than what is expressed in that Central Bank Circular, which was always, we asked permission from the Central Bank for such transaction. The nearest Central Bank Offices from Leyte is Cebu, if you limit your purchases to four times a year that’s also a four-time trip to the Central Bank.

There was also the added burden of keeping up with the fluctuating peso-dollar exchange rate. Between the time a specific amount is requested for the ordered books and the time the money for a bank draft is released by the accounting department to the time we go to the bank, the exchange rate has changed a hundred times already. Your peso may become lesser than or bigger than your dollar account. If you find yourself with a lesser peso value, you go back to accounting to request for additional funds again. So you hope that your peso on hand is bigger than your dollar account when exchange is done. It came to a point where the banks refused to sell or change our Philippine peso with dollars anymore. The banks’ reason was that when they make the payments to the foreign publishers; the constant exchange fluctuations had them saddled with paying for the difference if their client's bank draft is smaller than the foreign account.

I suppose big libraries can resort to this if the current problems of book importation are not resolved. For us who recently have been buying mostly reprints because of budgetary constraints, this would not be feasible. All the intricate business transactions to be handled and dealt with regarding a direct importation are just but added burdens to a cash strapped library—budgets if not slashed are maintained at a certain amount without regard for the increasing value of books and government employed librarians had to justify every title acquired as essential and must have a concerned faculty’s endorsement to say the least—burdens that are lessened by jobbers and distributors.

Central Bank Circulars that might be of help.

Monday, May 4, 2009

House of 2½ Monk, CSI, New York

I rarely watched Philippine TV shows and sitcoms. I watched news; I also watched some talk shows from the ANC. When my siblings start to talk about entertainment gossip, one of my nieces would say that they need to make a sort of backgrounder because a foreigner is listening. Most of those who came into the Philippine entertainment scene in the last 10 years are unknown to me.

The TV shows I watched are the kind that validates my slightly abnormal psychology. I watch House. In one of "House" episodes, he said something about his not wearing a lab coat has nothing to do with how he diagnosed diseases. It is presumptuous of me to even compare my case to "his" but I hate the uniforms the government prescribed for us. Or in our case what our own uniform committee has chosen as uniform. They seem to always choose cloths mostly made from wool or synthetic fibers. They are hot and uncomfortable to wear. They are the kind of cloth meant to be worn in an air-conditioned room with nothing to do but file papers, write, type, the kind of work that does not make you sweat. They are not meant to be worn if one is suppose to carry and shelve heavy books or do housekeeping sometime in the day. Other people may equate uniforms with efficiency and effectiveness but in my case, it does not.

Another show I watched is CSI. I like gore and mayhem. I also like to guess who the culprit is. Last week's episode of CSI: New York features the New York City Public Library as the scene of the crime committed. A rare book "The Tibetan Book of the Dead" was treated with Thallium which causes the death first of the Librarian of the rare book section. The death of course was murder or rather euthanasia according to her husband who administered the poison through that book. He made other deaths occur to make his claim valid—that the librarian job was hazardous—so he could collect the insurance. He would have represented the other victims in a legal suit against the library and therefore collecting another fee, a settlement fee or whatever. I never thought a librarian's job could be exciting in that way. Imagine your library being the scene of a crime and if you're not the victim, you could be one of the suspects. I always thought the most exciting thing that could happen in a library was if an angry client would go at you with a heavy book or skewer you with an umbrella. Or a book would suddenly turn into a monster ala Harry Potter episode and would attack the librarian.

Last evening’s episode of Two and a Half Men (a rerun of season 3, episode 12 I suppose) had Alan in a grip of panic inside a bookstore. He has always wanted to read it seems, but never had the time to do so and he is in a panic because to him there is no more time to read the classics, biography, geography, etc. Charlie, his brother told him he could read while he is using the comfort room and Alan replied there are not enough bowel movements in his lifetime to read all the best books. One’s bowel movements, for those who read while pooping or one's lifetime may never be enough to read all the good and not-so-good-but-entertaining-all-the-same books but one could try. If we spent our time just thinking and planning about reading then we may even never get to read even one good book. Anyone can start reading at any age. Some started while they were still young but that does not automatically mean they are the best reader. There is no age limit to reading just as there is no age limit to learning.

And Monk. Monk is another TV character of course. He is the most or rather he has the most abnormal psychology and he makes me feel the most normal person in the world.