When we first moved to Qatar in 2011, I began looking for a job as a preschool teacher, as I had been teaching for the past 4 years in Japan. I had received job offers from a number of schools around Doha, but upon visiting them, soon learned that the role of a preschool teacher here was quite different than what I was expecting. While teaching at Kinder Kids in Japan, our priorities revolved around helping the students become independent, confident and well prepared for entering elementary school, as well as being bilingual in English and Japanese. In addition to teaching the English curriculum, there was a particular emphasis on nurturing self-sufficiency, so that the students relied less on teachers for things such as eating and dressing as they progressed through school.
My previous life.
I was disappointed (and shocked) to see that even some of the 4 year olds at the schools I visited in Doha still needed their teachers to feed them lunch! There was a chaotic atmosphere in the classrooms, as the children ran around screaming, and fighting a midst the disregarded protests of their teachers, who appeared to be little more than overworked (and similarly paid) baby sitters. I would later learn that many of the students that attended these schools came from homes where they had maids or nannies to do most things for them and were not often reprimanded for bad behaviour. I decided fairly quickly that I no longer wanted to teach preschool.
My husband Nabil had gotten a job in the strategy department at the Qatar Museum’s Authority, and soon informed me that the library in the Museum of Islamic Art was hiring. Naturally, I was thrilled since I had always wanted to work in a library. I got the job, and while my paperwork was being processed (something that takes an inordinately long time) I volunteered there 4 hours a day.
The Museum of Islamic Art, Doha Qatar.
Though I started as a reader’s guide — mostly just responsible for showing visitor’s how to use the library — it soon became apparent that I had an aptitude for cataloguing. I read everything I could find about AACR2 (Anglo American Cataloguing Rules) and ISBD (International Standard Bibliographic Descriptions) and became especially fascinated by how call numbers are assigned (eventually teaching myself how to do that as well). Within a short time, my duties expanded to cataloguing the large backlog of books at the MIA, doing quality checks on other catalogue records, and even designing workshops on how to create original bibliographic records. It didn’t take long before I was involved in almost every other area of the library’s operations, from handling research requests, to compiling bibliographies, to selecting and ordering new material for the collection. In the words of my former boss, Carole, I was “born to be a librarian”!
Working in a small library facilitated my sampling the different areas of work librarians can be involved with ( ie. public services, technical services, collection development etc.) but I was extremely fortunate to have a boss that had enough confidence in me to allow me to try my hand at all of them. With her support and encouragement, I came to realize that this really was what I wanted to pursue as a career. One of my favourite pieces of Carole’s advice was “never stop learning, and never stop improving”. She was a perfect example of this philosophy in action, as was evidenced by her own immense knowledge concerning libraries and just about every other subject area. What was even greater though, was her willingness to share her knowledge, and her efforts to help those that worked for her improve themselves. It was on her advice that I began to seriously consider Grad school.
Another thing Carole used to like saying was that “books are like children…they’re all different, but they’re all the same”. Although I knew what she meant by this, I can’t help but wonder if she would still see similarities after visiting a Qatari preschool!