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Why Did I Become a Librarian?

Photo by Daniel Tan

Last month, I was asked to write a short essay on my favorite place in Ateneo. I ended up writing not so much about the Ateneo libraries I used to frequent when I was growing up, but how my favorite places influenced my own journey to becoming a librarian (see "Laman ng Lib"). I am reproducing the essay below, with links to posts I've written in the past, to (re-)introduce myself to the old and new readers of this blog. Feel free to leave comments on Facebook.

Laman ng Lib

Grade 2 pa lang ako, laman na ako ng library.

The first book I ever borrowed at the Grade School library was The Melted Coins, a Hardy Boys mystery (see "Five Things About Vonjobi"). After finishing the entire series sometime in Grade 6, I was allowed to borrow a few books, including Robert Ludlum's The Scarlatti Inheritance, from the restricted faculty collection by appealing to Ms. Grace Valente, the first librarian I asked to bend a rule for me.

At the High School library, I never had to ask for special permission to borrow books, but it probably wouldn't have been difficult because Mrs. Inday Lara, the librarian, was my father's childhood playmate. One book that I will never forget is William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade, which introduced me to the practical aspects of filmmaking in an engaging, non-technical manner (see "Meme: Books I Own and Love"). I liked it so much that I borrowed and reread it every year. If the yellow borrower's card at the back is still there, you'll see that I signed my name consecutively.

When I moved on to the College, I was happy to finally become a legitimate user of the Rizal Library. I had been able to use it a few times as a high school senior, but I always felt like a guest afraid to overstay his welcome. This time, however, I could browse the books without having to sign in and indicate what my research topic was. In particular, I liked looking at books that had just been returned, which I took as an indicator that they were worth reading. That's how I found Ogilvy on Advertising, which opened my eyes to the realities of communicating with potential customers, even before we had to discuss the subject in class.

After graduating from the College in 1995, I still had no idea what I wanted to become. But I knew that it had to be something I enjoyed doing and it had to be meaningful. For a while, I found meaning in my job as a service quality officer in a bank, but after four years I decided to move on. Then, I considered the possibility of becoming a Jesuit. I lived for a year in Arvisu House, a place where young men stayed while thinking about joining the Society of Jesus, and took subjects once again at the College, and at the Loyola School of Theology. At the end of the year, however, it became clear that the Jesuits and I were better off as friends, not “married” =)

It was then that the period I call my "wandering in the desert" years began. I taught high school religion at the Jesuit-run Sacred Heart School for Boys in Cebu for a year, joined the Social Security System for a few months as a consultant (and vowed to avoid government jobs forever), worked as a quality supervisor in a call center for an even shorter period, edited books for publication as a sideline, and explored the possibility of getting an MA in Theology or an MBA. The last option got me thinking about what I really wanted to do with my life.

Further discernment led me to ask two questions: "What do I really like doing?" and "What can I see myself doing 10 years from now?" The answer to the first question was "I love reading books," but it was obvious that there was no career in reading for me. Then I remembered my library experiences as a student, and I wondered if there was such a thing as a master's degree for librarians. Google told me there was such a thing, so I enrolled in 2002, finished my graduate degree in library and information science by 2004, took the PRC Board Exam for librarians, got my license to practice, and eventually left for Canada to study for a PhD in book history (see "In My Life, 1999-2009").

A few relatives and friends urged me to stay in Canada after obtaining my degree, but I knew that I wanted to work in the Philippines. But where? My doctorate rendered me overqualified for most librarian jobs, except for the largest universities. However, as a blue-blooded Atenean, former Jesuit wannabe, and government-averse Filipino, I could not imagine working for De La Salle University, University of Santo Tomas, or University of the Philippines. There was really only one option: Ateneo de Manila University.

Fortuitously, Mrs. Lourdes David, the Rizal Library's Director, was retiring soon, and a search committee had been formed to look for her replacement, preferably someone with a PhD. In my application, I emphasized that I was an Ateneo alumnus along with my other qualifications, and hoped for the best. And so it happened that 30 years after I borrowed my first library book, almost 20 years after graduation, and exactly 10 years after asking my second question, I was hired to do something meaningful that I enjoyed doing.

I've been asked, "Bakit mo iniwan yung magandang trabaho mo sa Makati?" (Why did you leave your nice job in Makati?) and "ME ka, bakit mo gustong mag-pari (or mag-librarian)?" (You're a Management Engineering graduate, why do you want to become a priest (or a librarian)?) and "Nasa Canada ka na, bakit bumalik ka pa ng Pilipinas?” (You were already in Canada, why did you return to the Philippines?) The answers to each of these questions can be the subject of separate articles, but they are all essentially products of the process of discernment that I learned as an Atenean and as a Jesuit wannabe.

