my tweet?

Despite what my CV may say, I’m not really that familiar with Twitter, or many of these other “Web 2.0” technologies. Considering I live in Laos and we barely even have an internet connection at the University, it’s surprising I even know what it is.  My director certainly doesn’t.  Yesterday when helping him complete an eIFL.net survey, he asked me to define RSS, Blog, Wiki, Twitter, Second Life, and Social Networking.  However I do try to at least be hip with the lingo, so I know about tweets and podcasts.  So here is my tweet:

Even after one year in Laos I still manage to encounter culinary surprises.  Yesterday I was served embryonic chicken eggs at lunch.

Ok that’s the end of my tweet.  Backing to being overly verbose.  Speaking eIFL.net, the “Electronic Information For Libraries Network” is pretty amazing and I really like the work they are doing.  This includes subsidizing e-resources for libraires in developing countries, such as Laos, and many countries in Africa and Asia.  eIFL.net has just negotiated a deal with JSTOR where all the members of LALIC (the 12 libraries mentioned in previous postings…) will get TOTALLY FREE access to all of JSTOR’s holdings, current and archived content, for the next 2 years.  They are also waiving all of the initial membership fees and whatnot, which probably value over $20,000 total.  eIFL.net has also negotiated a reduced subscription rate if we want to continue membership after 2011, for ridiculously low access rates.   They coordinate access to many other e-resources and have helped the University Central Library be able to provide AGORA, BioOne, EBSCO, Cambrige University Press, and Oxford Online resources for mostly free !!!  Unfortunately our use of e-resources is still ridiculously low, owing to a number of factors me and my colleagues are exploring in our research project “The Electronic Information Seekhing Behaviour of NUOL Students and Academic Staff”.  I hypothesize that the main issues are language barriers (few people can read and write a foreign language fluently enough to use these academic resources) and a really unreliable and slow internet connection (for example, almost non-existant at the University).  Anyway, I love what eIFL.net is doing! Now if only they would hire me…

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update on the electronic gate

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:

“Hi Nicole,

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?

Cheers,
Sithong ”

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.

finally, a photograph

Look! I’m really in Laos!!

IFLA National University of Laos Information Literacy workshop, June 2008

This is a picture of the participants in the IFLA-ALP funded Information Literacy Education workshop at the National University of Laos, including myself (2nd row, 2nd from left), and Drs. Dorner & Gorman (front row, 1st and 2nd from left respectively; my heroes), and Dr. Aree (2nd row, 2nd from right).

In the front row on the right is Mr. Chansy, the director of the NUOL Central Library, and my boss.

Everyone involved in this workshop has been a pleasure to work with, and I’m really excited to begin my work in the library next week. Tomorrow is the last day, then Drs. Dorner, Gorman & Ahree will leave me all alone in this strange city.

I’ve found a lovely place to live in the city centre, I’m moving in on Saturday. The only annoying bit is that it will take me about 1/2 hour to get to the university, which is about 20 km outside of town in a neighborhood called “Dong Dok”. But I am sure I will prefer to live in town, rather than out there, where things would probably get really lonely.

I’m not quite sure yet what I will be doing in the library, one of the head ladies there has already aksed me if I can help with some web design, and cataloging french books. What I really want to do is help the university design an information literacy education program for the students, or perhaps help train other faculty on embedding ILE into their curricula, but we’ll see how much free range Mr. Chansy and the other folks give me. One (of the three) librarians at the central library will be leaving in September to finish his MLIS degree in Sweden or Estonia or Latvia or something, so I may take over a large part of his functions while he is away. I’m a bit nervous that I’m in a little over my head here, I worry that the library staff see me as some kine of “foreign expert”, when in reality I’m hoping to learn as much as possible from them.

Anyway, we’ll see how things go, and I will, of course, keep everyone abreast of the news outta Vientiane.

p.s. I’m sorry if this blog sounds really cheesy, this is an exercise in me trying to maintain a facade of professionalism. Does that mean I’m getting old? I’m just trying to take this gig really seriously.

Oh also, IFLA-ALP hooked me up with some cash money to collect data for them, so I want to be sure and do a real good job. But if you want access to the secret blog where I talk about smoking opium and other debauchery, and don’t capitalize anything, contact me for details.