Member Baru Huelela, Botswana
1. Tell us about your journey to librarianship.
My day-to-day job is at Botswana International University of Science and Technology where I am currently working as a subject librarian responsible for Faculty of Science. I have been at Botswana International University of Science and Technology since 2018.
I started out in 1993 as a volunteer library assistant. I engaged in compulsory national service at a junior high school there. While at that school, I was entrusted with teaching first-year students our native language (Setswana). The library was a small building with very few books, yet it was a quiet place that gave students peace of mind and a chance to improve on their knowledge capacity. It was then that I fell in love with the library. At the time I did not know that one could be trained in librarianship and work as a professional in the field. After I completed my national service, I enrolled with the University of Botswana (Francistown branch) as a part-time student, pursuing a Diploma in Accounting and Business Management. While there, I had the opportunity to work full-time as a library clerk at Francistown Public Library in 1996. It was then that I came across an inspirational librarian, Ms. Esther Matenge, who was always supportive and desired to help me learn new things. She was very passionate about librarianship, and that alone fueled my love for librarianship.
Soon thereafter, I made the tough decision of quitting accounting studies in order to pursue librarianship. I then enrolled for a certificate in Library and Information Studies as a full-time student in 1997. I had a burning desire to obtain a bachelor’s degree after completing my certificate. I could not get a government grant to proceed, so I started selling jewelry, perfumes, clothes, and Tupperware. I also took on small jobs during long and short vacations just to raise enough money for my bachelor’s degree tuition fee each semester. After completing my first degree, I took a job at Botswana National Library Services as an assistant librarian. I worked there for four years and transferred to Botswana National Veterinary Laboratory Library on a promotion basis in 2006. In 2008 I received the Erasmus Mundus Scholarship to study for my master’s degree in Digital Library Learning in Europe. Upon completion in 2010, I was redeployed to Francistown Public Library as the head of the library. In 2011, I joined the University of Botswana Library based at Okavango Research Institute Library. The following year I had the opportunity to work at Botswana Open University (BOU) Library where I was a solo librarian for five years before my current position at Botswana International University of Science and Technology.
2. How long have you been a librarian?
I have worked in different library environments (school, public, and special, and academic libraries) for 14 years.
3. What facet of the profession or your day-to-day responsibilities are you most passionate about?
I am passionate about improving library services through technology-mediated tools. My day-to-day activities involve developing library applications such as library guides and podcasts to improve service delivery and library instruction. I am also a liaison librarian for Faculty of Science and I enjoy interacting with lecturers and science students. I find fulfilment in assisting my colleagues through transferring skills in developing library technology applications.
4. What are some ways you market services/resources to library users?
We market our services and resources to our library users through outreach programs, Library Open Day, workshops, emails, intranet, website, podcasts and social media (Facebook and Twitter).
5. What are some low budget or free professional development venues that you participate in currently?
Currently I participate in local workshops, conferences, in-house training, vendor webinars, and MOOC. I also participate in the Association of Christian Librarians’ forum.
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 is a major challenge. Our budget is limited and priority is given to acquisition of print and electronic resources. I always fail to attend important International library conferences held in the first world countries and also in other parts of Africa.
7. If CILA were to support your library in the future, what would your single greatest need be?
I would be grateful if CILA would help my library by funding professional development (mentoring, coaching, benchmarking, and exchange programmes) for the entire library staff.