Over the years, I've identified with Joseph, who was sold into slavery in Egypt, but eventually found his way back to Israel. I tell people that I've gotten lost and taken some wrong turns over the years, but somehow, for some unknown reason, God takes care of me... whether I deserve it or not. And this is how I know that God does, in fact, write straight with crooked lines, with long detours, and with borrowers' cards.

St. Ignatius was right. We can, in fact, find God in all things. Even in the library.

Vernon Totanes is the Director of the Rizal Library. He obtained his PhD degree at the University of Toronto, and his master's degree in library and information science at the University of the Philippines. He is an alumnus of the Ateneo de Manila University (GS 1987, HS 1991, BSME 1995).


LIS Research by Filipino Librarians

For the longest time, the only local journal where library and information science (LIS) research conducted by Filipino librarians could be submitted and published was the Journal of Philippine Librarianship (JPL). Now there's a new kid on the block: the PAARL Research Journal, a new project from the Philippine Association of Academic and Research Librarians (PAARL). Here's hoping it comes out more regularly than JPL, and that the quality of articles improves over time.

(Update on 5 March 2015: I forgot to mention the relatively new, two-year-old ASLP Journal, which focuses on special libraries.)

If you would like to see the output of Filipino librarians published in academic journals over the years (along with the output of other researchers writing about LIS in the Philippines), take a look at Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts, which indicates that the following works by Filipino librarians were published and indexed in 2014:
Acedera, Annabelle Paredes.
Are Philippine Librarians Ready for Resource Description and Access (RDA)? The Mindanao Experience. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly (2014) 52:600-607.

Fresnido, Ana Maria Balenbin; Yap, Joseph Marmol.
Academic library consortia in the Philippines: hanging in the balance. Library Management (2014) 35:15-36.

Morooka, Kazuko; Ramos, Mila; Nathaniel, Fonseca.
A bibliometric approach to interdisciplinarity in Japanese rice research and technology development. Scientometrics (2014) 98:73-98.


Filipino Librarian is Ten Years Old!

This blog is 10 years old, with 946 posts published over the past 10 years, and only 51 over the last 5. I have obviously not been blogging much recently, but I suppose it's still worth celebrating this milestone because I still get encouraged to "revive" this blog by librarians (as recently as yesterday) and non-librarians (i.e., a journalist, a few weeks ago). And so, yes, I've decided to blog more actively. I plan to blog every Sunday, starting this coming Sunday.

For now, let me just review what this blog is about, and where it has taken me, by quoting a few sentences from my first-ever post 10 years ago, as well as the succeeding anniversary posts. Comments are welcome on my Facebook account =)

Mabuhay! — 2005

This blog is for all Filipino librarians--whether working in the Philippines or elsewhere.

I am not really a blogger but I thought of setting up this blog as a way of establishing a presence for Filipino librarians on the Internet.

This blog will not be about me. Initially, I see it as a means to share information that I think will benefit Filipino librarians. And once I gain enough blogging experience, maybe we (yes, you and I) can think of other things that we can do with this blog.

Finally, just to make things clear, I do not claim to be the Filipino Librarian.
1st anniversary — 2006
One of the most amazing things that has happened over the past year is that this blog, which some would probably deem "boring" just by looking at its name, is now among the top 30 Pinoy Top Blogs. It's also in the top 40 of Technorati’s Philippine Top 100 Blogs. And then there's the fact that even Spanish and German blogs have linked to this blog. What this means is that it's not just Filipinos or librarians who are reading this blog. ... In any case, I guess this blog's initial objective of "establishing a presence for Filipino librarians on the Internet" has been achieved.
2nd anniversary — 2007
Popular pages: Undoubtedly, the Talumpati posts, followed by the ones about—sshhh—"Sex in the Library," which is not really about sex. The average number of visitors, not to mention pageloads, doubled from June to August 2006 after I began translating speeches into Tagalog. Sex doesn't really get mentioned on this blog very often, but the few posts that do usually get a lot of visits. Knowing that most of this blog's traffic comes from students doing "research," and perverts looking for I-don't-know-what, should I just take the easy way out and cater to their "needs"? =)
3rd anniversary — 2008
Three years ago, I wrote that, "I am not really a blogger..." Well, I've since become a real blogger (one symptom: feeling guilty if I don't blog) that now I always identify myself as the owner of the blog Filipino Librarian whenever I am asked for a short bio—in addition to saying that I am a Filipino librarian.

