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Nancy's Dream Come True

Nancy's Dream Come True

In the beginning of Global Reach Libraries, my project with IDEAS, I had a vision of helping libraries around the world without trained librarians. I planned to come into a community as the expert, set up libraries, train local librarians, and leave. 

And in the beginning, that’s what I focused on. It wasn’t a bad vision, but there was a problem.

While I am an expert in my profession, as an outsider, I didn’t know the culture, the needs, or the desires of the communities these librarians would serve.  What I’ve learned in the past 10 years is that what the people I work with desire most is ongoing relationship and encouragement. 

What they long for is not another foreign expert but a partner who will walk alongside them for the long-term.

And I’ve seen these long-term partnerships impact both the librarians and the people they serve.

Allow me to share with you Nancy's story:

Nancy is from Syria, and I met her when she became a part-time kindergarten librarian at one of the schools I work with in Jordan:

"I love kids and books, and I dreamt of being the librarian not just for kindergarten, but for the whole school. 

But there was a problem. 

I only have a 2-year degree from Syria, not the 4-year degree required by the Jordanian Ministry of Education. 

The IDEAS librarian encouraged me and advocated for me with the school leadership. Finally, after several years and a new school principal, I became the full-time librarian for both the school and kindergarten!

My dream is coming true!

The new leadership recognized my skills and passions and my willingness to work hard. But my journey isn’t over. I am going back to school part-time to finish my 4-year degree so I can meet the Jordanian Ministry of Education requirements.

I am overjoyed in reaching this stage of my dream. I love libraries. They are not just about schoolwork. They are about life, and in the library, I can impact students' lives!"

Recently I observed Nancy doing just that. A learning assistant was in the library, helping a boy on the autistic spectrum take a science test. 

Nancy watched his stress level increase. 

“I can’t do this,” he kept repeating louder and louder, near tears. 

She walked over and knelt down next to him.  "Deep breaths," she reminded him. She spoke reassuring words and finally he was able to finish the exam. As he got up to leave the library, Nancy walked back over and put her hands on his shoulders. 

She looked him in the eyes and told him, “You did this. You are a strong boy.”

I saw him take a deep breath and walk out of the library, knowing he has an advocate – a partner.

That same day, in my role as library expert, I was going to train teachers in an online resource I had recommended. Earlier in the week, Nancy had asked how she could help me with the training.  She spent time on her own, learning the resource. 

When I arrived that day, she was bubbling with excitement. 

“Did you know this?” she asked as she showed me a new feature she’d discovered.

Nancy had taken charge. “I told teachers to bring their laptops and we’ll help them all create accounts first.” 

Suddenly, I was no longer the expert. We had become partners, jointly presenting the training and letting the teachers know that Nancy is really their librarian, there to partner with them. 

Nancy still has much to learn about library organization and best practices, but her dream is coming true. I still have expertise to share, but I’m no longer the expert. I’m now Nancy's partner to encourage her, to help her brainstorm and plan, and to walk along with her as she works to see students changed through books and her presence in the library.

About the Author: Libby is an IDEAS Associate and professional librarian. She currently resides in Jordan and works with libraries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Enjoy other blogs by Libby, such as How I Know I've Adjusted to Work Cross-Culturally.