One of the head dude’s here at the Central Library left a few weeks ago to go finish his master’s in Italy. He e-mailled me and asked how things were going… so I casually mentioned that I was in the process of helping the director write a grant proposal to buy an electronic gate. Well. That sparked quite a debate/upset over the whole thing, in which he wrote me several e-mails urging me to try to convince the director not to ask for money to buy the gate, and saying that my job “isn’t just to follow whatever the director telles me to do, but to be an adviser as well”. I explained that I had initially tried to tell him we didn’t need it, but his mind was set, and at least I had successfully convinced him to go with the least-expensive model.
Then I got this response:
I am really very concerned about Asia Foundation project. As I side I do not agree with the idea of purchasing electronic gate.
The reasons are:
1. What is the percentage of book lost very year?
2. How much does the library pay for lost books and hire staff to do the check out every year?
3. What is our library mission? To serve the users’ need or to equipe with modern technology? Or to protect books from the thefts?
4. What will the users benefit from that gate?
5. If we use that money (19,000 $) to hire someone to do the checkout, it will last for 20 years.
6. Why not use this money to develop our automated system to make it more standardised.
7. If we have that gate what other additional works do we have to do? We have to take out all the books from the shelves to put the tape in.
8. What about if we have new building? Why not include this in the proposal for new building?
I don’t have any objection with purchasing books, computer and electronic resources. Or even staff development.
Nicole you can print out this mail for Mr. Somephone, so he can share te idea. Maybe you can talk to Mr. Somexay about this.
Is it possible to send me the draft of your proposal?
So, I got myself in the middle of a big Library-Management argument. Anyway, the director had already submitted the proposal so there is little I can do at this point. Yes, I think $20,000 for an electronic gate is a lot of money that could be better spent on other things… but who cares what I think? I’m just somebody who has a piece of paper saying I showed up for class most of the time and turned in a few papers about libraries at some school in Canada. All they really want me to do here is correct their English documents and make their website “more attractive”.
One of my favorite library ladies, Mrs. Bounsalong, just told me today that she only makes 80,000 Kip per month. This is roughly equivalent to $9. I am not sure if this is a mistake or the truth. In which case, I think $20,000 could certainly be used for giving the staff raises. But, this has nothing to do with library politics, all of the staff salaries are determined by the University’s President… who gets his limited budget from the Ministry of Education, and some from student fees. Basically the University, and therefore the library, as no money. They can hardly pay their staff. They certainly can’t buy books or computers. I just don’t understand why so many Lao people want to be in academia considering how shit it pays in this country. These are really smart people. They could be earning loads some place else.