During past anniversaries, I have reviewed the "accomplishments" of this blog, but this time I will just take comfort in the fact that many more librarians and libraries are blogging than when I first started...
4th anniversary — 2009
The most remarkable thing about having blogged for so long is that sometimes Googling a keyword takes me to my own blog and I don't even recall anymore that I had actually written the post.
5th anniversary — 2010
After five years of blogging about my profession, I am not entirely sure that there is really much that has changed. It seems to me that there is more that can be done in terms of leadership training, marketing libraries and promoting the profession. But frankly, if it's not obvious yet from the way my posts on this blog have dwindled over the past years, I'm getting a little tired of pushing things that I'm not really sure anyone else cares about. So thanks for visiting on my blog's fifth anniversary—and reading all the way to the end—but to be perfectly honest, I don't know if there's going to be a sixth anniversary. Ciao!


Outstanding Librarian 2014:
Marilou Palicte Tadlip

Marilou Palicte Tadlip
Marilou Palicte Tadlip

The Professional Regulation Commission conferred the Outstanding Professional Librarian of the Year Award on Marilou Palicte Tadlip on 20 June 2014. The citation reads:
For her professional and technical competence in the practice of the profession for 44 years — from a cataloguer to Director of the University Library System and Chairman of the Department of Library and Information Science at the University of San Carlos; for her excellent academic record, having graduated with a BS Education Major in Library Science degree, Magna Cum Laude, Doctor of Education at the University of San Carlos and Master in Library Science at the University of Hawaii; for her numerous accomplishments that had earned her the award for Outstanding Contribution to the Profession given by the Philippine Association of Academic and Research Libraries, Outstanding Leadership Award as President by the Academic Libraries Book Acquisition System, Inc., Velasco Award by the Philippine Librarians Association, Inc., the James J. Meany Award by the PAASCU and the ALBASA Outstanding Award of Recognition.

Thanks to Cynthia Zialcita for providing the photo and citation.

Category: Librarians—Awardees


Librarians' Licensure Examination 2014: Results

Congratulations to the new librarians!

The passing rate for the Librarians' Licensure Examination is 28 percent (149 out of 533), which is much lower than the passing rates of 47 percent in 2012 and 46 percent in 2013, but is consistent with passing rates from 2011 and earlier.

While the reason for the decline may be attributed to the fact that all the members of the Board for Librarians are new, it is more likely in my opinion that the change in exam schedule (i.e., from November to April) is the primary reason the passing rate dropped. As I wrote last year,

the great majority of potential examinees will probably not have graduated yet and, hence, they will not be eligible to take the exam. This means that the 2014 examinees will mostly be repeaters (the Top 10 list will be very interesting)...
True enough, 71 percent (380 of 533) of the examinees were repeaters, only 15 percent (56 of 380) of whom passed the exam. In contrast, 61 percent (93 of 153) of the first timers passed the exam. Also, only 3 examinees from UP (out of 8) made it to the Top 10, compared to previous years, when at least 5 of the Top 10 examinees were from UP.

The wisdom of moving the exam from November to April will become clearer in 2015, when most of this year's fresh grads will be eligible to take the exam. Perhaps giving fresh graduates more time to study for the board exam will result in higher passing rates. Then again, I suspect that limiting the number of times repeaters can take the exam will achieve the same result.

The list of the top scorers are reproduced below. The list of successful examinees may be downloaded from the official website of the Professional Regulation Commission.

Top 10


Rebuilding Libraries After Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda

I still get asked if my family and I were among those severely affected by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. Thankfully, we were spared, along with the library where I work. Others, however, were not as lucky.

The before-and-after photos above were taken from the Facebook account of the ESSU Guiuan University Library. The municipality of Guiuan, Samar, was one of the first to be savaged by the typhoon. (I have not asked for permission to reproduce the photos, but I hope no one will mind. Click on the photos above to see other before-and-after photos.)

I have not found any other photos of libraries that were destroyed (but I will add them to this post if they are brought to my attention). There is, however, a video of a library that survived the typhoon, but has now been turned into an evacuation center, and will probably also need rehabilitation later on. (See "Tacloban library turns into an evacuation center").

If you would like to help rebuild libraries destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda, please consider making donations through the Philippine Librarians Association, Inc. (PLAI) or, if you would like to make a donation using your credit card, through the American Library Association, which is helping PLAI raise funds.

If you would like to send books for a specific library, the Rizal Library (of which I am the Director) is collecting books for Sacred Heart College in Tacloban, Leyte. (Although this high school was 5 kilometers away from the shore, the storm surges still reached the second floor of their building. Unfortunately, their library was on the first floor.) We are looking for for high school reference books (e.g., dictionaries, encyclopedia, atlases), recreational reading for young adults (e.g., Harry Potter, romances), and whatever you may have found useful when you were in high school. Please send an email to rizalDOTlibraryATadmuDOTeduDOTph.


Librarians' Licensure Examination 2013: Results

Congratulations to the new librarians!

The passing rate for the Librarians' Licensure Examination is 46 percent (382 out of 834), which is practically the same as the passing rate of 47 percent in 2012.

