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CILA: Issue 5, Lungile Seyama

Issue 5, March 2019

Lungile Seyama, Southern Africa Nazarene University, Eswatini 

1. Tell us about your journey to librarianship.

I started working as a research assistant at a government Ministry on part time basis, and it was just a by-the way thing. The interest grew as I saw how happy and relieved people were when their information needs were met. I was working with a Librarian who was so passionate with her job. She took me under her wing and mentored me so well that I could not imagine myself doing anything else but connecting people to the information they need.

Though it took longer than expected for me to enroll for formal training due to unavailability of funds, I finally did in the year 2000 and I acquired a Diploma in Library and Information Studies. On completion of my training, I was promoted and worked in a public library which was somewhat an adjustment for me which I accepted as a challenge. My clientele base changed and increased in number. Instead of dealing with professionals undertaking their research, or government officials who needed documented facts such as cost of living adjustment, I also assisted students and the general public. My passion as an information interface was undeniably evident as I would go an extra mile and work extended hours just to see that sense of satisfaction in my clients after their information needs were met. This to me was similar to seeing someone struggling because of sin but when they accept Christ, they have the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. To me this was more than just a profession but a calling. I remember that one day I stayed behind to assist someone who had a deadline to meet, coincidentally the very same afternoon there were revival services at church. I invited her, she gave her life to Christ and to this day she is a Christian, waiting patiently for the return of our savior.

I requested from my employer to further my studies. I had initially applied for an undergraduate degree, but the university considered my experience in the field and the fact that I had passed with a distinction in my diploma, subsequently enrolling for a Postgraduate Diploma, Honors and finally an MA in Information Studies. Throughout my period of postgraduate study, I learnt firsthand how librarianship has evolved with new and state-of-the-art technology, subsequently changing and transforming the profession. On completion of my studies, unfortunately, I was deployed somewhere else which had nothing to do with librarianship.

The six years intermission was divinely planned as I had a chance to ‘sit away’ from my colleagues, observed, listened and learnt how other professional people perceived librarianship.  I was more than ready to come back with a bang!!! I had learnt that the profession was not taken seriously and considered a low grade profession for tired women. What baffled me the most was knowing that everyone who had been into the four walls of a classroom, were able to pull through their academic endeavor because they were using books and were assisted by librarians.

A major come back to the Librarian fraternity was in 2015. Knowing what the library is all about and what librarians can do, compelled me to bounce back as I wanted to prove those perceptions wrong and our voices to be head. I remember making a presentation in one of our general meetings encouraging fellow colleagues to make their presence felt so that they could be recognized and their absence realized! Librarians are causing communities to thrive culturally, educationally and economically and are becoming teachers of emerging technologies.

My major come back was in a new job as a Librarian at the Southern Africa Nazarene University (SANU). This was God’s timing! The institution was working on implementing an automated library system. In 2016 a global team of librarians from USA and UK volunteered to set aside their jobs, time and more, fly to this part of the world to train librarians and implement Open-source Automated Library System (OPALS). The team was led by Dr. Sharon Bull, Librarian emeritus from Northwest Nazarene University.   

The team left an indelible mark not only at SANU but the entire country was at a loss of words and envious of the Library Management System (LMS) that the institution had acquired. The system came at a time when library user’s expectation had changed, especially at institution of higher learning. Among the factors driving change are networked technologies, powerful search engines, social technologies, to mention a few. Digital inequality and access to library resources has always been a problem to our users, especially in this part of the world. OPALS therefore would enable access to information resources by users regardless of their geographical settings.  The system has produced a new level of readiness to serve students and faculty into the future.

Regardless of the differences that our canal minds perceived, we worked together with our global team as a family. Surprisingly, none of them had used OPALS, which means we were learning the system together. They were just a bit ahead of us as they would sacrifice part of their night to learn the system ahead of us. The sacrifices they made and the spirit they had was ‘out of this world’, as some of us would passionately say. We would sing, chat and lough while pushing each day’s activities. The one and a half month of training was more than just training but felt so much like a spiritual retreat. Knowledge of the system was undeniable, but most of all the transformation that the team impacted at SANU was a cut above the rest. There was undeniable something unique about this team, for I had worked with librarians for a long time, but none of this caliber. It was towards the end of the training when I learnt that they were members of the Association of Christian Librarians (ACL), which I was also introduced to. Furthermore, though they were from abroad, most of them were meeting each other for the first time as well.

I had no qualms and was more than ready to join ACL, for I knew that was the association I need to be part of. The quality of the members we were with at that time, said volumes about the association. Through God’s help, I attended ACL conference in 2016. Words cannot even begin to explain the whole week I spent at the conference. I was with people that spoke the ‘same language’ as myself. Library jargons were a given, networking and sharing was what was happening, but the spiritual part of the conference itinerary was a cut above the rest. Hence my conclusion that the combination, ‘to be a Christian Librarian’ is priceless!!!

To this end, and though I am experiencing financial problems to renew my membership, I still consider myself a proud member of ACL, the crème de la crème, transforming, futuristic, nurturing and engaging association.

2. How long have you been a librarian?                                            

I have been a librarian for 25 years.

3. What facet of the profession or your day-to-day responsibilities are you most passionate about?

Surfing the internet and connecting people with information as it is key to lifelong learning.

4. What are some ways you market services/resources to library users? 

Among others;

  • We have a library manual that details the library services and resources
  • Conduct library orientation to new students and staff members
  •  Hold university wide seminars where I showcase latest resources. This happens every time there is a significant addition into the collection or databases the institution subscribes to.
  • Through Selection Dissemination of Information (SDI),
  • We have also introduced Knowledge Ambassadors, which is a student’s involvement program, whereby the students are the ones that come up with ideas to advertise the library resources and are a link to the other student body and community.

5. What are some low budget or free professional development venues that you participate in currently? 

A member of the Swaziland Library and Information Centres Association and Swaziland Library Consortium.

6. What is the single most challenging thing for you to accomplish as an international librarian? [i.e.purchasing print resources, funding professional development activities, providing resources to library users who may not have the internet at home, etc.?]

Funding professional Development activities i.e. Unable to subscribe to international library association such as  ACL, let alone having money to attend international conferences.

7. If CILA were to support your library in the future, what would your single greatest need be.

Funds to attend ACL conference which provides networking opportunities and access to latest open source electronic resources.