The list of the top scorers are reproduced below. The list of successful examinees may be downloaded from the official website of the Professional Regulation Commission.

The biggest LLE-related news this year, however, is that the next exam will be in April 2014, when the great majority of potential examinees will probably not have graduated yet and, hence, they will not be eligible to take the exam. This means that the 2014 examinees will mostly be repeaters (the Top 10 list will be very interesting), and that future examinees will have to wait a year before taking the exam.

Top 12


November is Book Development Month

The Rizal Library is hosting the following events in cooperation with the National Book Development Board, Ateneo de Manila University Press, Filipino ReaderCon, and Kritika Kultura:

Saturday, November 9, 8:00AM-6:00PM

Filipino ReaderCon
What Do Readers Want?
Speakers: Ramon Bautista, Gerry Alanguilan, and more!
Registration fee: P150, inclusive of snacks and certificate

Wednesday, November 13, 8:00AM-5:30PM
4th Philippine International Literary Festival
Bestsellers and the City
Speakers: Peter Swirski, Manix Abrera, and more!
Registration fee: FREE, inclusive of snacks

Monday, November 18, 4:30PM-6:00PM
Kritika Kultura Literary Reading Series
Speakers: Joseph de Luna Saguid and Allan Pastrana

Thursday, November 28, 4:30PM-6:00PM
The Ateneo de Manila University Press launches its titles for 2013.

For more information, please click on the links.


Preparing to Become a Leader

Did you assume a managerial or supervisory position recently? Or maybe you'd like to know what I did to prepare for my job as "Director, Rizal Library"? If so, you may want to read the article I wrote for The Manila Review:

So You Think You Can Be the Boss
by Vernon R. Totanes

"I am pleased to inform you that the search committee tasked to recommend the next Rizal Library director has recommended that you be appointed director beginning April 1, 2013."

This message appeared in my inbox more than a year ago, as I was finishing my dissertation in Canada. By the time you read this, I will have been Director of Ateneo de Manila University's Rizal Library for more than 90 days.



IFLA 2013: Filipino Presenters #WLIC2013

There are 75 Filipino librarians at the IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Singapore. The most remarkable thing, however, is that so many of us are presenting papers and posters. Since 2006, the Philippines has averaged ONE paper and ZERO posters in the annual conference program. This year, it has SEVEN papers and FOUR posters.

What happened? Perhaps the proximity of the venue (and hence, lower costs) had something to do with it. Note, however, that a similar phenomenon did not take place in 2006, when the conference was held in South Korea. I'd like to think that this is a manifestation of the growing desire of Filipino librarians not only to participate in the global discourse between librarians around the world, but also to do research and obtain PhD degrees =)

The following are the paper and poster presenters from the Philippines:


MELANIE ABAD (National Library of the Philippines)
Performance: interactive storytelling

NORA FE ALAJAR (Davao City Public Library)
Increasing demands on public libraries in hard economic times: Innovation and partnership to meet community needs at Davao City Public Library

NELIA R. BALAGAPO (Asian Development Bank)
Creating bridges to prosperity in the Asia and Pacific Region: the ADB Library Experience

IYRA S. BUENROSTRO and JOHANN FREDERICK A. CABBAB (University of the Philippines Diliman)
Reliving the Filipino classical music heritage: preservation and restoration of Philippine art music manuscripts of the University of the Philippines-Diliman College of Music

LILIA F. ECHIVERRI (University of the Philippines Diliman)
Open access to official and authenticated legal information in the Philippines

VERNON R. TOTANES (Ateneo de Manila University)
Textbook case: a colonial history book's influence (or lack thereof) on the miseducation of the Filipino

ROMULO R. UBAY, JR., MARTIN JULIUS V. PEREZ, TERESITA C. MORAN (Far Eastern University) and JOANNA O. SIAPNO (De La Salle University)
Exploring Filipiniana rare books and the state of Filipiniana rare books management

CRISTINA B. VILLANUEVA (University of the Philippines Baguio)
Preserving Cordillera culture and history through the University of the Philippines Baguio Cordillera Studies Collection Library and Archives


ALICIA S. PARAISO (Goethe-Institut Manila)
The Goethe-Institut Library in Southeast Asia: your gateway to Germany; eeting the challenges and opportunities of the future

KARRYL KIM A. SAGUN (Ateneo de Manila University)
What does it meme? Using Internet memes to promote services of the Rizal Library

Far Eastern University Library: the 2012 Philippine Academic/Research Librarians, Inc. (PAARL) Outstanding Academic/Research Library

NORA FE ALAJAR (Davao City Public Library)
Community Partnership for Economic Opportunity

NOTE: Several satellite meetings were held before WLIC2013, and were not officially part of the annual conference program. I hope the Filipino librarians who presented at those meetings will forgive me for not including their names here.


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